Monday, September 12, 2011

Lost Soul Ultra 100 kilometers 2011 Race report

What an awesome experience!

That is the only way I can start this report. And I apologize beforehand, for the novel it turned out to be.

Thursday September 8; the day before..:

 I'm a mess of nerves and excitement.
Thankfully I only work mornings so straight after work I went to Runner's Soul to pick up my race package and swag:
  • Race number 115
  • Wristband timing chip
  • Fleece with LSU 100k embroidered on it (I am seriously going to wear this thing all winter!)
  • Hat with same deal on it.
  • Cotton t-shirt with LSU on it. I guess my wardrobe for the coming months is set!

Thursday afternoon I packed everything I needed during the race in a crate for Robbert: my son and crew.
  • 17 packages of Cliff Shotbloks (5 of those were Margarita flavour with 3 times the normal amount of sodium which I picked up in Runners Soul on Wednesday, thinking of the hot weather forecast on Friday)
  • 1 box of Cliff bars for on the longer legs.
  • Empty gallon water container so Robbert can mix my water with some lemon before I get to the aid station to fill up my hydration pack.
  • Lemon juice for mixing.
  • Endurolyte pills.
  • 2 pairs of socks, one pair the longer compression socks that I think I'll want to wear later on in the race.
  • Light windbreaker; my favourite running jacket, it's light and warm for the cool night.
  • Light gloves.
  • Buff headband for when I'm wearing the headlight.
  • Extra bandanas (great hankies, since I always get a runny nose on the downhills).
  • Headlight, hand light and a zip lock with spare batteries.
  • Tylenol gel caps, just in case.. I rather not take them but I want to have some handy.
  • Sandwich bags so I can grab food and go.
  • Sunscreen and mosquito spray.
  • 2nd Skin blister band aids.
  • Spare headphones.
  • 2 tennis balls to massage my butt muscles that had been giving me trouble lately.
  • And for Robbert a spreadsheet with my estimated split times, distance between aid stations, goal transition times and which supplies to give me at what aid stations and what to ask me (just in case I am out of it) like blister care or sock change.

I made Robbert a crew t-shirt:

Remember the Seinfeld Soup Nazi? .... yeah, I figured Robbert would be like that at the aid stations, exactly what I needed. "NO CHAIR FOR YOU!"
I went over the supplies and checklist one last time with Robbert and then I packed my hydration pack with the supplies needed for the first two legs, and general supplies that I wanted to have with me during the race.
  • 2 1/2 packages of Shotbloks (take one every 15 minutes)
  • A zip lock with Tums.
  • Cliff bar.
  • Blister band aides.
  • Pill bottle with Endurolytes (take one every half hour).
  • Toilet paper.
  • mini bottle with mosquito spray.
  • mini bottle with hand sanitizer.
  • Portable battery charger for Garmin that I stuck on my backpack.
  • Spare Ipod shuffle.

I finished up the list of things to do in the morning and laid out everything I needed like my pack, trekking poles, Ibuprofen (take 2 before leaving the house), phone, waistband to put my phone in.

OK, 9:30 pm.. shower and bedtime. I set the alarm for 4:30 and to sleep I went...kind of..

I woke up several times at night; good thing I had made sure I got enough sleep the nights before because I sure didn't get it this night.

4:30 AM
Got up before the alarm went off. Had a coffee and a bowl of my cereal with milk. One last message on Facebook and then I got ready. It was only about 6 degrees C (42F) but the day would be hot (forecast of 30C (88F) and in the coulees you can easily add 6+ degrees to that). So my compression shorts and tank top that I have worn throughout my summer training were my outfit of choice. New socks (the advice I got from Larry: Wear new socks and old shoes to prevent blisters), heart rate monitor and my trusty old sweat and salt covered hat. I pinned on my race number, put on my time chip bracelet and zip tied my Garmin (set on 15minute warnings for fueling), complete with dock on one of the straps of my backpack, just below the battery charger. Filled up my hydration bladder with my water/lemon mix and I was set. Bruce got up to wish me good luck and off I went to pick up Robbert on the way to the pre-race meeting and weigh-in that started at 6 am.

