I have always wanted to do a relay race, like the Ragnar series.
Ok, scratch that. Not ALWAYS.
Once I started doing 5 half marathons per year and throwing in a full a couple times over the past couple of years, I began to think about "what's next?"
I have considered trail races, ultramarathons, and I thought, "Hey, a Ragnar race sounds fun."
But--I had a few problems with relay races:
1. Most Ragnar races were located pretty far away from where I live in Eastern Kentucky.
2. The cost was much higher than any other races (I am a cheapskate and try to register for things with early bird pricing).
3. I'm not "fast" by most standards and was never invited to participate.
4. Despite my online presence, I am very much an introvert. Spending 30 hours with strangers brings my anxiety up to a whole new level.
5. I am not what you call "outdoorsy." I pictured having to use the woods as my bathroom, and not having a shower for that long also played a part in that anxiety level going through the roof.
I had followed friends who had run the Bourbon Chase relay in the past, and they all seemed to have a great time. As someone who does not drink bourbon, I wasn't interested in that part of it, but the fun and running always appealed to me.
This year, several friends were talking about their Bourbon Chase teams in our local running group, the 5K Crew.
I started to get a tiny bit jealous as the excitement grew. But, I told myself, "Remember reason #3..." Yeah, I would probably just bring the average down, and with many other faster runners in our group, I was never asked. And yes, I know this points back to my self-esteem and self-doubt...I'm working on that.
Low and behold, right smack dab in the middle of a very tough week for me, personally, I was sent a text by one of my best running friends in all the world, Cassie: "Girl, I know it's a long shot, but would you be available for Bourbon Chase this weekend? We had a member drop out last minute."
It was Wednesday. The race was starting in two days.
The icing on the cake was that the former member was not asking for any money back, so all I had to pay was the $30 transfer fee. Um, YES! (Well, it wasn't QUITE that easy. I had to talk to my husband and coordinate a babysitter for my youngest one, but a few hours later, I was able to say, "YES!")
What did I get myself into?
First question people have asked me when they found out I joined the team with only 2 days notice is, "Were you trained for this?" Well, yes and no. While I had never met most of my teammates before, and I never did any training runs WITH them, my goal race this fall is a sub-2-hour half marathon. That means that for months, I have been working on speed, hills, and distance. I finished a half marathon a few weeks prior in hilly Adams County, Ohio, so I felt ready for that terrain. Speed? Well, I'm working on that, but I was already trained up to 16 miles the weekend before. So, yes and no.
Well, through a lot of self-doubt and then pep talks, I got myself ready and packed (the day of the race). Yes, I am a procrastinator. I'm working on that, too. Thankfully, I am a part of a few running groups online who helped me know what to pack and how to prepare. Basically, 3 running outfits, dry clothes, extra shoes, flip flops, snacks, pillow, deodorant, and LOTS of baby wipes!
I met my van mates at about 11:20am and we drove out to the race. Remember, I had never met anyone but my friend, Cassie, and yes, I survived. So, to all your introverts out there....we can do hard things. We won't die. Lol. We had lunch at a Panera somewhere and headed on to Maker's Mark, where we would start our part of the race. Van 1 had left earlier in the morning and was already running.
Maker's Mark was a very pretty distillery site and I'm glad that we started there and got to check things out. It was a party atmosphere already. We all had to check in, show ID (that we were over 21), and then check in to make sure we all had our required reflective gear (which, of course, I had bought the night before). We had a little bit of time, so I shared some info on my Like Page, "Run for Hope," through live videos throughout the event. It was fun to share updates and the experience!
I was assigned Leg #7 out of 12, so that means, I was the first person from my van to run each time. It's pretty funny to not know who you are even looking for at the exchange, but my team had my back. I was nervous, and wanted to do my best for the team, so I started off like a bat out of...well, you know.
I was automatically met by the hills. The worst part was the mental game. We had to drive my route to get to Maker's Mark, so I KNEW that I had hills. And when I say "hills," I mean, HILLS. Talk about NERVES! I knew these guys were hoping for an 8-minute overall pace, and I've been happy to train for 9:15-9:30. SHEW!
