The stage: A 340 mile race, from Los Angeles CA to Las Vegas NV, going over some of the most treacherous terrain in the country.
The cast: Global running and cycling brand Strava’s first all-female team to attempt such a feat. 6 ultra-endurance athletes, ranging from a former collegiate cross country star to a handful of IRONMAN finishers.
Down to the wire: Strava was inspired to assemble a separate all-female team after sifting through 70 applications for their Speed Project 3.0 relay team. What started initially as a team of 6 on February 13th quickly dwindled to two due to the last-minute nature (race was March 10-12) and costly airfare. It was Joyce Lee and Kasha Huk from Toronto – they still needed 4 members to complete the team.
Team Captain Joyce Lee (@fly.joyce): Closest to the race start was Whitney Powell, so I reach out to her first. I met her at Ironman Arizona in 2015. The next two were Alyx Ulbrich (from Hawaii, who I met during a 100 mile marathon) and Sandra Villines (met during her while running 350 miles for the California Missions from Santa Barbara to Fremont). I knew my ultrarunning buddies were good for this because they're the type to say YES and are extremely tough and versatile, and are very familiar with sleep deprivation while running. Both Alyx and Sandra have also completed full Ironman triathlons.
After adding Whitney, Alyx and Sandra to the team, there were FIVE. The Speed Project recruited the final runner, who turned out to be our ace, Chloe Maleski, who ran cross country at Duke and was named New Hampshire Cross Country Runner of the Year prior to her university days. She was FAST!!
Why? Why take on this crazy challenge, where you run through the desert supported by only an RV and your team?
Alyx Ulbrich (@dralyxulbrich): The most important words I have ever been told: “Each day offers opportunity, and never live a life that doesn't allow you to take them, because you would hate to wake up saying what if?” I live every day as if it were my last, making choices and decisions that hopefully empower and inspire others. When my friend Joyce offered a slot to run The Speed Project, my only struggle was finding the best flights.
Joyce: This crazy race is not for the faint of heart and is not open to just anyone. The fact that I was presented with the chance to run in this unique event was an opportunity of a lifetime that I could not turn my back on. Every race is a challenge and a chance to deepen your understanding of yourself and what your made of. Am I as tough as I think I am?
Was it difficult, finding sponsors and getting it all put together?
Alyx: Joyce and I reached out to a handful of companies and we were greeted with resounding yes', how may we help you's, and overall completely overwhelming support. I can't thank each of our sponsors enough, and am in awe of their graciousness. It was amazingly humbling to know so many companies stood behind a couple of gals just asking for a handout to get to Vegas on a budget.
Joyce: The logistics was a bit of a scramble as nearly the entire team was coming in from all various all around: Toronto, Florida, Ohio, and Northern California. But it was worth it, we knew this wasn't just any ordinary race or road trip, this was going to be an adventure we'll remember for our lifetime!!
What was the end goal? What was everyone thinking as you got started?
Alyx: I think each of us girls had a different objective for showing up at the starting line at The Speed Project. Some wanted to test themselves, while the more experienced ultra-runners wanted training miles, some wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves, some wanted exposure and networking. Despite being located across the globe, with different lifestyles, athletic backgrounds, and objectives for showing up; we all said yes. Not once did any of the women show even a sign of hesitation or regret.
Joyce: Seeing all the runners gather beneath the bright neon sign at the Santa Monica Pier at the start made my heart beat a mile a minute. This very spot was typically the finish line of the LA Marathon but now was serving as the start line of the most epic adventure we were all about to experience. The girls were excited and if anyone was nervous, I honestly couldn't tell. Alyx huddled us together and said a quick prayer for the team and like that, it was time to send our first runner, Sandra off!!
The StravaFemmes story will continue, come back next week to get to know the whole team!