by Lisa Butler
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
October 15, 2005
The Magic of the Canyon
It’s virtually impossible to not have a terrific time on an Ultra Road trip and when you add road tripping with TBone, hanging with Team CRUD and the NTTR, seeing Big Red Spicer, and getting to eat Primo’s cooking…. Well, it’s just over the top.
Theresa Bone and I left Colorado Springs at about 5 p.m. on Thursday night after my most disorganized packing spree ever. Of course, I had packed far too little but I had the essentials: running shoes, jog bra, shorts, flashlight, water bottle, tent, electric blanket, air mattress, etc. Well, except that I hadn’t packed the stopper for the air mattress (no telling where that ended up). Rats! We arrived at Casa de Red about midnight and after several doorbell rings and phone calls were let in by a sleepy Big Red Spicer.
Friday morning after breakfast, Theresa and I headed to the Canyon to claim our campsites. Then we headed out to mark three miles of the course along Juniper Cliffside from the Tasajillo aid station to Phil’s aid station. That done, I went into Canyon, TX with Tom Lowry to buy another air mattress with a stopper and to help at packet pickup.
Packet pickup is one of the most fun parts of helping out with the event. I got to see most of my NTTR and CRUD friends as they checked in. I met runners that I would see on the course the next day and would otherwise only have seen from the back as one of us passed the other. Packet pickup at this event is done at the pre-race feed. This year was a high tech event with overhead maps of the course and detailed instructions of how not to get lost on one of the most well marked courses I’ve ever run. There were lots of fun things going on, like recognition of anyone running the event on their birthday and of the one person who ran part of the course in his birthday suit last year.
Race morning was comfortably warm enough to not shiver in my running skirt as I waited for the start. That didn’t bode well for the afternoon for the 50 milers. The sky was crystal clear with stars twinkling to the sound of the bagpipe that would send us all off into the darkness. At 7 a.m. Meda Bourland and I were off with the rest of the pack down Paseo Del Rio heading 1.2 miles to the trail split between 50K and 50Mi. Somehow Big Red was already there awaiting the runners with directions in his thick drawl and willingly accepting the kisses that several of us gave him to bring us luck on the trail. I turned toward the lighthouse just as twilight was beginning knowing that within a handful of minutes I’d be hearing the encouragement of Dos Locos Senoritas. By then, I’d hooked up with Jay Norman, one of my favorite people and running mentor, who would torture me and drag me through the course faster than my untrained body really wanted to go. I guess I owe my half-decent finish to him since I’d have been much slower if I weren’t constantly trying to catch him.
Back through the start finish area, I traded my flashlight for a water bottle and got behind Jay for the first time. I picked up the pace to catch him and did at the next aid station. Two more kisses for Big Red Spicer which meant more good luck for me. A hug for Red’s daughters at the Phil Spicer Aid station which they man every year in honor of their brother. Red’s daughters are fun, friendly, and very good at keeping the runners going… not to mention lovely ladies who keep Red going. I think they need more credit than they get for all they do.
Obviously, I again spent too much time in the aid station frolicking with Red’s daughters and had to dash to catch Jay again. He was having fun playing jackrabbit and pulling me along the trail. We came upon Thomas Oskazaki just before the Tasajillo aid station and told him Jay was gunning for him. That lit a fire under Thomas and he was not to be seen again until the end of the race. Back along Juniper Cliffside we came into Phil’s aid station again. There I saw TBone just heading out for her second loop and she looked terrific. Some welcome clouds came over and lingered for most of the day, helping me, TBone, and the other runners with a little cooling. My dear friends Amy and Kurt were also in the aid station finishing the first half of the 20K which started an hour later. I let Jay run out of the aid station hoping to run with Kurt and Amy and also to not have Jay pushing me so much. But, alas, Amy was waiting for the little blue house to be empty and I was forced to go on without them and to try to catch Jay again. This time it took until I hit Dos Locos Senoritas, nearly 3 miles later, to catch him on the little out and back we had to do. I was also caught at that point (about halfway) by my friend Rick Hessek, a Team CRUD runner from Colorado who was in second place of the 50 Mile at the time. I told Rick that if he tried hard, he could probably lap me twice. I didn’t think I really meant it but later I got very scared at the thought since it was a real possibility.
Back through the start / finish flanked by state and country flags on the left and a row of Texas flags on the right. There were 4 countries and about 15 states represented this year. Once again, Jay got ahead of
me as I munched potato chips and I headed out to chase him. Unfortunately, before I managed to catch him, the wheels fell off and I ended up slowing down considerably before returning to Phil’s aid station. I managed to get through the miles by following the trail of e-caps left by Hansel and Gretel ahead of me, though the wickedness of the aid station volunteers was far from witchy and much more fun! Little did I know that Jay was less than ½ mile ahead and also struggling. I didn’t see him again until I came back into Dos Locos Senoritas and saw him returning from the out and back. By now, the wind had come back into my sails and I was picking up the pace. ..mostly out of abject fear that Rick would catch me and lap me a second time on his way to his win of the 50 mile. Team CRUD would never have let me live that down! Fear turned out to be a good motivator and I managed to get in 40 minutes before Rick finished.
Team CRUD managed to take 1st, 3rd, and 4th places in the 50 mile. We had 3 finishers in the 20K and one in the 50K. I am also proud to belong to the North Texas Trail Runners, or NTTR, who had numerous finishers in all the races, including Jay who beat me handily! My dear friend Theresa Bone finished her first 50 miler feeling (and looking) terrific with the help of Matt Crownover and his family.
Following the race, I spent the afternoon visiting with friends from all over the country and enjoying Boca Burgers made by the Palo Duro cooking crew. These guys are mostly mountain bikers who love the canyon and who enjoy treating all sorts of folks to the delights of the canyon and the delights of their cookers. Since I have had the pleasure to get to know these guys, I have been treated with extra TLC by them. Two Boca burgers were cooked as soon as I finished so that I’d have a hot meal waiting. They also grilled fresh and pickled jalapenos to enhance my burger. Later, Primo, chief cook of PD50, made a meal for the volunteers and I was allowed to enjoy his savory stir fry with pineapple, fried jalapenos (especially good with the pineapple on them) and sliced fresh pineapple wedges with a sweet rum sauce that would have best been served with a paintbrush.
The event was a treat all the way around. From the wonders of the canyon with it’s red soil, Spanish skirts, the lighthouse, hoodoos, Red Star Ridge, and numerous other things worth seeing… to the glorious weather… the race directors, Red, Bill, and Wynn and all their volunteers… to the friends, old and new, I got to see… the delicious munchies… to the peaceful camping… life is good at the Palo Duro Canyon 50. Join us next year: I know I won’t miss it!