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5ksandcabernets: I needed directions to stay on the yellow-brick road.


Monday, April 7, 2008

I needed directions to stay on the yellow-brick road.

I went to Austin this weekend to see my 8-month-old son, Noah. For the first time, I decided to run one of Austin's most famous trails: Town Lake.
In my short time as a runner _ exactly four years this month _ I've run several trails in Texas. (In Houston: Memorial Park, Herman Park, and the trail around Rice University; In Dallas: White Rock Lake, and the Campion Trails in Las Colinas; And in Fort Worth: the Trinity Trails)
So, I consider myself somewhat of an authority on decent places to run in Texas. And I'd say Austin's Town Lake stands as one of the best places to run, though there is some room for improvement. (Through the magic of my Garmin Forerunner 305, Motionbased, and GoogleEarth, I've embedded my run at the bottom of this post. I ran clockwise.)
A quick review for anybody going to Austin soon. (Little Miss Runner Pants?)
1) Atmosphere: Well, you are running nature, 10.1 miles around the Colorado River with scenic views of downtown Austin.
The good: What's not to like about running around mostly water? Or kids softball fields? Or dog parks? I've blogged before that what I like most about running the Trinity Trails in Fort Worth is the Saturday atmosphere, with so many people sharing the trails. Well, the Trinity Trails have nada on Town Lake. There were people rowing and kayaking. On the west side of the lake, there are spots where it gets so crowded that its like you are at the start of a race. I was elbow to elbow with people. Had to contort my body to get past people who were walking their dogs. There was a guy playing the guitar shouting, "Good job," to anybody who ran by. All I was missing was a bib number.
The bad: Parts of the trail took me out on Cesar Chavez Street and East Riverside Drive. At one point, I went down several flights of stairs to get from the road to the trail. Another time, I found myself running through the parking lot of the Austin American-Statesman. (The Statesman reported last month that it is going to hire a firm to design a boardwalk that would close this gap in the trail.)

2) Navigation/user friendliness: Your knees will love this trail as it is mostly crushed limestone or gravel. And there are water fountains in many places. On some parts of the trail, volunteers had set out some paper cups and water.
But, if you are a Town Lake virgin, like I was, there may be some frustration here. There were no clear maps or markers to tell you where you were or where you were going. No yellow-brick road. I ran the trail clockwise, but it appears that most of the people were running the trail counterclockwise.
Also, I meant to run just 5 miles, afterall, my son's godfather told me it was only 5 miles around the lake. So I set a quick pace for myself, thinking I'd be done in about 42 to 43 minutes. At mile 3 I realized I wasn't even close to being done. Huffin' and puffin' I asked two women how long the course was. When they told me 10.1 miles, I knew I had to slow down. But I'd already used up too much energy and I paid for it in the last three miles. I did the first 5 miles in a 9:00 minute/mile pace. The last 5 were in 9:33 minute/mile pace. After the run, I had enough salt on my face to season a potato.
Even though its 10.1 miles around the lake, there are several different trail combinations you can use to run any distance you want. But I didn't see any clear maps to show me. On the east side of the lake, where it was not as crowded as it is on the west side, I had to ask runners which way to go when I got to a fork in the trail. When the trail ran parallel to Lakeshore Blvd., you can see where I took the wrong fork in the road. The trail also went by this power plant type structure that looked really scary. I wouldn't run by this area at night.
I know I complained a lot. But this is a nice place to run. And I'll run it again the next time I'm in Austin.

Here is a breadcrumb trail of my run:

View Larger Map

Here is how Town Lake ranks compared to the other trails that I've run.
1. White Rock Lake, Dallas: You get a view of the lake with just about every step of this 9.3 mile journey. Watch out for the bicyclists, though.
2. Town Lake, Austin
3. Memorial Park, Houston: Tons of people to rub elbows with on this 3 mile loop.
4. Rice University: I like running when there are a lot of people around, and, though there are no mountains and no lakes or rivers, you get plenty of company running around Rice.
5. Trinity Trails, Fort Worth: You can run from downtown to southwest Fort Worth and not have to dodge one car.
6. Campion Trails, Las Colinas: Twelve-feet wide trails give you plenty of room to pass _ or be passed _ though the concrete will wear your knees out.

Here were my Saturday Splits at Town Lake
1: 8:54
2: 8:31
3: 9:07
4: 9:04
5: 9:20
6: 9:20
7: 9:09
8: 9:37
9: 9:47
10: 9:50

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Blogger a.maria said...

i've actually run there before, once, like 2 years ago and had a similar experience.. mainly..

where the HELL am i and how the HELL do i get back!?!?!?

i had no idea it was 10.1 miles though. i'll probably NOT be running all the way around. i'm only up to 8 on my mile plan!!!

anyway thanks for the write up! i'll be running counter-clockwise for sure! :)~

April 7, 2008 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger GandaMan said...

I enjoy running in Austin.

As for Big D, it was a good run. I was pleasantly surprised with my time, as I haven't trained for speed in over a year. I think my body had gotten used to running longer distances, so I was able to kick it up a notch for the marathon,which is still a long distance, but compared to a 50 mile run....

April 7, 2008 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Topher said...

Hey Kevin, thanks for commenting on my blog. I wish I'd read this post before I went to Dallas for work last week. I'll have to remember to reach out for you next time I go to Texas. I may be heading for San Antonio in a few weeks.

April 8, 2008 at 11:34 PM  
Blogger Sadie J said...

I live in Austin and run on the trail many times each week. It is part of the experience, I think, to get lost at least once on your first trip around the lake.

The next time you come down to Austin, start your run at either the bridge under MoPac(loop 1) or at the 1st street bridge at auditorium shores. Either of these places has convenient parking and have a trail map very close to the trail for you to check out your preferred path. The '4 mile loop' between the MoPac bridge and the 1st street bridge is very popular.

Glad to see you had a true Austin running experience! Good post!

May 1, 2008 at 2:43 PM  

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