Jan 17, 2011

Across The Years / Nardini Manor Course Pictures

On one of my several hundred laps around Nardini Manor, I brought a small point and shoot cameras to document the course. When you have a 500-meter course, it is possible to literally document every meter of it, so I figured that's what I'd do.

The course goes around the perimeter of a mansion's property. 3.22 laps makes one mile. At Across The Years, we changed directions every two hours (clockwise, then counter-clockwise.)

This post is just a tour of the course, my race report is here.

This picture, from the Across the Years Web Site, maps the course, indicated by the yellow line. The following photos are presented in order, taken in a clockwise direction, starting at the race HQ on the left side.

The timing clock above the Start/Finish had the time of day. Aid station is on the right. Shipping container is on the left.

It was very large and extremely well-run, and always had at least three volunteers and hot/cold food . During specified meal-times, volunteers stood out on the course outside the aid station holding trays of hot food like cocktaill party waiters. It was awesome!

All the typical ultra food was there, and then some.

After each lap, you could look on a big-screen TV and see real-time information about total distance and your last-lap time.

Coming out of the aid station, you immediately cross the driveway into the parking lot. Traffic was never a problem, cars were always courteous and waited patiently for runners to pass.

After the driveway, you come to the first right turn. There are also porto-johns here. At ATY this year, we optionally could use a heated and lit bathroom in the center of the property, which was nice, especially at night.

Past the Port-O-Johns, in the middle of the turn. We were presented with cotton fields. Several miles away were some mountains.
This straight-away is the longest of the course. 

There are hedges to the right, and a chain-link fence to the left. As you can see, there are lights on this part of the course, but they didn't work this year. Race Directors responded by stringing Christmas lights along this section, which was sufficient.

Looking to the right from the previous photo, you'll see the parking lot. A few people set up their bases of operations in their cars. Beyond the lot you can see the course going through the driveway. The orange tent housed the TV with lap information.

Looking to the left, nothing but dormant winter-time cotton fields. As you can see, the area is quite rural, but it is only about a half-hour's drive from downtown Phoenix.

Halfway up the straightaway we get some shade.

This shade provided nice but brief relief from exposure when the weather was at its worst.

Coming out of the trees. The hedge maze (which I regrettably didn't explore) is on the right.

These pictures were taken on Thursday after Noah's Ark style rain on Wednesday and overnight. This section of the course got very muddy, shoe-sucking at one point. Race volunteers were out with pick-axes cutting drainages so the course would get back in shape. By Friday, the course looked good again.

Look at the mountains in the distance. The sunrises here every morning were amazing.

Coming to the end of the straightaway, we make a 90 degree right turn. For most of the race, a timing mat was set up here, but not while I took this picture.

More cotton fields after the turn. This turn for me marked the halfway point of each lap.

This was the most-exposed section of the course, where we were always presented with either a formidable headwind or a gracious tailwind.

Looking to the right, there is a little plaza with some tables set up. The property is rented out for weddings, and this seems like the place where people would probably have their ceremonies.

Round tables were set up here.

People left their bottles and things on these tables for easy access.

The chain-link fence section ends with a bench, seen straight ahead in front of the trees.

The back of the mansion is to the right as we go by the plaza.

There were citrus trees in what looked like the mansion's private backyard. 

The zig-zag turn that you see on the map is effectively straight.

Past the zig-zag turn there's a mason wall to your right with the mansion behind it. Overhanging hedges and trees gave relief to the sun and wind, and, to a smaller extent, the rain.
At this point we went around the front yard of the mansion. The flags, by the way, went around most of the course and were of various nations and states. I never counted how many there were but I'd guess about 30, total.


A couple of people set up tents in the mansion's front yard.

A large RV won't fit in the parking lot, but one runner dry-camped on the main road outside the property. You can see it  straight ahead behind the hedge.

The unusually cold and wet weather may have been a factor, but there was plenty of space to set up an 48-person Walmart McMansion tent in the front yard if anyone was so moved!

The only elevation gain on the course (which was never noticeable in the clockwise direction, even after 100 miles), started here and gained about nine inches over the next fifty feet. It reached its apex at a driveway for the mansion.

This driveway must be the main entrance to the property, but there's no access to the parking lot from it. The gate to it was closed and locked for the duration of the race.

Immediately after the driveway, we run into an area completely enclosed by hedges and trees...

... and because of this enclosure, everything looks completely different here.

Music (good music) was playing out of this gazebo the entire time, but you could only hear it from here to the start/finish.

The start/finish comes into view here. Many people set up their personal aid stations and crew HQs here.

Outdoor space immediately on the course was limited here.

And here we enter the race headquarters. To the right, under the green shelter, were the mailboxes from which I was always happy to see runner mail sent to me by my friends. The tent to the far left housed another TV...

...which displayed real time standings of everyone in all the races. So there were two TVs - one info for the last ten people to complete a lap (total mileage and time of last lap), and one with overall standings with everyone. These TVs were on either side of the start/finish, and alternated functions depending on the direction of the course such that the TV before the lap counter always had standings and the TV after the lap counter always had last-lap information.

And that's it. You can probably tell from the photos and captions that this is an incredibly well-organized race. The course is short but never boring (for me, anyway.) There was always easy access to everything. From a logistics standpoint, this race is dead-easy. The surface was all dirt and easy on the legs. And everyone, of course, was extremely friendly and fun to be around.

There is some question as to whether they would be able to hold the race at this venue again. At this point nobody knows the answer. My opinion is that it would be a shame if they couldn't do it here, but that the race is so well run and in such good hands that even if they did have to move, it would still be worth doing. I am certainly planning on entering the lottery again for 2011-12!