More than a marathon #2: Lost Soul Ultra 2014, Lethbridge, AB

When I began to run, I met some people who had done “ultra” running events.  This sounded really crazy to me, since it meant running more than a marathon.  Common distances are 50K, 50 miles, 100K, and 100 miles.  It was really interesting to me, trying to figure out how people could take care of things like eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, and keeping up their energy for such a long distance.  One good friend did the Lost Soul Ultra from the beginning of the race, and she really recommended this race.  I had done the 25K race at Blackfoot a couple of times, and I was interested in trying to go farther.  A friend and I went to Lethbridge in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2007.  I went the 50+ kilometres twice, but it was extremely hard, because the area is very hilly, and it’s often very hot.  Even so, I really loved this race, since there’s a fellowship among the racers, and the volunteers and race organizers take excellent care of the participants.  There was also quite a bit of time to go 50K, since the race is geared towards 100K and 100 mile racers.  There wasn’t enough time for me, starting out on Friday (12 hours limit), because I walk the whole distance, and I’m not a fast walker.  I was away for quite a few years, but this year, I’ve been very active all year, and I began to think it would be possible for me to go 50K again, especially if I could start on the first day of the race, with the long-distance runners.  I asked the race organizers, and they agreed to let me start early.  I registered, and made my plans to travel south in September.

There are many special things about this race.  In the past, the organizers carved a personal rock for every finisher, and I’ve kept these as souvenirs.  Now, they’re only awarded to winners in their age category, but I was able to purchase a special rock, to remember the several races I’ve done.

Lost Soul Rock 2014My friends let me stay at their home, and I relaxed for a couple of days, getting everything organized.  On Friday morning, I joined the 100K and 100 mile racers for the race orientation, and we started out.  I didn’t really see any of those racers again, except at aid stations, and when some of them started to pass me on their second lap.  It’s strange that it’s so enjoyable to spend an entire day alone, without any distractions, but I think that the scenery and environment is just lovely around Lethbridge.  I didn’t miss any of my gadgets or comforts, I just enjoyed looking at the sky, the hills, the flowers, the river…  The aid stations were far apart, usually more than 10 kilometres away from each other.  When I arrived at the aid stations, the volunteers tried really hard to find out what I wanted or needed, and they would hurry to get it for me.  They filled my water bladder, gave me potatoes, bacon, perogies, salmon, and any other kind of food or drink that was available.  This year, the 2 main aid stations are under cover, and it was nice to be able to sit at a table to eat, to organize my things and to relax.

The hills go up, and the hills go down on this course.  It’s amazing how much elevation change they’ve managed to find in the “prairies”.  Since it was my fifth time on the course, I felt that it was psychologically much easier for me to deal with the terrain.  I was surprised that I didn’t have to sit to do any downhills, until the very last harsh hill (in the dark).  I was completely freaked out about the gun range hill in the past, but just kept trucking along this time, stopping to take a few photographs.  I remembered that the Pavan loop was really, really hard for me in the past, so I told myself the whole time that it would be the “real race” for me.  In the photo of me, I’m about to begin the loop.  It’s still not even halfway around the course, but it already feels like you’ve covered a whole lot of distance by the time that you get to that point.  In fact, for this race, the hardest section was after completing most of the distance, since I had to do it in the dark.  My night vision isn’t great.  I left my good headlamp at home, and had problems with 2 different replacements that I purchased.  Nevertheless, I just continued on, and enjoyed my time.

I was almost halfway done here, at Pavan aid station.  It was time to eat and drink, and organize my gear for the next 16K loop.

I was almost halfway done here, at Pavan aid station. It was time to eat and drink, and organize my gear for the next 16K loop.

My very slow speed was the only problem that I had this year, and that was a problem I expected.  I don’t train consistently as a runner, so I didn’t try to run any of the course.  I really, really wanted to finish the course this year, so I paced myself accordingly.  Food and fluids seemed to work well for me (mainly water, with a few electrolyte capsules, some blocks, Kind bars, and the food at the aid stations).  I expected to be too exhausted to drive myself home afterwards, but I felt fine.  My legs never really bothered me afterwards, but I did have some real tightness between my shoulder blades, probably due to the weight of my hydration bladder, as well as using poles throughout the race.  No blisters or chafing!  I was amazed by how good I felt all the way through.  I did have some nausea and dizziness for a few days afterwards, but it wasn’t too bad.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to do Lost Soul again, it will certainly be nice if it’s possible.  I’m definitely glad that I succeeded in my goal of starting and finishing, after a long absence.  Thanks so much to everyone who makes this event possible, all of the directors and volunteers are amazing!  The Sunday awards breakfast is wonderful after everyone’s had the chance to sleep and shower.  Working out through the winter with November Project Canada was definitely one of the biggest factors that contributed to my success!

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