The Speed Project, a crazy 340 mile run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas through Death Valley, fascinates me. I wrote my masters thesis on the race, digging deep to understand the experiences of Oiselle’s team Birdstrike. There’s something about a team coming together and pushing themselves beyond what they know is possible, risking it together, doing something amazing. And now I get to experience it for myself. Eight women, three crew an a photographer in an RV doing their best to hurtle across the desert and make it to the City of Sin in time for a pool party, dodging feral dogs, snakes and all manner of other dodgy sh*t just to do something epic.
The Speed Project is a serious undertaking. It is physically extremely tough. The gradients are insane, especially towards the end. The temperatures are unforgiving. The terrain challenging. And that’s before you factor in the challenge of 12 people crammed in an RV that smells of socks packed with more sports bras, snacks and foam rollers than is ever reasonable. Injury, snake bites, dehydration are all things we have have to prepare for. Fatigue is real. Traffic is real. Dodgy towns are real. We’re out there as a team, we’re out there on our own. It’s terrifying to think too hard about it all, but you need to because you need to be prepared.
The most obvious preparation is training to run a relay over more than 48 hours. Being totally honest, I had no idea where to start. Seriously, how do you even work that out? Hal Higdon definitely doesn’t have a plan. There is no guide to running 40-50 miles over three days in the desert up massive hills, punctuated by naps and snack breaks where you eat more sweet potato and Twizzlers than is sensible. I know, I googled it. All I knew what I was coming from a strong base, a marathon in my legs and form I’d spent a year working on. It was relief when the guys behind TSP said they’d share something we could use. These are guys who know what they’re doing in every sense. They’ve run this route. I trust that this plan will get me to Vegas.
The plan is being released in two week blocks. We’re given three runs, the rest is up to us. It’s enough to structure a plan that takes commitment and grit, but is doable. Of course, three runs a week alone aren’t going to get me through the desert. A year of working with Chevy has left an imprint, strength is king and I’m working with Megs at Kimi Ora to build a programme that’ll get me in the gym twice a week working on upper and lower body, as well as covering off mobility and core. Finally there’s yoga. I’m working with Fierce Grace Brixton to bring a couple of hot yoga sessions into my routine, giving me time to ease out my body, centre my mind and start to acclimatise me to the types of temperatures I’ll be running in.
Week 1 is only week 1, there are 17 weeks to go, but this week has felt good. Really good. My runs have been strong, I’ve challenged myself and pushed myself, taking on things that scare me. Seeking out hills instead of avoiding them. Pushing hard. Making pace my normal. It feels like it felt when I started running. I feel happy and challenged. I know this is the dream, it won’t be like this all the time, there’ll be days and weeks where I hate running. Where I’m knackered. Where I just can’t be arsed, or my work is too busy, or I don’t want to. That’s as much a part of the challenge as the days I’ll spend in the desert, the perseverance to push through, keep going when it’s all gone to sh*t. It’s a change of pace for me, but I’m really excited.
* I’m an ambassador for Fierce Grace Brixton, but all opinions are my own.
** images: Anna Rachel Photography