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Living Images

Don Seabrook | Working the ChelanMan

With a new work schedule, since January I haven’t been working weekends with fellow photographer Mike Bonnicksen picking up those duties. But when Mike took a vacation day last Saturday, I headed to Lake Chelan to photograph the annual ChelanMan triathlon for both the news and sports sections.

After getting a shuttle to the start of the race at Lakeside Park, I found one of the organizers who fitted me with a bracelet that would allow me into the exchange zones. It’s been a number of years since I had covered the race and I was hanging around the swim/bike zone, near the start of the race the last time I covered it.

An announcement that the first wave of racers had just a few minutes left to get to the starting line surprised me. Looking up to where I thought the start was gave me an awful feeling as no one was there. I asked someone where the start was and took off in a hurry to get to the other end of the park where a large group of swimmers were gathered on the beach waiting to go.

It was a photographically challenging spot with bright sunlight mixed with the dark shadows of surrounding trees but I did my best at trying to balance the light knowing from past experience that better images would come later.

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Long Course triathlon contenders begin their swimming leg of the ChelanMan race from the beach of Lakeside Park in Chelan on Saturday morning, July 20, 2019.

My first good opportunity came as the first swimmer went by a buoy near me on one of the few docks at the park. Just as he cleared the buoy, he lifted his face out of the water and sunlight illuminated it.

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Chad Rolfs, a former swimmer for Eastmont High School, is the first long course triathlon racer to round the last buoy and finish the swimming leg of the race at Lakeside Park in Chelan on Saturday, July 20, 2019. He finished the entire ChelanMan race in a little over six hours in 52nd place. 

I found out later that the leader was former Eastmont High School swimmer Chad Rolfs. I was able to verify that it was him from the number on his swim cap.

There were several waves of swimmers in different age brackets that morning so I headed back to the start again and found this exchange between husband and wife, the husband encouraging her for her first triathlon.

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Greg Taylor gives his wife Angela a squeeze on her hand before the start of the Olympic course triathlon race Saturday, July 20, 2019, at Lakeview Park in Chelan. They are from Redmond. He said it was her first triathlon. She finished the race in a little over three hours and came in 217th place.

Because I knew I needed to come back with both news and sports photographs, I was keeping a lookout for feature pictures of the race and this fit that very well, I thought.

Walking back to the swim/bike exchange zone, I noticed that when the swimmers came out of Lake Chelan it kind of looked like that evolution diagram from non-human to Neanderthal, to human so I spent a little time there waiting for three people, hopefully equally spaced. It was a bonus that the buoy resembled a shark fin.

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Long Course triathlon racers finish the swimming leg and come out of Lake Chelan at Lakeview Park on Saturday, July, 20, 2019, during the ChelanMan event.

At that same spot with a straight on view, I saw how some swimmers wouldn’t realize that they could touch bottom until after they had hit their arms on the sand. I like this image of a swimmer looking around while others kept swimming in the shallow water.

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Ashley Jay, Seattle, looks at her competitors as they finish the swimming leg of the Olympic course of the ChelanMan triathlon Saturday, July 20, 2019. She came in 144th place in the event.

Then I moved on to the bicycle course. Even with a volunteer telling riders to “gear down” at the bottom of the first hill out of the park, many struggled and some fell off their bikes.

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Joseph Skoog, Mill Creek, picks up his bike after crashing on a steep hill near the start of that leg of the Olympic length triathlon during the ChelanMan race Saturday, July 20, 2019. He kept going but was unable to finish the race.

Periodically large groups would come up the hill and I focused on some of the middle riders with cyclists in the foreground and background out of focus

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Patrick Ulinski, Bellingham, center, grinds up the first hill at the start of the biking section of the ChelanMan Olympic length triathlon Saturday, July 20, 2019. He finished the race in 142nd place.

Then I tried to pan some of the racers with a slow shutter speed like this one. It gives a sense of motion with the subject sharp but the background blurred. All of it is in focus but the movement of my camera gives motion blur to everything but what is moving by me at a certain speed.

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Brian Moore, Seattle, heads out on the bike leg of the ChelanMan triathlon Saturday, July 20, 2019. He came in 101st place in the Olympic length race.

The ChelanMan has always been a joy to photograph because of all the different opportunities confined in a small park. It’s sometimes challenging to find new images at events that we continually cover but for me it’s an opportunity to stretch my imagination.

Photo Editor Don Seabrook: (509)661-5225

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