Unplugged Half Marathon

Note – all of these photos and many, many more are available on SkiPix.com. If you ran, you should hop over and check it out. There are prints, posters, magnets, and even digital downloads if you want to use these on Facebook.

This past Saturday, Run Vermont organized the 5th Annual Unplugged Half Marathon along the Burlington, VT waterfront of Lake Champlain. 600 runners pre-registered for what can be a questionable day by the lake. Some years, we get freezing temperatures, cold winds, and even snow. This year, it was in the mid to upper 30’s at the start and it got downright warm once the race was under way. Even standing at my first location, I was able to take off my jacket, roll up my sleeves, and enjoy the sunshine.

The course is the same every year, as far as I’m aware. It starts in Colchester, just over the Burlington line (aka the Winooski River) where it makes a quick loop through some neighborhoods before joining up with the Burlington Bike Path and heading due south along the lake shore. This is the third year I’ve photographed this event and I try not to shoot the same location twice in a row. This year, I was drawn back to the bridge over the Winooski where the curved lines make for interesting framing and the sun really highlights what a beautiful day we had.

Most of the events I photograph are filled with a relaxed crowd, out to have a good time, but this one seems exceptional. Some people will run through the “photo trap” with arms around their running partners,

some smile & chat

make a point to wave hello and / or thank me for being out there (it really is my pleasure)

or suggest that world peace is the answer (at least, I think she was saying that and not whirled peas.)

When I moved to Oakledge Park to take some photos by the lake with Burlington in the background, I came across this group of fans cheering for someone’s mom if I remember correctly.

They certainly caught the runners’ attention as they came through the park!

Near the end of the race, they really encourage you to finish strong.

No, seriously, the truck drivers that go through there did an amazing job navigating the fans, runners, and cones. And the runners knew the trucks didn’t really want to run them over.

Thanks for putting on another great race, Joe!  I’ll see you next year.

66th Stowe Derby: Race from the Top of Vermont

Note: All of the event photos have been posted to SkiPix.com and are available for purchase.

It was another successful year for the Stowe Derby. Some 793 racers took on the challenge of a 2,602′ descent over 12.5 miles on cross country skis. That may not sound bad until you look at the course profile and realize that nearly 2,000 of those vertical feet are descended in the first 3 miles as skiers race down the Toll Road on Stowe Mountain Resort.

But I get ahead of myself. Before the insanity begins, the short course competitors start on the Stowe Recreation Path. The mass starts with long skinny skis on your feet is a different kind of chaos but most everyone starts with a smile and the competitors eventually string out into a long line marching towards the finish.

It’s pretty easy to tell who’s in this race as a competitor

and who’s just out to have a good day on snow with a few hundred friends.

This little guy’s only 5 years old and he’s already competed in more Stowe Derbys than I have.

Back at the top, I usually start to get settled as the racers are warming up. A half dozen racers usually ski down two or three turns to get a feel for the snow and the course and then turn around  to hike their way back up to the start. When the ski patrol comes through to sweep the course, it’s time for the chaos to begin.

The first racers usually clean the upper corners well. Their legs are fresh and usually they’re experienced enough on skis to manage the hill and loose snow.

It doesn’t take long before the trail claims its first pieces of gear.

and provides us with some spectacular falls.

I may be wrong, but I think you’re missing something, #143. Nice job staying on your feet, though!

When you watch a few hundred skiers come around the same corner, you start to get a feel for the technique or line that contributes to an explosive fall. Sometimes you get surprised, though. #179 looked like he was headed for disaster and then finished his turn with perfect form. I hope the rest of your race went well!

Sometimes, you can’t help but laugh at some of the falls. I’d feel bad except for the fact that most of the racers laugh as they’re going down as well.

After a crash, they pop back up like kids and skate back into the thick of the race. With 5 people starting every 30 seconds, you don’t have long to collect yourself before getting run over!

In past years, I’ve seen people on heavy telemark gear, full-on alpine touring bindings and snowlerblades, but this was the first year that I saw someone on a snowboard. Well, kind of; last year three or four snowboarders popped out of the woods and onto the race course oblivious to the fact that there was a race going on. At first I thought that’s what happened to this guy until it registered that he had cross-country ski poles in his hand. Tawny said she saw him go by at her location, so he made it the whole 12.5 miles on a splitboard. That’s some dedication.

About 1k from the finish, it’s a much more conventional cross-country race.

Well, except for those people that ski by with broken gear on their back. Way to keep Vermont green, #3! (And it’s not even Green-Up Day.)

I’m not sure where Gumby started – you’d think I would remember the big green guy passing me at the start…

As if one run down the mountain wasn’t crazy enough, the Stowe Derby has heats for Freestyle and Classical styles. In between runs, they run a cat down the trail and groom it flat. With a modern, shaped alpine ski, it’s easy to lay down railroad tracks on this easy slope.

but I can’t imagine doing it on skinny skis!

