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Bandera 100k Race Report

Bandera 100k Ultramarathon Quick Facts

Bandera 100k is an ultramarathon that took place on 1/8/22 in Texas .

  • 100 kilometers (62 miles)
  • ~6,500 ft of elevation gain
  • Double-loop, 50k course
  • Located at Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera, TX. One hour from San Antonio and 2 hours from Austin.
  • Rather technical trails with loose rocks and punchy climbs, but a very fast race
  • Golden Ticket Race: Top two auto qualify for Western States 100 mile race

Access and download my route and aid station GPX data via Gaia GPS. You can download this to your GPS watch.

Download Gaia GPS or use web browser > Click on this link to a ‘Bandera 100k’ folder > You can now view or download* tracks and waypoints.

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Here were my A, B, C goals:

  1. Top 2 for a Western States Golden Ticket. This was my second attempt at a Golden Ticket race this season, previously coming in 4th at Javelina 100. I’m aiming for top two.
  2. 3:55 50km split. I wanted to take this race a little more aggressively to put myself in contention for a Golden Ticket, regardless of the result.
  3. 8:10 finish. This is based on my current fitness and after reviewing previous efforts of other runners.


I was crewed by Kenny, Matthew, Sam and Chase, all old friends from high school or college who have never crewed before. This is one of the only races that Katie hasn’t crewed at, so I definitely missed having her there!

With these folks behind you, what could possibly go wrong?


Originally, Bandera was not a race I was looking at.

After a few injuries this summer, a subpar finish at Javelina on a short training block, I knew I had something left to give. I took 10 days off in early November and then had a really high-quality 7 weeks of training. In this time, I also started working with Coach Conor Holt. He is Camille Herron’s husband and coach. She has been a big inspiration of mine.

Conor allows me the flexibility of writing my own training while helping me analyze workouts and hard efforts. Conor has been an amazing thought partner and has really helped me achieve much higher quality workouts than I was previously hitting. I didn’t have a lot of time for more specific hill work or longer long runs, but I felt very strong.

Taken about 30 minutes before race start. I like the puffy jacket + race vest combo.

Gear and Nutrition

My goal was to eat 250 calories per hour, consisting primarily of Maurten 320 drink mixes. I also had Maurten 160 and Maurten 100 gels, Nuun hydration mix, coke and pickle juice.

Probably due to cooler conditions, I sustained 300 calories/hour for the entire race – something I historically haven’t been able to do. The Maurten went down really well although sometimes I felt some nausea. My only issue was eating a handful of Pringle’s. I should’ve had 3-4 but ate 8. After finishing, I tried to clear my nose. Instead, I send chewed pringles up my nose, causing my eyes to water and inducing a gag reflex. I had a little spit-up. This was at the 15-mile mark, which was not a confidence booster

I had pickle juice for electrolytes at 20 miles, and Coca-Cola and Maurten with caffeine starting about at the 30-mile mark.

The race morning was misty and ominous.

Bandera 100k Race Report (results at bottom)

Cool mist accumulates on my puffy jacket. I’m 30 minutes out from the race start on a foggy, pre-dawn morning in a park outside of Bandera, TX. Kenny, Matthew, Lauren and I are anxiously waiting, counting down the minutes until the gun goes off.

Soon enough, the mist turns to rain. We huddle underneath a Hoka tent and make small talk to the shoe reps. We were stealing their benches and dry space, hoping our friendly attitudes would dissuade them from kicking us out. I feel the call of the wild at the right time and head off to the bathrooms. By the time I come back, runners have accumulated like raindrops at the starting line.

Bandera 100k has a ‘competitive’ start followed by a rolling start. Essentially, any runner who plans on competing for a Golden Ticket to Western States lines up at 6:30 AM. Subsequent waves of runners follow 30+ minutes after.

I swim through the crowds and get to the front. There are probably 75 runners in the competitive start. I get to the 3rd row of runners, confident that I won’t get stuck too far behind out of the gate. In weekly office hours with my Bean Sprout athletes, one individual mentioned how one ultramarathon requires a 50:50 female:male participation at the race start line. While that doesn’t truly address gender equality in ultramarathons, it is at least a good gesture. Sure enough, I can’t find a single female in the first two rows of runners. Where is the love for the ladies?!

I bump fists with Adam Merry right before the race start. He is another ultra running coach who helped talk through some of the ideas behind the Sub Elite Trail Running Scholarship. I was stoked to meet him in person.

The race director addresses the crowd, and at 6:30 they sound an air horn as runners sprint off the line.


