A multitude of runners on a day with a multitude of weather changes make for an epic event guaranteed to leave some lasting memories. At 7:30am 882 trail runners fade into the damp & misty morning. With the ground dripping wet and saturated with moisture, the gooey mud quickly becomes the main issue.
With a stellar field of runners in for the USA 100km Trail Championships as well as the Montrail Ultra Cup points and Western States slots, we expect some fast times. But that was before the mud! Sage Canaday completes the first 50km loop under 4 hours, with Dave Mackey back another 9 minutes. A couple of local favorites, Paul Terranova & Erik Stanley, soon after, followed by Karl Meltzer. The ladies have a good battle going as well. Michele Yates, followed by locals Melanie Fryar & Liza Howard, are all under 5 hours. The 100km format is two 50km loops. It's rare for anyone to ever run a negative split, and today is no different, but Sage still surprises us by pushing himself fast over the last set of rugged hills to reset the course record at 8:13:49. Dave Mackey has always run well here, and does so again today despite the nasty conditions to take 2nd overall and first master in 8:53:27. Paul Terranova was high flying towards the end with his heart set on a Western States slot to the point that he almost runs down Mackey for a 3rd place time of 8:55:41. Rounding out the top five is Karl Meltzer in 9:01:27 and Erik Stanley in 9:21:50.
Michele Yates holds true from start til done, looking strong right into the finish with a win in 10:08:48. Melanie Fryar is never far back but can never quite close the gap for 2nd in 10:17:30. Sabrina Little passes Liza Howard mid loop and finishes 3rd in 11:00:03, while Liza takes masters honors and 4th overall in 11:07:56. All of these runners and a few more finish before the sun goes down around 6pm, but the race is far from done. The all encompassing mist cloud finally lifts just before sunset, such that we finally see the sun just before it slips over the horizon. About the same time, a cold front blows in and drops the temperature 20 degrees in less than an hour. Just like that, we have an entirely different race. 12 hours of mud dries up in an hour of 28mph gusts of damned cold air. As cold as it is, it makes everything so much easier to run and work through. 256 100km runners whittle themselves down by 72% so that 185 collect a buckle. Its always those that come in during the middle of the night and early morning that are the most emotional. I can never tell who is gonna drop a tear until it happens, and when one cuts loose, the voice goes next, and the darkness doesn't hide a thing.
Last year's 100km winner, Timothy Olson tries on the 50km this year and runs away with it in 4:18:23. Bryan Morton logs 4:23:19 for 2nd, and Rasmus Hoeg 3rd in 4:42:28. Jennifer Benna was set to run the 100km and switches to the 50km the morning of. Turns out to be a good choice, as she wins the women's 50km in 4:59:05. Denise Bourassa takes 2nd in 5:22:59, with Claudia Zulejkic 3rd in 5:41:05. 258 50km runners run the single 50km loop through the mud and the rocks and the slop with 246 finishing for 95%.
The 25km runners take the most punishment in the shortest distance by avoiding most of the flat sections. They trade mud for rocks, which on this day, is a great deal. Peter Mallett slides in to win in 2:03:56, while Joshua Torres takes 2nd in 2:06:54, and Alex Docta 3rd in 2:11:22. Emily van Dyken wins the women's 25km in 2:26:01, with Samantha Allen 2nd in 2:28:02, and Samantha Manrique 3rd in 2:33:52. The 25km horde has 368 runners with 357 taking home a medal for 96%.
Bandera began as a small local area run. We made it tough and nasty to suit the temperament and personality required to train for a mountain race right here in central Texas. Over the years, it has done just that. Besides that, it has also attracted quite a following. There is something about the race, the terrain, the park, and the people that has a strong pull. It grew slowly at first and then quickly after a few years. Its not just the runners who come from from all over the country. Many of the same people come back each year to work an aid station, mark the course, provide medical care, haul water, and stuff packets. Engineers and electricians, doctors and nurses, cops and lawyers, students and teachers, its all the same... our merry little band continues to have fun helping each other do what we all do just for the fun of it.