Well that was a wild ride!
I've got a 100k hangover but I wanted to jot down my race report while it is still fresh in my foggy brain:). Spending the weekend eating in bed haha so I've got lot's of time to write. Here goes!
Who knew that my skills as a dive master, forest fire fighter and heat lover would all come together to help me in a 100k race. These skills, along with my love of mind games and the support of amazing aid station teams, got me over some pretty big hurdles at the Lost Soul Ultra this weekend. There was a record breaking 66% drop out rate in the100k due to the harsh environmental conditions of extreme heat and smoke from nearby wildfires. It was very difficult to keep up with the sweat losses via re-hydration and many racers succumbed to dehydration early in the day. On top of that, anyone with any respiratory issues was clearly suffering out of the gates and many could not endure the breathing difficulties. It was a record breaking day with the weather and DNF casualties.
Pre-Race: from my Instagram page...
2017 Course Map
And now for the play by play! Read on if you want to find out the details and which obstacles nearly shut me down...hint...I don't ever want to go through that again:(
Lost Soul 100k is a 2 loop course with the first loop having an extra leg that you get to skip the second time around (54k first loop and 47k second loop). There are 16 good, steep (but short) hills on each loop and the total elevation gain for the course is about 2400m. The climbs were quite short compared to what I am used to but some of them sure were steep! Some were much steeper than I expected and it was hard to keep those swollen feet from cramming into the end of your shoes due to the pitch and you had to check your speed to avoid biting it on the way down!
Weather Conditions: 35 degrees up top and 40 degrees down in the gullies of the coulee's. Thickest smoke imaginable. I can't smell the smoke and it doesn't effect me at all after fighting fires and eating ash for years. And I really do love the heat (I run cold so it doesn't feel as hot to me) so it wasn't a bad combination for me at all. Trick was staying on top of hydration/electrolytes as the volume required was staggering in those conditions. Normally I drink 1-2 cups of fluid per hour and a max of 3 on hot days. But during the middle of the day yesterday I was up to at least 1-1.5 litres per hour. So salt also had to be doubled or tripled. GU lemon lime took over one of my bottles and thankfully aid had extra salt tabs so I was (just ok) in the end, other than staggering around in a dehydrated daze on leg 3 on the second time around, because I was out there twice as long as planned and ran out of water...ok the details...
Leg 1: 7kms , 41minutes, Very Easy Pace, 'South Loop'. This loop had us starting out with a nice downhill before tackling a few good hills - which were all labeled with markers and names! The terrain was fields of yellow grass, dry, packed dirt/sand single track and a few 'tree's. I stuck with my pacing plan of it feeling 'TOO EASY' for this lap and the first 50k. No heavy breathing, no burning legs, slower than you want to go. I even held back on all of the descents for the first 50k, with the plan of hammering them on loop 2. It was a tasty carrot I was dangling for myself, planning to fly down them the next time I returned. Well...sadly, that never happened as I was unable to run down any of the hills by the time loop 2 came around- more on that soon...
Leg 2: 8.4kms, 46minutes, Very Easy Pace. Back at HQ, we got to head north for the rest of the course. Under the train tracks that span a mile over the river, then up to a great lookout of the Oldman river and valley below. I was following a line of steady 100 mile runners and they were rocking the all day pace, so I tucked in behind them for a while, knowing it would hold me back and pay off later. Near the end of this leg, while running downhill towards an industrial zone, the most horrific odour hit my face and I nearly tipped over. 'What the HELL is that', I wondered, but really, did not want to know. Nasty...like a rendering plant or... 'Well that is just the most lovely smell!', I sarcastically offered to the 100mile line ahead of me. "It's the sewage treatment plant'...and sure as shit I looked over to see 4 giant pools of nastiness, releasing their juices into the hot, dry Lethbridge wind...and directly into our faces. Time to shut down the nose! The skill of mouth only breathing out of a regulator as a dive master, has saved my hide and shut down my gag reflex on many occasions. This may have been the greatest one yet. I blocked my nose off until we were well out of range, didn't smell a thing and didn't gag once, yay! A few more climbs and then we could see the ball fields and hear the cheers at the next aid station! Downhill all the way to Soft Ball aid, yay! Feeling like a million bucks and the stoke was high:)
Leg 3: 9.6kms 1hour 14 minutes, Very Easy Pace. Again, slow and steady on the ups and gentle on the downs...holding myself back...knowing how very long 100k is and how terrible it feels at the end if you have pushed too hard too early. This was a nice leg that took longer than it looked it would on paper, with plenty of good climbs, a jog past the dog park, an eerie climb through an old burn, some good views of the Valley and a couple of sweet fast, fun descents. Into Pavan Aid- full service with margaritas to boot!
