Preface 1: 6 weeks is a long time to wait for a back blast. Apologies to those that have been anticipating it. I will tell you though I’ve been working on this one for a minute with the intention to do justice to our journey. Looking at the positive: All of us in Van 1 can now relive the thing we did that now seems like ages ago. I hope you enjoy boys.
Preface 2: I wanted to give huge T-Claps to Captain Crunchberry for putting all of us F3 runners on the map. I vividly remember one of our County runs in which we were training for Springtime’s Derby Marathon. Captain chimes in with, “I feel like I need to look out for the next challenge. Who would be down for a 200 mile relay race in the fall?” Many on that run immediately threw out their HCs saying it sounded like a great idea. I myself am a “yes man” when it comes to almost any running challenge Captain throws out so I was happy to add my HC. Unfortunately, during the summer months Captain fell victim to a “getting old” injury (his words not mine) and had to remove himself from training and The Gloom for a bit. Good news though. Patty, who calls the Patriot home, joined our F3 family in January of this year. With him he brought his running prowess and veteran Bourbon Chase experience. Since he had already signed up and joined the channel that Captain created, he took the momentum and “ran” with it. One thing though that NO ONE could have expected: He is an Excel prodigy. Patty to Excel is like Bill Gates to computers…Einstein to the Theory of Relativity…Maya Angelou to poetry. Who knew that having such good skills like that would come in so handy when running in a relay race? As it turned out it was pretty much a necessity. Now onto the meat and potatoes.
The Prep: Black Ops running options all over the place. The Patriot, The County, The O, Tom Sawyer, FSRC, Parklands, trail runs. Whatever or wherever your flavor you could find a group of guys to get out and train with. There was also a couple of days built into the schedule where we would get in “two-a-days,” trying to get our bodies ready for a run, rest, run type of scenario. Following our last evening run we would gather together for some 2rdF over a cooler of beers straight out of Patty’s surplus supply. We went over logistics: who was running what leg, what to bring, who was going to be in what van…reminding LePew…again…that the race was two weeks away. Was LePew worried? Heck no! One word would be all that he would need to exclaim when it came to his preparedness. That one word would become our word of the trip. That one word could be mixed with water, sprinkled over your food or quite simply just inhaled up and through the nose. For the men on this trip that one word would forever be a reminder of and synonymous with LePew. That word…. PERPETUUM!!!
A few days before the race Patty and I would have a discussion on a few items. I checked with him one last time to see if anything was needed. His only ask of me: 1) a first aid kit and 2) write up the back blast for van #1. Consider it done my guy! (I’m sure he was well aware of the time it takes for me to get them out and the investment of time one would have to make to get through it.)
Race Day: 0700 and I show up at LePew’s house to scoop him. I offered to pick him up for two reasons. Reason # 1: When the race was scheduled he thought it was the week after and not on September 30th (the day of his daughter’s birthday). He was going to have to have his M pick him up in Frankfort on Saturday so that he could be in attendance for the day late birthday celebration. And 2: I was taking one for the team to ensure that LePew was on time, didn’t sleep in and ready to go on the actual day of the race. We pull into the lot at Walmart at 0730 with the sun on the rise, our crew loading up the van preparing to take flight. PAX for van 1: Patty (QIC), Saul Goodman, Honey Do, Nat Geo, LePew & BigBird. Our drive was smooth, going from darkness into the light, a slight fog rolling across open fields and the smell of perpetuum filling the van as we head to the startex at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Ky.
