(This is part 2 of a 3 part series. To read the first part, see the previous post.)
After Runner #6 left the exchange, the rest of us got back into the van and headed to the next exchange point at Maker’s Mark Distillery. At this exchange we hand over the reins to the other half of our team. Runners 7-12 are travelling in another 15 passenger van with all of their gear. So are the other half of all the other teams on the course. Up until now they have been hanging out around central Kentucky waiting to start their portion of the race. So after we parked the van, along with about 80 other vans, we wandered to the exchange point to look for them.
There were several hundred people at this point. There was a DJ playing music, vendors selling apparel and other swag, a newly opened restaurant on the grounds, and a line of about 60 people waiting to use the porta-johns. There were distillery tours available, but since our runner would be there at any minute we headed for the exchange chute. It wasn’t long before we could see him in the distance. He looked like he was listing to one side. And he was in pain.
He handed the bracelet to Runner #7 at 3:22pm and stepped out of the way. I had a cold bottle of water, and was trying to fight my way through the crowds to get to him. When I did, he was sitting on the ground sweating profusely, his face in a wince. He looked up at me in a daze and stated that it was much harder that he had anticipated. I started to worry, because although none of these legs are easy…this was the easiest of his 3 legs.
After sucking down some water and getting into the shade, he said that at mile 2 his back cramped up so hard that he had to stop because he couldn’t breathe. After a bit he was able to start walking again, then speed back up to a run, but never got to the point where he was comfortable.
We decided to skip the tours and head back to the van to eat and rest….and take some Advil…and liberally apply some Icy Hot. Some people from our group went to the restaurant, and afterwards we all headed to a hotel to get a shower and some rest.
The shower felt great, but the rest didn’t come. The adrenaline was still flowing, and I was constantly trying to figure out the paces and distances of the other half of our team, wondering when we should be at the next exchange point. I figured we would be getting the handoff at 9:15pm, and we had a 20 minute drive to get there. At about 7:45pm I decided to get a bite to eat from the van.
When I got to the lobby I met the driver of our team who stated that he had gotten a text from Van 2 and they would be at the exchange at 8:45! We quickly rounded up the team and headed out. Since it was dark, we all had to put on reflective vests. The runner also had to have a blinking light on his back side and a headlamp to see where he was going.
We got all this together while we were on the way, but when we got to the exchange point we didn’t see the other half of our team. 8:45 came and went, as did 9:00. We then realized that Van 2 was talking about Runner #11, not Runner #12.
It was getting chilly, but luckily Runner #12’s leg was a quick 3 miles. This exchange was downtown Danville where there was a DJ playing music, and lots of people enjoying the race. Soon enough, at 9:15pm she came through the chute, handed off to Runner #1, and we were back on the road.
In the van, I made sure I had my headlight and blinking light clipped on. I was trying to decide whether or not to wear running tights, since the temperature was dropping. But I figured it was 55 degrees, so shorts and a t-shirt would be fine once I started running.
I stood at the exchange point on the side of a highway watching headlight after headlight come through. I now know what a deer feels like as a car comes at it in the night. I couldn’t tell one runner from another, since all I could see were the headlights. Luckily, the runner could see me, and shouted my name. I got in the chute and waited for the bracelet, then took off.
I didn’t know what to expect for this leg of the race. It was supposed to be rolling hills, and the second most difficult leg of my journey. I settled in to an 8:30 pace and hoped that wouldn’t be too fast. I was running on the shoulder of a 4 lane divided highway, which had me a bit nervous. But to make things worse, the shoulder was about 2 feet wide with a 1 foot of rumble strip. So I had 12 inches of running width and only a headlamp to light the way!
Several times I noticed the shoulder was broken away and there was only broken asphalt to run on, so I decided to run in the road. Since there was a fairly steady stream of headlights, reflective vests and blinking lights most of the vehicles stayed in their left hand lane. However, every once in a while there would be a car that couldn’t get over and I would have to jump to the shoulder. One of those times, as I jumped I noticed the broken asphalt too late and my bad ankle landed wrong. I stutter stepped for a little bit, then cautiously put normal pressure on it. It seemed to be okay, but for the next mile or so I was concerned.
Overall the night leg was pretty uneventful. I found I could push a little harder on the downhill portions, and the uphill portions weren’t too steep or long. In the end, I’m not sure why this leg got the harder ranking. I didn’t pass any runners, but I got passed by a few which surprised me. Not that I got passed, but that I didn’t pass anyone. I averaged an 8:31 pace.
The leg ended in the town of Stanford. It was a very friendly town, and even though it was 10:00pm people were out at the ends of their driveways or sidewalks cheering on the runners. I came into town on a downhill to a sharp right hand turn and handed off to Runner #3. The rest of the team greeted me with water and hot cider that they had purchased from a group that was raising money for their church. Unfortunately, they had eaten all of the cookies that they bought.
I don’t remember much of the next few legs. We would get out, cheer the incoming and outgoing runner, and then climb back into the van to head to the next exchange. I was tired, but managed to stay awake. Runner #6 got the handoff in downtown Danville again. There was a coffee shop that was open, but I knew that when he finished his leg we would get some sleep. I didn’t want any caffeine to hinder that.
After we made the exchange to Van 2 at 2:10am, we headed to bed. Our driver had a nephew in the area, so we made our way to his house and crashed for the remainder of the night. At 3:00am a soft pillow, a blanket, and a concrete floor were all I needed. I was asleep in seconds.
Two hours later I woke up and checked my messages. I was getting updates from race headquarters after every third exchange. Since we were averaging about 5 hours total per van, I was shocked to see that at 4:15am Van 2 had passed the bracelet to Runner #10. In just over 2 hours, they had went through 3 runners! I was now wide awake and calculating paces and distances in my head. How far were we from the next exchange, and when did we need to be there?
*** In all the years of wondering why I had to learn when a train leaving New York City at 3pm traveling west at 60 mph, would meet a train leaving San Francisco at 4pm travelling east at 65 mph….I now know. It was so I could wake up at 5am, with a groggy mind, and know when I had to be at certain place. Thank you Mrs. Luyendyk! ***
Within 15 minutes our driver woke up to a text from Van 2 saying that they expected to be at the next major exchange at 7:15. That was the same time I had calculated, so we decided to leave at 6:30am. That would give us time to get there, park, and cheer for the runners. What we didn’t account for was the traffic.