I love Pete's attitude. This was his first time at ATY, although
not his first time running a multi-day event; he ran a
Sri Chinmoy 6-day race in May and believed he was trained to do
210-215 miles at ATY. He was "on track" for that during Days 1
and 2, then caught a particularly nasty flu-like bug. He spent
about 22 hours off the track on Day 3 with severe nausea and
diarrhea, coming up well short of the total distance he planned
to run, then gamely returned to the course for the last two
hours of the event to get another five miles.
Despite his misery and fatigue, Pete showed his sense of humor
after the race on New Year's Day and in subsequent letters to
the ultra list. I included a photo of him in the
last entry posing with a
comical gesture about the insanity of it all (those missing
brain neurons!) That's one of the things I love about
ultra runners -- their indomitable spirit and courage to carry
on. Pete continued to have problems on the long plane ride home
to Massachusetts, and later wrote about that unpleasant
Then his wife Jane got the same bug. She was not a happy
camper, after all the trials and tribulations they experienced
at ATY. She says this is the last race she'll crew for Pete
other than Vermont 100, but I'm guessing she's almost as
addicted to the sport as Pete and we'll see her again at a race.
I hope so.
I guess Jim and I lucked out. We were two of several more
runners who came down with similar symptoms after the
race. In our case, it was Wednesday night. Jim just had some
diarrhea. I spent a fair time hugging the toilet that night,
with problems at both ends, and was ever-so-grateful that it
wasn't during the race or on a plane ride home!! It was most
unpleasant and really wore me out. I got over it fairly quickly,
however, and had no fever or chills. Food didn't appeal to me
the next couple days but what I did force down didn't come back
up. My case was more like food poisoning than the flu, but with
such close contact (hugging, e.g.) with several other people
during the race that also became ill afterwards, I have to
wonder if we all just kept passing it on to each other.
Now there's an ultra running hazard most people don't consider!
Otherwise, Jim's and my recovery has been great and we're ready
to resume running again. Our leg soreness quickly faded, even
faster than after 75 miles on a mountainous course. That
surprises and pleases us.
No, we aren't 35 any more but we're doing right well in our late
50s, thank you.
2007 ULTRA RUNNING
I realize it's 2008 now but I want to do one more entry in the
2007 journal as a synopsis for both the recent Across the Years
race and for our ultra running adventures in general during the
The only thing I can complain about with my running in 2007 is
that my knees began bothering me more when I was doing a lot of
running on steep terrain in Colorado, leading to medical
confirmation in September that I have little to no cartilage
left in either knee. <sigh>
At first I was upset about the finality of that diagnosis, but
I'm more optimistic now. Yes, I will probably need knee
replacements in the future and it's highly doubtful I'll be
running in my ninth decade as I'd hoped . . . but since making
some changes in my training and racing the last three months
I've had absolutely no knee pain except going down the stairs in
our house and have perhaps found some
ways to delay the inevitable. I'm also more hopeful about other
medical research and advancements I learned about from some of
the sports medicine experts running at ATY.
Yup, I'm still in the denial phase!!
I managed to run and walk 1,846 miles in 2007and nearly every
one of them was enjoyable. That's about my average yearly
distance since I began running twenty-eight years ago (my first
run was on New Year's Day in 1980). I'm not sure about the
average because I don't have my running logs with me on this
After recent years with more DNFs in races than I care to count I entered -- and finished --
only four ultras in 2007 and had fun at all of them:
Capon Valley 50K in May, Bighorn 50K in June, Hinson Lake
24-Hour in September, and Across the Years 24-Hour a few days
ago. I'm pleased with how I did in each of them. The 75 miles I
completed at ATY is the longest I've gotten in a race in about
five years. In addition I
was able to finish the segments of the Colorado Trail that I
missed in 2006 and I had great fun on beautiful trails all over
What a terrific year!
Jim had lots of fun this year, too, but he is not as pleased
with his race results as I am. He continues to be drawn to
difficult mountainous 100-milers like a moth to light but hasn't
been able to finish one since Vermont in 2005. That frustrates
him to no end although sometimes he admits he should have done
more miles, more speed work, and/or longer races to train for
the 100s. Usually he believes he has trained adequately to
finish them but something goes wrong with one or more of those
variables that make ultra distances so challenging -- and
enticing. He didn't reach his goal at ATY but realizes 75 miles
is the longest he's run in a race since July of 2005.
It just wouldn't be as satisfying to run an ultra if we always knew we'd finish
a race or reach all of our goals!
I'm glad Jim has the guts to keep on trying. It's that
indomitable spirit displayed by so many of the folks who are drawn to
the sport of ultra running. We just don't give up our dreams.
Jim also enjoyed the many hours he spent training and working on
gorgeous trails in the Rockies last summer --the last TWO summers, in
fact. We love spending time in the Bighorn Mountains of northern
Wyoming and the San Juans and Collegiate Peaks areas of Colorado
so much that we will probably find ourselves out there again in
2008. Not very original, I'll concede, but we are a part of the
Bighorn, Hardrock, and Leadville race "families" and we'd hate
to miss those events. And now we hope to remain part of the ATY
Whether Jim signs up for the Bighorn or Leadville 100-milers
again -- and whether my knees will allow me to run very much in
the Rockies any more -- remains to be seen, but I can pretty
well bet we'll be spending this next summer in our camper in
those areas again. And I'll record the adventures in our
"We are so happy that you guys had
so much fun. If you start running too many of these races we'll
have to start calling you RunLaps insteads of RunTrails."
- Eric Rathbun
This year we tackled an entirely new race genre, one very
different from the rugged mountain trail ultras we love:
the 24-hour event. We learned a valuable lesson or two in the
process, such as never put off trying something different
because you assume it will either be boring or drive you
Neither one of us has ever been fond of repeat loops in a race
of any distance on any terrain, even on a hilly single-track
trail. I remember thinking many years
ago that a two-loop road 10K or marathon was horrible because of
the repetition. Doing eight or ten loops at a trail ultra like Umstead was simply unthinkable. How utterly boring, we assumed.
In retrospect I think we mostly feared the temptation of
dropping out, DNFs from lack of mental fortitude to keep running
past the finish line so often. But we didn't want to verbalize
that beyond the walls of home. We were tough enough to handle
rationalized, we just didn't want to deal with the boredom.
Jim sort of broke through the mental wall we'd built when he ran fifty
miles (four 12-mile loops plus an out-and-back) at Umstead last spring as a training run for Bighorn. He
even decided he could run four more loops without going
bonkers if he ever runs the 100-miler. I liked the Umstead
trail, too -- so smooth I didn't have to worry about falling,
and with enough little hills to work different muscle groups.
Umstead was a start down the road to repeat loops, but it wasn't
flat and it wasn't on short loops like ATY.
Our next big step was meeting and working with the amazing
Rodger Wrublik at Hardrock in July. We decided to take him up on
his invitation to experience a fixed-time race on a little flat
loop at Across the Years. I'd almost entered the race in 2002,
shortly before it moved to the Wrubliks' Nardini Manor and
became an "overnight" success in that beautiful venue. We soon
learned how difficult it is to get into ATY nowadays and we
trained as hard as we could to make it a personal success
Jim strides past Nardini Manor's house on Day 1
The Hinson Lake 24-hour run on a 1.5-mile rolling loop around a
lake was the next step before tackling ATY. The loops didn't
drive us nuts in the time we were out there, although we had
lots of breaks and didn't try to accumulate mega miles. It
taught us some important tips for training for ATY three months
Now after all the fun we had with the socializing, beautiful
scenery, and other special qualities of the Hinson Lake and ATY
races we are hooked on fixed-time events on flat or
rolling little loops! Or at least I am. I had more fun during
the race than Jim
because I felt better physically but he definitely wants to do
the race again.
Neither of us got bored
mentally from circling the loop 242 times (!!). There were just
too many distractions to get bored. Nor did we have leg or
joint problems from the flat surface using the same muscle
groups over and over. Jim was tempted off the track several
times but it was to warm up, not give up. I had a
big smile on my face the whole time because it was just so
doggone much fun to socialize with the other runners, see
instant results as the miles added up, and not have to carry
anything or wear heavy trail shoes or ankle supports. I call it
"freedom running," like backpackers call slack-packing "freedom
We both continue to love mountainous single-track the best, but
we've found a new niche that is fun and a different kind of
challenge for us. It's a particularly good niche for me as I
find myself having to regroup to save my knees from hilly and
gnarly courses. There is also less chance for me to get injured
from falling and I don't have to worry about not making cut-offs
as I slow down with age. Running a fixed-time race is still a
challenge, depending on the course and how high we set our
goals. Jim will continue to run those gnarly mountain
trails as long as he can but it'll be fun for him to mix it up
with this type of race, too.
