We must have asked Rodger Wrublik that question a dozen times before the race. We
arrived in the Phoenix area on Wednesday afternoon, prepared to volunteer for a
myriad of jobs until our races began on Saturday (Jim) and
Sunday mornings (Sue).
We're retired. That's our "job" now!
I showed several photos of the site of the ATY races, Nardini
Manor, in the
December 16 entry. Since Jim
and I have never been there before, I used photos other people
have taken. Now I've got lots of my own! There won't be room in
this journal to include many of the race photos so I'll put them in an ATY album on our
Picasa photo-sharing site
sometime in January.
After getting the camper and dogs settled, we became familiar
with the setting around Nardini Manor. Let me give you a little
tour of the property as seen by visitors and describe the race
The century-old manor house itself has been lovingly restored
inside and out by the Wrubliks over the past eighteen years that
they have owned the five-acre estate. Although I haven't been on
a tour of the entire interior of the house, the rooms I've seen on the main floor have
beautiful period furnishings and wood cabinetry and trim.
Although the house is large enough for overnight guests, it is
not a guest house, per se. The Wrubliks' business is catering
large events like weddings in the humongous (60 x 100-foot)
peaked tent situated to the left of the house, nestled among
tall, shady pine and deciduous trees.
Below is a view of the big tent from the parking area in the
kitchen tent is to the right, center of catering activities
during ATY and other events:
Those tents are in place year round but must be outfitted
differently for ATY than for a wedding. One of our jobs was to move tables and
chairs outside for runners to use for their personal gear and
supplies during the race and then take them back in for the
awards brunch on New Years Day. During the race the large tent
houses a mini tent city, which is very handy for runners to
catch some sleep close to the track.
Four other race-specific tents were already in place when we
arrived. Three are shown front to back in the next photo:
a space with the runners' mailboxes and placard for
hourly standings in all three events, a medical tent for Kachina
Rescue, and the aid station tent. We placed our personal aid
station between the pole with the blue flag and the tree just
The new black timing tent was also up when we arrived on
Previous white tents produced too much glare for Dave, Jason,
and Rodger as they tackled the numerous tech activities during
the race -- the screens showing runners' names, laps,
kilometers, miles, and lap splits as they ran either direction,
the near-instant results on the web site so folks on the other
side of the world could see how their friends were doing, etc.
One day Jim helped Rodger and Dave Combs put the large screen
back up and secured it to trees. It was a casualty of the high
winds on Christmas Day but wasn't damaged. That screen showed
results when runners were going in CCW direction. There was a
smaller screen going CW.
Let's walk around the course now. It's rare to be able to see
the entire course before an ultra (or be guaranteed you won't
Pretend you are in the photo
above and are walking toward the foreground. The timing chip on
your ankle has just
registered another lap as you walked under the banner. You see
your accumulated mileage and lap split on the big screen and
smile -- you're making progress! You're
moving counter-clockwise, the direction that always felt most
"right" to me because it's how folk run on a track.
the shade toward the driveway:
Ignore Rodger's track-watering equipment; it won't be
there during the race. He'll use it several times before the
race to prepare the perfect running surface. It gets quite hard
from constant use as the race wears on but it's much better than
Notice the colorful flags all around the course that represent
all the countries and states from which the runners come.
You're walking toward the foreground again in the photo above,
past the driveway. Watch your feet. That's Oscar, the Wrublik's
lovable dachshund on the path in front of the house. He follows
Rodger around all the time, which means the little guy gets lots
of exercise. Rodger is a study in perpetual motion. I used to be
like that until a few years ago, but now it makes me tired just
to watch people like him!
Now let's head around a nice curve at the edge of the yard and along a short section
on the south side of the house.
Several runners and their crews will set up tents and chairs on the lawn
here during the race:
Near the trees in the photo above there is a little jog in the path.
A stone bench occupies one corner. Several runners used it during the night when
they needed to stretch or get some shut-eye. If you peek over
the stone wall near the bench you can see the Wrubliks' sculpture garden and fragrant
orange trees (laden with fruit) behind the house:
The white buildings hold restrooms and storage facilities.
There are lots
of stone benches and sculptures in the garden area and around
I forgot to go back later to get more photos of various
sculptures, such as the little cherub resting on the stone fence near
here. I noticed it on nearly every lap. There is also a large hedge maze that was closed off during the
Now we're just past the little jog in the path and walking on the outside of the thick
hedge toward the back of the property:
This section next to a field (still the south side) is one of
two places I would usually take my walking breaks during the
race. It was less windy than the long back stretch and just the
right length for recovery. Note the lights. There is no need to
carry supplemental lighting during this race.
Hang a left and we're on the longest straight stretch of the
course, the east side of Nardini Manor. We're still outside the hedge that
borders the sculpture garden, maze, and then the parking area. Halfway along we pass our
camper, mostly hidden by the hedge. (If we stand at our door,
several feet above the ground, we can see runners' heads go
by during the race.)
Rodger's pacing tip to us was to walk this long stretch each
lap and run the rest. That strategy was successful to him last
year when he wracked up a fair amount of mileage during the race
while still attending to numerous hosting duties. Jim ended up
running half of this stretch and walking the other half
during the race. I preferred to run most of it because of the wind on Day 2 in
the CCW direction -- and to get it over with faster! It was my
least favorite part of the loop.
The hedge (far right in photo below) ends just before the next turn at the canal road. This
view is looking down and back toward that corner from the road.
Four Porta-Potties will grace the corner during the race and
replaced or cleaned daily because of the heavy use by runners,
crews, and volunteers. We're still walking CCW, toward the
foreground of the photo:
Next we come to the aid station, medical, and mail tents, already shown
in another photo above. Because this was a more congested area and I often
stopped at our table for fluids, etc., I usually walked the
section above (north end of property) and through the tent
Our table was across from this attractive stone bench, which has
a plaque commemorating the life of Mark Heinemann. Mark died of
a type of pneumonia a day after running the ATY 48-hour race in
2003-4. There is a link to information about his life on the
race web site.
The view above is looking back toward the aid station area.
We're still moving toward the foreground of the photo. The
track is wet after Rodger watered it on Thursday. It was mostly dry
throughout the race weekend.
I have a story to tell at this point.
Jim helped roll and set up several round wooden tables next to
the course for runners to use for their personal aid stations
during the race. We decided not to take the fiberglass folding
table we used at Hinson Lake after learning that Rodger has
plenty of tables for folks to use. I chose a table for Jim and
me to use that was in the shade so we could keep our fluids
cooler and near the aid station, big tent, and medical tent --
a table under the light in the photo above (it's not in place
Jim joked that it was probably the spot that John Geesler uses
every year, so I asked Rodger whether that table was OK for a
newbie -- we didn't want to upset a race veteran who had a special
Can you believe it IS the exact spot John uses??? I have
good sense where to put an aid table, don't I? (John's the guy
with the current American road records for 24, 48, and 72 hours,
Rodger had already put "reserved" tape on Lynn Newton's table
and tent sites, and space inside the huge tent for Martina Hausmann's cot and Paul
Bonnett's tent, but he hadn't marked John's table. So I printed
out a sign for John's table and reserved a table across the
track for Jim and me, which actually turned out to be more
convenient for us. We'd be stopping briefly at that table a LOT
during the race and the location was perfect for us. Our buddy
Robert Andrulis set up on one side and Lynn Newton was across
from us (on this side of the bench above), so we got to see a lot of them and their families all
OK, let's finish our little walk around the course. We're almost back
to the timing mat and tent. It doesn't take long to get around a
500-meter track unless you're as easily distracted as I am!
You'll notice a gazebo to the left, between the timing tent and
huge warming tent. It's popular for weddings and is very
lit up at night.
Then you're done with one full lap around the course. Easy, huh?
No hills, no roots, no rocks, no creeks to cross. Every two
hours runners reverse direction to relieve any boredom and use
muscles differently -- although not nearly as differently
as many of us are used to in hilly or mountainous trails.
This course will wear you out faster than you can believe unless
you're used to running on flat surfaces most of the time.
I was amused by the "face" on the tree right next to the timing
tent and mat:
Love the humor! I wonder how many people passed it three hundred
times without noticing.
PLEASE PUT US TO WORK
We got to Nardini Manor on Wednesday afternoon with the
intention of volunteering as much as possible. Some obvious
tasks were already completed.
The timing, medical, and aid station tents were already in place.
All the runners' state and national flags
were flying around the course; the poles and flags are erected
only for ATY and would come down after the race. I know there
were many, many other things already completed that we couldn't see.
But there were still numerous tasks to prepare for this race,
which would begin in three days. One of those was perfecting the
crushed stone path.
Although it already looked fine to us -- an immense improvement
over any other surface we've run on besides a track! -- Rodger
would spend many more hours smoothing and watering it before the
race. He's grading it yet again in this photo:
After grading the surface, he'd put water on it to help it "gel." Then it
needed raking to fill in any low spots.
You have to run on this
path to appreciate how absolutely perfect it is for a race like
this. Rodger has spent an immense sum in both time and money to
build it several years ago and to maintain it. (Just clearing
out a bunch of the thick hedging was an ordeal.) We asked Rodger
if he runs on it much and he said no -- like us, he prefers
trails. It is not open to runners the rest of the year but
wedding guests can take carriage rides year-round.
Paul Bonnett and Frank Cuda were busy helping Rodger with
various jobs in the "village" area of the course where the
tents and start/finish line are located. Jim and I jumped right
in, following Rodger's instructions. Jim and I did the most work on
Wednesday and Thursday. Rodger encouraged Jim to keep his feet
up as much as possible on Friday, the day before his run, so he
rested more then and got his supplies and gear ready. I did more
work on Friday since my race was on Sunday, and helped in the
aid station four hours while Jim was running on Saturday.
My first job was to clean the shelves, stoves, and table
surfaces in the permanent kitchen tent and the temporary aid
station tent. That took over an hour. I also helped Frank rake
and even out the
path for a little while but he did much better at that than I
did (arthritic hands). Jim was everywhere doing a variety of
tasks that afternoon, following the whirling dervish.
On Thursday Jim and I raked up numerous pine cones and branches
that fell on the grassy areas during the high winds on Christmas
Day so people wouldn't trip on them. I also picked up trash all
over the place that had blown around in the gusty winds.
We helped clear out and clean
up the interior of the big warming tent (above) where
runners would soon be erecting their sleeping spaces. Several large
propane heaters are used to heat the tent for three days,
requiring a few trips during the race by Paul, Jim, and other
volunteers to the nearest supplier to replenish the propane. It
was a cold weekend, especially on that brick floor.
The entire 500-meter course is well-lit at night. Rodger has
installed quite a few tall lights on poles. Jim helped
him temporarily bury some cable underground for a new light
along the NE side of the track:
Rodger did most of the electrical work one night after we'd gone to bed.
He doesn't get much sleep before or during ATY. As I mentioned, he's an amazingly hard-working individual, always busy with
something or another. And he thrives on it. Jim and I used to be
that way, too, but we run out of energy much faster now that
we're getting older. <sigh>
Dave Combs, who mans the timing tent with Jason (don't remember
his last name), flew in on Thursday from California. This is his third or fourth
year working ATY and he loves it. Although there were some
techno glitches, partly a problem of inadequate
power (two generators helped with that after the first day of
racing), these fellas and Rodger (manybe others) worked tirelessly to iron them
out. Thanks, guys! We loved all the technological features of
Here's Dave busy at work on Thursday:
Rodger was about to set the race clock when Jim walked over. He handed the instruction book to Jim and said, "Here."
Jim's pretty tech-savvy so he set it in quick order, happy to
have another job to do.
Things really started hopping on Friday, the day before the first races began.
Folks began arriving from several countries and all over the
USA, many by plane. How they got all their race stuff on a plane
is beyond me, especially those running the 48- and 72-hour
Rodger asked me
to keep an eye on the big tent to assist runners with questions
about where to set up, etc. That was fun -- I love telling
people where to go and what to do. <grin> Most of
the runners have been to the race before and know the drill:
tents around the walls, cots and mattress pads on the softer
center dance floor. I printed out signs and taped them to the
four supporting posts around the center to make my job easier.
Race veterans like Juli Aistairs and Mike
Melton, below, and Bill Dickey (second photo below) arrived early to secure their favorite spots near
one of the heaters or tucked into a corner.
Most of the 72-hour runners and the first half of the 48-hour
runners set up on Friday, as their races began on Saturday
morning. More runners trickled in on Saturday, until the big
tent was filled to the brim with colorful little tents around
all four walls. It got even more crowded than these photos show.
Figuratively, very cool. Literally cool, too, before the heaters
got it warmed up! It was a chilly weekend. The only complaint I
heard from runners during or after the race was the cold tent.
But, hey, if it was too warm, maybe they would have spent too
much time in there!!
A few people preferred to set their tents up outside
and they may have been warmer on the grass.
The weather since we left home was mostly sunny but downright
chilly at night -- around freezing and often windy to
boot. Jim started to wonder if this was any better than being in
Virginia! We ripped through a lot of propane to keep us warm through
Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. And that was on
the most efficient southerly route we could take.
It was no different at Nardini Manor. Phoenix was having
unseasonably cool weather the week we arrived. Instead of 40s to mid-60s, temps were
in the low 30s to mid-50s until New Year's Eve (Day 3 of the
race). ATY webmaster Lynn Newton, who has lived in Phoenix for
thirty years and has run the race eight times previously, warned
newbies about the cold conditions at night. Apparently many
folks (like us!) who come to the race from other areas of the
country think the Phoenix area will be relatively warm at night.
But that's not how it is in the desert in December, even at
1,100 feet in normal weather -- and definitely not when it's ten
degrees colder than
Lynn and Suzy Newton before the race began on Saturday
Fortunately there was no rain or more runners would have become
hypothermic. It's very difficult for multi-day runners to
generate enough body heat at night when they're walking slowly
and it would even be a problem for many of the 24-hour runners
especially on the first night when it was the most cold and
REUNITING WITH OLD FRIENDS
One of the reasons we love to attend races all around the
country is to see old friends again and to meet new ones. In a
race as "social" as ATY we got to talk to nearly all of the
other 114 participants in the 24-, 48- and 72-hour races as we
circled the loop over and over and over again. And it was
fun to greet friends as they arrived for the race on Friday and
Rodger Wrublik greets Shishalda Hanlen and
"Ray K" Krolewitz,
72-hour runners, on Friday
Some folks we'd seen as recently as a few months ago at the
Bighorn, Hardrock, Leadville, Grand Teton, and Hinson Lake races
-- Rodger and Tana Wrublik, Pete Stringer, Anne and Matt Watts,
Fred and Susan Dummar, Glen Turner, Robert Andrulis, Bill
Dickey, Jean-Jacques D'Aquin, and Paul DeWitt, e.g.
Jim with Anne and Matt Watts before the start of their
24-hour races on Saturday
It's been longer
since we've seen Aaron Goldman, Lynn and Suzy Newton, Lisa
Bliss, Dave Combs, Gillian Robinson, Don Lundell, and Nattu
Natraj so they got bigger hugs!
Susan and Fred Dummar (L) and Lisa Bliss on Saturday
It was a pleasure to get reacquainted with runners we either
haven't seen for many years (like Paul Bonnett, Ray Krolewitz,
Wendall Doman and Sarah Spelt, Scott Eppleman, Pam Reed, XyWeiss,
Carl Jess, Terri Handy, Tracy Thomas, Karsten Solheim, Cathy
Tibbets, Chris Rios, Marshall Ultrich, Tom Pelsor, and Mike
Melton) or had never met in person that we remember --Carrie
Sauter, Missy Bache, Tim Englund, Lisa Irvine, John Geesler,
Tony Mangan, Hans Bauer, Alene Nitzky, Martina Hausmann,
Shishalda Hanlen, Andy Lovy, Chris O'Loughlin, Don Winkley, and
Bill Dickey (L) and Chris Rios on Saturday
Because even the fastest runners walk part of the time in such
long races it is easy to have short or long conversations with
many people during the race. I had fun talking with folks while
I was walking but I usually ran alone so I could do my own pace.
One older gentleman with a very impressive ultra running resume,
Don Winkley, amused my because every time I saw him over the
three days that he was on the track it seemed like he was always walking with
someone else -- and he was doing the talking, even all through
the night on Day 2 when I was on the course! I heard snippets of
many interesting stories each time I was near him, so he wasn't
boring anyone. It's a wonder
he wasn't hoarse by Tuesday.
At the other extreme were a few
folks who I saw barely speaking a word to anyone, which was rare
in this type of race format. I'm not talking about runners like
Paul DeWitt or Tony Mangan, who were attempting records, but
average runners deeply focused on their own race.
Most people would chat with someone
for a while, then move on at their own pace, find someone else
to talk to later on, and repeat in ad finitum. It was definitely
quieter each night, however, when bodies wanted to shut down and
more focus was required on RFM (relentless forward motion). I
was so hyped up on caffeine during Night 2 that I had to tone
down my enthusiasm when I was out there so I didn't irritate
anyone with too much chatter.
Nardini Manor was positively bustling with runners, crews, and
volunteers by Friday evening. Some people bedded down in the
huge tent or in their vehicles while others went to motels for the night
(none are very close). Jim had all his supplies and gear ready
well before bedtime. Even though I wasn't running for another
day I think I was as excited about the start of the race as he
was. We'd heard so much about it, we'd been privy to some of the
pre-race buzz, and we could barely wait to start running!
Next entry: show time!!!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil