Monday, March 23, 2009


The sun was just beginning to cast it's first light over the horizon as the gun sounded, sending 7000 runners on 13.1 mile journey around the north of Virginia Beach. The 35-degree morning was the culmination of a much longer journey that we have taken over the last several months. Back in October, I first approached you requesting your assistance with raising $1900 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In exchange, I was going to run the Shamrock half-marathon. Since that time, I was amazed at the outpouring of generosity and support that was given. Contributions came from friends and family, people that only knew me as an avatar on a message forum, and six little girls that took it upon themselves to go door-to-door with a decorated red wagon to collect $150 for a cause to help rid us of a disease that kills thousands. As I took the starting line yesterday, my purple jersey representing Team-in-Training was adorned with the names of those that while no longer with us, are are clearly present in our memories. I was humbled by the knowledge our team far exceeded our goal and raised $2568! Overall for the Shamrock, 125 TNT runners/walkers raised over $170,000, the second largest amount for a VA Beach event!

My nieces and biggest supporters - Savannah and Megan

Honestly, I thought that I had the easy part of the deal as all I had to do was my normal training and then show up for the race. I didn't expect to have any setbacks. For those that have been following my training journal, you already know that back in November I suffered both a lower back and ankle injury that landed me in physical therapy 3-days a week for the month of December into January. Even though I was getting some cardio workouts in, I was getting nervous that I was loosing a lot of ground. I owe it to words of encouragement from my training partners Bev, Alissa, Jess, Angela, Michelle, and Liz for helping me maintain a positive attitude and to Coach Bob, Steve, Michelle, Danielle, and the rest of the TNT coaches and mentors for reminding me of the reason for the goal. Shannon kept me moving forward with her pep talks and never say die attitude. By February, I was rejoining the team for the long runs through First Landing Park during 18-degree mornings and feeling great.

Meeting my family post-race

Then 3-weeks before the race, I started having IT Band issues where the muscle/tendon that runs the outside of your leg begins rubbing the bone in your knee, becoming inflamed. At first it stats as a dull ache around 3-miles and then grows steadily worse. I took a week off to rest and releive the aggravation. 2-weeks before the race I set out on a Saturday morning run and it felt great until the 10-mile mark at which point a sharp pain shot through the knee and virtually brought me to the ground. That Tuesday I saw a sports specialist who took x-rays and referred me for an MRI to rule out a torn miniscus or ACL. The test came back negative and it was confirmed as ITBS. It generally takes 5-weeks of rest and stretching to get over it; however, the race was just 5-days away. I scheduled 3-days with the physical therapist where for 2-hours a day, we did some extreme stretching and massage therapy. It loosened some knots above the knee but the night before the race, it was still tender to walk on.

As the race began, I left the line with my teammate Alissa and her friend Indra. Within the first half-mile, a sharp pain ran up my shin and through the right side of my knee. When I grimaced, Alissa said it may be better if I stop; however if I didn't stop now, she wasn't going to let me until the end of the race. The doctor had told me that it would be painful but no permanent damage would be done. The thought of all of you behind me and of those that suffer pain everyday due to LLS from which they simply can't walk away made my mind up that I was going to continue forward. The pain never subsided, occassionally surging worse before normalizing; however, for 12.1 miles Alissa kept giving me encouragement and pushed me further along the path. At the halfway mark I was shocked to find that we were running sub 10-minute miles. I owe her a lot of thanks for being a great teammate and friend. 1-mile from the finish, the pain sharpened to where I couldn't land on my right foot. I told Alissa to go ahead without me while I walked for 20-seconds waiting for the pain to subside before starting back to a jog. Just as I was thinking that it may beat me, I ran into my niece Savannah and my mom at the half-mile mark. A big hug from each was all it took for me to push through to the finish line. I looked at my watch and was ecstatic to see that even with the injury, I managed a 2 hour 17 minute half marathon. Just 7-months ago, it took me 2 hours 53 minutes to finish the Rock-N-Roll. I can only think that had I been healthy, I would have been much closer to the 2-hour mark, a goal for the next race.

