Picky Bars

My First Ultra Relay!

I had never run a relay before, but go big or go home, right? So I joined a team for the 200 mile Malak Tuna Relay and had a blast!

Having been a road runner for a number of years now, I had heard about relays (Ragnar, etc) and they always sounded fun, but I didn't know anyone who ran them. Late last year a friend of a friend ran the Rock n Roll DC Half with us, and she mentioned that she had a team that did the 200 mile Malak Tuna relay in North Carolina, and that she was always looking for additional teammates. Sounded like a fun time, and with 12 people the mileage didn't seem too daunting, so we joined the group facebook and waited until the signup announcement.  It turns out, when it came time to sign up, there were only 9 people!  We spent some time on our various social media accounts trying to recruit more, but we were unsuccessful, so 9 it was.

The team captain assigned legs based on our preferred distances. I originally ended up with 23 miles, but there were some gaps and miles that needed to be picked up, so we all spent some time in a group chat trading routes back and forth and I ended up with 27 miles in three ~9 mile legs. I had been training as if I was going to run a marathon, so that felt fine to me. I packed a bunch of running outfits, my nighttime running accessories and a TON of snacks (including a big stack of picky bars)!  

Friday morning the race started, and everyone was feeling good. I did my first 9 miles pretty easily, although the course was hillier than I anticipated. Felt a slight twinge in my right hip. Made sure to stretch after the run. Later that afternoon, one of our runners injured her knee on her first leg of the race. It was right at the turnover, so she finished that leg, but she wasn't going to be able to run again. We were going to have to cover her segments. Who was covering what changed as the race went on, depending on how people felt/who needed rest.

I ran my 9 night miles in the rain, and it was scary and exhilerating at the same time (I don't do a lot of night running).  The rain was constant, and the wind occasionally gusted it right into my face. I had my noxgear tracer with the lamp on it, but and that made it easy to see any obstacles, but not to avoid all the puddles, so there was some splashing and cursing at various points. Luckily there was only one major incline, and the road was well-traveled so I didn't feel like I was alone in the dark. I was super glad I brought extra shoes though because my first pair were SOAKED after that run. Also glad that those nine miles ended at a church that was serving hot food and providing dry changing spaces to all the runners. Hip was hurting a little more.

Those of us who had been doing the majority of the driving or runner support manage to catch some sleep around midnight (maybe 3 hours total), and I was refreshed if not completely rested by the time my morning run came around. It started in the dark and ended in a gray drizzly morning. A lot of that run was just empty field and woods in the middle of nowhere, so it was kind of creepy, but at least it was pretty flat. My hip was aching at this point, but it was manageable and I was starting to figure out what it was about my running form that was causing it and correcting for that.  I was still feeling good though, and so I offered to cover the last of the open segments for our injured runner - 3 miles, the next-to-last segment. 

Those three miles were TOUGH. I spent a lot of time between my morning run and this last run stretching and staying loose. The lack of sleep was starting to catch up to me. I still (somehow?) managed to keep a 9:20 pace, mostly by just operating on autopilot. It helped that there was a breeze and the route was completely straight and mostly flat, since it was on the coast. I still had just enough energy to join the group for the last third of a mile so we could cross the finish line together. 

This trip taught me a lot - about myself, about race prep, about how to organize a group relay - and I had an amazing time. I made a bunch of new friends with the people on my team. All of the runners on the other teams were so helpful if we had any questions, and so supportive out on the course when we were passing each other.  It felt so much like a community, I did not anticipate that. The volunteers at the turnover points were friendly, even in the cold rainy weather we were having, they were all smiles. The turnover points that allowed us to use the indoor facilities were much appreciated, as was the woman who was standing on her front porch in the middle of the night, cheering on the runners as we went by.

I have no way to compare it to other relays, but I really recommend it.

Still kind of can't believe I ran 30 miles in that relay, and now I kind of want to run an ultra on my own to see what it feels like. :)


Welcome to relay racing. I've done Hood to Coast in Oregon several times. Nice job picking up the extra leg and taking on the longer segments, marathon training does come in handy for relays.