Members of the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa police departments will head to the desert this weekend to participate in the 120-mile Baker to Vegas Relay.
The will be among teams from 270 departments participating in the annual rite, which raises money for a police nonprofit.
Newport Beach and Costa Mesa each plan to send 20 participants, but they'll also have some of their retired and non-sworn colleagues along for the trip to do support duties, like driving and being alternates.
Newport Beach will send about 45 sworn- and non-sworn participants, including Police Chief Jay Johnson, who will brave near 100-degree temperatures, according to Newport Beach Officer Darrin Joe.
For their training, Costa Mesa officers ran long and short distances to gauge who would be best suited for which portion of the relay, said Police Chief Tom Gazsi.
Gazsi added that it was a great way to bring the department together.
While some team members were natural runners, like Newport's Officer Paul Sarris — who won the Surf City USA Marathon with a time of 2:30:09 — others were athletes in their own field. Some conditioned themselves specifically to be competitive runners ready to participate in the April relay.
Although the weekend's temperatures are expected to reach sauna-like levels, Joe is confident in the team's capabilities.
"Since we all typically work and train in a beach community, it is almost impossible to be fully prepared to run in the heat," Joe said. "There is no doubt every member of our team has the physical conditioning and mental fortitude to withstand the harshest weather conditions."
Baker to Vegas regular Lt. Evan Sailor of the NBPD has participated in the race, running 15 of the last 20. He's a year-round runner, but come January he ups his mileage to prepare.
"I love the camaraderie and esprit de corps within our department," he said. "The entire organization comes together, sworn and non-sworn, runners, support crew and those that volunteer to stay behind and provide valuable services to the community. It is the ultimate team effort that I am so proud to be a part of."
The NBPD's involvement in desert racing predates the modern incarnation of the Baker to Vegas race. Newport Beach officers started running in what was then the Death Valley Relay in the 1980s.
The department also has a record amount of wins in its division, and set the division record in 2006, Joe said.
This year the team set its sights even higher.
"We hope to place among the top 10 overall finishers and break our previous division record," Joe said.