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The Power of Community and Challenge: Rhone Takes on No Shortcuts

One thought ran through my head as I looked up the incline I had yet to conquer–one foot in front of the other (with other words I won’t mention here). I had never in my life climbed such a steep stretch during a run and if I were to have been alone, it’s not unlikely that I might have quit–but that was not an option given this situation. Not when you’re part of a team that’s counting on you and supporting you throughout the 150-mile journey that is No ShortCuts: an unsanctioned relay race spanning California, from Los Angeles to sunny San Diego (which was unfortunately dark when we arrived around 10:45 PM PST). 

Let’s take it back a few hours to the beginning…a 3:00 AM wake up call to get to the starting line by 4:00 AM. Myself and teammates, Brian Levine (Rhone’s Senior Manager of Brand Marketing), Cameron Ahouse (Rhone’s Community Marketing Manager), and four Rhone Ambassadors, Matt Scarzello, Kristian Elvina, Zac Marion, and CJ Finely met in the lobby of our hotel to make the walk to our 15-passenger sprinter van dubbed “Benni” by the end of the weekend. We piled in and vibes were high–regardless of how anyone slept, how fueled or recovered we felt, it didn’t matter, we were ready. Driving through the streets of Los Angeles, we navigated to a parking lot where it was clear, other teams had parked their vans and RVs…yup, RVs. As a team, we walked towards the 6th Street Bridge and towards the starting line. And just like that, Brian, our starting runner, was off, into the dark streets of LA with the first-in-line runners from all of the other teams.

The rest of us made our way back to the van and started to track Brian down. As a team, our system was simple–pull up next to our runner to check in and plan for the next checkpoint, while also ensuring they knew where to turn. Sounds like a simple task and while it was for the most part, there were certainly some moments of chaos. I can recall one specific incident when Matt (in his Crocs) chased down Zac after a turn was missed…not the only moment during the race when Matt would run in Crocs. After Brian ran his first 10 miles, I was up. I hopped out of the van and waited at the turn. A quick high five from Brian and I was off. It was about 5:00 AM at this point and things were still dark, with only the occasional street light or traffic signal as my guide. Being the competitive individual that I am, I knew I wanted to bear my fair share of the weight in terms of mileage for the race and I had my sights set on 10 miles for my first leg–the furthest I had run in years. While I made it just shy of 10, I’m chalking the first leg up to a win. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to go over our “fit checks” – that’s what people are calling it these days right? Our outfits, gear, attire. You’ve likely noticed that we’re challenging our community to stretch their limits in the Commuter Shirt. We’ve seen Nate, Rhone’s CEO, run a marathon in one, a handful of Ambassadors have put the shirt through strength training regimes, and more. So, naturally, we had to stretch the limits ourselves. A handful of legs during our 18-hour run were worn in the Commuter, in the dry heat, cooler evening and late night. We can confirm that they not only held up, but flowed with each stride and gave that breathability and flexibility you’d look for in a workout top (except it’s a dress shirt!). Not to mention, they dried up quickly, even in a van full of body sweat. When the guys weren’t dressed in a Commuter, it was a pair of Swift Shorts, a custom Swift Tank and a custom Distance hat from RNNR, with appearances from two different pairs of OG, come and gone styles of Rhone running shorts. 

And as for the lady in the group?

I on the other hand was lucky enough to rock a few pieces from FP Movement. It was key (for all of us) to have multiple pieces of clothing on hand. Nothing brings down the mood like sitting in sweaty gear for a few hours. My first leg included the Under Control Bra and the Run For It Shorts.

While those dried, for the second and third leg I went with the It's An Illusion Crop and Good Karma Running Shorts (maybe the softest biker shorts I’ve ever worn). For the last leg, it was back to the Run For It Shorts and the Happiness Runs Crop Tank (most comfortable tank I’ve ever gotten my hands on? I think so). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out the Pippa Packable Pullover Puffer which kept me cozy during the chillier morning hours waiting for my first leg and acted as a pillow during my rest time. 

Okay, back to the race…

Next up, Kristian. Lucky for him, his leg started just as the sun came up over the distant mountains. And lucky for us, we got to witness it from the van. To no surprise, Kristian’s first leg was strong. Followed by the longest first leg from Zac, a 12-miler, and a hill-crushing leg from CJ (and to clarify, it was CJ who crushed the hills, not vice versa). Cameron, Chief Operating Officer of Benni, pulled a solid leg and then Matt hopped onto the streets for the final first leg, bringing home some of the fastest paces we’d see all day. I hope you’ve gathered that these teammates of mine showed up both as individual athletes and as one-of-a-kind teammates. 

As darkness shifted into full morning, we were greeted a warm light , the ability to fully see where each next step we'd take would be, a working bathroom, and coffee served in saucer cups from a local Mexican joint, and the second legs of the day approaching. I’ll be honest when I say that when leg two rolled around, things started to blur together a bit. We had solidified our system for the day and the rotation started to feel like clockwork.

Run your leg. Hop in the van and head to the back row to recover, refuel and relax. Shift from runner to teammate, whatever that role looked like for each individual throughout the day. 

As we rotated in and out of the van, the landscape shifted from cityscape to mountainous, vast canyons and flatlands, and the heat started to kick in. Running in the heat alone can be tricky but running a relay race through desert lands? It can feel chaotic. Not to mention, I’m sure you can imagine how portions of the van began to look and smell–let’s just say it was ripe. Leave it at that. As we monitored each runner during these hotter legs, we made our way through Old Town Temecula where we stopped for a bathroom break (which was nice considering many of them had been behind bushes on the side of the road–if you’re a runner, you get it). This is also where the true chaotic moment of the race occurred…we lost Matt. With his phone in the van, we had no way to contact him and were left with two options: drive ahead or backtrack. We went with both options and still, no Matt. Knowing he certainly wouldn’t be running backwards, Benni and the team pushed on and finally, Matt appeared–that was close. From that moment on, we made a new team rule: whether you like it or not, you have to run with your phone. 

Running forward, there were a few hours in the middle of the day when the tone shifted. Tired, hungry for anything other than beige carbs, stiff, the van fell a little more silent than usual. And then it hit us–50 miles to go. On any other occasion, 50 miles would seem almost insurmountable but not today. As a team we had already conquered 100 miles, what’s another 50? Around this same time, Kristian hopped into the van following a leg, noting he’d listened to Disney Greatest Hits playlist during his run (something he’s familiar with being the father of a 3-year old son). "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from the movie Mulan was requested and let me tell you, every single grown adult in that van knew every single word. Need a mood boost? Sing a Disney tune with newfound friends at the top of your lungs. 

50 miles to go, the sun is starting to go down and our eyes are set on San Diego. When I think of this moment, I think of what Kristian said following the race. He recalls a moment of being asked how he was doing, how his morale was. He replied with one word: “mediocre.” 

It was a quick, off the cuff response that really captured my feeling towards running and my personal self belief in my ability as a runner. Coming into this race I knew that I would be tested mentally and emotionally… hell, I ran more miles each week for the last month than I did in all of 2021 combined. Throughout this process when feelings of self doubt and trepidation crept up it was the thought of not wanting to let my team down that kept me pushing. 

F.A.M.I.L.Y – Forget About Me I Love You

For the first time in well over a decade  it wasn’t my pride that kept me pushing, but it was the 6 other individuals I shared the bus with. It didn’t matter to any of you if I did another mile, but I wanted to keep going and do my part to get us to the finish line. Being a part of the team was more than just representing RHONE, but it was a redefining moment in my training that pushed me to limits that I would’ve not have been able to do on my own. So ask me again… “Kristian how you feeling… how’s morale?”

Amazing… and unbroken.

Amazing. Unbroken. Two words that perfectly encapsulated how I felt as day became night and I hit my final leg. I felt alive, revitalized, fast. What started as running through a completely dark neighborhood, closely followed by Benni for guidance and safety, soon turned into running parallel to a sandy beach and ocean breeze–I feel emotional just thinking about it. We were almost there. Collectively, we had almost completed 150 miles in a single day. A group of strangers had become family. We had conquered hills, a brief Missing Person, heat, fatigue, being awake for almost 24-hours. Each individual contributed something different, yet vital. Each individual was meant to be there. 

Just under 19 hours.

150-miles covered. 

7 individuals. 

1 team.

1 hell of an experience. 

If you’re wondering whether you should do that hard thing, tackle that experience or leap into that new community, to get uncomfortable, to get gritty, to reach for a new pursuit, this is your sign. Just say “yes.” You won’t regret it. 

And with that, I’ll leave you with the biggest takeaway from this event…

We are always stronger together. 

It was a collective suffering of running 150-miles that brought us together. With individual goals and expectations in mind, we all showed up to run, but more importantly, to support one another through an incredibly challenging pursuit. 

CJ said it best when he noted: 

"It gets hot.

It gets mind numbing and exhausting.

It makes you nauseous and queasy at points.

It gets to a point where you question who you are, why you are here on earth, and how the hell are you going to keep going.

And when it gets like this...

You look over and see 6 other people smiling at you saying you got this.

Handing you water and gifting you resources every mile of the way.

They are by your side making sure you feel the power of having a tribe.

All to the point that the sinking feeling your brain tries to trap you in...

Vanishes.

And the pain of every step begins to help you become better...

Instead of making you bitter.

Eventually...

Those steps...

They add up.

And you will find yourself reaching a place you once thought impossible."


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