Driving down I-40 across high plains of the Texas Panhandle one might miss a true gem. 25 miles south of Amarillo lies Palo Duro Canyon. It is 20 miles wide, 120 miles long, and 800 feet deep. It has multiple layers of gypsum and sandstone appearing red and gold with patches of mesquite trees and small streams that act as the headwaters to the Red River.
The course is 99% on the floor of the canyon rolling up and down on two loops. There is a 6 mile loop and then a 12.5 mile that is repeated twice (1x for the 25k race and 4x for the 50 mile). Along the course, there are four well supported aid stations at the beginning/return, mile 3/10, mile 6, and mile 8.5.
The race began in the dark at 7:00am with a shared start with the 50k and 50m runners. I started behind the main group to avoid going out too fast which appeared to be a smart move when I noticed a group of runners turned left off the main trail. Running at a normal pace with my eyes open, I was able to lead a group of runners on the correct trail following the flags and chalk arrows along the Juniper Trail.
By the time I was at the 3 mile aid station there was enough sunlight to turnoff the headlamp and track along the Rojo and Sunflower trails back to the starting area where I was able to drop off my headlamp and sleeves.
The second lap followed the first 3 miles of the Juniper trail before connecting with the Lighthouse trail which was a gradual rolling uphill. The biggest challenge is the large crowd of 25k runners. Most were polite and would move out of the way when I got behind them and yelled runner left. Those who ran with their headphones that were turned up too high, they would never move, thus forcing faster runners to go off the trail to pass.
After a few miles, the race joined the Cottonwood Flats trails which is a flat mostly exposed section with few dry creek sections. Near the back of the trail was a well equipped aid-station where I refilled my bottles.
Soon the race joined the Givens, Spicer & Lowry Running trail which was the most scenic because it would run along some ledges and next to some cliffs. It provided many up and down sections and by this point I had finally passed most of the slow 25k runners. At this point in the race I was set for my finishing position for the race. I was never passed again by any other 50k runners. At mile 15, I came off steep decline and ran past the aid-station for flat run on the Del Rio trail before I rejoined the back half of the 1st loop to get back to the starting area.
At the starting area, I gave Fred my running vest and camera to lighten my load for the 3rd and final loop. The difference on this loop was the lack of runners, which in some ways is good if they are going slow yet I did not have people to challenge myself against.
My goal for this last loop was to remain consistent with my pace and run every inch. I made it a point to take a SportsLeg salt/electrolyte pill every 30 minutes and drink every 5 minutes. This was designed to avoid cramps as the temperatures began to rise.
As I made my way around the course, I was able to pass a few slow 50 milers and at mile 27, I was passed by the lead 50 miler. For the most part it was my own race.
In the end, I ran the entire course and finished 7th overall and 1st place male master division. The remainder of the day was focused on enjoying some craft beers as we waited for Kelly to finish. As for Kelly she finished 3rd place female master.
In conclusion, this is a great Texas race that is convent for runners from New Mexico, Colorado, and certainly Texas.