Fat Dog racers crowned

NV ultramarathoner adds second 100-mile title to his cap

IT'S about 2 p.m. and Hassan Lotfi-Pour is in pain.

He's been running since 4 a.m. and now lactic acid is swirling around his joints, turning an athletic endeavour into a grueling act of endurance; and he still has 18 hours to go.

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North Vancouver resident Lotfi-Pour, 43, captured top prize for the second time in the Fat Dog 100, a 193kilometre ultra-marathon that wrapped up Aug. 19.

Lotfi-Pour's journey began at a campground parking lot outside of Keremeos before winding down trail routes and roads through Calcite Creek to Highway 3 before eventually wrapping up at Lightning Lake in Manning Park.

Lotfi-Pour completed the run in 28 hours and 30 minutes, nearly six hours faster than his closest competitor. Only 10 runners finished the event, with the slowest competitor needing more than 42 hours to break the tape.

Lotfi-Pour won the race in 2010, but after the event was cancelled last year, his chances of repeating 2010's success seemed dim.

Lotfi-Pour is employed as an information technology professional and he says the long hours of sedentary work kept him in a chair and off the mountains until about six weeks before the race.

"From July to the race day, I had a lot more free time to play in the trails in the mountains," he says. "Training was one of the best I had for years. Good training, good mileage, a lot of elevation."

Regularly haunting BadenPowell Trail as well as some steeper terrain, Lotfi-Pour says he felt strong going into the race.

"Interestingly enough, I wasn't nervous at all," he says. "I was confident that nothing would stop me from finishing my race."

The excruciating jaunt takes the runner through meadows and past mountains, which is the race's chief appeal, according to Lotfi-Pour, who says the solitude of nature functions as a counterpoint to his daily IT work.

"I just love the mountains, mountains always attract me," he says.

While the temperature would rise to approximately 36 degrees during the race, Lotfi-Pour laced up his Sauconys while it was still dark.

"You hardly have any sleep," he says of the night before the race. "You get that excitement, the adrenaline is still going. I would say, max, I got one hour that I was out of my conscious space."

One hour of rest seemed to be all Lotfi-Pour needed, as he jumped out to a strong start in the race.

"I knew that I was on track," he says. The route is dotted with aid stations, and Lotfi-Pour's family helped him along the way, providing the runner with Carbo-Pro energy powder drinks, chips, watermelon, and several soft drinks.

"Coke is the best thing," he says. "It does give you instant energy and plus it also has sodium."

Sodium works to prevent muscles from cramping and spasms, according to Lotfi-Pour.

With each step he took, Lotfi-Pour tried to focus on his target, which was 193 jagged kilometres to the west.

"The very first thing that obviously I consider in a race is the finish, and I focus on the finish line," he says.

With such a long run, maintaining concentration can be a challenge, and for Lotfi-Pour negative thoughts find a way of seeping into his mind.

"When my mind is wandering I can quickly tell myself, focus to be here, to be present," he says.

After one day and four hours of running, Lotfi-Pour crossed the finish line early Sunday morning.

"First is the sense of relief that it's done. Then knowing how far you've come and what you've overcome is the greatest joy," he says. "About nine to 10 hours into the race I started to suffer. Knowing that after almost 20 hours of suffering I reached the finish line, I was overjoyed."

With a race of this distance, the physical trial doesn't always end when the running stops.

"This particular race I've noticed some signs in my body that I've never seen before," he says. "My hands were puffy to a point where I could hardly see my knuckles."

After three days of rest, Lotfi-Pour says his hands were about 85 per cent of the way back to normal, but he also experienced problems with his weight.

"It looked like there was an issue with the electrolytes or a chemical imbalance in my body, so I gained about 10 pounds. . . . Which never happens," he says. "It looked like my body had lots of fluid and my kidneys looked like they were not discharging. They were not processing that fluid out of my system, but now everything is starting to roll back to normal."

In the 50-mile division, West Vancouver youth soccer coach Brayden Sander, 19, outran the competition, completing the 80-km run in 13 hours and five minutes.

"It was a spur of the moment thing. I didn't have many plans for the summer and I wanted something to inspire me to get off the couch and get moving," he says of his decision to enter the race.

With AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" cranked on his iPod, Sander was one of only four runners to finish the 80-km course, which started at Cayuse Flats in Manning Park.

Sander, who has six siblings, says he took up running to spend more time with his mother, who he calls his "running motivation."

"I think about my mom being there at the end of my race," he says, discussing his focus during the run. "I can give her a big hug and talk about my race with her afterwards, so I guess that's my cherry on the cake."

His mother was at each aid station, but despite her watchful eye the trek still took a toll on Sander.

The University of Calgary economics student said he dropped about 20 pounds during the race.

Besides the shift, which he suspects was mainly water weight, there was also the issue of flying bloodsuckers.

"Bug bites were a massive thing. I got eaten alive by mosquitoes the whole day so my whole body looks like it's checkerboarded a little bit with red splotches everywhere," he says.

Along with the loss of blood and water, Sander says he was also beset by a few doubts.

"It's pretty much flat for 50 km and then there's one big climb . . . in my head I thought 'What am I doing? I should be back at home watching the soccer game,'" he says.

The last incline of the run was the most rewarding, according to Sander.

"It was absolutely worth the climb because we had gorgeous views of the sunset and the whole valley being lit up."

Sander is currently training for an Ironman competition.

"As long as you're mentally tough enough, you'd be surprised what you can do," he says.

For full results from this year's event, visit www.mountainmadness.ca.

jshepherd@nsnews.com

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