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2008 Palo Duro 50 Mile Race Report

I am a bit late in getting this out but better late than never I guess. A couple weekends ago I had the pleasure of running my first 50 mile trail run in Palo Duro state park in west Texas. This is an area of the state that is very arid and desert-like and contains its own unique beauty with an edge.

Small Cactus Throughout The Area

Packet pickup occurred the evening before the race and included a pasta feed that included salad, spaghetti, bread, and dessert.

Race morning had some great conditions; clear skies, mid 40s, nearly a full moon, dry air (duh), and no wind. I was able to hook up with some kind racers at the hotel race morning so Wendy and Griffin could rest a bit more and come down to the race site later in the day.

As I sat in the back seat getting to know my new friends I knew we were in for something special as we drove into the light-less park at 6:15 in the morning and I could barely see the dark shadows of the canyon walls raising above me as we continued to descend to the base. My heart began to pump a bit fast and I started to sweat a bit. Unfortunately this was mostly due to the sudden car-sick feeling as we wiggled through the canyon as I sat in the back seat. I was about to open the window and stick my head out when we parked! Interesting start to the day.

After parking, it was a short little walk to the start/finish area where someone was playing bagpipes which was kind of cool. I quickly checked-in and set up my transition bag and before long the 50 mile/km runners were corralled at the start area.

The course consisted of four 12.5 mile loops within the canyon along some really nice hiking/recreational trails. The footing throughout the course was nicely packed red dirt. I maybe noticed two roots throughout the entire loop. Since we stayed within the canyon, there were no major climbs. My Garmin Forerunner 305 had ~5000ft of both ascent and decent for the 50 mile course.

I positioned myself towards the back as I did not want to push any sort of effort for the first two 12.5 mile loops. I blew myself up a bit six weeks ago by pushing too hard and bonking during the first 25 miles at Superior trails and had little interest in experiencing that again. I was going to force myself to start off slow and eat like a horse (or similar mammal).

As the race started with stars and headlamps twinkling all around, I slid into the pace-line as we moved onto a narrow single-track portion of the course. Being in the back of the pack at the start forced me into a speed walk-a-jog session but I was OK with that.

I moved along gradually along the rolling terrain as the sun slowly began to light the sky and I could see the beauty I was running in. I was not disappointed. The canyon walls completely surrounded us with their rusty red, tan, and even rainbow-like colors.

I kept my pace real easy and made no passes. I just sat in the group and my heart rate remained in the 130 bpm range. (Pedestrian pace for max HR ~195bpm) My plan was to take in 200-250 cals per hour that consisted of both HEED and Perpetuem combined together in a hand-held water bottle. My stomach was having no problems with the amount of calories and it was all feeling very easy.

The Trail Ahead

As I approached each aid station there were motivational messages posted along the trail. Nice touch!

After finishing lap one, I took a quick pit stop in the men’s room, grabbed some more of my pre-made Hammer Nutrition calorie baggies and camera. The camera was the second step of my run-slow strategy. I would take all of my pictures during this lap and ended up taking 70+ pictures. I was able to keep my HR in the 130-140 bpm range for this lap. This was exactly where I wanted to be.

Through lap two I observed some interesting rock formations which appeared to look very similar to some other well known mammals and American objects.

Side Profile Of Eagle Eating Food with Wings Spread above Its Body

Side profile of lizard with Its Head on Left Side of Rock or Camel with Head on Right Side

NFL Super bowl Trophy

With the race located in a desert-like climate, everything has to be tough to survive, this even includes the aid station volunteers. With all of the rainbows of sugary items at each aid station, passing bees got a whiff and told all of their friends. So starting on lap two each aid-station had bees surrounding everything; food, garbage cans, and fluids. It was a bit unnerving to refill my bottles but fortunately they seemed to leave people alone.

6 Mile Aid Station Before The Bees Arrived

Through the end of lap two, my energy levels remained high and I was feeling great. The temps began to slowly heat up during this time as there were many miles of exposed trail.

So Per-tee

At the start of lap three, I got rid of the camera and decided to race by feel a bit more. I still kept things pretty controlled but no longer had any picture pit-stops. My heart rate was elevating a bit more during this loop and I was seeing 135-150 bpm for much of it.

The final three miles of the loop were mostly flat so I mistakenly decided to push a bit during this easier stretch. By the time I started the final loop (4), my stomach was getting crampy and I was not absorbing my nutrition. Dang it! After the race I looked at my HR data and noticed I was averaging in the 160 BPM (with max near 170) for these miles. With the amount of calories I was taking in to keep my energy levels up, I was not able to properly digest at this effort.

The Flats

Arghh! My stomach hurts!

So I spent the first half of the final lap managing my stomach issues. I had to walk quite a bit and even sat on a bench and talked to a hiker for a couple minutes as I tried to reset my stomach. He thought we were pretty nuts to be running since 7am. In some ways, he may be right but I think that is part of the lure.

After about six miles of nursing myself back to health by eliminating all calories and sipping a bit of water, I was able to get back into a steady trot. My knees were a bit tender at this point so I had to take the downhills very easy. I just focused on a controlled effort for the remaining miles.

Seeing that finish line was a great sight! Wendy and Griffin were waiting just across the banner. It was great to see them both and get off my feet. My finish time was 9:54:33 (11:53 min/mile pace). This was good enough for the 16/40 place overall for males and 19th overall. The overall male-female win was taken home by married professional triathlon couple Jamie Cleveland (7:23:48) and Andrea Fisher (8:25:30).

Full results can be seen here.

Celebrating Another Finish!

Griffin Playing With Cars And Dancin’ At The Finish

The RD and volunteers were amazing. I am grateful for all of their effort in providing a wonderful day for all of us runners. With race distances of 20k, 50k, and 50 mile, there is a distance for nearly everyone and scenery that will not disappoint.

I feel like I took another step in understanding this distance. My nutrition and hydration were solid throughout the race until I messed up my pacing on lap three. The bonk-monster never showed up which was kind of nice. Now I need to experiment with managing my effort (HR) and calorie intake during the back half of the race. The journey continues!

Here is the complete set of pictures from the day.

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

4 Responses to “2008 Palo Duro 50 Mile Race Report”

  1. on 03 Nov 2008 at 10:09 am David P

    Congrats!!! Looks like a cool place to run….maybe I’ll try the 20K next year.

  2. on 03 Nov 2008 at 1:45 pm David Hanenburg

    Thanks Dave.

    It is a great course for road runners because there are virtually no roots or major rocks to climb.

    The scenery, well…you saw the pictures.

  3. on 06 May 2010 at 12:36 pm Priscilla

    wow,,, so beautiful… im running the 50 miles this year 2010… i am so pumped.. i have been training really hard && i just hope i have an awesome time!!! hope to ses you run it again!!!

  4. on 07 May 2010 at 8:29 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Priscilla – It is a great race and quite a unique location in Texas. Good luck with your journey!