This is one of about three dozen written messages we received
during the race from friends and relatives all over the country
-- and Afghanistan, where one of Jim's sons is currently
stationed with the Air Force. Many made us laugh, all were
What a thrill it was to get those messages while we were
running! The runners' mailboxes were convenient to the course so
we'd stop periodically and see what new mail had come in. Some
runners carried the messages with them on a rest lap, reading
them as they walked. Everyone was pumped to get mail. Over 3,000
messages came through the
web site, and if you have the inclination you can
read them all!
This messaging system is just one of many ways the
wonderful race committee
"raises the bar" at the Across the Years 72-, 48-, and 24-Hour
Thanks so much to all the folks who took the time to send messages
of encouragement to us before, during, and after our races. Some
people sent regular e-mails to us instead of using the message center on the
ATY web site. That worked, too. Since we could get online in the camper, I read the new messages
on Saturday and relayed them to Jim. He did the same for me on Sunday. As
motivated as we were to do well, it still helped to have friends cheering us on
7 AM SATURDAY: UP & AT 'EM
I think I was as excited about the start of the race as Jim was
-- and I wasn't even running on the first day!
Jim had his race clothing laid out and all his gear and supplies ready to carry
to our crewing table. He didn't need me to fix breakfast; his usual
pre-race fare is a banana and some Boost.
While Jim showered and got dressed, I walked over to the Wrublik's house to see
if I could help with registration for the seventy runners who would begin their
races at 9 AM. The two volunteers appeared overwhelmed, so I stepped in and
found a job -- retrieving the nice canvas duffel bags (similar to those given
at Leadville) which were stuffed to the brims with goodies. I added in a pair
of donated Moeben Sleeves that hadn't arrived when the bags were filled and directed the runners to the fella who was
fetching the timing chips and bibs with belts. Soon two or three other
volunteers arrived and we were better able to handle the bubble of runners as
they came in.
In the photo below Bill Dickey (brown jacket) finds the bib
with his name. Runners were encouraged to wear their names in
the back. That way runners approaching them could see who they were, making for
a more sociable event. Jim and I both wore our bibs until we had so many layers of
clothes on during the night that it was cumbersome to have the belts around our
waists. If you look closely, you can see Jim's bib in the photo near
The timing chips were attached to comfortable straps that
attached around our ankles with Velcro. If we put them on properly, we didn't
have to remove them during clothing or sock changes. That's much handier than
chips that attach to your shoe laces.
I got to talk to Jim more when he came in to get his bag. He
had plenty of time to get ready for the race but mentioned that he had his usual
morning headache. Unfortunately, he
couldn't shake this one until about six hours into the race.
My bag was in the Day 1 grouping because I was originally
scheduled to run then. I turned in my medical waiver and took my bag when I got
done so I wouldn't have to bother with it the next morning.
All but a few Day 1 runners had picked up their bags and chips
by 8:45 AM so I wandered over to the start to mingle with everyone. We
saw several friends we missed on Friday, which was great fun. The informal
pre-race briefing had just ended and runners were making their final
9 AM SATURDAY: LET'S RUN!
All the 72-hour runners, half the 48-hour runners, and about
40% of the 24-hour runners began their races on Saturday.
It was easy to tell who was in which race. Yellow bibs =
72-hour runners, blue = 48-hour runners, and white = 24-hour runners. The bibs
had the runner's name, home state or country, and sometimes additional
information about whether the runner was a course record-holder or how many
total ATY miles they've accumulated -- great conversation-starters.
Precisely at 9 AM the runners crossed the timing mat and began
the race. Some ran fast to have a clear path, most ran slowly, some walked to
warm up the first ten or fifteen minutes. Each had his or her own strategy, but many went out too fast. It's
just human nature, even in a multi-day race!
There goes my honey (foreground, below), with a smile on his
face! We've waited a long time for this race to start.
So has the hard-working race staff. Jason, Rodger, and Paul (below) look
relaxed seconds after the race begins. They would all put in very long hours
the next four days.
The races began each day in the counter-clockwise (CCW)
direction and changed direction every two hours.
As soon as the runners cleared
the starting line I positioned myself on the other side of the clock and timing
mat so I could see them return after their first 500-meter loop. Jim did his in
about 4:28 minutes, even with some walking. Here he's looking up at the
screen to see his split time and distance:
That's one of the best features of ATY -- seeing the instant
results each time you complete a loop. Or nearly every loop. There were some
computer glitches throughout the race but they caused the timers more headaches
than the runners. When we'd reverse directions it sometimes took up to twenty
minutes to get the new screen going and that was a bit disconcerting (gee, I
hope all my laps are being recorded!) but more often than not they'd have
it working after we did one or two loops. I have no doubts the final results
The lap splits appear less accurate. You can see our race splits by going to the
results page for the 24-hour race and clicking
on our names. Jim's first lap split says 4:13 (minutes and seconds) but
my photo above indicates he went through in about 4:28. Our finish times
aren't accurate either (several minutes later than when we actually crossed the
mat the last time), but the number of laps and miles are OK.
Some of the lap splits and times of day are missing for both of
us but all the laps, miles, and kilometers are there. You may notice some long
laps -- those are when we attended to various needs like eating, going to the
bathroom, getting warmed up at night (Jim), or receiving medical attention
(Sue). We didn't need to sleep since we ran through only one night, but runners
in the two longer races have "nap gaps."
After Jim had been running about half an hour I returned to the
camper for breakfast and a shower, walked the dogs, and finished gathering my
supplies and gear for running the next day. Then I went back out to the course.
It was fun to encourage the runners and talk with crews. Having
a crew at ATY is not a necessity. Runners can set up their own tables and/or
use the race's aid station. The next photo shows some of the crew tables in the
"village" area on the shady, northwest side of the course:
Other runners set up their tables at the north end of the loop
near their vehicles:
Having a crew is a treat, however, and the majority of runners
had someone to crew for them. Jim and I were able to
crew for each other part of the time since we were running on different days.
In a trail 100-miler we'd crew all night long. Here we each slept in the camper
all night while the other person was on the track. During the daytime we were
present on the course off and on.
Three of the world's best crew ladies are shown below:
Left: Ultra runner Susan Dummar, wife of Fred Dummar, who was in the 48-hour race. Susan
walked many laps with "Doom" his second day and night. Center: Suzy Newton, wife of ATY
webmaster Lynn Newton, who was running the 72-hour race for the sixth (?) time.
Right: Lisa Bliss, medical doctor and ultra runner extraordinaire, who participated in the 48-hour race on Days 2 and 3
but took good care of other runners on Day 1.
I didn't need to assist Jim much. He got most of his food and
fluids from the aid station and had his personal gear and supplies
well-organized at our table. I mainly offered encouragement and let him know
about new messages he was receiving. Despite his headache, he seemed to be
having fun and was keeping a steady run-walk pace around the track.
The first twelve hours of the race Jim usually ran the southern
half of the loop around the manor house and walked the northern half along the
parking area, through the aid station area, and past the timing tent.
Here he is after ninety minutes. Looks like he ran through it that time!
One of Jim's sons commented later that he appears to be walking in all the
photos and video clips on the race web site. Jim, Jr. wondered if his dad ever
ran at ATY. The guy behind the camera, Jamil Coury, must have stationed himself
each time on the half of the course Jim was walking! I can vouch that he also
ran and his lap splits also reflect that.
Although it was in the upper 30s or lower 40s when Jim started the race,
the Arizona sun shines brightly and runners were soon taking off their jackets,
long-sleeved shirts, pants, and tights. Jim ran comfortably in the long-sleeved black shirt
and red shorts, above, until it got dark around 5:30 PM. When the sun goes
down, it quickly cools off. The wind and cold on this night would test the
mettle of many of the runners on the track.
11 AM SATURDAY: LET'S WORK
It was hard for me to just take photos of runners and watch the
wanted to be out there, too, and could hardly wait for my turn on Sunday! It
helped that I volunteered to work in the aid station from 11 AM to 3 PM while Jim was
running on Saturday. It didn't exactly take my mind off running, but it put my
focus on helping the other runners.
Here are Ned (photo below, in front) and Ed, with whom I spent several hours
filling cups with every imaginable drink the runners could want, heating
soups in the microwaves, and keeping the food bowls and plates replenished. There was a wide
variety of foods available all weekend, from standard aid station fare to
grilled cheese sandwiches, omelets, and homemade soups, to near-gourmet
offerings like chicken cordon bleu, lasagna, pizza, and pancakes with M & Ms.
Jim had most of the above foods fluids plus ham and cheese sandwich
quarters, a breakfast burrito, potato chips, cookies, red licorice, and various
drinks. He relied on Heed from Hammer Nutrition for his energy drink,
supplemented by chocolate and espresso Hammergel at our own table (the race
also supplied packets of Hammergel). Jim drank water, Dr. Pepper, Coke, coffee,
and ginger ale from the aid station plus Starbucks frappuccino from our own
supplies. He had no stomach problems during the race.
Jim and Rodger kept admonishing me to "keep my feet up" so I wouldn't
wear myself out before my race, so I asked volunteer coordinator Sandra
Fontaine for some sit-down jobs when available. I was able to "rest"
a few times in the kitchen tent by peeling
potatoes for the delicious homemade potato soup and making lots of turkey, ham,
cheese, and PBJ sandwiches -- all while sitting down. It was more fun to
be out in the aid station (on my feet) interacting with the runners, though.
My four hours in the
aid station went quickly. It was great fun to cheer the
runners on and fill their food and fluid requests as they continually
circled around. It was very convenient for runners to make a request one
lap and receive what they wanted a lap or two later, such as a
particular kind of sandwich or hot soup. The aid station remained busy
at all hours during daylight (below), only slowing down at night because runners
weren't as interested in solid food then -- many were also taking naps
Everyone raved about the aid station volunteers (and race committee
members) after the race
because they did everything possible to cater to the runners. Thank you,
folks! After the race Sandra or Paul commented that there were plenty of
volunteers this year. As the race's reputation has grown, it's as much of an
honor to work the race as to run it. Some races have great difficulty
recruiting dedicated volunteers, and some have even ceased to exist
because of the problem. Not ATY.
3 PM SATURDAY: LET'S TAKE SOME MORE PICTURES
I returned to the course to take pictures of runners in the middle of the
afternoon. One good vantage point is the SE corner of Nardini Manor as the
runners make the turn in front of the house in the CCW direction. I got a lot of photos here that
I'll put on the Picasa site. Here is one with Pete Stringer (L) and two other
72-hour runners looking strong:
Jim was doing better now, his headache mostly over. This was the "walking" half
of the course for him. He'd covered about twenty-eight miles when I took the photo
The guy on the right? That's Tony Mangan from Ireland, eventual winner of the
72-hour race. He did some walking, too! Everyone has to walk in races
this long, although the top racers run more than you'd think would be humanly
possible. They aren't always elegant, especially on the third day, but they are relentless and they get 'er
Jamil Coury, official race photographer and videographer, took the next photo
of Jim (right rear) during the afternoon. It is on the ATY web site photos from Day 1. Glen Turner is in front. John Geesler is in the
white shirt. Both of them were in the 72-hour race, finishing second (John) and
third (Glen) behind Tony Mangan. The woman behind Glen is
Debbie Richmeier, who would win the women's 48-hour title.
Remember this photo because I have a very cool story to tell about it
in the next entry!
It was easy for anyone to know within seconds how far each runner had gone,
whether they were sitting at their computer anywhere in the world, crewing the
race, or running it.
For those of us at the race we simply 1) walked over to the
screen that was keeping tabs on the runners in the direction in which they were
going, constantly scrolling as runners crossed the timing mat, or
2) checked the board with the standings in each race, updated hourly, or
3) looked online. Jim and I had the luxury of using our computer in the
camper when we weren't running -- so when I got up Sunday morning, I could see
how far Jim had gone 22 hours into the race without getting dressed and going
over to the course!
Here's Jim (above) at 4:54 PM, almost eight hours into the race. He's
completed 113 laps and wracked up 35 miles. The sun is almost down and it's
starting to get darker and colder.
Notice the runner behind him who is already leaning. This would become more
common with the 48- and 72-hour runners as they became increasingly fatigued
during the next two days.
Jim continued a strong run-walk pattern throughout the evening, although he
wasn't able to reach his goal of 54 miles by twelve hours. He had about 51
miles at that point, meaning he'd really have to push through the night to
reach his goal of 100 miles by 9 AM on Sunday.
The last I saw him was about 8
PM. I was in bed by 8:30. As wound up as I was about running the next
morning, I fell asleep quickly and slept well until 7 AM.
Well, except when Jim came into the camper a little after midnight to warm up!
MIDNIGHT TO 7:15 AM SUNDAY: A LONG, MISERABLY COLD
There are amusing stories repeated in ultra running circles
about crews who lock their runners out of their vehicles when they want to drop
out of a race before they have completed the distance, thus forcing the runner
to finish. I've never done that to Jim before, but I probably should have
on a couple of occasions. <grin>
I now have the distinction of running him out of our camper in
the middle of the night at ATY and it amuses our friends. The only reason they
found out about it within hours is that Jim told them via e-mail on Sunday! I'm
glad he was able to laugh about it and didn't ask for a divorce . . .
I woke up when he came in and plopped down on his recliner in
the living room. I noted the time and silently groaned, Oh, no. Not a DNF. Although it's
been said you cannot DNF a fixed-time race, quitting nine hours early
constitutes a DNF to me!
I'm afraid I had little sympathy for Jim's plight because I
didn't realize how cold and windy it was outside. He wasn't the only person
walking around the course that night who was totally miserable in the frigid
feet became increasingly sore after twelve hours and he stopped running. He
also stopped eating and drinking as much after it got dark -- that's common
during an ultra. The body and brain are ready to sleep, not run another fifty
miles. Despite wearing several layers of clothes, he simply wasn't able to
generate enough heat while walking to stay warm. He was becoming hypothermic, and several
short trips into the warming tent didn't help.
He did get warmed up in the camper sitting in front of a little
space heater for about five minutes. He was drowsy and wanted to sleep. His
feet were very sore but he didn't want to inspect them for blisters. He was
afraid they'd hurt more if he changed socks and shoes. He wasn't having any
gastro-intestinal problems (that's often been an issue for him in 100-milers).
I reminded him how hard he'd trained for the race and how much
it meant to him to reach his goal. Then I booted him out and went back to bed!
Oh, the cruelty of it! (Let's call it tough love.)
While I slept Jim went back into the warming tent several
times, twice for as long as 40-45 minutes, he recalls. He had run and walked a little
over 57 miles by midnight. He was so miserable he walked only 18 more miles in
the next seven hours.
He watched the camper closely every lap as the sky began to
lighten in the morning. He knew I'd be getting up about 7 AM. Ah!
There's a light -- she's up!! In a few minutes he saw me at the door
and said good morning over the tall hedge separating us. He said he'd be back
again soon. I assumed he meant he'd be back on his next lap, but that wasn't
Jim came back into the camper about 7:20 AM, whipped.
He'd passed the timing tent for the last time a few minutes earlier. I saw
that he still had on his timing chip and assumed he'd go back out for some more
laps the last two hours. After all, many runners seem to rise from the dead
when the sun comes up the second morning of a long race and have renewed energy
for the final hours.
Not Jim. He was done. He refused to go back out. No amount of
cajoling could get him out of that recliner this time. I ended up
turning in his chip when I took my gear over to our crew table a little while
His final distance? Two hundred forty-two laps, 121 kilometers,
75.186 miles -- exactly MY goal!
Next entry: my race on Day 2 -- can I (should I?) beat Jim's
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil