While this is a bit delayed (2 months….)It’s official. I completed my first trail ultra marathon! On Saturday, September 7th, I trekked out into the infamous Lethbridge coulees on an adventure. I felt prepared enough, I suppose, but I didn’t really get as much trial running in during the summer as I had hoped. However, my training and completing of Totem to Totem in July must have helped as my legs felt better than expected. And my result was better than I could have asked for.
The last two years, the weekend of Lost Soul has been HOT and smoky. Forest fires over in British Columbia were the culprit. On Friday, when the 200km, 100 miler and 100km runners started it was cool, overcast, and even drizzled a bit of rain. On Saturday morning the temperatures were comfortable and great for running.
The course is split into 6 different sections, or legs. There are also three aide stations-Headquarters (HQ, where the start and finish are), Softball Valley and Pavan Park. Each leg varies in length and difficulty.
I had done *just enough* training this summer that I felt confident going into the race. I had ran on legs 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 before during training. I was not able to attend the leg 4 training night-Leg 4 is on private land and is only opened once during the summer for runners to explore and then again on race day. I made a general race plan that I gave to my friend Aaron, who would be my crew captain for the race. Well, he was my only crew person to be exact—I didn’t want to have to rely on Dan with Andy, because if Andy gave him any grief during the day, they may not be at a required spot when I needed them. Aaron’s job was to meet me at each aide station around the times I was hoping to get in, provide me with any food and beverages I needed at that time, fill up my water, and then also keep Dan in the loop.
This was the general plan I gave Aaron to follow:
LSU GOAL of SUB 7 HOURS with Time of Day to LEAVE Aide Station
Leg1 -South Loop 7km, goal of 45 min, no stop at aid station T.O.D 7:45 am
Leg 2-HQ to Softball Valley 8.4 km, goal of 55 min, 2 min stop at aide station T.O.D 8:42 am
Leg 3-Softball Valley to Pavan 9.6km, goal of 1 hour 15 min, 5 min stop at aide station T.O.D 10:02 am
Leg 4-North Loop 16.4 km, goal of 2 hours, 5 min stop at aide station T.O.D 12:07 pm
Leg 5-Pavan to Softball Valley 6.6 km, goal of 55 min, 2 min stop at aide station T.O.D 1:02 pm
Leg 6-Softball Valley to HQ 6.2 km, goal of 50 min T.O.D 1:54 pm
Total time—6 hours and 54 minutes
RACE TIME! (My “actual times” are found on the Aide Station breakdown results from the LSU website. I believe these are the times I came through the aide stations)
I knew I couldn’t get caught up in the hype. I took it easy and paced myself off of someone I knew. Not really much to say about this section except I did start off fast just so I knew I wouldn’t be stuck behind people on the first narrow hill climb.
Goal time-7:45 am Actual time-7:43 am
I ran though the first aide station at HQ like planned. This is also a section I was familiar with. I have done this section many times as it is easily accessibly from our house. The weather was still nice and cool so I focused on not pushing too hard (since it was still comfortable) and just focusing on the goal. I also made sure to hydrate and get some calories in, even though I wasn’t hungry or thirsty yet.
Goal time-8:42 am Actual time-8:39 am
I met Aaron at Softball valley and got a few bites of watermelon. I also walked a bit through the station before running onward. I didn’t have a need for a bathroom break so I decided to keep moving. This leg was one that I had a bit of experience on the first half of it (Gun range hill, Ryan’s hill) but not as much experience in the second half as you head to Pavan. As I was getting further along on this leg I was definitely starting to feel hungry and a bit tired. I was also looking forward to getting to Pavan so I could go to the bathroom before hitting the North Loop.
Goal time-10:02 am Actual time-9:53 am
This is where I will definitely need to find room for improvement. The fact that I had no first-hand visual of what this route looked like was a mental struggle for me. It was also starting to get warm and we were pretty spaced out on the course. I felt very alone on this long segment. I did not realize how many late-in-the-first-half of this loop coulee climbs there would be. I think there were at least 3 that I didn’t expect to happen. My stomach was bothering me and I was crabby. I really thought I would be falling being my goal here and I was starting to come to terms with it. As soon as I realized we had crossed the bridge to the other side of the lake and were heading BACK to Pavan, my spirits were lifted. I also found a fellow runner who was training for NYC Marathon with us on the weekends, Steven, and we ran a bit together which was nice. It was also a huge mental boost coming in to the aide station and seeing Dan with Andy.
Goal time-12:07 pm Actual time-12:05pm
Apparently, I looked like hell when I got in to the aide station. I think I spent a solid 10 minutes or more going to the bathroom, getting ice, drinking fluids and eating watermelon. I couldn’t stomach any other solid foods other than watermelon or gummi chews. I got my body heat cooled down and headed out. With this being a shorter leg than the last, I knew I could focus on the fact that I wouldn’t be out there as long as the North Loop. And, the first part of this loop had shade! I tackled it the best I could, and as I head in to Softball Valley for the final time, I was feeling a burst of energy!
Goal time-1:02 pm Actual time-1:07pm
I didn’t even stop for Aaron at Softball Valley. All I did was ditch my hydration backpack and I didn’t even take the water belt. I knew I could get this last leg done efficiently. It is the easiest leg on its own, but after doing 5 prior it could still be a challenge. I had a goal and I was going to reach it. I had planned on trying to do this leg in 50 minutes….I ended up crushing it in 41 minutes!
Goal time-1:54 pm Actual time-1:48 pm
I BEAT MY GOAL! Holy shit it was a ride. And to be honest, as I finished, I felt like I could have run another 5 km. With the strategy of ultra running being a mix of running on flats and downhills, power walking on inclines, my body actually felt incredibly good. Aaron was there at the finish line with my single tall-boy can of Blindman Longshadows IPA on ice. Dan and Andy were not there immediately because they didn’t think I’d be there by that time!
I ended up finding out that I placed 3rd in my age group! I knew it would be close, but I did in fact place 3rd in the 18-39 female category with an official time of 6:48.11. I placed 3/17 in my age group, 5/61 women and then 15/137 overall. The coveted LOST SOUL ROCKS were awarded to all finishers this year, as it was a special 20th anniversary year. However, I earned a special age group rock which I received sand-blasted about a month later. This means so much to not only finish this bucket-list race, but also earn an age group award!
Will I do this again? YES! Now that I have a baseline, I would love to try and beat my personal best. I think with more trail training and experience, I could definitely break 6:40, and maybe head down to the low 6:30s. I have a lot to learn on the trails, especially work on my downhill descents, fueling, stomach issues, and just overall trail experience. I don’t know if I will be out there in 2021, as a lot revolves on a possible 2nd foot surgery, but I will be back!