Photo strip

Lost Souls 100km Race Report
By Glenn Pacé


Stories > Lost Souls 100km Race Report

Lost Souls 100km Race Report

By Glenn Pacé

"Looks like yer gonna live up to you name today!" Ed was referring to my nickname - "Mudrunner" - after spending the traditional restless night before a race listening to the rain showers pelt the roof. I was in a relaxed state of ignorant bliss. Back on the West Coast, the rain lasts for days. Out here on the prairies in Lethbridge, it seemed to come in one short burst at a time - if at all. Nothing that all my training in Vancouver couldn't have prepared me for, I reasoned.

The sky had cleared by 5:00am on this Friday morning as we were gathering our gear bags to head off to the start of the Lost Souls Ultra. Ed was going for the full 100 miler, & I was trying my hand (feet?) at my first 100km. Manon (Mrs Mudrunner) & I had left the kids with my mother back home & we were looking forward to a weekend on our own (Manon was my support/crew/nutritionist/ last-chance-at-reality). I had been looking for an interesting 100km race, & this one looked promising. Some running buddies in Vancouver had done it & had Ed's first hand account as a local gave it some credibility. The photos on the website clinched it. A trail race in the prairies sounded fun. I didn't notice the small print on the website - "4300' gain per lap, 2 laps for 100km".

The RD started the pre-race orientation in the race headquarters tent at the Start/Finish area promptly at 6:00am & then all of us racers headed back into the adjacent Lethbridge Hotel for the customary weigh-in & blood pressure check. At 8:00am the race started. All of us were trying to finish either the 3 loop 100 miler, or the 2 loop 100km. On Saturday morning they would start the single loop 50km race.

There were very few clouds in the sky (& the prairies have BIG sky!) & the temps were a very comfortable 55 degrees (it had been closer to 90 the week before). The course itself was very different from what I am used to. On the West Coast we typically run through rainforest & alpine meadows. Elevation gains & losses are usually done in Texas-sized chunks. On this course, we started on the prairie plain & would drop (incessantly) into & out of coulees along the Old Man River valley. The coulees look an awful lot like the Malibu coastline but without the ocean, so just imagine running hill repeats up & down those creosote hills & you'll get the idea of what I was in for. The course was shaped like a link of 2 figure eights & we basically ran along the coulee side on the way out, & along the river on the way back. Since the aid stations were placed at the cross points of the course, this meant that there were only 3 aids needed (you passed each one twice per lap).

Running along the top of the course, I was amazed at the open views of the Lethbridge University across the river (itself spanning a large coulee - an award winning Arthur Erickson design), & the High Level train bridge (the highest for it's length & the longest for it's width) that spans the river valley. This 11km section of the course (the South loop) brought us back to the Start/Finish area via a steep trail. The mud that Ed had concerns about, hadn't materialized - apparently that would require much more rain. I felt really good & was easing myself into the race. I had given Manon orders to kick my behind if I went any faster than 8km/h, so that I would not fry myself out later in the race. I didn't want to make any finish projections, but I found that I had made some vague guess anyways. Last month I had a tough 10 hour finish at the White River 50 miler & surmised that I could easily do 20km more in 14 hours total - sounded reasonable at the time. With that, I pulled into the aid station in 1:13 - so far so good.

With the sun out, & a light breeze, I coasted in & out of the steep coulees & along the knee-high prairie grass on auto-pilot. Not many people around at this point, but still a couple of people visible across the ridges & open grass fields. I made sure to take walk breaks, & really focused on my stomach. White River had almost been a disaster but it tought me a lot about nutrition & running on my stomach. This time, my goal was to coast along as my stomach dictated & to finish - not to set a fast time.

I arrived at the Peenaquim aid station 1:15 later & Mrs Mud refilled my handhelds, passed me some gel flasks (I was taking Ensure), & told me that I was in 3rd place. Dang! I wasn't liking that. I was afraid that my competitive side would take over & ruin my fun. "Just enjoy the scenery. You are only here to finish. Lots of time. Take it easy", I kept telling myself. When I got to Pavan aid station at 30km, Manon told me to slow down a bit. As it turns out, this is one of the toughest parts of the course. There isn't as much rising & falling through the coulees as in the previous section, but there is the first ridge out of the aid station rises like the back of a sleeping brontosaurus - steep (some comedian put a "That Sucked" sign at the top). Mentally, I was about to hit my lowest point. The top of the hill brings you onto open prairie & you can see quite a ways, but you eventually drop down again onto a farmers plot & along a service road. This leads you into the forest & along a concrete mix site by the waters edge. For some reason I had decided that a single water bottle would be enough for this section, but promptly ran out 1/3 of the way through. "You Idiot!", I kept saying to myself. With all the miles still ahead, I thought I had just killed my chances of finishing. Eventually, a little luck (a water pipe with a leak), & some generosity (a fellow racer gave me enough for the final 5km to the aid) saw me back to Pavan after 2 hours in the sun.

My pace was still going well, despite my mistake. I took a longish stop at the aid & ate some soup. Mostly, I wanted to let 2 racers that had been shadowing me get going. I figured that I would be more relaxed & more honest about my pace if I wasn't trying to lose/catch someone. The run through the fields, back to Peenaquim, under the train bridge, & back to the Start/Finish went very well. I was back to being on auto-pilot & my nutrition was working as hoped. Things were looking good as I finished my first loop in 7 hours.

