Monday, July 27, 2015

Vermont 100 photos

Early on the misty morning of July 18, hundreds of badass runners and riders (the horseback kind) set out to race a hundred miles, or in some cases a hundred kilometers (you know, just a mere 62 miles), in central Vermont, at one of New England's premier ultrarunning events, the Vermont 100 endurance race. It's one of the four "Grand Slam" ultra events in the U.S., and based on the number and steepness of the hills I saw just trying to photograph it, it's REALLY HARD!

The light was dim at 6 a.m. when I arrived at the Taftsville covered bridge at mile 15 of the hundred-mile race, which makes race photos tough since the shutter speed needs to be set so slow and the ISO set so high, but I still managed to eke out some fun shots like this one:

mile 15 of the Vermont 100 ultramarathon
mile 15 of the VT 100 ultramarathon

volunteers from western MA's BURCS running club at the mile-16 aid station

Later, after a botched but enjoyable attempt to hike out to "Sound of Music Hill" (to protect private landowner privacy, there are no course maps for this race), I headed over to mile 49 just past Camp 10-Bear aid station and caught this shot of Scott Traer, the eventual winner of the men's full hundred race: 

Scott Traer, overall winner of the 2015 VT 100 ultramarathon (photo by Ben Kimball)
Scott Traer, overall winner of the 2015 VT 100 ultramarathon

Soon after, the sky darkened, lightning flashed, and thunder boomed. For a good ten to fifteen minutes, it poured hard and ensured that the dirt road would be full of mud puddles for passing pickup trucks to veer towards, hit, and splash me with for the next few hours (thanks for being so considerate, guys!). To protect the camera from the deluge, this shot was taken from inside my car: 

rain shower during the 2015 Vermont 100K

Late in the day, after spending over 6 hours taking shots of runners passing the mile 49 spot (and/or whatever mile that was for the 100K runners; I'm not sure!), I headed over to a site high on the hill above Brownsville / West Windsor, and got this shot of the women's 100-mile race winner with Mt. Ascutney rising majestically in the background before the sky got too dark for more photos: 

Ashley Lister, female winner of the 2015 VT 100 ultramarathon (photo by Ben Kimball)
Ashley Lister, female winner of the 2015 VT 100 ultramarathon

In the 100K race, the women runners triumphed spectacularly. The ladies took the top two spots overall, and the first 3 women all went under the previous course record. Impressive stuff! Here's a shot of first and second place winners, Emily LeVan (first place, #445) and Neela D'Souza (second place, #426):

second- and first-place winners of the 2015 Vermont 100K race

L: Men's 100K winner, Brian Marshburn
R: Running along the Ottauquechee River near mile 16

a reasonably iconic image of rider, runner, and verdantly pastoral scenery at the 2015 Vermont 100 race

My full photo galleries for each race can be seen at Northeast Race Photo:
Vermont 100 full hundred race100K race

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bonus Site: Whiting Street Reservoir

My new guidebook Trail Running Western Massachusetts (click here to view the book's page on Amazon) profiles 51 of the best trail running sites in the region. It was a challenge to whittle the final list to be included in the book down to just 51 sites, and some sites that I really like or that would have been nice to include had to be cut for space. I occasionally post profiles of some of those "bonus sites" here and link to them from the book's Facebook page. (see the Chapel Brook to D.A.R. Trail post for a previous example).

In this case, the trail profiled is about as easy as a trail run can get. It's really just a dirt road around a lake and would serve as an excellent introduction to anyone looking to take their first venture off of running on pavement. Motorized vehicles are prohibited, though mountain bikes are allowed. Located at the southeast base of Mt. Tom in Holyoke, it is a pleasant run with nice views and is somewhat reminiscent of the carriage trails in Acadia National Park. 

the road around Whiting Street Reservoir below Mt. Tom (photo by Ben Kimball)
the road around Whiting Street Reservoir below Mt. Tom

Whiting Street Reservoir Trail
Distance: 3.8 miles
Difficulty rating: Moderate
Trail style: Lollipop Loop
Trail type: Dirt Road
Towns: Holyoke

Directions: From Rte. 5 on the north side of Holyoke, take Moutain Park Rd about 0.5 miles west up to the bridge over I-91. Just past the bridge the roads are gated in all directions. There may be parking for a few vehicles on the right side of the road just past the bridge, but take care to not block the gate. The area is fairly popular, however, and more likely you will need to park along the side of the road on the east side of the bridge. Do not park on the bridge. 

An alternate approach to the site is from the Whiting Street Reservoir trailhead along Rte. 141 south of the lake. If you choose this option, be very careful crossing the road from the parking area as traffic moves fast along the road and there is a curve in the road just uphill. 

Trail: From Mtn. Park Rd, go left (south) just past the bridge and pass through a gate. The paved road descends parallel to the highway for about 0.2 miles and then curves right at a small pumphouse building and turns to dirt. In 0.2 miles the road arrives at a T-junction just below a wide dike on the east side of the reservoir. 

Go right and rise gradually to the height of the dam and then continue around the northern edge of the lake. The wide dirt road runs right along the edge of the water with nice view of Mt. Tom on the other side. Entering the woods near the north end, it begins to curve left towards the mountain. Right at the northern end you will pass a short singletrack spur path that leads up to the upper part of Mtn. Park Road and the base of the steep, mile-long B-17 road to the summit. In spring there is a gorgeous waterfall just off the left side of this path. 

From the B-17 spur trail, the road begins heading south along the west shore of the reservoir. It alternates between being in the shady woods and being out in the open right along the water. In about 0.3 miles, just past a stream bridge (stream may be dry in summer), an unmarked and rough (but blazed) singletrack trail branches off to the right and rises southwest at a gentle grade to a junction with the M-M Trail. In another 0.5 miles, a fainter trail leads straight up the steep slope to the M-M Trail (this junction is very easy to miss). 0.3 miles from this junction, a wider doubletrack trail leads right at a set of old stone gates where there is sometimes a pile of gravel. This trail also leads uphill to the M-M Trail, very near where it comes out on Rte. 141. 

Continuing around the south end of the reservoir in the woods, the road rises slightly to a junction with the spur road that leads 0.4 miles up to the Whiting Street Reservoir trailhead along Rte. 141. Go left at the junction and descend back to the level of the lake. In just under a mile you will arrive back at the spur road below the dam.

map of trails at Whiting Street Reservoir in Holyoke, MA

Nearby: A similar easy / introductory trail running experience can be found at Ashley Reservoir a few miles to the south, where dirt roads encircle several reservoirs and small ponds, sometimes following along scenic narrow dikes with water on both sides.

If you have any comments, complaints, corrections, praise, or suggestions about this bonus site or anything related to the Trail Running Western Massachusetts guidebook, please comment below or drop me an email with your thoughts!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

36-Mile Ride in the Valley

Following up on my last blog post, I upped my cycling mileage by what I hope is an appropriate amount this week, and did a 36-mile ride up and down the western side of the Pioneer Valley. It came 2 days after a hard hill climb up Chesterfield Road (Northampton to Chesterfield, MA), and one day after an easy trail run with Jen on Yokun Ridge in Lenox. The very scenic route was much easier than the hilltown ride, with plenty of long, straight flats, fewer big climbs, and a lot less elevation gain all around. As a result, my legs felt fantastic when I finished, humming with that happy-to-have-been-exercised buzz rather than a holy-crap-I-feel-overworked ache. Here's the map and elevation for this one:

(map rotated so north is to the left)