I think this was probably one of my favorite races of all time. It doesn’t get much better than running, hanging out with friends, eating + drinking! Of course, it was hot and the course was far from easy, but it was a blast all around.
This is only the second year for Cowbell Uncorked, and while we had originally planned to have a team last year, our entire team was dealing with injuries. So, we ended up deferring our entry to this year’s race, which was probably for the best, even though the make up of our team was a little different than originally planned. Matt and my brother were both originally going to run the race with us, but Matt hasn’t been able to get back into running consistently enough to actually train for 12+ miles of running, and my brother had his band tour last weekend. Thankfully, we were able to find some really awesome replacements for them that made the weekend a blast!
Cowbell Uncorked is not your typical relay race. Instead of running from one point to another, Cowbell Uncorked is a basecamp relay. Each team is given a place to tailgate (we paid for a premium spot, which ended up being pretty perfect for us since it was shaded the majority of the day) and each 5 person team is then responsible for running 3 different routes each, for a total of 100K of running. You could run in any order you wanted and could change the order for each loop, but every team member had to run each loop.
I was technically the team captain, but since I had a track meet the day of the captain’s meeting, my friend Michelle ended up heading up our team and picking up all our packets and swag. We ended up in the last wave of runners, meaning we were in the fastest group. So, we didn’t start until 7:30, which meant 2 things – we didn’t have to be there as early (wee!) and we would be running a lot more in the heat of the day (boo).
We spent Friday night and Saturday morning texting back and forth about everything we needed for the day and getting pumped up to run. I decided to take the first leg because, well, I really wanted to run at least 1 loop when it wasn’t so hot, and I also felt that I could get us in a good position at the start.
The first loop was a 10K out and back. The basecamp was at Klondike Park out in Defiance, Missouri, which, for those of you who are not local, is a beautiful park located in the wine country area of St. Louis. Klondike is known for it’s hills and basecamp is at the very tip top of a very large hill. At the bottom is the Katy Trail, which is where the majority of running occurred. The first “loop” too you from Klondike to the Katy Trail, out to Augusta where you ran a very hilly loop and then back to base camp. I was pumped that 4 of the 6 miles took place on the Katy Trail, but the rest of it freaking SUCKED. I’m not even kidding. It. Was. HILLY. Of course, that meant some downhills, but the last half mile is the very large, long uphill back to basecamp. Blech. It sucked.
It was so weird to start in the last wave since there were already people finishing by the time we had even started. I quickly found a spot in the third place spot of our wave and tried to keep my eyes on the 2 people in front of me the majority of the race. I was keeping a really good pace at the beginning, but by the time I got to Augusta, I knew I had gone out way to fast and died on the hills. I am normally a really great hill runner, but not Saturday. I just kept telling myself not to walk.
I slowly trudged my way back up the hill at Klondike and handed our timing chip to Michelle and told her how much it sucked before she took off running. Definitely not my fastest 10K (of the like 2 that I’ve ever run), but not too bad of a time.
Because I went first, I ended up having 3 hours until my second leg. And despite what my hubby thinks, I felt like I did very little sitting. Sure, we sat and chatted for a little while, but we were up every 30-40 minutes in order to cheer our runner in. The in between was just a chance to drink some Gatorade and refuel a little. Eating was definitely tricky for me. I knew that if I ate too much, I would feel horrible, but if I ate too little, I would get terrible side stitches. I tried to do the best I could, but I think it would’ve taken a lot more practice during training in order to figure out what was going to work best.
Our order ended up being (1) me, (2) Michelle, (3) Cary – our fastest runner, (4) Anni – who came in from KC to join us, and (5) Bob. The order was pretty good, but I think in hindsight we would’ve put Cary last since he freaking kicked butt on his legs and would’ve been a great anchor for us. But, otherwise, it worked out really well. It kind of sucked for Bob since the last 2 legs were both 5Ks, which meant less rest and more running in the heat. I think I chose well…
Bob came in around 11:30 to finish our first loop, which meant about 4 hours total for our first loop. The second loop was more of an off-road loop. We did a paved loop around the lake in the park and ran on some of the roads, but by the end of the first mile, you were weaving throughout the woods and on the trails. There were good things and bad things about running on the trails: First, I am a terrible trail runner. Because I have so little experience running on trails, I was so worried about falling or twisting my ankle that I ran a LOT slower.
Second, the trail kept my mind seriously occupied. I had to think about every step I was taking. I had to slow down at certain points to make a sharp turn or to avoid a rock in the trail. It made the run much more interesting and didn’t feel nearly as difficult as the first loop, surprisingly.
Of course, being the first leg also meant fewer people on the trail. I was pretty much all by myself the majority of the run and I was constantly worrying that I was going the wrong way. It was pretty well marked and luckily there was a photographer about halfway through who help validate I was going the right way. By far, my slowest 5K in a looooong time, but I ended up feeling pretty good, despite a side stitch throughout the entire run.
The time between seemed to fly by since we were constantly waiting for our teammates to come back. We were all running between 20 and 25 minutes for the 5K, so we didn’t want to miss our teammate coming back (you did NOT want to get called out by the race announcer that you had a teammate waiting). It gave me just enough time to change clothes, eat and drink something, and then go wait for my teammates to come back. It was fun to discuss each course with everyone and get to know some of the other runners in the basecamps around your tailgate.
And in the blink of an eye, it was my turn to run again. Loop 3 was definitely the easiest “loop” as it was an out and back on the Katy Trail. The only thing you had to worry about was the Hugh Jass hill back into Klondike. And you had to think about it the entire time you ran.
Again, being the first in my group to run, I began counting the number of people in front of me. Since it was an out and back, it made it super easy to see how many teams were in front of us. As I made my way out on the Katy Trail, I counted 2 guys on the way back, and one was definitely within reach of me passing. I hit the turn around point and tried to keep my pace as best as I could. I knew it wasn’t going to be a really fast 5K, especially with 9 miles under my belt already, but I did my best to run as fast as I could and chase down the guy in front of me.
He made it easy for me, though, because as soon as we hit the hill back into the park, he started walking. I was determined NOT to walk a step in this race (OK, except for maybe one or two on the trail), so I was able to easily pass him. Apparently, he wasn’t thinking about who was in front of him like I was.
Once I got back to the exchange point, I told my teammates that I thought there was only one team in front of us (and of course, their second runner was already running the loop when I was still finishing). The guys who were timing agreed with me, so we tried to make sure we were only passing people and not getting passed on each of our legs.
Of course, when I finished, it also meant that it was time for BEER! I think waiting for my teammates to finish the third loop was my favorite part of the race, just because I was done and could enjoy just being outside watching and talking about running. The only thing missing were my kids and hubby!
We all waited on the last straightaway for Bob to finish the last leg of the race. We made sure we each had a beer, and one for Bob, to run into the finish line together. The first place group had already finished (like, before our 4th runner had even started her loop), so we were just hoping to hold on to second. Once we saw Bob coming, we all ran into the finish line together, as one big team.
I’d say a SECOND PLACE OVERALL (!!!!!) finish isn’t too dang bad, huh?! And our prize was even better – 4 bottles of wine for us to split! I mean, I would’ve much rather had the case of wine they got for 1st place, but I enjoyed drinking some delicious Sugar Creek wine on Mother’s Day!
Seriously, this race was a BLAST! I had so much fun and am looking forward not only to next year, but doing some other relays as well! Who wants to hook me up with a Ragnar team?!