[Editors note: My weekly backblasts are long enough to cover a 45 minute workout; capturing 4 days required some extra words so accept my apologies for being long winded. Skip to the end of you prefer]
This is the story of Van 2’s courageous travels of 103.8 miles through the beautiful and scenic hills of southern Kentucky horse county, conquering our portion of the Bourbon Chase. Officially we traversed 4.3 miles more than Van 1, just in case you’re keeping score at home. Many thanks to Sargento that stepped in to Q this event nearly a year ago, checking off a bucket list item to run in the Bluegrass state. Since the initial meeting, there have been several line-ups for the event. The only thing that held true for our van was Mayor in the driver seat, JJ and Short Sale as runners. With injuries, illness, and professional responsibilities, the deck was shuffled several times before the final line-up was cemented less than two weeks before go time. So on a rainy Thursday, the venerable St. Marks van loaded with Def Leppard, Freight, JJ, and Short Sale along with the newbie’s of Sister Act and Oompa Loompa. It would be a long journey to reach Bardstown, KY, home of well, not really much, unless you count Rick’s House as a featured destination. It required several stops to stretch our legs, re-fuel and then a 10 minute detour to find a Zaxby’s in order to satisfy Dr. Qweeshe’s sensitive pallet. Finally we arrived at the General Nelson Inn, a quaint motel – yes you heard that correct – a motel, where we paired off into seven different rooms, that was until Sister Act checked for bed bugs and found some relative looking more like a roach that required a room change.
With the line-up changes and nagging injuries of some runners, our start time was moved forward to 9:00 am which required an early start for Van 1 to head 20 minutes north to the Jim Beam distillery where the Chase would begin. Little did they know, Van 2 had agreed to rendezvous at the start to support our fellow teammates, because that is the kind of guys we are – offering up encouragement. Plus we were a little curious if Sargento would actually allow HIPAA to drive the van since the Big Cheese was in fact the first runner. In either event, it was an opportunity to tour the site of the famous Jim Beam. Once Sargento set off, we bid our guys good luck as Van 2 sought the Cracker Barrel to fuel our bodies for needed energy. Mayor transformed the van into our alter image of the “Fury” complete with F3 and GasHouse logos (freehand by the way). We then headed off to the first transfer zone at the famed Makers Mark Distillery. This was quite the scene in terms of the facility itself and the Bourbon Chase tents and vendors. We completed the requisite safety video and then had time to tour the premises to learn how the sweet brown nectar is made, where it is stored (partly shelled out of the limestone mountain), and even enjoyed a free tasting.
As Broke headed up the path, Oompa Loompa grabbed the baton (wrist bracelet actually) and he was off on his maiden relay voyage of 4.9 miles.
With Dolph having run the BRR, I offered to be Mayor’s co-pilot. It should be noted that I relocated Freight’s bag to take this coveted spot while he was inside his house Thursday morning. Little did I know the level of responsibility required. Pressure quickly mounted when leaving Maker’s Mark and the Mayor said “where to?”
“Huh?” I responded, staring at the faint circle on my phone searching for a signal. “Left” I guessed only to miss the next turn. Thankfully JJ was ahead of me and his phone app was working. I was temporarily spared this time. We followed the runner’s route, up one hill and down another, up, and down – this was similar to the beginning of Thunder Road. We passed Oompa a mile into the leg. Little did he know this would be no ordinary Coconut Horse, Pub or Crossroads route. We felt pity and quickly blamed Sargento; this would become customary for any difficult challenge encountered. Sister Act was next up to break barely a sweat at 4.8 miles. Then JJ took off on the longest run of the event at 8.9 miles. He’d confided he had not really trained for this length but accepted the challenge without complaint. Again, I screwed up on the directions missing the wrong yellow flashing light. Thankfully we had extra time due to JJ’s lengthy distance that we arrived in plenty of time which allowed for us to break out the “vagina’s” otherwise known as the couch pouch.
Mayor was the first to put air in his pouch as he struggled running in circles to grab needed airflow to the chamber of the cushion. As he gained top speed, he hit a pot hole, stumbling forward, somehow saving himself from an embarrassing crash in front of a handful of people. As with much of the events, discussion, and jokes shared among our trip, you had to be there to appreciate the humor. Once we were all settled and relaxing, the F3 Fort Mill guys happened to park beside us and we shared some conversation with them.
The handoff was made and YHC was off on a 7.2 mile voyage along Highway 150. It was a grinding run that I’d prepared mentally and physically during the summer heat. Among the fleeting thoughts in my head, a few were appreciating the months of extra running that I’d begrudgingly done – as with anything training will go a long way to achieving success. I achieved a personal best time for the distance arriving at my finish in the small town of Perryville, KY ready to hand off to Def Leppard – but he was absent. Apparently the event volunteers said because it might get dark before he completed his 6.3 mile run, he needed his vest and running lights. Little did they know our sage Cat’s speed. Leppard was pissed, taking his frustration out speeding through the course collecting 18 kills! 18!! If that isn’t a record for F3 Gastonia Relays, it has to be top 5. I heard the Leppard does not often swear, but it burned him quite a bit as most of the runners he passed did not have the requisite vest and lights. He may have actually said a curse word (you’ll have to ask him).
