My Report from the 2022 HOKA ONE ONE Bandera 100k Endurance Trail Run
Saturday, January 8th, 2022
The 2022 Bandera event kicked off on Saturday morning, January 8th, with a 100k race distance. There were also 50k and 25k races on Sunday, January 9th. The weather shaped up to be wet and humid as I unofficially started my two laps (50k each) around a grueling course through the Hill Country State Natural Area in Bandera, Texas.
The race brags of rugged terrain where “everything cuts, stings, or bites,” all organized by a group that doesn’t accept “whiners, wimps, or wusses.” Between the many short and steep climbs, rocky terrain, muddy conditions, and cutting Sotol, I can attest to all of the above being true of the Bandera event!
This year’s 100k distance also served as 2022 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run Golden Ticket Race and a 2023 WSER lottery qualifier.
For many years, the Bandera 100k has been on my bucket list of races because of its notoriety as a technically challenging course. Many runners tend to steer away from races as rocky as this, but it honestly was my favorite part of the event. I enjoyed the variety in terrain and scenery within the large 50k loops that Teja Trails has created for this event.
Running through the sotol plants was not enjoyable at all. I wore calf sleeves to minimize the exposed parts of my legs, but my legs still ended up with a fair amount of cuts and stings from this nasty plant.
My only complaint from a race standpoint was the preparedness and organization of “hot” foods at the aid stations.
The race indicated hot foods were to be available at Equestrian (mile 9.38 and 40.52), Chapas (mile 21.19 and 52.33), and the Lodge (mile 31.14 and finish). However, this was not consistently available throughout the day.
I finished my first lap in just over 6 hours but encountered no hot food at the Lodge. After about 6 hours or 50k, I feel that aid stations should have hot foods available to runners as continuously as possible. In addition, those foods should be hot, not cold, which is what I experienced with the quesadillas at the Equestrian aid station the second time through (mile 40.52). A cold and soggy tortilla with melted cheese is not appealing.
Thankfully, my crew and I had a backup plan by bringing along our backpacking stove to provide me with some needed warm and filling calories when needed.
My attitude throughout the day was what went well for me. Over the past few years of ultrarunning, I have struggled with negative thoughts and self-doubt when I reach distances past 30 to 40-miles. This tendency for self-doubt is heightened as the sun sets and the darkness of night approaches during an ultramarathon. I avoided these tendencies by being realistic and flexible with my expectations before and during the race.
In addition, I set mini-goals for myself throughout the day. I kept my thoughts focused on achieving these smaller goals instead of focusing on the bigger picture of finishing in a specific time or finishing at all.
As a result of remaining positive, my crew and I communicated better together, found quicker solutions to my struggles, and overall had a more enjoyable experience on the day.
Spend as much time on technical terrain as you can! I had not stepped foot on a trail since running the NUT 50k in late August. My focus had primarily been on getting faster and building strength for shorter-distance races. Combined with a busy work and family schedule, I did not take the time to travel to any trails that would have better prepared me for Bandera 100k.
Two things would have helped me with completing Bandera 100k. The first, as mentioned, would be to spend more time on rocky terrain. We have a trail system about 45 minutes from my house that is perfect training for this course.
Second, put in more appropriate training mileage for the 100k distance. My weekly mileage only topped out at about 50 miles in the last three months. By design, there was a lot more focus on tempo runs and progression runs as I wanted to get my speed back to where it was ten years ago. Throughout the year, I will continue with that approach and steadily bring my weekly training mileage back up to the appropriate amount to be better prepared for races like this 100k.
The Bandera 100k course consists of two identical 50k loops. As I completed the first loop, I realized several smaller, more digestible sections to the course.
The first section is the rocky up and down from the Lodge to Equestrian (9.38 miles in length). This section is essential to focus on conserving energy and taking care of your feet and legs. Do not overrun the downhills, exert too much on the uphills, and kick too many rocks.
The second section is the sotol-filled but less technical trail from Equestrian to Nachos (6.99 miles in length). This section of the course begins with flat and easy miles, and it is an excellent opportunity to gain back time with a faster running pace. Take care running through the sotol plants by finding ways around them and protecting your legs with shorts, calf sleeves, or running tights.
The third section is from Nachos to the YaYa aid station (10.63 miles in length). This is probably the most runnable section of the entire course. There are far fewer rocks to contend with, and the final few miles into YaYa are around the perimeter of a large meadow.
Finally, the closing was 4.14 miles from the YaYa aid station back to the Lodge. This section starts like the previous section but then turns into more steep and rocky terrain the closer you get to the Lodge. With about 2 miles left, you will hear music and cheers from the Lodge. At this point, you know the climbing will start again. By the time you hear the noise from the Lodge again, you will be within a mile of the finish and back to more manageable and runnable terrain.
The Hill Country State Nature Area in which the Bandera 100k takes place is a diverse landscape of rocky hills, grasslands, oak groves, and canyons. The landscape of the course is gorgeous and full of life.
There are so many factors that can make an ultramarathon course challenging; steep climbs and descents, rocks, or weather conditions. Bandera 100k has it all, so yes, this is a tough and challenging event for any level of runner.
Overall, I would say yes. Teja Trails does an excellent job organizing and putting on the Bandera 100k and other race distances. The course was well marked, communication was clear, and the volunteers were outstanding.
Being a Golden Ticket Race for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run makes the Bandera 100k very competitive. I took a peek at the 50k and 25k results. Both of these race distances seem fairly competitive every year as well.
The Bandera Trail Runs do tend to sell out. In addition, runners had to select a starting time with a limited number of slots for each time. So, if you are coming in from out of town, you probably want one of the earlier starting windows so you can be done in time to rest some before traveling back home.
Many runners take advantage of the option to camp at the race site. You can choose to camp by car, RV, or tent. There are few small hotels/motels in Bandera, but otherwise, most hotels will be an hour away, closer to San Antonio. So we stayed at a Hilton Hotel near SeaWorld San Antonio, which was a nice comfortable place for my family and me.
The race allows for crew and drop bags at every aid station. My crew had no issues meeting me several times throughout the day to provide nutrition, changes of clothes, and moral support.
The aid stations were all stocked with water and Tailwind Nutrition. Snack-type foods and fruits were in good supply at every aid station. As mentioned, I think a better plan could be put into place to provide hot/warm foods for participants, especially in the later miles/hours of the event.
From what I read and heard, the weather from this event can be pretty wild and can change rather quickly from abnormally warm to cold, windy, humid, and wet. It is best to prepare for it all.
This year, we had some light rain and fog early in the day that made for some muddy conditions. However, the ground was so dry that the course dried out and became more manageable as the day progressed. Temperatures only reached the high-50s, but the humidity was high. This left me feeling damp all day long.
I went with my Orange Mud Hydraquiver VP1 hydration pack for this event. The longest stretch between aid stations is 7-miles, so this was the perfect hydration pack for the race and weather conditions. The Orange Mud VP1 pack holds one 21-ounce bottle and has plenty of room for nutrition and other supplies to get me from aid station to aid station.
My crew met me every 10-15 miles to restock my nutrition needs (Huma Gels, GU Stroopwafels, Coca-Cola, Spring Energy Gels, etc.). This frequency of crew support kept my pack light and made for quick times in and out of aid stations.
There are many opportunities for spectators to see their runners at the start/finish, aid stations, and throughout the course. The race organizers did a great job with signage in the park to help you know where to go to get to different course points.
The Bandera Trail Runs also marked a 1-mile family/kids trail run that could be completed at any time during the weekend for fun.
At the Lodge (start/finish area), a few vendors, music, and a food truck were available for everyone.
The buckle for finishing is a beautiful and well-earned reward for crossing the finish line. Finishers were also given a Craft brand long sleeve technical shirt.
The Bandera 100k Trail Run has been on my bucket list for a long time because of its status as a Golden Ticket Race, WSER qualifier, and notoriety as a challenging but fun event. I would give this event 4.5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it for anyone that wants to kick rocks, be cut by plants, and live to tell about it!
Above Photos by Jesse Ellis and Sylvanus Edi, Let’s Wander Photography.