I will start this blog by saying, sorry I was a bit long winded, but there were just SO many things going through my head that I wanted to share!
I cannot believe how quickly Bourbon Chase Weekend flew by! To say it was an incredible experience would be an understatement! It is truly something I will never forget!
For those of you who don’t know what The Bourbon Chase is, it is a 200 mile relay race along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail – over the rolling hills of the Kentucky countryside, through a number of quaint towns, and stopping at each historic bourbon distillery. The race began at Jim Beam and ran through Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve. We started the morning of Friday, October 13th, ran through the night and finished the afternoon of Saturday, October 14th.
This year there were 400 teams participating. The course is divided into 36 legs, and each team typically has 12 runners who run 3 legs each. The teams are divided into 2 vans with 6 runners in each van. Each leg ranges from 3.1 miles to 8.9 miles and varies in difficulty based on the distance and elevation change.
While runner #1 starts the race, van 1 drives to the first exchange point. Runner #2 gets out of the van and into position to wait for runner #1. When the runner #1 arrives, they pass a slap bracelet (with a tracker attached) to the runner #2. I failed to get a photo of the slap bracelet, but picture the ones you played with as a kid and add a tracker and a lot of sweat to it! Runner #1 gets into the van and this pattern continues until exchange 6. Both vans come to the major exchanges (6, 12,18, 24, 30) Van 1 picks up their last runner and heads somewhere to rest. Van 2 drops their first runner off and begins their rotation.
Meet the Team!
Our team name: The Wild Turkey Legs! We were made up of 12 runners, 6 girls and 6 guys, from Nashville, D.C. and Houston! Courtney my former WKU Soccer teammate and fellow Nashvillian was our captain! It was her and her crazy family’s idea to do this!
Meet my van, Van 2:
• Runner #7 – Pat – Courtney’s sister’s husband’s brother – Take a minute to let that sink in!
• Runner #8 – Chris – Courtney’s sister’s husband
• Runner #9 – Courtney – Our team captain – I will take this time to thank her for being so incredibly organized! She had spreadsheets for estimated times of arrival for each runner and course maps printed in little plastic baggies. So thank you for being you!
• Runner #10 – LouAnna – Courtney’s co-worker
• Runner #11 – Me!
• Runner #12 – Mike – My Husband
Let the Race Begin!
Van 1 started at 9:30am at the Jim Beam Distillery.
Being in van 2, we waited around most of the morning, which only made my anxiety grow!
Van 2 started at Makers Mark Distillery. We arrived around 12:45pm. This gave us plenty of time to check in, decorate our van with chalk markers, and walk around.
At check in we had to show that van 2 had 2 headlamps, 2 blinking tail lights, and each runner had a reflective vest.
We were able to walk around Makers and take in the atmosphere, which was absolutely electric! Vans lining the fields, people everywhere and the energy was through the roof!
This was an especially fun check in point for Mike and I because my parents got married at the house on the Makers Mark property! It is the house where my grandmother grew up! It was the perfect place for us to start this journey!
The only bad thing about Makers was, there was terrible service! Our first runner, Pat, was scheduled to take off around 2:20pm, but we couldn’t get a hold of van 1. We weren’t sure if they were on schedule, until we finally found them in the crowd of people! We had time to catch up with them and see how they were handling the course. The leg leading up to Makers was treacherous, and our team had fallen almost 20 minutes behind schedule. Our van made it our mission to make that time up!
Pat started around 2:40pm, and we were off to the races! The vans were taking the same route as the runners for several of the legs, so whenever we passed a Wild Turkey Leg runner, we would all hang out the windows and ring a big cowbell!! Yes, even at 3:00am!
Several people in our van had their longest runs during our first legs. There was lots of congestion with so many vans going to the same place on narrow back roads, so we typically got to the next exchange location in just enough time for our next runner to use the restroom, stretch, and start looking for the runner before them.
And it’s a good thing we were looking, because every single one of our runners crossed their exchange beating the time they had predicted! Maybe it was adrenaline, but also a hint of those wild turkey legs! 🙂
Courtney had organized a binder for us with the predicted run/exchange times and maps broken down for each leg. This made it much easier to know where we needed to be and when we needed to be there. Plus it was fun to see if we could beat those predicted times!
My First Leg: Leg 11!