Leg 4: 16kms, 1 hour 43minutes on the North Loop, Steady Pace. After Pavan aid we had a good climb up and onto the 'ridge' and it was starting to warm up now. But I was happy as a clam to take it on because I was munching on a purple freezie! Yummy! Da best. This was a fun loop! Luckily there were 2 additional, unmanned water stations on this leg because once it started to heat up I was going through my two bottles in record time. Suddenly I went from drinking 1-2 cups to 4-6 cups of water per hour, a record for me! This leg started with the ridge climb, then popped out on a road before heading up up up one of the longest series of climbs of the day to a panoramic view point summit at the halfway point! Once we came down, we got to run through some really exotic looking terrain (to me it looked like Central America or how I picture Africa!), with sand under foot, gnarly trees and crazy birds. We made our way across the mud flats (thanks for putting in that bridge!), through the shade of some cool willow trees and then beside the Oldman river. What a lovely section of trail this was! The course followed the river all the way back to Pavan, winding in and out of the adjacent forest. Just lovely! My beautiful moment was suddenly destroyed, however, when I came face to face with 'the clown', waiting in the woods just outside of Pavan Aid! Ahhhhhhh! 'That is just messed up', were the words that came out of my mouth after I screamed and cried a little inside. 'I hate clowns!' So wrong. I did NOT want to have to run by him in the dark on loop 2- mental note! It really did make me laugh after tho. I love trail runners and the people who love to entertain us;) Into Pavan, still feeling like a million bucks and ready to roll through the rest of loop 1!
Leg 5: 6.6kms, 49 minutes, Steady Pace. Back into Pavan aid and the crew rocked once again, getting me pumped up and filled up for the next leg. This great gal took care of me there, and filled me on on the next leg which would include the '3 Bitches' and would be the 'Hardest leg of the race.'...dun dun dunnnn. 'Sounds fun!' I said. Funny when you are expecting hard, it never seems as bad as you imagined! The 3 bitches weren't bad at all! Sure they were steep hills, but they were only a few minutes long each, and really fun to climb up. After running the TRR in Colorado a couple of weeks ago, with climbs lasting 1-2 hours, these Bitches were Babes to me. So that's what I called them! The 3 Babes:) Gotta get that glute work in somewhere in an ultra- these Babes helped me out! After #3, it was a flat cruise along the river and then across the fields and back into Soft Ball Aid.
Leg 6: 6.2kms, 45 minutes, started out Steady but turned into...uh oh...Houston we have a problem, Pace. This was a super short leg following the river (beautiful!) and winding through the forest on very fast, runnable terrain, before the final steep climb up to the finish/HQ. I was SO looking forward to finishing loop 1 and getting my 'half way' treats from my drop bag- Coconut water, salt and vinegar chips and fresh lube for all my hot spots! But...only minutes after leaving aid the start of my 100k drama began to unfold. 'The Heartburn' was back. Yup. If you know me, you know about my nemesis, The Heartburn. Never experienced in my real life, I first suffered the debilitating effects of this beast during my first ultra, The Canadian Death Race, where I thought I was having a heart attack 100kms into this 125k race. It was a slow death march until the end once that went down. Since then, I have learned to prevent the heart burn (which happens every time I race over 4 hours now) by taking medication beforehand and at 4 hour intervals during the race. Drama solved. Until yesterday. Ugh. I had taken my second pill already, but the symptoms were there...it was on it's way...the devil itself...The Heartburn. I took more medication, and hoped it might just stay at that level, under the surface...but before I reached the end of loop 1, I was in pain. And I was getting worried. I knew that I could not physically run with full blown heartburn but I wasn't quite freaking out yet...still hopeful it would hold off. I finished the first loop in 6:04, feeling super fresh everywhere other than my 'heart'. I downed my coconut water, lubed my feet and hot spots, put ice in my bra and shorts (as I had at every aid- da best!), grabbed my trail snacks for the next 50k, took half a bottle of Tums with me (that shit doesn't work at ALL for heartburn btw) had a sponge bath (so good!) and headed off to complete the remaining 47k.