6 AM
 We got to the Lodge Hotel (headquarters of the LSU) a little after 6 and other runners were already mulling about. Drop bags were sorted out for different aid stations and everybody was in a mixture of excitement, anticipation and trying to wake up and warm up. I had to use the washroom right away...I tell you, there is no better laxative than pre-race excitement!
Weigh-in time, 162.6 (hey I was still wearing my hat OK!). They'll weigh everybody again at the start of the second loop and if you lose more than 3% you get a warning, more than 7% you have to stay to get hydrated again and at a loss of 10% or more, they pull you from the race.

7 AM
Pre race meeting.
To be honest, I don't remember much of what was said... I was trying to remember if I had forgotten anything, trying to decide whether to wear my coat for the first leg and trying to convince myself that I really did NOT have to pee again!

8 AM    Leg 1, 7.13K, estimated time 1 hour, actual time 1 hour.
Start of the race. The first leg is 7.13K. I remembered the advice I got to start slow and then slow down even more. Drink and eat every 15 minutes so my plan was to eat a shotblok every 15 and take an electrolyte pill every 30 minutes. A few steep coulees in this one but nothing too bad. I waited for most runners to get going before I went because I did not want to get caught up in the excitement and start out too fast, especially since it's single track most of the time. I felt good, walked up the hills and ran or walked down, depending on the throngs of runners in front of me. It took me exactly the time I estimated to do this leg and when I came back to the Lodge I could clock in and out right away because I still had enough supplies to get me through the second leg.

9 AM    Leg 2, 12.7K, estimated time 2 hours, actual time 1 hour 53 mins.
Leg 2 is longer and has some pretty steep sections in it. Shortly into this leg I ran past a guy looking for a runner that was down. There was an ambulance waiting but they didn't know where the runner was. A little while later I ran past the runner, who appeared to be in pretty bad shape. He was surrounded by other runners (I later heard one of them was a nurse) that stayed with him until the ambulance personnel had located him. The first of many that had to DNF due to the extreme conditions. I still tried to keep it slow although at some points I realized I was on my way to getting out of breath because I was either trying to keep up to someone or trying to stay ahead of someone. I forced myself to step aside and let them pass and take it easier. There was still a whole bunch of race left for which I needed my energy. Time is not important. Finishing is!
Even though I had trained on this trail a lot, they had changed the route of the race a bit and I came upon a downhill that I didn't know how to tackle. Running towards it I saw other runners struggling to get down and remember wondering what the problem was...until I got there. The downhill was a steep one, covered with loose sand. (later I heard one of the Rd's call this one the 'chute') As I tried to decide how to do this, another runner came up behind me and told me to lower my center of gravity, spread my arms a little, lean forward and let gravity take over (hmm I heard that before) and tackle this downhill with rapid feet movements. He asked if he could show me and off he went. Holy shit!! When he was halfway down the hill I yelled that I would just slide. So that's what I did. I crouched down with one foot in front of the other and like a skier, went over the hill and slid down while pushing myself off with my hands. And that was going fast enough for me! All the loose sand blew up and covered my shoes which would result in mud caked feet later on.
I came in 7 minutes ahead of schedule and only needed 2 minutes in the aid station because Robbert had the supplies I needed ready to go. I packed a sandwich bag with watermelon and chips and there I went again. The temperature was rising drastically.

10:55 AM    Leg 3, 5.4K, estimated time 1hr15. Actual time 1hr5
I was on a roll! Again, steep coulees, both up and down and quite a few of them, some flat parts too and even though I was making sure that I would take it slow, I ran most of the down and flat parts. The runners had spread out quite a bit so no bottlenecks anywhere. Time to get the koolband around my neck. Still religiously drinking my water and eating my shotbloks, that were now just margarita flavour. The extra sodium in these would be good for the heat but the flavour SUCKS! It was this brackish water flavour that made me feel nauseous. I have to tell Robbert to switch to my usual berry flavours because I cannot stomach much more of those. I passed and got passed by the same runners for a while and every time I was amazed about the difference between this event and a marathon. Here, they'll ask you if you want to pass, and step aside, chat a bit and go on. In a marathon you had to be careful for elbows in your side. What a wonderful difference. Robbert had put a little bit too much lemon in my water which caused some stomach cramps so I made a mental note to tell him to ease up on the lemon. I gained another 10 minutes on my estimated time in this leg. The going was good but I was concerned I was going too fast. The aid station was AWESOME!!! A volunteer stood there with a hose and shower attachment that I jumped under. Inside the aid station (it was a park building) I discovered a SLUSHY MACHINE!! Oh holy brain freeze! That felt so good!! 2 minutes transition time and off I was again.

12:07 PM, Leg 4, 15.8K, Estimated time 2hrs45, actual time 3hrs
The longest leg of the race. Some extremely steep hills, and the last 1/3rd was the turnaround where you go back along the Old Man River.

Now it was getting seriously hot. (At the breakfast on Sunday morning we heard another runner had a little thermometer on his backpack and it registered 44 degrees C in the valleys of the coulees (111F)). Shit! I forgot to tell Robbert about the shotbloks and about the lemon in the water, so I was stuck with both on this long leg! I had taken a sandwich bag with orange slices and a ham cheese sandwich that I ate on the way out. I had lost track of the electrolyte pills but tried to make sure to keep taking those every half hour. The shotbloks were starting to give me some serious stomach problems and after I forced myself to eat one more I started taking a bite of a Cliff bar instead. My nauseousness wouldn't go away though. I had problems running and walked a lot on the downhills and flat parts. And by the looks of it I wasn't the only one! Finally out of the coulees and into the willow jungle along the river. We came to an unmanned water station and just in time because my 2 litres of water were all gone! I filled up and took a long drink. YUCK!! As I was filling my bag, the mouth piece had fallen in the mud and I had a mouth full of dirt. I washed out my mouth and mouth piece as good as I could and went on. When I came to a part where I could actually walk to the river's edge I swished my wrists in the cool water and did the same with my hat. Took a hat full of water and planted it on my head again. O god that felt good! Back on the trail .. switching short runs with walking because the heat was starting to get to me too. I power walked with a guy from Calgary (I think) for a while and we were chatting along which made me take my mind of my left hip that was starting to throb. We had to get through some barb wire fences that were wrapped up and went through a patch of trees. To be in the shade was such a treat! I wasn't taking my shotbloks anymore and tried to take little bites of my Cliff bar but the nauseousness continued. Finally, there was Pavan aid station again!

Robbert had picked up my mother who was over from the Netherlands and my daughter to come cheer me on . I had texted Robbert earlier in this leg about the lemon and grabbed another slushy. Robbert filled up my pack with supplies and water and I grabbed a bag of Doritos. Because of the surprise of my mom and daughter being there I forgot about the water spray though. Robbert gave me a tennis ball and I stood against the wall for a couple of minutes massaging my muscles. I told him I was not feeling very well but still forgot to tell him about the shotbloks (aarghhh!). 10 minutes later I was off again.

3:18 PM, Leg 5, 6.05K, estimated time 1hr, actual time 57 minutes.
Back to Peenaquim. Mostly flats but it wouldn't be the same without a couple of steep coulees at the beginning and end of this leg. The chips didn't help me at all and I didn't even finish half of them. The water was less lemony but had a gross taste too it as if there was still some mud in the tube. I still had the shitty shotbloks but tried one once and just couldn't stomach it. I kept on taking the electrolyte pills though, thinking that that was essential in this heat. Other than the first flat part, I walked just about everything in this leg. I came into Peenaquim and there I changed socks. I was afraid of blisters but couldn't see anything other than a thick piece of mud stuck to the bottom of my foot. I put my compression socks on, hoping that they would help with the heavy feeling in my legs. Robbert had put ice cubes in one of my bandanas to tie around my neck (that felt so good!!). All I took from here was some crackers in a sandwich bag. I still forgot to tell Robbert about the shotbloks. Transition time 15 minutes.

