Spartan Sprint: A Family Affair

Spartan Sprint: A Family Affair

Note: We’re trying something new here. This is a guest post written by my wife, Tawny, a.k.a @FiveFeetofFuryVT on Instagram


This past weekend Ben and I headed down to Rutland Mass for the Spartan Sprint.  I have been racing for years and all along the way Ben has been on the sidelines. I am so fortunate to not only have my biggest fan cheering me on, but he also takes amazing photos!  I mean, could I be any luckier?

This past weekend was extra special though as I got to race with my brother, who is more competitive and races elite most of the time, and for the first time – my dad!  Chris raced the elite heat first thing in the morning before joining my dad and I for more laid back open heat mid-day.
The initial forecasts called for rain most of the day with a chance of thunderstorms but we lucked out.  The skies were gray but the rain held and we were left with perfect racing weather to go along with the great company.  The trails were muddy and wet but that just adds to the fun.
My dad only did a small bit of training before the race so we worked as a team to get through some of the obstacles.  Some he concurred like a champ while only needing a little assistance on others.  He even successfully completed the 20′ rope climb.  How many 60+-year-olds can say that?
Ben and I stopped by the store on the way home from the race to print up some of these beauties for Father’s Day.  I am so proud of my dad and was honored to run by his side this past weekend and so thankful to have some beautiful photos for him to display at work.

USA Triathlon Nationals

On Sunday, August 19th, 2012, the USA Triathlon Sprint Nationals came to Burlington, VT. I was busy for the Olympic distance race the previous day.   Around 8am, I was able to open my front door and wander onto my porch with cup of tea to enjoy the bike leg. The wheels really hum when the riders are coming down the street at 25MPH! For about 2 hours, our road was a constant stream of cyclists on their out-and-back route. It was fun to cheer them on and see them pushing so hard. I couldn’t help but grab my camera and take a few photos.

I hadn’t seen these before. Looks like a great way to speed up transitions. How well do they pedal?

My favorite competitor, below. (No relation, however..)

These are only some of the photos, you can also visit the full gallery of Sprint Tri photos.

Stowe Derby 2012

You can find all photographs from the Stowe Derby right here. You can even search by bib number to order a print of yourself (or a friend!) Thanks for supporting your local photographers!

Our Stowe Derby day starts by swinging by registration to check in, pick up a lift ticket, and coordinate any last minute details. The early bib pickup system has made this process a lot easier; it used to be that there was a long line of people waiting to pick up their race packets, but now it’s a calm trickle of people.

From there, Tawny and I head to find scout a location with a view of the mountains. With the re-routed course this year, we took a few extra minutes to find a new spot.  Once that’s settled upon, I rush back to the start of the short course to grab a few quick shots of the chaos that is a mass start.

While the racers are making their way back towards Tawny,

I head up to Stowe Mountain Resort to get set for the Freestyle start. The first skiers come through fast and gracefully.

It’s funny photographing on the Toll Road. I like to shoot around the first corner to get some interaction between racers (and, I’m not gonna lie, to get some great crashes.) The thing is, it’s a blind corner so I do a lot of listening to know when to shoot. Generally, the first sound you hear is skis snowplowing down the first pitch before the corner. Next, the less experienced racers will often let out a little (or sometimes big!) scream as they realize they have to turn more than 90 degrees and have no edges. From there many will fall, but nearly everyone gets up laughing.

Scrape, Scream, Fall, Laugh – the pattern continues for quite some time!

 

This year there were definitely some powder hounds who had to get fresh tracks where they could.

I’m not sure what it was this year, but skiers took this corner wide and a number of people came close to the wall.

 

A few even hit it!

 

Racers then continue through the bulk of the course before reaching Tawny’s spot with views of a freshly snow-covered Spruce mountain with blue skies. Hard to beat that!

 

So about two hours later it all begins again with the start of the Classical race. A little further down on the course this time, a crowd has gathered to watch the carnage.

 

This guy makes it look too easy.

When the last racers have come through, I pack up my gear and head to the finish. Tawny captures everyone in the field with the mountains or Smuggler’s Notch in the background and I get to watch racers smile as they realize they’re within a few hundred yards of the finish.

Nice work everyone! I look forward to doing it all again next year! (When, hopefully, I’ll remember the sunblock.)

 

You can find all photographs from the Stowe Derby right here. You can even search by bib number to order a print of yourself (or a friend.) Thanks for supporting your local photographers!

 

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.

Skiing in Vermont During the Christmas Holiday Week

Skiing during Christmas week in Vermont can be a crap shoot. Some years we get powder and great conditions, other years it’s a complete washout.

Without fail, though, Vermont gets crowded during the holidays. There was a line at the Smuggler’s Notch ticket window from 9:30am to 2:30pm.

The week started with cloudy skies that deposited 6-8″ of snow on the mountain providing us with frosted trees and great skiing & riding.

Monday and Tuesday were cold, though, with temperatures hovering around 0ºF and wind chills in the -20ºF range according to one ski patroller.

The riding, however was worth it. The trails were all soft snow and the trees were powder. It’s still early season in Vermont, so we were skiing carefully in the woods, but if the line was well maintained the skiing was incredible.

On Thursday, the sun made an appearance and we were treated to a Vermont rarity: a bluebird day!

The view from the top of Madonna was great with Mt. Washington and the rest of New Hampshire’s White Mountains visible on the horizon.  This one’s worth seeing a little larger.

New friends Chris & Ilene made their first visit to Smuggs and enjoyed Chilcoot  from top to bottom.

As the week came to an end, though, the temperatures rose and the snowpack started to melt.

I was solo for Saturday’s turns, so I only took my iPhone with me for a few documentary shots. 

The skiing was fun, but the terrain was getting limited. Snowmaking was a saving grace for trails like FIS, Smuggler’s Alley, and Black Snake. I was considering going up today, but instead of just warm temperatures, Mother Nature delivered a steady rain in Essex. The snow reports weren’t encouraging, so here I am in front of the computer. Tomorrow I’m obligated to head to the mountain & enjoy my last day off before returning to work. Let’s hear it for refrozen snow!