Drive, Hike, Wait, Repeat. What Could Be So Hard About Photographing a 200-Mile Ultramarathon?


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When The Occasions requested me to cowl Courtney Dauwalter’s try on the Tahoe 200 ultramarathon again in September, I felt assured I might do an honest job.

I stay close by in Sacramento, and I spend a good quantity of my free time mountain biking, backcountry snowboarding, climbing and climbing within the Tahoe space. I’ve even run some (a lot shorter) path races. I do know the realm properly, and I’m pretty match.

My technique was fairly easy: Drive to varied trailheads, hike out to a scenic spot, anticipate Courtney, shoot her passing by, run alongside along with her for some time. Repeat as needed for 200 miles.

The primary couple of intercepts had been simple as a result of they had been close to assist stations or on paved roads. However after Tahoe Metropolis, the route veers away from populated areas for a while.

I hiked in a couple of miles to a good looking overlook on the Tahoe Rim Path and waited for Courtney at about Mile 32. She arrived shockingly early, at a really quick tempo. I snapped a few frames as she handed after which she was instantly a dozen yards forward. I ran to catch up — careening over rocks, slaloming by way of pines — and by no means did. She was too quick.

I couldn’t fathom how she was going to run 200 miles like this.

I attempted the identical technique a pair extra instances over the subsequent 60-ish miles, and the consequence was at all times the identical. I’d get a few fast photographs as she handed by after which she was gone. I used to be shocked by her tempo.

By daybreak of the second day, I knew I must refine my technique.

I stripped my tools down to at least one digital camera and one lens. No further batteries, reminiscence playing cards, lenses, water, meals or a jacket. When Courtney reached the help station at Mile 100, I had simply the digital camera in my hand.

As she headed out of the help station, I took off after her. Luckily, I used to be in a position to, simply barely, sustain along with her.

Her tempo had slowed considerably, however I used to be nonetheless gasping each time I overtook her to get forward and snap a few frames as she handed earlier than working to catch up once more. She saved up a gradual stream of jokes and chitchat, by no means as soon as seeming out of breath as she cruised up rocky climbs to eight,000 ft above sea stage.

I spent one other day and a half chasing Courtney round Lake Tahoe. I’d run along with her and her pacer on jeep trails, single-track mountain biking trails, even a half dozen miles on the previous Pony Specific route. Different instances, I’d simply briefly intercept her and get a fast image at a scenic spot or assist station earlier than climbing again to my automobile.

I ended up working and climbing greater than 40 miles and sleeping solely 5 hours over the 2 and a half days it took Courtney to run 200 miles. By the tip, I used to be wrecked. Courtney merely sat down and cracked a beer, chatting and joking along with her assist crew and spectators. It regarded as if she might head out for an additional lap.

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