The weather was GREAT. Cool, dusk, it was amazing to run at this time of day. I started in daylight and ended in the dark. The first 2.5 miles were ALL hills. There was a time where I needed to power walk to keep going up the biggest one and get some water in me. BUT--after mile 3, everything was MUCH flatter, much less traffic (yes, it was an open course), and I started to pick up pace. When all was said and done, I passed our "slap bracelet chip baton" to Chris, and ended up with a 9:10 pace for that almost 5 miles. I'll take it!
It seemed as though Van 2 had a lot of hard runs for the first leg. Many had their longest runs during this time, and everyone was in the dark, except for me. But, each member did their best, some threw up on the course, but the paces were coming in at around 7 minutes and some just under! Cassie and I held our own and the guys were happy with what we did. The best part was knowing that after we finished Leg 1, we were promised pizza at midnight! Eating is the weirdest part of this, because you don't want to eat right before running, so we had no dinner, and then you end up eating in the middle of the night and trying to get some sleep somehow.
After our Leg 1 and pizza was done, we honestly only had about 3 hours until we would run again. We drove to the next site and parked and tried to sleep. Didn't happen. Maybe 30 minutes top. As a Beachbody coach, I came prepared with my Performance Line of Recover and Energize. Recover really helped a couple of guys with leg cramps and I think most of us were running on Energize (literally) during the night runs. The Beachbody Performance Line is actually the North American partner for the Ironman series, so I was happy to share these natural options for my team.
Leg 2 started about 3:30am. Again, I was the first to go from our van, and this was the shortest and easiest route out of my 3. I was ready to do my best..and so I did. I came in with an 8:20 pace and felt VERY pleased with my contribution to my team. While it was the middle of the night, it was still 60-ish degrees, which made it pretty warm, but I was thankful it was dry. There is something very peaceful about running in the dark in the middle of the night.
While I was exhausted, I couldn't sleep. Cassie was Leg #10, so I wanted to make sure I was around to cheer her on at the start and finish of her legs. By this time, I was kind of hungry, but my stomach was upset and finding deluxe porta potties at Four Roses Distillery was a welcome sight. I had issues charging my phone through this race. I kept trying to charge it through the van, but when the van was not running, neither was the power. So, after Cassie's leg, I tried to plug in again, and all of a sudden, I figured out that MY music was playing through the van from my phone. I couldn't sleep. It's like my brain KNEW that was RUNNING music, so there was no way for it to shut off. Needless to say, we were finishing up Leg 2 and I had a total of an hour and a half of sleep the whole night.
Between the second and third legs, we gave up on sleep and headed to another Panera for breakfast. Stinky, some sore, and some feeling sick, but we kept going. These guys are serious rock stars, and I was feeling VERY grateful to be on this team. They are competitive and know how to have fun, too. We headed towards the next point for Leg 3, still trying to sleep, though not having much luck.
I started the last leg in 80 degree heat and full sunshine. This was not quite what I expected, so once again, nerves took hold. But, what can you do? You just go out there and do it. Our team had been well under pace the entire race at this point, but we had heard some Van 1 runners were struggling and that put the pressure on us to pick it up, too. With the heat, lack of sleep, and everything else, we were all ready to be done, but this was it. This was the last run for each of us and then we would be DONE!
As we waited for Derek to come and pass me the baton and get Leg 3 underway, there was a little group of people dressed up in Greek garb (since this year's race was Greek-themed) and playing cymbals and creating entertainment for the groups of runners waiting. It was a really fun atmosphere.