This doesn’t look good! Believe it or not, he pulls it off and continues past as if he did this on purpose.

This is my favorite expression of the day.

Again at the bottom, most people are all smiles as they’re approaching the finish. Dirk is no exception.

I checked in with Tawny before moving to the finish line. She was hard at work at the blind corner, as usual.

As racers reach the finish line, they have to cross one last bridge and round a corner to a cheering crowd.

It’s not uncommon for people to fall within feet of the finish line. Sometimes it’s a sprint for the finish gone wrong, other times it’s plain old fatigue.

I hear this was #795’s first Stowe Derby. I hope you’ll be back again to do it next year!

All of these photos and more will be available for purchase on skipix.com soon.

Congratulations to all of the competitors and a big thank you to the Mount Mansfield Ski Club and all of the volunteers, sponsors, and other organizations for putting on another great race.

If you’ve read this far and you’re one of the racers above that I’ve featured crashing, send me an email with your bib number. I’ve got something for you.

Roller derby poised to take over as Burlington’s official sport

The Green Mountain Derby Dames have certainly made a splash in the Burlington area over the last two years.  They have gone from competing for a minimal crowd in one of the smaller rooms at the Champlain Valley Expo to presenting a double-header bout in the large room.  The Black Ice Brawlers made their debut this past Saturday, skating against the Ithaca BlueStockings. Following this bout, the GMDD’s Grade A Fancy team skated against the Providence Killah Bees. Both teams skated well, but ultimately it was not GMDD’s night.

I highly encourage you to come to the next bout which looks to be a family feud on June 12th.

GMDD does a great job at mixing up the halftime shows by inviting in local teams, acts, or charities to perform or involve the crowd in activities.  We’ve had dodgeball and Zumba, but this week the Urban Dance Complex performed a hip-hip dance.

The Black Ice Brawlers returned from halftime an inspired team.  They stepped up their game skating hard and closing the gap on the scoreboard. Nice work, ladies!

With a quick intermission between bouts, GMDD’s Grade A Fancy came out for their warm-ups. It did not go unnoticed that many of the women skating in the second bout were helping make the first bout happen, and vice-versa. This stretch always impresses me; I have enough trouble doing this with street shoes on, and here’s The Silencer casually doing it with roller-skates on like it’s no big deal.

65th Annual Stowe Derby

(Update: All of the event photos are now available on SkiPix.com. Be sure to tell your friends. Order a photo for Mom or Dad!)

This past Sunday, the Mount Mansfield Ski and Snowboard club hosted the 65th annual Stowe Derby. The weather report was for mixed precipitation, warm temperatures, and fog. When I arrived at my first shooting location, the weather was perfect. Having photographed the derby a few times before, I set up on the first major turn for the freestyle race. The first major turn down the toll road is about 180 degrees and has a steep (for a cross country skier) pitch.

The race starts in waves. Every 30 seconds, five more racers start their way down the mountain. The start order is determined by your finish result in last year’s race. This means that the first racers down the mountain navigate the challenging turns and pitch of the Toll Road (I’d never believe that it could be so challenging, coming from an alpine/telemark background, except that I see it year after year.)

As the race continues, the carnage begins claiming the equipment of some,

the ego of others,

but hopefully no injuries.

The heats continue starting for about 40 minutes. During that time, racers are coming around the bends pretty quickly. It’s not uncommon for me to be looking at a frame like the one below, getting ready for the next racer to come around the bend only to hear someone who has just passed me go slamming into the ground.

This poor guy was talked into racing by a bunch of his friends. He was having a hard time of it and we chatted briefly as he collected himself after a pretty serious fall. It turns out, he’s not even a skier. I didn’t catch your name, but I hope the rest of your race was better!

The race consists of two primary events; freestyle and classical. For the super-athletic, the Derbymeister category requires that entrants complete both races. Between each event, Stowe Mountain Resort grooms the Toll Road and volunteers set a track down on the cross country trails.

The short course and the long course merge on the Stowe recreation path. The kids in who race the short course run the gambit from serious grade schoolers to people who just want to stop and eat the snow.

The freestyle, classical, and derbymeisters come through with a different intensity. In the background, you can see Stowe Mountain Resort. The start is at the top of the Lookout Double, approximately in the middle of the photo at the top of the trails.

Finally, the competitors cross the last bridge to cheering fans, around the last bend, and across the finish line.

My favorite sign of the day was “Ski faster! They’re drinking your beer!” Unfortunately, I was too focused on the race to get a picture before the sign disappeared. I hope all of the competitors and volunteers had a great time; I certainly did! Photos will be posted and available for purchase at SkiPix.com