My sister Bec and me

Thing is that it really wasn't about the time or about me. It was about finishing - finishing the training, the fundraising, the race, and one day, hopefully soon, finishing the search for a cure for all of the blood cancers. It will be a beautiful day when a pill or a vaccination can cure lymphoma and leukemia. We the day comes that we can refer to these diseases with little more relevance than a common cold, you will be the ones thanked for finding the cure. Your efforts have already made incredible achievements in this battle with many more men, women, and children being able to live their lives out pain free of the disease. In the coming years, I hope that TNT has to search for a new cause to support because this one no longer exists.

If you recall at the start, I promised to give away either a portrait session or a fine art print to one of the contributers selected in a drawing. Drumroll please....... the lucky winner is MARSHA RUTHERFORD. If you would like a print, please choose an image from . Depending on the actual dimensions of the print, you will received either a 8x20, 16x20, or 12x18. Just email with your selection. Congratulations!!!!!!!

Thank you to everyone that has made this adventure as fun, exciting, and heartwarming as it was challenging. The TNT team is a wondeful organization and I encourage everyone to look into joining them for an event. Whether you are a runner, biker, swimmer, or walker; looking to set a new record or simply trying to find a healthy way to get in shape, you can benefit from the best coaches, mentors, and support staff while raising money to do some good in this world. The motivational dinner the night before the race is alone enough to make it worthwhile. I appreciate all the support over the last several months and I wish you the best for the rest of 2009.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shaun, Christine, and Shaemus

Saturday was the first truly beautiful day of 2009 with the temp reaching the upper 70's. Shaun and Christine have been trying to arrange a family photo shoot for a couple of months but it seems that every time we made an attempt, the weather was horrible or someone had to go out of town. Well I was excited when Christine pinged me on Friday and asked if I was available for Saturday afternoon. Shaemus' birthday is this week and they really wanted some portraits before he turned 1.

I planned to shoot at 3 different locations that I had checked previously and knew would make for some great images. What I didn't plan on was that it being the first gorgeous day this year, everyone would be out at the oceanfront and my planned locations would be completely overran. The first stop was the VA Beach Fishing Center where my friend Jill over at Sit.Stay.Smile Photography did some awesome images a few weeks ago. There are two pastel colored sheds there that would make for awesome backdrops; however, when I arrived the parking lot was completely full and the sheds were blocked by several trucks. I scratched plans to do anything at the south end of the beach, called Shaun and Chris, and told them to meet me up at 84th street.

While temps were close to 80 degrees inland, on the beach they were running in the low 60's due to the wind whipping off of the 45-degree ocean. Just one block over you could be comfortable in shorts but right on the ocean, it was very chilly. I have to hand it to Shaun, Christine, and Shaemus as well as Chad (Shaun's brother) and his girlfriend Megan who came out to assist for hanging in there for awhile.

The other challenge was the timing. I didn't plan to get to the north end until later in the day just as the sun was dropping and we had that beautiful golden light. Instead we were there at 4:00 with the sun absolutely blazing, posing serious issues with the hard light and deep shadows. The single photos of Shaemus were shot under a canopy of trees covering the walkway to the ocean. Fill light came from the side of a white house about 200 feet to camera left. To offset the sun on the beach, I had a bigger challenge. I used an off-camera strobe opposite the sun to knockdown the sun light. Neither the 285HV or the Nikon-900 had enough power shooting thru a softliter to really overpower the sun, but they did enable me to balance the light for some decent exposures and to pull some color from the sky.

The photos were imported into Adobe Lightroom were they were cataloged, rated, received inital processing. They were then taken into Adobe Photoshop CS3 for additional tweaks as needed.

This was a very fun shoot and even with the challenges, some excellent images came out of it. I can't wait to work with them again in the near future!