Trails of Glory

Welcome to Trails of Glory brought to you by The Trail Aficionado. This is the best place to get insight, learn trail running secrets, and discover new and unusual trails around the country. Follow the rest of my page with links to interesting running events locally and nationally. Read race reports, trail reviews and stories. Find informative posts on training methods, injuries, and running gear.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Army Bans Vibrams While Wearing PT Uniform

The Department of the Army out of Washington, D.C. issued this message last week:


Now I wasn't born yesterday. I have been serving in the military since 1985 and have seen a lot of things come and go. I am a Warrant Officer in the Army National Guard and would probably be chastised if I expressed my opinion too deleteriously in this rant.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Profile and Interview with Renee Stevens; Co-director of Tucson Trail Runners

As promised, here is the interview and conversation with Renee Stevens. Renee is one of the new co-directors of the Tucson Trail Runners along with her husband Dallas Stevens. I sat with Renee at her home in Midtown and found her to be a casual and fun-loving person. She is very health conscious both mentally and physically with a somewhat fresh perspective on all things running. I think we as members of a close community of trail lovers should feel lucky to have someone with such enthusiasm to help represent us going forward. Here is her profile followed by what we talked about:


A.  Name, age, city and state, how long lived there?
Renee Stevens, 43, Tucson, AZ. Lived in Tucson for 25 years.

B.  Place of birth, where did you grow up, high school, college, military, other?
Born in New Orleans, LA in 1967 (in the back seat of a Cadillac on the way to the hospital). Lived in the surrounding area until I moved to Tucson in 1986. Graduated from the University of Arizona with an Accounting degree in 1998. Became a CPA shortly after that.

C.  Other than running – hobbies, interests, pets, kids, current employment?
One dog - black lab/Catahoula mix (Dixie).  Just lost my little dog Cracker a couple of months ago. No human kids. Love to listen to music (classic rock – Journey, Boston; alternative rock) read a lot (mostly non-fiction – authors Augusten Burrows, Deepak Chopra; mountaineering books, especially authors Jon Krakauer and David Roberts), watch adventure films, and sand old window frames for art. I work as a Senior Accountant at Carondelet Health Network.

D.  Favorite distance to run or race on trail and on the road?
Road - 8 miles - the Saguaro National Park loop.
Trail - 50 miles – Both of my 50-mile race finishes have been Old Pueblo.

E.  Favorite race course or event?
Bataan Memorial Death March marathon and Old Pueblo 50 mile.

F.  Favorite Tucson area trail to train, run, hike?
Tucson Mountain Park. I don’t get over there very much, though.

G.  Favorite vacation destination?
Anywhere in the forest. I love Colorado. I’m going there for a trip in September to run trails with some girlfriends I met through my running blog.

H.  Favorite post-race/run food, drink and activity, ie. hot tub, ice cold river soak, etc?
Hamburger and a diet soda. I try to do some whey protein and get something healthy in me, but a burger always sounds good after a long run. I like sitting around chatting with other runners after runs/races.

I.  Quote or saying to live by?
Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you don’t like what you see out there then be the change you want to see.

J.  Pet peeves?
Follow the rules. I loathe slow drivers in the fast lane. Use running etiquette. If someone is coming toward you have the courtesy to move over.

Trail Aficionado (TA):  Renee, thanks for inviting me into your home and spending time to talk about your life and experience with trail running.

Renee:  You’re very welcome; I’m excited to do this.

TA:  I heard that you are injured right now? What’s going on?

Renee:  It happened the week before the Catalina Peaks run during our recon run. I missed the trail turn-off on Bear Wallow Road to the culvert leading to Sunset Trailhead so rather than backtrack I used the embankment. My left foot slipped on some pine needles and flew out in front of me while my right leg stayed behind and I did the splits. It felt like I pulled everything inside my upper thigh to my groin. I ran on it for three weeks and then did Mt. Wrightson and after that it was over. I laid off for a couple days and then did four miles on Green Mountain after our wedding; took a couple weeks off and then ran the Meet Me Downtown 5K. That’s when I knew I had no business running until I went to the doctor.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why Do I Run 100-milers?

Last weekend, my wife Trish, asked me this question and then listened intently to my answer. At first I wasn't sure how to begin. I have mulled this question over in my head many times in the past so I cleared my thoughts for a moment and this is what I said.
The 100-miler is the toughest thing that I have ever done. The training alone keeps me focused on a problem that is difficult to solve. It is the ultimate mind-body challenge. Even though most people that observe the finisher of a 100-miler will say the person looks terrible, in reality the person is going through a strengthening process. It's like when you go to the gym and do a weight workout. The working muscles experience micro-miniature tears that when healed or recovered become stronger and are able to work harder during the next session. The 100-miler will cause a certain amount of muscle damage that when healed, makes the person that much stronger. After a couple 100-mile finishes I had only lost a pound or two throughout the race but over the next 3-4 days I lost 5-6 pounds due to muscle deterioration. Now of course a runner can overdo it by running multiple 100-mile events in a short period of time; for instance, the runner who runs four in one summer or 12 in a year. I believe those people are causing irreparable damage to themselves as well as premature aging. I am interested in anti-aging and although I may feel and look like crap for a week after a 100-mile finish, I know for the remainder of the year I am going to feel great from the renewed strength I will experience. This renewed strength is also psychological. The mental benefits from completing a 100-mile run have helped me in my daily life and work routine. I can tolerate stress from an increased work load and a fast changing mission that would have caused the normal person to panic or make irrational and flawed decisions. I have more patience and can more calmly handle household problems as well as unforeseen financial difficulties. I have learned to take my time when working on projects and also how to relax on the weekend instead of always needing to find something to do.
Just knowing consciously and feeling sub-consciously that I have been through the grinder, the jaws of the bear; that I came back from multiple bouts of nausea and leg cramps; that I stayed awake all night even though I was a zombie for hours until sunrise; that I lost 5 of my toe nails; that I cried and still kept going and finished, makes it easier to deal with everyday life events. You can't get this from a marathon, 50 marathons, or even a 50-mile run. Maybe the first 50-mile finish will give you that sense that you just did something that was tough and that is true. But then just think what would it be like to double that?
The 100-miler gets physically tougher with age just as any athletic endeavor does but mentally it stays the same and hopefully begins to get easier. If I don't do a 100-miler at least once a year I begin to lose touch of that challenge that keeps me strong. I DNF'd my 100-mile attempt last year after a four year finishing streak. I experienced problems that I started the race with and I walked away without feeling I needed to make amends for it. This year I resolved to get back on that horse and get it done even though as I write this I want to take a nap after an 11-mile run in 100 degree heat; knowing that tomorrow morning I have to run 22 miles and again on Sunday another 13 capping a 75 mile week; still 25 miles short of the goal race distance.
I don't want to grow old wondering if I passed up my best efforts by sitting on the sidelines and reminiscing about a past that no longer exists. Oh sure, the memories are there and the accomplishments make me what I am today but someday when my time comes to die I want there to be no question that I made the most of my life in the way that I chose to live it. That is why I want to run 100-milers.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Profile and Interview with Gene Joseph; An Ultrarunning Icon

Here it is trail folk, hot off the press, my interview with Gene Joseph, former Tucson Trail Run co-director. Discover secrets from one of the Ancients. I had the pleasure to sit down with Gene in his backyard, or maybe I should call it habitat, and talk about his running career and personal interests and viewpoints. Gene has been a pillar of the Tucson trail and ultra community for over 30 years. Here is his profile followed by what we talked about:


A.  Name, age, city and state, how long lived there?
Gene Joseph, 58 years young, living in Tucson, AZ for 41 years.

B.  Place of birth, where did you grow up, high school, college, military, other?
Born in St. Louis, MO and lived there through high school. I left as soon as I could for some place more interesting.

C.  Other than running – hobbies, interests, pets, kids, current employment?
Owner of a desert plant nursery, Plants for the Southwest. I like to collect plants and sleep.

D.  Favorite distance to run or race on trail and on the road?
The trail 50-mile run.

E.  Favorite race course or event?
Avalon 1988 2nd place finish
Avalon 50-mile race on Catalina Island; completed 24 consecutive Avalon races dating back to 1987.

F.  Favorite Tucson area trail to train, run, hike?
Bear Canyon; completed 478 Bear Canyon loops and counting.

G. Favorite vacation destination?
I like to go to a different place for each vacation. But after more than two dozen trips to Catalina Island, I still love it there.

H.  Favorite post-race/run  food, drink and activity, ie. hot tub, ice cold river soak, etc?
Sweet electrolyte replacement and potato chips (sugar and salt), pepperoncinis (salt); ice soak on feet and legs.

