Redemption Racing’s Natural Bridge Caverns Trail Run in San Antonio, Texas is a very unique and challenging race. It’s also one of my favorites! 😍 It actually starts in the belly of a cave! 😎
This race was the morning after the Stockshow Stampede 5K and guess who was at both races? Our dedicated runner friend Ralph is at pretty much every race! 🥰 It’s ALWAYS great to see him.
There is a mandatory race briefing at 6:50AM, just before the start of the Half Marathon. They have some very important race information as well as strict rules and regulations for the caverns.
It was another COLD morning (20 degrees) and we were layered up once again. 🥶 I snapped a quick selfie with Eric after the National Anthem 🇺🇸 and the Redemption Racing prayer. 🙏🏻
Then we split up into our pace groups to line up single file and head down to the entrance of the caverns just beneath the Natural Bridge.
As we head down, down, down into the caverns, it was 70 degrees and very humid so I’m suddenly very aware of the fact that I’m wearing 3 layers of running gear! 🥵
We make our way to the Start line where runners are released one by one, about 8-10 seconds apart. GPS doesn’t work down there so they have to log bib numbers and start times to enter manually.
I snapped a quick Cavern Start Line selfie 🤳🏻
And so the journey begins! 😎
What a wonderful change of scenery! 😍
Climbing (yes, CLIMBING) the Hall of the Mountain King. This is the largest room in Natural Bridge Caverns and one of the largest cavern chambers for the entire state of Texas.
Here’s a view from closer to the top. You can see runners making their way up the steep, damp switchbacks and the view of the room itself is just awe-inspiring. 😯
After reaching the top of the Hall of the Mountain King, you continue upward through a long (steep) tunnel to exit the cavern. There’s a huge cloud of steam as you exit and the temperature instantly drops from 70 to 20 degrees. 😯 This is also a good time to start your Garmin!
We entered the cave in the darkness but emerged to witness an AMAZING SUNRISE as we head out onto the “road” portion of the course. 🌅
Just before mile 2 we were officially out on the trails and the ground was covered with frost. ❄️
Even with my sunglasses on, I was being blinded by the sun as it continued to rise. Then the ground started to feel very soft and I was sloshing along a muddy trail and trying not to slip or fall. 🥴
There had been rain and freezing temps prior to the weekend so not only was the trail very muddy in some spots but there were pools of water with ice formations floating on top along the course as well.
Aside from the mud and ice along the course, there were loose gravel trails and there was “the big drop.” Running down this very steep (gravel) hill was super challenging! 😬
The scenery changed a bit more as we traversed through the lowest point of the course. There was more frost covered grass and mud on the trails and although the sun continued to rise, it started to feel much colder down in “the canyon.” 🥶
One of the aid stations around the halfway point had “Gatorade slushies!” 😳 Not intentionally, it just kept freezing over. Even my Camelpak froze up (within the valve) so when I first tried to drink, nothing was coming out. 😦
Just after mile 9, there’s a very steep incline. It’s super challenging to make your way up this loose gravel to the top, only to find that they’ve strategically placed a camera to record your expression of shock and misery as you reach the summit… oh but wait, THERE’S MORE! 😳 The trail then curves to the right and continues to climb up and out of the canyon! 😩
There was loose livestock roaming the course for the last couple of miles. They’re massive so it was a bit intimidating but they didn’t seem to mind the runners passing by as they grazed.
Eventually the “trails” eased up and we were back on asphalt, heading towards Discovery Village! 🏁
Eric and two of his friends from work also ran the race and we took a group photo at the finish line! 📸
This was my fourth time running the Caverns! It’s one of my Favorite races and I recommend it for anyone that wants a change of scenery and a challenging Trail Race Adventure! ❤️
One last thing… Sliced Geode medals are one of the things that makes this already unique race even more special but this year they were unable to get them. 😢 We still earned a nice medal but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. 🏅I’m hoping they’re able to bring them back in 2023. 🤞🏻
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