PAX IN VAN #2:
- Air Raid (R)
- Motor Boat
- Meter Maid
- Captain Crunchberry
- Jolly Rancher (YHC)
Before signing up for the Bourbon Chase, I had done very little research about it. In fact, I had done zero research about it – but I had heard from others that it was a great event and I knew it entailed a lot of running. But, fresh off [okay, maybe it was a few months after] of a half-marathon, I figured it can’t be that bad, right? So, I quickly hard committed and sent in my cash to the Bourbon Chase Q Extraordinaire, Patty, and off I went on the training plan. Excitement was in the air!
The training plan I used was not the Q-approved list, which I didn’t think was that big of a deal. Just like Forrest Gump, I just planned to keep running until I got tired, right? Well, those few months of not running after the half-marathon humbled and reminded me that I’m not a runner. It’s not like a fine wine that you can put away, ignore it and bring it back out to enjoy at some point in the future. But, my training had me basically running 3x a week for at least 6- to 8-weeks before the race…each of the distances probably 3-miles on average with at least one long 6-mile run to make sure I had some level of endurance.
During the training, the anxiety really started to set in – I felt like I needed more information to clear up some uncertainties I had. So, I started to research and understand a bit more about what a Ragnar Relay is all about. Again, I have a bunch of friends that have done this before and heard great things – but did you guys know that this relay race is 200-miles long? WTF. But, it was too late at that point to back out.
Fortunately for me, I intentionally signed up for the runner that had the least amount of miles. All in, when I signed up it was like 9-miles or so…but, course and leg changes quickly moved that to a little north of 12-miles. That’s a 33% error rate, which in my profession, is pretty high. So, after some four-letter words shared within the team, the anxiety and fear really started to set in. What was I thinking for signing up for this!
The closer and closer it came to D-Day I realized I was off on my training for various reasons. One of which was about 3-weeks before the race, I had rolled my right ankle thanks to the beautiful walnut trees that dropped a minefield in and around the County loop route. Fortunately or unfortunately, this was around the time of a European trip for work that I knew would be difficult to find time to get some running done. And then it was the week before the Chase. I almost called it and said I couldn’t do it – but, I had too much FOMO at this point. So, I forged ahead knowing that the PAX would have mercy on me if I came in at a slower pace than expected. I was fortunate to have Captain Crunchberry to run with me as my pacer – he always yells at me anyways on training runs, so it was pretty natural to have him to be my pacer.
In the days before the event, we coordinated together among the PAX in Van #2 for snacks, meeting location and time, and to share expectations among the group – as our van included all rookies, with zero Bourbon Chase experience. That said, packing for each of the PAX was all over the place. Generally speaking, the gear and accessories we packed even included stuff “just in case,” which fortunately we didn’t actually have to use [e.g., ponchos were packed despite the 0% chance of rain].
PRE-RACE ON DAY 1:
We also decided to meet up at First Watch in Middletown for a lunch since we didn’t have to get to Exchange 6 until a little before 5pm. I call this a win considering Van #1 had to meet early in the morning for our 9am start time on the first Leg out by Big Bird.
Six of the seven PAX were able to make it for lunch – all except Motor Boat, who had the premonition to know he wouldn’t be in conflict and scheduled a work lunch. Lots of debate at lunch on what fuel to eat. Would it be all carbs? Spicey food or no? Eggs for protein? A lot of food or a little? Water or Coke to drink? In the end, I don’t think any of this mattered, but it was certainly in our heads.
After lunch, we moved over to the main meeting location and found where the PAX from Van #1 parked [head nod to Big Bird’s Pilot with the F3 and Disney sticker so we knew where to go]. This way we were in the same area when coming back home. Here, we packed up the van with all of the goodies. Do you ever pack your bags for a vacation or work trip and know in advance that you’re overpacking but you do it anyways? Yeah, that was Van #2. The gear included:
- At least two PAX had some sleeping bags. And they refused to share them.
- At least four PAX had some pillows of some sorts [fist bump to Crunchberry for letting me borrow his neck pillow at some point].
- Lots of clothes – some long sleeves, short sleeves, leggings, shorts, knee braces, etc. Most of the clothes I packed I didn’t even use – but, I was prepared.
- Speaking of Crunchberry, this man made some homemade beef jerky to energize the PAX. And that stuff was good!
