Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bourbon Chase Relay- perspective from a team in last place

  The Bourbon Chase  is s a relay I've wanted to run for awhile now because fun fact, years ago our CEO and several colleagues ran it, had so much fun that they decided to bring a relay to Nashville- we partnered with Ragnar and Ragnar TN was born. Lots of the people in my department were part of that original team, so I've always heard great stories and seen the most picturesque photos.

Last year I captained a team to run BC, KY and the Jellies,  however due to some unfortunate circumstances, we had to pull out the day before the race. This year, my co-worker, Kelly, asked me on a whim 1 week before BC if I would be interested in taking the place of an injured runner, naturally I  happily  obliged at the opportunity to FINALLY get this race under my belt and tagged along for the ride.

I've waited awhile to write this recap, not because I'm lazy or busy, although both are contributors, but more so because unlike Sarah Oual's recap, I did not have that #epicrelay experience. BC dropped the ball HARD when it came to time assignments, thus we spent a large % of our time battling back and forth for the last runner position through the exchange- many times coming through after all the festivities had ended....

To be fair, there was some great organization / concepts that BC got right, so in the most objective / try not bitch my pants off fashion, here are the goods and bads from team "Bulleit Train"


  • Every year they have a theme, this year was some type of hippe theme- It was tied in with the awesome bib, long sleeve shirt, and medal--- HUGE wins in my book 

Long sleeve Brooks tech tee, tie dye peace medal 

  • Date of BC changes every year- reason for this is it has to be held during a full moon. Lots of the roads are off the beaten path with no lights, so the full moon helps light up the sky. In both of my night runs I felt that I didn't need my head lamp because I could see clearly- unfortunately, this collage is the only photo I have to show the night sky- this is at 10pm - ish?
  • Bourbon! I personally don't like bourbon, but it was neat to see the distilleries. Van 2 stopped at Maker's Mark, Four Roses, and Woodford Reserve (there might have been another distillery van 2 was supposed to stop at, however we were running an extra leg in our van so not all of our exchanges with the van were at the major points) 

Getting to sample 120 proof Maker's straight from the barrels- I almost gagged. 

There was free shots at Woodford, however, I had to pass them up as I might have gagged. 
  • Finish line had a bourbon tent where you were given a wrist band with 4 tear offs- from there you could have a shot of 4 different bourbons from the choices they had. I was runner 12, so the idea of drinking bourbon immediately after running was unappealing, I gave my tickets away. **If anyone knows of a beer chase relay, count me in**
  • Aside from the crummy weather (cold and raining on saturday) we ran through some gorgeous towns, fields, nature- everything. The only photo I managed to take was on our way to Maker's for our first leg

  • I was able to see Elizabeth in her first #runnercomeback at Maker's. She was in Van 1 of the Nuun team and since this was the first major exchange,  she was waiting to pass off to van 2. Loved hearing about how her first leg went and am so excited for her to re-enter the world of running now that she's healed! 

The Bad
  • Regardless of which relay you do, they all ask the same thing- what is your 10k pace? Based on your team average, they then assign you a start time. When Kelly originally asked me to join her team I said I couldn't because I had my go to market workshop till 1pm that Friday- day the race started. Her response was it wouldn't be a problem because our start time was 4pm and since we were in van 2 we were going to leave Nashville at 4. First thought, naturally, is that I joined a FREAKIN FAST team- she seemed confused and assured me they were just average pace---- umm we might have a problem?
  • Get the email from team captain on all the pace times- 11 people total, 2 had paces of 9:30s, 1 a pace well over 10. The rest were 8s and 7s, not bad, BUT NOT fast enough to signify starting at 4. For those that haven't had your relay cherry popped yet (what are you waiting for), your team pace signifies what time of day you'll start. If it will take you a longer time to cover the distance you start early (their earliest start time was 8am), if you'll finish quicker, you get a later start time (latest start was 7pm). 
  • Our 2nd runner in our van (leg 8) was the slowest on our team- no biggie we knew to wait longer. Her run was 4 miles and at 54 minutes with her no crossing through we start to get nervous. We chit chat with one of the teams at the exchanges, they started at 5:30 and had already caught up to us- gah! Worry starts to set in that we are going to get passed by everyone. Finally we get a call from our runner who got lost as one of the signs was removed from course. She ran an extra 2 miles and a van picked her up. One of the vanmates told her she ran last year and got lost on that very same leg. This happened again on runner 6's 2nd leg- got lost and ran an extra 1.5 miles.
  • I'm runner 12- awesome. I get to run my FIRST leg at 1am... yup, 1am. I don't mind running at night, but this is ridiculously late to only have 1 leg down. I manage to pull off 5.1 miles in 7:30 pace. Both myself and Kelly had 8:30 paces projected, but we were trying to make up time and both managed to run 7:30s or faster to make up for legs that took longer than anticipated. During my run, I managed to  get HAWKED by not 1, but 2 people... this was in my first mile where I was a little ambitious and my pace was 7:02... needless to say, the faster teams were all pretty much caught up to us at his point. To make matters worse, my  team wasn't expecting me to be that fast so when I got to the exchange I had to wait over 3 min for them to get there- how annoying. 
The Ugly