6:15pm: It had been a long day of waiting, but it was finally my turn! LouAnna would pass me the slap bracelet in a town called Perryville. There were BBQ smokers set up and the town was alive with people other than runners cheering us on! Our first 3 runners went straight to the BBQ, which smelled delicious!
Anyways, back to the running! I had 8.6 miles ahead of me! I knew I could handle the distance, but I was worried about the hills! Could I keep the 9:00/mile pace I had predicted with these hills? Thus far, everyone in van 2 had killed it! I was so incredibly nervous! I wanted to do well for my team.
My run turned out amazing! I ran a 8:38 pace! The sun was setting and the weather started to cool off, which made for a gorgeous run despite the cow smell and the fact that most of the run was along a highway. It was a perfect fall evening for a run!!
I handed the slap bracelet off to Mike, and after a kiss of congratulation he was off before I knew it!
Mike was the last runner in our van, and he finished in downtown Danville. When he was done, we quickly went to a cafe that was within walking distance, The Hub Coffee House & Café. They were open all night and had a special menu for the Bourbon Chase runners. They were absolute champs about the whole thing: Runners eating at all hours of the night, while charging their cell phones and using their restrooms. It was a madhouse. Mike and I also made sure to drink a Kill Cliff, a recovery drink filled with Electrolytes, Vitamins and Enzymes. We were hoping this would help us from getting tight between runs.
Then, we drove to a nearby sleeping location, Danville High School. They were providing locker rooms for teams to change/shower. By this time it was around 9:30pm. We had about 2 and a half hours until we needed to leave for the next exchange. Some of us chose to sleep immediately, others chose to shower first. I showered, mostly because I know my body, and I knew the chances of me actually going to sleep were slim. I was hoping for at least an hour of sleep, but that didn’t happen. Instead I started this blog, got in a midnight walk, and then put my legs up.
12:15am: Night Running!
The high school also offered coffee, which was a saving grace at this point! Although I was not running until almost 4:00am, I wanted to be there for my teammates, cheering them on at each start and finish line! So, give me all the coffee!
Our van’s second set of legs started at 1:00am. This exchange was by far the most packed. There were vans everywhere, so we decided we would drop Pat off and go straight to the next check point, since his run was only 3 miles.
Our van had mixed reviews on the concept of night running. Some thought it was an amazing experience. The night was clear and the stars were present! Just a peaceful run in the middle of the night! The other half wasn’t as thrilled with the experience. They felt it was a lonely run with nothing to look at, due to the headlamp only shining out a foot.
Exchange 21 was located at a church. The church had showers and real bathrooms and were also selling pancakes, coffee and muffins! There always seemed to be food for sale right before my runs… Boo!
My Second Leg: Leg 23!
My second leg was much shorter than the first, 4.3 miles and had a good amount of downhill running, so I wasn’t complaining! It started at 3:40am which meant:
- I had been awake for 19 hours. I was very thankful I packed my Advocare’s Spark.
- It was pitch black!
I had never run in the dark and especially not in the middle of the night in an unknown area, but that made it even more fun!
Night running was an experience in itself! I was running through the back roads leading up to Four Roses Distillery. Half the time there was no one in sight, and if I could see someone, it was just a flashing light in the distance until I got right next to them. The weather was great! 50 degrees and no rain in sight.
About halfway through my run a guy went flying past me (like I wasn’t even moving….) It was the first time I had been passed and competitive Morgan was not thrilled about that!! So naturally I tried to stride out and keep his pace! The blinking light on his back slowly got further and further ahead, but he sure did help my pace on this leg! Thank you random runner! I handed off the slap bracelet to Mike at Four Roses with a pace of 8:20.
Four Roses was decked out! There were bourbon balls and fanny packs and even a doughnut truck!
Mike had his longest leg with 8.7 miles, which quickly got interrupted by a train… He was thrilled! This gave everyone in our van time to stop by Walmart and stock up on more waters and bananas (we were going through these items so quickly). The next major exchange was at Wild Turkey Distillery. Mike made amazing time (well under his predicted pace), so by the time we parked and walked to the exchange, he was running up! He took van 1 by surprise also, because it took them a few minutes to get to the exchange.
Between the second and third set of legs, our van stayed at Wild Turkey and assumed our sleeping positions. It didn’t take me too long to fall asleep and I was out cold for about 2 hours! Even though it was 8:00am and I was running on 2 hours of sleep, my adrenaline immediately started pumping again, so I knew more sleep was not an option. Our team captain was also awake, so we decided to walk around the distillery. We were so thankful we did! Aside from the (breakfast of a champion) smores station, the sun was rising and we saw some of the most amazing views!
