I commented on the race motto in my introduction to Across The
Years (ATY) in
last year's journal that,
indeed, the race organizers and volunteers have set the bar at
this event very high. Well, Rodger Wrublik, Paul Bonnett, and crew set it even
higher this year. I couldn't imagine how it could become any
better for the runners, but the race committee did just that for
the Silver Anniversary edition of the race this year.
I wrote in last year's ATY introduction about the various
events that are held simultaneously during race week (one 72-hour
run, two 48-hour runs, and three 24-hour runs), the venue at
the Wrublik's beautiful Nardini Manor southwest of Phoenix, and
the other features that make this race so special. Please go
back and read that
entry again (and perhaps the
entries about the race itself) to put this year's event in
Here's a confession, which may sound unlikely coming
from a veteran mountain trail junkie:
ATY, a nearly-flat, smooth,
crushed rock course around a 500-meter loop, has become one of my
main reason I love ATY so much are the people who "run" the
race: the organizers as much as the participants.
Although my experience with multi-day and fixed-timed races is
limited, I don't see how any such event could be more carefully
and thoughtfully organized and executed as ATY. These are
dedicated, hard-working volunteers who do this out of love for
the sport and the runners, not for any monetary recompense.
It's not their job, although it certainly takes a lot of
work to pull it off.
GREAT RACES DON'T JUST "HAPPEN"
Last year we caught a glimpse of some of the hard work that goes
into preparing for Across the Years. We were privileged to be able to
help Host Rodger Wrublik and his family at Nardini Manor for several days before,
during, and after the race. This year we simply wanted to do more.
With all the new features, we
couldn't have picked a better year to do it!
Jim and I have both been running races for about 30 years. We've
also been volunteering at races nearly as long -- a
variety of track, road, and trail races from a hundred meters to
a hundred miles to multi-days, from
tiny local club events to the humongous
55,000-runner Peachtree Road Race, from no-fee fat-ass ultras to
expen$ive races like Leadville. Since
we've been retired, we've spent more hours volunteering at races
than running them. We have the time and we know how much race
organizers need help. If it weren't for adequate volunteers, most races would die;
entry fees simply won't pay for hired help.
Post-ATY Work Day wrap up: eight tired volunteers (plus
Sue-behind-the-lens) on 12-13-08
After missing out on our summer trip to races in Colorado and
Wyoming (thanks to exorbitant diesel prices several months ago), we planned for a longer trip to the Southwest
this winter. Fortunately for us, the cost of fuel took a
downward dive just in time for our departure. We picked Sunmart
in Texas as our last long training run
for ATY. That left plenty of time, more than three weeks, between
races. We let Rodger and the ATY race committee know back in September that we'd be
available to help them for two or more weeks before the race if
they needed us. We often do that before Leadville and, more recently, at Hardrock.
We hoped ATY could use some of our time and skills, too.
Rodger told us about the planned ATY work weekend on
December 13-14 and said there were other things we could help
with after that, if we were available. Absolutely! We planned the last three
weeks of December with that in mind. We
rested up a bit after Sunmart, then headed for the Phoenix area.
We camped at Estrella Mountain Regional Park for sixteen days so
we'd be within a ten-mile drive of Nardini Manor and available
to help Rodger and the other members of the race committee as
needed. After Christmas we moved our camper on-site to be more
readily available the
last few hectic days before the race.
Rodger and Jim work on two of the four
computers used during the race
It takes a lot to put on a race with as
many features as ATY. Yeah, you can direct a low-key fat
ass-style ultra with very little preparation and cost, but you
can't offer a high-quality, high-tech, multi-day, multi-national
event off the cuff. An incredible amount of planning, work, and
money goes into it. Somebody has to do the work, and it is
usually volunteers, not someone who makes a living directing
Across the Years has the cachet to draw a dedicated group of
core volunteers who have not only built and maintained its
reputation as a high-quality event over a period of 25 years,
they keep tweaking it every year to "raise the bar" even higher.
