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.
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.
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.
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!