Tuna Run 200 - Done Well, Please!


Hey, let's run a 200 mile relay race from Raleigh, NC down to Atlantic Beach, NC... And we'll take turns doing it with 6 people, we'll be an ultra team! (we would later find out that this would make all of us "super-cool") These are the words I spoke to my friend and running coach Andy one morning during a training run and next thing you know we were putting a team together.

Rachel and Kathy
 The team, now named "OBX Ultra" was Andy, our friends Rachel, Kathy, Tim, Pete and myself. All of us completing an ultra distance race of 31 miles (50k) 1 or more times,  except Pete, who was perfect for the team and ended up being the fastest runner during our 30 hour event on October 19th and 20th, 2012, running an average pace of all 6 legs at 8 minutes and 6 seconds per mile, shaving 13 minutes off his his estimated total time.

So basically what happens in a relay like this is each runner runs a pre assigned series of legs based on the number of runners and the mileage per each leg. The goal is to balance rest and total miles per runner. Not always the easiest thing to do as I ended up running the most mileage on the team at 39.55 miles in a time frame of 5 hours and 46 minutes divided over 6 legs. the total time from when I started my first leg and finished my last leg was 14 hours and 30 minutes.

I, being the captain of the team had the duty of assigning the legs in which I first used letters instead of names, then later after all the legs were complete, we drew straws to see who would get each leg.

Shane and Andy
Tim and Pete
In preparation for the event we ran at night as a team and on two occasions ran mock relays to get acclimated to the feel of the event itself. The first time we ran a 50 miler and the second we ran a 100 miler. A practice run that took about 14 hours. Yup! I know... We're crazy!

We all met on Thursday the the afternoon before the race, picked up the van and packed it full of our gear. Running clothes, food, coolers and a pretty eclectic collection of Garmin watches,smart phones and all the accessories and charging cords that seemed would fill a small isle in an Apple store. I mean, please don't let our Garmin's run out of batteries, then what would we do!!

We cruised up to Cary, picked up our race packets, had dinner and bread (lots of bread - Thank you Andy!) and headed to the hotel to get a good nights rest. The following morning, starting at 7:30 AM would set forth an event that no one on the team had ever experienced, and we were extremely excited!

I was the first runner out at 7:30 for leg 1 and I felt great on fresh legs. Rachel was next and none of us were sure how she was going to feel afterward, since she had hurt her calf pretty bad just about five days before. Her injury had us move some things around so her runs would be shorter and less impacting to her injured calf. One of the changes was that Tim would run her 11 miler on leg 13 and to compensate Tim for his extra miles, him and I would trade a legs as well, which would add to over all total miles and eliminate a few miles for him. Rachel ended up doing very well through the event, totally killing it, running faster than her intended pace and banking a total of 15 minutes for the team!

My second leg, leg 11, showed up at 4:26 PM and it was a sweltering 80 degrees outside... This IS supposed to be October, right? The run was 6.61 miles, which I did in about 53 minutes. I remember running and feeling like it was in the middle of June or July. Just incredibly hot and in some spots stagnant, as I was running down back country roads with wide open fields that left no shade to hide under. Oh, and the manure was great.. hot manure, nice!

Kathy took took her 2nd leg after I finished  and she was off and running and ran her combined legs at a total pace average of 9 minutes and 11 seconds. An absolutely incredible run. This girl gets it done and has one of the most infectious belly roll laughs that I have ever heard. she offered one up when I told her the story about the first time I heard the expression of " having to drop the kids off at the pool" explaining that I actually thought a co worker had left to go home to bring his kids to the pool! I know, gullible.

My third, fourth and fifth legs (leg 19, 23 & 25) were in the dark from 10:30 PM ending around 4:45 AM. They were extremely hard, cold, around 40 degrees and in some instances I thought I may have been lost, wearing my only my headlamp to guide me, I thought for awhile I may have missed the race navigation sign. I was charged by two or three barking and seemly vicious dogs, which I was able to keep back by yelling at them. The three legs totaled about 19 miles, the last of which  was 3.33 miles that I did not want to do because I was so tired and had no sleep all night. My body and my legs were fatigued, mentally I was shot and the thought of doing a 5k plus just did not seem like much fun. I did it. Runners were flying by me like I was standing still and I just wanted to yell out.."Hey, this is my fifth leg y'know.. What is it for you? Your second?" Like they would even care anyway.

After that last leg I was able to get some sleep as it seemed to be the only time we would go a full rotation where all runners ran consecutively after one another. I would not have to run again until 8:45 AM and it would be my last run of the event.

Just being "super cool"
Tim would end up feeling that 11 miler through all his legs. He did take the longest leg of the race and it stuck with him although he still ran a fantastic race coming in at a 9:22 pace over all. Andy who had the most conservative pace goal, who confessed to me the morning of the race that he knew he would end up running faster, ran the second fastest on the team at a quick 8:25 pace. His last run was over a beautiful bridge that gave way to Picturesque water views! When he arrived at the exchange zone he was as happy as a kid in a candy shop. Andy loves hills and to do it at 10 in the morning was an added bonus!

I would cover 8.41 miles on leg 31, and it would be a very good run for me, passing six teams over
the course of the leg. I was feeling well rested, strong and was ready to get this over with. The
weather was cooler and the music I was listening to gave me the little kick I was looking for that I could not get through the night.

Post Race Beers
I finished my legs out running a total pace average of 8:46 pace, about 16 seconds slower per mile than I had anticipated. I think the late night runs definitely contributed to the slower paces. Not to mention the dogs and the sometimes questioning thoughts if I was running in the right direction. All and all though I am happy with where my time shook out and I could not have run with a nicer and more enthusiastic group of friends.

Rachel ran the very last leg and pulled into the finish line at 1:35 PM Saturday afternoon bringing us in at a total race time of 30 hours, 5 minutes! We were the third ultra team to cross in terms of total time but we ended up coming in second place in the "mixed ultra" division.

I have say the event was well organized and well thought out, the route was clearly marked for the van drivers and the runners. Exchange zones were spacious and all the people and volunteers were friendly.

Shane with OBX Rum Runner teammates,
Amanda and Wendy
We also had another team represent from the Outer Banks, Team OBX Rum Runners! They had a 12 person team and did fantastic. We were able to spend some time with them at one of the earlier exchange zones on Friday and then at the finish line on Saturday! Like us, they had a blast!

I think if you ask any person on the team, they will tell you the Tuna 200 was a fun experience, we got to know each other better, we tested our endurance and we found out what we are made of... again! We all are passionate
runners, there is no question about that. We all have goals, some of which we share and some of which are personal... but one thing will remain... We are Team Ultra and we will do events like this again.. As a team!

And while I would like to keep going on about this wonderful event... I will have cut it short...I have to go drop the kids off at the pool!


From left: Pete, Tim, Kathy, Rachel, Andy, Shane


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