• 13th September 2009 - By adventuresofgreg
    P9110043According to Wikipedia, a “Coulee” is:

    Coulees are generally deep steep-sided ravines formed by erosion, commonly found in the northwestern United States and southwestern Canada. If you try to run across Coulees, they will destroy you, crush you, and you will hurt. And they will make you cry like a baby.

    (OK – so maybe I ‘edited’ the definition a bit)

    The Coulee-happy Lost Sole 100 mile ultramarathon in Lethbridge, Alberta makes Ironman seem like a walk in the park – in an electric wheelchair. Many accomplished ultramarathon runners I spoke with confirmed that the Lost Sole is the toughest-ass ultra there is. And the total elevation gain/lost of 18,000 feet is less than some of the other killer ultras out there like Sinister Seven which is 30,000 feet over 90 miles, or Western States 100 with 40,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. (Leadville trail 100 is 15,600 feet).

    I think what makes the Lost Sole so soul-sucking is the unbelievable grade of the climbs and descents. The climbs up the coulees were like a cross between stairs and a ladder, and many of the descents had me ‘skiing’ down the rocks and dirt and falling on my butt and getting pricked by cactus. It was slow going right from the start.

    The day started at 6:00 am with a pre-race weigh in. If you lose 5% of your body weight after the first 50 km loop, you get kicked out. After the weigh-in, I had breakfast at Humpties with Robert – a friend I met at Sinster 7 ultramarathon. Rob was doing the 100 km race and it was his first ultra.

    The pre-race meeting was at 7:00 am and we started the race at 8:00 am. Rather than relying on drop bags for my supplies like I did at Sinister 7, I brought two crew members with me this time – my buddy Gary and my sister Theresa. I must say it sure was nice to have some support! They were really great and kept me going when the going got rough. And it did get rough.

    Gary shot this photo at the start – check out the elderly lady beside me! She was doing the 100 km race! She is tougher than I am, as I believe she finished and I only made it to 95 km.

    The course is 3 loops of 53 km each totaling 160 km or 100 miles. There are three, very well stocked and supported aid stations or check points that you pass through 6 times on each loop.

    I was really hurting for the first 53 km loop because of some weird stomach issues. I really have no idea what caused it because I was feeling crampy and sick right from the start. I don’t think it was nerves because I’ve been through this before. Maybe it was my oatmeal at Humpties – not sure. But I was constantly looking for bushes and tree groves to duck into to for at least 4 bathroom ’emergencies’. At this early stage, I knew this wasn’t good. Diarrhea is very dehydrating and the forecast was for HEAT.

    Things got worse near the far end of the first loop during a 3 hour span between check points and I only took ONE water bottle with me. Duh! The temperatures down in the valleys of the coulees reached 30 degrees and I got VERY dehydrated – full-on chills and everything. I know… stupid.

    After the first loop (53 km) and back at the main check point, I started to re-hydrate. I drank do much my teeth were floating. Theresa and Gary tried to talk me into eating some real food. I was resistant because I felt like crap, but they insisted. Theresa brought me a hamburger and as soon as I smelt it, I knew exactly that was what my body was crazing. I DEVOURED that hamburger and I think it was the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t think I will ever forget it.

    The first half of the second loop went much better. I really focused on drinking as much water as I could get in me, and I think I successfully re-hydrated myself. I was running the flats at a pretty decent pace, and plowing up the inclines. By 6:00 pm, it cooled down considerably and I started to come back to life.

    Just before dark at the far check point at about 14 hours into the race, Theresa talked me into some more solid food and again I resisted. She brought me a plate of bacon, perogies, and a grilled cheese sandwich. As soon as I smelt it, I again knew that’s exactly what I needed. Man that was soooo good!!!! – I can’t tell you how amazing that meal was! After my first bite, my body told me how badly it needed the nutrition – I couldn’t stop shoveling the food down. The food and support at the 3 check points at Lost Sole is truly second to none. Absolutely first class. Hamburgers, hot dogs, potatoes, perogies, grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, candy, potato chips, chicken soup, hot chocolate, soda pop, gels, energy bars – you name it. Really amazing.

    I left the far checkpoint and headed out on the longest leg (the last time around it was about 3 hours between check points). It got very dark and started to cool down. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and I had another sweater tied around my waist. I was feeling pretty good and still running a good pace on the flats.

    Night time down in the deep, dark valleys of the coulees is like you are on another planet. Very surreal. By this stage of the race, the runners were so spread out, it was maybe an hour or two between encounters with another runner, so I was alone for most of the time. Down in the valleys, I was surrounded by steep canyon walls and it was totally pitch black. It was a cloudless night, and the moon hadn’t risen yet so the stars were piercing. I saw many shooting stars blaze across the sky. I turned off my headlamp and stopped for a few seconds once to take it all in. The stillness and quiet was unreal. It was so quiet I could hear ri
    nging in my ears. No wind, no cars, nothing. Then a frog croak, then a few coyotes howling in the distance, then total silence again. Very cool!

    And speaking of cool – it started to get cool – I mean cold. By the time I reached the river, the temperature started to drop very quickly, and that second sweater wasn’t cutting it. I started to get very cold which eventually lead to uncontrollable shivering. By this time my legs were getting sore and I was starting to slow down, but I knew I had to keep my pace going to keep my heart rate up to avoid hypothermia. I also knew I had at least two hours to go to make it back to the checkpoint and this is when things got especially difficult for me.

    All I could think about was sitting in front of a fire with blankets wrapped around me. I was fantasizing about sitting in Theresa’s car at the check point with the heater going full blast. I knew that wasn’t going to happen for at least two hours, and I also knew that it was getting colder by the minute. I could see my breath, and my fingers started to go numb. To say I was MISERABLE would be the understatement of the year. This was hell. And to add to that, I knew that I was barely HALF way!! 16 hours straight and I was only HALF finished the race – how depressing!!

    I eventually made it to the check point where Theresa ushered me into the warm tent, sat me in a chair and wrapped blankets around me. I sat there with my head drooped down, eyes shut just savouring the stillness and warmth. I couldn’t move.

    Gary had moved back to the hotel for some sleep because he planned on pacing me through the last 53 km loop. I felt horrible and I didn’t want to let Theresa and Gary down, but there was no way I could see myself getting through the 12 km remaining to complete my second loop, not to mention an entire 53 km third loop to get through! I had just been through hell and back and I was only slightly more than half way done! It’s no wonder the average finishing times for this 100 miler are around 30 hours, and the cut-off time is 37 hours!

    As Gary wrote in the final Twitter post “Lost Sole 1, Greg 0”. Regrettably, I turned in my race number and we returned to the hotel and went to bed. I woke up at 9:00 am and we had to drive back to the checkpoint to get Gary’s car. Seeing all the runners still going, I realized that I could probably could have grabbed a few hours sleep at the hotel, returned to the checkpoint and resumed my race. With a 37 hour time limit, I may have had enough time to finish! Next time. Lessons learned.

  • 5 Comments to “Lost Sole 1, Greg 0”

    • Frank Eeckman on September 13, 2009


      I think you need more calories. The longer the race the more "normal" your food mix should be. Carbs are fine for marathons and ironman, but not for ultras. You need fats! I think your hypothermia has more to do with not eating enough than with sweaters. You are very lean as is and need more intake.

      Whenever food tastes magically good you can be sure that your body really needs it. Taste is one of the most adaptable senses and whenever you are in need of something (water, salt, fat, etc) it suddenly starts smelling and tasting heavenly.


    • Amber Dawn on September 13, 2009

      Tough day! To start a race like Lost Soul with the poops would be a severe handicap. You were probably at such a caloric deficit all day you would have needed 3 burgers per aide station.
      I had a friend that got hypothermic on that race a couple of years ago (I think it rained overnight) and DNF'd. He was back this year and had lots of warm clothes packed. That is one of the problems of low body fat %. Not sure how he did this year yet.
      On the food thing, I read about this guy that did the ultra in Antarctica and he talked about eating a stick of butter. Strange but it worked for him…

    • Trevor Oseen on September 14, 2009

      Nice effort Greg. Return next year and even up that score!

    • Jen Silverthorn on September 16, 2009

      Congrats Greg – you did a good chunk of distance and not feeling the best. I believe you will come back and have success! Run for the rock! Hope to see you there next year. Jen S.

    • Anonymous on September 17, 2009

      hope this will help!

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