Pre-race photo. Not a care in the world! Photo cred: Jared Ellis.


The start is a hot mess, runners are jockeying for position on tight double track for the first mile before things settle down. I’m happy to run my race and chill. Some runners fade in the first two miles and a few pass. I settle into a rhythm with 3-4 other runners during a long, rocky ascent. 

We run in silence through the aimless trail with only darkness in the sky – Winding, bounding, trotting. Our headlamps bob up and down, left and right trying to navigate an unfamiliar trail and Texas Junipers. Every 20 feet I find myself ducking or getting slapped in the face by a low-hanging branch. This trail is not friendly to tall stringbeans!

I sense the pace fading in my group and get close to the front. Apparently, the runner in front doesn’t have a headlamp. He lives in San Diego and assumed the sun would rise by 6:30 am. He is flying blind. He asks if I could run ahead to help him see the trail. Now that is hardcore. The next miles tick off quickly. I feel my body working and my breath labored, but I estimate I am in ~20th place.

Race your own race. Race your own race.

I bump into Jimmy Elam, the 2019 winner of Bear 100. We both talk strategy and help calm each other’s nerves that we are making the right move by running at our current pace. We estimate we will complete the first lap in 4:10, which would put us in a decently strategic spot for the back half. Then Jimmy and I start talking about our backgrounds. He lives in Salt Lake City and used to work as a backpacking guide in the Sierras. I also guide in the Sierras! We commence to nerd out about backpacking and mountain running, a great way to spend the time.

At 15 miles, I take a necessary bathroom stop. Turns out I really had to go. After a 2 minute break, I’m back on course and ready to rock. I catch back up to Jimmy and a small pack is forming. Turns out Ryan Miller is among us. Ryan was the 2021 winner of Bandera 100k and is the popular favorite to win again. Well, if the two guys I pegged as favorites are chilling out here in the back, I’m doing just fine.

Well, I’m doing just fine until I get a rock in my shoe. Seriously?

I try to kick my foot while runner to move the rock around. No success. The rock settles right at the end of my big toe. The same big toe that lost its toenail 4 days ago. This does not feel good. I try to stomach the pain for a while, but I have to stop. I let the pack go and do a full dump out of my Brooks Catamount, fumbling with the laces as I try to slap the shoe back on. Getting back to running, I try to calm my pace. I can’t see Ryan, Jimmy or the rest of the pack. The trail has turned very runnable, and so I have to back off from cranking faster than 7:15 miles. 

Man, this back half of the course really is working out for me!

The last 15 miles of the loop are way less technical than the back 15 miles. My lungs expand and compress, churning out mile after mile of runnable rollers. I move up to 12th place by mile 20. Only the second time seeing my crew, Lauren, Matthew and Kenny have it down. Within 10 seconds, I have swapped out my empty soft flask for 2 pre-filled flasks and a gel. Lauren hands me a handful of Pringles and I am off!

While the temps are cool, I can tell I’m sweating and need some salt. Munching down on the pringles, the taste starts to feel a little like cardboard. With nausea creeping up, I decide I’ve had enough. I clear my nose. Big mistake. Bits of chewed-up pringles shoot up my nose, inducing more nausea. My reflexes kick in, and I return the recently consumed pringles on the soft, Texas sweet grass. Sorry nature.

I catch back up to Ryan and Jimmy. Ryan seems to be really struggling. Maybe he doesn’t have it. I keep on cruising through to the halfway point. I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m running one hell of a race. Aside from some waning hamstrings, all systems are go. I meet back up with the crew for another quick transfer before heading out for the second 50k lap.

The trail was quite technical and rocky. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos that really convey that.

Lap Two

4:03. 5th place.

I shift my focuses to the next 10 miles. If I can survive in one piece, I will be able to move on the back half and make a play for a golden ticket. I pass 4th place a few miles later. He is struggling on the ups and flats, like he is moving in slow motion. My ego is quickly corrected. He catches back up to me on the technical descent off of the first big hill.

Clearly, I would be a stronger runner if I worked on my technical downhills. Oops!

The tricky part of the course is that the trail is very technical, despite the low elevation gain numbers. Matters are made worse by rain and muddy shoes, tracking a layer of grime on the already slippery rocks. 

At the next aid station, my friends Sam and Chase show up!! They were supposed to meet us at the halfway point, so I was glad that they made the trip out from Austin. The park has little to no service, so I was nervous we would miss them. At this point, we are a well-oiled machine. Kenny is my primary point of communication. Lauren mixes and prepares the Maurten. Matthew is a catch-all. Sam and Chase handle the Coca-Cola and pickle juice. Within seconds, I’m off.

The Yucca plants really were not very kind.

Next up, I bump into my friend Adam Merry. He is not running well at all. He is an awesome dude, and I hope that he is able to gut this one out. Hopefully, he hit a little bit of a rough patch but will rebound. I’m now on 3rd place.

With 15 miles to go, an aid station volunteer tells me that I’m 3-4 minutes behind 2nd place, and 6 minutes behind 1st. Damn!! This is tight. Could I go for the win? I’m behind Jonathan Rea and Tyler Fox. If either one of them falters, I’ll be here to take out the trash.

I’m starting to get frustrated by my pace. In the first half, I was intentionally slowing down to hit 7:15s. Now, I’m running 8s. That’s not going to be enough to catch them. My groin seizes up – it doesn’t slow me down, but what if it gets worse? I need some salt. The negative thoughts start creeping in.

C’mon Joe. 3 minutes? You’re going to let a 3-minute gap slip?

I start to push. My miles start creeping back into the 7:30s and I’m doing mental math every mile about what pace Tyler would have to be running to stay ahead of me. This is just like the end of a hard, brutal long run. One of those runs that goes on, and on, and on. I have to see this through. With 10 miles to go, the gap is down to 1:40. There is enough time.

7:18. 7:35. 7:41. 7:25. 7:23.

Can he keep this up? Can he keep this up?

I hit the last aid station and see my crew with about 4 miles to go. I drop my running vest, snag a soft flask and sprint off like Superman. He’s now 2 minutes ahead? My heart sinks. There is one big hill left in the race. If he is falling apart, that’ll crush him. Heck, it’ll probably crush me.

7:47. 7:59.

I can’t go any faster, but I’m not dying. I run off a nice ridgeline and can see the carnage in front of me. It’s not one hill, it is two hills. I was so fresh on lap one I didn’t notice the first one. Deeply fatigued, I find myself walking up both the first and second hill. 10:26. There’s no way I’m going to catch this guy with that kind of mile. I cruise into the finish, processing the emotions of 3rd place. 

Jon Rea won the race. What a stud!

Bandera 100k Finish

I resolve to cross the finish line with a smile. I just crushed that race. Why not celebrate like it? I don’t need a pity party. I am immediately swarmed by my crew who is patiently waiting at the finish. We huddle in and jump up and down. Group hugs are awesome.

Tyler Fox is waiting for me with a bloody nose. He finished 2:40 ahead of me. We give each other an embrace. I congratulate him on absolutely crushing the last 15 miles, and he thanks me for giving him a run for his money. We have a mutual friend, Scott Traer and his wife has thru-hiker the CDT! We hit it off right away.

The winner, Jonathan Rea is waiting nearby. Jonathan didn’t have a crew and still crushed both of us, finishing 5 minutes ahead of Tyler. What a tight race.

I finished the race with a full heart, stoked on a great effort. This is one of the best ultra efforts I’ve put together in a long time – in many ways I see it as a breakthrough. Stomach issues didn’t hinder me, I didn’t have any huge lulls, and I stayed mentally engaged from start to finish. While I didn’t get a golden ticket this time around, Charlie had to eat a bunch of chocolate bars, too. And who doesn’t love chocolate?

Get me horizontal, PRONTO!

The Good

Temps. The temperature was just lovely. Coming from Seattle, I haven’t done a run in over 50 degrees in a long time. I was glad temps were in the 50’s and not 70’s. The arm sleeves were a perfect

Crew. This was the first ultra for my entire crew. They crushed it!

Racing to win. Rarely, do you find an ultra where the podium is separated by 7 minutes. I grinded the entire second loop and stayed focused and competitive for each mile, which I often struggle to do.

The Bad

Stopped time. I had to take a long bathroom break at mile 15. I had to get a rock out of my shoe at mile 20. What if. What if. What if.

Downhill running. I could tell I was comparatively slowed on the technical descents. Need to spend more time on trails and less time on roads.

No Golden Ticket. I am 0/5 on Golden Tickets races… Need I say much more?

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Max A Kiel

    Great race report! Looking forward to the next one.

    1. Avatar photo
      Joe McConaughy

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Nate K

    Fully agree that you should be very happy with that result! No huge, complicated issues to address. Just minor tweaking for the next one. Thanks again for sharing! Inspirational!

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