This Friday, a group of 12 birds - 6 runners and 6 crew - will take off from the Santa Monica Pier to race for the title of fastest female team in The Speed Project - a 340 mile road relay from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. We catch up with the team to hear about how they’ve been training, what they’re looking forward to, and why they agreed to jump in on this crazy adventure.
WHY THIS RACE?
NORA - Oiselle Volée. Ultra-marathoner. Coach. Wisconsin native:
It's like nothing I have seen before. I have been searching for a race that will be hard physically and mentally, to really reach that breaking point. When Oiselle asks you to be a part of something like this (so fun, and challenging) you say yes! I mean, when am I ever going to have Lauren Fleshman crew for me, seriously!
ROBYN - Oiselle Volée. Runner & Crew Expert. University of Washington Academic Advisor:
If there is one thing I've learned in life - it's always says yes to adventure. Running is such an individual sport that when given an opportunity to participate in a team I wouldn't miss it. There's something special about a team and being part of something that's bigger than the individual.
LAUREN - Oiselle Pro. 2x USA 5k Champion. Author. Entrepreneur (Picky Bars). Coach of Little Wing:
The thought of leaving behind a pretty predictable day to day life for an event on the opposite extreme sounds awesome, but only because of the people. I knew any team Oiselle could put together would have interesting, fun people and crazy shit would happen and I'd want to be a part of it.
WHAT'S IT BEEN LIKE TO COLLABORATE WITH THE TEAM?
DEVON - Oiselle Pro. Ultramarathoner. Foodie / Entrepreneur. Owner of M.H. Bread & Butter:
Everyone comes to this with a different perspective, so we have had to work together to figure out how to develop a strategy that works to get everyone excited and ready. I think the great thing about having a women's only team is that we are communicators, so it has made the process flow more smoothly than I initially thought it would.
SARAH O - Oiselle Volée. Marathon and Ultra-Runner. NCAA Employee:
I train almost entirely by myself, and on race day I usually focus on running my own race and not getting swept up in others’ race tactics. But I also love being part of the Oiselle Volée team and talking with my teammates about their training, race strategies, difficulties, and successes. So far, collaborating with the Bird Strike crew has been the best of both worlds – we’re scattered all over the country, doing our own thing day to day, but figuring out how to best leverage each runner’s individual strengths. The only tough thing has been doing all this strategizing over email. I can’t wait to hang with this team in real life! It’s also been awesome and a bit surreal to see emails from rockstars like Devon Yanko in my inbox – total fangirl moments!
HOW HAVE YOU TRAINED OR PREPARED?
CATHLEEN - Oiselle Volée. Triathlete. Financial Analyst. Seattle-native:
We didn’t have the official “IT’S ON” until the end of January and I wasn’t logging ultra miles that time of year, so I had to be careful to ramp up my mileage wisely. As a triathlete for the past several years, I don’t usually run over 40 miles a week. It was fun building up to 18-20 milers, doing some doubles, and running in the 50-60 miles/week range. With the increase in mileage, I decreased my biking and swimming, and added a lot more yoga for recovery. There is so much unknown and this race is unlike anything I’ve ever done, so I’m keeping an open mind and an open heart for what’s to come over 340 miles. I think it’s going to be very empowering and I’m looking forward to embracing the hard moments.
SARAH O: I trained over the winter for a February marathon, so I’m confident in my overall fitness. During the weeks leading up to The Speed Project, I’ve been breaking longer runs into shorter runs that are closer together than typical doubles (e.g. 12 miles at 10:00am followed by another 6 miles at 1:00pm… and maybe another 6 miles at 6:00pm…). I’m also trying to get accustomed to running at times of the day I don’t prefer, and running when my nutrition isn’t perfectly timed. Basically, I’ve been running often and when circumstances aren’t ideal. This has also been good mental preparation as I’ve looked for mind games to help me “forget” that I’ve already run a bunch of miles and am heading out for a second or third run. The trick that works best for me is to think of each run as the first run of the day and just not think about what I’ve already run. In other words, I’m getting pretty good at lying to myself.
NORA: I am doing a few 100 milers this summer and had a big 50K in early Feb, so I have been putting on the miles already. Before this project came up I had it in my mind that I needed to work on my speed, I do not want to be a 100 miler finisher, I want to race/compete. So this is perfect! I joined a local group once a week that focuses on speed on the indoor track. I did a race simulation with 5x10K and anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hour rest between sets. I have done some lactate threshold testing along with some VO2 work. I have the benefit of recovering well and quickly, so physically I feel ready. Mentally~ being a week out I feel like I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop. I grew up with things not really in my favor and I am always weary of when good/exciting things happen, it’s very foreign. So probably not until I am on that plane headed to LAX will I get my mind straight. That is plenty of time though. It’s like any race: embrace the suck, welcome it, expect it, and when it doesn’t come at least you were ready. It’s gonna be a blast and hard and awesome, that’s the point, right?!
