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For Bandera 100K racers, 'Rugged and Brutal Beauty' await

Brom Hoban

Saturday, deep in the Hill Country northwest of San Antonio, several hundred skilled runners will compete in one of the more extreme variations of the sport, the Bandera 100K Endurance Trail Run.

That's 62.14 miles. Off-road. In the Hill Country State Natural Area southwest of Bandera.

Description of the race course: A Trail Run of Rugged and Brutal Beauty where Everything Cuts, Stings, or Bites.

This is an event that costs more than $100 to enter and sets a time limit on finishing: 24 hours. And it is expected to attract some of the most talented ultra-runners in the nation.

"In 2003, we had 179 runners start. We have been growing at 15 to 20 percent a year and expect to top out at over 700 this year," race director Joe Prusaitis said last week.

Geoff Roes of Nederland, Colo., and Meghan Arbogast of Corvallis, Ore., have entered. They are considered the two top ultra-runners in the country.

Now in its ninth year, the Bandera event also includes a 50K and 25K race over a hilly and rocky course that is rugged and challenging enough to be chosen as the 2011 and 2012 USA Track and Field 100K Trail National Championship event.

As Prusaitis explains, USA Track and Field has a division under long-distance events called Mountain/Ultra/Trail (MUT). At the USA Track and Field national convention each year, different race organizations bid for the MUT national championship titles and race director Prusaitis captured two: Bandera, and the Nueces Endurance Trail Run, which will serve as the 50-Mile Trail National Championship on March 5 at Camp Eagle near Rocksprings, Texas.

The honor of a national championship race helped bring in elite competitors. In addition to Roes, top entrants in the Bandera men's field include Jason Bryant of Elkin, N.C.; Chikara Omine of San Francisco; Dave Mackey of Boulder, Colo.; Mark Godale of Aurora, Ohio; and Steven Moore from Austin.

"Geoff Roes is the defending Western States 100 Mile champ, and I'd say he's the guy to beat," says Moore. "He's won just about every ultra he's entered."

Moore, who has run Bandera and the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado, says he hopes he can stay close to Roes.

"I'd like to think I can compete with the top guys. In a 100K race, if you can just battle through, sometimes that's all it takes. I hope to place in the top five," says Moore, a project manager in the chemistry department at the University of Texas.

"Bandera is known for a really rocky course, so you have to be especially careful on the descents," says Moore, who took second at the Nueces Endurance Trail Run 50 Mile race in 2010. "It will be a fun experiment having Bandera as the title race. We'll have folks from all over the country coming in. Plus, being this far south, we'll offer a warmer climate for people to race in, especially for folks coming in from northern states."

In the women's race, Arbogast should be challenged by Pam Smith of Salem, Ore.; Darcy Africa of Boulder, Colo.; Alison Bryant of Elkin, N.C.; and Liza Howard from San Antonio.

A 2:45 marathoner, Arbogast has shown amazing strength at ultra trail runs. Training up to 110 miles a week, she's ready to run at Bandera.

In 2010, she was second at Western States and won the White River 50 Mile Endurance Run in Crystal Mountain, Wash. — a 2010 USATF national championship race — as well as the Mad City 100K in Madison, Wis., the USATF national championship for the 100-kilometer road distance.

"I've heard that Bandera has some fairly technical sections," says Arbogast, a massage therapist. "But I approach every course with respect.

"Running ultras ends up being about managing your energy. Different courses call for different strategies. In an ultra, you worry about yourself more than the competition. But if someone comes up on me, and it's towards the end, I get motivated to make moves."

Winners of the ultra do share some prize money: $500 for first place, $350 for second and $150 for third.

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Upcoming races

Saturday: Bandera Endurance Trail Run 100K, 50K, 25K, 7:30 a.m. at the Hill Country State Natural Area, Bandera. See www.tejastrails.com .

Jan. 15: River Road 13.1 Mile Run, 8 a.m. at the River Road Ice House, New Braunfels. See www.seidelproductions.com .