It’s the hardest relay race you’ve never heard of. It’s the The Speed Project.
The Speed Project is an unsanctioned, sans rule book ultra relay race. It starts at Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles and ends 344 miles later at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on the strip. Teams of six runners cross the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, skim the top of Mojave National Preserve, and traverse Death Valley on their way to Sin City.
Polartec and Oiselle, the women’s running apparel company, saw an opportunity to make history on the course. No all-women’s team had ever toed the line. It was time to change that, and do it with speed. Team Bird Strike was determined to be the first to arrive in Las Vegas.
Domination requires strategy. The Bird Strike team and support crew tapped the knowledge of Polartec Product Managers Karen Beattie and Karen Whitter for the best fabrics to wear on the course. Beattie invented Polartec Delta, Polartec’s innovative cooling fabric, that Oiselle chose for their Flyout styles. Whitter is the champion of Polartec Alpha, a breathable insulation that was invented for the U.S. Special Forces. Watch for Alpha in sleek and functional Oiselle styles this fall.
Anything can happen in a race like this. Runners were faced with brutal heat, long climbs, angry stomachs, minimal sleep, and a trip to the ER. But they didn’t have to worry about their clothes. Oiselle’s Flyout tops with Delta helped Bird Strike focus on the miles instead of chafe and heat. Runner Cathleen Knutson noted, “The fabric withstood the sweat and grit of this race. Even after two hot six mile runs it still felt soft. It was lightweight, yet durable and never felt clingy on my skin.” Collier Lawrence wore the Flyout Long Sleeve on the last climb to Vegas. “It was getting pretty windy and cold but didn’t warrant a jacket or wind shell. I put the Flyout long sleeve under my reflective vest thinking I’d get too hot. Stayed warm without feel like I was overheating.”
44 hours, 27 minutes, and 11 seconds after leaving Santa Monica Pier, Team Bird Strike sprinted together to the finish line. It was 1am. No one had slept for more than a few hours in the past two days. But when a team of women wins the race they set out to win, none of that matters.
The race may be over, but there’s more Bird Strike vs. The Speed Project story to come. Because something more than a race experience was knitted together between a group of 12 women over 340 miles.
Photography by Joe Haeberle