We quickly learned about Steven's understated sense of humor. Several runners,
including Jim, were a bit mystified about the water comment, for example.
Steven was accommodating, however. When Jim asked if an energy drink like Heed
would be provided at the aid station (so he'd know if he needed to use our
own supply), Steven promptly notified the runners he'd have both Heed and Gatorade
at the aid station.
And maybe water!
Photo by Nick Coury of the
well-stocked aid station with plenty of volunteers throughout the race.
L-R: me, Nathan Coury,
Jamil Coury, Pati Coury
He was kidding, of course.
Turns out, the aid station had plenty of beverages and hot and cold
foods to satisfy most of the runners (except those with strict diets, who
should know to take the foods they want to races and not whine
when there aren't enough choices that meet their particular criteria).
There was more than enough water, energy drinks, soft drinks, hot
chocolate, even tea. One of the volunteers brought a coffee pot and real
In addition to the standard salty and sweet aid station munchies, there were also grills to make cheese
quesadillas for lunch and pancakes for breakfast. Pizza Hut delivered
three kinds of hot pasta, including lasagna and mac & cheese, for supper and pizzas for a
The aid station fare was just one way in which this race exceeded our
NEW EVENT, NEW VENUE
By now you should be used to
me ending our annual web journal with an entry dated January 1st of the
next year. That's because this is the third year in a row we've
been involved with a race beginning in one year and ending the next. We think
there's no better way to celebrate New Year's Eve than a running event!
Even a short race like a 5K could be scheduled like this, you know. It's
not just crazy ultra runners who do it.
In late December of 2007 and 2008 we had so much fun at the Across the Years
(ATY) 72-, 48-, and 24-hour runs at Tana and Rodger Wrublik's Nardini Manor in
Goodyear, AZ that we were very disappointed last April when Rodger notified the
race committee that because of business conflicts, the race
would be on hiatus this year.
It was several weeks before Rodger, the race host, and Paul Bonnett, the RD, made a
public announcement about the status of the race. In the meantime we corresponded with some of the key volunteers in the Phoenix area who had
been instrumental to the success of ATY, volunteering to help anyone else who
was willing to take on the
responsibility of directing the race for one year. One of the main problems was
the need to find
another venue, as Nardini Manor is not only one of the Wrublik's businesses,
it's also one of their residences (they also own the Wyman Hotel in Silverton,
CO and rent or own a house there).
We kept our fingers crossed during the spring and summer.
We were happy
when the race committee was notified in early August by Steven Finkelstein that
the Arizona Road Racers (ARR) were tentatively planning to stage an alternative
24-hour race at Victory Lane Sports Complex in Glendale, a northern Phoenix
suburb, on December 31. He wanted feedback from the committee about the race
Once the fee and other critical pieces were in place, Steven announced the event publicly on the ARR
website, ultra list, and running publications. Phil Davis was the initial RD
but later changed his mind; Steven generously stepped up to assume the
UPS & DOWNS OF ATY
I don't know if it's ironic or fitting that the Arizona Road Runners came
through with an alternative to ATY this year -- but I'm glad they
Across the Years has had a long (25 years in 2009) and somewhat tenuous history, which
you can find on the ATY website. Harold Sieglaff began the race and directed it by himself for
several years. Later he enlisted more assistance, finally asking Paul Bonnett
for help. Since Paul was ARR president about then, it became an ARR event for
On my way to 82 miles (mostly walking) at ATY 2008
In the early 2000s, when the race was facing extinction once more, Rodger offered to build a track for the event at Nardini Manor
so it would have a more permanent "home."
He not only saved the race but he, Paul, and the dedicated race
committee they formed helped transform ATY into one of the country's premiere
running events. After my first time there, I declared it to be my new favorite
So you can understand my disappointment when Rodger announced he simply
couldn't do it this year. Paul was unable to assume full responsibility,
including finding a new venue, and still maintain the high standards everyone has
come to expect of ATY. The event was put on hiatus with no promises it will be
continued next year.