Jim and I just became involved with this race a year ago. We
feel privileged to be involved with folks like these and plan to
remain as involved as possible in the foreseeable future, even
though we live over 2,200
miles across the country and are on the road a lot. It's amazing
to this techno dinosaur (me!) how many aspects of race
management can be handled with computers.
THE CAST OF CHARACTERS
I suppose all ultra runners are "characters" but that's not
what I mean by this sub-heading! This is a brief introduction to
the ATY committee members, all dedicated volunteers, so you'll
know who I'm talking about. You can see additional photos of all of them
here. This listing is in
- PAUL BONNETT is the race director and an accomplished ultra
runner. Before and during the race he handles a myriad of tasks but
still finds time to run a few laps during the race. He has even
more incentive to do that this year, as his brother Brad is entered in
Paul (background) listens as Mike
Melton makes a point during the awards ceremony. 1-1-09
- DAVE COMBS has come in from California the last few
years to handle timing and technical support during the race;
he works on the programming at home during the year.
This year he will also run as many miles as he can in the
72-hour race. Dave is well-known as the co-owner of the internet ultra
Dave has fun in the timing booth during the 2008
race. The sign is a hoot!
Someone else put it there and waited to see how
long it took Dave to see what it said.
- FRANK CUDA is described as "assistant to Paul, course
certifier, jack of all trades." Frank had some extra work
re-certifying the track this year after it was re-configured.
His 16-year-old daughter, Catherine "Cat" Cuda, is running one of the 24-hour races this year.
- SANDRA FONTAINE is the volunteer coordinator.
- ELAINE GREEN is the food director. She makes the yummy
potato soup that goes down so easily on cold nights during the race.
- BRUCE & KIM HORN are the kitchen directors.
- LYNN DAVID NEWTON is the ATY webmaster, statistician, and
historian. This is his 10th year running the race, mostly in the 72-hour
- CHRISTOPHER O'LOUGHLIN is an RN who not only runs the
72-hour race each year but also provides many hours of medical
assistance to the runners during the race along with Dr. Andy
Lovy. This year Christopher hopes to log enough miles to earn his 1,000 ATY
miles jacket. It is my goal to NOT take up 90 minutes of his time like
I did last year!
Chris tapes Dave Comb's feet during this year's
race as daughter Sinead observes.
- BURKE PAINTER is responsible for the unique awards and
handles the race sponsors. He is also registered for the 72-hour race.
(Do you see a pattern here??)
- RODGER WRUBLIK is described on the website as the race
"host, owner of Nardini Manor, timer, philanthropist, workaholic." He
is also an accomplished ultra runner (e.g., multiple-time finisher of
Hardrock, one of the country's most difficult 100-milers) and has fathered not one but two sons who are also ultra
runners: Jimmy, age 19, and now Gavin, age 7. You read that
right. Just wait until
you see how many miles Gavin racked up in the 72-hour race this year!
Rodger (in orange jacket) works on the computer
running the leader board
and web cams during the 2008 race. He's another Jack-of-all-trades.
HOSTS WITH THE MOST
Since the Wrublik's house and property are Race Central before,
during, and after the event, I'll be talking most in this entry
about helping Rodger with some of the many tasks involved in
We cannot say enough good things about this kind and generous
man who puts so much of himself into the race. Most people have
no clue about the number of hours he works to make the venue
so accommodating and the race so special in other ways.
Let's just say he doesn't get much sleep in December! Rodger sets the bar for
himself very high -- so it
is no mystery why the bar is also set high for the race held on
his estate. Although Jim and I have high standards for ourselves and work
hard, as we've gotten older and tire out faster we look like slackers
next to Rodger. He's the original Energizer Bunny. His family affectionately calls him a
(Rodger is also very humble; I hope he isn't too
embarrassed when he reads this.)
