by Chris McWatters, Race Director and owner of Tejas Trails
Photos by Joe Prusaitis and Bach Le
You may have heard a race director mention at the end of a race how putting the event together was a “gift” to them. Sometimes we’re lying…but don’t worry, not to you. To ourselves, because we are about to drop dead and we don’t want to admit that after all those prep days and then standing at the finish line for 24 hours, our internal clock is all screwed up, and we really should be horizontal by now. However, for the J&J Race and Trail Running Reunion 2016, this was truly a joy and a gift for me to get to organize!
It was so much fun finding myself back at Camp Eagle where this race began many years ago as the “Camp Eagle Trail Runs.” This place sees about 15,000+ people annually and has grown pretty much every year of its existence. With miles and miles of pristine single track, lots of gnarly deer paths, exotic wildlife, constant elevation gain or loss, beautiful vistas, a spring-fed river chock full of cold clear water, dry creek-bed descents and stars like crazy, this place is really one of a kind for running in this part of the country. What makes it extra great is the ability to make a trail run into a family adventure! This place has one of the top 10 longest ziplines in the world, a huge free-fall super-swing, a Swiss-family-Robinson-style water park in the river, limestone bluffs for rock climbing and rappelling, sports courts, big bonfire pits, a beautiful dining hall, huge open air pavilion right on the edge of the cliff down to the river, and a staff that will do anything to serve guests well. There was even a tie-dye station for race shirts, kettle corn, and crazy good post-race s’mores! Just like being at camp!
But as much fun as all that was, it didn’t make the event what it is. What made this event so special for all of us was that we got to pay tribute to a couple who gave a whole lot of years of their blood, sweat, and tears to this thing we call trail running. This was the place I met Joe and Joyce Prusaitis all those years ago. I never could’ve imagined that the race I started, then gave to them, then got back when I took over their company a couple years back – Tejas Trails – would lead me to getting to be a part of such a wonderful extended family.
We decided to add a 100km distance this year, as if it wasn’t already complicated enough to manage with a 10km, 25km, 50km, 50mile, and 1 mile youth trail run. I also decided to start the 100km at night. So, those runners headed off at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night. The women’s race was won (as usual around here) by Julie Koepke in 16:32:19. Nancy Marks came in 2nd in 21:54:45, followed by Jean Cummings-Perez in 22:35:47. The men’s race had some crazy place-swapping the last half of the event. The eventual winner was Joe Schmal. After getting off course, losing his lead, he held his composure and came back to finish in 14:09:56. 2nd place went to Roger Maxwell at 14:43:52. Next in was Duane Limbaugh at 15:25:18.
The 50 miler had Colleen Jay running tough for a first place finish time of 12:02:37, gapping 2nd place Nyleva Corley who came in at 13:55:14. 3rd woman was Tina Reckart at 14:13:27. On the men’s side, Hassan Mkhantar came in at 11:06:04 in 1st place. Frank Maldonado crossed at 11:58:02 for 2nd place, followed by Edward Sousa at 12:43:02.
The 50km saw women’s winner Maria Sylte in at 6:49:04, then Amy Wilson at 7:44:24, and Sheila Pinkson at 7:53:27. The men enjoyed some close running, with overall winner Ventura Gallegos at 5:35:05, followed by 2nd place Roberto Hernandez at 5:59:35, and 3rd male going to Matt Henslee at 7:05:10. A lot of great runners got tested hard, and are now claiming this as the toughest 100km in the state, even more so than Bandera.
This event really brought the Tejas Trails tagline to life more than ever – “more than just trail running…” Around here, our races have become about so much more. After a great “family style” awards ceremony, where Joyce laughingly made sure we knew the race initials stood for the “Joyce and Joe Race,” we headed out to some good drinks and s’mores around the campfire, along with a beautiful distant lightning storm that looked like the end of a great 4th of July fireworks show! I am truly thankful that this all turned out so perfectly to honor our long-time friends. I know it’s a long name, but this event held up to it in it’s entirety. This really was a great Race and Trail Running Reunion.