I’ve spent most of the week fighting allergies or some kind of upper respiratory infection. In summary, I generally feel drained and I’m hacking up an alien fluid from the depths of my esophagus. Combining this with a thorough body-weight circuit, it certainly made my night at Walnut a semi-slog. Anthony planted the idea-seed in my head that I should be moving fast through tha Nut since my last 3 sessions were on hilly/technical terrain . I went out fatigued but otherwise dug deep for a consistent 11 mile run. What I thought as screaming fast was otherwise proved incorrect by Strava. Regardless, was a solid training bout on tired legs and tight right hip flexor.
Hmm Strava. I’m still a little suspicious of the app. For starters, the last Canyonlands trip recorded 2400 ft gain while the data from Anthony’s Suunto watch calculated 1800 ft of gain. Another example of inaccuracy is knowing I ran a familiar ll mile course last night. On the other hand, Strava recorded 8.9 miles total distance. These are huge gaps! What’s up Strava?
Feeling even stronger:
Went out to run Bull Creek to the trail head at St. Eds and back. While Strava tells me my avg pace/mile was 10:30 something, I felt amazing. I felt like I used to. Strong, mobile and confident, I traversed some rather challenging trails with less struggle compared to say, New Years Eve. The weather was in the low 50’s, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I was actually having a good time the entirety of the run. There was a general lightness to every step. I hadn’t run like this in over a year! A very solid 14 mile adventure.
Went out to the Canyonlands for a skirmish with my semi-regular training partner, Anthony. I showed him more of what we call the Rim trail which I had discovered on my solo outing. In addition, we found a short little tangent that would keep us from back tracking a mile or so. In the end, we created a nice, almost 16 mile out and back with limited time spent on the Jeep trails. That kept me happy! I initially felt sluggish but my energy came back with a vengeance until we pulled over several times for the Mountain biking kiddos near the end. But hey, I’m happy the kiddos are getting out there.Almost 2 K worth of gain depending on who’s Strava you go by. Although, I think I’ll trust Anthony’s over mine!
New Years Eve channeled my inner savage that left me feeling rough the next few days. With a hang over and a heart wrenching good-bye, the first day of 2016 was a complete wash. On the second day of 2016, I managed to coerce my depleted body to crank out meditation, swimming and a body weight session. It was hell, but would have felt more like hell if I did neither of these. At the New Year’s Eve Bull Creek/St Ed’s journey, I hastily accepted Anthony’s invitation to go to the Canyonlands in Lakeway that coming weekend. That being said, my mind and body subtly hinted relief on the hilly trails of West Central Texas.
Our car drive would take us a little further from our local running hang outs. We ventured toward lake territory via 620 on a late partly cloudy morning. As Anthony’s Subaru climbed the highway, I noted that it had been awhile since I had been out in this direction. It was easy to forget how beautiful this part of town was. We turned into a well-manicured neighborhood that promised a trail head while making a few comments about the excess of privileged clientele.We pulled into a parallel parking spot accompanied by a pool and a water treatment plant. I suited up, took a few last bites of a Quest bar, and was off chasing Anthony from the get go. This gentleman ran a 4:30 marathon the day before. Now this may not sound like something to brag about, but it was accomplished on a little known trail known as Goodwater. To this day, this trail remains one of the most technical trail ones on my list. This include the ones I’ve scouted in Arizona, Colorado, and California. It’s like doing tire drills for 20 miles and finding a rhythm will leave you exhausted. Anthony was killing it.
I immediately felt the body weight work out from the day before. It was the side lunges! Fatigued and sore, the insides of my legs made me drag ass. Anthony’s not a big fan of slowly ramping up into a run so I dug deep to keep him in my sites. Whenever I caught up to him, our conversations consisted of the following :
“Which way?”, he asked.
“That way?”, I replied.
This was an exploration run. No target. The terrain was VERY central Texas but not as unforgiving as Bull Creek. My inadequately shodded feet were managing. Barely. The trail side-winded down hill seemingly going in one direction. We eventually came to the base of a significantly sized hill garnished with power lines.
“This must be Mt. Lakeway”, I concluded.
Anthony attacked the hill with grace and I did my best to re-enact his approach. Some of the rocky terrain transitioned to a mulch of some sort and increased the difficulty of the climb. Our run quickly turned into a march and I noticed a set of switchbacks adjacent to our climb. We must have been taking the shorter but more challenging route. My theory was confirmed after greeting a couple of fellow trail runners descending it. “I want to take that trail down when we get to the top!”, I said.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you the grade of our climb, but our exhalations were a clear indicator. I noted to Anthony that this grade was very similar to a climb in the Mogollan 100 with the exception that Mogollan’s hill was a Mountain and at least 4 times longer. This hill would make exceptional Mountain Ultra training. Gasping for air, we reached the peak of Mount Lakeway, and I humbly requested a photo of my “accomplishment”. I climbed big hill today. This will go on Facebook. I am so Outdoorsy, World. Anthony obliged my wishes and we rode the switch backs down. I did some half-enthusiastic hoots and hollars as the descent reminded me of mountain running. I felt like I was descending a miniature Mt. Morrison or Pike’s Peak from my days in Colorado. You actually had time to enjoy the ride down in comparison to most of Central Texas’ very steep yet brief descents. What a breath of fresh air.
We arrived at the base of Mt. Lakeway and randomly chose a jeep road as our next avenue. The road lacked any character but circumnavigated the base of the “Mountain” until we were on the back side of it. There were two ways to go back up the hill if that was indeed our prerogative. We had another switch back path or we could go straight up. Anthony felt that we had not accumulated enough vertical so I followed him up the hard way. The back side of Mt. Lakeway’s climb was shorter and I wasn’t disappointed by this as my heart beat like a war drum. After a few necessary long breaths, we road the backside switchback down to where we started.
Anthony discovered another trail in the same trajectory. It took us into some shaded trails similar to the Mountain Bike/BMX trails you find in Walnut Creek, Cameron Park and Rocky Hill Ranch. Still muddy from the previous night’s rain, the trails provided a different challenge and a change of pace. We climbed another set of shorts witch backs to a summit accompanied by a roaring sound. “Was that water?”, I thought. We headed in the direction of the sound until we abruptly ran into an overhead view of Highway 71. Goddamn development…. After some aimless wondering that drew us closer towards the highway, we voted to turn around and find something more promising.
After re-treading the mud, we regrouped at the start of the jeep trail. Anthony took us off in a direction that had some gradual gain. I was starting to feel fatigued and it mentally doubled when Anthony stated we had only run 6 miles at this point. Trail running is deceiving like that. Stubbornly, I continued up with Anthony, hoping we’d find something worth the struggle. There’s something about fire roads that I find so uninteresting and life sucking. It’s very similar to my mental struggle with running on pavement. Alas, my prayers were answered by the discovery of a narrow path hanging on the side of a hill and veering to the left. While tired, I had a difficult time refusing the sight of new single track that seemed to wander….somewhere.
Once again, we were treated to Mountain-esque trail running. Gradual and well-carved, the trail snaked around the side of the hill. It ventured far off in the distance giving you promise to what lied ahead. Such a rarity in this state!
“How the hell did I not know about this place sooner?”, I shouted.
The route gave me a fresh surge of energy and I was having a damn good time. We continued to wind through the foothills while noting the development of a neighborhood down below.
“Better enjoy this while we still can!”, I commented.
Our path eventually led us to the peak of a hill accompanied by a fork in the road. We took a left, but the trail routed us right back to the fork. This appeared to to be the end of the line for this trail.
Anthony brought up a path he saw branching off the single track a mile back. Seemingly with out options, we headed back in the direction we came. We shortly arrived at the tangent and rode it down to the bottom. We agreed that it headed in the direction of a water tower that had been used as a landmark to keep our bearings straight. The energy surge was starting to deteriorate. It wasn’t exactly a hot day, but I had a feeling we weren’t as close to the car as my body wanted to be. “Should I eat my Questbar? I kind of want to save it”. These were the thoughts going through my head. It was definitely that point in the run where our frequencies aligned and we had seen enough. After a few short detours (thanks to the citizens), we eventually found our path way to the Subaru. Anthony fired his after burners and I emptied what was left in my tank. It was that point in the run where you think, “Hell yeah, just a few more steps to food and my ass on the ground”. I reconvened with Anthony at the car and we commenced the traditional Broseph High Five Ritual.
“Good run, man. That was fun”, Anthony said.
On the drive home we shared our excitement of a promising new trail with ample training opportunity. Pizza was next on our agenda.
Trail Running. It’s fun. It’s hard. It’s beautiful. It’s manic. It’s just like a relationship.
The end and ripe beginning of 2016 was about getting back into things that have been put aside for awhile. On New Years Eve, I agreed to meet up with recently christened local Hot Shot (by me at least), Anthony Jacobs for a jaunt through upper bull creek, lower bull creek, forest ridge, and St. Edwards and back. I met up with Anthony at an intersection located in one of Austin’s privileged neighbor hoods. Funny thing about Austin is that sometimes you only find obscure trail heads through word of mouth. Essentially, I felt like I was parking in a sketchy spot. Not because I felt my car would be broken into by privileged Austinites but perhaps they might have my paint-less roofed Civic towed away. While skeptical, I was assured my car would be fine. After a short bout of stretches designed to target the core, lower back and thoracic cavity, we began our descent.
