I’m not a smart man at the best of times but I got this brilliant idea to commute down to the race on foot, run the 100 miler then return home on foot the next day. Now settle in and pour yourself an adult beverage cuz this story might drag a bit.
My race before the race started at sunrise on Wednesday. I laced up my roadies and headed south on highway 2A from Okotoks arriving at my parents’ house in High River only 2 hours later. My darling mother fed me her famous egg sandwich and saw me on my way now heading south on highway 2. I didn’t want to look at my GPS but only run by feel, staying completely in the “all day, all week zone” as at this point I wasn’t racing, just a lonely wagon wheel heading south. Approaching Nanton I saw two friends alongside the road. Marty and Bridget pulled out a cooler full of popsicles, water, and wait for it…a dozen doughnuts! I filled up my 2.5-litre bladders and bid them ado. The smoke was thick but didn’t bother me much at this point but the heat of the day along the exposed highway started rising and I found myself gulping at my water supply to stay cool. About 5 km before hitting Stavely I emptied my water supply and began feeling very dehydrated. My father saved the day by finishing his golf game an hour early in Claresholm (Thank god he shot in the high 70s instead of his usual mid-80s) with his buddy Carl. They rolled up as I was starting feeling the dry ridges in my lips crack. He filled my bladders and gave my two ice cold ginger ales and wished me luck. I arrived in Claresholm around 3:30 pm hungry and wanting an ice bath. Sharon and the monkeys met me there along with my buddy Hubbs. I ate my body weight in food and hit the hay. 88kms, average pace 5:05min/km.
Day two started the same with a sunrise start. I was surprised my body felt as good as it did. I ate a huge breakfast then headed south on 2 to Granum. When I got to the Granum general Store I bought these two beauty peaches that I quickly devoured. They tasted AMAZING but I think I drove the fibre train a bit fast a proceeded to have “troubles” for the next few hours. Now I deeply apologize for any victim that saw me drop trow on the very flat open Granum high way but on a positive the grass ditches along the highway are now well fertilized. Along with that goes chaffing and that started to become my only worry going into tomorrows race. I lubed the best I could and trucked on. Now countless friends stopped along the road to bring me food, drink, encouragement. Words could not describe how I felt running from one pit stop to the next with friends arms stretched and trunks full of goodies. Grateful, humbled, loved, spoiled, not worthy of such friendship and support, I love you all. At 3pm now wheezing from the smokey air, I stumbled to the green space in front of the Lethbridge Lodge and just laid there for a minute. My only thought,” Dave you are 1/3 done your weekend.” I smiled at that thought. 80kms, average pace 5:21min/km.
I awoke on race day I did as I always do I checked my resting heart rate. 75!! Crap!! My normal resting rate sits between 48-52bpms. Without getting too technical this tells me I must adjust my effort level accordingly so for instance if I was running a hill at a sustainable 160 bpm I would now need to run it slower to accommodate my new normal which on any other day feel like 135 bpm. This doesn’t make me running 100 miles today impossible, it just means I’ve gotta be super smart about it. My game plan was this: start super slow, play to your strengths ie technical downhill and long flat sections, go painfully slow on all the climbs, use trekking poles late in the race if needed, and most importantly don’t run anyone else’s race.
At 9 am we left the start line and I found myself in a very unfamiliar position. Well back in the pack and no butterflies, I have to admit it kinda felt good. I arrived at the HQ aid station about 5 minutes slower than I normally do. There I saw my crew for the day Stephanie Gillis-Paulgaard and Dan-the-man Bowie. It meant the world to me that you two would pause your busy lives and help support this Lost Soul for the weekend, love you guys!
10-20-30 miles rolled by relatively comfortable but once again the heat of the day started and I knew this was gonna be a cooker. The Waterton raging fire to the SW of us produced a thick particle rich cloud that made breathing more challenging from hour to hour. I knew deep down this would affect my day but was unclear how at this point. Now the Lost Soul course consists of three large loops of 54kms. I passed Jay Kinsela only 40 km into the race and he was not looking so well. He mentioned he was having some early GI issues but I was thinking he may not be recovered from his last race as of yet. 4 weeks ago he won and set a huge course record at the Big Foot 200miler in something like 55 hours! I started passing the majority of the 100km racers that may have started a bit hasty. One of them told me I was in second place behind this young guy named Ian from Kamloops I’ve never heard of. Upon completion of the first loop Stephanie told me I wasn’t far behind Ian but relax and stay within myself, so I did. Stephanie busied herself putting ice in my buff, arm coolers, and cowboy hat. She fed me iced tea and was very intuitive for someone who has never run a hundo before. She is a mother of two so maybe it’s equal to getting the kids out the door to catch the school bus in time.
Around the 70km point of the race and in the dead heat of the day I saw Ian ahead. He tried his best to not be obvious but he was turning to see me and I could sense the `oh shit` emotion. When I came up on him he didn’t look so good so I asked him what was up. He said his stomach was turning. I suggested that he eat half my Teen Burger Stephanie got me and that might help turn things around. We pulled into the next aid station together. we split the hormone free burger and I took off expecting not to see him again. The next five hours the heat and the smoke really got to me, my pace slowed and I told Steph that I’ll get through this but something just wasn’t right. The more I think about it, the smoke particles I’ve been breathing in the past three days and over 200 miles penetrate the lungs and seep into the blood stream. without getting into it too much most of my bodies functions weren’t working well, my cardiovascular, temperature regulation, muscular system, even my digestive system which is iron clad. I’ve never thrown up in a race before but I sure as hell did on the Pavan loop! So I told Stephanie, I will take only what my body will give me.
The sun was going down and I was at the last aid station before heading out on the final and third lap when I saw a ghost. It was Ian! I whispered to Steph, is that him? She responded yes with that look on her face of what are you still doing here. I’ll admit I opened it up on the final 6 km stretch heading back to HQ. When I got back to HQ I saw my pace Daniel Bowie ready to roll. Sharon arrived at this time as this race fell on her birthday, Happy birthday Shar-Bear. She was out celebrating with the kids and friends and was so supportive to let me race on her day. I didn’t stay long as we were now on a mission to start gapping Ian early to make him feel he has no chance to catch. We moved quickly but still stuck to my plan of taking it stupidly slow on the climbs to not max out my already maxed out heart. The two of us darted through the pitch black coulees thinking that there is no way he is holding this pace and I’m sure as of the Pavan aid station we would have gapped him enough that he would certainly pull back. At the top of Ryan’s hill I pushed it too hard on the climb, and when I got to the top my heart felt like it was going to leap out from my chest. I leant over on my poles to catch myself. The next thing I know is I’m on the ground looking up at Dan asking how long I was out for, he said ten seconds, he helped me up, brushed me off and kept moving. As we approached the Pavan station I noticed Dan was falling back of the pace and started talking on his phone. I asked him who are you talking to and he said to not worry about it. Turns out Daniel was redlining, I needed a new pacer and didn’t trust I wouldn’t pass out again on the Pavan loop. I came into the Pavan aid station and my friend Leo Fung was there waiting for me. Leo looked at me and yelled let’s go! I musta looked puzzled, IS LEO DRUNK!? The answer is yes. Leo was volunteering all day and enjoying many glasses of wine. He had no intention of running but when he heard I needed help he put down the bottle, gathered himself and did me a huge solid.
I have to admit running at 1 am with drunk Leo is hilarious! His pace was erratic, the conversation was random at best but the entertainment score was a 10/10. Leo got a text telling him we were 15 minutes up on Ian. I told him that’s good but I’d be happier with 25 minutes so we picked up the pace. We were moving quite well until I made a rookie mistake. My headlamp died. With 5 km of narrow single track left to go in the loop, he ran just feet in front of me and I’d follow his foot strikes. On occasion, he would be a good guy and run in the knee deep grass alongside me to better shine his light. That would work until drunk Leo would run into large dead fall or an upright tree. When we got back to Pavan aid station that signalled we have two more legs to run (about 13 km). Dan-the-man was reloaded and ready to pace me, I drank a Red Bull, looked over and saw Leo tipping back the bottle and I was off. Now I started getting cocky thinking that Leo and I must have gapped Ian by at least another 10 minutes until I heard Dan’s phone ping. We were on the second climb of three biggies on that leg when Dan said, “Dave, Ian is only 7 minutes back!” I don’t know what came over me at that point but all I know is fear is useful at times like this. I ran the rest of the climb, ripped down the back side, hit the open section and bolted. Now my GPS was dead at this point but I’d I was holding 4-4:30 min/km. With one final climb before the final aid station, I sprinted the hill and recklessly tore down the descent. The flat field outside the aid station I looked back. I saw three head lamps, one moving slowly coming down the hill and the other two moving VERY quickly! That’s him, that’s Ian!! How did he make up all that time!? I ran right through the Peenaquim station not breaking stride, dropping my poles and vest and yelling “38 in and out.”
If he was catching me running a 4:15 the only option was to drop to a sub 4 min/km pace. So I found myself a basket case weaving in and out of 100 km runners looking back often. I got to the final climb and started the climb. I took my head lamp off to make sure he couldn’t mark me as a was defenceless on my achilles heel (the hill). I got to the top looked back, no Ian. Turns out those lights at the top of the hill weren’t him at all. Fear and paranoia were both excellent tools that led to a surprisingly strong finish and ultimately setting a new course record. The hugs from everyone made it all worth it in the end.
At the awards ceremony the next morning I announced my 2018 initiative of XCanada4Rare. A Trans Canadian speed record attempt of 7200 km in 66 days in hopes to raise awareness and 1,000,000 dollars for the Rare Disease Foundation. I was intending to run the 170 km back home but I’ve decided against this as since finishing the race my lungs feel very damaged. Now I normally don’t make great choices but this choice I stand behind completely.