I was hiking near Spruce Creek Road at the Mohawks Lakes’ trailhead with the self-imposed pressure to make it midway up the Wheeler Trail weighing on my mind. My pack was also heavy with 2 cameras, 2 lenses, 2 batteries, my phone, various snacks & clothing, water bottle and the Cannon EOS 7D Instruction Manual; my trusty sense of security.
I found myself in my own race against the top runners of the Breck Crest Half and Full Marathon. I had calculated what time it would be when the first runners reach Aid Station #1 and wanted to be in place, unpacked and ready to shoot by then.
I comfortably followed the course marking signs and enjoyed the beautiful morning. It was going to be a great day for the racers with sunshine, blue skies and perfect temp, unlike last year when the racers had to suffer through sleet, rain, snow and cold temps at the higher elevations. Miserable!
Not today … it was gorgeous! As I huffed it up to the Wheeler trailhead, I soaked in the warm sun on my back, the green of the pine trees and watched the little chipmunks dodge across the path. The road gets a bit steeper just past the entrance to Francie’s Cabin and the rocks are a little bigger and a lot looser. Even at the trailhead, you get a sense of this immense mountain valley. Stunning! I start up Wheeler Trail and immediately encounter a creek with willows, rocks and flowers. The trail is in decent shape, but rocky and super steep in places. I think to myself, “How do they ride mountain bikes up this?”
My destination is breathtaking from every view.
I glance at my phone and realize I don’t have time to enjoy the view. I am set up and ready to go when the first runner is at the bottom of the pitch. Perfect!
I really enjoy studying elite athletes in their element. Keep in mind, I am roughly located about 5.5 miles into the course at an elevation of 11,000 ft. with thin air, steep pitches, loose rock and uneven terrain. The top four guys are all thin, fit and dressed in shorts and various layers. A couple of guys asked quick questions as they passed, while the others concentrated on the course. Their astonishment at the effort involved to reach the summit of the Wheeler Trail was communicated with looks, grunts, profanity or sighs. Pain. Amazing.
The pack of top runners is not far behind and most look strong and solid. A lot of local runners are in this group and this section of the Wheeler Trail is no surprise. Through their sincere concentration and effort, there are smiles and short greetings.
Deeper into the pack of racers, there is a variety of fitness levels, focus and conversations. Some racers are quite chatty and pose for the camera while others are consumed by the effort and a bit perturbed I am there to take their photo. Most participants are just happy to be part of the scenery and putting out the effort with their eye on the prize, to say they finished the Breck Crest Half or Full Marathon.
The Breck Crest is not an ordinary mountain marathon and the runners or hikers who participate are extraordinary adventure seekers. The scenery is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the effort is serious.
Congratulations to each and every racer and a virtual high five to the promoter, Jeff Westcott and his crew at Maverick Sports Promotions, as well as the robust volunteers who make this race possible.
Enjoy the Climb.
Are you up for the 2016 Breck Crest Mountain Marathon?
VIEW ALL OF THE 2015 BRECK CREST PHOTOS AT https://climbbettybreck.smugmug.com/Events/Breck-Crest-2015/