Leg 1: Your Bird would get the nod to start our F3 Louisville journey of a relay race off at 0900. The takeoff was very smooth as it wasn’t super crowded; only 20 other dudes and ladies in my group as countdown went from 10 – 1. A photo opp from Geo and high fives from Patty, LePew, Honey Do and Saul would fire me up to get this conquest under way. I would head out of Jim Beam and through some trails for a beautiful way to experience Mother Nature in the Fall. Let me just tell you though… no amount of Louisville running can prepare you for the hills of Kentucky. As leg 1 would prove, we were all in for an adventure of putting in some miles with some killer hills. I pushed through to get in my 7.4 miles. I was pumped to see a group of people in my sights letting me know that my first leg was at an end. I accelerate and push through the exchange…. but wait…where’s my people? This is my first relay race and I was the first runner so I wasn’t completely sure but it would stand to reason that the “exchange” is where I would hand off my baton (slap on bracelet with GPS tracker). I would run though the exchange to the next marker. I check my watch to confirm I was indeed at my miles 7.4 miles. As time was ticking away, I’m sure I looked to others like a lost little boy at the Fair, unable to find his mommy. I go back to the exchange and call LePew. Laughing, he says, “we went to the wrong exchange and are on our way back to you.” Yeah buddy, freaking hilarious!!…. Apparently, our crew ran into one of the 6 F3 Naperville groups in attendance on exchange 3. At some point during fist bumps and mumble chatter they thought….”shouldn’t Bird have crossed by now?” It was then that they realized that they were in the wrong spot. About 15 minutes later I was reunited with Van 1. My sub 8 minute pace would be magically transformed into + 12….I guess our chances of winning were now out the window… My team would blame it on the black cat that they spotted at Jim Beam. Good news though; that would be the only bit of superstitious bad luck that we would experience for the rest of our time together.
Leg 2: Honey Do gets the baton slapped on from me and takes off like a man on fire…like he’s hell bent on conquering the list his wife gave him to complete. He crushed his leg of 7.3 miles with a pace in the low 7’s. We barely got to our next exchange before we would see him off in the distance, ready to handoff the baton to a nervous Nat Geo. Geo did have time however to make two trips to the port-o-potty to get the nerves out before it was his time to run…so he was happy about that.
Leg 3: Geo’s leg would be 8.4 miles. Much of his leg would be spent on the freeway dodging cars and fighting through the extreme winds that they would produce. He was gassed and relieved make the turn into The Bardstown Bourbon Company in a little over an hour. It’s a huge, beautiful operation they have over there and Patty, Honey Do and me felt obliged to purchase a pour of their finest bourbon.
Leg 4: Saul Goodman got the handoff from Geo and his race was underway. Saul’s main concern: he strained a calf muscle about two weeks prior. He gave it a good dose of rest…but was it enough? Under normal circumstances probably so but through the hills of the Bourbon Trail….? The answer would prove to be “No.” Van 1 would make our next stop at the Heaven Hill Distillery while we waited for Saul to get through his 8.8 miles. While at the exchange we would meet another F3 group and once more exchanged fist bumps and mumble chatter. LePew was pep talking himself up as his was the next leg. He was talking about how many kills he was going to have (how many people he would pass) and how his water bottle vest full of perpetuum was going to catapult him into the next level of awesomeness. As we looked on, we would see Saul’s visor bobbing up and down off in the horizon. He makes it to the exchange and hands his baton off to LePew. Heaven Hill?? Yeah right says Saul! There was nothing heavenly about the hills he experienced. Maybe that’s why they call it Heaven Hill…because it is a heavenly experience to reach the end of that last gargantuan hill that he had to tackle. Unfortunately, his calf injury would rear its ugly head. Good news though…Saul’s a Marine and has instilled in him the, “I don’t quit, fight through the pain mentality.” He never once complained and certainly didn’t quit.
Leg 5: LePew literally sprints from takeoff to claim his first kill. I think we forgot to remind him that he had 9.5 miles to run…For a little context here, LePew didn’t train for this. He bought a pair of running shoes a week prior that he had worn only once and didn’t get the chance to break them in. At the conclusion of this race he would have run more miles in 24 hours than he would have run in all of 2022. I think we were all a little concerned for his well-being. LePew however was not concerned. He is incessantly high on life. His positivity is infectious. AND… he has enough perpetuum coursing through his veins and in his 10 gallon tub to get him though any amount of adversity. As we drive to the next exchange to meet him our thoughts were with him, driving up and down all of the hills he would have to endure. At a time not pleasing to LePew he made it to the exchange. We were all proud of his 1st leg accomplishment and all agreed that he was being too hard on himself for what it is he had to fight through. I congratulated him, asked for a video interview and was greeted with a LePew smirk and a flip of the bird.
