Eyes pop open at 4:20, well before the alarm was set to go off. Anticipation rules the morning, as I am about to head off on a new adventure.
I’ve traveled a lot, I’ve raced a lot, and I’ve done a lot of photography – but I haven’t ever traveled to photograph a race before. This would be new territory for me. If my 49 pound suitcase and bursting-at-the-seams backpack were any indication, I have a long way to go in the ‘travel light’ department. Two laptops, power supplies, trail running shoes, a sleeping bag (?!?!), two DSLR camera bodies, assorted lenses, batteries, and about 8,000 cables and chargers take their toll on the airline weight allowance.
I feel like I’m going on safari for a month, not a five day trip to California. I tell myself I need more practice figuring out what to pack for this kind of thing, but it seems like I already left a huge pile of gear behind that didn’t make the cut. How can I take even less?
I’m in the air right now, smiling at my good fortune of a south-facing window, an empty middle seat next to me, and the incredible view of the Rocky Mountains. It was cool to see so many of the peaks I have climbed, lakes I had camped near, and feel the memories of my footprints on the ground below.
I picked up a rental car after landing in San Francisco and swung by the San Jose airport to pick up Jason who would be racing on the bikes for the next three days. After the mandatory stop at In-N-Out for some burgers, we made our way another hour south to the Laguna Seca Raceway which would serve as the venue for the 2014 Sea Otter Classic.
We met up with our crew and all pitched in to get the booth set up in record time, then it was off to get some pizza.
I’m making the trip to support my brother in the launch of his new company, Razik Bicycles. They organized a team of guys to race in the Sea Otter Classic near Monterrey, and I will be trying to get some good images of their exploits on their wicked cool racing machines.
As much as I hate being nervous, I love doing stuff that tests me and pushes me to get out of my usual way of doing things. I am geared up to deliver my best and to do it with a good attitude and help the team any way I can. Go time!
While I was cleaning out my inbox a while ago, something jumped out at me while I was zipping through the messages. Is that?? My shot? Sure looked familiar. Colorado Runner Magazine had used one of my images from the USATF Cross Country National Championships in Boulder this February as the cover shot for the most recent issue. Cool! That was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
That event was my first official work as Colorado Photo Company. I was keen to get out and break in a new camera body and lens combo, and looked to the championships as a great way to do that. There were multiple races due to the different age groups, and with the course being packed into a tight area I knew there would be plenty of shooting opportunities.
I secured a media credential with the backing of Colorado Runner Magazine and was set for a great day.
I worked my butt off running all over the course to catch the action multiple times per lap. I ended up covering almost 7 miles on the day and took over 2,200 images with the new rig. Definitely a worthwhile break-in.
The funny thing is I only took about a dozen shots with my old beater camera body. Guess which one produced the cover? It just goes to show that nice gear helps, but doesn’t guarantee anything.
I think my friend Jason put it best when he said if I didn’t have the new camera, I never would have gotten the shot with the old one. He’s right because I would have had my long lens on the body then, instead of leaving the wide angle attached which allowed me to grab this shot.
Can’t wait to do it again!
About the only thing I would dislike more than writing a report about how I dropped from a race would be writing a report describing how I didn’t even start the race because I was fearful that I might not finish.
I knew going into this one that there was a better than even chance of me not finishing. The only thing I hate worse than a DNF (Did Not Finish) is a DNS (Did Not Start), so rather than take a pass on the race I showed up to give it a shot. I was determined to enjoy myself and use this as a stepping-stone for the rest of the year.
Training was going well when I signed up for this race a few months ago, but since then it had been far less than I would have liked. Competing priorities filled my free time and running got bumped a few rungs down the ladder. I maintained good consistency, but just never got to a good level of weekly volume and long runs.
I had already paid for the race, arranged for time off, and had done some training – even the idea of chalking up a DNF was not enough to keep me away from spending the day running around the island.
Part of the fun for me is the drive. It’s nice to get a little taste of a road trip without driving so far that it becomes a chore. I listened to audiobooks and made several stops to take photos along the way. The high plains of Wyoming can be boring to many, but there is plenty to see if you look around.
After I picked up my race packet and checked into the hotel, I headed out to the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake and spent an hour hiking along a path and taking a few more photos.
On race morning (the race starts @ noon), I roamed the island for a little while and tried to relax. I shot this panorama from a viewpoint overlooking the race start/finish area. The flat area to the left would be packed with cars by this time tomorrow.
Once I made my way to race headquarters on the island, I knew I had made the right call in showing up. It was great to see so many friends and I decided no matter what happened race-wise, I was not going to spend my time all self-absorbed and feeling sorry. Been there, done that…
I hung around after the start to make sure I was the absolute last one over the line. I wanted to take my time and give myself a big wakeup call that I was not in race mode. I have a hard time adhering to my plans of holding back even when I am in lousy shape, so I was hoping this move would hammer home the point into my thick skull.
The first 20 miles were a lot of fun. I jogged along, hiked a bit, took plenty of photos, and generally had a good time enjoying the awesome good fortune of being able to run around all day long on a Friday afternoon. A time when I would normally be sitting in a cubicle.
Miles 20 to 50 were not as much fun. I got caught up in trying to run a little faster than I should have been, and inevitably started to unravel. Navigating around a large herd of bison was a fun distraction, though.
I contemplated dropping out at mile 50 when you come back through the start/finish area, and that had been one of my possible plans going into the race (just run the first 50 and drop). I decided I still had a little life left in me, and took my time reloading my pack for the next 20 miles.
I wish I could report that I made some miraculous recovery, or that I gutted it out to the bitter end. Nope. I shuffled along for several miles and could tell that I was done. I’d save that fight for another time. 69.5 was enough for now.
After a few hours sleep in the front seat of the car with the heater on full blast, I made my way around the course to pick up my drop bags and spectated a little bit of the 50 mile race that had started earlier in the morning. Scott J. crushed that event – again.
Huge thanks to Jim for putting on such a great event every year, and for the many volunteers that took such good care of us runners. Staying up all night in the cold temps to keep track of us and tend to our needs. See you next year!