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Palo Duro Trail Run – 2009 50km Race Report


(Photo by DP’s camera: TJ, Me, DP)

The 2009 Palo Duro trail run experience was special in a couple ways that didn’t even include the actual race.

  • 6.5 hour (x2) road trip with DP and TJ (Palo Duro trail run newbies)
  • Camping in the canyon which would be my first within the rugged yet peaceful surroundings.


After traveling 6.5 hours across the state of Texas that included tumble weeds, oil wells, small weathered towns, and the transition to an arid desert-like climate, we arrived at Palo Duro Canyon. The first glimpse of the canyon never fails to impress. Ah, it was great to be back for my second run on this beautifully rugged trail.

As we drove down a few switchbacks into the canyon I was soaking up the views and looking at the park map when nausea hit me like a mac truck. Great. So for the rest of the drive into the canyon I had my hand out the window and my eyes closed to try and find my happy place so I wouldn’t place my digested lunch in DP’s van. DP and TJ enjoyed a giggle.

We easily found our campsite and quickly setup our tents before heading back to the city of Canyon (about 15 minutes away) for packet pickup, pasta feed, and race briefing.


Home for the night


View from our campsite

Packet pickup was easy and painless.


DP - Relaxing before we eat.

The pasta feed was carbs-o-plenty.


TJ - The appetite of a lion. Roooaaaarrrr!

The race briefing by race director Bill Ross was informative and brief. A great combination. Bill mentioned the event had ~400 racers spread across the three distances and was at full capacity. He even had to turn away 50 or so entrants. The sport, it is a growin’.

That evening, as the sun disappeared in the horizon and the stars announced their presence, DP (the hobby astronomer of the group) brought with a laser pointer and binoculars to point out and view all kinds of cool stuff in the sky. We viewed various constellations, planets, galaxies, satellites, and other cool stuff while chatting a bit about life.


Look out, the gear is coming.


Is that a straw?

Time to sleep.

The night did provide one interesting moment as coyotes (or similar animal) started howling in operatic melody for about 30 seconds. Cool!


palo-duro-trail-run-bib09The race start had near perfect conditions; ~50F, clear skies, no wind. TJ and I were both doing the 50 km race and with the word “Go!” we were off at 7 am. DP and the 20 km runners would start 30 minutes later.

TJ and I both positioned ourselves near the front so that we wouldn’t get too bogged down when we hit the single track. Good idea for TJ probably not such a good idea for me. I had great pre-race plans to take the first 18.5 miles easy and have a strong final loop. Well I completed ignored any such notion once I started running and went into more of a moderate effort. Strong final loop? Forget about it.

After completing the mini 6 mile loop with TJ, I told him to go on without me as I wouldn’t be able to hold his pace without things getting very ugly eventually.

The sun was now up and some clouds were sheltering its rays which kept the temps extremely pleasant on the run. The canyon walls were alive with color as I traveled across the terrain that always seemed to be going up or down. Not that the terrain was extremely difficult, it was just always changing which forced you to keep your focus.

The final two 12.5 mile main loops were about maintaining as much moderate effort as I could. I managed a bit of stomach tightness that eventually went away and mentally I felt good the entire run. Between the second and third loop I couldn’t find another gear so my pace faded. There was no real drama, just consistent forward motion.

Palo Duro Trail Run 50 km Elevation Profile

Palo Duro Trail Run 50 km Elevation Profile

According to my Garmin Forerunner 305, I ran down the flag lined finish chute and crossed the finish for the Palo Duro trail run 50 km race in 5:29. I was grateful for another completed event and couldn’t wait to go eat a post-race burger. I got a whiff of them at the start of my final loop and could mentally taste it for the next 12-ish miles.

After reflecting on this race a bit, I do know I really enjoy this trail run and…I also have some serious training in front of me if I plan on finishing Bandera 100 km and Rocky Raccoon 100 early next year. Exciting and a bit scary.

TJ had a great easy effort run of 5:05. Impressive! Now he heads back to marathon training.

DP really enjoyed the course and had a great run (2:20-ish) that included photos and soaking up the surroundings. Pretty darn good for not being able to run for the last five weeks. His body felt great afterwards as well.

I had a great time with you boys.

Complete results: They have not been posted yet.update – 2009 Palo Duro trail run results

Also, check out the Palo Duro trail run video put together by DP capturing the experience.

The Swag


A special thanks to Bill and Wynn Ross for putting on a great event. I could notice that the event moved up in quality. The little things.

The aid-station volunteers were amazing, helpful, and supportive. The date bars were magnificent and provided that extra hop in my step when I needed it.

Palo Duro trail run; the people, the canyon, the race – definitely a Texas trail race I would highly recommend.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

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.

10 Responses to “Palo Duro Trail Run – 2009 50km Race Report”

  1. on 19 Oct 2009 at 3:13 pm Mike Krejci

    Good report and a great race. PD Canyon is such a special place — so much history in that canyon. Spending that much time in the canyon leaves a mark on you — you just feel a little different. Congrats, Dave! A race well run! It looks like you guys had a really good time! — Mike

  2. on 19 Oct 2009 at 7:03 pm David Hanenburg

    Thanks Mike – One never gets bored with that place. Special.

  3. on 20 Oct 2009 at 6:33 am Dave Elliott

    Great job…5 1/2 hours on that course is pretty good….I live vicariously through you fast guys. Hope someday we cross paths….probably when you blow by me on the trail 😉

  4. on 20 Oct 2009 at 9:32 am David Hanenburg

    Dave E. – Thanks Dave. Your report was hugely inspiring! The human spirit is something special.

    Fast, probably not, but I enjoy trying. 🙂

    See you out on the trails!

  5. on 20 Oct 2009 at 9:42 am Kim

    Great blog Dave with great pics! I love the canyon and it’s splendor as well. What a fun thing for you and your friends to do.

  6. on 20 Oct 2009 at 10:03 am David Hanenburg

    Thanks Kim! 🙂

  7. on 20 Oct 2009 at 3:56 pm Jeff

    Nice writeup. Good job on your run! I also drove ~6.5 hrs (from McKinney) and camped out overnight. I did the 50K and started in the back. Ended up walking the first 30 minutes behind everyone else and did the first 6 miles in 1:14! This was good for me as I ended up doing 5:14 and never had to walk much. I agree that the weather was perfect and this was a well organized event…it was my first 50K!

  8. on 20 Oct 2009 at 5:44 pm David Hanenburg

    Thanks Jeff. Great job on your first ultra run as well!

    I should have lined up with you, that may have helped in the long run. 🙂 Or not, who knows.

    It seems like we may be in the ballpark of each others fitness, so if you are ever interested in running with someone (me) on local trails, ping me through my contact page and we can chat about it.

  9. on 02 Nov 2009 at 8:19 pm Mike W in Austin

    Congrats! I hope to run this one next year. Looks too great to pass up!

  10. on 03 Nov 2009 at 9:03 am David Hanenburg

    Thanks Mike! You would love Palo Duro. It is a unique place in Texas.