My last leg started off with another uphill and a bunch of wind. I was trying not to feel defeated, but it was tough. Throughout the race, we had been adding up our "kills," those people we had passed. So, I just focused on the next person in front of me and tried to get ahead of them. Sun beating down, those last almost 5 miles were feeling harder and I was ready to be done. But, I knew my team was counting on me and if we wanted to reach our goal of 8-minute pace, I needed to get as close to 9-minutes as possible. Once again, I had to take a very small walk break. I was feeling dehydrated and needed some water and to give myself a quick pep talk. 8 "kills" later and I could see the exchange point. Thank the good Lord! By the time I handed off, I knew I could say I did my very best, which is exactly what my goal was. That final leg was 9:13 pace, but I was DONE. I was so incredibly thankful that Cassie was there to meet me with cold water. It was the best water I might have ever tasted! Then, time to race back to the van and to the next point.
Everyone in Van 2 had a harder time with the third leg, but we all held our own. We were more than ready to be done, and during the last runner, we were trying to figure out if we had a chance at Top 10 out of all the mixed teams at the race. Arnold was the last runner. We all got to the finish line and waited for him to appear. I got the finish line on live video (shaky as it was), with our entire team crossing the finish line together. The official photographer got the whole team, but this is Van 2:
Our final time was 26:44:59. 31/430 overall (top 7%) and 14/278 (top 5%) in mixed open. Our final pace was 7:55. We had met the goal. Not Top 10, but we kept it under 8 min/mile. Man, it was a BLAST.
Want to run a relay?
Here are my tips as a newbie relay runner:
1. Get in with a team who knows how to have fun. While our guys had some serious goals, they were all business on the road and all fun in the van. It was the perfect mix.
2. Have a buddy if you are an introvert like me. I think my experience was so much more enjoyable because I had my BRF, Cassie, by my side. Knowing she was there at every one of my exchanges really helped!
3. Prepare yourself for no sleep. While you can't "store up" sleep ahead of time, make sure that you have the opportunity to sleep when the race is over. You will need it. There is no sleeping in the van. Unless your name is Jon. Lol.
4. Pack enough clothes so that you can change in between runs. There is nothing worse than sitting in wet, stinky clothes. Bring an extra pair of running shoes in case of rain. And baby wipes. Tons of them.
5. Pack clothes in ziplock bags. This was my best idea. I packed each running outfit (tank, skirt, socks, underwear, sports bra) in its own bag. I labeled them by leg and just grabbed each one as I needed them. When I was done, it was easy to put the wet clothes back in that bag and zip it up to keep the smell off my other clothes in my duffle.
6. Pack snacks, but not too many. I WAY overpacked on this, but I wasn't sure what I would want. Turned out, my stomach really didn't want much, and we ate out during our "off" times of the race.
7. Make sure your van is loaded with a cooler and plenty of water bottles. By Leg 3, we were about out of water and it was 80 degrees. The last few runners were tired and thirsty. Dehydration is not cool, kids.
8. Keep it all in perspective. Know what you CAN do. Know what your team goal is (even if it's just to finish). And do your best. Know that anything can change in an instant (weather, injury, sickness) and be ready to step up and support your team however you can.
9. Don't be too serious! I usually put a lot of pressure on myself and I tend to underestimate my own abilities. Keep your head up, smile on, and ENJOY the journey!
10. Never say never. I wasn't sure that I would want to do this again, mostly because it took a lot of time away from my family, but now, in the aftermath, I would LOVE to do it again...but maybe just with this team!
What makes Bourbon Chase a great race?
Will I be racing this one again?
I think this year was the perfect opportunity, and even with little notice, I couldn't turn it down. The price was right, I was already trained up, and I had a friend doing it with me. Our team was fast, which made it really fun to compete and run my very best.
I learned that while running is mostly a solo sport, doing a relay really brings that TEAM spirit out. I ran high school track and did relays then, but since then, I have had many years of running for myself as an adult. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of something bigger. What I did MATTERED to the TEAM.
So, all of that said, if the stars align again and I have the opportunity and my family's blessing, I will definitely do it again!
Bourbon Chase 2016, you did not disappoint! Thank you Team #EnoughOfThisSheet for an amazing experience!
Wife. Mother. Runner. Coach. Adoption Advocate. I strive to share HOPE through my journey and help others reach their goals.