4:30 PM, Leg 6, 6.65K, estimated time 1hr15, actual time 1hr10.
This leg would take me back to the Lodge and this leg was flat the whole way until the end where we had to climb up a high steep coulee to get to the parking lot. A large part of the trail had been mowed, which was great because a couple of weeks ago the weeds were higher than I was. I ran into a guy that had turned around because he had lost the trail but together we found the turn that he missed. Along the river, behind the water treatment plant (the smells didn't help my nauseousness at all!), struggling over and under some tree trunks and we were in Indian Battle park again, close to the Lodge aid station. I met a runner from Manitoba and chatted with him for a while. I ran the last part over to the coulee and started climbing up. Finally! Another quarter mile and I was back at the Lodge where to my surprise Bruce (husband), Alex, mom and 3 of my colleagues were waiting for me! I work in a preschool and that afternoon they had made a big sign with the kids to cheer me on. This brought tears to my eyes, I was so touched by that!

At weigh in at this station I had lost only 1lbs so I was happy about that.
Another volunteer came to me to say that they had a hose outside. He had noticed me jumping under the hose at the other aid station! I went for that of course. The thing is that when you stand under the wonderful cool spray of water after running in heat for such a long time, the sweat that had dried up on your head and hat, now pours down onto your face and in your eyes so yet another woman handed me a paper towel to get the salt out of my eyes.  I had finally remembered to tell Robbert about the shotbloks so he packed the berry ones for me. He gave me shit for not taking enough electrolyte pills or eating enough and I had to promise to do better. It was also time to pack my lights, batteries, buff and jacket. I was pondering out loud whether to take my jacket or leave it for the next aid station when Teri the RD came up to me to ask how I was doing. He told me to take the jacket because it would start to cool off pretty soon and especially with me being all sweaty, I'd get cold really fast so Robbert packed the jacket and gloves into my backpack and after a quick goodbye and well wishes from everyone I was on my way again.

5:45 PM, Leg 7, 12.7K, Estimated time 2hrs15, actual time 2hrs30.
I remember being in good spirits when I left the Lodge. My legs were hurting but nothing that I couldn't handle. This was one of the longer legs of the race with a lot of big up and downs. I also remember my back starting to hurt. I had a new ice filled bandana around my neck but since the temperature was cooling off a little bit I untied it and put on my back under my shirt and pants. I figured doing even just one part of the recommended R.I.C.E. would help my back a little bit and it did feel good. I couldn't run anymore at that point. My nauseousness got worse and even the berry flavoured shotbloks were not agreeing with my stomach. Talked to a couple of other runners and nobody seemed to be as chipper as they were this morning but no one was admitting to it, we were all trying to get each other's spirits up. By the time I got to the last downhill that would lead me into the Peenaquim aid station it was almost dark and my back was killing me.

For the last hour I had been telling myself that I wanted to quit but I was trying to come up with a good enough reason to explain this to my son. You see, the reason I asked Robbert to be my crew is because first of all I knew he'd be good at that but also to show him that some things take determination and won't always be easy to finish. In all that time that I tried to talk myself into quitting I could never find a good enough I didn't. As I walked into the aid station, Robbert came up to me and asked me how I was doing and that was that... I started crying, saying I was in so much pain and needed a Tylenol or something, I couldn't stand and Dean, one of the volunteers and fellow training partner grabbed me a chair and I sat down in it. He asked me what I wanted and I said I was feeling so sick to the stomach but if they had soup I could try that. So Dean got me the most wonderful chicken broth ever made on this Earth! Robbert gave me Tylenol and looked pretty concerned. When he asked me if I wanted to continue, Dean jumped in and told him I'd be fine, just give me a few minutes and I'll be good to go again. That made me feel better and I told Robbert I'd be OK in a while. Another guy who was crewing for his wife who was doing the 100mile came with a packet of electrolyte mixed with ginger that he told Robbert to mix in my water. He told me it had no flavour because I cannot stomach any of the E-drinks out there because of their chemical taste. Robbert packed my bag and I slowly drank my broth. He grabbed a few more crackers for me while I put on my coat and backpack. Off I went again, to Pavan.. one step at the time I told myself. By this time it was dark enough to turn on my headlight. With the darkness came the coolness and with the coolness came the humidity in the valleys. With the heat gone and the Tylenol starting to work I was starting to feel a little bit better. Walking was all I could do at this point but that didn't bother me. Relentless forward progress right?

8:30 PM, leg 8, 5.4K, estimated time 1hr15, actual time 1hr15
A shorter leg and that's what I told myself. It's just around an hour. The darkness was a good thing, the coolness was an awesome thing! I walked with a couple of other runners and some told me I still looked strong (oh how looks can deceive....and oh how a day of heat can deteriorate their I don't recall much of this leg, other than being afraid for the next leg, the longest one, the north loop.

9:55 PM, leg 9, 15.8K, estimated time 3 hrs, actual time 3hrs30
When I came to Pavan I was feeling much better, still pain in my legs and back but the Tylenol had put the fuzzy blanket over it and I was enjoying that. Still nauseous but I was eating crackers and electrolyte pills at half hour intervals. Robbert filled my backpack with supplies again, even though I had hardly touched the shotbloks that I had come to hate or the Cliff bars that were just too sticky and sweet. Another cup of chicken broth, and no thank you, no smoked salmon for me.  (the food was unbelievable at the aid stations). I grabbed a glob of Vaseline and headed for the washrooms because I was chafing OUCH.. when I came into the women's another woman was sitting there, pants down, rubbing cream on the inside of her legs, I told her; hey we have the same issue lol. She offered me her cream because the Vaseline was too watery she told me. She asked me if I still had to do the North loop, I told her yes and she had already been there and was on her way back to the finish line. She would end up being the first woman in the 100K. Extremely nice and helpful to me, she said she hadn't seen a lot of other women yet so I should be not far behind her in the standings. This made my heart jump! We said our goodbyes and good lucks and I went back out and told Robbert that if I would make it on this leg, I'd finish the race because the last 2 legs are easy peasy compared to this. So off I went.. walking... I came upon another runner and we yakked for a while. He was in a bad spot too, his feet were hurting but we kept on walking.

I looked up and what I saw was just so unbelievable and wonderful that at first I was wondering if I was hallucinating. Aurora Borealis; Northern Lights. A wonderful magical show of green ribbon lights. It was amazing! I shouted out to the guy in front of me to look up and see the Northern lights but he didn't.. I just couldn't stop looking ..which resulted in a few stumbles but I didn't care. WOW what a sight!!

I was on a wide gravel path and all of a sudden I realised that I was actually power walking again. Using my trekking poles I was motoring along at a speed I hadn't had in a long time! Let's try to run...and I did, and I felt great! My legs felt so much better! My stomach had settled a bit. My mood was improving, my spirits were lifted. O my god this is that illusive second wind I heard about!! The feeling was out of this world, I am going to do this!! I am going to finish this race!! I powered up the hills and ran where I could on the flats and down hills. It was dark but my light was bright and I felt great! I passed several other runners, some passed me. I was so happy!! There is the turnaround, now I have reached the farthest part of this leg and the loop and I was on my way home! Every step would bring me closer to the finish line! Just that knowledge was so empowering! I had to look carefully to stay on the course. It was planted with reflective flags but once you're in the zone and powering along it's easy to miss one so I had to track back a couple of times. I didn't care because I was on my way to the finish line! I came back into Pavan 30 minutes later than estimated but I was there, I finished that leg and I was home free! I gave my pack to Robbert and told him to fill my water only half way because my shoulders were killing me and I didn't need the full 2 liters for this coming leg. When he took out the hydration pack he saw that I had drank less than a liter in the last 3,5hrs but I told him I was fine, I was great, don't worry!

1:30 AM, Leg 10, estimated time 1hr30, actual time 1hr15
Darkness is great, coolness is the valleys and near the river the humidity was making it really cold so I put on my gloves. I was still doing a combo of running and walking and my spirits were still high. When I climbed up the first coulee my head light flashed 3 times. I assumed this meant the batteries were going so I grabbed my other flashlight and changed the batteries of my headlight and off I went again. (extra flashlight...VERY important!). Every once in a while it seemed to click that I was actually going to finish this thing and that brought tears to my eyes. Coyotes seemed to be cheering us on from the other side of the river, the moon was full and bright, the sky was cloudless and every once in a while I looked back at the Northern lights... what a strange, wonderful, dreamlike experience! I love the night!.....and, even more so , loved seeing the coloured lights on the Peenaquim aid station getting closer and closer with every step I took. In and out in 5 minutes, I didn't need any supplies, I was on my way to the finish line!

