Anatomy of The Trident

Trident: noun a three-pronged spear; also a trail race, taking place in Jupiter, Florida on August 11th, 2018 at high noon. If you weren’t fortunate enough to be chosen (by lottery) to run in the race, you can always sign-up to volunteer or just be a spectator.

trident
A trident is a 3-pronged spear.

Aerial View

Aerial View of The Trident
The Trident is a 3.29 mile “loop” that resembles a trident with a bent handle. The trail is located at Jupiter Ridge Natural Area.

This aerial view of the trident loop will help you understand how it got its name. You can see three distinct prongs with an attached handle that looks like it was bent in two places. To run one 3.29-mile “trident loop”, you start at the area with the red balloon in the photo above and take your first three right turns. This will take you to a road with power-lines. Whenever you get to this road (which is at the tip of each of the trident’s three prongs), you make a u-turn. So you continue making right turns and u-turns until you’ve run each prong once. Then you take your last right turn to run back down the handle (turning left at each of the bends) and wind up where you started. Repeat this loop three more times (for a total of four) and you’ve not only run more than 700-feet of total elevation, but one of the most challenging trail half-marathons on the planet!

The Trident Loop, Animated

Take a look at how the loop is run by pressing the play button. Animation courtesy of Garmin Connect.

Breaking the Trident Loop Down into Segments

If you find the entire loop daunting, perhaps breaking it down into twelve smaller segments will help. Thinking about it this way, you only have to run 48 segments to finish the entire half-marathon distance!

The Trident Sections Labelled
The twelve segments of The Trident loop, with directional arrows.

Let’s examine each of the twelve segments in more detail.  To calculate the elevation gains and losses, I used this elevation map,  which pulls its data from LiDAR digital elevation models. Note: You may find different elevation readings if you run the course and measure it with a GPS-based watch or smartphone app. (See the section of this article titled GPS-based Altimeter Watches for a great explanation as to why these devices are not very accurate.)

Segment #1

Length: 0.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 35 feet
Elevation Loss: 10 feet

Terrain: The sand is very soft in this section. At first it’s a tannish-brown color that turns into pure white sugar sand. The trail looks like double-track, presumably made by ATVs or other types of heavy machinery that use this section as a road when the county performs trail maintenance. For the most part it’s flat but you’ll have to run up a large sand dune (soft, soft soft!!!) towards the end of this stretch with a small downhill that you won’t even notice at the end…

What it Feels Like: As you start running you’ll soon realize that digging deep into soft sand takes a toll on your quads and it will be tough to get any traction at all. And with the steep uphill at the end it will be doubtful if you’ll be able to post a decent pace. Don’t be surprised if you run this section 2+ min/mile slower than your normal “trail” pace. It will get better when you get to some of the other sections of the course, but not by very much.

What it Looks Like:

Segment #2

Length: 0.35 miles
Elevation Gain: 10 feet
Elevation Loss: 40 feet

Terrain: Just like the first segment, this one is a mixture of very soft tan and then white sugar sand. It’s a tenth of a mile longer than the first segment, and the softness of the sand will make it feel like twice the distance. The slight, gradual (but significant) downhill won’t help at all because you’ll dig deep into the soft sand with every step…but on the way back, the gradual uphill will make you curse the Gods…

What it Feels Like: This one just goes on, and on, and on, and on…it never seems to end, yet it’s only a third of a mile long! The good news is that you will eventually see two majestic pine trees flanking the entrance to the next trail. This is where you’ll finally get to turn right…off of this horrendous segment and onto the next! As you run this one in this outbound direction, consider what it’s going to feel like when you have to run it again in the opposite direction going uphill (Segment #11). ‘Nuf said.

What it Looks Like:

Segment #3

Length: 0.15 miles
Elevation Gain: 30 feet
Elevation Loss: 5 feet

Terrain: This short segment is pure, white, soft sugar sand. The trail is wide with lots of curves. The first tenth of a mile is flat, but it ends with a steep climb up to the top of Mt. Ridge!

What it Feels Like: Since it’s short, you may think it’s going to be a piece of cake. But with the steep “Satan’s Ski Slope” at the end, it’s gonna hurt…

What it Looks Like:

Segment #4

Length: 0.50 miles
Elevation Gain: 35 feet
Elevation Loss: 50 feet

Terrain: This is the longest segment of the course (an even half-mile), and as it’s part of the first of the trident’s three prongs, you get to do it in the outbound and then the inbound direction, one right after the other. On the way out, you’ll notice a few sandy ups-and-downs (five distinct incline changes, to be precise!), with the steepest downhill at about the halfway point. (Editorial comment: this curvy downhill is my FAVORITE part of the entire course!!!) Once you get to the bottom of that hill, it’s fairly flat (OK, it’s actually a slight uphill) all the way to the road with the power-lines, where you’ll make a u-turn to start the next segment to run it in the opposite direction. This final portion provides just the smallest amount of firm relief…but perhaps that’s just a figment of my imagination!

