Relive all the action thanks to Zach Hetrick and Pim Rinkes
Much has been written already about The Speed Project 4.0, the 2018 edition of the 540km ultra relay from Santa Monica to Las Vegas.
It's almost inconceivable that the final result would be decided by only ten minutes, but it's fitting that in the biggest running of the race, with more media attention than ever, something special should happen.
TSP is quickly becoming an event for the who's-who of the photography world as well, and this year we were fortunate to have highly respected photographers Zach Hetrick and Pim Rinkes shooting the event.
Enjoy this recap of their 40+ hours in the desert chasing The Speed Project.
"Are all these guys really here because years ago we thought it was a dope idea to run from LA to Vegas?
It was a wild mix of emotions here, from slight relief knowing I didn’t have to go through the pain of running 340 miles, paired with mad respect for all these insane athletes from around the world, who where about to get on this mainly unknown journey together, all the way to when are we going to get into it with the cops!"
Nils Arend, co-creator of The Speed Project
"The anticipation of the unknown challenge ahead filled those foggy streets as the hundreds of half awake gathered to become part of the TSP legacy.
Seemingly oblivious to the scale of what lays ahead, it's just pure magic to see the ambition and determination in those lining up for the first leg, and I was honoured to capture it".
Pim Rinkes, photographer
"Not even a day in and I already was disgusted by that horrible Gatorade stuff.
Good thing my team Kraftrunners came prepared and bought cans of beer!"
Eugen Fink, Kraftrunners
The dry Californian air makes the desert the perfect place for the storage of aircraft and other vehicles no longer in active use.
The Speed Project made its way past one of these plane graveyards just outside the town of Adelante, about 90 miles east of LA.
Not only is the graveyard home to dozens of aircraft, right now it's accommodating hundreds (if not thousands) of Volkswagen motor vehicles.
"Running the legs at TSP is not the hard part. It's the hours between, in 10 or more repetitions, where you have to eat, drink, stretch, massage, stay alert and emotionally stable for your team for more than 36 hours"
Paul Schmidt, Kraftrunners
"Just past midnight, we were pulled over waiting for a runner exchange. Our photographer, Jason Suarez, was driving our mini-van. All of a sudden a car pulls alongside and out hop Pim and Zach.
They had been shooting for about 20 hours by this point, and their only issue was trying to charge laptops. They offloaded some stuff to charge in our RV, and went back to their car laughing and planning their next few hours before they would find us again and get their gear back.
I looked at Jason and wondered if he wished he were rolling with those guys. I'm sure part of him did.
The one thing we had going in our favour was stale pizza and the thought that we would be finished in Vegas while Pim and Zach were still shooting"
Riley Wolff, runner for Hunter Athletics and Recreation
"I remember being able to see myself run in the shadow cast by the moonlight during TSP 3.0, with nothing more around than the muted sound of my own elevated breath.
One should feel small sometimes, by looking at an ocean or gazing at the stars. The desert is a place where you can truly disappear, which is both frightening and exciting".
Pim Rinkes, photographer and former race participant
Death Valley is more incredible than you can imagine. Surrounded by perfectly chiselled mountain ranges, the long straight roads are deafening in their silence. Visually, while the landscape plays on your mind, the dry air attacks your lungs and the heat causes a spike in heart rate. It's an obviously inhospitable area, made even more challenging when you're racing the clock and 37 other teams.
"This race tested me beyond unimaginable limits...the last 6 hours to Vegas are a complete blur.
Coming off injury, my body should not have been able to carry me to that point; it's incredible what the heart and mind can take on when working for a team of people you care about"
Sam Roecker, Tracksmith
"When this photo was taken, Mike and I were neck and neck in Death Valley, it perfectly represents our race with Tracksmith.
In TSP you need both allies and opponents to succeed"
"When Pim and I set out to shoot TSP I had anticipated a lot of "Man Vs Nature" / "Man Vs Self" photos. What I didn't anticipate was two teams battling it out after 520k.
We started the morning of Day 2 with the leaders. Tracksmith had overtaken Sunchasers in the night and though they were still close, to me they seemed destined for the win. The team's strategies had been so different: 10 mile legs vs 10 minutes in the opening hours.
I thought Sunchasers had finally bonked from lack of recovery. I couldn't have been more wrong"
Zach Hetrick, photographer
Eventually, after nearly 36 hours on the road, the French team Sunchasers pulled away from Tracksmith and took the win and set a new course record in the process.
Sunchasers did most of the race swapping out runners every kilometre, and towards the finish were swapping out every 80-120 seconds. While one person ran, the next runner would ride beside them. The bike would never be stopped, a constant game of keeping runner, bike, and the next runner in motion.
There are a lot of remarkable aspects to the close fought battle between Tracksmith and Sunchasers, one of the most impressive is the fact that Tracksmith ran a large part of Saturday with only 5 runners.
Their #1 runner, Peter Bromka, unfortunately had to withdraw on Saturday morning with dehydration.
"When I received a photo of my 5 teammates, what struck me was how casual and relaxed they looked.
They'd just finished a 36 hour adventure that ended with 7 hours of battling Sunchasers.
They stood together like they just finished a local 5k. That takes toughness
Peter Bromka, Tracksmith
"When we photograph we run next to our subjects after a burst to get in front for another shot. You can sorta judge pace by how long it takes to overtake the runners. They were flying after all those Ks.
I've been witness to Olympic Trials and great marathons, but the drama on the last hill to Vegas was the best racing I've ever seen.
I was a witness"
Zach Hetrick, photographer