This past Saturday (4/23/16) I participated in the Burning Can Beer Relay.
Wait, what? Yes, it was a 4 hour relay (from 10:00am-2:00pm) with 2 or 4 member teams running a 5k (3.1 mile) loop trail, after drinking a beer.
The rules were: take a sobriety test, drink a beer (or take a 2 minute penalty), run the course, then pass the baton to your next team member who does the same, repeat as many times as possible. Whichever team completes the most loops before 2:00pm wins.
OK, that sobriety test. You’d think this would be easy, but no. No, it was not. Some folks (like my team-mate Emily, for one) couldn’t get through it sober. The obstacle was a frame with four balance beams and you had to run across the beam, but there were half circle bumps on each board, and you had to jump from round slippery bump to bump to get across the board.
Emily and I got to the race site about 45 minutes before race time. We had brought a shade tent, two folding chairs, a cooler, and each had a backpack full of sundry stuff. I had the tent and the chairs and Emily has the cooler. Arriving at the site, we saw a good spot at the bottom of a slight incline to set up our home base near where several other teams were set up. As I stepped onto the grass the ground was slightly uneven, I twisted my foot and went flying onto my face… with the tent and the chairs and my backpack landing on top of me. Emily rushed over to see if I was alright and somehow dropped the cooler on my head. No kidding. So, we were off to a good start (luckily only everybody saw it happen).
I figured it would take about 30 minutes for each of us to do each loop with the beer or beer penalty. Since we had four hours that would be 8 loops, or 4 each and just over 12 miles; so less than a half marathon. Since we are both marathoners this seemed totally reasonable. But apparently there weren’t a lot of folks who would agree. The great majority of the teams were four person teams where the runners were not likely to have to run more than two laps before the time would run out. Also, all of these people thought we were nuts.
It was a beautiful sunny day with a gentle zephyr and temperatures in the 70’s at the start of the relay and in the 80’s by the last lap. Emily went first. Once she was out on the course I decided to start practicing the “sobriety test”. At this point I had not had any beer, but it took me 7 times and some friendly spectator coaching (stay on the balls of your feet, you can jump to the side if you start to lose your balance) to get through it, but finally I made one clean attempt. Having “mastered” the sobriety test, I chatted with the other teams, drank some water, and before long I could see Emily coming towards the finish line.
I took the baton (a 12” long piece of PVC), ambled over the sobriety test (got it on the second try), then into the beer tent where I attempted to “slam” a beer. My strategy was that a dark beer is going to go down smoother than a Pils even if it does have more alcohol. I have no idea if that is true. I have not slammed a beer in some… 25 years (?), so while some of these kids were gulping in 30 seconds I am fairly certain I would have done better to just take the two-minute penalty. I finally finished the beer and set off on the trail.
I took off down the trail burping for the first half mile, but I felt good, felt fast. I was passing folks left and right. While the trail is not particularly technical it was not like the hike and bike trail either. There had been a lot of rain the week before so there was a lot of squishy black mud, uneven ground, sticks and rocks.
But I killed it. The last section of the route was almost a mile uphill to the finish line. I know this hill because I have run a similar route during some area races in the past. The hill does suck and feels a lot steeper than it is because it is just so freaking long, but I did not stop and I did not walk!
First lap done! I averaged 9:00 miles while running (but I took some time to drink that beer). I handed the baton to Emily and went to cool down, get some water and relax.
Soon Emily was coming towards that finish line. I grabbed the baton, ran through the sobriety test (took 2x to get it, again) and took the two-minute penalty figuring it would take more than 2 minutes to drink and beer and I would probably run faster without it.
Now, on my first lap I was on fresh legs. During my second lap I was running against a bunch of folks who had not run yet since they have 4 person teams – so their fourth person was on their first lap. I didn’t pass anyone and I was passed like I was standing still by a few of the guys. Without the beer I did not have the burps, but I also didn’t get the hydration. (Yes, beer is a diuretic, but 12 oz of liquid would have been in my system hydrating me and cooling me down for those 3 miles as opposed to, well, nothing). It was so hot… 9:55 minute miles. Wow, I slowed quite a bit. I lumbered up the final hill and handed the baton to Emily.
While waiting for Emily to finish her third lap, I determined that a half hour is a LOT longer when you are running it then when you are sitting in a tent drinking a bottle of water and eating peanut butter filled pretzels (note: peanut butter filled pretzels are the best thing ever!) Since we are “only” running 5k’s I had forgotten to eat since I do not need to eat on a 5k. But now it is lunch time and I am going to be going on 9+ miles, so I start snacking.
I determined that I would go back to drinking a beer for my third lap since it did not appear to hurt my performance on the first lap. And, well, here comes Emily…
I grabbed the baton, tell Emily to remember to eat something, and just made it through the sobriety test (I fell off the last half circle, but I was right at the end, so that counts!), grabbed a beer and chug, chug, chug, gasp, gasp, gasp, chug, [heavy breathing] chug, chug, gasp, chug, gasp … OK, I’m good. This is good.
So my 3rd lap is the 6th lap overall, and once again I am running against folks where most of them are only on their second lap and have had a two hour break, versus my 3rd lap on measly 30 minute breaks. But now I know what to expect. I know where the holes are. I know how to hit that mud puddle at about 1.5 miles in (but I swear that puddle got deeper every time I hit it).
I brought a water bottle with me and dumped most of the water on my head as it was now after 12:30pm and so, so hot for running. I did manage to pass a few folks and I felt like I was moving pretty good. I was able to get up the mile long hill without stopping or walking by picturing Coach Gilbert Tuhabonye yelling me up the hill. Just as I got to the finish line some young blond gal whips past me and beats me in. [shakes angry fist].
Finished in 9:50 minute miles which is better than lap 2 so maybe there is something to this beer drinking. Later, the blond gal admits that she was pacing off me the whole last mile then kicked it in at the end, which still sucks, but is sort of a compliment.
So, I look at my watch and it is 1:02pm. If Emily can get back in 30 minutes, I will have 28 minutes to complete my 4th, our 8th lap. Thing is, I don’t know if Emily is getting any faster as the day goes on, and I have not run a 28 minute lap since my first lap. I try to drink some more water since I know I am dehydrated, and I eat a few more peanut butter pretzels…
Emily finished her lap at 1:35pm. There is no freaking way I am running a 25 minute 5k, but I head out anyway. I figure (1) I need the miles and (2) Emily will kill me if I bail, and (3) who knows what may happen? I bound through the sobriety test in one try (woot!). I forgo the beer because I’m not sure how they add the penalty, but the rules say I have to finish before 2:00pm, so if I finish the lap before 2:00pm it should count even if my time is longer than the next team… I think… actually I have no idea how that would work, but if I spend 3 minutes drinking the beer I will never, ever finish in time.
As I run down the big hill at mile ½ I am passed like I am standing still but a guy who clearly has a shot at finishing his lap before 2:00. Then another guy passes me. Then…nothing.
Yeah, I am pretty sure I am the last fool, err, I mean, person on the course. I do my best and don’t slack off just because I know I am not going to finish in time. I set my mind to the ice-cold beer I will be able to savor once I am finished. I slosh through the now really deep muddy puddle one last time, I head down the long grassy hill, then up the long miserable hill for the last time, and for the fourth time I do not stop or walk.
As I get closer to the finish line I pick up my pace, but they have already started pulling down the barrier that guides you to the finish line, and as I cross the finish line I notice that…THE BEER TENT IT GONE!!! WTF?! I seriously don’t get a beer? Well, poop.
9:58 minute miles, so yeah, I did not finish on time if it was not otherwise absolutely clear.
That said, apparently there was only one team of “2 female” runners, so Emily and I won our division and won a pair of Keens! Score!
While I didn’t get my final beer, I DID have a blast, and made a bunch of new friends. And the last lap did not suck nearly as much as I thought it would, and I did not hate myself for getting back out there when I knew I couldn’t finish it in time.
I highly recommend this race, especially for casual runners with beer drinking runner friends. A team of 4 makes this race doable for just about anyone who can run a 5k, and a team of 2 makes you an idiot like me!