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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Speed Project: DIY 31 hour relay

To quickly explain the race, TSP DIY is a relay with few rules. You collect your team's total time via Strava, and you make up your own route and legs. You can have a team of any size, and your legs can be any length. You don't even have to be in the same place: you can virtually hand off (we used this method when changing base locations). You run for 31 hours and 15 minutes, and the team with the highest mileage wins. There are some specific categories, too, but we were in the Freestyle category which is essentially the open division.

 You want me to recap 31 hours of running? Thirty one hours of relay, of working as a team, of making decisions on the fly, of scrambling to meet the competition, of fighting fatigue, storms, heat warnings, and dehydration, of watching some of the finest running I've ever seen? 

It will be a long race report. Let's start from the beginning. 

The cast of characters: The Power Miler Track Club

Rich: Reliable, consistently fast, a 2:28 marathoner with a chronic knee injury and a chipper attitude. Projected pace (our team coach recommended we aim for half marathon or a little slower for the race): 5:45

Will: A duathlete who is very fast and sharp when in shape. He's in shape: he ran a PR mile at our recent time trial. He comes from a large family of runners and his parents live near part of our proposed route. Projected pace: 5:45

Kenny: A masters runner with incredible track speed and a straight up beautiful form. He joined the club last year after being pestered to do so for years; moving into the city from the 'burbs made up his mind. Projected pace: 5:45

Josh: The brains behind our race administration, a Brooks guru, and a runner who has made giant strides since joining the team. Projected pace: 6:30

Kevin: We're never quite sure if it's Kevin or his twin Jason. Kevin is a physical therapist - just graduated! - and incredibly good at grinding out consistent tempos. Projected pace: 6:45

Paul: Pastor Paul is 57, mellow, team oriented, and prepared to suffer silently. In fact, he has a single tattoo that reads, "amor fati". Paul ran a sub-5 mile at age 50, so he's a weapon. Projected pace: 6:20

Mike: How a busy businessman like Mike got away for 31 hours is beyond me, but he managed. He also managed a lot of the delegating and directing for this effort, and his organization was priceless. Mike, or Pou as we call him, is a quietly effective runner and one of the most encouraging people I've ever met. Projected pace: 6:45

Jeremy: Jeremy was the one who got us into this mess. After reading about the relay in Tempo Journal, he proposed a team for 2020. We sputtered initially and couldn't field a team for the original date in March. The pandemic moved the relay to a "do it yourself" format, and suddenly it was more manageable. Jeremy pushed us to put a team together and represent the Power Milers. He also got a professional photographer for the event! Projected pace: 6:45

Jonathan: Jonathan joined the club as easily the slowest member, and I admire that. Because when I joined, that was me! It's a bold move, and it obviously pays off. Jonathan has made giant improvements and has been game for all our workouts, even though he is an ultrarunner: something our workouts don't cater to. I knew his ultra experience would be key. Projected pace: 7:00.

Me: Coming off a disappointing mile time trial, a left hamstring tear, and a threatening right hamstring strain, I was a liability. I think the rest of the team had understandable reservations: I missed a lot of the beginnings of our Zoom planning calls since they started while I was still driving home from work, so I was playing a lot of catch-up. I have a 7-month old who is still breastfeeding. I haven't really raced since Boston 2019, so my fitness was up in the air. BUT I have a secret weapon, and that weapon is that I am very good at suffering. It's like a hobby of mine. I would have made a great nun. Projected pace: 7:00. That pace...when we put together our race plan spreadsheet, I had to think hard about this. I thought my half marathon pace was probably around 6:50 at the time, but then I had to take time off for my hamstring, and we also all took the weather into account. A labor day weekend race in New Orleans was bound to be hot, so I added a few seconds for that, too. If all went well, I hoped to run closer to 6:55.

Our first home base: My street. 

The race and race plan: 

Our plan was to start in Audubon Park, where we had a smooth surface closed to traffic, and do some five mile loops before the sun came up (the race kicked off at 6am). We'd move to 3 mile loops as it warmed up, and then transition to City Park for the afternoon. Our thinking was that City Park might be cooler since Audubon can be extremely humid (lol, like what isn't humid in NOLA?). In the heat of the day, we'd do just 2-mile loops. As the sun set, we would then venture to the shadeless lakefront at night. The lakefront has been closed to traffic during the pandemic to reduce crowds, so it was a safe option at night when both parks are closed. The plan was for 5 mile loops overnight when the temperature dropped, although the low was 79 and humidity was still in the 90s! We'd move back to Audubon for some early morning stuff Sunday, more 3-milers, then finish up at the track back in City Park to crank out as many track 400s as we could. 

Spoiler: that plan totally changed. To be continued! 


  1. I am loving this recap - can't wait for the rest! Native New Orleanian here (living in MD).

  2. This was fun to read - especially hearing about the different teammates. I doubt they actually had reservations about you! You are a tough runner! Looking forward to hearing part 2!

  3. I love the long-form detailed race reports. The cast of characters is great! I do not see you as a liability. You are a speedy, dedicated, reliable runner. Anyway, this sounds like a fun idea for a virtual relay and I am looking forward to the next installment.