Bourbon Chase: Relay Recap

Oh geez, where do I start? If you want the background on how Bourbon Chase came to be, the story is best told by Sarah.

{While you are over there, check out her recap, featuring two relay rookies. It captures the team aspect of the weekend (and the view from van 2) perfectly.}

2013-10-25 10-00-01_The Bourbon Chase - Contact

When the whole injury thing happened, I was nervous that Bourbon Chase would be a no go. I wasn’t sure if I would be healed or if I was, if it was smart to run a relay and be cooped up in a van for hours between runs. But as the time got closer and my calf felt strong, I was confident that I could run the relay without a major risk of re-injuring myself.

I made the drive down to Lexington, KY on Thursday, picking up Holly and Batch in Cinci on the way. The rest of the team trickled in that evening and we had a “team meeting” at Country Boy then transitioned to the hotel bar. We stayed out way too late for the night before a relay but fortunately we were granted a late start and the ability to sleep in Friday. 

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Kaitlin, Casey, Elizabeth, Molly and Holly

After going to the room, I stayed up chatting with roomies Elizabeth, Molly and (the super speedy) Kaitlin before finally going to sleep around 2 a.m.

Friday morning was a mis-mash of coffee drinking, working, errand running, van decorating and repacking bags to prepare for the next 24 hours in a van.

van deco

We finally were all regrouped and ready to go by our 2 p.m. departure time.


The race started at Jim Beam and we got there in plenty of time to enjoy the views (central Kentucky is surprisingly stunning) and walk around the shops.

kentucky scenary

 It was an awesome fall day with perfect weather which unfortunately did not last through the weekend. {foreshadowing}

girls van1

Holly led us off at 4:30, with only 3 other teams. With such a late start, that meant that the first 2 legs were pretty lonely as it took some time for us to start catching up to all of the vans that started in the hours before us.

van1 team

Once Holly took off, the cheer-drive-cheer-stretch cycle began. I was runner #6, making me the last in my van to run. That can be fun as I was able to relax and support my teammates, help drive and have plenty of time to prepare for my leg, but it also is a long time to WAIT. I watched Holly, Casey, Elizabeth, Batch and Molly kill their respective legs (all  in times faster than expected), and I was itching to go when it was finally my turn.

leg 1 handoff

Badass Molly passing on to me.

Leg #1 – 6.2 Miles (“medium” difficulty), 7:29 min/mile

Leg 1 runner 6

It was pitch black at just before 8 p.m. when I started and my first leg was in the middle of the Kentucky country side with no street or city lights. Thanks to many early morning runs in Greenville, I feel completely comfortable running in the dark and the route was well marked so I just let the night swallow me up. My plan (from Coach) for the first leg was to warm-up for the first 3 miles and then hit tempo pace (7:10) for the rest.

The first few miles, I had a really hard time getting the pace slowed down to where my warm up should be. Blame it on adrenaline or just the fact that I was wearing a race bib: 7:47, 7:52, 7:47. But I felt like as soon as I started to tempo, I was going straight uphill. Then I had a hard time getting the pace down to 7:10 with the (non-existent in the elevation chart) rollers and I was pushing pretty damn hard: 7:13, 7:08, 7:17. I finished off feeling good about the effort and loved coming into the exchange at Maker’s Mark with the whole team there cheering.

One perk of being runner 6 is that since we weren’t rushing to the next exchange, I had plenty of time to cool down and stretch before having to jump back in a van. I think this was a HUGE reason that I wasn’t sore after the weekend.

mm tasting

After my run, we did some tastings at Maker’s Mark, got food (with a side of obnoxiously loud bar trivia) and slept for a couple of hours at the next exchange.

The next set of legs was more eventful, as super CFO, Casey, sprained his ankle and took a nasty roll on the concrete (but still finished in a 7:30 pace) and Molly had an absolutely brutal 9 miler before handing off to me.

photo 3 (1)

Rough run. Tough guy. Photo cred: Batch

Leg #2: 5.3M (“easy” difficulty), 7:49 min/mile

Leg 2 runner 6

For the first time in a relay, I had to do 2 night runs as I started this leg just before 5 a.m. It was along a pretty major highway and into town so it wasn’t dark like the first leg. The only problem was that some runners crossed the highway and ran against traffic and some stayed on the side I did and ran with traffic. There were no signs saying what to do, but the course markers were on the other side, so I was panicked the whole time that I missed a turn (should probably read directions before I start next time?!).

After starting too fast on the previous run, I really wanted to try to keep the pace where Kevin and I had agreed it should be (~8:20), but when I saw that I was comfortably hitting sub-8 paces, I decided just to go with it and run by feel.

Note: The difficulty rankings on these are really accurate, but somehow the elevation profiles seem off. This leg looks like it was way more undulating that it was. In fact, other than that one short, steep hill at the end, it felt like it was downhill the whole way. 

We followed this leg with amazing donuts/pastries/cinnamon bread, the best apple cider I have ever had and another couple of hours of sleep at the final major exchange.


The final exchange was at Four Roses. Once again Sarah came flying in right on time and Holly took off to lead van 1 into our final legs.


The 3rd round of legs went by fast. Casey is my hero as he busted out a sub-8:00 avg on an ankle the size of a baseball and finished with a smile (at Wild Turkey, no less).

photo 4

We almost had an exchange snafu when Elizabeth came in WAY faster than we expected as she made her running comeback with a vengeance. Then about 1/2 way through Batch’s leg, the rain came. And it was relentless. At first it was a steady drizzle, but then turned into pouring sheets and just before I took the bracelet from Molly to run, the wind joined the party.

leg 3 handoff

Leg #3 – 6.4M (“medium” difficulty), 7:38 min/mile

leg 3 runner 6

We had huddled under a tent until the second I saw Molly, so at least I started dry. That lasted about 3 seconds and as I took off up that hill, I was FREEZING and my legs just wouldn’t go. I thought I was in for a miserable 6 miles. But right about when I hit the top of the hill and the 1/2 mile point and started on the rollers, my body woke up. All of a sudden I felt like I could fly. Between the rain and the wind, I seriously just felt like a badass. That may sound crazy or braggy, but it was one of those runs where your mind, body and the experience all kind of come together for a runner’s high like no other.

True to Coach’s advice {and my upcoming marathon}, I did not want to kill myself on that leg. I kept the effort steady on the hills as they rolled and just tried to set my sights on the person in front of me and reel them in. I passed 9 people (8 guys!) and they all were gracious and friendly, with cheers and fist bumps as I went by. And somehow, completely unintentionally, I managed a near perfect negative split run: 7:57, 7:48, 7:34, 7:32, 7:45 (hill), 7:30, 6:49 (0.4, downhill). 

I finished with high fives from the team, including a perfect connection with Momma and Grandma OUaL as I came into the finish area at Woodford Reserve.

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Visor pulled way down to keep the wind from taking it off to the Kentucky hills!

We rounded out my leg with a team Bourbon tasting (that I obviously did not enjoy…or finish).

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IMG_7670 IMG_5096

The perks of being in van 1 were the lunch, hot showers and warm clothes that we got prior to meeting the rest of the team at the finish line.


Team Nuun Hydration: 24:15 (7:17 avg.), 3rd place mixed open, 15th overall

And big fat bonus? We actually did pretty darn well. We didn’t go into this expecting to place or knowing that we would run “fast”, but it was one heck of a team effort. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Mason, Kaitlin and Kevin average sub-6:00 on their collective legs, but I felt like each and every person contributed and did what they could to help everyone else. This was an incredible weekend with amazing people. I can’t thank Mason, Casey and Nuun enough for the experiences and friends they have brought into my life.

And personally?

I went into this weekend, not thinking that it would provide any gains (or losses) in my prep for NYCM. Little did I know, but this relay was probably the single biggest confidence boost that I have had the entire training cycle for my marathon. To be able to comfortably run on the rolling hills at a pace that I would love to be my MGP, gave me some hope that I might just be a bit more fit than I originally thought. Of course, I am not downplaying the relay magic or the benefit of the team environment because those are HUGE for motivation, but my body responding on tired legs with a good great (for me) pace are what I will be thinking about as I toe the line in 9 days.

About Corey

I am a 30-something swim, bike, run addict married to my best friend and in love with my two schnoodle doggies.
This entry was posted in friends, Goals, injuries, Races, running, training, Travel, weekend fun. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Bourbon Chase: Relay Recap

  1. Steph says:

    LOVE this! And totes jealous, I miss all of you guys!!! You guys killed it out there! 7:17 average?! What? Awesome job and can’t wait to see you kick ass in NYC next week!!!!

  2. elizabeth says:

    it just makes me happy all over again to read this! 🙂 you are so ready for NYC. Can’t wait to cheer you on from Atl.

  3. evamadera says:

    So glad you had a great experience! I’m not sure if I’m up for a relay but it sounds like they can be a lot of fun. 🙂

  4. Beth says:

    Love it!!! I love the face you made when bourbon tasting!

  5. erin says:

    This sounds SO fun! Totally reminds me of Ragnar, but more fun with bourbon 🙂

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  7. Julie says:

    So much fun reading this, as I was runner 6 (and runner 12) at the Bourbon chase this year, though you were considerably faster than I was (I averaged an 8:17 pace). It’s interesting to see your thoughts on the same runs I did, I also thought #6 was tougher than I prepared myself for, then again it was like running in the area I grew up in (Western KY) so I wasn’t that pumped to just be running back roads with farm houses every mile or so. Run 12 and run 18 were both super similar, straight down a highway at night, though I did like running through town on 18, but to run #12 at 10pm and #18 at 3am was tough. No sleep for me and way too many cups of coffee at the Danville hotel we had to sleep in shifts, I ended up with a wicked stomach ache to the point of wanting to vomit for the first half of 18.

    24 was brutal in the downpour and freezing temps, however I would have to say 30 was by far my favorite run, it is the run I am pretty sure that is shown in the initial pamphlet for the race, straigt up that small hill with the brick fence, then you have that small patch on the highway, then back to pretty horse country. I wish I hadn’t left my camera/phone behind, the sky was so beautiful, purple gray clouds, no rain, and the grass was still so green, I literally choked up at how beautiful it all was, and so proud to be from Kentucky and also so proud of my good Friend Mike Kuntz for starting the Bourbon Chase and making it such a wonderful relay. I, being a KY native, loved the bourbon tasting and drank up! Leg 36 was sad, I didn’t want the race to end, I had the best teammates and the whole weekend was one of my favorite times I have ever had in my life, no joke. We just signed up for the lottery last week, hope you guys come out again for 2014, Mike has promised it is going to be even better in 2014, if that is even possible.

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