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.
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.