Leg 7 (2): 8.4kms, 1hour 17minutes (30mins slower than loop 1) at 'Tragic Pace'. I had been looking so forward to this! I was going to race this second loop and play hard on all of the downhills. I was going to smile as I said goodbye to each leg and every hill. I was going to gradually run my heart out as the kms clocked by. But within 10 minutes I thought my race might be over. Forced to a walk and doubled over in pain, I didn't know how I was going to be able to complete another 40+k. Heartburn sounds so silly! Before experiencing heartburn, you couldn't have convinced me it was this debilitating. I like to think I can tolerate a fair bit of pain. I can run through muscle pain. I can ignore stitches and hot spots and chaffing and the other aches and pains that come with endurance. But this...impossible. The pain is so intense and worsens with every step and it feels like I am about to throw up. Unfortunately I am a barfaphobic, so this isn't a good scenario for me, whatsoever. As soon as I walked or stopped, the pain would go away, but within a few steps of running it was back in full. Doubled over at the top of the first climb, a guy kindly stopped to check on me and then passed me when there was nothing he could do to help (I didn't realize I was in first place over all at that point and he was second, until well after the race!). I walked the downhills...obsessed with preventing the pain in my chest and unable to think of anything else. I baby jogged the flats and climbs, but it was hard. I couldn't imagine continuing like this for another 40kms. Looking at my lap pace, I had switched from a 6:30/km average to a 20/km pace. This wasn't going well. I shuffled into SB aid after painfully half walking/half jogging down the lovely descent that I had been dreaming of running earlier (sad face).
Why was this happening? I had plenty of time to hypothesize and I am pretty sure I have it figured out. 2 reasons:
1. I bought a generic brand of the heartburn medication. Apparently it sucks ass. Stick with the good stuff. I will get the name of it when I get home and post it here in case you need it one day! It has to be taken preventatively to work best fyi.
2. I got the period from hell the night before the race. Yup. Lucky me! Ladies, you know how brutal day 1 is- the cramps, like being kicked in the gut repeatedly and barely able to stand up, all the life draining out of you and just wanting to curl up in the fetal position? I had to take drugs. I never ever take anti inflammatories during endurance racing because of the increased stress on the kidneys and risk of hyponatremia etc. But in this situation, I truly had no choice. I couldn't stand up, because my cramps were so bad on race morning. So, it was IBP alternating with Tylenol every 4 hours (and pitstops every 2 hours on top of that -oh the joy). That shit mix of pills messed up my belly and I am sure it exacerbated the acid reflux. Ever tried running 100kms with brutal heartburn and a full on period?? Bad combination! I don't recommend it! But there you go, those were my cards for the day. TMI? I don't care. It happened.
Leg 8 (3) 9.6kms and 1hour 48minutes (34 minutes slower than the first time) of 'Pure Torture, Someone Please Put me out of my Misery' Pace. My Softball aid station super woman, Nicole, was there and she was cheering me on. She was telling me I was crushing it. I nearly cried, telling her that I had just walked most of the last leg and I didn't know how I was going to finish the race. She told me to get some Tums. The first aider took one look at me and followed me into the washroom to quiz me. They take safety very serious at this race, and with so many people stumbling in off their rockers with dehydration, she had her eagle eye on me. Apparently I looked like crap. 'Is your urine dark?' she asked from across the stall door. LOL! First time I have been grilled on the can! Hahah! 'No', I lied, looking down;). Must drink more, I thought. 'I drank a litre on that last leg!' I told her. In my head it was only 8k- didn't put two and two together that I had been out there half an hour longer than the first lap, and likely needed even more water now that we were in the heat of the day. She sympathized about the heart burn, but didn't like the way I looked- 'dry' she said. I was covered in salt, my black shorts and top were zebra striped with white crystals and my face was totally crusted over. She said I should walk the next leg, drink more and see how I felt at the next aid. I might feel better once it started cooling off, she said. I was hesitant to leave. 'I hope that I see you later', I said to Nicole, seriously wondering if I would. 'I don't know how I am going to do this. I can't run. It hurts soooo much." She told me I could do it without a hint of doubt. She said she would be there, waiting for me when I made my way back. She said she would time me and then pushed me out and sent me on my way with a watermelon freezie. I walked out of aid...forcing myself to jog for about 200metres until I reached the first rise in the trail and then I began my 9.6km death march to Pavan. That's when I dropped my pink freezie in the dirt and nearly cried.