- Then Air Raid breaks out two containers of homemade chocolate chip cookies – mmmm-good. We did share one container with Van #1.
- Can’t forget the bananas. Or the Gatorade, Body Armour, and waters for hydration.
- Peanut butter filled pretzel bites, fruit snacks, granola bars, and of course, Jolly Ranchers…because, I mean come on [and, you know, to keep the driver awake].
- I’m sure there was a bit of other stuff. Needless to say, the back of the van was pretty full.
Around 1pm or 1:30pm, we were off to meet Van #1 at the exchange. Air Raid started us off as the driver, with Crunchberry the navigator and the rest of the PAX piled in the back. This is where things took a bit of a downturn. Despite Crunchberry’s abilities to make some pretty good beef jerky, his navigator skills are a little tough around the edges. You see, he’s still using a Samsung phone and not an iPhone. And, unfortunately, the Ford Transit van we were in really didn’t want to connect to his phone. Here’s an active shot of him about to throw his phone out the window:
After a few failed attempts as he was sitting in the passenger seat trying to get things to work, I brought my iPhone out and successfully got the Bluetooth connected in mere seconds…from the back seat! This enabled Air Raid to see the map to know where we were headed to, which was Idle Hour Park in Springfield, KY. And off we went.
On the way, we checked Patty’s tracker spreadsheet that we’d be updating throughout the event along with Van #1. We noticed that Big Bird, who started the race for us at 9am, was about 12-minutes off pace. Talk about getting into your head…if Big Bird was 12-minutes off pace, the rest of us were screwed. Then we saw Honey Do and Nat Geo’s time pick up some of that lost time. So, we chalked it up to a post-COVID recovery issue from Big Bird – or maybe more hills in his leg than the others.
We arrived at Idle Hour Park much earlier than we needed to, but with a van of rookies, we weren’t going to leave Patty to arrive at the exchange without Meter Maid there to pick up the baton [if you know, you know – if not, just keep reading]. Here, Crunchberry checked us in [after all, he is Captain Crunchberry so was shoe-in for Captain for Van #2] and we had a few minutes to hang around some other teams and the atmosphere, which was incredible. We also ran into several other F3 teams – and then some non-F3 teams that had some Louisville PAX [shoutout to Bunghole and PCI].
After what seemed to be forever, we finally connected with Van #1 and got them parked next to us and we all went to the exchange. Here’s where we realized a fatal flaw in planning. We really didn’t know how far away he was – we were just guessing based on his projected mile pace and when he started. So, Van #2 decided to use technology to our advantage – we used the shared location features on the iPhone [because really all of the PAX were running with their phones]. This way we knew how far away or close they were. Well, all except one person used this feature…some others are on old technology and refuse to accept what is a more superior device].
Here’s where we also learned a little hiccup that happened on Van #1. For those that forgot, just a reminder that Van #1 had at least three PAX that has done this before. Despite this, when they left Big Bird to go meet him and exchange the baton, they went to the wrong exchange. But, they didn’t realize this until Big Bird showed up at the end of his run with no sign of Van #1 or Honey Do. This is why Big Bird was 12-minutes off pace. Because their van went to the wrong spot. I digress…let’s get back to Van #2.
We managed to find Patty coming down the hill at the park and Meter Maid made the exchange and off he went. Van #2 officially started our journey around 6:09pm – that’s a good 9-hours and 9-minutes after Big Bird started – or 53.6 miles later. Woof! Not knowing what to expect, we headed out to the van and made our way to exchange #7 [for those rookies, or for those PAX in Van #1, the exchanges are numbered the same as the legs…so, Meter Maid was running leg #7 and the end of his run was exchange #7]. On our way out, we passed by Meter Maid going up some of the country hillside. So, naturally, we gave him a few soft horn blows from the Ford Transit, and then kept on moving. This exchange was a little different where the exchange wasn’t really at any one spot. Instead, it was along a side road and really you just found a parking spot and waited for your runner to find you. This meant that either Meter Maid was running a bit longer than planned, or I would be [because I was leg #8]. I’m still not sure who won on that deal, but we figured it out and the exchange took place.
