I had the privilege of being asked to photograph the Wilson Creek Frozen 50K for a second year. Last year was a challenge. The conditions were bitter cold that day, so it makes sense that for this year's race, I was ready for similar conditions.
I arrived on race morning with my layers of winter-wear on hand, but the temperature was much warmer than last year. Of course temperature is relative, and my frame of reference was last year’s negative digits, so 20 degrees was a welcome treat. I saw some runners going into a tent and followed them in. The tent had runners checking in for the day’s run. Volunteers were busily helping runners get checked in. Some runners took time to chat with each other while others took a moment to get mentally prepared for the miles that lay ahead.
I realized that I still had to find a ride to the aid station since parking there was limited and the the road too rutted for my car. I quickly asked around and hitched a ride with one of the other volunteers. While making the slow drive to the aid station, Bob Hooper and I talked about the history of the Wilson Creek race. He said that he was new to the area and just wanted to get involved in community running events. We talked about the course and the great comraderie that the runners and volunteers brought to the race.
When we arrived at the aid station, the volunteers had already set up the aid station and were waiting for the runners to pass through.
It wasn’t long before we started to hear voices as the first wave of runners neared the aid station. Runners came through still full of excitement as they enjoyed the dawn of the day. It was early in the race and the runners passed through quickly with lots of miles left to cover.
Once this first wave passed, we had some time to prepare for the next group. I asked what direction the runners would be coming from and made my camera adjustments while I waited. When the five and ten mile runners eventually converged onto Stinson Aid Station, the runners could again be heard before they crested the hill from above the aid station. The fog was in the air and the silhouettes of the runners slowly became visible. The runners each began their descent down the hill. Some had intense expressions as they moved quickly down the hill. Other runners seemed to be out enjoying a nice winter run. The footing required focused attention, yet most runners flashed those pearly whites as they ran by.
I decided to take a hike and move to a different section of the course. The 50K runners would be running a second loop after completing the first 20 mile loop. This section of the course has some great scenery, and I was looking forward to photographing some of the runners as they made the challenging climb out of the canyon. Unfortunately, I was too slow, and overall winner, Joelle Vaught, was just too fast. She got to me before I was in position, but since I had already made some camera adjustments, I was able to get this shot.
Now that the first runner had passed by, I was a bit worried about missing other runners. I moved quickly, trying to find a good position to shoot from. Fortunately, I had a bit of time to take in the scenery. The fog was slowly lifting, but it made for great photos.
Before long, I heard the voices of runners at the bottom of the hill. I looked down and saw the small moving figures of the oncoming runners. As the runners neared, I yelled out words of encouragement. I had a great time listening to the reactions of the runner when they realized I was waiting at the top of their climb. Not all appreciated my strategic location, but it made for a great shot as they ascended the rocky hill.
The view from where I stood was incredible. A single photograph seemed too small to capture the expansive scene. I decided to create a large panoramic photo. I set up the tripod and took several photographs as I rotated the tripod. I later stitched the individual frames and composited them into this larger image.
As the runners continued to climb out of the canyon, they encouraged me to drop down into the canyon to check out the view from there. I couldn’t resist. I rushed down between runners and worked my way into the narrow trail of the canyon and took in the sights. Runners continued to pass by. Each continued to rave about the course and the views.
When it seemed that all of the runners had passed, I made my way back to the aid station. I felt inspired having seen so many people running, so I packed up my gear in my backpack and ran back to the aid station. It didn't count as a run of any measurable distance, but the extra weight of my pack helped me feel like I was accomplishing something on a day where others would cover 50 kilometers.
When I arrived at the aid station, I began packing up my things and made arrangements to return back to the starting line but soon noticed that there were some runners still coming towards the aid station. I quickly grabbed my camera and returned to taking photos of the runners as they arrived. The runners were in great spirits and excited to finish up their race. The Stinson Crew fed the runners and cheered them on as they left the aid station and moved on to their final destination.
I returned to the start/finish line with the help of one of the ATV volunteers. Alan Sandquist was photographing runners as they finished their race, so I went into the warming tent to have a look around before leaving. Inside the tent runners were enjoying each other’s company while also enjoying the heat provided by the race directors.
In the end, the day started and ended just the way a race should: with lots of friends, lots of smiles, and some would say, lots of miles.