Long leg short...it sucked. I walked more and more until there wasn't any running left. My pace was averaging 20mins/km. I was losing my placement rapidly and fully expected to be taken over, but, at the same time, I couldn't care less because the pain was all consuming. Once I got to the big climb after the dog park I was at my worst. I couldn't walk any further. The pain was so bad that I couldn't breath walking flat, down or up. I couldn't eat. My watch alarm had gone off 10 minutes prior, telling me to eat but I couldn't do it. I had been trying to gag down my favourite Scratch gummies ever since but I couldn't keep one down. I knew I had to stop and sort myself out so that I could get the calories in. I must practice what I preach as a coach. I know what happens once you stop eating and drinking on schedule. It is a slow DNF death. Stop, assess, accept and adapt. And so, I stopped and sat down on the dirt, right there on the hill above the dog park. Looking back at the dogs playing I wondered when the next woman would come around the corner and pass me. It took me 10 minutes but I managed to get that gel down. I saw someone running past the dog park toward me, looking so strong. They snapped me out of my spell and I got up and started trekking slowly up the hill. I could no longer pull off hands on thighs, because bending over brought everything up. So I had to stand super tall, losing the upper body advantage. Soon enough the racer caught up with me and he stopped to walk with me for a bit. Kind human, asked if he could help and offered me some of his water. I was nearly out and only 3kms into the 9.6km leg. Man time slows down when you are walking and sitting on the trail! This was going to take forever!
That was when I realized I might be hooped. I was concerned about dehydration because I only had 2 bottles and at this pace, I would be dangerously behind on water moving ahead. I was already feeling lightheaded, weak and wonky, nearly stumbling off of the trail at times after getting behind on food and water. At the top of the climb I remember saying out loud, 'Sarah, you HAVE to run. You don't have enough water to walk.' And so...I turned my brain to the task of overcoming the obstacle. I started by dismissing the heartburn. Dismissed, I thought. Just like having a brutal period, which I had 'dismissed' that morning. Every single person in that race had obstacles they needed to deal with. Asthma, difficulty breathing, troubles in the heat, etc. I was not unique in my struggles. I HAD to figure out a way to run. So I decided to ignore the pain. Would I actually barf if I ran through it? Or was it just in my head? I would have to find out. I transferred the pain in my chest to my legs. On the downhills I pretended the pain was being referred from my quads. I can handle leg pain- it means nothing to me. Does no damage and I can run through it no problem. I actually, kinda like it;) It worked really well for the most part! I got on the train of the guy who had just passed me and he pulled me along, eventually I caught up with him and we shuffled into Pavan aid together. Leo, the aid station super star leader greeted me, and told me I was the first female. Oh! I had no idea I was in first until that moment, 70k in. I also had no idea at the time that I was 2nd overall lol. So many people had dropped it was insane. I thought I was about 10th.
I did all my things that had to be done then had the BEST pick me up imaginable...a (virgin) lime margarita!! They had my favourite lemonade to boot and I filled up one of my bottles with the sweet nectar, planning to drink my calories on the next leg. Sweet relief, that slushy was just what I needed.
|One of 3 photos I took on course:) Birds flying overhead, while I was running along the river just before sundown. A beautiful moment on my journey.|
Leg 9 (4), 2:23 (for EVER and again 34minutes slower than loop 1) 16kms at 'I think I might Actually Pull This Off' Pace. Hope is a powerful thing. My climb up the ridge was better than expected. The cold slushy, more medication and a big climb to let it settle in, seemed to help take the edge off. Now I could climb without pain and the relief was a game changer. Once I got to the top of the big climb (at the look out with the bird statue on the bench) I stopped and put my music in. My reward for making it 70kms! I had been saving it for this point in the race and it picked up my spirits immediately. The sky was turning pink and gold, with an orange fire sun shining through the smokey haze. It was beautiful. I was filled with gratitude for this moment, no matter how much pain I was in. I put my mental game to the test and tried to run hard down the first big descent...it worked to a point, then I had to stop and slow it down a bit cuz I had a big old dry heave- ugh! At least I could somewhat run downhill again and once I hit the road at the bottom I was starting to be able to run my regular pace on the flats. It was awesome! 20min kms turned into 9's then 8s then 6's! 'Run as much as you can', became my mantra. Now that I could think outside of the pain in my chest, I could focus on other things, like enjoying the scenery, dancing to my music and trying to maintain my position. I may have screamed like a crazy person on the descents (to relieve the pain) but there was no one around and it felt good to let it out. As the leg went on the pain went away and I was able to run the second half of the North loop at close to the same pace I had done it the first time around. I was back! And I can't tell you how STOKED I was to not be suffering any more! The sun was on it's way down and my mission became getting past 'the clown' before dark. Eeeeek! I ran ran ran, taking my camera out just before dark, so that I could snap a pic of the sunset. Just then, I received a text from my ultra sister, Kim, that screamed at me: ' OMG!!!!! RUN!!!!!', was all it said. I smiled, figuring she was watching the results and could see someone gaining on me lol. Little did I know that she thought I could chase down first overall- she knew more than I did! I ran! Past the clown and into Pavan feeling AMAZING! From inside aid I heard: 'Woah! Who is this running so fast? Slow down woman!' Hahaha! After running in the twilight, I was blinded like a deer caught in headlights inside the brightly lit building. Must have looked pretty funny! I asked the timing crew how far behind me the next woman had been, 16kms ago, when I had come through last (after my death march)....was she 1 minute or 30? 30 minutes. 'Ok. Ok, that's good' I thought. 'I am running now. I can hold my position.' I could relax a bit and not waste energy looking over my shoulder.
