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El Paso Puzzler Endurance Weekend 2013 Results – The New Puzzler Endurance Weekend Punishes Runners and Cyclist Alike

It wasn’t too long ago that runners in the TALON area had only a few choices throughout the year for endurance events. Now there seems to be a new event every few weeks. The newest event took place last weekend in Texas. Adding to an already epic mountain bike race, some crazy folks down in El Paso created the El Paso Puzzler Endurance Weekend. It featured a full and half trail marathon on Saturday, January 19th and 50, 35, and 13 mile mountain bike races the following day.

For those crazy enough to do the marathon and 50 mile mountain bike races, they were awarded a special “Completely Insane” award, and those completing the half marathon and 35 mile bike race were “Half Mad.”

The marathon course was a single 26 mile loop of mostly single track and featured a scant two aid stations. Overheard trail descriptions included “Insanely technical,” “the Zane Grey of marathons,” and “the hardest marathon I’ve ever done.”

“I think there might be some rocks” – typical Franklin Mountain Trail (sergeantmajormom.com)

If the rocks weren’t enough, there was about 3000 feet of climbing thrown in for good measure. The reward for all that climbing is some spectacularly beautiful scenery, great weather, and interesting Chihuahuan Desert plants.

View from Mundy’s Gap (Jim Breyfogle)

The tough course left quite a bit of carnage on the trail. The average marathon finishing time was 5:52! The first place runner, 17 year old Keegan Rankin won in 4:19:38. In typical fashion, Jean Herbert, from Albuquerque, New Mexico took the victory in the women’s race in 4:44:15.

Top Females

  1. Jean Herbert 4:44:15
  2. Maia Paris 5:27:41
  3. Maria Ladd 5:29:42

Top Males

  1. Keegan Rankin 4:19:38
  2. Jim Weddell 4:23:35
  3. Matt Turgeon 4:30:12
Complete marathon results.
Complete half marathon results.

The next day, 80 tough mountain bikers, including eight people who finished the marathon the day before, took on the epically technical 50 mile mountain bike race. Billed as the toughest race in Texas, it is regarded as one of the most technical mountain bike races in the country. The bike course included the entire marathon course plus two other different loops. In the end, six hardy souls finished both the full marathon and the 50 mile bike race for the illustrious “Completely Insane” award, while I and one other rider opted to keep our sanity and DNF at mile 35.

Completely Insane Finishers

  • Jennifer Wilson
  • William Martinez
  • Matt Turgeon
  • Joseph Fortin
  • Jeffrey Kaminski
  • Brian Keen

I spoke with Brian Keen about finishing both events (To make it more impressive, he did the bike race on a single speed):

Brian (DP50.ORG)

JB: What were your impressions of the course?

BK: Rocks. Every time I run or ride out here I am stunned by how rocky and loose the footing is. The only really friendly parts of the course are the newer trails built by Robert Newman. Much of the better single track is his handiwork, all volunteer planning and labor, incredible. Other than those trails, the loose rock on the jeep roads is painful. The big climb up Mundy’s Gap was a bear both days, and the descent was fun and scary both running and riding. The whole trail system is great, with views the whole time, engaging technical sections, and viciously clawed flora to keep you attentive. You can’t zone out. The 50 mile mountain bike course saves the really technical rock garden trails until the last 15 miles, which is really brutal.

JB: Which race did you find harder – the bike or the run?

BK: I am terrible on a mountain bike. My lack of skills combined with the hard tail, single-speed bike meant hiking anything with a long, steep climb or any technical move that I couldn’t just roll with enough momentum. The mountain bike race was harder both because it was second and because I am really not any good at all mountain biking.

JB: Do you always ride a single speed or was there a specific reason you decided to do it at this race?

BK: I always ride single speed because it’s the only mountain bike I own. I bought a single speed so that I would always look at mountain biking as fun and non-competitive. And, for most of the trails around here, the single speed is totally adequate when matched with my lack of commitment. I really had not anticipated signing up for a 50 mile mountain bike race when I bought it. However, I have seen that single speed is definitely not a limitation. There are some really fast, skilled guys on single speeds. I am in awe of those dudes.

JB: Being from El Paso, did you do a lot of training on the course?

BK: I have run the full marathon course probably eight or ten times in the last year and a half, usually with a friend or two and a pit-stop set up halfway around. I’m sure I did not run it in the summer. I run the nine mile out-and-back to the mountain top almost every weekend. I actually used that marathon course to train for the excellent Deadman Peaks race in Cuba, New Mexico. I rode the mountain bike around the marathon loop of the course once, a week before the race. The other shorter sections of trail I had only ridden a few times each in the last couple of years. I definitely did not train hard enough for the mountain bike race.

JB: Did you have a strategy on how to finish both events?

BK: My only strategy was survival. I wanted to relax enough on the run so that I was not cashed on the mountain bike race the next day. Unfortunately, once you see someone ahead of you on a run, it’s hard to resist the temptation to chase them a little bit. I did well enough keeping that urge in check. My normal “race” strategy isn’t to race at all, but just to finish. So that served me well. On the mountain bike race, I just wanted to make the time cut-off at 35 miles. I knew I could survive the last 15 miles of ridiculously technical riding if I could just beat the cut-off.

Congratulations Brian and all the other finishers. For a first time event, the El Paso Puzzler Endurance Weekend was big success, and it makes a wonderful addition to the growing TALON event calendar.

– Jim Breyfogle


Check out the TALON Race Guide

There are 150+ regional trail/ultra races in the TALON Race Guide. Be sure to check it out if you are looking for the most complete list of events in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. New events are always being added.

About the author

Jim Breyfogle Jim took up running during college in 2002 after a wild and unhealthy youth. He ran his first ultra in 2004, and since then has completed over 80 ultras, including 17 different 100 milers, plus many shorter races, triathlons, mountain bike races, and adventure races. For more information on Jim, check out the About page where you can see some of his run related projects.

3 Responses to “El Paso Puzzler Endurance Weekend 2013 Results – The New Puzzler Endurance Weekend Punishes Runners and Cyclist Alike”

  1. on 29 Jan 2013 at 2:16 pm Kevin

    You put together a nice read Jim. I like the Q&A section to get a second point of view of the course and the conditions. One-two on the mens side was a 17y.o. and a 50y.o. – not a common occurrence I’d say. Turge had a lot of good things to say about this race, and he like Brian, rode singlespeed. Something’s maybe not quite right about these enduro-guys.

  2. on 08 Oct 2013 at 6:15 am John Kulpa

    is the run happening in 2014?

    can’t find anything online

  3. on 08 Oct 2013 at 8:50 am David Hanenburg

    Hey John – I noticed on the events Facebook page that the trail run has been cancelled for 2014. Only a mountain bike race in January.