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What is The Speed Project? A crazy race from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, part 2

The adventure continues for the French Fraires on their quest to complete The Speed Project, a 550km (340 miles) relay race from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. After cruising across California’s breathtaking landscapes, will they make it through the second half of this grueling race all the way to Sin City?

June 18 2019

Night running

The second night won’t be easy

As the second night falls, the race takes on another personality. While we all seem to be dreading tonight a little bit less than last night, that might very well be a mistake. Team members continue to run one leg after another. Fatigue sets in, anxiety increases, and our support crew goes on full alert. The night won’t be easy. 

The French Fraires- The Speed Project

“Our crew prepping for the next section of the course.”

Someone wakes me up since it’s my turn again in 25 minutes. I fumble around to get ready and step out the door half asleep. The night, the cold, and my sore muscles are not so subtle. Wearing a BINDI headlamp, Franklin joins me on a Bike and Run through this urban leg of the race. Bike and Run sections offer the chance to save energy as well as share the experience with someone else, which is great for the encouragement and to make time pass by quicker. 

The French Fraires- The Speed Project

“For runs through urban areas, a BINDI headlamp provides plenty of light.”

The French Fraires- The Speed Project

“Bike and Run”

Although my legs are stiff, the last section goes smoothly. I have another hour until my next leg, 5km on an unlit road. I take my NAO+ to make sure that I can see and be seen. While not difficult, each kilometer seems to take forever. Once I finally reach the changeover, I rest up and eat a bite before the next run. 

The time has come for one of the most difficult sections of the race

We prep for one of the most difficult sections of the race: 15km alone, at night, in the middle of the desert, and described as “steep, difficult, with loose gravel and sand, out of your support vehicle’s sight, and well off the road.” We were told of a way to split this section into two, but it requires a risky changeover, stopping the van in the emergency lane, and looking for a tunnel that passes beneath the highway. We decide to take our chances. 

It is my turn to run again. The section starts on a path with ankle-deep sand. I spot two headlamps 300 meters in front of me and speed up to catch them, but only gain a few meters. When I turn around, there is only darkness. 

The French Fraires- The Speed Project

“The powerful beam on the NAO+ lights up the dark desert night.” 

From the top of every rise, I can see the highway down below. I am all alone, with no one in front or behind me in the pitch black. I try to reach the team by walkie-talkie to feel a bit less abandoned, but no one answers. I decide to slow down to save energy and just in case the going gets tough. When I set my headlamp to maximum power, it lights up the entire landscape in front of me, making each step just a bit safer and providing welcome reassurance as I ramble through the middle of nowhere.

At one point I realize that I have turned down the wrong path. I can either backtrack and lose time running through the sand again, or head off trail through the bushes during rattle snake season. I still have 10 hard kilometers to run with no one around, the highway blocked by barbed wire and chain link fencing, as well as an unfriendly local population of snakes who, if I'm lucky, just might slither away when they feel the vibrations of an approaching runner and are blinded by an oncoming headlamp. I make the decision to cut through the brush. Soon enough I am back on track! 

Still no news from the team

As a long climb rises up before me in the dark, still no news from the team. I have no clue when this section will end: maybe in 1.5km, maybe I’m only halfway done. The climb is tough but goes well. Once on top, the team is finally able to reach me by radio. They explain that they have stopped the campervan along the side of the road to look for the tunnel that will allow us to split this section into two. I decide to pick up the pace for the last kilometer, can finally see the camper’s lights, and run as fast as possible to keep the team from spending too much time in their now awkward (and dangerous) position. As I approach, they have yet to find the passageway. I slow down to sweep the area with my headlamp, lighting up every stone and pile of sand in sight, and finally spot the entrance to the tunnel at a dip in the terrain. After showing to them where it is located, we meet up and the next runner heads off into the night.

The world famous and long-awaited sign is close

The sun will rise in 20 minutes; we are done with the cold and the most difficult part of the race. Only 200km left until the finish line, and we will do whatever it takes to cross it. The remaining kilometers pass by one after the other, and the world famous and long-awaited sign is close. When the “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign finally appears, everyone is all smiles, and we meet back up with the crew as they cheer us on, give us hugs, and congratulate us.
We enjoy celebrating the end of the adventure 45 hours and 52 minutes after it started.

The French Fraires- The Speed Project

“The entire team after crossing the finish line”

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