|That is just messed up.|
Leg 10 (5) 6.6kms, 52minutes, PUSH IT PACE! I grabbed a slushy for the road, ran off to the first of the three 'Babes' and dance trekked my way up the hill - it was a trail party complete with margaritas, my new favourite trail song (Southern Man remix) and I was smiling ear to ear. At the top, I switched to a new pain management strategy- I pretended I didn't have a torso. Yup. No body, no heart to burn. I focused on running with my legs and my mind and let my torso fade away. It worked! My legs felt soooo strong and so fresh so I dug in and ran with them as hard as I could - it was only 13kms to the finish!!
Leg 11 (6) 6.2kms, 45minutes (same as loop 1), GIVER PACE! Into SB aid a completely different person and I was hoping my lady was there so that I could give her a big sweaty hug but she was gone. So I harassed the new crew instead:) The team filled up my water / Gu and they wanted to know if I needed any food. 'Dude!', I yelled. 'It's only 6k! I don't need ANYthing! Woot! '. And they laughed cuz I was pretty much a crazy person. Off I went, dancing through the tall grass and past the giant human litter box that I couldn't smell cuz I am a diver and then into the deep dark woods... so fun...soooo happy. This leg was a beautiful part of the journey for me. It was full darkness, the trail markers were lit up and there were green eyes all around me in the woods. I saw a giant white tale from a massive deer, leaping up and down. I heard an owl and all sorts of critters in the night when I took out one of my earbuds. Then I reached the rivers edge and a beautiful song that reminds me of a beautiful time fell into place and everything was just as it was supposed to be. The lights danced on the black river, the sound of the water rushing by and the music filling my head brought me to tears. I stopped for a minute to take it all in, staring out at that river and the silloutte of the train trestle against the darkness. I had been crying tears of sadness just hours before, wondering if I would be able to finish. Now, I was crying tears of joy and gratitude for the gift to live this moment. I fully believed this moment was enough and it filled me to the brim. The highs are higher after you have experienced low lows. Ultra running gives you the opportunity to experience both. You can't have one without the other...they are both gifts in that way. I finished the leg with a full heart, iron legs and a strong mind. I was blissed out, overwhelmed with joy and grateful for the entire journey. I trekked up the last big climb listening to the best tunes ever and ran my legs out right to the finish line.
13 hours and 9 minutes. I may have lost 1.5hours of my soul on the death march from 50-75k, but that couldn't take anything away from the pure joy and bliss that I felt at that finish line! First woman. And 14 minutes off first place over all. But man oh man...just so happy to have finished the thing. YEOW!!! Thank you body and mind!
|Happy dance!!! I did it!|
Lost Soul Ultra is full of Soul
Wow. Just wow! I have never been to a race with so much heart! A HUGE thank you goes out to all of the organizers, volunteers, spectators and racers for your time, energy and HEART! I was blown away by the care I was given at every aid station- thank you to the wonderful individuals who helped look out for me and made sure I was as happy and healthy as possible before leaving for the next leg. I received medical attention, got sprayed down with sunscreen, ate yummy freezies and I got ice down my shorts at every aid (HA!), had my bottles filled by a nascar pit crew and even had two (virgin) lime margaritas thanks to Leo at Pavan!! And that was the best marked course I have ever run on, hands down. Beautiful too! So amazing to run through the fields (with white tailed deer and other green eyed creatures... and along the black, sparkling river at night:). Didn't think I would say this but...I will be back...I've got some unfinished business out there...will have to come back to get that piece of my soul that is still lost out there on the 100k course between 50-75kms;) Thank you so much for all that you do, LSU crew! You rock!! Except for the clown. That was just creepy.
|This is gonna cost me with Air Canada... #dontcare #loveit|
Post-Race Summary from Insta: