Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Pair of Marathons

This past weekend I took photos at two not-your-usual-marathon marathons.

On Friday evening I shot at the Ultra Around the Lake races in Wakefield, MA. After getting stuck in terrible traffic on 495 (big surprise on a Friday afternoon) I arrived just in time to try to take photos in a deluge. It was dark and wet and I was flustered from driving. But I managed to eke out a few good shots anyway. And eventually the rain let up enough for a spectacular double rainbow to form. True, it was in the wrong direction and I had to take a lot of shots of runner butts, but I figure most would understand and be forgiving and appreciative anyway. I continued to shoot right through the sunset, until it was simply too dark to get anything but lots and lots of blurry grain. Congratulations to everyone who endured the elements and ran these races.

On Saturday morning I took photos at the 2nd Annual Bear Brook Trail Marathon. Based on the online course map and description, I picked a spot around mile 3 or 4 where the runners would be coming east along a steep, wooded bluff above Bear Brook where I could get the morning light on their faces. Unfortunately, I didn't know that the course was being run in reverse this year, so I very literally ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After some cursing and a bit of fiddling with my phone's Facebook app, I walked a few miles back along the route to somewhere near mile 21 to await the first runners. Eventually I decided these photos were likely too dark and I just gave up and headed to the finish to try and salvage some shots of people coming down the final stretch. I have to say I was astounded at how good so many of the runners looked after having spent hours out on this tough course. Made me want to run it myself!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vermont 100 Endurance Races

After a not-so-great photoshoot across the river in NH this past Saturday (see previous blog post), I headed west to see if I could catch some shots of racers in the famous Vermont 100 ultramarathon (one of the original Big Four races of the Grand Slam circuit of ultras). Well. To be perfectly honest, I'm proud to say I came away with what I think is some of my best photo work ever.

I set up at mile 48 along a very scenic stretch of dirt road and ended up shooting for about 5 hours as runners and riders came through just before the halfway point of their very long journey. During this window of time I

  • met and joked around with a crew who were filming a documentary about one of the runners and his ultramarathon journey (this guy); can't wait to see it! special thanks to Doug Scott for helping me out with a couple of shots. 
  • was given a cold glass of icewater by the family who lived just down the road at the farmhouse where they spent the better part of the afternoon offering to hose down hot runners.
  • encountered the most awesomely positive group of racers I've ever seen at any race ever; it was just endless smiles and laughs and positive energy. 
  • witnessed a woman come by on a prosthetic leg, having already run 48 miles and looking effortless; the inspiration I take from having seen her is tremendous and will last for a very long time. 

The photos below are just a small sampling of some of my favorite pictures. The full gallery can be seen here at Northeast Race Photo: Vermont 100 photo gallery

L: Women's race winner, Larisa Dannis
R: Does anything more need to be said?

Look at how happy that horse is to get misted down with some spray from the hose!

L: First time I've ever seen runners and riders so effortlessly share a race course.
R: On the back of the prosthesis it said "LIVE LIFE WITHOUT LIMITATIONS"

After I took some regular shots of him approaching, he turned his back to me and grinned and said: "Elmo."


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Frenzy in the Forest

Yesterday I went to Sunapee, NH to take photos at Frenzy in the Forest, the latest race in the excellent Western New Hampshire Trail Race Series (website here). This is the third race in the series that I've photographed this year, and so far the race organizers and participants alike have been extremely friendly (even the runners who aren't necessarily thrilled when I catch them on an  uphill or at a tough point in their race) and the courses look both challenging and very, very fun.

My photos weren't so great for that race, though. I prefer to get shots out on the course rather than at finish lines, especially at trail races, but I didn't make the best decision about where to set up this time out. For starters, I ran the first two miles or so of the course to get to the spot I was looking for, a short uphill at a clearing where Mt. Sunapee should have been looming the background. It was very humid that morning and I was in cotton shorts and a t-shirt with a backpack full of camera gear. By the time I found the spot I was completely drenched in sweat, and acting as a smelly magnet for mosquitoes and deerflies alike. And to my great disappointment I realized there would be no way to get both the mountain and the runners in the same shot. With the first runner due to arrive in minutes, I found a spot to catch them coming up the hill into the small clearing. I shot there for maybe the first 2/3 of the race, then moved further along to a spot where I could catch people coming downhill along a prettier stretch of the trail (there were many pretty stretches of trail in this race). As I said, I'm really not thrilled with the results, but for anyone who ran and is looking for the pictures, here they are.

2013 Frenzy in the Forest in Sunapee, NH

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

running, technically

As sort of a sequel to our last run in the same area, Nate and Dave and I ran farther along the open ledges of Mt. Tom last night. For a hard run on a hot summer day, this one turned out to be a complete winner. Somehow it didn't feel all that hot and humid (though it was), the running was really fun (and hard), the evening light made for magazine cover quality scenery (even if I only had my crappy-quality Nikon AW100 camera with me), and there were very few bugs (until we stopped at the end and the mosquitoes pounced).

It was pretty technical running for much of the mile or so along the edge of the cliffs, not so much for the open ledges as much as all the little ups and downs in between. Geologically, this ridge is famous for its beautiful columnar basalt blocks (resembling the flanks of Devil's Tower, which, even though I've been there, never fails to remind me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind), which force a runner to scramble steeply up or down when encountered. Also, there are several sections with loose scree rocks that must be negotiated with care in order to prevent a sprained ankle (or to ensure that a healing one doesn't get re-injured...). Anyway, technical was what we wanted since it makes for excellent training for some of the harder northeastern trail races coming up in the next few months (there's a lot!).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

the perks of being a trailrunner

Went for a 4-5 mile run this evening at Mt. Tom. I met up with Nate and Dave of the 413 Trail Runners at the unofficial trailhead on Chapin Street in Easthampton at 7:15, and off we went up onto that thar hill. We ascended via the rapidly eroding old Reservation Road on the mountain's west side, then hopped onto trails once we crested the ridge. First on the D.O.C. Trail to Whiting Peak (pictured above) and then back on the Metacomet-Monadnock (M-M) Trail. We got to the Whiting Peak summit just before sunset, and man it could not have been nicer up there. It was quite warm and humid out, but a decent breeze kept the bugs at bay and the near-constant thunderstorms of the past week let up for a gorgeously-lit evening on the mountain.

This was only my third run since spraining my ankle on a short scouting run at Pisgah a little over 2 weeks ago, and I really babied it. I fell behind the guys a little bit on any downhills with tricky footing, but I generally kept up on flats and ascents. Which is good because it can really suck to feel like you're the anchor of any group. Despite the ankle being a little tender and stiff, I think it'll be OK. I iced it for 20 minutes when I got home and popped an ibuprofin PM for good measure. At this point it's mostly just a process of reconditioning it for regular running engagement.