2:55 AM, Leg 11, estimated time 1hr30, actual time 1hr30
I was mainly walking, enjoying the night and the feeling. Up ahead I could see this red flickering light swaying from left to right. My headlight couldn't reach it and I grabbed my hand light. I was getting a little scared because my hand light was shining on what appeared to be this smallish wide swaying creature, almost like Yoda from Star Wars.. I walked closer and still wasn't sure if I was seeing things or not. After a couple of minutes I finally saw it was a runner with one of those headlights that has the red light on the back. He was walking spread legged (is that a word?). I came up to him and asked how he was doing. Not good, he was in a dark place, apparently hurting like hell. After a while he said he had a heat rash between his legs and they were rubbed raw. He was on the second loop of his 3 loop 100miler. He had attempted the 100 miler 2 times before and hadn't been able to finish it yet... this year would be his 3rd DNF.. I felt so incredibly bad for him, and I didn't know what to say. He had given up (and with good cause because he could hardly walk) and just took the shortest route back which meant our ways parted about a mile from the finish because I had to stay on the course and get back on the single track. Finally, that last coulee!! There it was! I had power walked with my poles all the way through the park and now took the first steps up the coulee. Wait, shit, this is steeper than I remembered, ahh no flags, or ribbons; it was the wrong trail! Backtracking and I found the course again. Powering up that last coulee; it seemed like it took less effort than the first time. A gravel path and there was the parking lot up a few steps from the trail I was on. I saw my children, husband and mom standing there and cheering for me. I couldn't help but cry and once I was on the parking lot I started to run again, with Bruce and Alex on either side.

"Come on mom, you got this!!" This was what Robbert yelled after me whenever I left the aid stations the last couple of times and I would yell back;" YEAH, I GOT IT!!". There was that wonderful finish line and I could finally stop.

What an awesome unbelievable feeling.

One volunteer took my time, the other one took of my wristband with chip and Alex gave me chocolate milk. I was so sick to the stomach again that I couldn't drink it though.

80 people signed up for the 100k (maximum entrants), 63 started, 41 finished. During the breakfast on Sunday they said it was one of the most extreme years weather wise for this race and a lot of people had to stop prematurely. I was #14 overall and 6th woman. More importantly; I had finished and in the approximate time that I thought I would.

So far, the lessons learned:
*NEVER do anything, or take anything different than what you are used to during training. The extra sodium shotbloks were a big mistake because I had not even tried them before the race.
*Whatever you are wearing at the race has to be comfortable. I attached my watch to my backpack strap with zip ties and when I did that in the morning I felt those zip ties rubbing against my arm. This ended up bugging me the whole race and scratched up my arm pretty good.
*Don't underestimate chafing. It wasn't too bad for me but the other runner was in pretty bad shape and had to DNF because of that.
*I LOVE my trekking poles!!
*Put toilet paper where you can find it easily in the dark. No explanation needed.... :-P

Things that helped me finish this 100k (actually, it was 103...just saying..). I started out slow, not once was I out of breath. Especially since this was my first ultra, time was NOT important. Finishing was and from what I had learned from others, the first 60k will determine how your last 40 go. Whatever you do wrong early on in the race will be very hard to undo in the latter part. It can snowball from there and result in a DNF. My nauseousness could have easily turned into a retching fest and that'd be the end of that.
Having my son crew for me made things so much better. He helped me through the aid stations by supplying me properly and helped me on the course because I knew he'd be waiting for me at the next stop.

Things that I am going to do different next time:
Oh yes there will be a next time. Not a 100 miler as some have asked/suggested. I am not ready for that. .. yet .. But 100k or 50 miler...oh yeah! Bring it ON!
I am going to work more on my core, which will help prevent the back pain I experienced.
I have to keep up running the flats, whereas this time I just ran coulees all spring and summer. This was the course but running the flats will help my endurance and speed I think.
Cross training should also be part of my training, I have to look into what would be most beneficial.
The mental part is huge in an ultra and I was most weary of that, going into this one. I do think I have what it takes when it comes to the mental part. We are capable of so much more than we think.