Our alarms were set for 9:15am, and we were back at it! The next major exchange was on a hillside with lots of parking, and its a good thing because it was packed! We arrived with plenty of time, so that we could stretch our sore/stiff legs. The look of accomplishment on van 1’s faces was exciting to see! They were done, and now we needed to finish it strong! One more each, and we were done too!
Pat started our van’s last legs around 11:30am. The heat had started to set in at a toasty 80 degrees and the sun was shining bright, but we were so thankful this run was not in the middle of the night because we were in the heart of Kentucky’s horse farms and the views were beautiful!
We took a wrong turn on our way to exchange 33, and LouAnna made it to the exchange point just as Courtney was running up! That was a close one, Courtney was MOVIN’!
My Third Leg: Leg 35!
LouAnna ran into our exchange like a rockstar, and I started my final leg just before 3:00pm. Although this was my shortest leg at 4 miles, my legs were tired, the sun was hot, and I wanted nothing more than a real meal! We hadn’t eaten a real meal since 9:00pm last night and there had been a lot of miles run between that time and leg 35… At this point I was running on bananas and Spark.
Throughout the race we had been tallying ‘kills’. Every time you pass another team’s runner during your leg, you got to tally a kill! It sounds so silly, but at this point, focusing on ‘kills’ was getting me through this!
It is so true that running is 90% mental. I was continuously giving myself mental pep-talks: you can do this, just make it up this hill, try to get to that runner in front of you! And the most beautiful thing I had seen all day… the 1 Mile To Go sign!
I finished my final leg with a pace of 8:27 per mile, and I couldn’t have been prouder of myself! The feeling of accomplishment that rushes over you was amazing! So much so that I missed Mike’s wrist as I slapped the bracelet on… eye roll… Not the most graceful finish! But I was done!
The Finish Line!
Mike was our final runner with almost 5 miles to run. The finish line was in downtown Lexington, right next to Rupp Arena (Go CATS!) and there was a huge party surrounding it! So we rushed to the finish line to meet up with van 1, where we waited for Mike. When he came around the corner, our entire team jogged out to meet him and finish as a team!
We finished in 30:55:57 which is a 9:09 pace! And we were thrilled!!
After receiving our medals and getting a team photo, we hit the after party! Runners received a bracelet that gave us 4 free bourbon tastings. After runner that far, 4 shots would have been a lot, not to mention I am more of a champagne girl, so my bourbons went to waste… But not everyone’s did!
It was truly an experience I will never forget! I couldn’t have asked for 5 better people to share a van with! I had known some of these runners for less than 36 hours, but they are what made the entire experience! Thank you Courtney, Mike, LouAnna, Chris and Pat, you are all incredible!
Leading up to the Bourbon Chase, I was nervous for all sorts of reasons, but one I would like to eliminate for future first time runners is the unknown. Not knowing what to expect on the course, and not knowing exactly what to bring. So I wanted to finish off the blog with words of wisdom for someone who has never run a long distance relay before!
- Organize your clothes in ziplock baggies. Pack an outfit for each run into a ziplock baggie and label it: Run #1, Run #2, and Run #3. Then, once you run, you have a ziplock baggie to seal your dirty clothes in! It makes for a really terrible smelling laundry on Sunday, but at least your van doesn’t smell all race!
- Don’t forget your cell phone car charger!
- You won’t get lost. A few of us were very nervous that we might get lost on the course due to all the turns, but it was clearly marked! Also our captain is amazing and had all of our course maps printed on card stock and in a baggie, just in case we wanted it with us on the run.
- Night Running. Several of us were concerned about the night run for a number of reasons, but mainly because we were running in the dark, in an unknown area, with no one around. BUT there are people. Although you are not always right beside someone, if you had trouble for any reason, there would be someone running up on you within a minute.
- Stop and eat a real meal. I would recommend taking the time to stop at a restaurant and grabbing a real meal. You might think I need to sleep, but by the end of it, I really wish I had a real meal in my system.
- Bring a foam roller. You are literally going from 9 miles to sitting in a car/standing waiting for teammates for hours and hours! That foam roller will be your best friend!
- Your team makes the experience. Choose your team wisely because they really do make the experience!
- Don’t forget your COWBELL!
Another Bucket List item checked off the list!