On my feet were a pair of brand spankin’ new Salomon Sense Mantra’s. Within minutes descending steep and technical pathways, I knew they were not for me. I am a big fan of Salomon’s S-Lab Ultra’s. They’re light, they promote a fore front strike and they just barely get by on some of Central and West Texas’ most rocky, technical and unforgiving trails. That being said, they’re a trail shoe made for racing. Personally, I know if the Salomon R&D department were to base their design off our trails, they probably would add some protective weight to the shoe. Regardless, it works for me and I wish I purchased the monstrously priced shoe for my first (and so far only) 100 back in October, 2013. During this downhill moment, I mentally confirmed that I would have to invest $120 to run like I’m suppose to. In Anthony’s words, “When you find your shoe, you find your shoe”.
We warmed up fast taking switch backs to the bottom of Upper Bull Creek. I didn’t feel terrible, but I definitely was unable to keep up with the speed demon in front of me. He went as far as getting his phone out to catch a moment of me galloping past what I’ve dubbed the, “The Art Tree”.
I felt fatigued in about 2 miles of downhill gnarly trail. We arrived at a quick moving creek crossing, drenched the new kicks and pulled off for a quick breather. Stashed away in my hydration vest, was a pair of degraded S-Labs that I managed to save (or hoard, if you will). I slipped on the S-Labs and thoroughly hid the Sense Mantra’s off the trail to be retrieved on our return. Relief! I sort of felt light and nimble again. We crossed into Forest Ridge’s chain link entrance and began a steep ascent. I immediately noticed the consequences of running with shoes well past their expiration date. In a bad way, I felt every foot fall of the jagged limestone climb. This run would perhaps begin to feel longer than planned.
Anthony, would always be a minute or more ahead, but he was always kind of enough to pull over when we reached a fork in the road. At the first fork, he decided to take the shorter but steeper and gnarlier route up to a peak marked by a blue water tower. Once again, my body would remind me of my fitness level despite having two Forest Ridge Cruises on my belt. I met Anthony at the top swearing and requesting we take a short breather. He obliged me and asked if I wanted to further. I didn’t know I had a choice. It felt more challenging than preferred on the way up. The bottom of St. Ed’s as the turn around point would perhaps leave me on the couch all day until it was time to prepare for the New Year’s Eve party that evening. Regardless, my ego agreed to a beating as we headed in the direction of St. Edwards. I used to be an Ultra Runner after all.
We began a gradual descent into the remaining portion of Forest Ridge and while fatigued, I felt stronger AND hungry. Second winds are good. We crossed into the St. Eds section with Anthony having to make a human-mandated pit stop. I was relieved to find my partner pulling out a GU and I took this as an opportunity to eat my Pemican bar instead of waiting to get to the bottom of St. Eds’s. We chatted for a minute or two and exchanged bites of each other’s nutrition. The GU was a straight up bomb of sugar. So while fully expecting to continue our descent, Anthony turned around back in the direction of Forest Ridge. Now, a few years ago I probably would be asking why the hell we were turning around, but I didn’t say a word. While feeling stronger than ever at this point in the run, I wasn’t slightest amount of disappointment.I suppose we had different journey’s in mind but I quickly embraced his over mine. Because I was able to keep up Anthony for a short while, my attitude further improved and we actually shared in some light hearted conversation for the first time in the cruise. This is how it used to be. Not this chasing Anthony shit!
I remained present in this moment as Anthony began to break away on the fire road. Our return trip took a more gradual descent towards Bull Creek. Anthony continued to thoughtfully wait at forks in the road and we even passed a few hikers along the trail. Descending technical and rocky terrain, my feet began to ask for relief as I bombed with half restraint. We met back up at the spot of the hidden Mantra’s, talked about the water possible being potable and began the final portion of the journey. While I had surges of energy complimenting the ascent, my feet (and now ankles) we’re starting to plead for forgiveness. The rocky terrain was starting it’s toll on the ankles. In an effort to protect itself,the sore spot on my left foot kept me from flexing naturally and my form was starting to go to hell. Anthony would get further away as we traversed some short but gnarly switch backs. Losing sight of him, I began to practice my echo location skills, “The hell did you go??!!”. One final time, Anthony waited. I contained my ego that normally pushed me through pain. I think there’s a time when you sometimes have to run through pain (a race, for instance), but when you’re trying to safely ramp back into training after a year off, you have to know when you’re doing more harm than good.
“I’ve got to pull the plug on this one”, I whined.
“We’re almost at twelve, dude. You’ll thank me later”, he replied.
I didn’t say anything. With attitude going to shit, I followed him. Hitting twelve miles consisted of running a little out and back until the fancy little machine on his wrist stated we arrived at mile twelve. Thank you magical device from the future. We got back to the car and I swore a word or two. Anthony complimented me and I shared today’s assessment why I wasn’t performing optimally. Excuses.
Either way, we managed to set up a New Years Eve tradition. We did a shorter Bull Creek run on December 31, 2014 and inadvertently scheduled a longer one on the final day of 2015. Anthony managed to squeeze a bit more out of my body than preferred but he did a bang up job coaching my surly ass. Perhaps this was that necessary suffer-run that would break me into the sport again.
Walnut Creek (Tha Nut) has always been considered “home base” to me.When all else fails and I need a solid trail run, it’s my go to. Especially in a time crunch. That being said, my trail running confidence and strength has grown to the+ point where I need more weight on the rack so to speak. Enter St. Edwards and Forest Ridge. For Austin, St. Edwards park and Forest Ridge Natural preserve provide moderately challenging terrain, solid climbing and around 11-12 miles of trail from one end and back via the longest route. After a brief reintroduction to these relatively lung busting climbs that previous Thursday, I decided my Saturday long runs needed to get out of the comfort of Tha Nut. St Edwards and Forest Ridge would fit the bill. I mention these two places exclusively but you wouldn’t notice a separation unless you observed a chain link fence. This is to remind you that you’re entering the Golden Cheek Warbler’s territory which is restricted from March to August (I believe). That’s a story for another time, friends. Other that that, the terrain, climbs, rock, flora and fauna are seamless.
Before my run, I performed some much needed hip flexor stretches on one of my Honda’s floor mats to avoid sitting on any loose rocks that the parking lot was infested with. Us ultra runners are a masochistic crowd, but when it comes to stretching, my ass needs somewhere tolerable to sit (since I’m sitting)! I headed out from the main parking lot/trail head and took a hard right where the trail was relatively flat in effort to get a proper warm up. If I were to head left, I would have darted straight to the hills which are short climbs in comparison to the Mountains I’ve climbed but are immediately steep and unforgiving. I ran into a few trail runners on this path (even recognized one),bid greetings and turned around at a dead end. I headed back to the hills and began my gradual climb towards the Nature Preserve. The Flexor was a nagging a little less this go around and my legs felt solid if a little fatigued on the way up. I believe I was feeling some residual fatigue from the prior day’s body weight work out. Usually I combined a cardio and weight bearing work out every Saturday but now that my Saturday runs were becoming “long” runs, I figured a second work out was starting to ask a lot from my body. Thus, my clever old self would transfer the weight work out to Friday. Because that’s what’ll keep the legs fresh! My plan was to get a decent long run and enjoy my accomplishment the remainder of the day. Preferably with a beer.
I continued upward, crossed into Warbler territory and felt much better at the top compared to last weekend’s version of the same journey. In addition, the weather was just perfect. Low 60’s and low humidity was a dream compared to the thick and muggy weather that I could cut with a knife a week before. I arrived at a fork in the road whose paths eventually reconvene but one route has you traverse a featureless fire road but eventually drops you down a steep and technical hill. The other side negates the fire road but is slightly less steep yet hardly less exciting. I guess it really depends on the kind of mood you’re in that day. I decided I would get the fire road out of the way and and take the “gradual” uphill on my way back. On the way down I stopped and snapped a few photos for someone dear to me. I put the phone up and finished the hill at a reckless pace dodging rocks, dips and branches. I shouted a half enthusiastic, “Wooooo!!!!”. At the bottom where the two paths converged, I found myself saying hello to another trail runner. This was the third trail runner of the day to have more water at their disposal than I did. Was I pushing it with my single 20 oz. bottle? She warned me of wild hogs spotted in the direction I wanted to go. Perversely, a little down hill adrenaline put a bit of a half shit-eating grin on my face. I thanked her for the heads up and ran straight for the boars.
I’m such a good trail photmographer!
Heading down that direction, my rational kicked in a bit and some of that “brave” adrenaline turned into fight/flight adrenaline. Regardless, I was feeling pretty decent and having a cautiously good time. It was a similar to the kind of feeling I often got on my Colorado long runs deep in Leadville and Vail’s wilderness areas. It was some form of primitive instinct flowing through my vains. My focus would deepen and I felt alive in a kind of way I can only describe as animalistic. I finally reached the bottom where my turn around point was, took a few sips of remaining water and did a few essential stretches to each side of body targeting the flexors and ribs. No boars this go around.
I began my return in the direction I came from including a longer route back to the fork. I was definitely feeling stronger this time around. I approached the uphill with confidence and determination. There was none of that dreaded voice stating, “shit, here comes the hard part”. It’s amazing how attitude can change any situation. After re-summiting the same hill in the reverse direction, the rest of the journey was pretty much on auto-pilot. When you you know the remainder of your run is downhill and back to your car, it’s pretty easy to maintain a cruising pace and a positive attitude. Very optimal for entering the FLOW state, I’d say. Half naked and a little sun burned, I returned to my car with smile on my face. I drank some of my customized recovery formula and performed one final set of stretches to cap off the work out. Damn good run.