Lost Souls: I am not a smart man.

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The Lost Souls Ultramarathon is a 54km to 100mile run in the Coulees around Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.  The Lethbridge area is basically like if the prairies and the desert had a love child that neither parent wanted to parent.  It's hot, windy, and beautiful.  Coulees are basically like canyon walls, that with enough effort and self loathing can be climbed up and down.  The grades are anywhere from 20% to 'I hate my life'.  To make things interesting, the course also loops around the sewage treatment plant.  So while your legs take a beating on the coulees, you get to pick it you want to smell the air, or taste it.  It's like being stuck in a line at Taco Bell.

The 100 mile race consists of 3 loops of the 54K course.  Each loop has 6 segments.  4 of these segments smell like Taco Bell, 3 of the legs are absolute hell, and 2 of the segments consist entirely of pointless climbing and descending while smelling other peoples excrement (I should add at this point, this was by far my favorite race this year).  Segments 2 and 3 are the worst and 'most Taco Bellesque', while from segment 4 on, the course improves, with 4 hardly smelling at all, before looping back on segment 5 and 6, and re-entering the stink zone.

My season was going really well, up until about two weeks ago during Ultra #11 this summer (yup, I'm an idiot that signed up for every ultra within 1000miles).  I'd also been working on a nice bout of tendonitis in my foot since the Canadian Death Race, a month earlier.  Going into this, I was happy to just be there. The race is known for being fun (and a very slow course!).  This year would not disappoint.  The temperatures were expected to hit 30 degrees, and between the sewage treatment plant, and the lake we'd be running around, I was expecting some hurty and humid fun.

My race was actually pretty beige, and I DNF'd at km 114.  For a brief while I was in second, and I tried to maintain it for 4 hours, while absolutely destroying my foot that suffered from tendonitis.  Worth it.  100%.  I was tired of not racing, and wanted to go for it at least a few times this year.  That's my boring story.  This is a race review though, and I'm sure you'd all sooner hear about the creepy Pennywise clown handing out candy.  Here we go.  Buckle up.

Segment 1 (4th easiest)
This is 7km (or something close to that), with only one short climb according to the racer guide.  I rated this segment on the easier side, strictly because you are running away from the world's largest Taco Bell bathroom.  There is a brief stint on the highway, before runner's get to run up and down a few coulees to warm up.  My second lap here, someone had moved a few trail markers, sending me off on my own little voyage, and a few km onto Leg 6 (I'm not a smart man, and didn't notice arrows pointing in the opposite direction).  After the coulee repeats, you begin heading back towards the stench, and the start line.  Anyone hungry for a cheesy gordita yet?
Course map

Segment 2 (5th easiest)
Segment 2 is 8km of lies.  8km you think.  That's not too bad, I run that far with my pet Chihuahua. Lies.  All Lies.  This segment really lets you marinade in the smells, and the heat.  You get to spend 8km doing hill repeats.  I remember thinking how much I enjoyed this segment, and all the good things I would tell the race director about it if I had the chance.  Lovely things.  There is a brief reprieve in the middle where you get to run through one of Lethbridge's many dog parks.  This was my highlight.  The aid station at Softball Valley was excellent however, and volunteers and aid station crews rule (that said, I was happy to sneak into the bathrooms to get some fresh air).

Segment 3 (6th easiest)
Segment 3 can die a horrible death.  It's 10km of terrible.  The only redeeming feature is running away from the smell.  By the second go around on this leg there was actually no discernible smell, which leads me to believe my nasal cavity had committed Seppuku.  This segment is basically like #2, but longer and with no dog park.  I recommend having a living will before attempting this section more than once. This was my favorite section.  It's slow, hurty, with more climbs than I care to count.  Apparently the guide said there were 3.  Fake News.  I counted 8 before my sanity had fled me, and so did the gremlin riding the unicorn I was running with.  His name was Steve.  He was not a hallucination, he was my friend. This section really eats into your legs.  If you haven't spent your entire summer doing hill repeats on a ski hill, while paying children to through dust and dirt at you, you'll regret it. This section's redeeming feature is the aid station.  Sweet, glorious Pavan Park (I was told there was a slushie machine!)

The 'Easy' Climb on 4

Segment 4 (3rd easiest)
16km north loop back to Pavan.  This is the longest section.  It starts with a climb up the coulees, and gives you the sense that this could very well be a repeat of the previous two sections, sans smell.  However after some initial climbing, you actually end up on a gravel resource road around a lakeish thing (Marsh, slough?).  There is no smell here, and the road is glorious.  This is where my tendonitis blew up...4 hours into the day, causing me to crush ibuprofen like Gu gels for 12 more hours.  There are also two unmanned water stations on this segment.  Pass 1, cool, refreshing water.  Pass 2, luke warm plastic bottle water  (still so good!).  The road ends, and you're back into some lovely death climbs and descents, which feel pretty normal at this point.  After some death climbs, you take what's left of your lifeless body through some humid single track.  It's like running around an Oasis.  This section is amazing, and much time can be made up here.  Or more likely, you will have the opportunity to hobble along, cursing the gods that the coulees killed your legs.  This segment ends on perfectly buffed out trail leading back to the Pavan park aid station.

Segment 5 (2nd easiest)
This is how my night run of 5 went #CreepyClown
A quick 7km run back towards the Taco Bell Mothership.  This section is easy.  It's flat, with one climb.  The race guide told the truth on this one.  But even a broken clock is right twice a day.  The trail is wide, and the ultra shuffle is a runners best friend.  About a kilometer into this section, they even have a 'Free candy' station, staffed by Pennywise the clown.  I was moved by the gesture, grabbed some candy, and thanked the clown.  Because if you can't trust clowns, who can you trust?  The section ends with runners hitting the Softball Valley aid station from the other side.  Once you can see the ball diamonds, life is good.

Segment 6 (1st easiest)
6km run back to the start.  You get to run under two bridges.  My first time on this section I thought there was only one.  It was disheartening to see the rail bridge in the distance, and realize.....I gotta run to that (#Killmenow).  Once you cross under the rail bridge, you have a long climb up the coulees to the start/finish/GetYerArseOnTheNextLap line.  This feels amazing.  And just to screw with you one last time, the final 20 feet of leg 6 include a 4 points of contact dirt climb.  Congratulations, you've done 1 lap.  Only two more to go if you want the 100 mile.

This race is a beast.  The 100 mile course record is almost 20 hours.  The 33 hour cutoff seems...short on this one.

-Well organized
-Aid stations
-Beer Station
-Clown Candy
-One hell of a tough course

-One hell of a tough course
-Possibility of a murderous clown stalking you all night
-you will never eat Taco Bell again

I hoped you enjoyed reading this, as much as I enjoyed writing it.  I'd like to thank the race organizers, the volunteers, and the good people at Taco Bell for having a sense of humour and dropping the lawsuit.

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