Freight finally got his chance to stretch his legs, cruising nearly 6 miles through a winding and twisting residential section with lots of land and big houses, finally to arrive in downtown Danville where quite the party was going on. The streets were closed and DJ pumping ’80’s music (sorry no George Strait). We gathered with Van 1 to make the handoff. Van 2 clocked out for a few hours and at Sister Act’s suggestion found a Cattleman’s which is like a Longhorn.
Then it was onto the Brightleaf Golf Resort to relax and attempt sleeping. The vagina’s were out again and shortly thereafter light rain pellets dropped enough to irritate and force us back into the cramped van. Time passed and it was soon time for Oompa to begin his second turn, this time in a steady rain. After several failed attempts to provide the driver with accurate directions, I told Freight to relax that I had the next destination plugged into my phone. Unfortunately I keyed the end of route instead the beginning. Once past the destination, Freight shared of my error. Mayor gave me a look that a parent offers when their offspring disappoints. I’d failed again and leapt from the passenger seat, past Freight and JJ to the empty bench. I demoted myself. Freight took his rightful spot as our new co-pilot.
The rain continued through Sister Act’s leg and briefly for JJ’s turn. The night runs can be the most peaceful parts of the relays races. Ask among the past participants and the majority should agree. However, running in low 40’s through a steady rain might dampen the spirit. Thankfully the rain stopped for my 5.4 mile run where the road was very narrow, and very hilly. I picked up a few kills and got isolated. As vans passed, I braced when seeing their headlights point skyward and begin to climb an oncoming hill. Part of the good and bad of the night run is not seeing the terrain ahead. Def took over for me to travel over 4 miles and took a dive as two cars passed, not giving each other space, much less a runner. He may have said another curse word (you’ll have to ask him). The Four Roses Distillery was the sight of this exchange but at 3 am, not nearly as scenic as the others we’d been during the day. Freight took off for a hilly 9 miles toward the famed Wild Turkey site. Along the way, his knee stiffened but our former Nantan pushed through at his own demise. Van 1 was back on the trail and we searched for a sleeping spot.
Our earlier start time allowed for us to pass quite a bit of our competition and we were some of the early arrivals to the exchange zones which meant the port-a-jons were newly deposited on site. We awoke early Saturday morning to observe a Type A women not satisfied with the location of the 10 $hitters facing the parking lot. Picture this squatty woman with her thunder thighs crammed into tight leggings, short blonde “tinker-bell” haircut – the kind woman you’d expect to be screaming at a manager to apply her $10 off coupon for a $12 salad – yeah, one of those bitches. So we laughed as she pushed, shoved, and twisted all these things to face the opposite direction, only to seem exasperated at the gap between the 4th and 5th stall that she couldn’t resolve; Type A women, you either love ’em or kill ’em – or maybe you just want to kill them but you fight the urge.
So Oompa’s time to run was approaching and Mayor had our van in a front row parking spot as the lot had filled with a multitude of white vans. This is where we learned about Sister Act’s need and I mean need for a Starbucks iced coffee. If he asked once, he asked 100 times for this kick starter. We compared it to the Snicker’s commercial with the grumpy actor whining and complaining until getting “satisfied” with the candy bar. Mayor promised we’d find him some Starbucks before his next run and so we did. Only now it was too soon before his run – his longest of the event at 8.4 miles. So we poured the nector into a Yeti cup for safe keeping. As most relay runners know and for those that don’t – the third leg is driven mostly on adrenaline and they aren’t always the best times of the event. Sister Act was motivated to drink his Starbucks and he ran an efficient 7:45 pace. So if you ever need some bait for SA – now you know.
By this point, JJ’s quad was burnt and he pushed through his final segment, getting passed by what appeared to be a minor league track club wearing ranger panties and tank top complete with numbers on the back – if you’re thinking “what a tool” you’d be accurate. JJ handed off to me for 6.7 miles that I’d hope to enjoy running along a scenic parkway, golf course, neighborhood, and then into an greenway. It was low 50’s and overcast and my right calf said it was done about a mile into the trip. So the battle ensued finding ways to take weight off only to create an ache on my left knee. How much worse could it get? Each step, each song on my playlist brought me closer to finishing that was the only way my mind could help me through it. Thankfully my route had only a few inclines and mostly was downhill or flat so that eased the pressure and I was never happier to see Def Leppard waiting to take the baton. He was off for a final time, continuing for 4 miles on the same greenway trail.