After getting my weight & blood pressure rechecked, changing shoes & socks, & ingesting a good amount of food, I was off for the second lap. Now that the race had progressed for quite a time, there was nobody to follow on the course. I had to keep my eyes peeled for the marker flags in the grass & along the paths. Not a problem at the moment since it was still bright out. About 3km into the South loop I noticed that I had a shadow. We had seen each other in the aid tent, but at this point we were about 5 minutes apart & would remain within 10 minutes of each other for the next 5 hours. In retrospect, we should have simply teamed up for some company since our pace was so similar, but we didn't. Just before reaching the Peenaquim aid for the 3rd time, he passed me with some small chat. Turns out he is a local named Tom who had been to Hardrock this year, & as he got through the next two aid stations ahead of me, he informed Manon that I was looking strong & that I was right behind him (who says ultrarunners don't look out for each other). The sky was now overcast & the wind was picking up.

I arrived at Pavan aid station just after dusk. This was the loop that had almost been my undoing so many hours ago, & now it was time to go through it in the dark. Time to flick on the flashlight. Manon gave me words of encouragement & asked what kind of beer I wanted at the Finish (Becks). I could see Tom's light at the top of the ridge of "That Sucked" hill - about 15 minutes. I put on a wind shirt & a fleece ski hat, put my bottles into a double fanny pack & stuffed a pair of wind pants into the zippered compartment before I started the trudge up the hill. The wind was gusting, but I was quite comfortable. It wasn't until I got to the top of the slope that the weather really socked it to us.

It began to rain hard - & sideways! With the wind gusting to 70km/h, & nothing to block it, I was in the worst possible place on the course. Knee high prairie grass is not much protection against direct head winds. "Well, it's dark, windy, & raining", I said aloud "the marker flags are being blown around their wee wire posts, the grass & bushes are obscuring the trail by being blown over it. Not good. Not the end of the world, but not good." That's when I saw lightning in the distance. "Ugh!" was all I could think of.

Finding the route markers became my prime objective. Without them, I was absolutely lost & with the distances between racers, I doubted that anyone would even cross my current position in the next 2 hours. As my wind shirt started to soak through, I realized that I had to keep a decent pace in order to stay warm. I moved through the course like a bloodhound on a search - fast & efficiently - scanning the area for markers & stopping dead if I could not find the next one. As I moved through the course & into the forest, I caught up with Tom & we worked through a section of dry riverbed together. More & more often, we were clearing our shoes of the thick mud that was weighing them down. (Did I mention that I stepped on a dead porcupine at some point?) Even though it was great to finally have company, I had to go ahead. "I'm starting to get a bit cold at this pace," I told him, "are you alright if I speed up?" "No worries" he said. I felt bad leaving him, but I knew that my time in the rain was limited.

I pulled into Pavan for the last time & Manon had the heater in the car going full blast (she even had a sleeping bag at the ready). Since I had run a good section of the last bit, I wasn't abnormally cold (except for my fingers), but I welcomed the refuge of the car & the soup. After changing my shirt, putting on a proper rain jacket, & gloves, I headed out to the last aid station before the finish 12km away. This section was pretty short, but the course had a sting in its tail. Along the river, the course rises up & over two short & steep coulees. With all the rain making mudpies out of the dirt, the trail up the coulee became as slick as a greased pig. Stepping into the grass tufts to the side was no help either. "Geez, what I really need is an ice axe" I joked to myself. With that, I remembered an old mountaineering trick that we use while heading down spring snowfields. I searched for a couple of decent sized rocks & hit them against each other until one of them broke. Perfect! Two sharp daggers that I would use to claw my way up. It worked, although it was sapping my strength.

At the top of the second slope I could see the light of the trailer at Peeaquim. 15 more minutes & I was in the trailer with Mrs Mud, Ed's wife (who had just started her midnight to 4:00am volunteer shift), & race organizer Ron. I gulped a bowl of soup & hurried to get going before I started to cool down. Just as I reached for the door, another racer who had been way ahead, came in. It turns out he took a detour that cost him 30 minutes. He sped off ahead at a very impressive rate. What was truly amazing was that he was able to run through the field. With the darkness & the wind-whipped grass it was hard to tell what was underfoot, so I walked large sections for fear of twisting an ankle on the grass tufts or twigs.

I don't remember when the rain finally stopped, but I did notice when the almost-full moon came out. I shut off my light & ran under the moonlight when I could. As far as this race had gone on, I wasn't ready to see the Finish just yet. I slowed my pace & took in the atmosphere. At one point I found myself almost under the midspan of the great train bridge. I stopped to look up at the silhouette against the bright moon & burn the image into my memory. As corny & as it sounds, a coyote howled! Wow! What a moment. I carried on scanning the ground for markers, & within a few short minutes found myself at Fort Whoop-Up (an old frontier outpost) at the base of the last coulee. Up the final steep sloppy slope & along a 500m stretch of red shale path & I was at the finish line. The crowd that welcomed me at 1:45am were five strong: Manon, two volunteers manning the clock & checkpoint, & another racer who finished 5 minutes ahead of me with his crew. As tired as we were, we chatted with the couple at the aid station & I ate some food, & drank a beer. 17:48:36 was my official finishing time.

Epilogue: It turns out that the actual distance was 110km. The course had been altered over the years, & in order to make a 100 miler in 3 laps, the rest of us got to do "bonus miles".

Ed got to 113km in before his IT wouldn't allow him to go further.

The 50km race started & finished under perfect conditions on Saturday.

A father son completed their final loop together. Dad was doing 100 miles, son was doing his 1st 11 years old!!!

50% of the 100 milers DNFed (the winner posted 29 hours) - partly due to the wet & cold.

63 year old Hans Dieter Wiessmar (sp) was there, but decided that running this 100 miler a week after Wasatch 100 was a bit much (Hans has done 20x 100 milers this year!!! His second Grand Slam as well)

One 100 miler finished in an epic 40 hours (Linda) - a real show of stamina.

PS If you were wondering, airport security will NOT let you pass a 22lb boulder as carry-on.

Thanks fer listenin'
Glenn Pacé
(aka Mudrunner)