Week of August 22 - 28 (UTMB)

UTMB 2016

Welcome to Chamonix! Last week was an intense mix of work and pleasure. I was over in France to create daily videos of UTMB, the largest ultra running festival in the world. As part of my press credentials I was also able to get an entry bypass for one of the smaller races, the OCC (Orsières - Champex - Chamonix). The entire event was a huge success but absolutely wiped me out - an endurance event not far off the Direttissima! You really need to experience something like this first hand to comprehend the magnitude - the crowds, the mountains, the enthusiasm. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Here's how it unfolded: 

Monday: Arrived in the late morning after doing the 18 hour commute from my house. All I wanted to do was sleep off the jet lag but I motivated to walk around town and experience the building atmosphere as the town prepped for the crowds. 

Tuesday: My goal for the day was to get in a trail run so I went up to the Refuge Plan de l'Aiguille and north across the Mont Blanc Balcony over to the Mer de Glace. It was the perfect  hike / run to experience the popular trails accessible right out of Chamonix. It did leave me wanting more though. I'd love to get back and do some bigger days that take you further out of town. 

Wednesday: It was an early day - 4:15 wake up on a couple hours of sleep getting the trail running edit finished. We had to meet at 4:45 at the press building to get our ride to Courmayeur. The TDS race that we were following is a 119 mile race with 7,250m of vert. A beast that had a relentless climb in the middle that the runners approached midday with nowhere to hide from the sun. We stopped at several aid stations and the views were incredible. It was a good practice run to see what it's like following one of these races. Here's the video from that day: 

Thursday: Another tough morning - In bed at 2:30 and up at 4:15 to catch a 5am bus. But first I had to get an emergency blanket (a required provision for the races). I went to the finish line and the first guy I saw finish I went over and said "congratulations, can I have your emergency blanket?" - Marco the Italian who was finishing his TDS race kindly gave me his blanket and I scrambled back to my room because I had forgotten my key. I'll write a separate race report for this day but here's the video: 

Friday: The main event. Luckily this race starts at 6pm so I was able to get some sleep to make up from the past few nights. I spent the morning editing and had lunch with Nick Yardley of Julbo and a drink with a couple I had met who are from Silver Lake, NH (awesome to see some NH folk!). But I was scrambling to handle some last minute gear packing and the press was meeting at 5pm - it's 0.6 miles from my accommodations to the press building and I think I made that trip 4 or 5 times that afternoon carrying too much gear. I had an idea of the shots I wanted for the start - in the corral then go get some overhead drone shots. Now I knew that I might catch some heat for flying above a crowd this big, especially with tight security but I figured my press pass would get me out of any trouble. My hands were shaking as the drone hovered near the upper balconies. I got the shots I wanted and as I was flying back police officer flanked me and were not pleased. They asked for papers and all I had was my press credential. They took that and were on the radios trying to figure out what to do. It was 6:05 and I had to be at my van at 6:15. They tried to get in touch with the press organizer but weren't having any luck. Now it's 6:10. I'm starting to realize that they aren't going to take my gear but could potential delay me long enough that I miss my ride to the first location. I didn't exactly study the logistics of where we were going and figured if I missed that first ride I was screwed. 6:15, they tell me they are keeping my credentials, essentially a slap on the wrist. I run to the meeting location and catch the vans at they are loading up. I ask a passenger to wait TWO MINUTES while I grab my luggage. I put my cameras in the back and run to the building a few hundred feet away. When I get back they are GONE. You can imagine how I was feeling at that point. Now without cameras and holding my two bags wondering what to do - I see one of the press organizers and they don't know what to do. Luckily there was another press buss that stopped and picked me. They were going to the same place. Crisis adverted. It was still confusing to figure out which van had my gear - find the driver, walk the half mile to where they were parked. Then find my new driver and move my luggage. A wild start to the race but it was smooth for the rest of the race. Here's the footage: 

Saturday: UTMB Con't - Well almost everything was smooth. I wasn't sure what to shoot for the finish. I caught the first finisher then hiked up the course a little to watch the next few guys. Then hustled back to my room and pack a back to hike up to La Flegere where I had big dreams of getting the alpenglow time lapse off Mount Blanc, a NEMO tent shot under the stars, and a few more action shots. There's also a restaurant called La Floria which runners cross the seating deck. As I'm hiking up it starts thundering. I check the weather forecast and it's calling for severe thunderstorms. No one had mentioned this. Basically it killed all my shots and I was forced to run down an access road in the rain / darkness. I tried. To cap that off, I was shooting finishers in the rain and my battery died but usually the camera saves the file. Nope, not tonight. So I ended up missing a lot of my finish shots but learned a few things in the process. These run and gun shoots are challenging and this stuff happens. In general everything was executed well on my end, especially getting the edits up before the next day, a big challenge.