THE GLORY LEG
Freight’s knee had been hurting since his long run earlier in the wee hours. He tried a new concept of stretching hoping he could workout the pain and gut through the last 5 miles of the Glory Leg. He took the baton and grimaced fierce on the first few strides. He pushed ahead. Once we returned to the van and made our way out of the exchange zone, we passed our man around the one mile mark – he gave us his typical “hang loose” signal which we assumed he was good and we forged ahead to meet Van 1 at the finish. Soon upon our arrival at Rupp Arena, Mayor received a call from Freight: he’d gone as far as his leg would allow. All of us that know Freight well and for those that even know him a little, this call was a last resort. He will fight to the end and unfortunately he could do no more than limp at this point. He thought of what was best for the team – sub in another runner. Van 2 was banged up at this point, except for SA, but he’d poured 32 ounces of Starbucks into his belly and wasn’t a great option. We shared the news with Van 1. Sargento had been taking over the legs the entire Bourbon Chase – due to his “injury” and as THE Q. Since he started the race, it would be no surprise if he handpicked himself to finish the remaining few miles and accept the Glory of starting and finishing the race. We thought about Quiche because – well, he is Quiche and he was our best runner. Before the next replacement could be contemplated, HIPAA had shed his warm clothes, appearing in his sleeveless F3 shirt, shorts and running shoes. He’d been waiting for this moment to come the entire trip and like Clark Kent he’d found a phone booth; he was ready to be called. HIPAA dove into Van 2 and Mayor took off to find Freight. The runner’s bib was transferred and HIPAA tagged in with slightly less than 2 miles to the finish. As customary, the team had gathered before the finish line awaiting our runner and would cross the finish line as a team. As if HIPAA was hopped up on a half case of Red Bull, he churned the remaining distance at a PR (that is Personal Record for you non-runners) pace. Sure enough, we saw HIPAA round Jefferson St and make a sharp turn to West Main St. Boudin commented it seemed our man had been shot from a cannon. We would have finished at 29 hours and 40 minutes, just inside the top 100 out of 436 teams had he been able to maintain his speed, but HIPAA beat Van 2 to the finish and had to wait about 9 minutes until the rest of our team could arrive. Once the crew was gathered, HIPAA picked up his pace and strolled to the finish, officially at 29:49:11. The time didn’t really matter, this was about finishing and we achieved our goal, happy to celebrate with some bourbon tasting and a few beers.
My second relay race is in the books. This time around, I focused on training to get my body conditioned for the challenging 19.3 miles I was destined to run since accepting the challenge in March. I only regretted tweaking my calf prior to the race but overcoming adversity is part of this event. There were several iterations of teammates for the Bourbon Chase before the final line-up assembled. The camaraderie of the van far outweighs the lack of sleep, lack of food, and frenzied schedule. The team remains together except when someone is running. With that come conversations and interactions that help you get better acquainted or deepen the relationship. I can share a little of what I learned as member of Van 2? Oompa Loompa is liable to say anything – I don’t think he has a filter. You may not realize how often he posts, but he mixes in about everywhere, head down and pushing through. He ran the same way to kick start each of our rounds. Def Leppard is a calming influence that could be a stone to anyone among our region (but don’t steal him from Freight, he needs HIM). Plus it is always good to talk with him about anything. Sister Act is every bit the beast that set a record with 37 posts in a month and apparently the secret is he needs his iced coffee from Starbucks. He also loves fine china (you’ll have to ask him). JJ is ready to fill any void that is needed to support the team, including directions. Freight is meticulous to know where he is going. So it was no surprise that he was navigating our next move well ahead of my supposed role as co-pilot. Thankfully I gave way to his expertise. On top of that, it is clear that Freight accepts any challenge. Even when he was scheduled to be the lead off, he accepted the clean-up spot, even when it included the second longest leg of 9 miles on a lonely road or pushing his body as far as it would allow him. And then there is Mayor – he is a veteran of four relay races, securing the van for the trip and getting the guys where they need to be, always ahead of schedule. These relay races cannot be completed without a driver sacrificing their time. Which speaking of sacrifice, Mayor chose to be with us instead of attending his 20th high school reunion. Drivers are always essential to the success of the event.
In Proverbs 17:17 the scripture reads: “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” As the self appointed co-pilot, I didn’t perform well. Actually I was terrible. I had not prepared for that role. I wrongly assumed it was to keep Mayor company while driving. Don’t take that the wrong way – we had plenty of good conversation during the eight hours of road time. But when it came to navigating to the next exchange, I failed. Thankfully Freight and JJ were there to pick me up. The cool thing about this event is everyone pulls their weight. Once the van comes live, each man takes the baton for their segment, long or short, hills or flats, rain or sun, clouds too. We run to tag the next guy in – it becomes “their time.” We support one another and celebrate their achievements. We’re ready to jump in where needed, even when it may be the other van driver charging to the finish. As Saturday night wore on, Mayor began feeling bad, headache, stomachache – we’ve all been there. Living out of a van in a damp night might cause some of those things. He wasn’t up for driving the return from Lexington to Gastonia in that condition. I might suck as a co-pilot, but I happily took my chance to drive our van home. When will your name be called? You never know but the great thing about our brotherhood of F3 is we know men are there to support us in whatever ways are required. If you’ve never experienced one of these relay events, put it on your bucket list. You get so much more from them than you can imagine. Last Sunday morning, I jumped into the driver seat for my man Mayor – it was my time.