So, as noted above, I benefitted in having Crunchberry as a pacer with me. This meant I didn’t have to run alone. This also meant that I had to listen to him yell at me or try to have a conversation with me while I was trying to breath and not die. As we started out, I felt good – but that quickly faded as we approached a hill. And then I realized pretty quickly I was way in over my head. To make matters worse, the hills just kept coming. And they kept getting longer. Like, Mt. Everest style [or at least that’s what it felt like]. But, at least the fine folks of whatever county we were in decided to recently pave the road for us – so, at least it was a smooth run. We kept cruising along and then finally found a little wind going downhill. Here’s where we ran into some nice local children that had some motivating and encouraging signs to root us along. Pretty sure one of them wanted to give us a hug, but we suggested that wasn’t a great idea. And then finally we saw the 1-mile to go sign so the adrenaline was kicking in at this point. And then as we got closer, I could hear PK screaming at me – as if Crunchberry yelling at me wasn’t enough! But, it was great because the adrenaline was really pumping to know I was within shouting distance of being done with leg #1. So, I passed it off to Alicorn [PK’s cousin who posted at The County during a visit years ago] and off he went – like the speed of light.
As I gathered myself and made my way to the van so we could move on, I spoke up and told Air Raid [who was up after Alicorn] that I would drive so that he could get mentally prepared. And, selfishly, I’d be closer to the air vents to cool off and recover! And, away we went.
The next exchange found us in Perryville. And it was getting close to dusk, which made for a great scenery. And let me tell you – the people of Perryville knew this was their time to shine. It was a legit street party with music playing and churches selling food, baked goods, etc. It was a great vibe. Alicorn came screaming in so fast that he almost missed Air Raid for the exchange. So, at this point, we were halfway through the van on our runs. Then, we kept pushing forward.
Air Raid was running on a bum leg with having pulled a hamstring a few weeks prior. So, he wasn’t sure how things were going to go, but felt confident. And, no surprise but he killed his leg and then next up was Motor Boat. This leg, Motor Boat, who decided he didn’t want to run with his phone – but, we managed just fine at the exchange. For those that don’t know much of Motor Boat, but he’s a closet running freak. He says he hates it and is always worried, but then he slays the runs. And this first leg for him was no different.
Motor Boat had a pretty scenic view coming into the Wilderness Trail Distillery for exchange #11, where PK would close us out strong for the last run for Van #2. The before shot of PK and YHC alongside Alicorn who took a break from massaging his hamstrings to look at his phone:
At this point, we communicated with Van #1 to let them know approximate arrival time for PK, which was in downtown Danville – another city who embraced the disruption of having 1,500 white vans take over their city. So, we made our way there and on the way Patty implied that they were parked there and had a space right next to them for us – problem is, which parking lot? So, we decided to make a phone call and then realized they were right in front of us. Pretty amazing given the circumstances that we found them. We parked, exchange stories and then realized Le Pew was missing from Van #1. They informed us he was across the street sleeping under a tree. And sure enough – there he was [he’s the yellow blob, worm-looking thing next to the sign]:
Headphones on, sleeping bag up to his neck just snoozing away. I can’t decide if I was just jealous or not though. PK came screaming in at 9:53pm and we made the exchange handing off the business at hand back to Van #1. Another 31.2 miles complete for Van #2 – so all in we were 84.8 miles on our way to 200.
We checked out local dining options and found a nice little Italian place that had no wait for a table. So, we crashed down and ate some pizzas – making some friends with other Bourbon Chase teams eating there as well. After a quite respite, we were off to exchange #18, which was some athletic complex around Danville. Here’s where we parked in the parking lot and attempted to try and get some sleep. I honestly don’t know what happened, but after we parked, I leaned back and was out. I kept hearing people getting in and out of the van but just attempted to block them out. At this point, it was every PAX for himself to try and get some sleep. I think Meter Maid and PK tried to sleep outside – but not sure that worked. Not sure how much sleep was had by everyone, but, I do feel like we got rest. And, despite the fantastic weather we had all weekend, it did get considerably cold outside as well as in the van overnight. We got the word that Patty was out so we made our move over to the exchange so Meter Maid could pick us back up.
And, at 2:03am, Meter Maid made his way out to kick things off. These night legs were of course much different. Much more peaceful on the roads with very little traffic – and the teams were much more spread out so the exchanges weren’t as busy as they were the first go-around. But, it did get considerably more cold. So, as Crunchberry and I were getting ready for our next leg, I definitely made a gear change. Also opted to put on the knee braces – not sure they helped, but at least they kept me warmer.
As we waited for Meter Maid, we saw one person that showed up and looked to not be able to find his teammates. So, he Forrest Gump’d it on out of that exchange and just kept on running. T-claps to that dude. Not sure what came from it. Exchange happened and Crunchberry and I were off. I was really looking forward to this leg because I knew it’d be much cooler and quieter. And, we also benefited from really zero turns – just a straight stretch.
As we made our way down the road, here’s where we made our first kill [which is what you call it when you pass a runner]. And then, we made a second kill – and then a third. Man, it was feeling good – because the first leg we had our soul stolen several times [which is what you call it when someone passes you!]. Towards the end of the leg, I was feeling it…but knew we were getting close. And then I had a runner in mind that I was going to try and pass…and we did. But, then I had to walk a bit and then he came back and passed us up again. No way, Jose. So, I made a push hoping that the exchange was coming up soon – it had to be close. And sure enough, it was – thank goodness. Pushed this one pretty good and certainly much more than normal and sure enough, I survived. Alicorn was then off to the races.
We then moved out with Alicorn making a feverish pace just as he did the first go around. We made the exchange again off to Air Raid, who had greased up his hamstring and massaged it pretty thoroughly since the first run to make sure it was nice and loose. And, then exchanged to Motor Boat – who was really feeling some anxiety for his night run. After all, it was the longest run that any PAX in Van #2 would make – and it was in the middle of the night. He decided to take his phone this run and no surprise, but he was killing it as normal. Exchange #23, which is where Motor Boat ended and PK picked up, took place at Four Roses Distillery, which was pretty cool. They had some donuts, bourbon balls and some other stuff there. Let’s just say the donuts were amazing and definitely hit the spot.
And then we moved over to Lawrenceburg at the Anderson County High School, which is where we reconnected with Van #1 where we, again, saw Le Pew parked in the field underneath of his sleeping bag with his headphones on:
Here is where PK wrapped up his leg and we handed the baton back over to Big Bird. It was pretty sweet timing as it was 7:09am when PK showed up, which was just as the sunrise was coming up. And, we had a bunch of flags planted – it felt like we were in the gloom!
At this point, we were 148 miles of the 200 complete. Feeling like it’s all downhill from here, right?!?
We made the executive decision that we’d try to head into the gym of the school and check out the facilities – which only cost $20 for the entire van. Here, a few of the PAX decided to relive their high school gym days and take a shower while others just decided to lay down on the plush and comforting hardwood floor of the gym. But, it really didn’t matter – it was just all about trying to get some sleep. And we were all out – again, not a lot of sleep, but certainly rest being able to lay out versus sleeping in the van, which was nice. However, I started to have some pretty massive calf cramps which definitely limited the rest. And then at some point, PK came over to wake me up saying it was time to go – but it was like an hour earlier than we decided. So, I tried to just give him the keys to get him to go away, he insisted that it was time to go. I begrudgingly agreed and we rounded up the other PAX and we made our way to the van.
We made our way over to Frankfort where Meter Maid would take things back over. No surprise, but we had plenty of time to do whatever we wanted to here while we waited – really could have used that extra time on the gym floor, PK! We tried to stay loose so a few PAX made a trip over to the local convenient store for some coffee, but I opted for a celebratory Mt. Dew to stash in the cooler to enjoy after my third run later in the day. Meanwhile, this was Motor Boat:
Meter Maid officially took back over at 11:57am as we were 180.3 miles complete of the 200 mile journey – and, we were only 28 minutes behind our projected pace [most of that from the SNAFU on the very first exchange with Big Bird from Van #1. You could almost taste victory at this point. Just one more suffering to go.
These next legs were really cool I think for everyone because we were running through the countryside of central Kentucky – through a bunch of horse farms and four board black fences. Roads were small, but traffic was light. As Meter Maid made the exchange to me and my pacer, Crunchberry, we had a nice flat leg with a few turns for a change – but it was also the longest leg we had. We ran into one of the several F3 Naperville teams [I think they had like 6 different teams] and had another kill on one of their PAX – damn that felt good! Then a few other teams stole our soul again as this leg was long and brutal. Interval running was the name of the game and survival was the only objective. This worked well for the first couple of miles and then we ran into another runner that seemed to be on a similar interval running pace. So, we pushed him and he pushed us. Nice guy from Shepherdsville that installs pools for a living.
