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.

Please send me comments and suggestions to help make this a better page at:

Friday, March 23, 2012

IPA For a Better Body

It is my pleasure today to reveal an old discovery of mine and share it with you. This is somewhat similar to my theory of Electromagnetic Destiny from several years ago in that my experiences in life are the main support for my argument. I have researched several clinical studies that provide scientific connections to support my clinical impressions. In absence of medical proof, I submit that drinking moderate amounts of India Pale Ale and some heavily hopped Stouts will decrease inflammation in the body, enhance the processing of lactic acid in the muscles, prevent atherosclerosis, and strengthen the liver.

Profile and Interview with Joe "Cool" Plassmann

I recently sat down with Joe Plassmann and had an entertaining conversation about how to enjoy life. I was also enlightened about a couple of running injuries and how to overcome them. Joe has a great attitude about everything it seems. I wanted to call him Joe 'I never had a run that sucked' Plassmann but opted for Joe Cool instead because of his ability to discover the cool things life has to offer. Enjoy!

A.  Name, age, city and state, how long lived there?
Joe Plassmann, Tucson AZ, 46, in Tucson for 24 years.

B.  Place of birth, where did you grow up, high school, college, military, other?
Born in Santa Fe, NM. Grew up in Los Alamos, NM, NMSU Computer Science.

C.  Other than running – hobbies, interests, pets, kids, current employment?
Kids, home and apartment repair. I work at the University of Arizona as an IT Manager, managing systems for PIRL (the Planetary Image Research Laboratory) and HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment).
D.  Favorite distance to run or race on trail and on the road?
Any, but generally prefer longer and on trails.

E.  Favorite race course or event?
I have a soft spot for any loosely organized running event, racing or not. It’s just great to hang out with other runners; they tend to be such cool people.

F.  Favorite Tucson area trail to train, run, hike?
Bear Canyon Loop is da Bomb.

G.  Favorite vacation destination?
Places where it’s cooler than Tucson in the summertime. Sometimes way cooler. 

H.  Favorite post-race/run food, drink and activity, ie. hot tub, ice cold river soak, etc?
I especially enjoy post-Ultra fridge surfing. I already love food, but that focused state of nutrition deficit correction is such an intense experience - I really enjoy it. It seems to become my mission after every long run to attempt to consume all caloric content in the house.  Maybe it’s because I can’t eat turkey at Thanksgiving, I don’t know.

I.   Pet Peeves?
Negative people.

J.  Current book you are reading or favorite author?
I like to read a lot of things, right now I’m reading a lot of young adult books that my 11 year old son has read and wants me to read too. There’s a lot of fantastic stuff out there for pre-teens now, I sort of feel like I need to do it to stay in touch with him. Also, we’re working through the “classics” together, Tolkien, things like that. For myself, I recently read a massive tome called the “Bastard Battalion”, written about the 83rd CMB (my Dad’s unit) in WWII. Also a few books on Autism to see if they can help me figure out my 13 year old. 

K.  Favorite quote or saying to live by?
Run! this ain’t no walking club!

L.  Person you look up to, emulate, hero?
Gandhi. How someone like him could convince an entire nation to eschew violence and effect incredible social change under such adversity is such an amazing story. Seeing those ideals being taken to heart and being used even today gives me hope for us as a species.

N.  What has been your worst running injury?
On the scale of maximum awfulness, it has to be plantar fasciitis. A few years ago I had sciatica aggravated by a ruptured disk, which required surgery. The injury management, surgery and recovery for the sciatica took a long time, over 2 years, but for some reason the journey, even though the pain was often intense, was mostly positive. I learned a lot about myself and how to take care of myself during that time. The PF however, was just terrible. I couldn’t run a step for 6 months, and that, compounded with other issues, just kept me depressed for months.

O.  If you could no longer run or lost the use of your legs what sport or activity would you pursue?
I suppose swimming and/or hand cycling to stay in shape. Drag racing or downhill skiing on one of those ski sleds would probably have to do it, or maybe I could become the first paraplegic BASE jumper. 


TA:  Hey Joe, thanks for taking the time to meet with me and talk.

Joe:  You’re welcome. The Meet Me at Maynard’s event is a great place to get together.

TA:  From looking at your profile, your job at the UofA sounds very interesting. Do you actually see the photos of Mars? Have you found any good trails to run or cool mountains to climb?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Overcoming Trail Snail Syndrome

Most of us that love to run trails don’t spend a lot of time on the road or track. If you’re really averse to the road then you probably don’t run many road races either, especially short distance stuff under the half-marathon. When I first transcended from the road to the trail I left the track behind. My road speed proved very beneficial on the trail for a couple of years until I gradually slowed down. Besides age, a lot of the slowdown was due to the shorter leg stride used on trail as well as a lot of slower running and walking up hills. I realized I had developed TSS – Trail Snail Syndrome and now must overcome it by spending time each week working on leg turnover.

I started with 8 x 100 meter striders at the end of a 4-6 mile run. After a couple of weeks I moved to 6 x 200 meter sprints. Don’t get discouraged in the beginning by worrying about your speed; it’s the effort and consistency that counts. Build up to 12 x 200 before moving onto 400 meter intervals. If you have a GPS watch then take advantage of it in absence of a high school track or measured distance on a road. I set mine for the number of reps I intend to run and the rest time and/or distance I plan to take and then listen to the alarm prompts. It’s kind of robotic; the less thinking, the better.

If you don’t like speed work then don’t make it a full-time thing. Throw in 6 weeks of a progressive plan like the one outlined below every few months. If you don’t know what your current two-mile time is then do a test run. Then test yourself again at the middle and end of the 6 weeks and see your progression. If you choose to build on after the initial 6 weeks you can move up to half and full mile intervals which will really help develop your pacing ability. If you are determined to stay off of the track and on the trail and still want to get faster then run fartlek or speed play sessions once a week. In the desert I alternate between saguaros. Also, hill repetitions although slower, will bust your lungs and burn your legs. The strength and power developed from the push-off and knee-lift will translate to faster times on the flats.

As a Master Fitness Trainer I get asked for advice from soldiers a lot about how to get faster on the 2-mile run which is part of the bi-annual Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). Believe it or not the Army actually has a manual for everything including how to do speed work. I have tailored their quarter-mile interval workout into a usable plan which can be adapted to anyone’s level of current fitness or goal time they would like to achieve. This is the exact plan I prescribe to the soldier trying to attain a high maximum score on the run. Most soldiers I know don’t run more than three days a week, in fact most of them only run 4 miles a year, so the plan’s total distance is not intense. Also, I always recommend a 4-week base build-up of mileage prior to running intervals; 3 days a week, 2-3 miles building to 3-4 miles per run should be good enough.

Current 2 mile run time = 13:00
Goal 2 mile run time = 12:00
Method: Bi-weekly interval training consisting of 200s and 400s

WeekMonday or TuesdayThursday or Friday
6×200 with 200 jog/walk rest 40-45 seconds (1.5 M)4×400 w/400 jog/walk rest 1:30-1:35 (2 M)
2.8×200 @ 40-45 seconds (2 M)5×400 @ 1:27-1:32 (2.5 M)
3.8×200 @ 38-43 seconds (2 M)6×400 @ 1:25-1:30 (3 M)
2 Mile time trial
(Goal – sub 12:30 = 1:34 1/4s)
6×400 @ 1:23-1:28 (3 M)
6×400 @ 1:21-1:26 (3 M)
7×400 @ 1:24-1:29 w/1 minute
Jog/walk rest (2.5M)
6.8×400 @ 1:20-1:25 (4 M)8×200 @ 36-41 seconds (2M)
7.APFT 2 mile goal = sub 12:00 = 1:30 1/4s

- Prior to all speed workouts, ensure that you do a warm-up jog of at least 10 minutes followed by light stretching of quads, hamstrings, calves and groin. I also suggest running 2-4 wind sprints – short pick-ups starting easy and building to full speed and then decelerating over a total distance of 100 meters each.
- Each speed session should be followed by a cool-down jog after the last recovery jog/walk. The cool-down should be 5-10 minutes of easy jogging. The purpose of the cool-down is to flush lactic acid build-up from the fast twitch muscle fibers. This will decrease the amount of soreness and recovery time.
- I placed the distance of each workout in parentheses (2 M). This includes the rest interval distance which is equal to the repetition distance unless stated otherwise. With a proper warm-up and cool-down you can add about 2 miles to these distances (a mile for the warm-up and another mile for the cool-down). Most speed days will range from 4-5 miles.
- The goal on each repetition is to stay within the 5 second time block through the entire workout. Starting out too fast and finishing too slow defeats the purpose of the workout. If the workout is extremely difficult after the second repetition then adjust the time block. After the workout is finished and you don’t feel tired then you may be ahead of schedule and will need to speed up on the next workout. Another option is to cut the recovery in half but keep in mind that the recovery is longer in order for you to run faster on each repetition.
- Week 5 has two days of 400 meter repeats. The first day is faster reps with longer rest. The second day is slower reps with shorter rest to mimic a more continuous effort.
- I recommend running a third day easy each week at a minimum usually in between the speed days to loosen your legs and build your base.

Top O' the Rocks

I am blessed to live and run in Tucson where I am surrounded by five mountain ranges, all with extensive trail systems. The Tucson Trail Runners use many of these trails to organize an informal series of annual runs. Over the last 17 years I have traversed every one of the series runs multiple times. Even though I have logged thousands of miles over well known terrain, I have a different trail experience each time. Some days I might be tired from a long day at work or a hard training run the day before. Those days are opportunities to take a better look at my surroundings, especially the condition of the trail, focusing on where and how I place my feet. On the flip side, I might be more rested for the trail run and ready to fly over the rocks and shoot for a fast time; in which case I will throw caution to the wind and let my feet do the thinking.

Depending on your state of fitness, energy level, or training intensity, your stride length and foot placement will change significantly. After finishing a trail run I can usually describe my day as a ‘Top O’ the Rocks’ or a ‘Tween the Rocks’ kind of day. If I am mentally sluggish or physically tired I tend to shorten my stride and step around or between objects rather than over them. This is especially true when running downhill. When I run tentatively too much I am more susceptible to ankle rolls and further fatigue sets in. When I am rested and feeling strong I can bound from rock to rock or over rocks, roots, and trees more efficiently with less impact. I can keep my body moving forward rather than expending energy with excessive lateral movement.

One of the benefits of trail running is how varied terrain strengthens the smaller supporting muscles of the lower legs and increases ankle resiliency. Both methods of negotiating objects on trail – over or around – have training effect especially in the ultra distance where you will experience different energy and fatigue levels throughout the day. There are often times the legs and feet need to know how to run on cruise control relying on the neural myelin wrap developed from the many hours of practice of foot placement on trail. For example, in the middle of the night you will need to rely on those automatic connections and strengthened muscles to keep you upright and on course. Look for tangents and avenues of approach that enable forward movement and solid foot placement. Don’t over think the trail; let the mind-body connection flow. Time on your feet is your greatest training advantage.

After a recent 15-mile hilly trail race, a friend of mine commented on how much faster I was able to run the downhill than he was. He is six inches taller than me and had much longer legs. We started the race together but when we got to a steep climb I power-hiked while he lifted his knees higher and pushed up the hill. I gradually lost sight of him until 45 minutes later on the downside of the course. As I was twisting and turning my way down the switchbacks with expert and subconscious foot placement, I caught a glimpse of him below. I caught up quickly and we cruised into the finish together. Even though I shortened my stride on the uphills and even walked at times, I managed to lower the course PR by 10 minutes. It wasn’t so much that I ran faster on the downhill that day, although I did; I ran more efficiently by saving my energy earlier in the run and relied on previous practiced foot placement. I really enjoyed a ‘Top O’ the Rocks’ trail day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Profile and Interview with Dallas Stevens: It's About the People

I recently sat down with Dallas Stevens, co-director of the Tucson Trail Runners, and talked about his love of the sport of trail running. Dallas was new to TTR just about three years ago and has made incredible strides since then; not only in his abilities but also giving back to the trail and ultra-running community. What follows is his profile and the conversation we enjoyed.

A.  Name, age, city and state, how long lived there?
Dallas Stevens, 50, Tucson, AZ, 9 years

B.  Place of birth, where did you grow up, high school, college, military, other?
I was born in Youngstown OH. I grew up in northern New Jersey (Chatham/Sparta). I graduated from Sparta High School in 1980 and immediately entered the Air Force.  I was stationed in Germany (total of 8 years), Portsmouth NH, Wellsboro, PA, and Tucson, AZ. I retired from the AF in 2000 at Davis-Monthan AFB here in Tucson
C.  Other than running – hobbies, interests, pets, kids, current employment?
Cross training (cycling, lifting, spinning, swimming, circuit), just started Bikram yoga, music (all types), reading, cooking
Two dogs - Dixie and Elvis
Two children - son/20, daughter/14
Sales Estimator with Carpet One in Oro Valley

D.  Favorite distance to run or race on trail and on the road?
Trail - running a 100 miler was my greatest experience so far
Road - ½ marathon - works well for my race pace

E.  Favorite race course or event?

OP 50. This year will be my third year volunteering as the AS25 Captain and sweeping the course from mile 25 to the finish and even though I have yet to run this race – I love it! Each year has its own story (or stories) to take away from and I learn something new about ultra running just by being out there helping the ultra runner.

F.  Favorite Tucson area trail to train, run, hike?  Anywhere in Sabino but I have a strong affection for Esperero Loop. One of our nice Zane Greyish routes!

G. Favorite vacation destination?  
Southern Germany in the winter (Garmisch) or San Diego (Coronado).

H.  Favorite post-race/run food, drink and activity, ie. hot tub, ice cold river soak, etc?
Coke, ice to chew on, and the fellowship between runners. 

I.   Pet Peeves?

J.  Current book you are reading or favorite author?  
Roadsigns – Philip Goldberg

K.  Favorite quote or saying to live by?
“Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.” E.Y. Harburg

L.  Person you look up to, emulate, hero?  
Disabled people who don’t let their disability keep them down. Terry Fox always comes to mind …

M.  What has been your worst running injury?  
Twisted ankle - June 2011.  Still need to be careful with it.  

N.  If you could no longer run or lost the use of your legs what sport or activity would you pursue?  
A wheelchair sport of some sort, swimming, power lifting


TA:  Hey Dallas, it’s good to see you. Thanks for taking the time to meet with me and discuss your running exploits.

Dallas:  No problem. The interview blog is a nice change compared to the usual.

TA:  Thank you. The first thing on my radar is the fact that you recently finished your first 100-mile race. Talk about how it feels to have that behind you.

Dallas:  Javelina happened and it exceeded my wildest expectations.