Running through the desert at the Big Bend Ultra

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Here's the gorgeous finisher's medal from the Quicksilver 30K I ran Sunday at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Here's the gorgeous finisher's medal from the Quicksilver 30K I ran Sunday at Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Here’s the gorgeous finisher’s medal from the Quicksilver 30K I ran Sunday at Big Bend Ranch State Park.

The more I run off road, the better I like it – more interesting terrain, more laid-back races, and, in many ways, easier on the body.

I ran the Quicksilver 30K at Big Bend Ranch State Park this weekend. The race was part of the Big Bend Ultra that also included a 50-miler (yes, miles) and a 10K.

That's me, Julie Butler and Katie Ryan, all of Austin, running through the desert during the Quicksilver 30K. Piece of cake!

That’s me, Julie Butler and Katie Ryan, all of Austin, running through the desert during the Quicksilver 30K. Piece of cake!

It marked my fourth time to run the race, which moved this year from Big Bend National Park to Big Bend Ranch State Park a little farther west.Besides getting a new location, the race got longer, growing from a 25K to a 30K. It covered much more rugged terrain, too. Instead of mostly smooth gravel roads, this year’s course twisted along single-track bike trails. That meant an up-and-down course with lots of rocky ledges, clattery rocks, dry sandy creekbeds, incredible desert vistas – and one dead jackrabbit.

A big contingent of Austin runners made the trip for the race, and they represented well on the podium.

Congrats to Rory Tunningley of Austin, who won the men’s division of the Quicksilver 30K with a time of two hours, 12 minutes and 3 seconds. Another Austin runner, Gretch Sanders, won the women’s division of the 30K with a time of 3 hours and 19.5 seconds.

Jesse Rickert of Gunnison, Colorado, won the Buena Suerte 50 miler in 7 hours 55 minutes 57 seconds. Meghan Hicks of Utah won the women’s race in 9 hours, 46 minutes and 16 seconds. (Some racers were out on the grueling 50-mile course for nearly 15 hours.)

Stacey Shapiro of Austin won the masters division of the Rock Dog 10K. The 10K overall winners were Roarke Zimmer of Alpine (48:14.9) and Athena Milani of Alpine (54.19.9)

.I won’t soon forget the glint of the rising sun on the shimmery rocks of the Crystal Mountain loop, or the rollercoaster dipsy-do’s of the Dog Chollo loop near the finish. I stumbled a few times but never hit the dirt. My only injuries were scratches sustained while peeing behind an ocatillo.

My favorite parts? Watching the sun rise and running alongside two friends for the 19-mile duration of the race. It flew by! The aid stations were stocked with yummy stuff like boiled potatoes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzels, cookies and M&Ms. Pauline Hernandez made gorgeous clay finishers’ medals (see photo above).

And did I mention the movie star? At the finish line, we ate lunch with a friendly (and handsome) runner from New York who identified himself only as James. We found out later it was actor James Badge Dale, who has appeared in “24,” “The Departed,” “CSI: NY,” “Lord of the Flies,” “Iron Man 3,” “The Lone Ranger” and more.


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