Friday, September 27, 2013

Highs and lows from a first time 100 miler: Lost Soul 2013

It’s been 6 years since the last time I raced the Lost Soul Ultra. In the last several years I’ve taken running more seriously and thought that given my recent success in 100K and 50M distances that it’s about time that I challenged myself with a 100M. But why on earth would I run my first 100M at LS in Lethbridge AB given the reputation for being the toughest race around. Maybe its forgetfulness or utter stupidity. Either way on Sept. 6 I laced my shoes up and toed the starting line of what will soon be the most memorable running experience of my life.

The horn sounded at 8am and the race started quicker than I would have liked. The 100K and 100M racers all started together, followed by the 50K’s the next day at 7am. Devin Featherstone and Carl Pryce, a couple of 100K racers, took off right away. For whatever reason, I thought it was a good idea that I follow. Speed likes company and I soon realized there were a large number of runners tight on our heels, which set the stage for an incredibly fast first 53K loop. Amongst the trailing group were some strong runners Oleg Tabelev, Neil Rybak, Bernadette Benson, Alissa St. Laurent and John Hubbard. I think 6 runners posted a sub 6-hour first loop, crazy fast! The pace felt fine, body strong and mind at ease so I kept roughly the same pace all throughout the first loop. I completed the first of three loops in 5hrs 21min. In front of all 100K and 100M runners I felt in control at a reasonable pace. All through the first loop I ate every 30 min. mostly on food provided at the aid stations i.e. bananas, sandwiches and chips. When an aid station wasn't close I'd rely on gels to get the fuel in. Fluid intake was positive with around 700ml of water plus Nuun taken every hour.

Sharon, my wife and crew, handed me my iPod to start the second loop. I created a playlist that had only songs with 180 to 185 bpms. This worked wonderfully, my head was in a good space and my body followed suit.  To prepare myself for this race I knew I’d have to beat the heat to post a reasonable time. In the coulee valley it's said to be 5-10 degrees hotter than what the temp posts and that day was no exception. To help me cope I wore a white cotton shirt that I'd blast with ice water every 15 min. The cotton holds the water and sticks quite well to the skin. I also wore a straw cowboy hat which allowed great coverage from the sun and could store a lot of ice inside.  Even with those adaptions when the heat came it brought me to my knees, literally. Around the 75K mark somewhere between the Peenaquim and Pavan aid stations the heat got to me and I bonked big time. Another mistake I made about 30 minutes before crashing was choosing to use some of my drinking water to pour down my shirt to cool me off. Not only was I overheating but also dehydrated, gulp! I came lumbering into the Pavan aid station where my wife/crew knew right away something was wrong. Sharon knew I needed an ice bath and I needed it right now. Another angel was a volunteer dressed as a zombie, later learned his name is Terry. He came right to my aid and knew exactly what I needed. Thanks man! Cold and overstocked with water I set out on the long Pavan to Pavan loop and was able to pick up my pace again. With ultras, the question isn’t if you’ll crater, it’s how quickly can you get your legs back under you and try not to bonk again. My fueling still to this point was not an issue. Consuming roughly 150 calories every half hour and switching up the foods regularly. I still looked forward to eating and my stomach was nice and settled.  The rest of the second loop felt solid and despite losing significant time due to the bonk I still felt positive. My average pace had dropped and if I tried to push that line I'd get a big spike in my heart rate reminding me that I have a new normal now. Crappy, but all I can do now is adapt, and adapt I did. At that point all my focus was anchored on meeting up with my pacer and brother Dan Proctor for the third and final lap. Dan has never run an ultra but he has something that was absolutely crucial to me finishing strong that day. Dan has a mile high personality and can tell stories like no one's business and he did not disappoint. After finishing the second loop I learned I had a lead of around one hour and my main competitor Oleg dropped from the race around the 95K mark. Fueling, hydration, heart rate management and body were all feeling good, considering I’m now in new territory: 105K. This is the first time I’ve run over the 100K mark. Just a mere 55K more to go, right?!? For the next 4 hours Dan and I ran up and down the coulees in the dark. I quickly learned they are really tricky to maneuver at night. Dan the storyteller and me the captive audience.

All was good until the 135K mark, the farthest point of the course. I remember telling Dan that I felt really tired and at the top of a large coulee I oddly decided to lie down quickly falling asleep after muttering incoherently for a few seconds. Dan let me have a five-minute powernap. He then woke me with a solid slap to the face. What a guy! But that could have ended very poorly and I can't thank him enough for being there for me. It was incredibly difficult to get up from the tall grass. But all I could think of was how the grass looked like a pillowy soft cloud that when in it’s comfort all my body aches and tiredness disappeared. Until Dan reminded me my lead and the course record was slipping away. We pressed on at a slower pace. The exhaustion was getting the best of me in my first 100 miler. At the end of my second loop I knew the course record was within reach. But after the powernap and the underestimated time it takes to run the coulees at night, at 140K I knew it was too much time to beat the CR.  At the next aid station I saw my friend Wayne Gaudet. He encouraged me that the record could still be mine if I put in a solid last two sections. So Dan and I shot out of that aid station like a cannon. That didn’t last very long. The first climb between Pavan and Peenaquim I was left standing still half way up. Blurred vision, disoriented and for the first time during the race, feeling like I needed to vomit. I knew now the course record was ultimately out of hand. I turned to Dan and we agreed that the best action would be to enjoy ourselves the rest of the journey and that we did.


Upon the final few K’s of the race I noticed there was blood in my urine. This has never happened to me before. No abdominal pain, just blood. Being close to the finish I knew the race would have medical staff on hand at the finish line which eased my worries.

At 5:26 am on Saturday September 7th coming in at 21hrs 26min, I took my first step across the finish line winning this years Lost Soul 100M Ultra. Loud cheering and applause came from my entire crew who lovingly stayed up all day and night awaiting my arrival. I am a very, very lucky man!

The blood cleared from my urine within hours and the race doctor cleared me. Now, finally, it’s time to REST.

The question is: would I do anything different next time? The simple answer and the one everyone would expect is to not go out as fast...but I don’t know about that. The pace felt so comfortable, but I know my bonk on the second lap could have been lessened or eliminated with a more relaxed pace. My milage in training all year has been solid so I felt fit and strong enough. Fuel and hydration went very well. Cowboy hat and cotton shirt seemed to keep my body cooler than ever before, so I’ll definitely be wearing those again. Now for the weirdest thing: people have told me that trail runners are a must on that course. I ran all 100M in one pair of New Balance 890’s road shoes and never felt once compromised in relation to traction, support or rigidity. And get this, no blister’s or nail issues!!!!!!
Big thanks go out to my lovely wife and crew Sharon, my 3 beautiful children Julia, Sam, and Adele, the best pacer a guy could ask for, my brother Dan. My best bud and training partner John Hubbard. Big shout out goes to all the organizers, officials, and volunteers at the best race I’ve ever run the Lost Soul Ultra!

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