Note: Yeah, this event was a couple months ago, but registration is open now so it's timely again!
I had never really heard of distance relay races before my parents told me they were getting involved in one. They told me teams of up to 12 people ran from Raleigh, NC to Atlantic Beach, NC over the course of about a day and a half. That didn't have much effect on me and I told them I'd be an alternate for their team without knowing what I might be getting myself into. I continued my half marathon training for the Thanksgiving Half in Atlanta and didn't think about the Tuna Run much.
With the race approaching, I found out that the team my parents were on for the Tuna Run 200 was a person short, so I was in. Shortly thereafter, I found out that I would be hitting legs of around 6, 7, and 8 miles respectively and this would all take place in under 48 hours (the team I was on, We Twelves Fools, finished in under 33 hours).
The morning of our 6am start came and as I slogged into the kitchen to force down some nourishment after a solid 45 minutes of sleep, I decided I would try to live tweet the whole affair - note some of these time stamps.
I met the rest of team as we congregated in a park outside Raleigh, NC to pile into our vans and send off our first runner as the race started at 6:00am.
The nice thing about being in two vans is having down time while the other half the team is running, that's also the bad thing about being in two vans. After leaving the start line, we had several hours to kill before the first runner from our van was up. It's a delicate balance between staying ready to run and not running out of energy before the first leg.
The Tuna Run was on literally open roads. We ran down some pretty remote highways with cars, trucks, combines, and dogs sharing the road, grudgingly at times. The organizers said that sometimes the signs where the course makes a turn "disappear" so I felt it a good idea to try and commit the turns to memory. One of our team members made small, laminated copies of the turn lists which was awesome and I fully recommend doing that for this type of race.
About 12 hours after stumbling out of bed, I'm juiced up and ready to run, complete with super awesome sun hat.
The course for my first leg was really cool, it started on the edge of a Civil War battlefield and seemed to cut right through the middle of it. Seeing the landscapes and reading the signs for the different areas of the battlefield was an awesome way to spend a run.
After the first leg, I started doing some math and realized I was going to be on a massive calorie deficit if I kept eating and running the way I had been all day. With a Chick-Fil-A spotted, I hammered a couple sandwiches and a fry and was feeling a lot more ready to do another leg.
While the physical effects were mostly negated, showering between runs was crucial. More studying before the next leg.
Yo, this has been true for years.
The sun was down and the terrain even more rural than before so for a lot of the second leg, the only lights around were the occassional porch light and the assortment of illumination that was on my body; headlamp, blinkers front and back, reflector vest, and reflectors on my ankles. Working on about 2 total hours of sleep, the second leg felt great.
In retrospect, I wish I had eaten a great breakfast rather than slept for an hour before my last and longest leg. I hit the wall early and hard. My time ended up being about a minute and a half slower per mile than my target, but hell, at least I made it through with no lasting negative effect.
Finishing a long race and promptyle diving into fresh tuna, barbecue, and craft beer is seriously the only way to do it.
If you ever get the chance to do a distance relay like this, do it. It's an incredible experience and an opportunity to push yourself into some really interesting places mentally and physically, not to mention that if you're sharing a van with 5-11 other people for almost 36 hours, you'll get to know them pretty well if you don't already.
My best advice is to be really cognizant of your calorie and hydration needs. For some reason, bodies seem to be able to do amazing things on next to no sleep, but there has to be something feeding it.