In their debut appearance at the world-famous 340-mile ultra relay, Toronto-based run club Pace and Mind completed the trek from Los Angeles to Vegas in 35 hours and 10 minutes to finish fifth overall at The Speed Project (TSP). An American pro team from On Running was the first to reach the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, in 29 hours and 26 minutes.
Pace and Mind sat in seventh place heading into the final checkpoint, with two American teams sitting only minutes ahead, going into the final five legs. The team, made up of four men and two women, waited until late to play their best card, passing the two teams on the Vegas strip to end up with a top-five finish out of 47.
Team captain Carolyn Buchanan says a mid-race strategy switch ended up paying off. “We started the relay by each doing two or three 10K legs to get us out of L.A., but we noticed that other teams would use two or three runners over that same leg,” Buchanan says. “We broke them down to around two miles each and found it helped with our team’s efficiency.”
Despite the team’s success, they had several setbacks that stalled their chances mid-race. “We lost a runner for a bit,” Buchanan says. The runner forgot their phone on one of the legs, which the team was using to track each runner’s location. Another major setback was the flat tire they discovered on their RV when they got off the trail portion. “The clock is always ticking during TSP, we need to act fast and deal with the setbacks immediately.”
“It can be crazy how quickly and often your plan goes to shit at TSP,” Buchanan emphasizes. “The biggest challenge facing all teams is how quickly you can make adjustments on the fly.”
When we asked Buchanan and the Pace and Mind team to describe their experience, they said “Stressful at times but absolutely insane.”
“Do your research on the route you are planning to take before,” Buchanan says. “They provide you with a course guide but it’s better to not rely on it.”
Top Canadian teams (overall):
5) Pace and Mind (Toronto) – 35:10
14) Yamajo (Montreal) – 40:39
35) The Runway (Toronto) – 46:45
37) Up Tempo Running (Toronto) – 47:31
43) Lululemon Women (Toronto) – 52:26
TSP is an unsanctioned endurance event that draws runners from around the world across three days. (There is also a solo ultra.) OG (original) teams can be two women and four men or four women and two men; there are also women-only teams and “freestyle” teams (which can have any number of runners). The goal for all is to run across the Mojave Desert and Death Valley to reach the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign at the south end of the strip, for the ultimate post-race celebration.