Leg 6: Patty was our consummate leader. Not only in the setup and preparation but also in leading our team (between Van 1 & Van 2) in the toughest leg of the entire race…the Ragnar. The Ragnar would be a grueling 12.2 mile run full of twists, turns and high and low elevations. The reward: The accomplishment of completing a near half marathon within the first leg of a relay race, crossing through the hype tunnel and getting your medal…and of course meeting up with Van 2 to hang out for a bit and to hand the race over to them for legs 7-12. Patty to me was like Mel Gibson’s character Hal Moore in the Vietnam war movie, We Were Soldiers. There was that scene at the end of the movie where his was the last boot to leave the field of battle, helping one to visualize what a profound leader Moore was. I feel like the “last boot on the ground” was the 12 mile Ragnar. Patty already knew when he took lead of our team that he would ask no one else to run that “Very Hard” leg of the race. Patty’s a HIM and I’d follow him anywhere! Amazing job my dude!! (and your Excel skills are ridiculous!) We meet up with van 2 at about twenty hundred hours at the extremely crowded parking area and somehow manage to find a “rockstar” parking spot. Meter Maid takes off for the exchange as he is the first in van 2 to start their series of runs and take the baton from Patty thus concluding van 1’s first leg of runs. We all share our adventures up and to this point as we head to the tunnel where Patty would meet Meter Maid. Meter was like a caged stallion, pacing back and forth, eyes fixed on the hill where Patty would soon cross over. For what no doubt seemed like an eternity for Meter, Patty is seen off in the distance getting closer with every stride. After an hour and fifty-four minutes Patty spent on the road, the exchange was made. Van 1 would finish our first of three sets of legs and van 2’s journey would now begin. Get after it boys!!!
Van 1 had a bit of down time (4 hours and 57 minutes to be exact) to enjoy a bit of 2rdF in Downtown Danville. The city was alive with food trucks, vendors and music. We needed to refuel and opted to stop in to Copper and Oak to sit down and enjoy some local fare. It was nice to eat, relax and reminisce on what we had accomplished so far. After we broke bread and ran into the Bengals mascot, we headed back to the van to rest up and prepare ourselves for when it was our turn once more. Somehow Honey Do and Geo were able to saw some logs in the van. Patty and Saul got in some quality hangout time outside of the van and LePew….well…you had to be there to believe it but he grabbed his noise cancelling headphones, a sleeping bag and like the homeless in a busy metropolis, cozied up on the courthouse lawn across the street. He was dead to the world and didn’t budge from the noise of the loud music playing, the runners cheering each other on with cowbells, any one of the 20 or so emergency vehicles that would pass by, sirens a blare and certainly didn’t wake up for the woman that spilled merlot for a solid three minutes not ten feet from where he slept. It was certainly a site to behold!
Before you knew it we were reunited with van 2 once more signifying that your Bird needed to get suited up and ready himself for PK to pass off the baton. Now, I’ve already been lengthy and have gone into quite a bit of detail. I may have lost you already at this point. But if your committed to seeing this back blast through to the end I will be brief…isher from here on out and add for you some highlights from your Bird’s eye view.