The other Wrublik family members are a large part of this race,
Rodger's wife Tana, daughter Erica, and sons Jimmy and Gavin.
Even the grandkids
Cayden, Rodger and Tana's 5-year-old grandson, plays
in one of the citrus trees in the back yard.
Cayden and Gavin, 7, are entered in the 72-hour
race this year but had plenty of time for other play as well.
One of the perks of helping Rodger with pre-race preparations was
getting to know him and his family better as we worked the
grounds and in
their home office and what I dubbed "the bag room"
(where the runners' duffel bags were stuffed and stored until registration). It was a pleasure to be around such gracious,
optimistic, self-effacing people. It was also nice to enjoy
their traditional Christmas tree and decorations since our only
holiday display was a pretty red poinsettia in our camper. We
never did put up the icicle lights we brought from home.
In addition to these folks another couple dozen tireless volunteers contribute
their time before, during, or after the race. It was fun to
meet and work with some of them in the aid station again this year. Jim and I also
appreciated the good food they prepared and/or served us while
we were running our races, as well as their unflagging
encouragement as we plodded along day and night.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
NARDINI MANOR: RACE VENUES DON'T GET MUCH
The Wrubliks purchased Nardini Manor about twenty years ago when
the house was a burned-out shell destined to be bull-dozed. They
lovingly and painstakingly restored it as closely as possible to
its original beauty. They also spent considerable time and
effort to transform the property into a scenic oasis full of
flowering shrubs, citrus trees, and tall pines in the middle of
the desert, surrounded by a canal and cotton fields, with views of
the Estrella and White Tank mountain ranges nearby.
At some point the family began hosting wedding and other
receptions in a huge heated tent on their property. Even though
they now spend much of their time in Silverton, Colorado, where
they own the Wyman Hotel (and are remodeling another house), they still run
their business at Nardini Manor with the help of employees. And they
return each December to host ATY, which I'm guessing is by far the most
complicated of their events. (Maybe not. Although some runners
can be demanding, the majority are not Bridezillas.)
One of the beautiful fountains on the
grounds of Nardini Manor
When the running club organizing ATY began having problems at
its former venue on the other side of the Valley, Rodger generously
offered to host the race at Nardini Manor. Never mind that there was no track built yet. If
anyone had the vision and work ethic to
pull off a feat like this, it was Rodger and his family.
The race moved to its
current location in 2003 and soon drew more entrants,
necessitating a unique selection process in order to maintain a
manageable number of runners on the track at any one time. Because race
organizers highly value volunteerism and race loyalty, those who
volunteer and/or return year after year to run the race are
given top priority. Several ultra races emphasize that runners
who return repeatedly are "part of the family." ATY is one of
them, and small enough to truly mean it. Runners new to the race
are also included each year.
I can't imagine a nicer venue for a race like this than Nardini
The course (shown in yellow below) is firmly-packed crushed granite, which is much more
forgiving than asphalt or concrete and gives the muscular-skeletal
system more variety than a uniform rubberized track. There is nothing to trip over
unless you cut the corners too closely. The surface couldn't be any smoother after
all the scraping, leveling, watering, packing, raking, and
pampering Rodger (mostly)
and a few volunteers do before the race. It is sloped just
enough for it to drain well in case of rain during race week.
(Rodger didn't have to water the track much this year;
Mother Nature dropped an unprecedented four inches or more of
rain on it during the two weeks prior to the race, creating a
whole new set of problems. That's four times the normal December
precip in Phoenix.)
The 500-meter loop course is part shaded, part sunny. It is
a more interesting configuration than a perfect oval (see
diagram above). The curves are
fairly gentle and runners switch direction every two hours to
help reduce overuse injuries. There are slight elevation changes
at the driveway and near the aid station; the little ups
and downs are good for reducing muscle strains that would likely
manifest on a perfectly flat course but they aren't significant
enough to affect setting records.
