Trail Running in Texas & beyond

Colorado Bend Course Preview

NOTE:  The course has changed since this preview was first posted.  The major change is in the final section.  As you may your way along the River Trail, before you hit the parking lot, you take a turn back up and over Lemon Ridge.  This adds another climb but keeps you out of the parking lot.  You will then meet back up with the trail that takes you back to the start / finish.  There is about 3 miles of easy trail that has been replaced with climb and descent through a more technical trails.


Before getting started with a preview of the Colorado Bend course, some context may be helpful.  My perspective is based on my personal preference, where I train, and who I train with.  I train with Joe Prusaitis and that definitely shapes your notions.  While we have some nasty trails in Austin, very little of it is what I’d classify as serious hills (despite how much I may curse them while doing repeats up them).

Getting to Colorado Bend

From Austin, it took about 2 hours from the north side of town with zero traffic.  The final miles are on a 2 lane road that gives way to a dirt road for the last 8 miles or so.  Plan on taking longer on race day.  There is ample parking but the real question is whether you get a space close to the start finish line.  If not, you may be in for a half mile or more walk.  Again plan ahead.

We were greeted by a swarm of mosquitos.  Normally, I wouldn’t really pay attention but I very much recommend bug spray for this trip.

Our little group headed out just after 7am.  Bhavesh, Caleb, Mark, Dave and Athena (watch out for her, she is going to crush it at her first Tejas Trails race).

Start to Lemon Ridge aid station (3.8 miles)

The first 1.3 is along the park road.  It dips a bit down as you pass the Park HQ.  It is easy and fast but like Muleshoe, that makes it is to head off on much too fast of a pace.  However, be aware that once you leave the hit a narrow single track climb where passing isn’t easy.  A congo line will form in the mid-pack so use the flat section to get positioning.   The trail in here is bigger rocks mixed in with soft trail made from cedar needles.  I’d compare it to much of Travis Country for Austin runners.  You are moving uphill but it isn’t super steep.  300 ft over a mile and half with the bulk of that coming in first 2/3 of a mile once you leave the parking lot.  Originally, Brad was going to use the more challenging side trail here but he has gone soft on you here.

Lemon Ridge to Windmill aid station (5 miles)

The first 1 miles of this section is interesting.  These trails are not heavily trafficked so without markers there are sections that disappear a bit on you.  It is rocky in here but what makes it tricky is that much of the rock is hidden amounts low ground vegetation.  It smooths out the last .25 as you approach the road crossing.

From the road crossing, the trail becomes very docile for the next 3.75 miles until you hit the Windmill aid station.  A very slight roll, first down and then up.  You can really fly through here.  It will still be daylight.  The track is not only smooth but you can really open up your stride since there is few twists.  None of those bike routes like Hells Hills or Wild Hare that have you doing 180s back on yourself.  There is some climbing in here as you reach the highest point in the park but it gradual enough that it shouldn’t present the slightest of problems so far.

Windmill to Cedar Chop aid station (5.8 miles)

Leaving Windmill the trail has a few more rocks to it for a small section before smoothing out again.  You cross the road and head towards the Gorman falls section of the course.   The trail is jeep road like and a bit more rocky but nothing too serious as you follow the fence line.  You will probably have your light on by now and you I suspect you will be feeling very good about yourself so far.   Up to this point the trail shouldn’t have presented too many problems and that last stretch should have been very fast.  Hopefully not too fast.  There are hidden stumps that have been cut close to the ground and the odd rock that hide in the ground cover to avoid but overall, you are now 11 miles in and on the downside portion of the loop.

As you turn away from the fence line the trail starts to get a bit more uneven as you head down and towards the Gorman Falls Trail intersection.  As you merge onto the Gorman Falls trail, you hit the hardest section of the course.  For the next 2/3 of a mile, it is straight nasty.  You’ll be getting tired, it will be dark, and it is a going downhill.  Downhill technical is always more challenging than uphill technical in terms of keeping your balance.   It rates as one of the more jagged sections of trail on any of the Tejas Trail races.  Brad did you no favors by reversing the course since this section is now going to be in the dark.

Sorry no pictures of the really nasty section, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

You eventually meet up with a maintenance road that dumps you out into the very sweet little area of Gorman Springs.  We got a bit lost in here and ended up in doing bonus miles down the Spring trail.   Down at the bottom you have to cross over the spring, Brad takes you over the bridge but we forded through the water.