Trail Aficionado (TA): Gene, thanks for taking the time to meet with me. I’ve known you for many years by being out on the trail and visiting at yearly potlucks but have never had the chance to really find out how you became to call yourself a runner. What made you want to run and what did you like about it?

Gene:   Anytime Chase. I never really ran in high school. I had an interest in baseball but in a highly competitive area I couldn’t make the team after three years of tryouts. It wasn’t until I graduated from the U of A in 1976 that I experimented with running in my early 20s. I read the book, The Zen of Running, (by Fred Rohe, 1974)  and found good advice, like “stop when it hurts” and start by running around the block, maybe just a quarter mile a day. It took a long time but eventually I signed up for the Fiesta Bowl Marathon and trained on the streets with other runners like Rick Kelley, who was also entered in the same race.
     I really liked the way running made me feel. I liked getting out there and knowing I could run as far as I wanted to. It made me feel good all over.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Loma Alta Trail to Manning Camp

  Little did I know at the time that this would be my last trail run on forest service trails prior to my 100-mile race at Angeles Crest on July 23rd? I started at the Loma Alta Trailhead at 5:50am on Saturday, June 4th. The TH is located at the north end of Camino Loma Alta off of Old Spanish Trail in Vail, AZ. The forecasted high temp for the day was 104 degrees. I donned a 100 ounce camelback and carried two 20 ounce handheld bottles filled with Gatorade. I also wore my birthday present from my wife Trish, a new watch, a Garmin 405 C/X.

The trail starts out heading east to Hope Camp which is 2.5 miles away. This part of the trail has been here for over 10 years and has been part of a long-term plan to create a connector trail to the Madrona Ranger Station. About 2.2 miles down the trail there is a signed intersection for Quilter Trail which connects to the Manning Camp trail in 5.5 miles. I have run this part twice now and discovered both times that the distance on the sign is half of a mile shorter than what it says. The Quilter Trail just opened in April 2011 and was the missing link on the Arizona Trail from passage 8 to 9: You can now stay on single track all the way from Walker Basin, on the eastern edge of the Santa Rita range, all the way over the Rincon Mountains over to Reddington Pass. The first two miles of Quilter Trail are gradually ascending and runnable until it climbs up over a saddle. There are several switchbacks here that require a bit of walking. I have encountered horses on this trail as Vail is a popular area for horses. It seems that in a lot of places on these climbs the dirt is as fine as powdered sugar. After topping out and able to see to the east again the trail bends around to the northeast and descends another mile and a half to the Manning Camp trail intersection.

At the Manning Camp intersection which is 7 miles from my start, the trail has a southern option for 1.9 miles to Madrona Ranger Station. If you go this way you will connect to the Rincon Creek Trail which travels another 8 miles to Happy Valley Campground to the east. Other than that, all land is private with no feasible outlet to Old Spanish Trail. I suppose if you went out X-9 Ranch Road no one could stop you from leaving through the gate; they just won’t let you in that way. My plan today was to go left or north at the intersection so I stashed one of my handheld bottles behind a rock and continued. It is 2.4 miles to the Grass Shack intersection and another 6 tenths to Grass Shack. Incidentally, Cowhead Saddle is another 1.7 miles north from the Grass Shack intersection which would make for an interesting new version of the TTR Cowhead Saddle run requiring 22 miles round trip.

Grass Shack is located next to a creek which quite often has at least standing water but today was dried up. There are also many trees, mesquite, oak, and sycamore providing a shady respite on a hot day. This is a designated campsite with a bear box available. From here the trail sign says 4.5 miles to Manning Camp and it is accurate. The climbs out of Grass Shack and all the way to Manning are not nearly as steep as from Cowhead to Manning via the east slope. Albeit they are not all runnable, I was able to maintain a sub 14 minute mile pace over the next 4 miles. The views from this side of the Rincons are stunning. You can see all of Rincon Valley below and a great panorama of Mt. Wrightson far to the south. Rincon in Spanish is translated as “corner.” When you are on this part of the trail you are up close to the corner of this range.

After going past 7200 feet of elevation the larger species of pine trees begin to shade the trail and out of nowhere there is a trail sign informing you that a mile remains to Manning Camp. As I made my way up the last couple of climbs with the sun casting my shadow in front of me I spotted another large fluttering shadow past my head. At first it appeared large enough to be a bird and I turned around to see that it was a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly.

It had swooped down near the white hat I wore on my head. It was very large and fluttered lazily by. What a beautiful sight! Just a couple hundred meters later I spotted a Spicebush Swallowtail but he quickly flew out of sight.

In the last half mile the trail drops down and swings around a large steep drainage filled with boulders and rock outcroppings. Finally I made one last short ascent and had sight of the camp at 7952 feet elevation and 14.5 miles.

There were some tents set up for the forest service workers but nobody in sight. The cabin was open and it appeared that everyone may have been out on a work crew. It took me 3 hours and 12 minutes to get here so it was just a little after 9am. Sometimes there is an opportunity to get some filtered water up here but the forest service does not make it a standard practice to give hikers and runners water or else people would come to depend on it. I walked around the cabin and found 8 empty water containers. The non-potable water spigot produced nothing either. Just as I decided to head back down the trail I peeped into the back door of the cabin and spied no one at home. There were two half filled containers of water on a table. My one remaining bottle was empty so I filled it and took a drink. How cool and tasty it was. I topped it off again and jogged back down the trail.

After the first half mile, the remaining 4 miles back to Grass Shack were completely downhill but not too steep or rocky. I ran the whole way. With two miles to Grass Shack and no overhead cover I began to feel the heat coming on. I got to Grass Shack and spooked a horse that was tethered to a pole. I was surprised to see a horse there especially with no rider, who I knew had to be nearby. I told the horse not to worry about me as I sat on a rock and emptied my shoes of small stones. This was a good place to grab a snack to go in the form of a chocolate fudge Pop-Tart. I gauged the amount of water I had left and felt I would be ok. The rider came out of the outhouse up the side of the hill and we introduced ourselves. His name is Jerry and he was taking his colt out for a ride; this was his turnaround point. He said he noticed the freshness of my footprints and had thought someone might be ahead of him. He also mentioned a couple of bear tracks that overlaid my prints just below where we were. Interesting…I never had seen any signs of bear that day. I said “so long” and made my way ahead of them back down the trail.

I quickly reached the Quilter intersection and retrieved my stashed bottle of Gatorade. It was hot but it still did its job. The next couple of miles were heading south and the sun burned into my face. With five miles remaining I turned west and found it more tolerable. I approached the Hope Camp intersection with 2.2 miles to the end and sucked the last drops out of my camelback. Ten minutes later the bottle was empty as well. Another 10 minutes and I was finished in the parking lot with the temperature registering 100 degrees.

I came back in 2 hours and 40 minutes and showed a total mileage of 28.9 miles. I think I may have taken a side trail that made its way back to the actual trail somewhere and cut off a tenth of a mile. Too bad I didn’t find more of those. Overall, my impression of this route is very favorable. It is 20 miles round trip if you choose to only go to Grass Shack campground. There are many times of the year that water is available in pools and especially at Grass Shack, but not in June. This would be a good run to add to or replace another run on the Tucson Trail Runner schedule.

Happy Trails,


Forest Closure

Conditions around Arizona are dry as a tinderbox. There are several major fires blazing right now around the state and mostly here in the southeast part of the state. After only one inch of rainfall this past winter and virtually no precipitation to speak of since early April we are facing the worst wildfire season in history. So far, all of the fires that are burning have been human caused which has prompted the Forest Service to shutdown the entire Coronado Forest encompassing 2 million acres of land. The first question everyone asks is, "How does this affect me?" Well, that's exactly what I wondered too.

I have a 100-mile race event planned at Angeles Crest in Wrightwood, California on July 23rd. This race has usually been held in late September and had been moved up a couple of months to avoid their wildfire season. There have been at least two cancellations of this run in the past 8 years due to fire and much of the course has been changed and rerouted due to previous burns. The forest closure here has drastically changed my training run plan as well as several other runners I know of that have mid to late summer 100-milers planned. It is not so much that I will have to train in the heat because there is no access to higher elevation trails; it is also the fact that most of the 100-mile race courses in the West are at altitude and have over 20,000 feet of elevation gain. And this is where the problem lies in not having access to all these wonderful mountainous trail climbs that we have here.

Other trail options are seemingly still available if you consider the Tucson Mountain trails and the trails of Saguaro West Monument. The Tortolitas have a somewhat newer trail system that is open also. The Arizona Trail from the southern boundary of SNP East all the way to Gardener Canyon, over 50 miles, is open as well.
So, these are where I will be spending my weekend mornings running double and triple loops, stashing gallon jugs of water at road crossings, and breathing the dusty smoky air of Southeast Arizona.