Attractive logo on the race t-shirts and
The alternative race has an entirely different name:
the ARR 24-Hour Run to the Future (RTTF). Only the date and general geographic
location (metro Phoenix) are the same. For simplicity's sake -- and due to lack of time for
sufficient planning and staffing -- there is no 48- or 72-hour race this time. The
club will consider adding those events in 2010 if ATY
TO RUN OR NOT TO RUN?
When we learned about the new race in August, Jim and I promptly wrote to Steven, then Phil Davis, then Steven again (as
the RD position changed hands) to offer our thanks, encouragement, and
volunteer support. We knew from all the race committee e-mails
going back and forth that several key members from ATY would be involved with
the alternative race. That was good news.
We arrived in the Phoenix area over two weeks early so we could help with
pre-race preparations. As it turned out, our assistance wasn't needed until
race day; we enjoyed our stay at McDowell Mountain Regional Park anyway!
(Think warm sunshine and a myriad of trails.)
Dixie Mine Trail at McDowell Mountain Regional Park
Both Jim and I planned to run this race as soon as it was announced but we
didn't enter it immediately. There was no entry limit or deadline; in
fact, race-day entries were accepted, quite a far cry from races that fill up
many months in advance. The only disadvantage to not signing up
early was a fee increase closer to race day; $85 was the highest
fee, which is very reasonable for what runners received at this 24-hour race.
Then life intervened: my run-ending knee problems and Jim's plantar faciitis. Both threatened to quash our plans to enter Run to the Future but we
were still determined to help with the race.
I knew for three months that I shouldn't enter Run to the Future but
I almost did after we got to McDowell Mountain Park. I was having a great day
on the trails. The endorphins kicked in and the thought occurred to me that it
would be very cool to run/walk 30 miles on December 31-January 1 to celebrate
my 30th running anniversary -- I began running on January 1, 1980.
L-R: Nick, Nathan, Jamil, and Pati Coury talk with
another volunteer in the aid station on race day.
I rationalized my decision real easily. Run to the Future was low-key with
only 30+ runners entered in mid-December. I figured I could help with
registration before the race, walk 3-4 hours, work the aid station a while,
walk another 3-4 hours, work another stint at the aid station, then finish out
my 30 miles around the midnight hour as 2009 morphed into 2010. Steven and the
volunteer coordinator, Sandra Fontaine, were fine with that. OK then!
Two days later I came to my senses and did NOT enter. I realized I'd regret
that many miles after so little training since my bike wreck in early August.
The longest I've run/walked or hiked is only about three hours in recent weeks.
No way would it be smart for me to go for ten hours or more in the race, even
just walking. As good as it
might be for my psyche, it wouldn't be any good for my cartilage-challenged
knees or any of the rest of my under-trained muscular-skeletal system.
My brain won over my heart that time. < sigh >
I limited my time on the course to a few loops with Jim
and lots of trips between the
camper and aid station area. Nick Coury took this photo of us near the end of the race.
Jim had a similar tough decision to make: seriously under-trained
(over-rested??) from his plantar faciitis problem, should he take the risk of
worsening the condition and straining other bodily systems that weren't ready
to go even the marathon distance, let alone any serious ultra distances??
He rested and treated the PF aggressively for two or three months and it
began to improve with time. He worked up to several 15½- mile "long runs" on the
trails at McDowell Mountain Park in December. His PF improved, then didn't get
any worse as he increased his mileage, so he decided about a week before Run to
the Future to enter the race. He stated his goal at 100 miles.
When he told me that, we had a serious discussion!! I still don't know why
he put such an unrealistic number down (denial?) but I could tell he was
determined to go as long and far at that race as he could, knowing full well he
might regret it later. I stated my concerns about aggravating the PF and/or
sustaining new injuries from lack of training. He promised
that he'd stop if he could tell he was making things worse.
Long story short: he ended up with just shy of 69 miles officially
(more if you count the extra distance he walked to and from the bathroom and
our camper numerous times!). He's tired and sore afterwards, but I don't think
he regrets a minute of it.
And his PF doesn't seem any worse for the wear. In fact, it was one of his
shins that bothered him more than anything else at the end of the race,
probably because he's not used to running so much on pavement (about 60% of the
course was paved).
DON'T EXPECT THIS TO BE LIKE ATY . . .
We knew Run to the Future would be very different than ATY because few
settings can possibly compare with Nardini Manor -- and very few people
can host an event like the Wrubliks. The ATY bar was raised very high in
recent years. Even if ATY comes back in the future, it will be hard to sustain
its high standards without some modifications to keep the Wrubliks sane.
There was not a lot of information on the ARR
website about the new event,
at least in comparison to many ultra websites. We didn't even find a list of
entrants until a few days before the race. It's always nice to know who's
coming! The dearth of information raised some questions and
concerns in our minds. We asked Phil and Steven some questions via e-mail but
we didn't want to bother them with all the questions we had. We figured
we'd find out more when we got to Phoenix.
We were happy to know that our buddies
Matt and Anne Watts would be there.
Matt set up his gear in "the tunnel"
near the aid station and Anne cheered him on.
We soon decided the best way to handle our uncertainty about the race was to
follow a maxim we've successfully used before: expect the worst (least,
etc.) and anything provided above that will be a nice surprise!
This line of reasoning works in lots of situations. And it worked well with
this race -- our expectations were greatly exceeded
by race management and we were happy with its organization. Run to the Future is not and never will be Rodger's version
of ATY, but it was a doggone good race in its own right. We sincerely
appreciate all the thought and hard work that went into it.
RTTF VENUE & COURSE
A couple days after we arrived in the Phoenix area we drove 42 miles from
McDowell Mountain Park to Glendale to check out the new race venue. We later
learned from the park manager, Mike, that the Arizona Road Racers conduct two shorter runs at this venue. A good working relationship had already
been established when members of the club asked about putting on another race
Mike (shown below) seemed very enthusiastic to have the 24-hour event held on the
Victory Lane property, and hung around most of the first day of the race to work and mingle
with the runners.
Mike, Victory Lane's manager, was
present during part of the race the first day.
Debbra Jacobs-Robinson runs through "the
tunnel" on the left.
Lane Sports Complex sounds like a strange place to hold a race but
it is actually quite convenient with its large parking area, bathrooms,
lighting, and WiFi.
All those features were appreciated by the runners, crews,
and volunteers on race day. The strong WiFi signal, for example, made it
realistic for Steven
to post hourly updates with runners' distances to the race website during the event. It also made it easier for volunteers and crews to post photos and
progress reports on the internet as the race developed.
The sports park hosts softball, T-ball, and volleyball leagues and
tournaments, private parties, and corporate events. There are six lighted ball
fields, eight white-sand volleyball courts (next photo),
batting cages, a playground, heated
restrooms, and a sports bar. The bathrooms were open on race day, but not the
This is a diagram of the complex from the website:
We first visited Victory Lane on a Thursday morning two weeks before the
race. Grounds crews were busy but no one was using the facilities that day.
Several weeks before the race Frank Cuda measured an almost-1K loop through the Victory Lane Sports Complex and
got it USATF certified so any records would be accepted by governing bodies.
On our visit to the park on December 17 we copied Frank's course
map (above) and followed the paved, gravel,
and dirt loop through the sports park almost exactly as it was marked on race
day. I took the next seven pictures of the course that day as we walked
around the loop:
Paved path through the "pretty" part of
the course near the parking area
Gravel and dirt service road behind two
of the ball fields
Back on pavement as Jim and Cody walk
toward the building housing the rest rooms and aid station
What I dubbed the "tunnel" between the
timing mat and aid station
Jim and Cody walk past the timing area
and ball field #1.
Making the turn back toward the parking area
We came away with ambivalent feelings about the venue and course.
About 60% of the surface is paved, the rest either fine dirt or rough
gravel. I'm not fond of either. Jim figured the pavement wouldn't be any more harsh on his joints than ATY's
crushed rock and dirt surface after two or three days of being packed down by
After several hours running on gravel,
some of the runners started running on the dirt in several places.
Although the winding paved path through trees near the parking area is
nice the course isn't as scenic, shaded, or interesting as the
path that winds around Nardini Manor. The back side of the course, behind the
ball fields, seemed the least appealing to me but that's where the softer surface
is located (bad news / good news).
This is not a fast course because of the hard and/or rough surfaces, the
multiple twists and turns (lots of tangents to run), and the "tunnel" area
between the timing mat and aid station. However, if a runner is very determined to
either 1) run a certain distance or 2) have fun socializing with other runners,
it's not a bad course. You just have to be focused on something -- pace,
people, music -- other than the scenery. And it's definitely more
interesting to me than running around a high school or college track.
Aid station volunteers have a fun distraction: they can watch
the antics of Mike's six love birds in a cage sitting near a
window in the sports complex office. They amused me the day before the race
when Jim and I talked with Mike inside the building. I was pleased I could see
them so well from outside, while working the aid station. Those two green ones
are the epitome of cuddling "love birds!"
I think Cody needs some love birds, eh? Might be easier than a
new puppy . . .
ALMOST TIME TO RUN
When we arrived at Victory Lane with our camper the afternoon before the race (December 30),
we were surprised to find the place packed with ball players and spectators!
Fortunately, there was plenty of room for us to park where we'd planned in one
corner of the lot:
Race course early morning the first day;
our camper is to the right.
We were very happy that we could park our camper in the lot before, during, and
after the race. We asked Phil and Steven about it well before the race, of
course, and both assured us there was plenty of room for RVs there. Sometimes
RDs underestimate the amount of room needed to maneuver an RV, but this time
they were absolutely right. This parking lot can accommodate a LOT of campers
but we were the only ones to take advantage of that feature this year.
We also made sure that it was OK with Mike-the-Manager. Not only was he OK with
refused to accept any money for us to stay there. That was very generous.
During the race all the runners could park their vehicles next to or very close
to the course (see photos above and below). Even with twice the field of 42 entrants
than were here this year, runners could still get close enough to the course to put their supplies inside their
vehicles and/or set up personal crewing spots on or next to the course.
In order to minimize steps, Jim drove our truck closer to the course on race
morning so he
didn't have to go out to the camper for anything (except a five-hour nap!).
Meanwhile, after we got our camper set up on Wednesday afternoon we went inside
the gate to talk with Mike-the-Manager and see if Steven
and crew were around so we could help get the aid station set up, course
Mike told us none of that would be done until early the next
morning because of the softball tournaments that were going on. The tournaments ended that evening and Victory Lane was "all ours" for
the race on Friday and Saturday. (Play resumed on Sunday.)
Play ball! One of four softball fields
at Victory Lane. Water World is in the background.
While it was still light outside Jim got his clothes, other gear, fluids,
and snacks ready for the race. This is about the most laid back I've seen him
before a race. Because of his lack of training, he wasn't
putting pressure on himself to run any certain distance.
Late in the afternoon Anne and Matt Watts, friends from Colorado, drove
from the nearby race motel to check out Victory Lane and the course. They saw our camper in
the parking lot and came over to visit until it was time for dinner. Unfortunately, none of us thought to coordinate dinner plans prior to
the race and I hadn't prepared enough food for four people. There was no
pre-race group dinner, nor has there been one at ATY.
By 6PM all the folks had left the tournaments and we had the place to
ourselves. "Camping" overnight was almost like being at WalMart with all the
lights -- but with less traffic. We felt pretty safe even though we were
the only ones there overnight. Cody-the-ultra-Lab will let us know if anyone
Next entry: the race
Happy New Year!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil