Blog : General

Ethos of the TPU Tribe

Ethos of the TPU Tribe

TPU2017 Finisher Rachael Kadell celebrating at Disney Land.

We’ve all got enough race shirts to supply Goodwill for a decade, so what makes this particular shirt from Trans-Pecos Ultra so special?

It’s not the shirt…it’s the “Tribe”.

Of course, the TPU Tribe exists with or without the shirt, but the shirt is a great reminder of our shared experience.

Once you’ve spent a week in Big Bend, living simple, and unplugged from the outside world, you become connected in many ways to the land and those across the campfire from you. But why?

For ten days, those of us who volunteer and race in TPU experience life with a shared purpose. We sleep side by side in tepee tents, we wake up together at 6am, eat, pack our bags and perform our assigned volunteer duties – or “follow the pink tape” as a racer. The highs and lows of each day are shared with those around us at checkpoints, campsites, and on long bumpy drives.


Leslie Townsend (mom) and Elizabeth Henderson (sister) to RD Chris Herrera (middle).


Those who participate and volunteer year after year at TPU become a tight-knit group who have seen each other’s flaws, forgiven them, and have continued to have faith in each other and TPU, knowing it’s something much larger than just themselves. In so many ways, the TPU Tribe represents family, beginning with the Race Director, Chris Herrera, whose family help him put on the first race, and who come back to volunteer each year.

And pictured in the feature/top image are April, event coordinator, and her husband, “utility player,” Jake McAnally, who’ve been involved since the beginning. These two open their home to so many – from Alpine Cowboys baseball players each summer, to RD Chris who lived with them upon first arrival in Alpine. And for those who don’t know, TPUHQ is actually the McAnally’s house; just go down to the basement and you’ll find blue water containers, tepee tents, and everything in between, like portable toilets (by the way, we don’t use those anymore since we’ve got awesome camp sites with actual toilets and even a pool!)


Alpine local sisters – Elise (racer) and Sarah (volunteer ) Sibley at Tres Papalotes campsite.


Sure enough, every year, we have families in the lineup – brothers, sisters, and several married couples. So It not only feels like family; in many cases, it is family.

And all this happens in one of the most remote and rarely visited locations in the country. Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park in Texas, and offers outdoor recreation for the truly adventurous. The interior roads of the park are not even passable without four-wheel drive.  It’s a great big rugged expanse, and when TPU comes in October, we have the place mostly to ourselves.  That isolation draws us all closer, racers and volunteers alike. As RD Chris Herrera observes…

“Being outdoors can be one of the most powerful environments for personal discovery”.

TPU2017 racers, best friends, Rachael Kadell & Shelli Sexton from California.


So who is the TPU Tribe?

We are people just like you… hikers, runners, and everything in between – 4×4 enthusiasts, medics, Ironman triathletes, academics, accountants, etc. The life experience among the TPU Tribe is widely varied, almost random, but it makes this event what it is.

Our tribe truly values Big Bend, a place like no other. We love camping under the bright stars, we love how campfires bring out the inner storyteller in us, we love sleeping overnight in Fresno canyon. We love the way the outdoors provides solace from everyday life and how a week in Big Bend gives us time for reflection, to recharge, and how we leave the place a bit more purposeful, more intentional about our lives.  It’s an experience we want to share with others, both within the Tribe and in our personal communities outside TPU.

TPU2017 finish with Clay Henry III (goat), Mayor of Lajitas, TX.


Simplicity, humility, and compassion….that’s what TPU and the Tribe represent. And, that’s why this is a shirt so much worth earning.


To join the Tribe, learn about Volunteer spots, see our Course Info & Rules to become a racer, or call the RD, Chris Herrera at 432.294.5284.SaveSave





TPU2017 Summary Report

TPU2017 Summary Report

TPU2017 Had It All!

Live GPS Tracking…

New Course Record Set…

Temps from the 90s to 30s…

More International Players…

Trans-Pecos Ultra has struck the tents for another year!  The third annual race, according to racers and volunteers alike, was the best ever, all the details smoothly dialed in. From live, daily updates on social media to the full 10-day schedule of events with regional tours and chef-produced gourmet meals, TPU2017 lived up to its name – The Ultimate Big Bend Adventure. Also this year, race director Chris Herrera, brought another first to the US self-supported stage race community…Live GPS tracking – see archive link!


Among the runners, Adam Harmon, of Boulder, Colorado, ran out front from Day 1 and ended up shattering the course record by 4-1/2 hours, a huge chunk out of the record set last year.  Adam had lately completed the Leadville 100, one of trail racing’s most challenging events.

The female champion, Sereena Trottier of Ottawa, Canada, also led from the beginning.  Sereena is a veteran of many Canadian ultra races, and directs a few races of her own as a principal of 3badgers Racing. 

TPU2017 international cast of characters included racers and volunteers from Great Britain, Canada, France, and Czech Republic, as well as the USA.

The terrain of Big Bend Ranch State Park, coined the “Other side of nowhere”, is extremely rugged and always challenging, but the temperatures this year added a few degrees of difficulty.  Several days had registered temps in the low 90s, but there was also a morning when racers woke up to temps in the low 30s.  The extreme changes in temperature can wreak havoc in muscle function.

The racers included many hikers who continued to persevere through blisters, joint pain, and sheer fatigue. TPU is unique it that it brings experienced ultra runners together with thru-hikers in one event. See the Results Page for accumulated timings.

This year were a cheerful bunch, full of enthusiasm for the rugged beauty of Big Bend.  There was a race-ending slip and fall on the first day for one runner, and a lot of foot-taping for blisters as the week drew on, but no major injuries.  Our fully-credentialed team of medics gave expert advice and care, staffing every checkpoint on the course, and sweeping behind the last runner  – something we learned was a unique offering among other ultra events and “much appreciated”, said Shelli, an experienced ultra runner from California.

The staff and volunteers of TPU were elated for the runners who enjoyed the race so much and accomplished their audacious goals in Big Bend Ranch State Park.  We look forward to showcasing the rugged beauty of Big Bend Ranch State Park to a whole new crew of runners, hikers, and volunteers in 2018. Join us next year for The Ultimate Big Bend Adventure!


CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE FINISHERS. And a special shout out to our TPU2017 partners: Trackleaders.comTrail Toes Anti-Friction Foot and Body ProductsCity of AlpineAlpine Chamber of CommerceAlpine AvalancheVisit Big BendCome and Take It BBQMuseum of the Big BendMcDonald ObservatoryThe Holland HotelQuarter Circle 7 Hotel – AlpineBig Bend Brewing CompanyBig Bend Ranch State Park-Texas Parks and WildlifeTexas Parks and WildlifeUNM Wilderness, Austere, and International Emergency Medicine FellowshipPrintcoSaddle Club AlpineAlpine Auto Rental & all the volunteers, medics, and family who supported us.


TPU2018 Race Registration Opens Dec 15th!