The Palo Duro 50 Mile was my second trail 50 Miler with my first one being American River in April of this year. I came into the race feeling very prepared and confident in my fitness level. I made the 6 hour drive from Dallas to Canyon, TX the night before and attended the pre-race meeting and pasta dinner. It was a great opportunity to hear the race director speak about the course, markings, and what to expect on race day. Afterwards, I headed to my hotel, prepared my items for the morning and headed to sleep.
I woke up at 3:30AM to make my final preparations for the race and got ready to head to Palo Duro Canyon for the 7AM start. I ate two bananas and two bowls of oatmeal, foam rolled a little and put on my race kit before leaving at 5AM to make the 30 minute drive to the park. There is only one road leading to the park entrance so I wanted to make sure I got there early enough to be one of the first in line so I could get a good position near the Start/Finish aid station for my drop bag set-up.
Once I parked and walked down the starting area, I dropped a pop up chair and a cooler bag that I planned to pull from after each of the courses 12.5 Mile loops. I had 4 Gatorade filled bottles and matching bottles with water. I also placed 4 Clif Shot Gels and 2 salt tablet in each pack on the electrolyte bottles, planning to consume 1 gel every 3 miles and salt tablet every 6 miles and pull any additional nutrition needs from the aid stations on course. I then headed to the starting line, feeling ready to run.
The 50 Mile and 50K both started at the same time and were promptly sent off at exactly 7AM. There was a 1/4 Mile road section before breaking into single track for a 3 Mile section, with the remainder of the course after that being a mix of single track, double track and open canyon running. The race started off quick and I decided to run conservatively, not going out as fast as I have in the past, hoping that it would pay dividends in the long run. I settled into the first mile in 8:30, not knowing exactly how many 50 Mile racers were in front of me as we raced through the night with the sun slowly rising in the canyon. I ran into the first aid station around mile 4 where the 50K runners would turn back and do a 6 Mile loop before heading back out for 2 loops of 12.5. I ran the entire first loop on my own after that first aid station split, only stopping to use the bathroom and fill up one of my bottles with water after I ran out. I came through my first 12.5 Miles in 1:42:42.
After crossing the timing mat I threw down my empty water and Gatorade bottles, picked up my next two that were pre-made and headed out again. I was feeling strong at this point and continued to keep up the same pace. The second lap was nice because even though I didn’t see any of the other 50 Milers in front of me, I was passing some of the 50K runners and 20K runners. Running past them was great since I was able to feed off of their energy and just seeing other people on the course picked my spirits up. Again on this lap I only stopped to use the bathroom and fill up my water. I cross the Start/Finish timing mat in 1:42:42 for a total time at 40K/25 Miles of 3:25:24, splitting an identical time to my first loop.
I followed the same routine on this lap, dropping my two empty bottles for two pre-filled ones and hitting up the bathroom before heading back onto the trail. On this lap, I split my Marathon in 3:38 and ran through 50K at 4:21 before feeling the beginning signs of fatigue/pain in my quads and feeling lightheaded. Miles 31-40 was my roughest patch, at times wanting to walk and taking every chance I got to hike the uphills on the course. I told myself that it would pass, that I had trained too hard to let my race fall apart, and I pushed onward. After hitting the last aid station on the loop, I ran by a guy I had sat next to at the pre-race pasta dinner. Seeing a friendly and familiar face was an awesome feeling 35 Miles into the race, I told myself that I wouldn’t walk a step until I covered the next 2.75 Miles to the Start/Finish aid station. I crossed 37.5 Miles in 5:21:05, stuffed my face with Pringles, a PB&J sandwich and a few pieces of banana before charging onto the trail for my final loop.
About a mile into the last loop, I realized that I didn’t grab the bag I had pre-made that contained my gels and salt tablets. Luckily, each aid station was fully stocked with everything that I would need and the first one was only 3 Miles away. While I was still feeling discomfort, I saw another 50 Miler ahead who was stopped and stretching on the side of the trail. Passing him at mile 40, even with the pain I was feeling, gave me confidence that would last throughout the rest of the race. I ran forward and when I reached that next aid station, I replenished my handheld with Gatorade, ate some more solid food, took a gel to aid my aching quads and left as quickly as possible. At this point I felt like I had run my quads out of the pain I had before and was feeling a great deal better. Eventually, I came upon another 50 Mile runner 42 Miles in and made the decision to pass him in a decisive move and put everything I had left into the final 8 Miles. The decision went as well as it could have and I ran strong through the finish line, crossing in an official time of 7:23:43 and 3rd overall. This was a 45 minute improvement over my first trail 50 where I blew up bad at 50K and never quite recovered. The Palo Duro 50 Mile taught me that when things go bad in an ultra, they will pass, you just have to put confidence in the training you’ve done and give it your all. I experienced some nutrition issues during this race which I’ll focus on improving in the next few months as I prepare for my next big ultra, the Zion 100K which looks like an epic adventure!
Thank you for taking the time to read about my race!