Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Henhawk in February

2014 was a very up-and-down year for me. I had initially planned to run 2 ultras, a 50K and a 50-Miler, but in the spring I developed a nasty groin pull injury that lingered for months. By late summer it had cleared up and I was running again. Maybe too much. I was running well and getting back up to speed quickly. I did a few short races and had great time exploring some new trails. Then in mid-November I ran an unofficial 15-mile trail race with my local trail running club on Mt. Tom. At the end of that run, my left foot felt "tight," and it turns out I'd given myself a stress fracture.  Cue "das boot" and a winter of alternate exercise.

Of course, it's been as good a winter as ever for that. Very cold and lots of snowstorms making the roads dangerous and not very pleasant. I've been plenty happy picking up the swimming (which I hadn't done much of lately), popping the bike on the trainer, and getting back out on snowshoes and cross-country skis once my foot felt somewhat better.

Today I skied an out-and-back on the Henhawk Trail, an old woods road that leads up to Conway State Forest from a small trailhead about 5 minutes up the hill from where I live in Williamsburg. I've never been a huge fan of this trail in any conditions; it's very rough, eroded, and wet in summer, too leafy in fall, and in winter there needs to be a ton of snow because there's a bunch of small rill streams that don't seem to freeze (maybe coming from springs just upslope?) and you need to constantly find ways to get across them on skis or snowshoes. Also, there's one slightly steeper pitch that's just on the edge of control on cross-country skis, even backcountry ones with edges.

However, after recent snowfall, the conditions today were as good as I've ever seen them there. It was very cold, only about 6 degrees at most, and the wind was whipping a steady 20-25 mph, but I was thoroughly suited up and went at a pace to keep the cold and my internal heat in balance (mostly). I used my trusty Karhu 10th Mountain backcountry skis, and they worked perfectly. There were only two flowing stream crossings, and the steep part had enough snow to slow the descent on the way back. I skied out about 2 miles up to the first major signed junction (it's occasionally used as a snowmobile corridor), just north of the Conway State Line and the boundary with Conway State Forest.

The Henhawk Trail in winter

I hope my Henhawk Trail appreciation is on the rise. It's a very nice undeveloped area with lots of potential for good running and skiing. Apparently repair of the roadbed has begun, with some new loose gravel added, and a bit more work (such as a few small bridges over the rill streams) would open it up to being a really nice all-season trail.

map of the Williamsburg portion
of the Henhawk Trail in western MA

Sunday, February 1, 2015

TRAIL RUNNING Western Massachusetts

I'm very excited to officially announce that I recently created a trail running guidebook for western Massachusetts. It features 51 in-depth site profiles, with descriptions, route directions, maps, and scannable/clickable links to "enhanced" maps and color photos. The project was a lot of work (especially exploring and mapping all unmarked side trails and mystery paths), but it was also very rewarding, and I really hope others enjoy using it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

The print edition comes out in three months (though it is now available for pre-order on Amazon), and the digital version should be available a few weeks earlier. In the meantime I've started a Facebook page for it here. I'll be adding a bunch of cool stuff to the FB page in the coming months, including highlights, previews, bonus sites (sort of like deleted scenes, that got cut for various reasons), trail trivia, and more. If you live in the area or are just a fan of trail running in New England, please check it out, and help me spread the word about it by liking the Facebook page, sharing it and the Amazon link (and this link too!), and letting me know what you think. If it's successful... maybe more to come? Thanks, and see you out on the trails!

If you would like to receive updated information about the book or would just like to add a drop in the bucket to help me promote it (every drop counts!), please consider "liking" its Facebook page here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Shoein' Season

It's snowshoe season again! Despite some early and recent race cancellations in the New England region (such as the popular Sidehiller snowshoe race that had been scheduled for this coming weekend in Sandwich, NH), some locations have fared better than others in terms of snow cover. Specifically, the northern Berkshires and southern Green Mountains have actually received and kept a fair amount of snow.

WMAC's annual Dion snowshoe race series has held two races already. The first was the Greenwood Gallop at Prospect Mountain Ski Area just east of Bennington, VT, and the second was the Hilltop Orchards race at Furnace Hill Winery in Richmond, MA (just SW of Pittsfield on the eastern slope of the Taconics). Both were 5K races, and both were won by Ross and Ashley Krause of Easthampton, MA. The third race in the series, the Hoot Toot and Whistle, is still on for this Saturday along the banks of the Deerfield River in scenic Readsboro, VT.