Sunday: The next morning I packed up and checked out of my room. I lugged my massive amounts of gear over to the press building and caught a little bit of the press conference before getting on my 11am bus to the airport. Unfortunately I caught some food poisoning (could have been ANYTHING from Saturday) that made getting home the biggest endurance feat of the trip!

Hopefully I can go back next year and do more vacationing and less work. I'll have the points to do OCC / CCC / TDS so we'll see how that lottery selection goes. But as far as a work destination goes it will be hard to beat.  

SRKG Trails

This morning I drove down to Wilmot to meet up with my cousin Ben and his wife for a 12+ mile trail run through the Sunapee area. He's been checking off trails from SRK Greenway for the past few weeks and invited me to come join him for trails 1 & 2. 

The SRK Greenway is a 75-mile loop of hiking trails in central New Hampshire. The Greenway Trail System circles the Lake Sunapee area and connects Sunapee, Ragged, and Kearsarge Mountains. 

We ditched my truck at the Sunapee Town Office and then headed to Newbury Harbor, the southernmost point of Lake Sunapee. The hike starts with the ascent up the backside of Sunapee Ski Area offering views of Lake Sunapee and Lake Solitude along the way. The trail then wraps around the summit and heads back down in to Old Province Road where you have to pound the pavement for 2.6 miles before you link back up on snow mobile trails and singletrack. This section wasn't well maintained and probably gets next to no foot traffic. 

We popped back out to my truck around 1PM making for a great trail run and perfect time to try out Marzelli's Deli for lunch. We then headed over to Hilary's parent's house to pick up a Kayak they won in a raffle and didn't need and jam that into my truck. I dropped Ben off and headed home, sleepy and satisfied.

Mount Carrigain Sunset Hike

Columbus Day was a beautiful day. Apple pancakes followed but a little R&R then I packed up the MTB and headed into town to show Dave the trails around Pudding Pond and Sticks & Stones. We took a fair amount of video that I'll edit this week. It's a perfect beginner / intermediate spot and still one of my favorite trails in the valley. 

When I got home I repacked and Hilary, Squall and I headed up to Bartlett to hike Mount Carrigain. I hiked it last summer with Squall in August 2014 when he was a puppy but the temps were freezing and the clouds moved in. Tonight was forecasted to be clear skies so I made sure to pack warm clothes and my camera. 

The trail is relatively flat for the first 2 miles. At 1.7 miles you come to an intersection where you can make a longer loop by heading left on the Carrigain Notch Trail but we didn't have time for that. The next three miles are no-stop up at 20%+ grade. You gain more than 2,500' on this section of slippery granite chunks. Once up on signal ridge you catch views to the east and can see the summit. There's still another half mile of climbing to get to the summit and you're rewarded with a fire tower that pops you out of the woods and offers 360º views. 

We got our shots and headed back down in the dark. Once down to flat ground we were able to run the flats all the way to the parking lot and get out of there around 8PM. A couple beverages in the parking lot and flatbreads for dinner. It was the perfect conclusion to the day!

Hilary and Squall on the Signal Ridge Trail.

View from Signal Ridge: Vose Spur / Mount Lowell / Presidentials.

Sunset on Mount Carrigain.

Sunset on Mount Carrigain.

Mount Carrigain Fire Tower Sunset.

Beast of the East

As part of my weekend doubleheader, the Beast of the East half marathon was set to take place Sunday AM in what seems like trending wet/treacherous conditions. As if running 13 miles with 4500'+ of vert on highly variable east coast terrain (read rocky/rooty/scrambling) wasn't hard enough, add water to the mix then you have several type of granite - the slip n' slide variety and the false confidence grippy when wet variety. This race was on my radar last year but also followed the Pitch Pine Tri so I didn't double dip. However, in preparation for the VT50 I thought it would be good to stack a couple efforts, pushing through tired legs.

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Scott Jurek's Appalachian Trail Record

It’s 2pm and I’m approaching the summit of Katahdin. An impressive number of hikers have gathered to witness Scott Jurek as he makes his final steps on his 46 day, 8 hour, and 7 minute speed record odyssey. The cheers overpower the gusting winds sweeping through the mountains of Baxter State Park. I’m running to catch up, carrying a couple bottles of champagne in one hand and a videographer’s pack in the other. How the hell did I end up here?

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