SARAH B - Oiselle Friend. Master of many distances. Corporate Communications Manager. Montana-resident:
I'm in the midst of training for some spring and summer races - a 56k and an 87k. It's still early in the season, but I've done some decent long runs, some workouts, and generally kept a steady schedule. I was hampered by a sickness for a week or so, but have bounced back. As far as mentally, I'm excited. I feel like if the going gets tough, I'll have at least 5 other women out there who I'm working for and who are supporting me.
LOOKING AT THE COURSE MAP - WHAT MAKES YOU EXCITED? WHAT MAKES YOU NERVOUS?
MEGHAN - Oiselle Volée. Runner & Crew Lead. Business Intelligence Expert. California-resident:
Running off the pier in Santa Monica, just getting the whole weekend started is what I'm most excited for. That rush of adrenaline before you settle in for the long haul to Vegas. Of course I won't be running but the adrenaline will still be there. Definitely navigating an RV at night and keeping track of our runners in the middle of nowhere makes me the most nervous. I'm hoping the crew takes buddy shifts so we never have to fly solo.
SARAH O: This will truly be an adventure, which is exciting! It’s much more rogue than following a marked route with course marshals. My nervousness stems from the same thing that excites me… It’s mostly related to a fear of getting lost on some of the legs that don’t have clear-cut instructions like “turn left at this street,” and are instead more like “continue up the dry river bed and through the drainage tunnel (under the highway), turn left at end of tunnel, step over low barbed wire fence, and walk up embankment to side of highway.” I’m also a little nervous about orienting myself in the dark during middle-of-the-night sections on unknown routes, since my dark training runs are on routes I know like the back of my hand. But I don’t think adventure comes without a little nervousness – it’s all part of the package!
SARAH B: I like the fact that this is a team event. All other times I've run a long distance race, it's been all at once, all by myself. I'll be thinking of the team as I toe the line, as I start each leg, and when the going gets tough.
LAUREN: I'm nervous for the night running athletes. I haven't experienced an event where people run through the night, and at least one of our racers has no experience with this either.
WHAT'S GOING TO BE FRONT OF MIND AS YOU WALK INTO THE RACE?
MEGHAN: Good vibes only.
CATHLEEN: All about team.
LAUREN: Keep it fun!
ANY SECRET WEAPONS YOU'RE BRINGING TO RACE DAY?
LAUREN: Probably cooked sweet potatoes. When paired with Picky Bars, recovery rate is off the charts. Lucky socks. Lucky shirt. Badass shades.
SARAH O: I once slept in my car during an ice storm two nights before a marathon, and then ended up running a nearly 4-minute PR and winning the race. So, I guess my secret weapon is either an ability to race well after sleeping in awkward and uncomfortable positions, or an ability to embody that dog-in-a-fire meme and convince myself that “this is fine.”
DEVON: If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret.
WHY SHOULD PEOPLE FOLLOW ALONG?
SARAH B: Follow because it's fun, because it's interesting to watch people suffer, to have a good time, to do something a little bit wacky.
DEVON: Things are going to get really real out there. You want to see people work together, fight for a finish line, work the problems, lose their minds, struggle and transform- this will be all of that.
MEGHAN: Because it's going to be EPIC. Who doesn't want to follow 6 crazy ladies running 340 miles, unsupported, through the desert?!
LAUREN: Because it's insane, and anything can happen, and it's a mashing together of many parts of the Oiselle team and that is beautiful.
SARAH O: Most marathoners and ultrarunners have heard people say “I don’t even like to drive that far!” when talking about race distances. But when I tell people I’m on a relay team running from LA to Las Vegas, it’s almost too incomprehensible – blank stares, confused looks… all the indications of something epic. This race is also intriguing because it’s like a reality show for runners: “A group of women try to survive multiple days in an RV while running 340 across the desert. Who will lose sanity? How bad will they smell??” Finally, this Oiselle team is like the running version of golf’s Pro-Am (but without the stunning Pebble Beach setting and the $7.2 million purse… womp womp). We have a diverse mix of running skill sets, from steeplechaser to new-ish ultrarunners to seasoned veterans. It’s a cross-section that represents what I think is so special about the Oiselle team – it brings women runners of all levels and abilities together to take on big goals and grand adventures. Who wouldn’t want to follow along?!
NORA: This group of women have it all. We have pros and we have members of Volée, we have ultra runners and we have sprinters. This is your way to get in on the action, to witness the all female 6 person team record get set from LA to Vegas. This is proof that you can do anything and that Oiselle truly makes shit happen!
Follow along in twitter and instagram, and run some miles with the team. Take a picture of your weekend miles and use #birdstrike to fly alongside the team. We’ll be sharing miles, words of motivation, and messages with our runners along the way.
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