Monday, October 18, 2010

Palo Duro 20K Race Report

Ahhhh...Palo Duro Canyon...  A beautiful, magical place!  I've been hearing for over a year about the beauty that is Palo Duro Canyon State Park.   And about the trails that are scenic, hilly and fun.  Everything that I heard is true, plus about 100!  I was so happy that I was here in this place for the 26th annual Palo Duro trail run.

Dave and I drove the 4.5 hours to PD on Friday morning.  We met our friends H and J at the campsite that they had already set up at Mesquite campground.  It was perfect with a nice covered picnic table and some trees and was right next to bathrooms with hot showers.  NICE! 

After setting up our tent, we went on a hike to check out the trails. 

Here is where I made a stupid mistake.  We had some road and one water crossing between us and the trail we were heading to.  I had on my running shoes and socks and after wading through the cold, refreshing water, I decided I didn't need to take the time to put my shoes and socks back on and just kept walking along the pavement back to our campsite.  (about a 1/2 mile?)  The pavement got hot and felt a little rough on my feet but I didn't think to much of it.  I noticed after arriving back at our tent that my foot felt sore and was hot.  I took a good look and had two blisters forming on the ball of my foot.  I think the hot pavement did it.  So yeah...I was going to be starting my race the next day with blisters.  Totally preventable and stupid on my part! 

We headed to West Texas A&M University in Canyon, TX where packet pick-up and the pasta dinner was held at 5:00.  We met up with our other friend M here who had just drove 7 hours and was glad to be out of his truck for a bit.  Pasta dinner was wonderful and there was breadsticks, salad and lemon pie for desert.  Everything was top notch.  The race director had four large screens in each corner of the room that was showing pictures from 2009's race.  Some instructions were given for the race too.

We went back to our "home sweet home" camp and turned in pretty early.

Race morning started early with lots of noise from runners walking and driving back and forth to the bathrooms at 4:00 am.  We all got up and had some coffee.  I ate my standard whole wheat english muffin with almond butter and sliced bananas.  I'd already packed my fuel belt with chocolate GU and 20 ounces of banana NUUN prior to leaving home and had pinned on my bib the night before so there wasn't much to do and with only a 1/2 mile drive to the race start it was a very laid back morning.

It was still pitch dark when the 50K and 5 milers took off.  There was a man playing the bagpipes and it was beautiful watching all the runners in their headlamps and flashlights taking off into the dark with the bagpipes playing.  The 20K race started right on time at 7:30 and by now there was some pink starting to show in the sky.  H, J and I started in the first 1/3 of the pack of runners and although the trail was packed with runners, it was moving along fast and only stopped once or twice due to a traffic jam.  By 3 miles in, the crowd was thinning a little and the sky was lit up a gorgeous pink and orange.  We kept trying to remind each other to look around and see the pretty scenery.  J was able to get around a few people and was off like a shot.  Didn't see him again until the finish line.  H and I kept a pretty steady pace and both felt great.  The temperature was perfect...upper 40's at the start and breezy and stayed pretty cool most of the way through the race.  (The longer distance racers weren't so lucky, it got extremely hot later in the day) 

One of the most interesting things to happen was when we came upon "Reds Rock".  Red Spicer was the long time race director of PD and was a much loved guy in the running community.  From what I hear he was quite a character!  He built a lot of the trails in Palo Duro Canyon.  Sadly, he died in 2008.  I wish I could of met him.  Anyway, when H and I were running by Red's Rock, we both noticed a dramatic temperature drop.  Not a breeze or cool spot, a COLD spot.  Like the temperature felt like it dropped 20 degrees.  Felt like we'd entered a cave.  I know we weren't imagining it because I heard a kid behind me comment that it got cold all of a sudden.  After the race we found out that race tradition is, you HAVE to touch Red's Rock as you pass by.  Being that it was H and I's first year to run this race, we had never heard that.  Maybe Red was trying to gently remind us of tradition?  I'd like to think maybe it was something  like that.  :)

The trail is fun to run, lots of small ups and downs throughout the whole course until about 9 miles in, there it flattens out for about a mile or so which felt great to really open it up and run hard before the hills started again. 

H and I ran together until almost the 9 mile mark.  She took off at that point and made some really good time to the finish.  I stopped at all the aid stations but only briefly.  Ate a small piece of date bar, M&M's, a couple of potato slices with salt, a few pretzels and ate one of my GU's. 

I can honestly say I enjoyed just about every single moment of the time I was on the trails.  H finished about 5 minutes ahead of me and I crossed the finish line at 2:37:26. (Garmin time, not official)  They haven't posted results yet. 

We stayed at the finish line most of the day cheering on runners and waiting on M to cross the line.  It was his first 50K and he kicked butt!  The post race grub was great..hamburgers, veggie burgers, beans and chips.  I heard the temperature got up to 95 that afternoon and I felt horrible for all the runners still out there.  It was dusty, hot and dry.  Very inspiring though to see so many tough it out and cross that line smiling!

After showers and naps, H and J fixed everyone an amazing meal.  Steaks with balsamic glaze and blue cheese crumbles, veggie packs cooked over the campfire with goat cheese followed by dark chocolate covered cherries for dessert.  We played washers and poker and enjoyed the evening, savoring the satisfaction of such a wonderful day!

Sunday morning we got a nice surprise...there was a hot air balloon launch in the park, just a few minutes from our campsite!  We watched the balloons which were so beautiful and graceful looking as they floated above us in the canyon.  H fixed us a wonderful breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, english muffins and gravy.  Mmmmm...

We all sadly packed up and headed home.  Palo Duro...I'll be back next year!  Loved every second of this weekend and this race!


  1. Nothing like starting out with a blister..bummer deal. I hope to run Palo Duro next year. Nice report.

  2. Good deal, Julie! Way to come and have fun! My hubby is from OK. Hot day, but at least it wasn't humid:)

  3. Nice race report, I ran the 50 mile race and you're right it got REALLY hot. But all the volunteers and people cheering definitely helped out! Great scenery and one I will do agin, but maybe a different distance ;-)

  4. Ok...I am all in for next year...camping and running...if you will let a hack hang out with all you...I am so IN! and gets really hot for the 50 milers...with no where to hide...

    I also notice Olga has commented on your blog...she is a tough as they "let me win my age group on 100 miler" tough...and Hardrock 100 mile tough...TEXAS/RUSSIAN TOUGH