Tag: altra

Bryant Grove Trail – Review

Bryant Grove Trail – Review

The Mad Cows were on the mooooove yesterday!  Say what?  My local running group is the Mad Cow Running Company (MCRC), located in Murfreesboro, TN.  For some strange reason, we like each other enough to crawl out of bed on a frosty Saturday morning to hit the trails.  We have a really great and dedicated group of folks so it isn’t uncommon for some of the herd to drive for an hour (or more) to find our next great trail running adventure.

Being in Tennessee, we have access to so many wonderful trails, it seems like I should start sharing the details with everyone else.  As such, I will try to share information about the trails we encounter when the herd is on the move.  Yesterday, MCRC went for a fun run on the Bryant Grove Trail.

Here the basics of the trail:

Location:  The trail is located in Long Hunter State Park (2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage, TN 37076) – go in the main entrance of the park, make your first left, and the trail head is on the right hand side of the parking lot near the play ground.  There are number of other great trails in Long Hunter State Park, including a beautiful 2 mile paved loop around the lake, but we’ll focus on the Bryant Grove Trail for the purposes of this post.

Length:  The trail is 4 miles out and 4 miles back for a total distance of 8 miles.  The trail does NOT loop.

What else? The park opens at 8 am (sometimes earlier in the summer) and closes at sunset.  No pets allowed on this trail or in the Couchville Lake Recreation area.  There are bathrooms at both ends of the trail.  The trail is clearly marked with white blazes and mile markers.  And if you really like the trail, there is a 9 mile race there in August, sponsored by the Nashville Striders, called the Wild Thang 9 miler.

In my mind, this is one of the best trails for new trail runners.  The trail has minimal elevation gain (approximately 200 ft) over the course of the trail, so that runners can focus on the run.  Most of the folks I have talked to about becoming trail runners report that their biggest fear is tripping and twisting and ankle or falling and getting really hurt.  This is always a risk, but this trail is not super technical so it allows runners to get their trail legs.  In fact, yesterday I ran this trail as my first trail run after spraining my ankle at a trail race in mid-December.

I like this trail because it gives me an opportunity to run fast due to large open stretches without a lot of obstacles.  And let’s face it, the best part of trail running is the adrenaline high of zipping through the woods.  There are a few more technical spots that allow you to test out “quick feet”.  With short stretches of rocks and roots coming in clusters, some quick feet are needed to keep moving without tripping.  This is a good place to practice the skill.  If you are new to trails and want to get better at quick feet and improve ankle stability, I highly recommend jump roping.

If you come from the Couchville Lake Recreational Area side, you will pass by beautiful views of the water on your right during the first mile.  There is a mixture of cedar tree groves and single track trail but also plenty of parts of the trail where you can run two folks across.  The deer in the area are without fear and it isn’t uncommon for them to walk out onto the trail to investigate the people.  If you are lucky, and get up early on a cold day, you may also see some frost flowers like the herd found yesterday.

In short, this trail offers a lot of opportunities for new and veteran runners. For those dabbling in trail running, the trail allows runners the chance to practice basic trail running skills of quick feet and the ever important, picking up of your feet (so you don’t trip) without having to worry about hills, poor trail markings, or an overgrown trail.  As for veteran runners, it is a great place to practice raw trail speed.

Put on my Blue Knit Shoes

Put on my Blue Knit Shoes

Time for a another gear review.  In the interests of full disclosure, I am NOT an ambassador or otherwise connected with the Altra Brand, but I DO like their shoes.  Today’s review will feature the Altra Escalante road shoe.  I decided to check out the Altra Brand after my first 100 mile race.  I wore Hokas for my training and for the race and I love the padding which protects my feet after miles of pounding on the roads.  On the down side, even when I sized up, the toe box of the Hokas was too narrow, and my feet swelled so bad that I was tempted to cut the toe box out of the shoe by mile 75.  I saw several runners on the course with this latest “fashion idea” but something galled me about destroying a $130 pair of shoes.  Enter the Altra which has a very wide toe box design to allow plenty of room for your toes to wiggle and move.

Design – the shoes are light weight with a knit upper to allow for a sock like fit/feel.  I love this because it makes the shoes very breathable so my feet don’t feel soaked after miles on the asphalt.  Another staple of the Altra brand, beyond the wide toe box, is a zero drop.  Zero drop shoes are shoes “that allow the foot to sit level to the ground without a slope from the heel to the forefoot (check out this Runner’s World article for more information on Zero drop pros/cons).”  For me, the zero drop prompts me to run more “fore footed” and helps me focus on feedback from my feet to promote better form.  The shoes are also very light, coming in at 8.2 oz for the men and 6.5 oz for the women.

Ride – the wide toe box and zero drop give the illusion of a more barefoot running experience.  I wear these shoes and feel fast and “zippy”.  It feels like I’m fast at toe off and can pick up speed quickly.  There is a caution that comes with the shoe design, if you are not used to zero drop or more minimalist style shoes, ease into these kicks.  I have run in more minimalist shoes in the past with no problem but I know folks who have complained that with a more forefoot strike, as promoted by these shoes, they can get achy calves and Achilles.  So if you can’t resist this new shoe technology, at least take it slow.  I have had stiff calves the next morning after longer runs with these shoes.  I’ve worn my Escalantes for both half-marathon and marathon distances with no problems.

Overall 5 out of 5 stars. I love this shoe.  My husband got a pair and I saw how much fun he had on weeknight runs, so naturally I had shoe envy and had to get a pair for myself.  Pros, smooth ride, light weight, makes you want to fly on a run.  These shoes also feel great for scaling hills!  I think I get more from this shoe than what was intended by the designers.  I can take these on long road runs and not feel the fatigue and get both tempo runs and longer slower runs from the same shoe.  No hesitation in wearing these for races (e.g. The Dragonfly Jackal Marathon).  Cons – The shoe runs a bit big because of the roomy toe box – I normally wear a 9.5 which is VERY roomy in these shoes but not so much that I trip.  I could however have done a 9.  Make sure to get fit correctly.  The price is also a bit less sexy with shoes retailing at $130.  I have already put about a 100 miles on my shoes and they still feel/look new so we will see how well the wear for the price.  Lastly, I wear these for 5K to Marathon distance but would not use them for track work.  For me, the wider toe box doesn’t let me dig in in the same way as a racing flat or spike for track work, sprints, or repeats.