What it Feels Like: Even though it’s long, if your quads are strong, the predominantly downhill nature of this segment will make this one feel “ok”. But if you hate running downhill you’ll hate this segment. But the good news is that you’ll love the next one.

What it Looks Like:

Segment #5

Length: 0.50 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Elevation Loss: 35 feet

Terrain: Since this is the inbound segment that is identical to #4, the terrain is the same, only in reverse. Of course, in this direction, there is more uphill than down. So this is actually the longest stretch of uphill you’ll encounter on the entire course. All you masochists out there…enjoy.

What it Feels Like: Again, if you like running uphill for long periods of time, this will be your favorite segment.

What it Looks Like:

Segment #6

Length: 0.15 miles
Elevation Gain: 5 feet
Elevation Loss: 30 feet

Terrain: The middle prong of the trident is the shortest one, and in this direction it’s “all” downhill. As a result, it’s sure to be a favorite. Yes, it’s sandy and soft, but with no uphills per se, you don’t really need a lot of traction to generate some serious speed.

What it Feels Like: R.E.L.I.E.F.

What it Looks Like:

Segment #7

Length: 0.15 miles
Elevation Gain: 30 feet
Elevation Loss: 5 feet

Terrain: Since it’s Segment #6 in reverse, the terrain is the same…only it’s all uphill! It’s a good thing it’s a short one. Just a tenth and a half until you’re atop Mt. Ridge again. Hang a right and you’re on to the third and final prong.

What it Feels Like: Short and sweet. It starts out relatively flat and you think you’re going to be OK until you see that last little uphill looming at you. But the crest of Mt. Ridge comes quickly and when you turn right to start onto the third prong, the downhill that greets you is thankfully, not a mirage.

What it Looks Like:

Segment #8

Length: 0.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 10 feet
Elevation Loss: 40 feet

Terrain: The terrain of this quarter-mile segment that runs close to the Intracoastal Waterway is the most diverse of all. It starts out with a white, soft, sugary and sandy downhill that quickly gets curvy. You’ll see some beautiful trees and other native flora here, and eventually (dare I say) FIRM GROUND! Yes, towards the last portion of this segment you’ll see green grass and actually be able to dig your treads into hardness that will almost make you want to stop and smell the sand spurs!

What it Feels Like: Not too bad…all things considering. Especially because this segment is not only a  gradual downhill, it also has the only stretch of firm ground on the entire loop. Good thing you get to make a u-turn and get more firmness under your feet before experiencing the softness of the sugar sand once again.

What it Looks Like:

Segment #9

Length: 0.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 40 feet
Elevation Loss: 10 feet

Terrain: The same as the eighth segment, as this is the inbound section of prong #3. Yes, it’s uphill, but the grassy firmness you get to experience at the beginning makes the uphill sand dunes on your way to the top of Mt. Ridge almost bearable.

What it Feels Like: Again, not one of the hardest segments by far, so you might actually enjoy yourself a little on this one.

What it Looks Like:

Segment #10

Length: 0.15 miles
Elevation Gain: 5 feet
Elevation Loss: 30 feet

Terrain: Finally, you get to run DOWN Satan’s Ski Slope, and you’re gonna love it!

What it Feels Like: F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C.

What it Looks Like:

Segment #11

Length: 0.35 miles
Elevation Gain: 40 feet
Elevation Loss: 10 feet

Terrain: Soft. Soft. Soft. Uphill. Soft. Uphill. Uphill. Soft, Soft, Uphill. Uphill. Uphill.

What it Feels Like: About as bad as it gets. Oh, and if this is your first loop of the half-marathon, brace yourself! You get to experience this monster of a segment three more times!

What it Looks Like:

Segment #12

Length: 0.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 10 feet
Elevation Loss: 35 feet

Terrain: Soft, double-track made up of the softest sugar sand possible. Yes, it’s Segment #1 in reverse. And thankfully, it’s mostly downhill.

What it Feels Like: I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this one’s not too bad until the very last part…there’s a slight dogleg to the left that catches you by surprise at the end. As you run towards the power lines you’ll catch a glimpse of US 1 and it will look like the trail ends right around the bend. BUT, you’ll soon realize you’ve got at least another half-of-a-tenth to run, through the softest sand this side of the Sahara!

What it Looks Like:

Putting it All Together

Finally, click here to see the entire 3.29-mile loop from the perspective of my hat-cam! When all is said and done, and you’ve completed four Trident laps you’ll have run up 1,200 feet of elevation (300 feet for each lap!), which makes this the only half-marathon in south Florida that will make you climb this high!

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can train for this, and other grueling trail races, visit the other pages of my site.

Keep running to the beat!

Jeanette

 

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