The sounds of speeding cars whooshed by me as I squatted behind the world’s smallest bush, hoping that my invisibility cloak was working. I was contemplating my life choices and wondering how I got there in that moment, somewhere in a little, dry, hot desert town in the middle of BFE, nary a gas station or porta-potty in sight.
Before we get too much further, I’m just going to warn you that you’re going to find a common theme in this post about The Speed Project 4.0 and that theme is poop. So if pooping is uncomfortable for you, my grandma told me that dried prunes can really help. And I suppose that our ragtag team of 11 (eight runners and three crew), had it coming to us when we made the cardinal rule of the RV – No one is allowed to poop in the RV bathroom (because no one wanted to empty the “black water”).
Not 10 minutes into our trip, one runner broke the rule and earned the nickname #2. And thus, our 340-mile, ultramarathon relay began.
The Speed Project, in its fourth iteration this year, is the brainchild of Nils Arend and is an off-the-radar, no rules trek from the neon sign on the Santa Monica Pier to the neon signs of Las Vegas. Born out of a need for a challenge outside of the traditional races that have been gaining popularity, Arend and friends made the journey in 2014, paving the way for those that wanted to challenge themselves for the sake of the challenge. This year, 38 teams from all over the world converged at the Santa Monica Pier at 4:00 am on March 30th, ready to tackle the grueling miles through the barren desert.
Six weeks ago, Carl (CEO and Head Flamingo here at goodr), asked if I’d like to head up a goodr sponsored team for The Speed Project 4.0 (or something like that). Honestly, still being a newish goodr employee, I haven’t mastered my Flamingo linguistics quite yet and the nuances between of the different vowel sounds in squawk and SQUAAAWWWKKK still had me stumped. I actually thought Carl wanted to know if I would be willing to ride the Jurassic Park ride while wearing a pair of Peeping Tim’s Dino Fetish. So, it was to my great astonishment when I ended up in an RV clutching a box of Easter Bunny Sunnies, surrounded by elite ultrarunners.
Just wait till I impress them with my sub-ten minute mile pace, I thought to myself.
The 340 mile voyage to Las Vegas was broken into segments of 6 miles or less. Guided by a map and a binder of tips and tricks of those that had blazed the trail before us, we set about maneuvering our way out of the sleepy streets of LA County piled in a 32ft RV. As a runner went to knock out one six-mile segment, the remaining seven runners and three crew sat around and ate snacks, joking, and getting to know each other. That is when I committed the cardinal sin of race day – I ate something I had never tried before. It was in a pretty package and sounded delicious, and that is how I found myself behind a bush in the desert wishing with all my might that the Easter Bunny would magically have hidden a roll of TP somewhere within reachable distance in that wilderness.
As the RV bumped along and day turned into afternoon and then the night, we continued to make our way through the San Gabriel Mountains, cranking out runners like a conveyor belt. When the RV parked during each segment, we made friends with the other teams around us and handed out goodr Flamingo Eggs (it was Easter weekend after all).
We found ourselves fairly delirious around midnight Friday night, twenty hours into the trip. I was seeing Kraken babies along the trail during my segments, so I knew I should probably lay off the Fireball shots and get some real food to eat. Stopping for our first and only full meal of the entire trip, we sleepily scarfed down burgers and fries and snatched whatever sleep we could. The no pooping in the RV rule became more of an issue as the realities of heat, running, and various running food, mixes, and gels came into play. Fellow runners, you can probably commiserate…
The night was riddled with off-road running, as we sent off our runners alone on longer segments in complete darkness, hoping we’d see them again. The RV went quiet as we succumbed to exhaustion, struggling to get as much rest as possible.
Day two brought us some searing heat as we willed our tired bodies through Death Valley, shortening our segments to 3 miles at a time. We saw fewer RV’s and our resolve began to weaken the more our tired legs pounded the rocky ground. Our bodies began to rebel from dehydration, lack of food and rest, and not even the goodr tradition of Shot O’Clock at 3:45 pm seemed to revive us.
Then late Saturday night, hunger overtook us. And it wasn’t from the lack of food. With about 50 miles or so left to go, driven by a healthy dose of competitive spirit, sprinkled with the desire to be done with the race, we sent our elites out, setting our hearts and our minds to overtaking the two RV’s in front of us. The four fastest members of our team took turns FLYING down the mountain running 5-6 minute miles in 2-mile segments, drawn to the neon lights in the distance like moths to a flame.
Then team Ninja Kick The Damn Rabbit (later renamed Team #goodrdone), got it done. At 1:22 am, roughly 45 hours and 22 minutes after we started, we ran the last tenth of a mile as a team, passing bewildered tourists, to the famed “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign to little fanfare. There was no one there to greet us, no medals, announcers or even a banana. Yet, it was the most satisfying finish line I’d ever crossed.
We popped open a bottle of champagne that we brought with us, took a picture for the ‘gram, and then made our way to the hotel, where nice, clean toilets awaited us.
A very special thank you to our crew (Nicole, David & Derick) for driving and supporting us along this journey. To my teammates (Bri, Rhea, Jen, Victor, Robby, Brian, and Andrew), you all inspire me to run faster, push harder, and not be afraid to poop outside. The memories and laughter will never be forgotten. Now, I have a whole year to work on shaving 2 minutes off my miles so I can keep up.