Runner: Coach Frank Fisher
Race Date: 01/21/2023
Location: El Paso, TX
Results: 6th place 9:19
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/8430523651/overview
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
I loved the technical challenging nature of the course. The scenery is awesome, and I enjoyed the lowkey relaxed vibe. This was one of my more enjoyable and memorable race experiences yet.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Honestly, no complaints on this one.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
There’s a few things about that race that are kind of weird. It starts when the rubber chicken goes off, though we had to have a little bit of an extra “leave already” from the RD as most were confused by the chicken. It feels super remote even though the mountain chain the course is on runs through the middle of the city of El Paso. There was an escaped fugitive running around part of the race course that the cops had to track down (helicopters and all) in the middle of the 50 mile racers. No podium awards, and the results aren’t “exact,” which might bug some people. The 55k is much, much closer to 60k than 55k.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
Well, maybe not a highlight, but I face planted and dislocated a finger around mile 21. Despite that, I had an awesome day! This is hands down the most technical ultra I’ve run, which was really enjoyable for me. I knew it was going to be a long day so I approached it more like a 50 miler, with a focus on being efficient over speed. That strategy paid off well, and I felt great the majority of the race minus the period post crash and the last mile or so of the big climb (elevation/long climb combo were tough!). I really enjoyed being able to race in my hometown and the mountains I grew up on, such a beautiful and underrated part of the country.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
This is a HARD course! The vast majority of it is rocky and technical with some tough climbs and tricky descents. There are sections that might make you pucker up if you’re scared of heights, lots of washouts and a few spots where some scrambling is required. Although I thought the course was well marked you do have to pay attention, and it helps to have the map handy. This is not a course for beginners. If I were the RD, I would probably have some pre-recs to race the 55k and the 50 miler. I also highly suggest reading the race manual and attending the online pre-race meeting.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
You really have to stay on your toes and pay attention on this course. I knew that going in, and I still crashed. I also saw a guy face plant into a prickly pear, and one other dude broke his finger too, so be careful. There are some sections in the first half of the race that you can take advantage of and open it up some.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
This course starts with a hard climb in the first 1.5 miles. The next 13-14 miles are the fastest section of the course. A lot of the climbs/descents don’t look terrible on the elevation profile, but the rocky nature just slows you down. There’s only 3 aid stations throughout the 37-ish miles, so you need to be sure you have all you need when you leave the aid stations. From mile 23 to 35 there’s only a water stop and it’s around mile 26. This is also the hardest part of the course with a 3000 ft climb up to just over 7000 feet. The middle section of the big descent is slow and technical, and the footing can get difficult. That turn is also easy to miss, but there are signs. The last 1.5 miles to the finish are no joke either.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
Yes, classic desert southwest. You can see for miles from the top of the mountain with views of Texas, Mexico and even snow capped mountains in New Mexico.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Excellent race organization. It was a smaller race numbers wise, but very well done with a full weekend of different race options. Volunteers were fantastic, and the RD, John, was awesome.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
It’s not a big field, but it seems to attract a well experienced crowd. No elite level runners, but plenty of good runners.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Easy to get into, right in the middle of town so race morning is a breeze. El Paso is a big city with great food and plenty to do. It’s also very cheap!
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
Standard stuff, but as mentioned, only 3 full aid stations on the course and there’s huge gap between 2 and 3.
Weather and typical race conditions
Sunny, cold and windy. It was 22* at the race start, warmed up to low 50’s. The sun makes if feel warmer than it is till the wind picks up later in the day. You definitely need to layer up for a long day. Once the sun starts to set it gets cold quick, so an extra jacket or something would be smart.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
One of the few courses I might recommend poles for. You definitely want some heavier lugs on your shoes that grip well on rock and loose dirt. Layer up and be ready for a 30* average temperature swing throughout the day.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
The start finish is in Tom Mays park which is really nice for friends and family. You can also see a lot of the finish there, but the rest of the course is hard to get to and they prefer not to have spectators.
How’s the Swag?
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
5 out of 5 stars!
Frank Fisher is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.