Leg 13 and the baton is passed off to your Bird at 2109 hours. The chicken sandwich and pint of beer seemed not to have been a good decision as my belly was still full and my legs were heavy. I powered through though my 5.3 miles without spilling and guess what? My team was actually there to meet me at the correct exchange this time! Leg 14 and Honey Do was once more the quiet beast getting his 6.5 miles in at a blistering pace. At the next exchange we found ourselves in a city that calls itself Cookie Town, in part because they give out cookies to all of the runners. At one point as LePew, Geo and I are standing around Geo says, “I’m supposed to be running after Honey Do, right?” LePew says, “yeah, why?” Geo replied by saying, “well there he is over there!” With a sudden look of panic in his face, Geo sprinted over to HD and grabbed the baton from him to tackle his 3.2 mile easy Leg 15. Geo would call shenanigans on the “easy” as his leg was almost entirely uphill. The next exchange was a bit of congested cluster but we were able to park and get Saul across the street in time to meet Geo for Leg 16. After we dropped him off and headed to the next exchange we would once more feel for our guy as we saw he had some steep elevations to tackle on his 6.6 mile journey with his bum calf. The five of us gathered together at the exchange to wait for Saul so we could give him the final push he needed. LePew had some hype music playing on his speaker to help. Unbeknownst to us, there was a noise ordinance in effect at this spot since it was right at the corner of a neighborhood. Standing close by was a passive aggressive runner waiting her turn who exclaimed loud enough for all to hear, “isn’t this supposed to be a quiet zone?!” Teams were allowed 3 strikes before being disqualified and this could’ve potentially been one of em but LePew being LePew ironed it all out and made some friends along the way. In the darkness with only his headlight aglow we could notice Saul’s saunter getting closer. LePew geared up and off he would go for his 3.4 mile Leg 17. After his 9.5 earlier this was a welcomed shorter distance that LePew would hammer out lickety split. Shortly after we arrived in the Lowe’s parking lot for the next exchange, Patty had time enough to get his game face and uniform on (multicolor, light up running vest) and stretch himself out before LePew rolls in ready to hand off the baton. Patty would take off on Leg 18 to get his 4.2 miler in so that we could be 2/3 of the way through. We once more meet up with van 2 to hand the race off to them. We would congratulate Patty on a job well done. He was happy to be done but still slightly defeated as he chased the white rabbit for nearly the entire time only to let her get away…stay tuned for more on that in a bit…
Exhaustion setting in, we were all ready for some much-needed R&R. Van 1 would retire to Anderson County High School to let Van 2 do their thang overnight. Found a prime parking spot and nestled in for some slumber. Patty would sleep in the passenger seat of the van. Honey Do would have no problem once again sawing logs in the back bench. Saul followed LePew’s lead, and both slept like the homeless outside the van, buried in their sleeping bags. Your Bird would toss and turn in the captain’s chair getting in about 50 minutes total of shut-eye. And Nat Geo…well he played the smartest move of all paying 10 bucks for a shower and beauty sleep in the warmth of a gymnasium, on the floor.
0600 and Van 1’s final stretch of legs was about to get under way. Your Bird would be first to set off so there was some preparation involved. Take a shit indoors, grab a banana, create my badass playlist and throw down some perpetuum. Meet at the front of school at about 0700 to grab my slap on bracelet from PK. Now…this back blast has taken forever but it’s mine to create and if you made it this far your must endure it for a bit longer. But I’ll tell you, I was all uniformed up looking sleek in my “all black” cuz you know…sometimes the tiger wears red stripes. With Air Pods in my ears, my playlist was already motivating me, inspiring me to climb this one last mountain. And when PK slapped on the bracelet to begin Leg 25 of 7.3 miles, I was off like LePew on leg 5. I was fired up! Every step I made got me closer to completing a conquest I had yet to achieve. I was taking souls all over the place and I had the absolute joy of experiencing a darkness into light sunrise over the Kentucky River. One more beast of hill I had to climb and then it would level off to a beautiful horse farm. One last kill to make as this was the rabbit I was chasing this whole leg. Turned it up at the last 500 yard stretch and…I got him!! I was greeted by Honey Do with an ear-to-ear smile, slapped the baton on him and off he would go at his ever so consistent blistering pace for his 7.9 Leg 26. The van ventures onward and parks at the next exchange with many sites to behold. Most notably a dude wearing just a pair and of green skivvies and a corn hat (seriously, it was a hat in the shape of a cob of corn…you had to be there to believe it). Oh…there was also this one fit as hell, scantily clad female that wasn’t bad to look