Some HRC members ran this race last year and had a lot of fun. It would great to get together more than one team this year. Please reply to this post or email email@example.com if you are interested in running this year. We will have a specific Face Book page set up for HRC Tuna runners, and we can set up email communication too, for anyone not on FB. There is also a summary of the 2014 race on this website too, if you want to take a look and see what it is all about.
It was Lauren’s idea. It was a Wednesday evening, April 30th, when our group of runners first got together to talk about entering a team in the Tuna 200 Relay, a 200 mile relay race from Garner to Atlantic Beach.. Some of us were all gung ho that night, ‘yeh, I’ll run 30+ miles!’ some of us shouted. Some were still on the fence and needed time to think it over. All we knew was that we would enter a team; we just didn’t know who the team members were going to be. We registered our team that night to avoid a price increase. We initially thought we were a team of 10 or 11 (12 is the max for a standard team, 6 max. for an ultra).
Race prep was simply to keep doing what you were doing. You just needed to be comfortable with running a 10K. If you had signed up for a Fall half marathon or marathon, the training for those would be perfect. Each leg of the race was anywhere from 2.6 miles to 9.3 miles, so we could adjust our legs as necessary for the runner. You could run short or long depending on what you wanted.
We all knew that it really wasn’t the running that would be the challenge with this race. It was going to be the logistics, the night running, the tiredness, possible changeable weather, the flexibility to change runners on the fly. The running would be the easy part. Wouldn’t it?
As we approached the end of the Summer, we needed to finalize the team members, work out the van and leg assignments, talk about supplies, and make sure we had what was needed for night running. We were also now a team of 8 or 9. We figured 9 was the magic number, as that divided nicely into the 36 different legs of the 200 mile run. We had 8 signed up, so we just included runner 9 as ‘Bob’ for now, we’d work out who that was going to be later.
The Tuna organizers were extremely helpful, flexible and communicated very regularly. This was their third year of holding this race, and they really did know what they were doing. They worked out our start time based on our collective team pace (during registration we each had to enter a 10K pace, so they could use that to estimate start and finish times).
After a few more meetings, and a lot of emails, we had worked out our van and leg assignments. We never found Bob, so we were a team of 8. We gave extra miles to the runners who wanted them. Everyone had 2 night legs to run, and we had worked out who wanted company during their night runs, and made sure we had a couple of bicycles with us for the companion riders.
A clear, dry and sunny morning. Our start time was 10.00am. Vans and supplies were ready.
Van 1: Beth, Philip, Martin and Lynda. Van 1 had the roof box to hold Philips stink.
Van 2: Tommy, Kristen, Kevin and Lauren. Van 2 had the bicycles.
Each van had plenty of supplies, including, food, energy bars, Gatorade, coke and approx. 50 bottles of water. We joked about how much water we had. We didn’t know it at the time, but we would need it all. Martin had the foresight to freeze half of Van 1’s water so that it would stay cold during the race.
We were ready.
Leg#1: Beth started us off. She was by far the most enthusiastic of all of the leg#1 runners.
Once Beth had started, we jumped into the two vans and drove up to the first exchange point. There were volunteers at every exchange point, as well as restrooms, either porta potties or inside churches. All the volunteers were great, they checked off each team as they came through to make sure no-one was left behind.
There was a certain amount of nervous energy during the first 4-5 hours as each runner anticipated their first run. Only once we you completed one leg, you felt more relaxed.
Although the route was very well marked with Tuna signs both side of the road at every turn, we still made use of the leg tattoo’s that were provided to make sure we had the turn by turn directions easily accessible. Lynda had the longest turn list (leg#4) which covered half of her arm.
Hot and hilly, but don’t stop. Head down, so lucky Lynda didn’t see the sign.
As the day wore on, it got hot, really hot. Many of the early legs were hilly too. Both vans stuck together for all of the daytime legs, we took turns to wait for the runners to come through, so we could cheer them on, take photos and provide extra water or Gatorade.
Tommy ran a hot, hilly leg#7. During this leg van 2 stayed to help another runner, who had virtually collapsed in the heat. They provided water until his team van arrived to pick him up and switch runners.
The countryside was beautiful. It was great to run past endless tobacco and cotton fields.
Beth had the opportunity to run past a burning field instead, not so nice, although thankfully, most of the smoke had passed by the time Beth approached.
Martin was first to run with night lights. Fortunately, the night was clear and there was reasonable light from the moon. We did see a storm off in the distance during the first part of the night, but luckily it didn’t come our way, and the night stayed dry. It was nice to get out of the heat of the day and away from the flies. Yes, when you run, don’t shower, run again, you start to attract the flies. The frozen bottles of water were, mostly, still frozen, and now it was getting cold. Which idiot decided to freeze all the water?
It was great to see the Van Tubbergh family during the night to come and cheer us on. Glad they got to meet Mr. Pickle at the exchange point in Mt. Olive.
During the night our vans split up to allow us at least a small chance to get some sleep. Whilst all the van 1 runners were running in turn, van 2 drove on and stopped for several hours to try and rest. Once Van 2 took over, van 1 had chance to rest. We were lucky if we got more than an hour of sleep each during the night.
After sun up, van 1 went and caught up with van 2. Kevin was running his penultimate leg. Now it was foggy. We were all tired, but spirits were still high.
It warmed up fast. Again. We certainly needed the extra water. Now we were each starting our last legs. Which was a great feeling. Even better once you reach the end of your leg. Philip was the first to do so, with great support from his whole family.
Lynda and Martin then completed their last legs. Each run now was on a busy road (the road to Emerald Isle) with no shade from the sun (which is not how it appeared on the map let me tell you!, where were the trees?!). Each van took turns to stop and provide extra water for our runners, and to other teams that needed it. The roads seemed like they would never end, but we knew we were getting close to the beach.
Kevin took over from Martin and headed for the bridge. On very tired legs, the descent was the worst. No, scratch that, carrying a water bottle was the worst for Kevin, he did not like carrying a bottle.
Onto the island, now Kevin was done. Tommy was next up. It was a mixture of sidewalk and road now all the way along the island. Although we were on Emerald Isle and close to the beach we still had 18 miles to the finish line in Atlantic Beach (the other end of the island).
Tommy passed on to Lauren (leg#34). Lauren cruised past a lot of other runners, she was like a machine reeling them in one by one.
Kristen ran leg #35. It was at the last exchange point where we bumped into Evan Adler, who was running as part of an ultra team.
Kristen passed on to Beth who was running our last leg. We had our plan to park up and all meet close to the finish, so we could run in together.
Cheers! We did it. 200.9 miles done. We had a great time and with great company. It was painful at times, but a lot of fun too.
I think we learned a lot about ourselves and about the run.
It’s a lot harder on the body than you think. We thought we could maintain a good pace (individually) throughout, but you can’t. You will get tired. You will get slower. It will take some time to recover (bear that in mind if you have other races on your calendar). Take it easy from the very start, and you will enjoy it more.
The bbq, drinks and tuna were excellent. Worth looking forward to.
This picture of Tommy sums up what we were all feeling at the end. Tired but accomplished.