The course is considerably more interesting and varied than,
say, a high school track. Runners pass the grassy front yard of
the beautiful house, a nearby farm with roosters that crow in
the middle of the night, tall oleander shrubs full of singing
birds, beautiful pots of flowers, a courtyard filled with
ornamental statues and citrus trees, a shrubbery maze, cotton
fields, a pine "forest," flags representing the countries and
states of the entrants, and a festively lit garden gazebo, shown
below during this year's race:
They also see oncoming runners when the directions change every
two hours instead of passing and being passed from behind the
whole race. (I can't tell you the number of runners I've talked
with during races and failed to recognize afterwards when I
finally saw their faces straight on!)
There are many conveniences and I'm likely to forget some of
The track is lit so brightly enough at night that runners don't
need to carry lights. There is a fully-stocked aid station
available every 500 meters (less than 1/3 mile, for those who
are metric-challenged); runners don't need to carry
fluids unless they want to drink while walking. There is plenty of room around the track
for runners to set up their own personal aid tables and chairs.
A large heated tent can accommodate quite a few smaller tents
for the multi-day runners to catch some zzzz's and for other
runners to get warm during the night. Runners can also
set up tents anywhere in the yard or sleep in their vehicles in
the large parking lot.
Four portable toilets right next to the track are cleaned out
regularly so they don't run out of paper or get too "ripe." Permanent restrooms
(with brand new showers) are also
available in a building farther off the course.
BETTER THAN E-MAIL
There are other very nice features about the race that we really
appreciated last year.
Take the technology, for example. There were a few glitches with
the timing and web cam, but in toto, everything worked
remarkably well. The timing chips recorded every one of our laps
correctly. It was great to see our lap splits and distance in
miles and kilometers when we crossed the mat in either
direction every 500 meters. The screens occasionally didn't show the runners'
times, but when they were back up, they were accurate. The photo
below is from the first day of this year's race:
Friends and family were able to follow the runners' progress on-line, watch
videos of the runners, see some web cam shots, and send us messages via the internet.
Paul, Rodger, and other volunteers printed out every message and put them into
individual runner's mailboxes near the track. Everyone loved
We also liked the delicious dinners that were catered in, the pancakes
with M&Ms for breakfast, grilled cheese
sandwiches for lunch, and other more standard aid station fare.
The runners' duffel bags were filled with useful, high-quality
clothing and gear. The awards brunch was tasty, the presentation
fast-paced and interesting, and the various awards (buckles, etched glass
mugs, wood and metal sculptures) quite attractive.
And how many races have a New Year's Eve party for the runners
at midnight, complete with champagne, balloons, noisemakers, and
beautiful fireworks surrounding the property? Jim took the photo
above at this year's race.
WHAT MORE COULD A RUNNER WANT?
Although Jim and I were very pleased with everything about ATY
last year, we weren't aware of some of the problems that the
race committee knew about. That's one of the hazards of "being
on the inside" of a race. Paul, Rodger, and the
others were determined to
find new ways to fix the problems, accommodate more runners this
year, and make other improvements to
the race. They came up with some great ideas.
After we'd been helping Rodger with this year's event for a few
days, I started making a
list of the things I noticed about the property and the race
organization that are new and/or improved this year. Every day I discovered
more things to add to the list! Rodger and the ATY committee
have been very busy folks. Here is a long list
and I'm betting it's not complete:
1. MORE RUNNERS were allowed into the race this year,
including some who were wait-listed.
Having more people on the track each day required some
Wider track and lots of rain = more crushed granite required
2. COURSE CHANGES were announced on the web site before
we arrived at Nardini Manor for the group work weekend December 13-14.
All of us had to make a trip
around the track to see what Rodger had been up to. We were
definitely impressed! Although he still had some tweaking to do,
most of the heavy labor was already done and we could clearly
"see" his vision. What wasn't finished that weekend
was completed by race day.
- A long section on the northwest side of the track (left of the
driveway in the diagram above) was moved out about fifteen feet. This
was the previous location for the timing tent. Instead of the "face
tree" (shown below) being in the middle of the turn-around, it is
now in the
newly-expanded grassy area. Moving the course meant major excavation
of dirt, cutting down at least one old pine tree, relocating several
large iron lampposts and electrical connections, pruning back huge
mature oleander shrubs, hauling in new crushed granite, hardening the
new path, replacing the stone retaining wall, planting grass -- and challenging us to
figure out what he'd changed! [That was before he put out orange cones
to show the old path (second photo below). I saw what he'd done fairly quickly because I
took photos of the "face tree" in the middle of the course last year
(first photo below).
Seeing the cones a couple days later made the relo more graphic,
BEFORE (2007), above: the "face tree" is
in the middle of the track at the timing mat
AFTER (2008), below: the track has been
relocated far to the left
and the timing booth is in the
background; orange cones show the previous route
- The course was relocated enough on the far northeast side
(location of the portable toilets) so it would still be
exactly 500 meters on the inside of the track. That also involved
moving dirt and edging. Frank Cuda went out to Nardini Manor
at least twice to do the course re-certification with his bicycle.
- The more narrow parts of the course were widened. This was
especially noticeable on the southern side (right of the house in the
diagram above) where Rodger completely dug out about 200 feet of tall
oleander shrubs next to the paved terraced area (large pink rectangle
in upper right corner). Wow -- what a difference it made! Now it's
very open and
sunny. Here's a graphic "before and after" set of photos:
South side of track before 2007 race
Same view, without the oleanders, on our work day
view below is looking back the other direction.
- Rodger also mostly straightened out a "dogleg" in the middle of
this section, moved a stone bench and large flowerpot to the outside
corner, and added a very cool ancient warrior statue to the inside
corner (he calls it "Bubba" or the "Silent Warrior").
- He moved a large storage unit across from the aid station on the
north (canal) side of the course to widen the course and smooth out
- The minor "hill" on either side of the
driveway was filled in to make it more gradual.
- Major pruning of the fast-growing oleander hedges was required
along the back straight-away on the east side of the course (behind
the house and parking area) to widen the track. Rodger also did
maintenance pruning of the hedges around the perimeter of the
3. The large back BRICK TERRACED AREA (upper right corner in
diagram above) was completely cleaned up and revamped. Lots of old
decorative ironwork, lampposts, and statuary were removed to make room for:
- a new "quiet tent" for six runners to sleep in during the race (some
runners had complained that it's too noisy to sleep in the large heated
New "quiet tent" and canopy tables
during assembly on 12-17-08 (above and below)
- ten round wooden tables with canopies that runners could use for
personal aid stations if they weren't able to bring their own.
4. New SHOWERS were constructed in the permanent heated
restroom, a separate building in the middle of the property.
Previously the only shower available was an outdoor one with
A few days before the race Rodger and Tana
painstakingly built a beautiful slate tiled-and-grouted shower
in one corner of the women's restroom (next photo). They soon wished they'd
done the same in the men's bathroom.
Rodger and Tana used slate like that on the
floor to build
the women's nice new shower. Note the
towels on the rack.
Instead, two days before the race Rodger asked Jim to install a
new fiberglass shower kit in the men's room. He'd already purchased it
at Home Depot and didn't want to take it back. Unfortunately, he
lost the assembly directions -- and at this point, he was too
stressed out to install more than the plumbing. (Like many
stories, this one is more humorous in retrospect than it was at
Jim had never installed one of the things. He gamely tackled
the project with vigor but was soon as frustrated as
Rodger by the lack of instructions. Complicating matters was
all the extra hardware included for various types of installations,
depending on the bathroom construction. Jim was unable to get
the proper directions either at Home Depot or online, so the
two of us combined our brains and brawn to construct that
shower. Rodger popped in and out periodically to offer
encouragement, suggestions, and more tools.
It wasn't always a pretty process but we had some fun
with it and the satisfaction of checking one more job off the
long list of Things to Do.
Bracing the shower walls until they adhered to the planks
(photos taken 12-27)
When we were done
several hours later, Jim hand-lettered this sign ("Jim and
Sue get the first shower!") and left it as
a joke for Rodger to see when he came in to finish the plumbing:
Rodger works long and hard but he maintains a good sense of
humor, even under duress. We try to do the same. Keeps you
younger, you know?
I mentioned earlier that Rodger and Tana own the Wyman Hotel in
Silverton, Colorado. To increase the comfort of the runners
during ATY, Tana generously brought several thick burgundy
towels with her from the hotel for runners who didn't have their
own towels to use in the new showers at Nardini Manor. I was
simply amazed at that gesture of hospitality. It says a lot
about the Wrubliks and their dedication to this race.
5. There were several improvements made regarding TIMING & OTHER
- The chip-timing area was moved closer to the aid station and main
entrance to the large heated tent. It was placed exactly halfway
around the track from the quiet tent, so runners who were sleeping in
either tent could wake up and just start walking/running in the
direction everyone else was going. Previously, if runners were off
the course when the direction was changed, they had to complete their
last lap in the direction they'd been going (if they could remember!),
then turn around the way everyone else was going. You could always
tell who'd been taking a nap! The new way was pure genious, making it much easier for the runners AND timers.
New timing booth (left) in its new location.
- A new temperature-controlled booth replaced the old timing tent.
It was smaller but more comfortable. If I remember correctly, this is one of many items, large
and small, that Rodger has found on e-bay! (You'd be amazed . . .)
- A new 42" flat screen TV was added to display runners'
standings each time they crossed the timing mat. There are two
screens, once facing each direction, so runners can see how many laps,
miles, and kilometers they've run every 500 meters.
- The TV replaced a very large screen that was used this year for
the new leader board (below) that displayed runners' standings in all
three events. This was much better than the hand-written leader board
that was updated every hour or two in previous races.
- Improvements were made to the live timing
programs so the glitches that occurred last year were all or mostly
fixed. New computer programming was written for the leader board. All
the technology ran from four laptop computers connected to the
internet with air cards.
- Two web cams were used throughout the race but there are still
problems getting clear pictures with those using only air cards for
internet connections. Nardini Manor, which is located in a rural part
of Maricopa County (Phoenix area), doesn't have high-speed broadband,
DSL, or satellite service. It's amazing what technology these guys are able to
with no high-speed internet! ATY remains a leader in this regard.
6. REGISTRATION, CHECK-IN, BAG STUFFING saw some changes that
made the process more efficient for both the runners and volunteers:
- This year runners had the option of paying only a reduced race entry fee
with no goody bag (with a high-quality Northface shirt and jacket and other items) or
paying an additional fee for the goody bag. This is always a great option for
those who have more than enough race clothing and gear and/or folks who need
to economize. About 20 of the 120+ runners chose the "no bag" option.
- Even though sponsors' items weren't all present by the December 13 work
day when Mike Chiorazzi and I initially assembled the runners' duffel bags,
Rodger and I gradually added the items
received later to the bags before the runners checked in. That
included the name bibs and timing chips, which were handed out separately
last year. This resulted in a much smoother check-in process.
Beginning of the bag-stuffing process: getting organized
- Instead of runners checking in on the morning they began running, pre-race
check-in was opened up to everyone on Sunday afternoon, the day before Day 1
of the race. The runners and volunteers appreciated that because it made the race
mornings much less hectic. Runners could also opt to check in at the
traditional time in the two hours before each day's races began.
- Check-in was handled differently in another way that proved very popular:
instead of runners crowding into the already-crowded "bag room"
from the veranda to check in, they were directed up the front steps into the Wrubliks'
beautiful, spacious living room (with its warm fireplace and antique
furniture) to sign their waiver and receive their bags. That was much more
intrusive on the family but oh-so-appreciated by the runners and volunteers.
