I just got back from one of the best weekends ever. Definitely the best running weekend ever. Walking away, I know I will be doing another relay. And will be so much more prepared for it too 🙂 So Oct 19-20 was the Tuna200 which is a 200-mile relay from Raleigh, NC to Atlantic Beach. Our team was 12 people, and two vans. Seriously, I won’t go into all the details, but if it’s something you’re curious about, click the link. It gives every detail. I had legs #5 (“Hard”), #16 (“Hard”), and #25 (Easy route, but terrible timing haha).
So our adventure started Friday morning at 6am. Dan, Dave, and I met at Sarah’s to pack the Tahoe, and got out of the driveway by 6:10am (go us! We were planning for a ‘no later than 6:15’). Dan, who’s usually a little late, was the first one there. I took co-pilot seat; the GPS was mine so I input the address of the start line. A great sign to a trip- we missed the turn for the park where everyone was meeting… Whoops! And Sarah got to test her
five-point three-point turn skills on our first country road. It was raining when we started, so Allison was nervous, and had texted 2-3 times and called Sarah’s phone, asking where we were. As soon as we got there, Olga and Allison loaded the Tahoe with the stuff, and we all began to wonder silently ‘where is the fifth person going to sit?’ … Well, not me. That early in the morning, I’m hardly silent. I made snide comments about how much Allison packed (uncalled for- but I was anxious too, and anxious about everyone fitting in the Tahoe comfortably). We lined up at the start to go over the rules, and with a little spanking, sent Allison on her way to kick off this 200-mile race. We made jokes that she was on her own, and we’d see her at the beach. 🙂 #CornyDadJokes
We headed off to the next spot, and saw all the 730am runners, Allison barely trailing the others. Allison handed off to Olga flawlessly, and the relay had officially started. We attempted to paint the van, since it had stopped raining. It ended up looking very pretty 🙂
Olga handed off to Sarah. Who, handed off to Dan, and I realized I needed to change shirts and get ready… Here goes nothing- I had the first long/hard leg.
LEG #5 (my first leg): 9.08 Miles “Hard”
Dan handed off to me at 1034am, and I took off. I kept telling myself to go slow and just hit my stride. Unfortunately, when running on the road, here’s a few things to think of. On a curvy country road, the road slants in the direction of the curve. And my left hip started to feel that by mile 3-4. You also have to jump on and off the road depending on how fast the car is coming toward you/ if they see you. Also, you get no shelter from the sun. It was beautiful and 75 degrees, but I went through about 12 oz. of water in the first 4 miles. Okay, Chandi, time to reserve the water. I went for about 5 miles without seeing another runner. One guy “blazed” past me. Then stopped to walk a couple minutes later. He seemed just out of reach the whole time. I kept trying to pick up the pace to catch him, but couldn’t do it. I came upon my last curve and saw the church. And heard the church bells. I remember I was supposed to finish at 12pm according to schedule (after 12pm, you were required to have water on you). So I made my final sprint. And Ca caw’ed to make Dave smile, as I handed off to him. (Finished in 1:26:15. Yay! 9:29 pace… look at me, picking up the seconds hehe)
My vanmates basically rocked. I had told them a few things before the run- I wanted a cold Nuun and 2-3 Dunkin donuts when I finished (We wrote Running on Dunkin on the Tahoe… and I ate five throughout the race). And Dave asked that I ca-caw to him (Allison and I stole a brilliant idea to ca-caw as you are coming in at night, so the next runner can tell it’s you from a distance… Then that runner yells “Hootie Hoo!” so the runner who is coming in knows you’re ready. It also gives a little extra encouragement. We saw so many teams who their runner would go fast/strong, and then end up standing around for 10 minutes, trying to find their person. This doesn’t just cost you time, it would be aggravating and a little stressful in my opinion). Dave could clearly see me- it was noon, but it was fun to ca-caw.
After my run, we ran into Kerry, our old coach. His team actually won the whole thing. They started at 9:00am (giving us a 1.5 hour head start), and had already caught up with us by that exchange- #5. So I was on an endorphin high. I walked back to the car, and declared proudly, “I’m taking off my shoes!” And threw my phone to the ground…
“I hope my 10-miler is shorter than my 9-miler” I said to Dan. He responded Maybe. Just Maybe. And we burst into laughter. Then, I walked around the Tahoe to get some water, got distracted by donuts and jumped in. … Leaving my phone and shoes behind. I also tried to get in a 15-passenger van at Exchange #1… So, hey! I got the right vehicle this time, right?!
We realized I left my shoes when we were getting ready to leave the next Major Exchange, after sending Beth off into the country… Thankfully, we told Jesus (a runner in Van #2), who had been talking about it and someone overheard him and walked over with my shoes and my phone. And he showed up Jesus. Saves. The Day. (That guy has such a great sense of humor!) So, then, we took off for Smithfield for lunch, and eventually to the next Major Exchange. [Major Exchanges= all the vans meet up because you are switching from the last runner in one van to the first runner in another van] We had about 3 hours, even after eating lunch. So we all set up towels and worked on our tans. Did I mention I did the middle of the day 9-mile run… Well, I didn’t need much “work” on my tan after that… haha! Dan and I practiced gymnastics (I was a coach for about 6 years). Olga and Allison continually updated their facebook, and gave us the updates (including one of our running buddies, who had joked about running with us, but thankfully decided not to, as his wife had her baby Friday morning). We also took bets on who would come out of the port-a-potties first, as we had a front row view. And listened to a random woman playing violin in the field.
FINALLY! We got the text from Van #2, saying they were headed our way, and we met up with them. They were making great timing and we were about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Allison geared up with her “night” gear at 5:30 (had to have it after 6pm). So she was walking around with a reflective vest, headlamp, and blinkies until Jason came across the exchange zone. And she was off- for the hardest leg of all- 11.06 miles. And there was about 2 miles where cars weren’t allowed access on the road, so no van support. We headed off to get gas and water, and looped back to catch Allie at mile 5, just in time. One of her blinking lights wasn’t working, and it was just getting dark. We switched it out for her. Cheered her on, and went on our way, barely avoiding hitting a HUGE dog. Allison later told us that dog scared the piss out of her at mile 6…The next point was a field on the corner of two highways. And no port-a-potties. So we stood in the field. Laughing and talking. Dave’s next leg was 1.81 miles, and he joked that he was going to try to beat the Tahoe. He predicted he’d finish in 6:30’s, which was a little ambitious (he usually runs a 8:30-9:00 pace). After Dave took off, we waited at the light. And he ran by. Then, we got to another light, and passed by him. We got to the exchange zone, thinking we’d have a few minutes. Dan got out of the Tahoe, and stretched, with just enough time to hear “ca caw! ca caw!”… “Dan? DAAAAANNN! Where the hell are you!?” (Dave pounded that leg in 12:30, sub-7s). And Dan took off for the road. Sarah and I changed.
LEG #16 (my second leg): 9.96 miles “Hard”
I was up next- 9.96 miles in the dark. When Dan came blazing in, there were two other runners with him. I thanked god there were others, then freaked out that I would run too fast and burn out and be stuck walking in the dark (which seems sad). I took off fast! So fast my blinking light jumped off. I had to turn to grab it from the road, and struggled to find a place for it on my back, while I made introductions with the other two runners.
One was a girl, who said she was going for a 8:30-8:45 pace. I laughed and dropped away from her. The other man- older with a gray mustache and a headlamp that spanned the entire width of the two-lane road, said he was just looking to finish. He was on an ultra team, and had already done ~20 miles. His name was Charles. And we had a lot in common (his first full marathon was Vegas, which was my first half marathon… the same year). We hit the first few miles too fast- 8:07, 8:20, 8:30, then finally 8:57. My GPS jumped from that to sub-one-minute pacing, and I mean even when I’m fast, I’m not that fast. So I turned it off. And just ran my heart out. But it felt like we were hovering around 9-minute splits, and Charles glanced at his watch every so often and reported we were at 9-minute miles. I felt like my legs were running as fast as they could. One foot in front of the other, just staring at the white line, making conversation with Charles. At mile 5, we decided we were in it together; if he sped up, I sped up. If he wanted to slow down, I would too. But we both refused to slow down. He later told my Van#2 teammates that it was the best 10 miles he’d done to date, and most enjoyable too.