  • When we arrive at the next major exchange to sleep then gear up for our 2nd legs, the town was packed! Turns out they had two different exchanges around Centre campus (one between van 1 and the other was exchange 19 where we switched vans). After our failed attempt to sleep we emerge a few hours later to get the baton and it is a GHOST town. There are no teams around, just the volunteers. This is when our runner 6 got lost and ran an extra 1.5 miles on top of his existing miles. He handed off in 2nd to last place. We stuck around for the last place team who was only 1 or 2 min behind us and cheered for them... IMMEDIATELY they shut down the exchange once he went through. 
  • Our runner (#7) got injured during his 6 miles and slowed down massively- we got passed by last place and were now the under dogs- womp womp. I offered to take his place and his finish his leg, but being proud he wanted to push through. We managed to get further behind and then the sweeper vehicle started following us. What is annoying about all of this, is we weren't running slow. We were on pace for 27 - 28 hour finish which although won't win awards, is less than a 9 min avg. 
  • Lots of back and forths leading up to me, but on my 2nd run we were now 5th to last- woo! For my shortest run I planned on going all out to make up some time. 1 mile in I got chased by two rottweilers that caught up to me and starting nipping at my legs- just like in the movies, this Alaskan Huskie came out of nowhere and saved me, warding off the dogs. Traumatized, came to a fork in the road, no signs so I just kept left and hoped for the best. Shortly after I called my van to get clarification on directions- when they called me they said I took a wrong turn immediately after exchange (and how did no one notice and waited till I ran 2 miles to tell me???) I get deflated and say I'll run toward them but they need to pick me up and drop me off because its f**ing ridiculous that I'm the 3rd to get lost and we haven't been busting our butt to fall behind again. Run a total of 3 miles before my van gets there and another movie moment- dogs start chasing me again and I hop in the van just in time... not sure where the huskie was in that one. Basically the team agreed that since I already ran 3 miles that they would go 3 miles from the exchange and drop me off since we're not winning any awards here. Got dropped off right before the 1 mile to go sign (my leg was 4.3 miles) and then hauled ass- 2nd time in a row I get there and my team is no where to be found??
  • This is probably the most ridiculous of them all: In our last round, runner 7 didn't know if he could run again (this would have been his 4th run bc he was making up for a missing runner) Since I'm 12, I volunteer to run the first part of his leg, get picked up, and he could finish it- again, not going for any awards. I walk to the exchange at Woodford Reserve waiting for van 1 runner and after a few minutes they start tearing down the exchange!!! I'm so annoyed at this point from the constant battle of not being last that I immediately go in to bitch mode asking why they are tearing it down as my runner has not come through yet. Turns out the way BC was doing it is they are just writing down teams as they come through instead of having a list and crossing them off. They ask my #, radio the previous exchange, then confirm that we are in last place. I tell them that is impossible because there is a team that we managed to get over 45 min ahead of and unless they cheated there is no way we fell behind.  They tell me that they started pulling teams and having them skip exchanges to 'catch up' and that our team should have been pulled an hour ago- instead they instructed me to just go ahead and start and to let my van communicate to the other van I left- they gave me an extra bracelet (baton) so I could use it at next exchange. 
  • I leave (7 min before my runner arrives), tell my van what happened, then head off in hopes of maybe catching one runner--- seriously this isnt fun to constantly be 'behind' and made to feel slow, when reality is, BC just started us too late. I get maybe 3 min into my run and I'm just about to leave Woodford's campus when I get pulled over by a golf cart- they told me we were "so far behind" to just go ahead and skip this exchange altogether so we can catch up. WTF?!?! I wait till I get a full mile under my belt and call my van to tell them the ridiculous news. When they pick me up they inform me that although our runner 6 left the previous exchange in last, he caught 4 runners along the way, so those poor 4 runners were behind us and would have arrived at woodford to an exchange that didn't exist anymore. In the heat of our angst, we told one of the vans we had been back an forth with "i've got worms", what happened and they should just pull their runner and skip ahead too. (they got screwed and had a 3:30 start time)- They ended up following our lead as well. 
  • Get to the next exchange, explain to the volunteers what happened and that were are just starting here- instead of him looking confused he just replied "oh ya, they've been doing that all afternoon!!"  RIDICULOUS. At the next exchange we caught up to a fellow Nashville team of familiar runners and they shared that teams have been told to leap frog all day (aka start running before your runner comes through) That was the last straw, we finally didn't care anymore and had discussed skipping some runs just so we could get to the finish line faster- we didn't but it was heavily talked about. 
  • My last leg was 6.2 miles- uneventful, passed about 10 people (the only run I passed people on by the way) and we crossed the finish line at 7:27pm, pitch dark. The finish line festivities end at 8:30 pm (or at least that is when the bourbon tent closes), and there were still TONS of people behind us who we passed both in running and when we got to skip the exchange. I felt bad for those runners as I'm sure the after activities were shut down. 

