This past Saturday I went out for a 16 mile long run on the Benbrook Equestrian Trail. I've been spoiling my legs with road running lately, so I was happy to get reacquainted with the rigors of the trail. We are pretty close to peak fall foliage in North Texas so it was very scenic. The weather was warm for mid-November, but overcast skies made it feel cooler than it actually was. It was a nearly perfect Texas Fall day and I was happy to spend a portion of it out on the trail.
The Equestrian trail is about 14 miles out-and-back if you start at the Northern trailhead. I habitually park at a pull-off closer to the Marina and from my parking spot to the southern terminus is closer to 6 miles or 12 out-and-back.
The first ~2.5 miles headed southbound from where I park are grassy and relatively flat with a few gentle climbs. On Saturday this part of the run was a little overgrown, but not so much that it wasn't runnable. The remaining ~3.5 miles are much more hilly and the trail becomes a mixture of loose rock/gravel and dirt.
When the area has been getting a lot of rain the trail has a few water crossing throughout and can get fairly muddy. I don't mind mud or wet feet, but I prefer a dry trail most of the time. Fortunately it was dry on Saturday.
This long run was being done in preparation for the Bandera 50K in January. My goals for this run were to:
- Help my legs adapt to long runs featuring short steep climbs (steep for this part of Texas anyways)
- Build confidence on loose terrian
- Practice nutrition and hydration strategies.
In the course notes, I mentioned that this trail starts easy and gets harder as you head south. I ran the harder part of the trail 4 times (2 out and 2 back) and the easy part twice. This was done on purpose since the harder part of the course more closely mimicks the terrain at Bandera.
November-March is really the best time to run in North Texas (and the Hill Country). November brings cooler weather and Fall Colors, December a rugged dry environment with beautiful grays, browns and greens and Early spring brings wildflowers. This was my first trail run since September and I couldn't have asked for better conditions or views. I had a blast.
I felt a little bit sluggish and stiff throughout the entire run. I think this is largely due to poor sleep quality (leading to longer recovery times) caused by pain in my right shoulder. I'm seeing a doctor about that problem tomorrow and I'm hoping that it's something that's a) easily managed b) not going to sideline me.
Overall, I'm happy with my pace given the terrain and number of climbs along this trail, but I think had I felt more rested, I could've gone a bit faster with the same relative effort. Of course that could be false confidence coming from my recently improved road times. Trails are naturally more rigorous than roads and Benbrook Equestrian Trail is no exception to that rule.
I started my run a little later than I normally do and had already had 2.5 cups of coffee. 30 minutes prior to heading out I ate a PB&J and a banana. During the 2:53 long run I ate three honey stinger waffles, had four salt stick chews and drank nearly 2 liters of water. Had I not had the coffee I would've rotated my honey stinger waffles with caffeinated clif shot blocks. I've had pretty good luck with that combination in the past and haven't felt compelled to change things up much.
I ran in brand new Altra Lone Peak 4.5 Lows and couldn't have been happier with them. On road I've been rotating between Saucony Liberty ISO 2s (4mm drop) and Altra Escalante 2s. The Lone Peaks are exactly what I hoped they would be and I'm far happier with them than I was in my Saucony Peregrines or Brooks Cascadias.
Nothing major to note regarding the shoes. They had great grip and my feet didn't get sore. The trail was very dry so the jury is still out on how much I'll like these when wet, but day one performance was fantastic. I can honestly say this was the best I've ever felt in the first run with a new shoe.