I got out on the course at both of the races that have taken place so far and took action shots of everyone, usually more than once. The weather was great for photography, with overcast skies and bearable temperatures with little wind, though it was a BIT chilly in Vermont and it did start to drizzle a bit at the end of the Richmond race. Some samples:

full galleries can be found at

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Best 2014 Race Photos

As Northeast Race Photo, I took pictures at about 30 races in 2014. The number was drastically down from last year, for several reasons. For one thing, I took a part-time editing job in Hadley, which took up a good chunk of time and energy. Also, it's a tough gig. The processing time required for race photos is substantial, and from a financial perspective it doesn't really pay off. It's really more of a labor of love than an actual job (though I really do love doing it and am still trying to figure out ways to make it pay off). And lastly, I spent a LOT of time and energy on a little passion project that is just about ready to come to fruition; here's a little tease for anyone paying attention and curious (I promise the link is legitimate).

As with last year's version, it's impossible to create a truly "best of" album since there's so many variables for what it would be the "best" of. So, again forgoing any attempt at objectivity, here's my totally subjective Best of 2014 album:

If you have a favorite shot from any of the 2014 Northeast Race Photo galleries, and you think it belongs in the Best Of gallery, please drop me a line with the link to it and I'll gladly add it to the album. 

It was a lot of hard work, but I'm really pleased with the galleries for most of the races I took photos at in the past year. I'm planning to keep shooting at races in 2015, so stay strong, look sharp, and happy racing in the coming year, my tribe. Cheers!

Here's a sampling from the album:


Friday, September 26, 2014

back to pisgah

Another year, another visit to the excellent Pisgah Mtn Trail Races in southwestern New Hampshire! Only this time I didn't run (see here for last year's 50K recap). For a variety of reasons, I decided it was time to try out a Northeast Race Photo shoot for this event. And I'm really glad I did; I love how these shots came out.

I arrived at the Kilburn Road trailhead with plenty of time to spare, but dawdled on my way to the summit, which was a decent 2-mile hike over to the east. It's easy to get distracted, as the scenery is fantastic and the photo possibilities endless, especially on a misty morning in the woods.

heading east into the park along Kilburn Road

So when Greg Hammett, the lead runner of the 23K race, came silently rocketing past me about a quarter mile down from the top, I knew I had to kick it in gear. The light in the woods was WAY too low to catch runners. For the first few racers, I left the camera set at a really high ISO (around 1600; pretty grainy) and a shutter speed of less than 1/60th second and just attempted to get lucky with a couple of panning shots (always a gamble).

Once on top of the mountain and mostly in the open, the light was a lot better and I was able to bring the ISO down to a reasonable amount and use more appropriate shutter speeds for catching runners. When I got a chance, I switched lenses from the wide angle to the 200mm and caught some pretty nice shots of runners coming along the slick ledges just past the summit vista.

Everyone remarked on the oppressiveness of the 100% humidity and people were drenched, but it was still a remarkably upbeat and positive group of athletes. During the several hours I spent up there I saw an uplifting number of smiles and leaps and got lots of high-fives and thanks from people going by. I started down with about 10 runners or so left to come past, which provided the opportunity to get some shots of descenders in the dark woods. And I was also able to catch several runners again on their completion of the infamous Kilburn Loop. All in all, a very rewarding day at Pisgah. Some sample photos are included below, and the full galleries can be found at Northeast Race Photo.

2014 Pisgah Mtn 23K Trail race Photo Gallery

2014 Pisgah Mtn 50K Trail race Photo Gallery

Descent off the final summit during the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 23K Trail Race

Cruising along the summit during the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 23K Trail Race

 Kristina crossing the summit

Bob Dion in motion

Ultra Leap!

smiles, ears, partners, and steady strength at Pisgah

Coming off the Kilburn Loop during the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 50K Trail Race

Coming off the Kilburn Loop during the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 50K Trail Race

Approaching the final five miles of the 2014 Pisgah Mtn 50K Trail Race