You got it mom!! Yeah! I got it!!

The Lost Soul Ultra is said to be the toughest race on the prairies. I heard one experienced runner say it is the toughest one in the west. It might be the flat prairies but according to my Garmin that lasted - with battery extension - for just about the whole race there was an overal elevation change of 12,220 ft in the 103 kilometers that I ran. The average coulee seems to be between 200 and 300 feet so you do the math as to how many steep up and downs that is. It is also said to be one of the best organized ones out there. Since I have no other experience I cannot comment on that. I can say this though. I was fortunate enough to train through the spring and summer with some of the Rd's of this race and they are such compassionate and passionate people.
This race has over 100 volunteers that will do everything for you. They cheer you on, get you what you want or need or didn't even know that you needed or wanted. Most of them are runners themselves. A bunch of the ones I met were going to run in the Lost Soul Ultra 50K the next day (Saturday). They work in 4 hour shifts and those aid stations are manned and stocked with everything from watermelon to burritos and smoked salmon, cheeseburgers and sandwiches, eggs, chips, homemade cookies and soup, to slushies, freezies and pop for 36 hours.
The toughest race on the come see how tough you are lol, but be fast...this year the registration for the 50K was full in 7 minutes!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Running in the dark

Last week I had my first night run experience. Granted it was still evening - 9pm - but it was getting dark. Part of my ultra will be at night and ever since I signed up, that part kind of scared me. It's one thing to run at night in town with street lights, cars, houses and people nearby. It's a whole different thing to do this on unlit , uneven trails with animals roaming around. So one of my running buddies offered to run with me for an hour or so, starting when it's still light and ending up in pitch black. Cool, I thought, let's do this. Time to finally try out that headlight and hand flashlight. I had made a contraption around the flashlight so when I don't need it, I can just let go and it will hang on my wrist within easy reach.

We set out and by the time we got down the first hill it was time to turn on those led babies. Yeah! Oh no, the strap around my head is too loose! With every step I took it moved down until it was over my eyes..OK tighten it up and there we go again. Poles in one hand and flashlight in the other... running dramatically slower (ok we were walking) than during the day because the play of shadows create holes where there aren't any and hides the real ones at the same time. At some point we were looking for a trail that would take us off the gravel path down a coulee. I went ahead.. What was that noise! Turning on the handheld and shining it ahead, I hear a "HEY"!! Oops, sorry! Didn't see you there. A teenage couple sitting on a bench in the dark just got 'flashlighted'. Sorry guys...looking for a trail down here. As I said that I came closer and looked at them, resulting in another blinding experience for them because all 4 leds in my headlight are shining in their eyes. "Oh shit, so sorry guys! I won't look at you" and I turn my head but as soon as the guy mumbles 'yeah whatever, it's ok' I turn towards them to offer an apologetic smile and flash them yet again. O Jesus, I am going to get beat up here pretty soon, better get out of here. Meanwhile my running buddy found the trail leading down, hallelujah! Offering one last apology to the couple (this time with my back to them) and off we went. The darkness made the ravines between the coulees look like the Grand Canyon and the farther we went down, the more humid it became. Running in the dark makes your world very small.. as big as the circle of light created by your devices... Other than the sound of your steps and rustling in bushes and weeds it's very quiet and peaceful. Wait, ack! ORGGHHHH what the!!! Of all the wildlife I was thinking of encountering at night, moths were not on my list. And yet here they are! Dozens of little grey dusty moths, stirred up by me going through their hiding spots and attracted by my head light.. fluttering around my face, in my eyes, nose and mouth. Oh yuck! I ate a few...(they don't taste very good). Hopefully they have died off in a couple of weeks with colder nights in the forecast. A rustling in the bushes behind us! Now what! Ah a coyote, OK. I can handle a coyote...if it's only one. Finally we reach a gravel path again where we can speed up a bit, Yikes! A snake coming right at me! Or no wait, a branch hanging over the path, that seemed to slither as my flashlight moved past it. Deep breath in ...I can do this. One more hill up and we are back where we started.
As I thank Tracy for bearing with me, I blind her with my light, time to turn the damn thing off! She tells me there is a 'light' etiquette for runners but I forgot what it is. It's on my 'to google' list now.

