I reached out to you several times to support my fundraising for the Bourbon Chase. I ran the relay over the weekend. Before I start with what I gleaned from the experience, I want to thank you. For everything. For donating to Hospice. For cheering me on virtually and in person. It was an experience that I will never forget, and I honestly don’t know that I’ll repeat. That may just be the lack of sleep still talking though. I wrote a play-by-play recap over on LexRunLadies. What I’m going to do here is more reflective in nature. But you may need to read the other recap to get it. So go do that. Go read this. I’ll still be here when you get back.
I think the most important thing I learned from the Bourbon Chase is that I need to respect my body and its needs. By design of the relay, I was sleep deprived. And I was very disheveled emotionally. Physically. Just not myself. I didn’t call Nathan the entire time. I became uncharacteristically anxious. I lost the ability to pick up on any physical cues. I didn’t know when I should eat, drink, or sleep. I don’t know if I wasn’t picking up those signals or if my body stopped sending them. I’m 3 days out and still struggling with that.
I had 3 legs of the relay. My first leg was pretty uneventful. It was humid, but it was beautiful. I ran a little fast, but it was okay. It was early enough in the relay that I really wasn’t dealing with any discombobulation.
My second leg was very odd. I started at 12:34am. I had been awake for 19 hours. It was very dark. Dense fog. Deserted, hilly country roads past graveyards. 8+ miles. And I was freaked out. Dinner was half a chicken sandwich and a baked potato 7 hours earlier. It wasn’t the ideal situation for a run. After the run, I told my van that the one thing I learned was that I had always sold myself short. Even when I have no sleep, no food, and am physically exhausted, I am still able to crank out 8 miles at a pace quicker than I’m used to. So I now feel better about approaching The Wall in my marathon next month.
I kinda freaked out in the middle of this run. I got really scared for about half a mile. I was alone. I was exhausted but too scared to walk up the hill. I couldn’t see anything around me because the fog was so thick. For most of the run, I could see blinking red lights ahead of me or headlamps behind me in the fog. But from 5.5 to 6ish, I was completely alone. And terrified. As I fought tears, I tried to figure out what the lesson was in that moment. I was actually thinking, “How am I going to blog about this? What am I learning?” But I had nothing. Nothing. Just fear and exhaustion. I remember thinking that I wish I had brought a Gu or something else to eat with me. I was so irritated that I was so hungry I could actually hear my stomach growling and couldn’t believe I had been so irresponsible to go on a run that long and not carry food. The strange thing? I was wearing my fuel belt. I was stocked with Gu, water, and Gatorade. I remember drinking often, but I never ate. Even though I wanted to. My brain just stopped working. It just stopped working.
But I still ran. I just kept thinking of Forest Gump. I was just running. That’s all. I have never been so happy to see a yellow tape stretched between orange cones so much in my life. All I wanted was to sleep. And I got about 2 hours of blissful sleep.
And then it started again. Drop of runner. Drive to next transition. Switch runners. Walk back to van. Drive. Switch runners. Freak out because I can’t find my Garmin. Drive. Switch runners. Do the math to figure out when it is a safe time to eat digestion-wise. Realize digestion is way off kilter anyway. (Did I eat anything other than half a bagel and that Stinger Waffle before 9pm dinner all day Saturday? I don’t think so.)
I seriously felt like I was in a different reality. I don’t know how to explain it. I was never more than 90 minutes from my house, but I had no idea where I was. I saw Faith and Lydia on my final leg and I can’t even explain what that meant to me. I had familiar faces out there running the relay with me – both on my team and on other teams that I kept running into at transitions – but seeing familiar faces that weren’t a part of the relay was a nice grounding experience for me. I don’t know how many times I hugged Faith (sorry, friend) as I waited to start my final leg. I was standing in a town I kinda know about 40 minutes from my house. On a street that I used to drive down once a week and I had no idea where I was. There was no sense of reality. Except for Faith.
I started my final leg feeling a bizarre mix of defeated and hopeful. I knew the elevation profile was significantly downhill and I kept reminding myself of that. A lot of the run was in full sun. And my legs had nothing at all left in them. But I wanted to be done. About 4 miles in, I saw Lydia on the side of the road. I gave her a huge hug and smile and just kept running. I was afraid I was going to break down after that. I have so many people supporting me. I know that. And that is what kept me going. I was just floored by how far my friends had come to support me. Although logically I knew it was less than an hour (probably much less), it felt like I was so far away from home. The geographical confusion just compounded everything.
I finished my leg significantly ahead of my projected time. Our last runner took off. And then we went inactive for the final time. I had an amazing ham and cheese scone at a distillery. I finally saw lots of my friends that I hadn’t seen until then. It was interesting to be the encourager to my friends who still had runs to go when I felt so exhausted myself. It would be worth it, I kept telling them. Although I wasn’t quite sure.
And I'm still not.
I am sure of several things, though.
• Running 18 miles over 30 hours is much more difficult than running 18 miles at once. • There is really no way to prepare for a relay experience. • I don’t like being without Nathan. He keeps me grounded and keeps things in perspective. And I really don’t like that I was so off that I didn’t even reach out to him. Maybe I just didn’t want to worry him. Who knows. • Some of the things I tweeted I don’t remember. I don’t know that I want to be that out-of-sorts ever again. • I can channel Forest Gump pretty well. • I want to be involved in this race in the future, but I don’t know if I’ll ever run it again. • I had an awesome team. I really didn’t know any of them very well before we started, but I am so glad I had this experience with them. They stepped up when I got a little crazy. They ate my muffins. They are good people. So there. I don’t know how to wrap this up. Just like the whole experience, I don’t have a nice bow to put on the package. It was what it was.
That’s all I’ve got to say about that.