As we made our way to downtown Midway, we knew the end was near [because I could hear PK screaming at me again]. And we made the exchange for Alicorn to round out his last leg. The recovery after this leg was a bit longer. And, fortunately we got much smarter as we did the exchanges because in the beginning nobody had water for the finishing runner – but luckily the PAX didn’t forget me this time and had some nice refreshing water for me to enjoy.
Made our way up to the van and off we went. Alicorn’s pace was a bit slower this go around, but still fast by anybody else’s standards. But, it was good to know he, too, was human as he got humbled a bit on that last leg. Air Raid was up next and his hamstring was still feeling pretty good, although this last leg for him was also the longest. But, he soldiered on just like we’d expect him to. I think it was about here that I decided to partake in my celebratory Mt. Dew. And, man, did that taste good.
Then we made the move for Motor Boat to take over and it seemed like a long while for Air Raid to show up. The iPhone maps kept suggesting he was 1-mile away and then it would increase to 1.5-miles away. We had no idea what was going on. As we waited, we found another runner that got stranded at the finish line by their team – perhaps they took pointers from Van #1’s playbook…? We offered her a bottle of water, which she accepted while she was on the phone trying to figure out where the hell they were. I bet that makes for an interesting van ride…
Then, Air Raid was in our view and Motor Boat was amped up [like normal] ready to take the helm. No surprise, but he crushed the mileage and came in a few minutes behind his expected pace like normal. And then we were there – the last leg, which was the honors of PK to bring us home. Van #1 decided to meet us at Exchange #35 to see him off, which was good. They were fresh off of a BW3’s visit, where they watched some football – jerks.
Given Crunchberry was a pacer for me, he still had fresh legs. And, not that PK needed the pacing help, but Crunchberry needed to be pushed a little more – so, he decided to run the last leg with PK to get some more mileage. You animal.
As we said our goodbyes to them, we hopped in the vans and made our move to downtown Lexington. I used the map and at some point realized I was right behind Van #1 driven by Patty. So, I decided to just follow him. Well, the man must not use maps – he just uses his instincts to know where to go. About four missed turns later, we finally made our way into the Rupp Arena parking lot where we hopped out of the van and made our way to the finish line.
At the finish line, we walked around a bit and then gathered together near the finish line – because apparently when you see your team mate coming down Main Street you get to run the last 100-yards as a team to cross the finish line. Except, nobody told me that – because I was in flip flops [it’s the GORUCK thing to do, right?].
So, Patty, we need to edit the playbook to make sure everyone is ready!
They came down and both were looking strong…
And we tucked in behind them and crossed the finish line at 5:13pm after finishing 213.5 miles [yep, some extra credit apparently in the route!]. All in, it took us 32-hours and 13-minutes according to our math. Incredible experience and one that will be great memories for sure for many years to come.
Here’s the final results for the full team:
Since joining F3, I’ve tried to improve and challenge myself each and every year with something. For those unfamiliar, we call them CSAUP Events [completely stupid, and utterly pointless]. The reality is they’re not really CSAUP, but they force you out of your comfort zone to really know how far you can push yourself. Whether it’s a GORUCK event, GROWRUCK, Minimarathon, Marathon, Bourbon Chase, etc. They’re all good at showing you what you are capable of – and, it’s always something more than you THOUGHT you were capable of. Sure, it sucks when you’re in the middle of the battle just like any other challenge. But, the reward when you’re done is really, really satisfying.
The time spent running the course is just part of the battle. Trying to get rest, sleep, get appropriate nutrition and hydration were all little puzzles throughout the journey, too. And, let’s not forget the laughs, the stories and the bonds build between the 7 PAX in that van together. Each one pulling, rooting, encouraging and in the trenches with you. Sure, I was the slowest on my team – I knew that and I knew they knew that. Thankfully, I didn’t let the time bother me and my teammates had the same viewpoint. Finishing was the goal and that’s something that I’m proud to say I did.
But, next year I call dibs on all-time driver!
Jolly Rancher out!