I ran in the Bison 50 Relay race from Topeka to Lawrence, Kansas last weekend. It was 50 miles and surprisingly not the worst thing I've ever done. Next week I'll run a half-marathon in Florida and then, well, I don't know what I'll do. Probably get re-fat on alcohol and seasonal treats for the next two months because, honestly, Thanksgiving? And then Christmas? Christmas cookies? I'm not going to eat all the Christmas cookies? Sure, let's go with that. Aim for the stars.
Anyway, here's your Spotify playlist. Let's talk Bison.
"Degausser, Brand New"
So the relay race was actually pretty fun. I mean, the running was the worst part, but there was so much more! We had a team of 5, so we all ran about 10 miles each (I did 10.6 because I go HAAM). There were 10 legs to the race so we each did two. Initially I just assumed we'd all do two legs in a row, but we split them up, each doing one leg and then repeating the order. It was myself, my wife, my brother-in-law and two of his Army buddies. Great dudes and great fun.
"Catamaran, Bear vs. Shark"
We all climbed into my BIL's friend's van around 6:30 in the morning and drove out to the race in freezing-cold Kansas. I packed so poorly for this thing. I didn't bring pants because I don't run in pants, but I did mean to at least bring a sweatshirt, which I unfortunately left sitting on the bed, right next to the spot where I hastily packed. Anyway, I had the second leg and it was still pretty early and the sun was just barely rising. There was frost on the grass and it was really crunchy frost, too. Not that dew that looks like frost but instantly melts when you walk on it. This was serious, Guy Fieri frost.
"When The Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin"
It wasn't a huge problem, though, because we could just wait in the car until we thought the first guy would be making his way to the first checkpoint. That was really the most fun of the whole thing. I felt like we were some kind of slightly less bad-ass version of The A-Team. We'd drop off the next runner, hop in the car and then try to find our way to the next checkpoint in time for the runner to pass the baton—in this case, a timing device—to the next (wo)man up. That is basically nothing like The A-Team, but there was a van. And I hate flying in airplanes so...call it a wash.
But there was something exciting about tooling around Kansas looking for the checkpoint, seeing the lone porta potty in the distance—every check point had one—and knowing we found the right place. It would have been a lot less fun had we all done two legs at once, because then we'd be skipping half the checkpoints.
"I'm Not Okay," My Chemical Romance
My first leg was 4.1 miles and I was pretty nervous about it. I was clearly the weak link of the team: my wife is a psychotic Runner and the other guys are in the Army. They have gone through literal boot camp. Not some bullshit Hey it's your first day at the gym so we're gonna be cute and call it Boot Camp. These guys had to get in shape to fight in wars; I'm a dude who needs to take a nap after running. I didn't want to let anyone down so I took the baton handoff like a champ and I was off. To a blistering 9:30/mile pace.
"Transatlantic Foe, At The Drive-In"
It was still cold so I wasn't really sweating until maybe mile two, but my lungs were on fire. I always hated that about running in the cold. Playing football or basketball in the winter in my earlier years was always the worst because you just felt like your bronchioles and alveoli would shatter if someone hit your chest.
The thing about this race was, there were a lot less people involved than in the previous races I had been in. I had no idea where I was or where I was going but I knew I wasn't going to be in the lead or anything. So I'd just follow the crowd. Only thing is, there was no crowd. Also, the dude in front of me was kind of fast so there weren't that many people ahead of me in the first place. The course was marked very well, but I still had a bit of anxiety about not making it to the checkpoint. Not so much because I'd be lost in Who The Fuck Knows Where, Kansas, but because I'd be letting the team down. Which, again: psychotic Runner wife and three Army dudes. Luckily, I was passed quite often and had plenty of people to follow.
"Insistor," Tapes 'n Tapes
These morning races, though, they mess me up. I did the same stupid thing I did during the half-marathon and had breakfast and coffee without pooping before the race. I almost ran into the same problem, too, but I was able to keep it together until after my first leg and we were en route to the next stage. Then I shit in a McDonald's. I may just start one of those maps people have where they mark off all the places they've travelled. Except mine will be places I have shit while running a race. So far we have a Long Island Dunkin Donuts and a Topeka McDonald's. I am going to try to work it so I poop somewhere in Epcot next week so it could technically be an international map. Maybe Norway, or Morocco. So many possibilities.
"(The Gym Is) Neutral Territory," Lifetime
With the first leg under my belt I was feeling pretty good about myself and I had some time to rest before I had the big dog left: 6.5 miles. The nice thing about Kansas is that it's almost entirely flat. My second leg started off at a huge downhill and then was almost completely level for the remainder. The only problem was that it was like 3 miles of the same cornfield. It was a little repetitive and I think it fouled at least one guy up.
"Take The Picture Now," Mineral
The course was pretty clearly marked with arrows and stuff at places where arrows would be helpful: turn here, don't turn there etc. But when you're running in the middle of a cornfield for a half hour everything blends together and maybe you stop paying attention. One guy, who actually passed me somewhere in the middle of the corn missed one of the arrows telling us to turn off the cornfield road and he just kept going straight. He was running significantly faster than me so he was pretty far ahead. I tried yelling and waving my arms to try to get his attention—though I'm not sure why I thought waving anything would help, he was running away from me—but he couldn't hear me. I think he was wearing headphones like me, too.
"First Day Of My Life," Bright Eyes
He was clearly running faster than me and, quite honestly, I didn't really have it physically in me to run more than my allotted mileage, but one young guy saw what was happening and he said he'd run him down. A true hero. about 40 minutes later, the hero passed me and told me he tracked him down. I said fuck you, showoff! In my head, anyway. Out loud I probably said something like "Awesomph flbgphbntrr!"
At least the guy who got lost didn't pass me.
"Don't Stop Me Now," Queen
I didn't walk at any time during the relay but I almost did because I was so disheartened. Before my second leg my wife told me the checkpoint was at some pizza place. Also, as I mentioned, you could always tell where the end of the leg was by all the people and the port a potty. Well, as I was getting down to the end of my leg, I saw in the distance a pizza place and a pretty decent crowd of people. I didn't see a porta potty but I figured maybe the pizza place was in on the race and they let people use theirs. I was joyed. Almost done. I would soon come to the point where the arrows on the road pointed to the left where I would turn and finish my race. Only they did not turn. They pointed straight down a road that appeared endless and desolate.
You stupid son of a bitch. Why are you so terrible at judging distances?
"On With The Show," Motley Crue
I almost broke down and walked right there. I wasn't really winded or anything, I just felt like I had no energy. My legs were dead tired. I'm assuming it was the running and then stopping and running again thing. I've never done a relay like this before, but I'd imagine it's pretty weird for your body to just switch on and off and back on like that. But I figured I was close enough that I'd be done soon and if I just walked a little bit and then ran the final bit I'd feel like a fraud. So I shuffled on; the building on the end of the street looked like a restaurant. Probably a pizza joint. It was getting marginally, painstakingly closer.
"Welcome Home," Coheed & Cambria
You asshole, it's a church.
I turned the corner and finally there was safe harbor. The porta potty, like a lighthouse calling out into the storm: you'll be safe here. Except it was still at least two tenths of a mile away. Which is a lot of tenths of miles when you thought you were done five tenths ago. But at that point you have to keep running. Everyone is watching you, including the guys who did tours in Afghanistan and now you're walking the last two-tenths of a mile you will run all day? Get serious.
"Travelin' Band," Creedence Clearwater Revival
Team Member: Hey good job, welcome to the Done Club.
Me: [acts like breathing isn't the hardest thing in the world right now] That was easier than I thought it would be.
[drinks a million Gatorades]
Stop the F****n' Car, Circa Survive
I can't describe the feeling of watching others run when you know you're done other than to say it is wonderful. I sat in that car so fucking content with the knowledge that I was done running and watched as my other teammates hopped out and stretched to get ready for their next leg, it still brings a smile to my face. It's like feeling smarter than everyone because you finished a test before them. Which is terrible, but there you have it.
"June Hymn," The Decemberists
"Travelin' Band," Creedence Clearwater Revival
I cleaned up a bit and put on non-stinky clothes and enjoyed myself, waiting for them all to finish so we could get our free beer and barbecue. I forgot about the last part of the race, though, where the rest of the team is supposed to join the last runner for a finishing line picture. A lot of us did, but they all brought extra sweats and stuff—I mentioned that I packed poorly, right?—but I had regular clothes.
"My Hero," Foo Fighters
"Beating Heart Baby," Head Automatica
So we all joined the last guy, everyone in athletic-looking gear (my brother-in-law was wearing sandals and my wife flats, but otherwise they were looking sporty) and me in a plaid shirt and pants. It's a weird picture; I look like I just ran on to the course and photobombed some random team.
"Blister," Jimmy Eat World
All told, it was a really great experience. We had beers at the finish line and then later at a bar that was hosting an after party where most Runners were just giving away their free beer tickets. Suckers. We listened as Kansas City held on against the Browns to the delight of the locals and I followed along on my phone as the Bengals stomped all over the Jets to the delight of not me.
"Barely Breathing," The Hold Steady
Then we drove back to my brother-in-law's in Kansas City and it was a much quicker drive than that morning's, obviously, because we ran 50 of the miles back toward Missouri.
"Moments Pass," Hot Water Music
Speaking of Kansas City, awesome town. We got in Friday and the race was Sunday, so we felt free to tie one on and eat lots of salted/smoked/possibly still moving meats once we got in. The next day we didn't so much cure our hangovers as we did slowly usher them through the day by waiting in line for barbecue in a gas station parking lot for about two hours. Oklahoma Joe's lived up to the hype, though, even if it did feel like the Soup Nazi stand of barbecue joints. So much pressure to get the order right when you've got 100+ people waiting behind you.