On one of the most beautiful, crisp, autumn weekends this October I had the ultimate pleasure of representing Nuun Hydration during a 200 mile relay party. Somehow a fantastically diverse group of runners came together and formed the ultimate in co-ed relay dream teams for the Bourbon Chase. Five males, seven females, one husband and wife duo, one Olympic hopeful, four Ohioans (yes, Sarah this includes you), a triathlete beast, one CEO, one CFO, multiple entrepreneurs and the ultimate southern belle culminates into one helluva speedy, hilarious synergy.
I agreed to this relay months ago, when I had no idea that I would be making a major life change. Two weeks prior to racing through the hills of Kentucky bourbon country, I told my boss I would rather crawl in a hole and die than work for her and that company any longer. Keepin’ it real since 1982. I of course had my next career opportunity on deck, so I took a three week funemployment joyride before beginning the next, super exciting chapter of my career. And if given the chance again, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
How serendipitous that I was able to leave a job that was sucking out my soul more often than not, and was able to celebrate my newfound freedom and possibility while rediscovering my zest for life through running and friendship? Not only that, I was on a team again with some of my favorite people that I’ve had the pleasure of even meeting, let alone forming bonds with. I owe so much of my nationwide running friendships to the insane opportunity of running Hood to Coast. Mason, Casey, Corey, Elizabeth and Sarah were phase I of project nationwide runningships. Which snowballed into Phase II: Running 13.1 on one of the coldest days ever through Amish country, enter Mel, Dan and Momma Lime! Phase III: #NuunGene: Haiiiiii housemate Holly!!! Phase IV: the final pieces of our team puzzle: Kaitlin, Kevin and Batch. Seriously, Is this real life???
I could go on and on and on about how perfectly mixed up the personalities were on this team, but I won’t. You as fellow runners know, we are a special bunch. If you have the pleasure of meeting any of these characters mentioned above, jump at the chance, it is impossible that you will be disappointed.
Now the running part. I was assigned to be runner #5. I failed to even look at the description of my legs until the night before I left for Kentucky…
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a bit nervous about my assigned duties. Having injured my back this summer and being sidelined for two months, I was really only getting back into my typical mileage. The longest run I had done prior to this relay was a handful of 13 milers. I hadn’t attempted running one major hill, nor had I done a single bout of speedwork. I certainly had not raced, or attempted to run three separate solid effort runs in less than a 24 hour period. F%@!.
Call it sheer determination, call it putting aside my own personal discomfort for the better of the team, call it relay magic, somehow I found my legs, endurance and even a bit of speed and ultimately surprised myself.
The quick and dirty of my running stats:
Leg 1#:4.7 miles, avg pace: 7:02 – Ran through the dark on back country roads, was convinced the pack of death machine dogs caged up that I heard hysterically barking no less than ten feet from my path would rip my face off.
Leg #2:, 8.6 miles, avg pace: 7:23 – Hardest leg in the whole damn relay, ran past graveyards, dead of night, spooky yet somehow totally peaceful and serene.
Leg #3:, 5.0 miles, avg pace: 6:52 – The skies opened up and and rain began to fall, which was something I secretly hoped for as rain running is my favorite. I actually got to run without reflective gear and in the light of day, albeit overcast. Had the best time testing my speed, dodging raindrops and picking off competitors like a boss. This run was true love.
Now I could divulge the deets of the hilarity that ensued due to equal parts sleep deprivation, calorie debt, competition and a few extra adult beverages. But sometimes the magic in the adventure are the personal stories left untold to the masses. I will say this, even after giving my all out on the race course, I still have time and energy for a mean Cupid Shuffle. When can we do it again?
I will hold my memories of running through the crazy hills of Kentucky forever in my heart, as it will always remind me of my capacity for resiliency and sheer joy in addition to the incredible importance of friendships both old and new. It will be where I rediscovered my post-injury leg speed, my confidence, my laughter, and myself. I simply cannot convey through words how grateful I am for the opportunities I have been granted in this life. Never did I dream that my running could take me on such a wild adventure, and in the process, expose me to some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, and have the fortune to call friends.