Leaving the spring you head up first an easy jeep road that then meets Old Gorman Trail.  This trail reminds me a lot of Forest Ridge or St Eds (the left and longer side of the 2 climbs up).   For those not familiar with those trails, it is a steady climb with rocks.  The total climb is about 1.5 miles long as it leads to the Cedar Chop aid station.  Only a couple hundred feet of elevation gain but it drags out and the footing isn’t great, though much better than what you just came down.

The Windmill to Cedar Chop section is by far the hardest section of the course and at nearly 6 miles, you should plan ahead.  For the vast majority of runners, this should be a 2 handheld section.  If you wear a pack, don’t forgot to fill it at Windmill.  I am willing to bet this section averages 75-90 minutes for most runners on the first loop and for the 60k runners, 80-100 minutes on the second loop.  And for some, longer.  As for the speedsters, they can take care of themselves.

Cedar Chop to Chop to Finish (4.2 miles)

As you leave Cedar Chop you hit a trail that isn’t heavily trafficked and really thins for bit.  Hard to see the rocks but then the trail opens up.  There were people out there doing trail work on this section.  Cutting back the grass and raking some of the loose rock off the trail.  It will be easier for you to follow with the markers.  The gentle slopes gives way to a greater decline.  Again quite technical and given the place in the race and the dark, it will present some challenges.  The total downhill section is about 2 miles but includes little flat section along a ridge line above the river.  I accidentally turned off my GPS for this section so I don’t have the route in detail.  As you leave the ridge, there is one short steep section down and then you meet up with the River Trail.

The River Trail is just under 2 and a half miles of the most gentle trail you’ll find.  You follow the river, traverses a field, all the while the trail offers nary a rock.  This should make for an extremely fast finish and will reward those who have a kick and good top end speed.


This is easily my favorite trail of the Capt Karl’s series.  For one, it is a single 30k loop.  It offers a variety of trail and the trail was compelling to run especially during the day.  Much of the park doesn’t see a lot of traffic so the trails were not overly worn down.  I also loved that you didn’t have to loop back on yourself multiple times to find the mileage.  No switchbacks or s-curve type of trails, lots of point to point running.   Maybe because it is new and new trails are always more fun.

I am of mixed mind to the overall difficulty.  Where it was nasty, it was among the most challenging trail of any you’ll find in the Tejas Trail series.  But the bulk of that is limited to a 5 mile section of the course and it while rocky it wasn’t loose rock rocky so you could skate over parts of it, though that is harder to do as it gets dark and you are tired.  The elevation profile totals show about 20% more climbing than Muleshoe but the climbs are not steep.  On the other hand there is at least 8 miles of extremely fast trail.  The lack of twisty trail also makes it faster.

My suspicion is that the winning times could be very fast.  Sub-2:20 on the 30k by Brandon Ostrander (winner of the past 4 Capt Karl races) is certainly in play, all things being equal.  I could also see this being a slower course for many mid-packers in the 60k simply due to how the course is laid out.  You hit all the rough stuff in the dark and that second loop could be a long one.   It will be easy to find yourself alone for stretches.  Does fewer aid stations help or hurt?  Less time to be distracted but more trouble if you run out of supplies.  Rocks multiply and climbs grow in the dark.  Does it make sense that I think this could be both a harder course yet a faster course than Muleshoe?  Perhaps it is just me.   I hate mountain bike, twisty trails, if you haven’t noticed.  The more engaging the trail the better I run.  In many respects it reminds me of Pedernales.  But then I thought Reveille Ranch would prove to be a faster course than most people found it during Pandora’s Box of Rox.

Elevation estimate:

1200 ft per 30k loop.  Note, this is based on an altimeter within my Suunto Ambit.  I find that it provides a more conservative elevation estimate than my Garmin watches.  I suspect Garmin will report 1500ft+.  For reference, I had just about 1000 ft for Muleshoe.

3 Responses to “Colorado Bend Course Preview”

  1. stevanpierce says:

    Good commentary as it will help come 8/11 since I missed the outing this weekend. Thanks for the pics.

  2. Bhavesh says:

    Thanks for organizing the run. It was fun & some sections were tough but its also the fun part. It will be an interesting race especially the last half.

  3. looking forward to running saturday. i think i will be wise to follow someone who knows they way 😉