at either. We go to congratulate Honey Do but, he so fast he nearly beat the us there. Hand the baton off to Geo for Leg 27 and his 2.6 miles and his he was off, super pleased that his last lag wasn’t near as severe as his first two. Fired up on endorphins and not perpetuum, Geo literally sprinted through to the next exchange to handoff the baton to Saul who was likely equally excited to have a modest 2.2 miles to complete on his Leg 28, “not willing to cooperate” calf. So cool to see the grit and determination of fighting through pain and adversity. Proud of you Saul! LePew would be up next for Leg 29 and let me just remind you: LePew, had hardly done any training for this race and hadn’t run near these many miles in all of this year. His legs of the race would be: 9.5 miles, 3.4 miles and finished off with a grueling 8.5 miles of the most awfulest amount of elevations in the whole race. Van 1 stopped at about his midway point to cheer him on which LePew would later say was just the push he needed. I don’t know how but with one foot in front of the other, muscled through and finished with a red face, a huge smile and the most gnarly blisters you ever did see. Patty gets the baton from LePew dressed in his tiger stripes (aka white tank top) and off he would go for his 3.8 mile Leg 30 to bring van 1’s journey to an end. The Van heads to the exchange to meet up for the last time with Van 2. En route we played a LePew favorite, “Wow” from Beck on my mini speaker in celebration on the van ride to go get Patty. LePew was singing out the lyrics to us and any runners we passed by the whole time until my shotty speaker died. No sooner did we get to the exchange and chatter it up with the boys in Van 2 did we see Patty propelling himself through to the end. We noticed that he dusted the white rabbit he was chasing on his previous leg 18 putting justice to the cherry on top of his kill total. He passes the baton to Meter who darts out like a man trying to save himself from getting a parking violation. And so, Van 2’s final leg journey was underway.
Done! Finito! Terminado! We were all overwhelmed with an array of emotions to have completed such a conquest. And we did it all together like brothers going through battle! And now…we could almost taste the beer hitting our lips for the much-anticipated trip to B-Dubs in Frankfort for some quality 2rdF celebration time to include beers, wings, fried pickles, nachos and sliders. They were out of Blue Moon, ranch, ketchup and even napkins but we modified as necessary and made do. We watched some UK football and got to meet LePew’s M who had driven from The Ville to pick up her absent-minded husband so that he could get to his daughter’s birthday dinner. Good times go by in a flash and before you know it, we had paid our tab and were out the door to meet up with Van 2 for the final time. We arrive with time for us all to take a little snooze because yes, we ran hard for a long time but in the course of two short hours we partied pretty darn hard too. (Patty feeling inspired by LePew slept on the grass outside of the van). We woke up, rubbed the sleep out of our eyes, gathered ourselves together and sauntered over to the exchange for the baton to be handed off a final time from Motor Boat to PK. Captain Crunchberry being the HIM that he is ran it with PK so we wouldn’t have to finish alone. Van 1 and Van 2 for the first time in this entire race drove one behind the other to get to the finish line by Rupp Arena. All 11 of us made the decision to greet PK and Captain at about 100 yards from finish so that we could all run together to cross the finish line as one. I can only imagine that everyone else was feeling like I was, getting chills with every step we took until crossed through the tunnel. Fist bumps, homie fives and hugs all around. We would grab our medals, our shots of bourbon and get to hang out for a bit before heading for home.
Let me wrap this puppy up and tell you a few final thoughts. This was, without a doubt, the most badass challenge I’ve ever done! Before F3 I would never have considered doing something as crazy as a 200-mile relay race across Kentucky. For one, I was a sad clown that didn’t know what I was capable of. For 2, I was a sad clown with not a whole lot of friends to go on such an adventure with. This brotherhood that we are so fortunate to have found allows us to, if we let it, build bonds, step outside of our comfort zones and work towards unlocking the best possible version of who The Sky Q created us to be.
Van 1, after our hour-long drive back into The Ville, pulls into the Thorntons to gas up, remove the number of magnets that we acquired along the way and take off the LED lights that Patty had creatively installed so that our van was illuminated during the nighttime hours. Finally, as we pull into the Walmart parking lot the sun was setting behind the clouds creating a beautiful, blue-orange glow in the evening sky. The symbolism was profound and a perfect conclusion to the most epic of experiences!
Patty, LePew, Saul, Honey Do and Geo… Ya’ll are my boys for life and I will never forget this time we were so fortunate to spend together! Love you’s!
Until next year…