The Canyonlands

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.

Mt. Lakeway Peak

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.

Anthony posing with a new friend

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