Oh and 'mister - all you need to go for a run is shoes' Please add $20 for a Buff so my head stays warm at night and the headlight doesn't give me permanent indentations on my head... just so you know.

All in all, I loved the run in the dark even though I felt like a klutz. It is very different, serene, adventurous. Tracy told me that if you keep up your nutrition and hydration during the day, the night will make you feel refreshed and awake again and that is something I will look forward to.  I run this race by myself but will likely try and stick close to a group of people at night just because alone...well is just alone.

Google light etiquette
Get spare batteries
Get Buff
The flashing light feature on the headlight does have a purpose, turn it on when you are in trouble.
Remember, snakes sleep at night!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tick tock goes the clock

When I signed up for the Lost Soul Ultra, it was January, cold and September 9 seemed a lifetime away. Then I blinked, turned around and looked on the countdown clock on my desktop and September 9 is 17 days away! WTF happened to the last 9 months??

This morning I sat in front of my computer, staring at that clock, ticking away.. cold sweat appearing in the palms of my hands and a heart rate that was climbing steadily. OK... breathe in.. breathe out.. sip coffee and STOP looking at that clock! 

I think I have trained enough, no I KNOW I have. I remember in the first months googling 'ultra-marathon', ultra training, ultra everything. Reading everything, creating little folders in my favorites, filing, sorting, starting lists of things to do, buy (whoever said running is great because all you need is a pair of shoes, should have a serious reality check by the way), and lists of things to ask or google some more. 

Find an easy first ultra I read... hmmm.. The Lost Soul Ultra is said to be 'the toughest race on the prairies'. Comparing times of ultra runners that have ran this one and for instance the Canadian Death Race or Sinister 7, it IS harder than any of those. 

Find a fast flat ultra I read... ok.. Average time to finish the 100k is 20 hours,... meh.. didn't Einstein say time is relative anyway? 
How about flat?.. The ultra takes place in the coulees of Lethbridge and for those of you that aren't familiar with coulee: "Coulees are commonly canyons characterized by steep walls that have been shaped by erosion. These types of coulees are generally found in the north-western United States and south-western Canada."

A training buddy and experienced LSU runner said the following about the course:
53.37 km per loop with 1850 m of climbing that is 6069 ft of up per loop. With 28 climbs per loop and lots of little ups & downs I think 6000 feet of gain is reasonable. This course is hard because it has all these little up not because of big climbs.

I'm going to do 2 of those loops.

Choose an ultra and train on similar terrain I read... I got this one! I choose the LSU because it's in Lethbridge, where I live so since March I have been training on the course. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to hook up with quite a few experienced LSU runners that gave me a ton of information and tips about running ultra's in general and running this one in specific. In return I gave them the joy of having to wait for me to stumble down the coulees or grunt up the hills. They would bear with me and encourage me:
"Just think it's flat Karin" one said as he peered over the edge to watch me pull myself up on the weeds. 
"Just let gravity take over, you'll be fine" the other said as I came to a screeching halt in front of a drop off that had a narrow-just about vertical- deer path going down about 100 ft with at the bottom a steep turn to the right (failing to take this turn will result in another 50 feet fall into the Old Man River) He could hardly contain his snickering as I screamed down the hill narrowly making the turn at the end.

My husband shakes his head every time after I come home muddy, with scrapes and bruises and stories about free falls, snakes and relieving myself in bushes.
My own mother thinks I've gone off the deep end and I wouldn't be surprised if those two have had meetings about the possible necessity of an Intervention.
My 9 year old confessed she is scared I am going to get hurt and my 22-yr old told me I am nuts.

Other than that they are all extremely supportive, which is great, because I love it. I love the trails, I love the hills, I love the ultra stories and community. I want to reserve judgement on whether I love the actual ultra until I have done one but so far..I love everything about it... except for the damn countdown clock on my desktop.. 17 days, 10 hours, 27 minutes, 30, 29,28..