We saw the sign for “exchange zone ahead” (which varies but can be anywhere from 0.2 miles to a mile away from the zone). Charles assured me it was just around the corner. And I realized I had been tearing up the asphalt, going way faster than I had told my vanmates. I had said “I’m just looking to finish. Don’t expect before a 9:30 pace…” And had been going 9’s and below. I said to Charles, I’m going to do something crazy… And he looked at me like “Oh no. she wants to go faster!” And I ca caw’ed as loud as I could. It was like a battle cry. I had no idea where I was, or what time it was, but I knew I was coming in strong, and probably 5+ minutes ahead of time. When we came upon my van-mates. I heard our two teams cheering us in, and pushed it with every fiber in me. I saw Olga scrambling to get to the road to meet me [I later found out they had all been talking outside, when Olga suddenly looked around, going I might be crazy, but I think I hear her… Someone ran to the road, saw me coming in hot, and grabbed Olga. Thankfully, she was ready to go a little early]. We fumbled a little with the hand-off, but then she was off into the night. I quickly scrambled to get my things together and excitedly jumped into the Tahoe, telling my vanmates every little detail. How there were three drunk guys who pulled over to cheer us on. I shared my water with Charles, and we got fresh water at mile 6. And how Charles had yelled Chandi! Quick on my right! when a dog approached. Haha! And how I wanted to get to a port-a-potty… I had just ran 10 fast miles, and my metabolism was kicking into gear.
After Olga was Sarah. I suggested we stop to cheer Sarah on. Dan reluctantly agreed. I was still in co-pilot chair… hehe. I think there were only 2 or 3 times I wasn’t in co-pilot seat. Sarah came on us so fast, we actually almost missed her and felt like we could have done so much better cheering her on. haha. oh well… there’s always next year!
Then we were done for the night. Dan drove us to our next major exchange, where Sarah and I asked the boys to exit the Tahoe, so we could change (no inside bathrooms). After getting settled back in the van, with the temperature outside dropping into the lower 40s, Dan and Dave thought it would be brilliant to crack their windows because it was going to get steamy. Time to
sleep… move around awkwardly on leather seats, crammed into little human contorted bodies in the Tahoe. Every time I glanced over at Dan, he was in a different *unique* position (he said the same about me). Dan was behind the driver’s seat. And I tried so hard not to laugh when he would lock us in or unlock the doors, turn on the emergency flashers, all while trying to find a comfortable position. I guess he saw me shaking at one point (I was wearing my running skirt- ready to go for my next leg), and thought it would be nice to roll up his window. Except, he rolled down Dave’s first, then turned on the child safety. And didn’t notice. So Dave was shivering, and all of us were wondering, why is it getting colder in here?
Leg #25 (my third/final leg): 3.33 “Easy”
At 4:20, I decided to was time for me to start waking up. Clara was supposed to get the exchange zone at 4:41am, but they were running about 5 minutes behind, so I figured 4:45 would be fine to get out there. I went to the port-a-potty a few times. It was sooo disgusting. At that point in the relay, people had made poor decisions about what to eat, or not hydrated enough, etc etc. And the overnight port-a-potties… Well, they aren’t pretty. I took my headlamp so I could make sure not to trip on something, and gagged at the illuminated sight of it all. And got back in the Tahoe. Jarod (our big brother type, and super competitive Van #2 “co-captain”) texted me “Where are you?! Get out here!” to which I replied “I am out back, in the Tahoe. It’s only 4:40…” He soon appeared tapping Dan’s window, then his watch, and throwing his hands in the air, as if to say “when are you going to run?!”
me: “Okay, okay”
Sarah: “Dan, can you drive us around to the front? By the road?”
Dan: “If you want to drive, I’d be happy to switch places with you Sarah.”
the rest of us… exchanging awkward looks…
A few minutes later Dan agreed to drive me to the road, and I got out of the van at 4:45, thinking Clara’s not fast… I hope she’s here soon. I don’t want to wait an extra minute in this 42 degree weather in my running skirt longer than I have to…
I slowly and reluctantly walked toward the road, and heard Ca Caw! F*ck! I thought. Hootie Hoo! Hootie Hoo! And walked a little faster toward the road (4:48am). “Where the hell is she? Who am I giving this to?” Clara screamed. I snapped Hootie Hoo! I’m right here bitch!” grabbed the snap bracelet and took off running. I kept thinking, just run as fast as you can. You’ll warm up. And I did, around 2.5 miles in… I tried to chat with other runners, but it was clear all the other runners felt the same way as me. No one wanted to chat, so I just listened to their feet pounding the pavement and tried to keep up. I came across the Exchange Zone Ahead sign, and CA CAW’ed at the top of my lungs. And then, I heard Sarah Hootie Hoo Bitch! I gotcha! And I sprinted in as fast as possible. ~28 minutes. Go me. 5:16am. I had never been so happy. I proudly exclaimed “I’m done bitches!” And Grumpy Pants (aka Dan) reminded me I ran the most and the high would soon fade. I felt bad- he had his longest leg last (almost 9 miles) up next. And would not be able to get coffee. We rushed to the next exchange and waited anxiously for Sarah. She finished in ~30 minutes (a 3.5 mile run). Go Sarah! We were starting to hit a high as a team, and the energy just kept building. Sarah handed off to Dan, who ran into the night. Probably grumbling to himself. Since his leg was longer, we had a chance to grab coffee.
Yay! Hardee’s is open! We grabbed a large coffee for Dan. Dave opened his Splenda packet and sprinkled it over the trash. We all laughed. I was still wearing my reflective vests. And the guys in the hunting attire were looking at me weird. Sarah wanted chicken and eggs and didn’t understand why more people didn’t put those two together, on a biscuit. We got to the exchange point, and waited for Dan. Allison took off, after sunrise. Dave was next, and KILLED his 8 miles, with 8-minute splits. Dan, Sarah, and I slept a little. And snored a good bit. I’m sure I drooled too. While Allison and Olga prepared for Olga’s last leg. Except it wasn’t her last. One of the runners in Van #2 was injured and couldn’t finish his last 3 mile leg, so Olga (our 5K specialist) stepped up. After she finished her final leg for our van, we drove to the hotel at the beach, showered, changed, most of us drank a beer or two. Picked up Allison’s friend (who had grabbed the beer), and headed for Olga’s final leg. It was leg #35, of 36 legs. She would hand off to Jarod, who would bring it on in to the beach.
Our total time was 31:09 as a team. For 205 miles total. So we maintained a 9:02 pace (our predicted time was a 9:07 pace, so very close to it). We finished 25th out of 53 teams. We celebrated on the beach with Mother Earth Brews, and a few slices of Tuna. And just enjoyed the perfect weather (Seriously, sunny, and 75 degrees, with a slight breeze. Totally perfect!)
Side note- we had been kinda racing against another team. I may have mentioned there were about 20 people who wanted to do the Tuna. Sarah and I grabbed the first 12 that responded, then more and more kept responding they were interested, so Casey started his own team- the Big Katunas. We were the Deadliest Catch. The Big Katunas’ Van #2 talked a lot of smack to our Van #2. So Jarod was determined to beat them. And we did. Very easily, by about 30 minutes. But we all talked and hung out and made nice at the post-race party.
We eventually did our own team’s partying at the local Tackle Box Tavern. But that wasn’t as interesting.
I love my team, and especially my van-mates. Even when there was tension, I still love them dearly. I cannot picture doing a relay without those 5 people in my van. Yes, my legs were a little sore (tight really, but fine). But my cheeks and abs hurt more from laughing so hard. There was a point where I thought I was going to choke on crackers because I couldn’t stop laughing. Also, we are going to probably do a relay from Columbia, SC to Charleston in the spring. Yep, we’re cool like that… 🙂 Not sure if other van-mates could ever replace my Tuna200 van-mates, but I will accept one switched out.
Marathon is 17 days.
Birthday in 2 days.