Ryan and I packed a good part of the day on Thursday - who knew how much stuff you would actually need for a 200 mile relay race across Kentucky?! My dad and stepmom came into town to take care of Noah while we were away (Thanks again, you guys! You're the best!). Then, we entertained a broker and his family at the Taylor Swift concert Thursday evening, and it proved to be a great show. I left with Taylor's songs playing in my head, feeling a strong sense of "girl power" and excitement for the next day!
The alarm went off at 6:45 a.m. on Friday morning. We loaded up the car, gave my dad and Danette some final information about Noah, and off we went! We met Danny, Jackie, Dalia, Kevin, and Crickett (our friend who drove Van #1) at the church. I made a quick trip to Einstein Bagel Company to pick up 12 plain bagels, low fat cream cheese, and honey almond cream cheese. This little stop turned out to be a HUGE bonus for carbing up before the race. We drove to the Jim Beam Distillery, where the race would begin.
We checked in, signed our waivers, got our awesome BC shirts (they are actual running shirts versus a plain t-shirt), and checked out the start line while waiting for our friends in Van #2. They ended up arriving just before Jackie was to start the race at 11:45 a.m. You see, every team was given a different start time. The slowest teams started as early as 8:00 a.m., while the fastest teams began the race at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. This allowed all teams to finish around the same time (hypothetically). Anyway, our friends in Van #2 arrived - Jim (the driver), Lisa, Andy, Beckie, Tim, and Mark. We went to the start line, got a few team pictures, and then, BANG, the gun went off, and Jackie started our team's 200 mile journey.
While Van #2 (my van) was quickly driving to the next check point, our teammates in Van #1 were able to tour Maker's Mark Distillery, dipping their own bottles of bourbon to commemorate the occasion. My stomach was in knots, just from nerves, so I spent very little time even thinking about Bourbon...let alone touring any of the 7 distilleries we encounted during our journey! :) Below is a picture of Dalia and Kevin after dipping their bottle of bourbon.
We drove ahead, out into the country, where we waited for Beckie to complete some really HIGH hills! I mean, honestly, our van was struggling to drive up them. I wish I would've taken a picture because I think you should only have to climb those mountains, I mean hills, by ladder. Tim ran beside Beckie during her final 100 yards, encouraging her. She passed me the bracelet, and off I went to run Leg 8 of the race. I was out in the country for quite a long time, and the rain was coming down. I felt great and was excited to finally be running! I ran through the town of Lebanon, and after I got through the town, I started to realize how depleted I was starting to feel. I know I didn't fuel up like I needed to before the race, but I was nervous and didn't want to feel overly full. I'm no expert...this is was my first race...but I quickly realized that I had to do something different before my second leg the next day. I had about 1.5 miles to go, when I saw this HUGE, very long hill in front of me. I knew the van was waiting on the other side of that mountain, so I just put one foot in front of the other and then finally, I made it to the top! I never realized how much joy a sea of white, full-sized vans can bring you until that moment. I gave it everything I had left and passed the slap bracelet to Ryan....and he was off! I made the 5.7 mile run in 60 minutes, just 3 minutes over my goal time.Ryan had an 8.1 mile leg, and it was rated as the 7th most difficult leg of the race. YIKES! Since he took off around 6:40 p.m., Ryan had to wear a headlamp and flashing LED light, along with the reflective vest we were all required to wear due to the rain. I was SO glad he had those materials with him because by the end of his leg, it was PITCH black outside! You couldn't see anything as people were running into the exchange zone except for their headlamps, vests, and flashing lights. We were in the middle of the country, and a flare was glowing on the country road. It was at this point I started to think to myself, "WHAT THE HECK ARE WE DOING?!" and "AM I INSANE?!" My stomach was starting hurt even worse from lack of nutrients, as well as the same old nerves. All of the sudden, I heard "AMY!" and it was Ryan, running down a huge hill to our exchange zone. We cheered him in, and I ran beside him for his final 50 feet before he handed off to Tim. I was so proud of him, as I knew his leg was really difficult due to the hills, as well as one of two longest legs on our journey. We jumped back in the van and drove to our next check point where Tim exchanged with Patty. At this point, I was starting to really feel horrible. I was thinking to myself, "You could be at home, in a warm house, under a blanket, watching a great movie, and instead, you are running in an overnight 200 mile relay race across the hills of Kentucky. Are you serious??" I felt pretty terrible for the next hour. I mean, you can only eat so many granola bars, power bars, and apples. At this point, I needed DINNER! Patty (below) exchanged with Mark, and for the next 45 minutes, I was starting to feel better.
We met our teammates at the 2nd major exchange area in Danville, KY (below). I felt recharged knowing that everyone on our team had completed the first of their 3 legs. It was awesome to feed off each other's energy and get ready for Round #2. :)
It barely rained during our van's "active" phase of running, but unfortunately, the second van wasn't so lucky. Just as Mark was running toward us, and Jackie was getting ready to take off, the rain began pouring down again. Still, it didn't bring down Jackie's spirits! Below you can see a picture of them at Major Exchange #2.
So Ryan was running his final leg: 3.9 miles with medium difficulty. He deserved it after his first two legs...they were tough! On this leg he got to run past The Weisenberger Mill. The view was really breathtaking, so Jim pulled the van over so that I could take a few pictures to remember it.
Not too long after reaching the exchange point, I saw Ryan running down his final hill toward us.
I was so proud of him as he made his final steps toward the exchange zone. He completed his final leg in just 35 minutes!!! I was so pumped! We had both trained so hard and had dealt with our share of injuries right at the end of our training. From the beginning, Ryan said that if I wanted to run this race, he would do it with me. He was so encouraging all the way through this journey of training and throughout the race. He told me all along that I would be able to complete my legs, and I never believed him until the end. It's amazing what you can do when someone else believes in you. Ryan completed 17.8 miles in just 24 hours, and he ran for a total of 170 minutes. I love you, Ryan! Thank you so much for going on this journey with me!!
As Tim was completing his final leg, I could feel my stomach finally relax. The nerves were gone, and now it was time to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of this experience! Ryan and I were both on a high, talking about our final legs and what our experiences had been like. We drove to the next exchange point and cheered Tim in to the exchange zone! He had completed 19.5 miles in 191 minutes!! Patty took off for her final leg of the race, and we hit the road again. We could almost taste the victory it was so close! Soon after we pulled into the final exchange point, a lady came up to our van. She informed us that Patty's last leg had been cut short 1 mile due to an issue in the park; therefore, Mark would need to run an additional mile. WHAT!?! This meant that he was going to run 20.5 miles, the longest distance of anyone on the team. Not only that, but that also meant he only had 5 minutes to warm up because Patty was going to be there very shortly! YIKES! He barely even batted an eye, which just goes to show you the kind of person Mark is. We saw Patty running toward us, so I started yelling to her that she was almost done and that she had to do one less mile than planned. Her total distance was 15.4 miles, which she completed in 152 minutes! Patty passed the slap bracelet to Mark, and we quickly drove into Lexington to prepare for his arrival.
Although initally we had some issues navigating a city that was FULL of activity from the race, a concert, and maybe even a sporting event, we finally found our parking area. We only had about 5-10 minutes to find the finish line before Mark arrived, so I was freaking out! I wanted to cross that finish line with our team. We had all worked so hard, and I didn't want to miss it. Fortunately, with some help of our friend Lisa navigating us over my phone, we met up with our team with about 5 minutes to spare. Soon after, we saw Mark running toward us.
We lined up and were given our medals, which was awesome because I've never completed in a race of this caliber. Then our team was taken to a different area for some team pictures. Looking at this picture, I would never believe we had just ran 200 miles as a team. We seriously look like we just got together for fun and took a picture. Believe you me, we did it!
The only thing that makes me sad about the race is the very little time we got to spend with the people in Van #1. Although we were a team, sometimes it felt like we were running two separate races. In my final captain's email to the team, I wrote the following to the people from Van #1 (Crickett not pictured because she was sleeping in the van in preparation for the 3 hour drive home):
Crickett - Your joy and compassion for others is so beautiful! Thank you for diving in head first to help us and for driving our team to safety.
Jackie - I can't thank you enough for your positive attitude! Your smile at each major exchange was contagious, and you gave our team an awesome new start at each of your legs, even when the rain poured down on you.
Danny - Wow - you have awesome energy, and it was incredible to compete in a race with you! Despite injuries, aches, and pains, you always stayed positive throughout our training and conquered your legs of the race!
Lisa - When you heard about the Bourbon Chase, you dove right in and joined the team! Not only were a leader in your van, communicating with us and making sure we were all on the same page. but you seriously KILLED your legs of the race!
Andy - Despite being a newbie runner, you ended up being one of our toughest competitors! You battled some pretty crazy legs and defeated them like a pro!
Dalia - If each member of our team was receiving an award, you would easily receive the honor of being the STRONGEST member of our team! You showed us what true selflessness looks like, and I am lucky to be able to call you my friend.
Kevin - Not only do you fly airplanes, but apparently you also fly up crazy hills mountains!!! Seriously. You didn't let stress fractures or shin splints stand in your way of bringing your van home at each major transition!
And to my friends in Van #2, I wrote the following:
Jim - At the last minute you were recruited to lead our team to safety, and you brought some real fun and energy to our team! No matter what anyone else says, I think you drive really fast and live life on the edge!
Beckie - Although running wasn't your passion, you worked SO hard these past 4 months! Red, you left it all out on that course, and I couldn't be more proud!
Ryan - You came "out of retirement" just for me, and you were my rock every step of the way, both in training and during the race. I kept running each of my legs knowing you were at the other end waiting for me. Not only did you conquer some serious mileage and hills, but you saw God's miraculous beauty all along the way. I am so proud to be your wife!
Tim - 19.5 miles, WHAT?!?! You had to run the second longest cumulative miles on our team, and you chewed up your legs of the race and spit them out!
Patty - Pharmaceutical sales rep by day, one serious contender by night! You never showed any sign of nerves, and your confidence was contagious!
Mark - You are one fierce competitor! Despite getting an extra mile thrown at you with a 5 minute notice, you hardly even blinked at the surprise, racked up 20.5 miles, and brought our team home to VICTORY! You seriously rock!
I love this picture of Ryan and me together after the race. I want to remember that moment for the rest of my life. We had never done anything so physically challenging together, and it was awesome to be given the chance to encourage one another every step of the way. It took a lot of coordinating with our schedules to both be able to train for the race while having a baby at home. Now, if I can just get him to sign up again! He said that if I'm in, he'll do it again. :) We might run the mini marathon together this Spring...we'll see. A half marathon seems really daunting to me, even though people on our team said this event was wayyy more difficult. Right! I will believe it when I see it.
As we left Lexington, this was my final view. You can barely see it, but they were setting off fireworks while people were enjoying the free bourbon tasting at the finish line. We walked back to the van, eager to eat dinner and get home to our warm, cozy beds. We stopped at Arby's and McDonalds, and I was in HEAVEN! I had been craving mozzarella cheese sticks, and the Beef and Cheddar sandwich hit the spot, too. We hit the road, and once we got past Louisville, Ryan took a turn driving to give Jim a rest. I was his copilot, and together, we were lucky to make it to Edinburgh. Ryan said the lines in the road were just waving in and out, in and out. I am being 100% honest when I say that I was hallucinating the entire time we were on the highway. I kept seeing people running in reflective vests and other people running with their flashing LED lights. I saw seas of white full-sized vans and exchange points. I kept blinking my eyes and shaking my head, but the images wouldn't stop. I think this is what happens when you are so sleep deprived. When we reached Edinburgh, Beckie drove the rest of the way home. I crashed within seconds, and the next thing I knew, we were back in the church parking lot. Ryan and I managed to get our things out of the van and into our Jeep. I remember it being FREEZING outside, and all I could think about was getting home. We went straight upstairs and fell into bed at 1:00 a.m. I don't know that my body moved a single muscle until I woke up the next morning when the alarm went off at 7:45 a.m.
We got ready for church and were both excited to see Noah in the morning. We had never been away from him for so long (over 48 hours). We were also excited to see my dad and Danette, who had taken such good care of Noah and Kya while we were away. We left for church and enjoyed hearing Danny give his latest sermon on our current series "One Month to Live." He was talking about how people don't do great things without passion. He talked about our experience at The Bourbon Chase, and how we could never have completed our race without passion. I was really emotional through some of the music, specifically a song called "Take My Life." It was amazing to think about how God blessed me with the ability to run in the race, how He kept me safe, and how I could feel His presence every step of the way. It was beautiful, and I will never forget it as long as I live.