Tuna 200 – 2018

99% of my posts on this site are Oracle related. This is the 1% – where the “tri” comes in, albeit indirectly.

One of the items on my Bucket List was to run a long distance relay run. The local race that fits this bill is the Tuna 200 where you run from Raleigh to Atlantic Beach in North Carolina for a total of 203.94 miles. You can have up to 12 people on a team to cover this distance…or less. I never attempted to put together a team because:

  1. I really wanted 12 people because I don’t want to run more than a marathon.
  2. It’s hard to get 11 other people committed to 36 hours of running.
  3. Logistics of getting vans, people, and stops together is a short-time, full-time job.

When I saw a Facebook post for our neighborhood page asking if anyone was interested in joining a team for the Tuna 200 run, I jumped! I could mark this off my list and, hopefully, meet new running friends along the way. I put the option out to the rest of my teammates at The Endurance Edge and was happy that my friend and teammate, Cynthia, joined in the fight. (BTW…Cynthia is an amazing woman who encourages everyone and is a BLAST to be with!)

We met a couple weeks ago to 1) meet and 2) go through the details of our run/race. I was THRILLED to learn that they were a “for fun” team versus a competitive team. I did the math and I was willing to run my 203.94 miles / 12 people miles, no matter how the breakdown actually occurred. With anyone, the more miles I ran meant the slower the pace would average at the end. That lunch showed me I was with “my people”.

Fast forward to race day and we met at my neighbor/teammate’s house at 5AM. We were to take off on our journey at 545AM. Surprisingly, I got a great night’s sleep, even though it was only 6.5 hours. I knew I would get not many more hours over the next 36-40 hours so I was happy to get quality sleep.

We were separated into 2 vans of 6 people. There were 36 legs so each of us was responsible for 3 legs, roughly every 12 hours or so. Since our van was “off” the first 6 legs, we cheered on our teammates (since we weren’t sleeping that morning anyway). My first leg was ~250PM. I had a GREAT first leg and averaged faster than I planned. The sun was shining and I was thrilled to be part of a team! While we ran, the other van rested up for their legs.

Our van’s second leg started around 11PM so once we finished our first legs and drove to our “rest stop”, it was ~530PM. Along the route, there are *many* churches that open their doors for restrooms, refreshments, and rest. It’s like nothing I have ever seen…and I grew up in the church! Snow Hill Original Free Will Baptist Church was beyond welcoming. They had a full dinner including soups, sandwiches, drinks, and desserts. I have a severe food allergy so when I asked about the chili ingredients, I got to talk directly to the cook. Lemme tell you, my mom’s chili is my favorite, but this lady’s came in a VERY CLOSE second! I had two bowls! We also camped out until 10PM in one of the Sunday School rooms. I find it hard to sleep, so I pre-loaded my iPad with Netflix shows and watched those to recover a bit before our van’s night run. I truly can’t say enough about this church’s hospitality. It was nothing I experienced growing up or as an adult.

My second run started around 3AM. I had Sheryl Crow’s “Everyday Is a Winding Road” in my head because I was living on coffee and nicotine…minus the nicotine. Snow Hill filled my Hydro Flask with black coffee for the night and I lived on that energy! I made a comment on Strava that I had never run that late – or early – ever. Even during basic training! I loved my team…and one of the things I loved (other than the amazing individuals) was that during the night, there was someone to ride a bike alongside you as you ran. I felt safe and I could provide safety to others. What a blessing! I held a consistent and solid pace for my second run while the US slept.

After our team’s 2nd leg, we crashed at Bethel Baptist Church in Pink Hill, NC. I use the term “crash” literally. I am a terrible sleeper, but I slept here. Again, I had my iPad loaded with my “sleep” shows and fell asleep within 15 minutes of laying down my sleeping bag in the sanctuary of the church. There were people spread out on and below each pew. I tend to have night sweats (thank you, hormones), so I, truly, slept next to an AC register. I woke up around 730AM knowing I had to get up and moving around 845AM. I had started watching “A Haunting at Hill House” the night before and watched the second episode before getting up for my van’s 3rd leg. This church had a great pancake breakfast (so I hear, but could not partake in due to food allergies) but I opted for straight coffee instead. Again, what fantastic hospitality this church offered the Tuna 200 runners!

Our van’s third leg was…hurtful. We were tired, unrested, unrecovered, and delirious. Each of us had heart and completed our prescribed run, although slower than our previous 2 runs. Because we were doing it for fun, nobody cared. I cannot stress to you how supportive this team – both vans – were to the overall goal of finishing the race. I struggled in my last 4.5 miles. My legs hurt, I was dogged tired, and it was crappy running conditions. But *each of us* completed our routes. It was SO much fun encouraging others and being encouraged.

After both of my fall half Ironmans got canceled due to Hurricane Florence, I was bummed out and burnt out on training. This run, because it’s team-based and fun, reminded me why I do endurance events. They are completed by a certain breed of people…MY PEOPLE. Time doesn’t matter, finishing does. You are only as strong as your weakest link, and we had no weak links because the support was so strong. I long forgot the fun and teamwork required in endurance events. This event reminded me of why I do endurance events…this is what I do for fun. And for the first time in a LONG time, I had FUN.

I can’t stress enough to my teammates how much this weekend meant to me. From a training perspective. From a community perspective. From a human perspective (because everyone poops!). From a physical, mental, and spiritual perspective. My soul is happy. I’m ignited for my December half Ironman.

A quote I said to my van, “I don’t believe in coincidences”. Each person said that they did not either. We were supposed to be together, for one reason or another.

I am thankful for the weekend I had. The 40+ hours without sleep. The running when I should have been sleeping. The complete strangers I met that became friends. The real-life stories we shared with each other. …This is why I “race”. Not to win, but to get ahead. To get ahead with humanity. To get ahead with spirituality. To get ahead with life. God’s at the helm, we just need to follow our path.

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