The Speed Project Diary
After sleeping for a couple of hours, the runners prepared their breakfasts and jumped into their morning rituals while the Road Crew loaded up the sprinter van and tour bus. The race was to begin at 4am, so around 3:45, everyone who wasn’t starting in either vehicle began walking over to the Santa Monica pier.
Thai lit some sage to set the tone and clear the air. Lucie was chosen to start the race. With Adam Voidoid as her pacer and navigational guide, they stood with their hands folded by the pier as they worked through their pre-race nerves together.
Real change only begins through disruption of a whole, and once the start was announced, Lucie and Adam charged down Colorado Ave from the pier, separating from the group in a real way for the first time and commencing the immeasurable change that would follow.
The strategy for the race was to split the six runners into two groups of three. Team A, comprised of Lucie, Thai, and Aric, were to alternate every 10 minutes until they got the team out of LA, which was approximately a marathon. As Lucie and Adam ran, Aric waited in the cramped sprinter van eagerly for his first leg as Remi and Hakim took them to the first rendezvous point. He hopped out for Lucie’s high-five and was off. His perfect running form and incomprehensibly fast clip quickly earned him the name “The Float God.”
Adam Talan and Moe followed the runners on bikes, providing entertainment and navigation for the runners. Adam T would step out of the sprinter every so often to sprint ahead to where they might be confused on where to turn or go. As Thai began his intervals, it was clear he would bring unrelenting confidence and grit to the group for the duration.
Adam T was locked into his camera view and he took a gnarly spill biking into a parked car. Ignoring his own pain, he put his camera back together with tape.
The runners alternated efficiently as they made their way out of Los Angeles while Team B waited in the early morning for their shift.
Team A covered the marathon out of LA in 2.5 hours. Once they reached Pasadena, Team B (Leigh, Alex, Brad) tapped in.
Remi had been driving all morning, so Hakim took over at this point. Crouched between them, Adam V had a map and timer going to assist with navigation and facilitate runner swap outs. With Team B’s shorter 3-minute intervals, this would now require a lot more attention and energy.
Because the entirety of Team Satisfy’s participation in The Speed Project was formed over just a one-month period—including assembling the actual team and crew—Adam V and Remi only had been able to scout the LA portion of the route. So at this point, they were quite actually heading into the unknown. The LA route had required heavy attention to navigation detail, making turns every half-mile and making sure runners knew what to do in time. They hoped this section would be simpler.
Alex, Leigh and Brad were flying. The 3-minute intervals allowed them to push and sustain a fast clip. Each of them looked strong and fresh every time they high-fived in. With their backgrounds in city running and cycling, it was entertaining watching them weave through traffic, often incredulously gesticulating at cars when they wouldn’t stop for them. The interplay of honking and body-signing revealed a new and amusing kind of communication.
The suburban sprawl of traffic intersections often interfered with precise intervals, as the van would get held up at a light for awhile and have to catch up to the runner. Furthermore, the lack of sidewalks, bike paths or shoulders on a large percentage of this route was a bit anxiogenic and the Road Crew tried as much as they could to create a mobile barricade with the van to protect the runners from any oncoming traffic.
Despite being in the unknown and in a group largely comprised of strangers, the vibe and efficiency remained stellar. The communication and flow between runners and crew was seamless, and they made good time over the next 20 miles.
Team A tapped in to cover the section that went through Rancho Cucamonga and Travis took over for Adam V, coordinating runner swap-outs and assisting Remi and Hakim with navigation.
Team A arrived at the end of their second shift near Coyote Canyon Park, still looking fresh — Lucie in high spirits, striking a pose. A significant chunk of this next leg would travel up Lytle Creek Rd, situated right at the border of the Angeles and San Bernadino National Forests. Both the temperature and elevation would rise steadily and intensely. As Alex, Brad, and Leigh beasted their way up the mountain, passersby—who were on their way to enjoying Lytle Creek—watched in disbelief and confusion as a seemingly solo runner with no hydration or nutrition ran up the treacherous road.
Up ahead, they would turn off Lytle Creek Rd onto Sheep Canyon Rd, a very short section that led to an undisclosed road or trail. Again, since Remi and Adam V only had the opportunity to scout the LA section, every bit of distance traveled beyond that was unknown. They prayed that the sprinter would be able to drive on it, or else they might have to leave a runner by themself for an extended period of time as they drove around.
Alex’s 3-minute interval led them to the trail, which ended up being super rocky and sketchy but ultimately drivable. Since the sprinter would trail behind, Adam V jumped out to pace Brad and assist with navigation. Brad’s downhill game was incredible — Adam V's watch told him he was running at well below a 6-minute clip but somehow Brad still managed to drop him. The sprinter was far behind, so Adam V had to yell at the top of his lungs for what turns Brad needed to make ahead.
The section leading to linking with and swapping with Team A was a beautiful descent overlooking striations of sand and stone, with a train traveling in the midst. Leigh smiled as she bombed down it—it was suffering, with a view.
Team A covered a mean service road and freeway-adjacent distance after.
After several hours of swaps and rugged Powerline road, the team made it into Daggett and Yermo.
An intense Memorial Day traffic jam accumulated on Yermo in Harvard, making it impossible to follow in either of the vehicles. Brad, no longer willing to sacrifice dead time, took off. Shortly after, Alex, Remi and Moe took off on mountain bikes, hoping to find him and help pace and navigate.
This makeshift team ran solo for 2.5 hours—sans water or nutrition. Brad did the last 8 miles in deep sand by himself as the rest were forced to carry their bikes. When he made it to the rendezvous, he immediately vomited and collapsed.
Adam V was at a loss of how to assemble the next group. He walked into the back of the bus where Thai was in the middle of some much deserved rest and woke him up as gently as he could. How do you ask someone to join on a 37 mile leg after they just knocked out?
Nonetheless, Thai hopped back in to join Aric and Leigh for what would be the most nightmarish part of the journey. Adam V had taken the wheel to give Remi some respite. During one of Aric’s intervals, they hit a fork and made a slight wrong turn and the sprinter was buried in sand. They all spent 20 minutes trying to get the vehicle unstuck. Suddenly, Moe awoke from slumber and schooled them on how to get out.
This road, as Travis put it, felt like a machine gun. They encountered a bit where the path was barely the width of the sprinter and one wrong maneuver would quite actually result in the car tumbling down a cliff. To reduce weight imbalance, everyone evacuated the car, held their breath, and watched Remi’s life flash before their eyes as he just barely drove it across.
The vibe began to waiver, like a candle’s flame in harsh winds, and they began bickering amongst themselves in the heart of darkness. As the sun rose, however, so did spirits—Thai yelled defiantly, Leigh’s face brightened, and Aric floated over the earth.
The universe tested them but they kept burning, refusing to be extinguished.
Like waking up from a bad dream, the early morning light washed away (some of) the trauma of the six hours spent in nightmare territory. The night crew reached the rest of the team on Death Valley Rd right outside of Baker. The original plan here was for the next team to continue on more Powerline terrain through the Hollow Hills Wilderness Area but after what they just underwent, it was unanimously decided to alter plans. In what in hindsight was probably too much haste, the team decided to continue down 127 toward Shoshone.
Having just had a solid six hours of rest, Brad, Lucie and Alex flew through the next leg. The Speed Project crew met up with them en route to Shoshone, and it was evident in their IG live updates that they were running fresh and aggressive.
Meanwhile, the night crew were in Shoshone, having a nap and their first hot meal since leaving LA—diner food had never tasted so nourishing and wholesome.
Once Brad, Lucie and Alex made it to Shoshone, Aric geared up and started toward the turn onto the 178. The heat was settling in and it was clear their next shift was going to be toasty. Despite this, Leigh, Thai and Aric attacked this section fresh and recovered from the night. The teams of runners at this point were permanently scrambled from the original set up, but the seamless harmony was never disrupted, like an isomer formation.
About 3/4 of the way through the next leg, around the Nevada/California border where 178 turns into 372 near Pahrump, Leigh received a text saying they’d made a wrong turn. Confused, Remi and Hakim studied their maps. Earlier that morning, as the previous crew were making their way to Shoshone, they had contemplated bisecting the route via Old Spanish Trail Hwy through Tecopa. But perhaps colored by the previous night’s experience, they worried it was more off-road terrain and they decided against it.
Still unsure what to make of the text message, they did the only thing they could do and continued toward Pahrump.
Pahrump ended up being a McDonald’s pitstop and another reshuffling of runners. Being that much of the running during The Speed Project is on road shoulders, the slight slope over time forces an uneven gait. Alex — who had never run an ultra and was entering ultra mileage — ended up tweaking his knee from too much gait alteration and the team decided it was best that he not damage his body. However, this disrupted the back and forth between rested and fatigued runners.
For the second time, just as Thai finished the last leg on the 372, Adam V asked him if he would step up to the plate and hold it down. By adding a fourth runner into the mix, the volume and stress could be minimized for each runner. Without any further coercion needed, Thai agreed with a “🥲” emoji—as long as he could eat first.
Lucie took the lead out of Pahrump onto the 160 and they were off. The runners were switching out every 90 seconds now. As Lucie, Brad, Leigh and Thai charged down the highway, Remi and Hakim noticed they were coming up on where the 160 met with Tecopa Rd.
This was the missed turn. Remi and Hakim studied the map and discovered that the logistical error had added 40 unnecessary miles to the runners’ journey. With no time to stop and process the grief from this, the team had no choice but to keep pushing forward. (Un)Surprisingly, the runners didn’t allow the bad news to crush their spirits. Refusing to sit out for the duration, Alex even jumped back in to run short and easy legs to add to the overall rest time for all the runners. With all runners on deck, intervals were fluid.
The sun began to set as they descended toward Las Vegas around Mountain Springs. The city became visible in the distance and catalyzed a newfound stoke in the team. Every time a runner swapped in, the sprinter door slid open and blared their favorite songs, resulting in beautiful downhill dance-running and vocal support from the crew.
As the finish became more palpable, the energy only increased. The end was near and everyone could feel it.
“The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
- Hunter S. Thompson
The team ran the descent on the 160 to where it turned into Blue Diamond Rd and hit Las Vegas Blvd. From this intersection, it was only about 3 miles to the end—the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign. Everyone crammed into the sprinter.
When the glow of the sign was in immediate view, everybody hopped out and ran in the last half mile together.
At the sign, Nils and Scotty (The Speed Project race directors) awaited with bottles of champagne ready for the team to shake up and spray everywhere, like some strange and poignant metaphoric manifestation of the denouement of the wild and incomprehensible journey they had just undergone together.
There were so many points during this event that felt like an exploration of thresholds—physically, psychically, spiritually. But this is how it goes with these major feats of endurance; a quest for “The Edge” and learning how to approach and manage that elusive space. And while each experience there is typically individual, in a group like this The Edge felt more like an action potential threshold, wherein each push into that territory resulted in another excitatory response in the next person—rather than fizzling out, like the spillage of champagne on concrete, dirt and grass.
The team may have come in 10th place, but this has only set off another excitatory response.
We’ll be coming back to explore more thresholds and take ourselves over The Edge.