WHAT WENT RIGHT, WHAT WENT WRONG FOR US @ ATY
I described our training for ATY in an entry dated
December 18. Did it work
Yes and no.
I think my training was just right for the distance goal I had:
75 miles. I was secretly hoping for more, but the pain from
a large blister on one forefoot put the kabosh on that.
Otherwise I still had energy when I stopped running after
reaching 75 miles, my GI system was operating just fine, and
none of my joints or other body parts were sore -- just the bony foot
with the blister. I'm pleased with the results my training gave
me: I reached my goal, improved a bit on the
previous age-58 age record at ATY, and had an absolute blast
participating in the event.
The only thing Jim says he'd do differently in training is a
longer training run or race two or three weeks before ATY to
better condition him for his goal of 100 miles. He should have
had a 40- or 50-mile run in there. Our original
plan was to run the Sunmart 50-miler (Jim) and 50K (me) three
weeks before ATY but we changed plans a couple times. I think he
would have been able to get more than 75 miles if he'd done
You're putting us on! Robert Andruilis (center) and Jim react
something Don Lundell said after the race at ATY.
Of greater significance were the race-ending blisters we both
got. Neither one of us should be having blister problems after
so many years of running ultras!! We should know better how to
prevent and/or treat them so they don't cause so much pain or
force us out of races early. Back to John Vonhof's books on foot
care . . .
A few weeks before ATY the participants were given the
opportunity to sign up for pre-race foot taping. I signed up.
Jim didn't. But on race morning I saw that Chris O'Loughlin was
busy with other runners and forgot that Kachina Rescue was also
doing taping. I just didn't have it done nor did I tape anything
myself. I wore my Injinji toe socks and a thin oversock on top
of them. That has served me well previously. I wore gaiters to
keep the grit out, and never did need to empty any sand or
pebbles from my shoes.
Jim wore thin Smartwool socks during the day and warmer
calf-length wool socks at night. Although he didn't wear double
socks, Injinjis, or gaiters he didn't have any grit in his shoes
that he knows of. Grit often causes blisters.
We each wore two pairs of road shoes (Asics 2120s), one half a
size larger than the other, that we'd been training in for
several weeks or months. We both wore the same inserts
(prescription or OTC orthotics) that we wore in training. The
only thing I did differently was to leave out the very thin
green Spenco liners I usually wear under the EnduroSole inserts
-- to leave more room in my shoes to avoid blisters! But that
may have backfired and contributed to the big blister on my forefoot.
And perhaps our
lightweight road shoes had inadequate cushioning or support for so
many miles after all the years we've been wearing heavier, more
structured trail shoes.
Jim says he should have inspected his feet when they began
hurting. That was probably "hot spots," the precursor to
blisters. He came into the camper around 8 PM the night he ran
to change into his night clothes, including warmer socks and his
bigger pair of shoes. At that point he'd gone about 45 miles.
His feet were getting a little sore, but he didn't suspect
blisters or we could have worked on them in the comfort (and
good lighting) of the camper. He went back out into the dark.
After his feet began hurting more and more he simply didn't
attend to them by going into the medical tent and working on
them himself or by asking for help from Chris, Andy, or the EMTs.
That was his biggest mistake in the race. As his feet got worse
he couldn't run or walk fast enough to stay warm in the frigid
wind and he spent more and more time in the warming tent trying
to stave off hypothermia. He
should have inspected his feet when he was in the camper about
12:30 PM. He complained they hurt but didn't want to take
his shoes off. He soldiered on until he reached 75 miles in the
morning and quit. It
wasn't until about noon, after he'd taken a long nap, that he
took his (now bloody) shoes off to inspect the damage!
Talk about denial . . .
Jim and Dave Combs share good times at the ATY race
I was more proactive with the two blisters I got. I popped one
on top of a big toe just five hours into the race. That
surprised me because it's been a good while since I've gotten a
blister. It was daylight and easy to fix. I put on a clean sock
and my larger pair of shoes, and was good to go until my right
forefoot became noticeable about 9 PM, twelve hours into the
I've noticed for several years that it's becoming less and less
pleasurable to walk barefooted, especially on hard surfaces like
our hardwood floors at home. I'm losing the fat pads on the
bottom of my feet as I get older. In addition I had surgery on
that foot for a ruptured tendon in the second toe and have to
wear a metatarsal pad to relieve the pressure on the met heads.
I assumed for several hours that the pain was from bony feet and
not enough cushioning in my shoes, not a blister.
When I went into the medical tent at 10 PM to see Chris for the
second time about tight, cramping muscles, I told him about my
sore foot. He inspected it but couldn't see anything. I'm not
flexible enough to see the spot that hurt, so I continued to
assume the pain was caused by lack of cushioning. When I rubbed
it, I couldn't feel any fluid buildup.
The pain remained at a noticeable-but-not-unbearable level for
the next seven hours. About 5 AM the pain suddenly became more
intense and I could feel fluid under the thick skin on my
forefoot without even taking my shoes off. Uh, oh. Blisters are notoriously difficult to find and
drain under calluses. I know the skin is pretty thick in that
I asked Chris for help yet again. He
initially couldn't see a blister, but another runner with a
bright headlamp spotted it. Chris was able to lance it and I
thought my problem was over.
Not. It hurt just as much when I went back out to the track. I
bore the pain for two more hours, reached my distance goal, and
quit. Without the lost time and agony of the blister I could have gotten another
five or six miles
just walking, more if I could have run after daylight when
ultra runners just naturally wake from the dead.
So . . . Jim and I both have to resolve this issue before
another 24-hour or 100-mile event. Otherwise, we're generally pleased with how our training
worked for ATY. All the miles, pacing practice, and little loops
paid off. If all goes well the next eight months and we
are able to return to the race we'll do much the same type of
training regimen but also include Sunmart as our last long run before ATY.
MANY THANKS TO THE ATY STAFF
After most races we send thank-you letters to the race director
and occasionally to others with significant involvement in the
race. After ATY we not only sent the following letter to the
entire race committee, we also thanked each sponsor. This letter
serves as a good summary of our feelings about ATY:
To Paul, Rodger (+ family), Sandra, Lynn, Dave, Chris,
Frank, and everyone else on the race committee:
Jim and I have run ultras all over the country for the
past 15 years, from fat-ass style runs to first-class events like Western
States. After participating in ATY for the first time, we understand why this
race ranks up there with the very best. The organization, the venue, the race
committee and other dedicated volunteers, the numerous amenities and special
services to the runners -- it just doesn't get any better than this!
We hesitated to run ATY for many years, thinking we'd
be bored silly on a little flat loop. After all, we're mountain trail
runners, right? How wrong we were, and how glad we are that we had a chance
conversation with Rodger at HRH about this event. Thank you so much for
letting us participate this year both as runners and volunteers. We had an
We've sent thank-you letters to the sponsors. Thanks
for your efforts to secure those products. We are Hammer-sponsored runners
(because of our AT trek and web site exposure) and love to see their products
at races. The Northface shirts are just beautiful. We even wore them in the
race to keep warm! I wore the gaiters and Moeben Sleeves, too -- very
appropriate products. And we always like getting little Zombie goodie bags.
I'm behind on updating our web site (computer and
internet connection problems, illness like Lynn had, and general fatigue) but
hope to get the ATY report up soon. It will be in the 2007 journal. Meanwhile
we're having fun running on the Pemberton Trail and exploring the Phoenix
area as we avoid winter in Virginia for a few weeks.
Thanks again for making ATY so special for the runners.
We had a great time and would like to return.
FINAL ULTRA RUNNING THOUGHTS FOR 2007
Despite less than perfect race performances we thoroughly
enjoyed our ultra running experiences and new adventures this
past year and we'll probably do much the same things in 2008
(except for the occasional MISadventure). If it works, don't
"fix" it! We had wonderful times with friends from all over the
country and world. We ran and hiked on some of the most
beautiful trails you'll ever see. We challenged ourselves in
many ways, and hope our example continues to inspire others to
reach a little beyond what they're comfortable doing.
My last bit of advice for readers at the end of 2007 is to try
something totally new next year -- regardless of the sport or
activity or interest. You might be surprised how much fun it is!
Our further travel and running adventures will be chronicled
soon in our 2008
Have a great year!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil