It was just getting light when I walked over to the Wrubliks'
house at 6:45 AM on Monday. The forecast called for a sunny day
in the 60s F. but it was only about 30°
F. at the moment. Brrr. Jim was still sleeping snugly in our
camper. I think I was quiet enough to not wake him up. I was to
call him at 7:30 to be sure he was up. I figured I'd wait a few
minutes after that, though, so the enticing aroma of his perking coffee
would arouse him more gently than a jangling phone.
I was almost as pumped as the runners who would begin their
races this morning at 9 AM. Many of them who stayed overnight at Nardini Manor could sleep in because they were on-site and had
already checked in on Sunday afternoon. About twenty more people
still needed to get their timing chips, ID bibs, bags, and
packets before they began running on Monday morning. They checked in early enough to attend the 8:45 pre-race
briefing in the big tent so I was able to close up shop and
watch the start of the race.
Fifteen minutes before the start of the
race on Day 1
Jim was already up when I called him. He had plenty of time to
shower, get dressed, choke down some breakfast (he's not a big
eater before races), feed and walk Cody, and take some items
over to our personal aid table near the timing area.
Since he planned to sleep in the camper several times the next
two nights during his 48-hour race, he left most of his
clothing, shoes, gear, and supplies there instead of at
our table. He lost some time and put in extra distance going to
and from the camper six or eight times but it was worth it to him
(a tall hedge separated us from the track on the back side of
the parking lot).
Runners have lots of choices at ATY re: where they sleep
and if/where they receive aid besides the official aid station.
Several other runners
also brought campers of
various sizes to the race so they could sleep there. Two of the
German runners flew in and rented a camper to use during their
stay; they parked along the track at the end of the tall
hedge and set up their aid
table right outside their door. Very handy. Other runners
slept in the backs of vans or SUVs. The majority of the 48- and 72-hour runners slept on cots
or in tents on the lawn, in the new quiet tent, or in the huge
heated tent during the race. Most of the 24-hour runners stayed awake all
night and didn't need to bring sleeping bags or tents unless
they were present at the race venue on other days they weren't
running. During the 24 hours I ran on Day 3, I never went into
our camper; I kept everything I needed at our aid table
near the mailbox area.
Jim (L) talks to Matt and Anne Watts a few
minutes before the start.
The runners soon came streaming out of the big heated tent from
the pre-race briefing and did last-minute preparations before
the start of the race. It was the first I'd seen Jim since he
got up. We hugged and kissed each other good morning. He seemed
calm and eager to start his newest adventure: his first
48-hour race. He'd be in new territory after 35 hours. We
talked with Anne and Matt Watts, who were both running the
24-hour race, and other friends. Then Jim wandered over to the
start as the clock ticked down to 9 AM.
72-hour runners (L to R) Robert Andrulis,
Lynn Newton, and Christian Griffith
A few hardy runners wore shorts and/or short sleeves but the
majority were in pants, long sleeves, and even gloves in the
chilly air. In races this long, even most of the 24-hour runners
would start out slowly to warm up their muscles. It'd be
downright foolish for the 48- and 72-hour runners to start out
That didn't stop 24-hour runner Jamil Coury from bolting around the track his
first lap, but that was just for show! I was hoping there would
be a hard-fought battle on Day 1 between Jamil (age 23) and his
two younger brothers, Nick (21) and Nathan (18), but it was
little brother who was the only one in the family to top 100
miles. Jamil and Nick stopped after reaching 57 and 55 miles,
respectively. Their father Paul (55) ran on Day 3, accumulating
53 miles. Wife and mom, Patty, was crew and Volunteer
Extraordinaire throughout the race. She and her sons stepped in
to work long
hours in the aid station on Day 3 (and during the night) when
there was a shortage of volunteers. Thank you so much, Coury
Some runners (above) started off fast. Most
walked until they began warming up. Jim's on the left, below.
JIM'S RACE STRATEGY
Jim and I have very different race strategies. (I'll describe
mine in the entry for Day 3. It won't take long!)
taper before a race, when he has a good idea of his current potential,
Jim likes to research the splits of other runners who have
finished the race in about the same time as his intended goal. He usually
sets two or three goals from bare minimum time (or distance in a
fixed-time race like ATY) that he'll be satisfied with to the
time/distance he could possibly reach if everything goes
perfectly (the best-case scenario or fantasy goal). Then he prints out and laminates
~ 4x5" split charts to
carry with him so he can determine how he's faring on that
continuum during the
For ATY he printed out two 8x11" split sheets, one for the
camper and one for our aid table. One side of the sheet was for
Day 1 (as shown below), the other side for Day 2. He included the hour, time of
day, goal laps and miles per hour, goal minutes per lap, goal
total miles, and a blank column for actual miles at the end of
each hour. He used a Sharpie pen to fill in
the last column most of the 48 hours. The ones he missed
were mostly hours he was asleep.
For this race Jim put only the splits for his best-case scenario goal
because he thought that would motivate him the most: to run and walk 48 miles the
first 12 hours (9 AM to 9 PM), 39 miles the next 12 hours, which
were mostly at night (9 PM to 9 AM), 37 miles during Day 2 (9 AM
to 9 PM), and 32 miles the last 12 hours (9 PM to 9 AM) for a
grand total of 156 miles. His more realistic goal was 120-130 miles
but he'd basically be satisfied with anything over 100 miles
because he'd never been "out there" two nights before and 100
miles is the most he's ever gone in one race before.
Here's Jim's completed split chart for the best-case scenario on
As you can see in the chart above he was a
little ahead of schedule the first four hours and then slowly
fell behind his best case scenario splits the rest of Day 1.
He knew this event would be a learning experience since it's his
first 48-hour race. I don't think he started out too fast; he
ran/walked his first lap in 4:50 minutes and the second in 4:42,
then began running and walking a little faster pace. The fastest 500-meter lap
split that I see on the first day was a brisk 3:16 minutes
around 1 PM but most laps where he didn't stop to eat, drink, go
to the bathroom, etc. were in the 4-5 minute range (12-15 minutes per mile).
You can see his splits for entire race
here. The second
column shows how fast he walked/ran every one of his 374 (!!)
laps. It also shows his pace per minute, kilometers per hour,
elapsed time, time of day, total kilometers, and total miles.
Jim (L) and Gillian Robinson, both in the
48-hour, finish their
first lap in 4:50 minutes.
This is one of the great features of ATY: complete and
accurate results during and after the race. Runners get most of
this information on screens at the end of each lap and on a
large leader board projected from the computer under the canopy
shown in the next photo.
Viewers anywhere in the world could see much the same thing on
the internet, almost in real time, and set the refresh rate from
15 seconds to two minutes. Ironically, when I was in the camper on Days 1 and 2, I
got on-line several times to download e-mail and look at the
standings, lap splits, and web cam! When I needed to be inside
it was more efficient than walking over to the timing area to
watch the runners and the various screens live. Jim did the same
thing on Day 3 when I was running.
I saw other crew members checking race progress on their laptops along the track during the race:
High-tech: crew in foreground with computer,
Rodger under canopy with leader board computer and web cams
The two guys in the foreground were looking at the standings on
their computer. The real leader board was behind them, thirty
feet away! That's pretty funny, and the reason I took the photo.
All the results at ATY are verified within a few days after the race
and the final version is kept on the web site for future
reference. To find lap splits for other runners, click
first on the
results or "standings" link
for the 2008 race, then the runners' numbers (the links on their
names bring up auto-biographical information). It's easy to
see how fast and slow some of their splits are or to tell when
they are off the track for any length of time to eat, sleep, work on
blisters, etc. Jim's splits indicate he had at least ten lap times of 8 to 16 minutes each on Day 1, with a
longer lap time of 1:22 hours after 11 PM to sleep.
This is good information for him to have as he plans his
strategy for the race next year.
Jim and Mary Smith, also in the 48-hour
circle in front of the house late in the
afternoon of Day 1.
Yes, he may do the 48-hour run again to see how much he can
improve his distance. It's called "unfinished business."
His main challenge is figuring out his sleep breaks and how to
prevent the bottoms of his feet from hurting so much. He has
about seven months to decide which race he wants to do at ATY
next year: 24, 48, or 72 hours.
OH, MY ACHING FEET!
Foot problems resulted in some of Jim's long lap times the first
afternoon and evening. He switched shoes in the camper three
times during the race, a tactic that is often advised so hot spots,
blisters, and other problems don't develop.
Jim (L) always had a smile for the camera!
(late afternoon of Day 1)
He started off in Asics 2130 trail shoes until one of his feet
began to hurt. He discovered that a soft gel-filled "sleeve"
that he's used successfully several times to prevent
blisters on his toes had slid off his little toe and was
actually causing a hot spot where it was bunched up.
Since the bottoms of his feet were starting to hurt already, he
switched to a more cushiony, flexible pair of Asics 2130
road shoes with a wider toe box. They helped until the constant
repetitive motions turned the hot
spot into a blister. He popped it later the first evening,
soaked it in Epsom salts, taped it up, and put new socks and the
same shoes back on. That held him through the night.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
Jim's and my approaches to ATY differed in other respects than
our race strategies (his detailed pace chart, above, versus my
very casual approach, which I'll explain later). We also had
different plans for using the camper, the race aid station, and
our personal aid table. Part of that was due to the varying
lengths of our races (one day vs. two) and part of it was due to
general preferences and personality differences. My attitude
toward racing has become much more casual the past year or two.
Neither of us is "right" or "wrong." We just approach some
Since Jim knew he'd be sleeping in the camper several times
during his 48-hour race he just left his clothes, shoes, and
most of his supplies in the camper. There wasn't any other
logical place for him to change clothes, and he had better light
in the camper to work on his toe than anywhere else. He was in
and out of the camper about eight times during Days 1 and 2. My
strategy re: the camper was to avoid it entirely, if
possible, during the 24 hours I was on the track. I figured I
was able to do it last year and I should be able to do it again.
Mostly I was trying to save time by having everything I needed
at our aid table. That wouldn't have worked if I was in the
48-hour race, though.
Host Rodger Wrublik (L) and his grandson, Cayden,
walk around the track with
Ray Krolewicz (red shirt) behind Ulli Kamm
(blue shirt) on Day 1.
Our nutritional plans are also different at races. Jim uses the
beverages and foods available at aid stations a lot more than I
do. At ATY he didn't put much of anything to eat or drink at our
table. I had almost everything I needed there for 24 hours,
except for some hot food I ate during the night when Jim was
asleep in the camper and I didn't want to wake him up. Again, if
I'd been in the 48-hour race I probably would have needed more
solid food from the aid station than I needed for "only" 24
Jim primarily used Hammer Nutrition's Heed at the aid station
for his energy drink, supplemented by the Sam's Club generic
version of Boost that he kept in a cooler at our table. He also
drank water and soft drinks from the aid station and one
Starbuck's frapuccino in our cooler. He went through only a couple
5-ounce flasks of our Hammergel supply (although he had a
bunch more in the cooler) and got most of his calories from
soups and solid foods at the aid station. He enjoyed the race's
smorgasbord -- for example, grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch,
chicken cordon bleu for dinner, quesadillas for breakfast. ATY
offers tasty selections, which vary from day to day.
Jim passes other runners' aid stations in
the parking area as the sun sets on Day 1
My nutritional strategy was to rely
primarily on my own Hammer Perpetuem energy drink and Hammergel,
which I kept in our cooler. Both supply easily digested calories
and are quick to consume. I
didn't get any fluids from the aid station, even water. I had
about three gallons of cold water in a big blue cooler on our
table and quickly mixed up a new bottle of Perp as I needed it. Since Perp has protein and fat in it,
I got away with only occasionally eating hot
soup or other foods from the aid station for my one-day run. The
breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods offered at the aid station
were tempting, believe me, but I was focusing on forward
Jim's strategy worked well for him; he had plenty of energy
during most of the race and didn't get dehydrated. My strategy
worked equally well for me. Different strokes.
I hung around our aid station table near the timing booth while
Jim walked and ran his first few laps. I took some photos,
encouraged the runners, and enjoyed the beautiful morning.
Then I headed back to the camper to eat breakfast, take a
shower, give Cody some attention, and get on the computer for a
little while before my next volunteer assignment: working
a shift in the kitchen and aid station from 11 AM to 3 PM.
Runners' view of the main aid station on Day 1
It was great fun to watch Jim's mileage creep up as the hours
passed. Neither of us required much crewing assistance since the
aid station was so well-stocked, we had our own aid table, and
the camper was close, but it was still nice to crew and be
crewed as time allowed. When I was in the aid station, I simply
helped crew for everyone wanting to eat or drink, not just Jim.
Like the other volunteers on my shift, I did a little bit of
everything in the kitchen and aid station: helped make
new batches of Heed, filled cups with a wide variety of
beverages, learned how to mix German runner Martina Hausmann's
cranberry juice-and-water ratio exactly right in her bottles
(she had no crew), made peanut butter sandwiches with and
without jelly, served grilled cheese sandwiches to passing
runners at lunchtime, made instant soup upon request (delicious
homemade potato soup was prepared later in the day), and another
one of my favorite jobs, encouraging the runners. Since it was
still pretty early on the first day of the race, most folks were
in good spirits and feeling frisky -- but encouragement is still
Volunteers' view of the runners from the aid station;
Jean-Jacques d'Aquin runs by on the first day of his 72-hour race
The most effective encouragement is probably from crews,
friends, family, and volunteers who are there in person at the
race. Also very popular at ATY is the "Better Than E-Mail"
feature. Anyone with an internet connection can send sincere
and/or humorous words of support to their favorite runners
through a link on the race website. The messages accumulate on
another page where they can be read by anyone in cyberspace (so
it's best to be somewhat discreet!). When Jim and I weren't
running, we could read them on-line in the camper (and I sent
some on the first two days to Jim and friends who were out on the
track). Paul, Rodger, and other volunteers print out every
message every couple of hours and put them in the runners'
individual mailboxes so they can read them during the race.
Most of the runners love this feature, especially deep into the
race when their enthusiasm lags and everything hurts and they
start wondering why the heck they are out there! (It sounded
like a good idea at the time . . . ) It's fun to watch other
runners as they circle the track reading their messages and
reacting to them. Some of the messages are very funny and all
are motivational at some level. We are always grateful to the
people who take the time to think of us and send us short notes
during the race. Unfortunately, we didn't remind as many people
about the mail feature this year and didn't get as many messages
as last year. But the quality of the ones we received made up
for the lack of quantity. Thanks to everyone who sent regular
e-mail or "better than e-mail" notes.
THE FIRST NIGHT
The lap screen shows Jim has run 42.56
miles so far. It was 8:25 PM on Day 1.
At the same time, the leader board showed
Jim was in 6th place of seven runners in the first 48-hour wave.
(Names highlighted in blue began on Day 2.
Brown highlights 24-hour runners starting on Day 3.)
Jim moved up and down in the standings as
the second wave in his race accumulated miles on Days 2 and 3.
Jim was facing quite a few "unknowns" in his first 48-hour race.
One of the biggest was how to manage the sleep he'd need --
when, how often, how long? He researched this aspect of
multi-day races as much as he could in the months prior to the
race by reading race reports, reading training strategies
printed in UltraRunning magazine, and looking at the splits of
ATY 48-hour runners who ran in the middle of the pack (a great
use of the website data I mentioned earlier in this entry). He
also decided to contact some of them individually by e-mail.
As you'd predict, the best information he received was from
friends who have done the 48-hour race previously at ATY or
elsewhere. The problem was determining which strategies would
work best for him. Some runners set a particular distance or
time goal before taking their first sleep break. Others said it
was better to lie down when they first felt sleepy because sleep
had totally eluded them when they waited until a specific time
or distance goal. Some recommended taking only "power naps" of
20-30 minutes duration so as not to get into the REM cycle (too
fuzz-brained when you wake up in that cycle). Others believed
they did best with several 2-3 hour naps (after passing through
the REM cycle).
What to do, what to do??
Jim's still smiling his first night on the
course. (Sometimes the blurry pics are pretty cool!)
Since ultra runners are an experiment of one, Jim had to find
out for himself what worked best. Kind of like figuring out
which run-walk strategy is best. It varies throughout the race.
What works well on Day 1 probably won't work well on Day 2. Live
Even though he didn't know the exact MO he'd use for sleeping,
Jim did know that he needed something simpler to set than an
alarm clock when he was sleep-deprived on the second night. So
he found an inexpensive timer that was very easy to set and used
that for each nap. He had his clothes, shoes, gear, supplies,
pillow, and blankets organized for easy access in the living
room. He slept in his recliner, a strategy designed to
discourage over-sleeping. It also allowed ME to sleep better the
two nights before my race.
Jim and RD Paul Bonnett work on web cam issues late in
the evening on Day 1.
When Jim started getting sleepy about 10:30 the first
night, he came into the camper to see when I'd be going to bed.
I estimated 11 PM, which gave him the incentive to continue
circling the track for another 30 minutes until he reached 50
miles. He set his alarm for one hour and went to sleep fairly
quickly in the recliner. I went to sleep with only one earplug
in (!) so I wouldn't oversleep the next morning (Day 2) when I
was doing pre-race check-in again. I didn't hear Jim leave the
camper around 12:15 AM but I did hear him when he came
back in a second time around 5 AM. He was able to sleep an hour
again. We both got up at 6. (You can see his 1:14 hour
split on lap #211.)
We talked a little bit before he returned to the track. He had
reached the 100K mark, one of those "milestone" distances,
around 4 AM and was up to 65 miles when he came in for his
second nap. Jim told me about the neighbors' roosters crowing at
3 or 4 AM, way before daylight. I never heard them until it was
my turn to walk all night.
Continued in the next entry . . . Day 2 at ATY;
Jim guts out another day
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
Tater (in spirit)
© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil