The course for the Lost Soul Ultra meanders along the Old Man River pulling runners over the undulating coulees surrounding the prairie town of Lethbridge Alberta. The Lost Soul has a manageable amount of climbing (1,300m over 53km) on the main loop, but conceals numerous insults and packs quite the punch for a prairie run. It’s a challenging course and a phenomenally well run event. It easily has the best stocked aid stations and volunteers. I definitely plan on running this event again.
When I ran this race in 2013 it was my first run over five hours. After glancing at the course profile online I planned to put most of my effort in the hilly section (the first 33km) then cruise the flat section back to the finish. This was great in theory, but I had never actually seen the terrain. I had no idea what kind of surface I’d be running on, nor had I been acquainted with a coulee, or even been to Lethbridge! The easy flat return section that I had banked on, just did not exist. Instead I encountered: sand, wet slippery grass, sticky mud, bushwhacking, and tiny flying bugs everywhere. What a surprise! My poor hydration, overly enthusiastic pace, and the accumulation of the steep descents finally caught me around the marathon mark. Cramps in my inner calves started alternating between legs. My friends at the final aid stations giggled afterwards about my degrading running form in those final miles – I felt like Frankenstein and apparently I was running like him too. Most of the last 15km was spent managing cramps and on the final steep descent I awkwardly descended backwards for fear of a calf cramp locking my feet pointing downward and sending me tumbling through the cactus, down the steep bank, and into the river. I finished the race in five hours and change (first place), but was running scared those last couple miles. The finish wasn’t satisfying, it wasn’t a good race, and I realized that I had a lot to learn for these multi hour trail events.
In short, the course is more difficult than it looks. The coulees are great fun, but the descents are steep and abrupt. It was quite an insult to nearly tumble back into the river valley after a nice gradual climb, but every great course contains insults – that’s what makes them so great. The running surface of the Lost Soul ranged from narrow well worn trails, to matted paths through fields, to bushwhacking, to very small sections of road. If you’re planning to run it, then practice steep river bank descents, running on grass, and make sure you get your hydration right. Here’s my track.