I never thought I'd see what its like to be 'behind' in a relay, but it was terrible. I wouldn't mind if we were last because we were slow, but in the end we finished:
27 hrs 27 min and 2 sec. 
62 / 315 teams
28/190 in our division

I realize we got to skip a run, but it was only 5 miles- I ran 1 mile of it, plus we had 3.5 extra miles ran earlier in the relay, so in the end, we only really skipped out on .5 mile- thus I'm keeping our time. It should be noted that Elizabeth and Sarah's team Nuun team that started 30 min after us also finished 3 hours ahead of us... that is an example of appropriately assigning times. One of my best buds finished in 28 hours, his start time was 11:00 am.

Overall I do think Bourbon Chase puts on a great event, however something as small as the wrong start time can really impact the entire experience. The entire relay was a constant stress fest of hitting times, how can we make up times, worrying if we're in last etc, that it wasn't as fun as it should have been. In the end I would like to do this relay once more to get the negative taste out of my mouth, but please don't let my experience deter you from signing up!


  1. My team got a late start time at Ragnar Chicago a coupld years ago. We had the same issues: waking up in a Ghost town, being passed by all the fast teams early in the day and then having to skip ahead to catch up. It was frustrating! Sorry you had a bad experience!

  2. That sounds like a giant cluster. I have never heard of a runner getting pulled so they could "catch up."


  3. Dude, you want me to pop my grown up relay cherry after that race report? I would have been out of my mind traumatized and frustrated.

  4. wow that was just one fun relay! or frustrating! I would be a little upset too. Sorry the whole thing was so crazy. The night sky picture at the beginning is really pretty though.

  5. I hate that the Bourbon Chase screwed up y'alls start time and all of the cities were practically shut down when you were running through them. The communities really go all out with the Chase. Also, running on no sleep and getting your routine messed up is stressful enough, so I couldn't imagine what y'all went through. I was runner 12 in my van too and I thought running to the finish line was super cool! Hopefully you will be back next year and the Chase will pull its shizz together with those start times!

  6. Holy stinking cow. This sounds like an absolute nightmare. Even worse...dogs chased you. That is absolutely the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I'm so sorry that BC wasn't the best experience, but hey y'all finished and that's what counts. You still have a good attitude which is great!! And the medal, shirt, and bib are AWESOME!!!

  7. oh wow! i've always been very interested in relays but i've been slightly nervous about all the logistics. good for you for powering through it, i'd have been a nervous wreck!

  8. holy crap. WTF. my post is the complete opposite. I can't believe so many things went wrong! total F up on their part. I must say, I took pictures of my maps bc i was concerned they weren't going to be marked right. On my second leg I was worried I was going the wrong way- bc it was at the weird double exchange that you were talking about. now that you mention it, i was all "happy" in my recap and failed to mention the little details. but sad to see our experiences were sooo different. so happy to see you though :)