Palo Duro Canyon, TX
Oct 18, 2008
My local running group, called CRUD (Coloradans Running Ultra Distances) tries to pick one event per year that is out of town for a road trip. This year we decided to go down to Palo Duro Canyon, which is about 30 miles south of Amarillo, for the Palo Duro 50KM/50M event. While I had never run it, several CRUDers had run it over the years, including 2 of our members who are former 50M winners. Both those guys, Ted Bidwell and Rick Hessek, along with about 6 other runners, a volunteer, and numerous family and friends headed down for the weekend. As an added bonus, one of our runners now living in Texas was meeting us for the race and was celebrating his 40th birthday.
The canyon is quite impressive, particularly considering the drab flatlands you drive through in the panhandle of west Texas to get there. The canyon is a state park and most of us camped and enjoyed a very nice weekend of eating and drinking, interrupted by a 50 mile jaunt through the canyon. The longtime RD of the race, Red Spicer, died earlier this year but many of the same volunteers who had been involved over the past 20 years kept the race going and dedicated the event to Red. For the 50 Miler, the course consists of 4 x 12.5 mile loops which are gently rolling and all on single track.
We started in the dark, which lasted for about the first 30 minutes, but enjoyed a great sunrise shining on the red cliffs of the canyon. I had only run about 10 times since the Leadville 100 where I paced Rick Hessek to a sub 20 hour finish, so was just going to try to keep up with him as long as possible. He won the race 3 years ago so knew the course well. In the dark, I lost him and got just a bit ahead of him where I settled in with the leaders of the race. There were several guys and it seemed like they all were fairly young and new to ultras, which is always nice to see. There is a short out and back at 6 miles and Rick was just 30 seconds back so I knew he’d catch up before too long. At the end of the first lap, I was with the 2 leaders and we came through in 1:46. I was shooting for sub 8:00 so that was a bit faster than I should have run, but I still felt very comfortable. On the 2nd lap, things started heating up a bit and I let the 2 guys go ahead. I finished the 2nd lap in the exact same 1:46 so now had a big cushion on 8 hours. Which was good because the grim reality of running 50 miles when not in shape was catching up with me! I took a few walking breaks on this lap, and Rick caught up and passed me at 32 miles. I also passed one of the early leaders so was still in 3rd place, and then right before the end of the lap was passed by Scott Eppelman to put me in 4th. I did the 3rd lap in 2:01 so I knew I’d break 8:00 but it was not a fun 4th lap. I was expecting to be caught by more people but stayed in 4th the whole way to finish in 7:42. Scott was about 5 minutes ahead of me for 3rd, Rick was 2nd in 7:32, and the winner ran about 7:25 but I didn’t catch his name. I believe it was his first ultra so he did a great job obviously.
All the CRUD runners finished, including 3 first time ultra runners so it was a great weekend all-around. The low-key, friendly atmosphere of the Texas ultrarunners who hosted the race makes it one I’ll be back for again.