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.
I hope we do this on 2016’s last day.