Less chaos, more serenity!
7. A couple of RUNNER SAFETY ISSUES were resolved this year
because of problems in 2007:
A new item in each race packet was an 8½ by
11-inch laminated ID card that Rodger designed individually for the
runners, to be placed on their tent, vehicle, or aid table so race
officials could locate runners if an emergency arose.
Last year several runners, including me, got sick during or
after the race. I secretly blamed my 24-hour post-race
intestinal "bug" on one of the sick runners that I hugged
(knowing full well that he was ill), but race officials suspect the
original source may have been from a hygiene issue at the aid
station. This year volunteers handling food and beverages wore
plastic gloves. Food items like candy and crackers were
portioned into small paper cups to prevent contamination by
runners sticking their dirty hands into a whole bowl of food.
Disinfecting wipes were also available to both volunteers and
runners at the aid station.
8. In honor of the Silver Anniversary some changes were made to the AWARDS.
The etched glass mugs given to participants running fewer than a hundred
miles were presented in silver lamé fabric
bags. Smaller silver bags held the buckles for runners reaching 100, 200, or
The buckles were also new this year. Instead of just silver, they are now
two-toned in brass and silver. The 200- and 300-mile buckles are larger now,
too. Aren't they beautiful?
Jim and I were happy to be a part of the sometimes stressful,
always interesting pre-race preparations. We ended up doing a
wide variety of jobs between December 13 and January 2. I won't include each task here, but will share some
observations and more stories.
By the time several volunteers showed up for the work weekend on
December 13-14, Rodger had already done a lot of the heavy work
to the course. Most of the volunteers, including Jim, helped him
outside that Saturday with tasks like clearing limbs that had been
pruned, erecting about three dozen flag poles and putting up
flags representing the states and countries of all the runners,
folding and moving dozens of chairs and tables from the last
event in the big tent, power-washing the brick tent floor,
erecting some of the race-specific tents, measuring the course
again, and other tasks.
Jim (L) and Paul put up some of the flags
and poles on 12-13-08.
Mike Chiorazzi and I spent several hours on one of my favorite
race jobs: preparing the runners' duffel bags. Some of
our tasks were spraying the individualized name bibs with
waterproofing on both sides, organizing the attractive
long-sleeved running shirts and fleece jackets by gender and size,
setting up an assembly line of other goodies for the bags, and
filling each runner's bag and packet (or packet only, if they opted out of the
goody bag) one at a time to be sure they received
the proper items and sizes.
Mike puts runner name bibs on stretchy belts.
Blue is for the 48-hour race, yellow the 72-hour.
Our last task was organizing the bags in
alphabetical order for each of the three races. We had a room
Duffel bags and packets for the
24- and 72-hour
runners; the 48-hour bags are not shown here.
This photo was taken on 12-28-08 when the bags/packets were all ready to be
Our group, shown in a photo near the beginning of this entry, accomplished so much on Saturday that Rodger and Paul
decided to cancel the Sunday work day!
From then until race day Jim and I continued to help Rodger with
a myriad of tasks from purely physical to totally cerebral. I
was fortunate in that most of the jobs I did produced tangible
results, like the runners' bags and ID cards. Jim was frustrated
some days because he "didn't have much to show" for what he'd
been working on (technological stuff).
Not all the sponsors' items arrived by the work day when Mike
and I first assembled the duffel bags. With Rodger's blessing, I
pretty much adopted the bags and registration process as my
responsibility for the next two weeks, adding in various items
two or three at a time as we made or received them. I even
gently chided Rodger for taking the time to add the runners'
ankle timing chips to the bags one night when I wasn't around
(knowing he had more complicated things to do that I couldn't
do), but he said it was easiest to do that job as he programmed
the chips on the computer. It was one of many tasks he did in
the middle of the night as the race approached.
One of the first things Rodger asked Jim to work on was the web
cam, which never did work very well in 2007. As with the shower
installation, Jim was game to try something new. Rodger showed
him a camera he already had and explained that no one he'd
consulted, including a professional "Geek Squad," was able to
figure out how to make it work properly during the race. He just
didn't have the time to deal with it any more.
Jim practices using the web cams along the
track on 12-23-08.
Jim loves challenges, especially ones that can be solved. He
threw himself into the project, both at Rodger's house and on
the internet in our camper. Bear in mind that all of this was
completely new to him; he had a lot of basic research and
trial-and-error experimentation to do. He searched several stores
for new cameras to determine if one might work better than what
Rodger had, and ended up buying one he thought might be
more suitable for its intended purpose: capturing moving
runners at a distance as they circled the track in two directions
in a shady location and during the night. It was a lot to ask of
a relatively inexpensive web cam
Although this project sometimes frustrated the daylights out of
Jim he still had some fun with it. That's his nature. One of his
favorite tricks was catching me off-guard. I quickly learned to listen
for audible clicks and look where he had the camera aimed so I
wasn't caught picking my nose (or worse!) by the camera at an
inopportune time. You see, not only could Jim project images on
a hidden page on our personal website to see if they were
clear, he also had the access code to the "working" ATY
website pages so he could project images there. Only a few people
like Rodger, Dave, and Lynn had access to those pages, but if they
were working on them at the same time, they could see the images
from whichever web cam Jim was using. So I had to be sure I
wasn't the subject very often!
One day Jim made this sign and put it on the back of his chair
for their amusement:
Jim worked on the web cam project with Rodger for two weeks
before the race, then consulted with Dave Combs when he arrived
for the race. He even stopped during his race a few times to
check on the web cams. (It is common for some of the other
volunteers/runners to do this. Dave, Christopher O'Loughlin, and
Dr. Any Lovy, for example, spend many hours off the course
during their 72-hour runs when their timing and medical skills
Both web cameras were set up for the race and turned around (if
someone remembered to do it) when the runners changed
directions. They were hooked up to the same laptop used for the
leader board. Various problems -- primarily the changing and
low-light conditions, type of cameras, and lack of a fast
internet connection at Nardini Manor -- continued to cause
problems with the quality of the web cam photos on the internet
during the race, so this remains a work in progress for next
year. (Jim's determined to solve it.)
Most other jobs we did singly, together, or with the Wrubliks showed more tangible
results: e.g., assembling the men's shower; putting the
mounts on a 42" flat screen TV and the wooden frame Rodger built
to hold it (this was the new screen that showed runners' times
and distance each lap); helping to set up medical, aid station, and other tents;
Jim secures the sides of the medical tent
to be used by Kachina Rescue during the race. 12-27-08
fixing tents after high winds rearranged them;
relocating tables and chairs; hanging signs and banners;
runners' mailboxes (and assembling a new one for the extra
runners this year); painting heavy iron supports
for additional runners' tables with canopies, cutting holes in the
tables for the canopies, and hauling everything to the new
"quiet tent" area on the far side of the track;
cleaning up that brick-terraced area and hauling out old
decorative ironwork, lampposts, and
picking up numerous oleander branches Rodger pruned around the property;
picking up pine cones in the "forest"
area; raking new crushed granite Rodger added to the
track after about 4" of rain fell before the race (the rain caused
him a lot more work and expense than usual); modifying
the medical waivers; talking with runners who
arrived early to see the venue so Rodger could continue his
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
It was interesting to be involved with these and other tasks.
They gave us a broader perspective on some of the details that
go into preparing for a race of this stature. Bear in mind, we saw only a
very small part of the whole and for a relatively short period of time.
It takes dedicated leadership and a lot of hard work to produce a race of ATY's caliber. No wonder preparations for the 2009 race have
begun even before the 2008 race starts!
You can see other pre-race photos on
our Picasa site and the
ATY Picasa site.
Next entry: show time; greeting the
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
Tater (in spirit)
© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil