Introducing jmpLite

I learned about #GivingTuesday at school this year. My daughters attend a private school that is a non-profit, and every dollar here helps support education – from the technology the students use to the continued learning for the teachers. We have over 45 athletic teams, a thriving musical theatre program, ongoing community service projects and were among the first in the area with a Makerspace so students get hands-on skills for better problem solving and better futures.

jmpliteef9c6_largeIt is rare, however, for people to donate to a cause they don’t feel an emotional pull to. And as much as I love the school we’ve been at for 14 years, I have more readers who are runners than members of my community. (Well, arguably runners make up their own community…) So I have found a cause to tell my running friends about this #GivingTuesday. It is the jmpLite.

I read about this runner’s light online and have not been contacted by them, nor am I receiving compensation for posting this information.

jmpLite is the first safety light that never uses a battery. Running safely at night usually involves a light that often dies, or requires batteries that are bad for our environment. So two running friends designed a safety light that needs no batteries – ever – and thus costs us less and causes less harm to the environment.

  • Total Weight: 1.1 oz
  • Size: 1.4 x 2.2 x 1 inches
  • Water resistant (see water dunking video on their Kickstarter page!)
  • Armband and Headband: Optional accessories. You can just clip it to your running skirt, shorts or shirt.

How does it work?
Wind turbines, hydroelectric generators, and gas powered generators all produce electricity using basically magnets and coils. Our jmpLite uses the same basic principals, but in a very compact and efficient way, fine-tuned to take advantage of the running motion.

Want to know more? Check out the jmpLite Kickstarter campaign here. For just a $15 pledge you may be among the first to own a jmpLite!


Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer 5k

Last week was my first time participating in the One Step Closer to The Cure 5k

I didn’t race this 5k one bit. In fact, we were the last ones across the finish line!

My friend Shannon is a 2 time ovarian cancer survivor. This is not a friendly disease, and she is lucky to be as healthy as she is right now. She is strong, positive and simply a delight! Shannon put a team together for this 5k and asked me to be on it. At the last minutes, I volunteered to be the team photographer.

The 5k took us one and a half hours! We took photos, told stories, and enjoyed the gorgeous views of the St Pete waterfront course. I met some of her friends and neighbors too.

Shannon prepared aqua sashes for all of us to wear, to match the aqua ribbon for ovarian cancer awareness. I chose to wear one that said “Laughter” across it, because laughter makes darn good medicine! It was held closed with a Relay For Life pin, which was appropriate because my daughter captains a Relay For Life team each year. Fun coincidence!

wendyshannonSpeaking of my daughter, she is a member of the Interact Club at her high school, and they volunteered at this race. She has had a special bond with Shannon since they met when she was 3 years old, and very excited to hug Shannon in the middle of the course. Some of the high schoolers gave directions and some handed out water. Considering the high temp and humidity and the number of cancer patients and new survivors at this race, there were not enough water stops along the course. Shannon mentioned it right away. I had water in my backpack to share.

I saw friends along the course. Some were in the race and some were just out for a morning run. Wendy also saw two of my girlfriends out for a walk who didn’t know we would be downtown. She had time to talk to them about school and her classes between the 7:30 5k obstacle course runner start and the 8:30 5k race start. (There was also a 1 mile for kids).

Our team cross the finish line with our arms around each other and Shannon in the middle. We all supported each other!


Then we went for brunch at Cassis, where Shannon went around the room and said how she knew each one of us. It was sweet!

I’ve never been last in a 5k before and I couldn’t have cared less. I really didn’t want our time together thinking about how lucky we all were to end.


Ragnar Tahoe Trail Relay 2013 recap

Although Brian and I have put together and led roughly 15 Ragnar Relay teams of strangers, the Ragnar in Tahoe help a lot of new adventure for us.

First: we brought 2 running buddies from home along with us
2nd: It was the first TRAIL relay we did, instead of a road relay
3rd: I hadn’t been to Lake Tahoe before. That’s not entirely true, I went when I was about 3 years old.

Flying to California from Florida can be grueling. We flew from Florida to TN, to CO, to Reno and then drove to the CA side of Tahoe about 75 mins away from the airport. But we had 2 friends from Florida on our flights, and HGTV to watch on Southwest Airlines. Lots of House Hunters was viewed while we were in the air!

And when we landed, we were treated to some gorgeous views!

viewOn the way from the Reno airport to the race resort, we stopped at Wal Mart for supplies and Subway for dinner. Much of our supplies came in huge duffles on the plane with us, but there are usually last minute purchases of water, sunscreen, fruit and granola bars – things that don’t fly well.

What does fly well are lawn games, which we purchased to make our campsite a little more fun, perhaps even drawing other teams around to hang out and play. We discovered that Dan L. calls “Ladder Golf” — wait for it — Grandpa’s Balls!

The race was held at the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort. There were tall pines and ski lifts and lots of steep hills. About 2 weeks before the event, the resort received permission to blast an area of their property with dynamite. It was the area all of the teams were meant to camp on, so we were moved to camping on an asphalt parking lot. Sure, the was gravely and hard – but it kept the bugs out of our food and the bees and rattlesnakes were much further away! I see a definite plus in that! I think I came home with just ONE bug bite.

Teams for this relay consist of 8 people. There are 3 trails, and everyone runs all 3 trails. There is one exchange points that all teams use to pass off the team belt/number/bib, and while your runner is on course you can hang at the camp site, talk, eat, sleep, etc. We always inform our teammates that bringing earplugs and eyemasks are a good idea, because you never know when you’ll be able to catch a few ZZzzs.

Ragnar Tahoe Trail team shirtWe thought the concept of running and camping and hanging out was so desirable, we actually purchased 2 teams. We got 12 members easily, but had trouble after that. We named the teams TaHoes and TaBros. (T-shirt art above) 2 of the TaBros agreed to run double to make up for the missing team members.

The 3 trails were:
Green: 2.7 miles
Yellow: 6.7 miles with a LOT of steep uphill climb in high altitude
Red: a .5 mile run to a ski lift, up to the very top of the mountain, and 7+ miles down to the base.

So runner 1 runs green, runner 2 runs yellow, runner 3 runs red, then back to green again – but this time it’s runner 4… and so on until everyone does all 3 loops. It’s like 117 miles or something like that. Whatever it is, it’s shorter than the average 200 mile Ragnar Relay on roads.

Ragnar Relay Napa Valley reunion

Uncorked! reunion

We had friends at this Relay! Some of our Ragnar Napa team members were there: Laura, Wendy, Patrick and Chris. Michelle and Maria from that team were on our TaHoes & TaBros team, so we had a mini reunion. 2 of our Del Sol Ragstars team members were there: Shannon and Maia. Cheryl from our TN team was there with her husband in great Doc from Back to the Future shirts. Plus with Brian (and Maria) from that team on our TaHoes & TaBros team, and Dan C from our Shave the Whales Northwest Passage team, and Ben from TN – it was a little nutty with who knew who.

Our other TaHoes & TaBros may be seen here.

While we were picking up extras at Wal Mart, our first 2 team mates to arrive at the campsite, who drove up from their home in CA, texted us and warned us that it was thunderstorming. It was about 6pm. Luckily, by the time we drove up there it was 9:30pm, and the rain had stopped. The darkness didn’t make it easy to find 2 strangers with a tent in the dark, however, so I drove a minivan up and down the campsites saying, “Tahoes? Tabros? And Tahoes here?” Later Megan from Nuun said she heard me and it was cracking her up!

But we found our team, and unloaded our gear, and pitched our tents and inflated our air mattresses. Yes, if that makes us cheaters, than we cheated! We also strung colored LED lights (nondenominational holiday lights in primary colors), so the other van and Friday arrivers would be able to find us easily.

campsitenightN3357We hung out talking in our team shelter much too late, but it was great to get to know each other. Plus we had a 1pm start time and a 1:30pm start time, so we could have slept in. I almost did, but I had to get up to use the bathroom at one point. I found the port a potties, and realized the clear sky and huge moon shed so much light I didn’t even need my head lamp. That was cool!

Potable Water at Ragnar

how we got our water

9am was about the time people were awake for real, finding potable water, brushing teeth, and eventually heading down to the Ragnar “Village” where there were corporate sponsor booths, the Mess Hall tent for eating, the major exchange/start line/finish line, and people. Fit, sweaty people. The weather probably got up to about 80 degrees and down to about 54 degrees, so it was warm in terms of running weather the whole weekend.

We played some games and shared some food. I chatted with the DJ like I always do. I even found a quiet spot on the trail before any of the teams started to do some Yoga.

Raffi trail yogaThe poor DJ had to repeat the same safety briefing almost every half hour from 11am-2pm on Friday until every start time heard it. Usually volunteers do that, but since everything was more compact and he had a microphone, it kind of made sense. Most of his schpiel explained the signs on the roads and reminded us to “Leave only footprints, take only pictures” – pick up your trash people!

Ragnar trail signsdanger93030

ragnar safety briefing

Listening to the Safety Briefing

Dan at start Ragnar TahoeDan L. was our first runner out (above). We cheered on our starters, and as people hung out near the exchange point, there was almost always someone coming by to cheer for. Different runners have different paces, and all the teams had staggered start times, so at any moment you could grab a cowbell and go high five someone finishing their leg.

I found a team called “Bros and Tahoes” and got my photo with one of their shirts.

otherbros130726_133932Our first downer was when one of our runner came in from the steep, uphill yellow leg and was totally out of breath. We took her to the medical tent, and after firing a lot of questions they basically told her she should eat more, drink more, actually drink the water she carried on the trail with her, and slow down a bit because of the altitude. Everyone was saying the yellow leg was tactical and sadistic, but I think everyone but her would do it again.

Friday evening rolled around, and I overheard a staff member say they didn’t have people to bus tables as the dinner rush started. (Free pasta dinner for everyone!) I told him I would volunteer for 2 hours if he gave me plastic gloves. So for 2 hours I reminded everyone at dinner that the dishes could all go in the compost bin, and I cleared plates for those who looked like they should be post-race sitting. I guess it was mid-race sitting. The food was pretty good. The salad probably should have had the dressing on the side and the pasta could have been whole wheat, since they knew this was a generally healthy crowd, but oh well. I was a good girl and skipped the cookies, I have 3 pounds to lose from my May vacation.

smores tableAround 10pm I helped out again, this time at the s’mores table. There were 3 firepits, and TONS of marshmallows (including vegan), graham crackers (including organic) and Hershey bars. TONS. I hung out there for about an hour helping, and came back from 5am-8am to do it again because no one else was. I could have slept in, but I decided talking to people would be more fun, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Ragnar Smores

Craziness at the s’mores table

One by one our runners took on all 3 trails. At one point Michelle and I were going to walk the yellow trail with a Ragnar staff member – Michelle so she could fulfill her yellow trail leg, and the other 2 of us to get photos and pick up trash, but Michelle wasn’t right by the exchange when the runner before her came in, and Brian was afraid we’d get in trouble, so he went on the yellow course again for her! Meanwhile, Ragnar decided it was a better time to pick up the staff pizza lunch instead of taking trail photos, so I helped pick up pizzas instead. For a moment there, we had the best smelling van in the city! And they even let me have a slice :)

As Saturday wore on and the yellow trail took its toll, Ragnar allowed teams who were dropping behind to double and TRIPLE up their runners on the course. They extended the finish from 4pm to 6pm.

By 4pm Saturday, we had one runner left on the course. Some teams had left, others were organizing dinner and camping another night. We started packing everything up at our camp site so after our finish line photos we could drive on to a hotel for showers and a hot meal.

finish0727_172931After our fun photos, we drove back into Reno and had rooms booked at the Casino Fandango. Brian found this place online and told us it would be kitschy fun. And it WAS! Hot pink lighting, and band on a stage 15 feet off the ground, carpet covered with a pattern of rainforest leaves, and a volcano room of nickle slots around a fake mountain! It was right next to our Marriott hotel, so we all took and hour to clean up and then met at the casino.

the lights were much more bubblegum pink than this

the lights were much more bubblegum pink than this

There was a steakhouse in the back, and most of the team wanted to eat there. We practically had the place to ourselves! The food was excellent. I had creamy mushroom risotto and asparagus, and a few bites of Brian’s chocolate ganache cake. Most people ordered the filet mignon.


Then there was some gambling… Brian C and Monica stayed the latest and bet the highest, mostly at the Blackjack tables. My husband and I played video poker and video blackjack and came up $44 ahead in the end!

And then we slept. and slept. and woke up to ANOTHER hot shower. Because hot showers rock. And as I checked my Facebook on my phone, I saw that a teammate posted that she was walking across the street to IHOP, and a bunch of us ended up there. Then we returned the rental cars and went off to the airport. Where Brian realized he couldn’t find his phone and ran back to the rental car area. Where they had already turned in our cars. So 2 teammates who didn’t have flights for 5 hours went to fill out a report while we went through security. And then to the bathroom, which is where it dawned on me to CALL Brian’s phone. And it was in his backpack all along! Mini drama at the airport.

Our flight home was Reno to Chicago and Chicago to Tampa, arriving at 12:20 Midnightish Florida time. In Chicago we wolfed down a quick meal (turkey burger with swiss and an orange) and on the 2nd flight I sat next to someone leaving Blogher who is putting together a site of blogging experts to give advice to bloggers on the business end of blogging. We talked about web the whole flight home while Brian watched more House Hunters next to me.

14 runners, countless smores, 3 nights, over 117 miles, a zillion stars and 8 little bags of peanuts later I came HOME! Where I was promptly greeted by a Wendy hug!! and then I slept for a long, long time!




I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.

Last week Digital Running led their 14th Ragnar Relay. This was a 195 mile race from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL. We had 12 runners on our team + me as staff = 13, in 2 vans, and finished in roughly 31.5 hours. Here’s the scoop:IMG_20130607_071659

Because this was my 14th Ragnar, I kind of have packing down to an art, even for different temps. The packing for this race was a little different because we had a few days of vacation both before and after the race to pack for. Luckily, I was able to leave an extra suitcase at my cousin’s condo in Chicago, because there really isn’t room for a full sized suitcase in a 12-passenger van with 6-7 people living out of it.

On Thursday we went to Midway airport in Chicago to pick up the 2 vans, which were reserved months ago and confirmed 2 days in advance. They only had one. They dicked us around, and called other locations, and we called other rental companies, and eventually they found us another 12-passenger van at O’Hare. So the team climbed into van 1 and we all drove to O’Hare to get van 2. There were lots of references to the Seinfeld episode about not fulfilling a reservation. Stupid BUDGET car rental and their stupid giving away of vans after a phone confirmation 2 days before pickup!! (and, yes, the video clip below is worth the 32 seconds of giggles.)

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Anyway, we made it to O’Hare through the horrible Chicago traffic and only lost about 45 mins. Then we checked into the hotel, found out who our roommates were, and got ready for our pre-race team dinner. My husband and I were obviously sharing a bed, but in the other bed in our room was someone on the team we had never met before. We’ll call her Shirley. Shirley entered the room with a threesome joke. Literally, as she was putting in the electronic key to open the door, she was making a threesome joke to total strangers, and then proceeded to tell us about her upstairs neighbors who hit on her, and are now awkward to see in the hall. And she demonstrated how the guy massaged her neck on my neck. Now, I am pretty open and easy going, so although this could have been a red flag, it wasn’t.

We washed up a bit, I put on a cuter top, and we went to dinner at an Irish pub that was close to the hotel, and had a big-box store nearby so that after dinner we could pick up van necessities.

photo from

At dinner I was introduced to Scotch Eggs for the first time. A Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or fried. I was surprised that anyone about to run a relay would want to eat this, but to each their own… I ordered cottage pie, a wanna-be-Irish meal similar to Shepherds pie but made with chicken in place of ground beef.

At the big box store I got a dark chocolate bar for the van – they had my favorite brand, Endangered Species! We also got granola bars and bananas and a fuji apple. We stocked up the van coolers with bottled water, and would fill them with ice the next morning from the hotel ice machine.

Then we went to bed. Brian showered while our roommate Shirley slept immediately and I watched a few minutes of college track and field finals (on mute) before falling asleep myself. I left the TV on as a nightlight for Brian, and he came to bed at around 11:00PM. Later he said he didn’t sleep well – tossing and turning all night. I remember waking around 3am because I thought a light went on, but it was Shirley texting, and I fell back asleep. Our alarm went off at 5am.


Team “How Now Spotted Cow” shirts

Brian hopped out of bed and started filling the coolers with ice down the hall at the ice machine. I did my bathroom stuff and got dressed, and went down to the lobby continental breakfast to find teammates to hand out our matching team shirts and headbands. I had a little bit of oatmeal with walnuts and raisins on top, and took 2 hard boiled eggs for later. Little by little the team trickled into the lobby, the shirts were all handed out, and we left.



I was in van 2. We had a great group of people. There was me and Brian, 2 runners we’ve had on our team before – Terie, a former smoker who got healthy and lost weight 3 years ago and runs like a machine, and Justin (whose wife was volunteering at the finish line) – and 3 new friends: Whitney who was upbeat and youthful, Bob who knew a fun fact about every city anyone mentioned, and Denise who kept her head about her well and kept our eye on the prize. We jived and blended well.

We met up with van 1 at the start for a team photo. Shirley said, “Why do I need pictures with you, I’ll never see you again after tomorrow.” (red flag #2) As usual, I found the DJ and gave him some prizes to hand out on behalf of Digital Running. Unfortunately, we were there before the 8am city allowance of music, so the start line was rather quite. Runner 1 started at 7:30am in Madison, WI.

We took some more photos with Van 1 and with another team also dressed in a cow theme (below) and van 1 headed off to the course while we headed off to breakfast.



Veggie Skillet with swiss cheese

After a yummy veggie skillet surrounded by neighboring plates of french toast (because everyone but me thought they should carb load, remember I wasn’t running, and I don’t carb load with white bread anyway), we went out to the parking lot to decorate our van. It’s always fun to write each other names, cute sayings, and blast our team out there using window markers on the van. We tally up “roadkill” – other runners we’ve passed – and everyone can check off their 3 legs of the race as they run them.


Whitney labels the cow on our van “Udderly Amoosing”

At exchange 6 we met up with the other van. Their 6th runner handed off the baton to our first runner. Our first runner was runner #7 for the team. Runner 6 was Shirley, our roommate. She had a HOT 10 miles. I’m sure it was brutal. I could not have done it. But she came in strong, handed the baton to Terie, and I took a few photos. As I put my camera away I saw her yelling at Brian. Brian walked away, and she came to me, grabbed my arm and said, “I need to talk to you.” We walked about 20 feet away from the crowd and I suggested we find some shade, since she just had a long, hard, hot run. “Did something happen?” I asked, thinking maybe she fell on the course or had an encounter with another runner… but no… Here is where the drama starts…

“Did you and Brian have sex in our room last night?” Shirley asked me.

What?!?!? In a hotel room, while away on business (for me, this is business…) with a total stranger in the bed next to us, who was up texting at 3am??? UM NO!!!

But she said she knew I “wouldn’t admit it”, and had apparently discussed this with all of van 1 already, who had been texting our van 2 – and everyone was gossiping about this but me and Brian!


So then I had a decision to make: Do I let her continue to lie about me, bring down the morale of the van, and run the race she paid for; or do I ask her to leave the team, 200 miles from home while hot and sweaty from a ten mile run? The decision was almost hers, when she said, “I have friends who live near by and I might just have them come pick me up because I am so uncomfortable right now.”

I decided to gather my pride and let her keep it between her and her van mates. In the meantime, we had to get to the next exchange because we had a runner from our van on the course! Great timing Shirley, you couldn’t have gone paranoid cuckoobird while we were still in a quite hotel room at 5:30am?

So I talked to her van mates, said she was making some things up and might need some time (they had about 5 hours to kill after all since our van was the course) and went to find my van. I wasn’t angry, but I was a bit flabbergasted and mentally thrown off course.

And then drama #2 hit. The other van texted us that there was just an announcement made at exchange six for all Runner #7′s. A bridge was out, the course was altered, 3.8 miles was added, and Terie who was ALREADY ON COURSE would now be running over 11 miles. Plus, she was running on a trail, so we couldn’t just pull over and tell her, and her cell phone was in the van, so we couldn’t text her.

Instead, we drove to the end of her leg, and went backwards through the last few miles of her leg looking for her. Meanwhile Justin texted Ragnar for permission to put another runner on the course for the final 3.5 miles. This would keep Terie’s leg to under 8 miles, and our next runner – Denise – only had a 2.8 mile leg, so it would bump her up closer to 6 miles. Ragnar OK’ed the runner switcheroo via text. We found Terie. We gave her water. She said she wanted to “finish what I started”, so Denise stayed in the van while Terie unexpectedly ran 11 miles during the hottest part of the day.

Luckily, it wasn’t 105 degrees like Ragnar Chicago last year, it was more like 84 degrees.

There is always one point during a Ragnar when someone becomes the team hero. This was that moment. Terie would be that runner. I smiled to myself. Then I texted the other van with an update, and asked how morale was over there. I heard back “good”. So I decided to let sleeping dogs lie. If I kept denying Shirley’s accusations, I might look MORE guilty. If I shut up and let her prove herself to be a drama queen, people would side against her.

That’s pretty  much what happened. She added plenty of fuel to the fire when she turned out to be a total nutso – arguing over what people should write on the side of the van, slamming the race guide down and yelling that everyone better be there to support her at the end of each of her legs, and insisting she’d be an awesome navigator, but refusing to hold the GPS or give directions. I figured I didn’t need to worry about anyone believing her lies, but I felt bad for her vanmates who had to placate her.

Like I said, this was Digital Running’s 14th Ragnar. We build teams of mostly strangers who meet online. People always ask if it ever has worked out poorly, and we have never had a good story to tell. Until now. Total nutso Shirley. I hope she isn’t reading this and won’t eat my children in her made-from-candy house Shirley. Luckily, she asked to switch with runner #5, so she could stay in the van whenever our van was around, so I never saw her again.

The rest of the race pretty much went as planned. We ran, we ate, we slept from 4:45am-7:00am in a tent by a school football field. We took funny photos, tried not to fart in the van, and brushed our teeth with bottled water outdoors. And we all ate peanut butter, I’m pretty sure.

DSCN3199 DSCN3215 DSCN3213

Van 1 lost some time in the middle of the night, and Terie had an extra 3.8 miles as noted above, so our 30 hour finish ETA became 31.5 hours. Shirley skipped the finish line and cabbed home, so we gave her medal to Justin’s wife Heather, who was volunteering at the finish line and also runs Ragnars.

It was fun seeing teams we were tweeting with on the course! (below)


Mustache and Ride


Don’t stop till you get enough

That night, the hotel room had JUST us with our kids, and another room with Justin, Heather and Whitney. We all went out for deep dish pizza and fell asleep by 10:30pm. At 9am, we walked around Chicago a bit for breakfast and packed up.

New friends, old friends, new stories to tell, and more photos for the albums. Ragnar #14 is in the books!

And in 2 weeks, we’ll be off to Ragnar Wasatch Back, the first-ever Ragnar celebrating its 10th anniversary with LOTS of hills and fresh mountain air. A HUGE After Party is expected! This was my first of 5 Ragnars this summer. Maybe I’ll have more stories to share next month! If you are ever interested in joining one of our teams, click here.

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The rest of April…

I’ve been M.I.A. in blog world lately. Sorry about that. I feel guilty sometimes, but then I figure I am living life instead of writing about it – and that’s good too.


Thumbs up near the finish line

The biggest event that happened (for me) since my last post was the IronGirl Clearwater 5k. This was a gorgeous womens race from Clearwater to Clearwater Beach. (I received free entry.) Lots went right that day… I ended up with an unexpected running partner, I had my first shoe timing tag, ran past gorgeous water views, and borrowed DD2′s camera to get some fun photos of half marathon friends finishing. (Photos will be here for 2 weeks)

Really there were only 2 down parts to the day. One was the BRIDGE. Look at any recap from the race, and it will mention the bridge. Florida is famous for flat running, so when you suddenly run over a bridge, then take a hairpin turn and run back over the bridge, that adds a certain measure of difficulty for a Florida runner.


The other negative was the lack of mention/enthusiasm/phone call from my husband that day. Maybe because we’re at races all the time… but I’m not usually the one running.

I went to packet pickup on my own and socialized with vendors. I drove to the race with my friend Sandy, who was running the HM with 2 friends, and her husband, and her sorta-sister Krystal. Turns out Krystal was running the 5k and is about my pace, so we held tight together most of the race and it helped a lot.

Me and Krystal at the finish

Me and Krystal at the finish

I also got to see a lot of my Tampa Bay Blogger friends! Jenny was even awarded the Athleta “Power to the She” award. I got a few photos with her and her daughter.

DSC_0381b IMG_20130414_085238

I ran the race with my phone in my hand to force myself to take more photos.


After the race I hopped back in the car with Sandy’s crew and we hit up Cracker Barrel. There might have been a sweet potato with a side of bacon with my name on it.

I would have loved to just crawl right in bed after that race, but instead I took my daughter to play rehearsal and sat in the audience as the photographer. If you are ever asked to photograph an event with lots of people in the audience, it’s great to get photos at the dress rehearsal first. Sometimes the shots come out better without bobbing heads in front of you, and other times it just prepares you for the order of events so you are ready to press the shutter during the most important moments. In this case – a full musical (“The Music Man”) – I knew when the dance jumps and lifts were coming, and I could move around the theatre without disturbing anyone. I ended up photographing 2 dress rehearsals – first I got the major moments, and I came back to get all the other details. That way everyone in the cast would find photos of themselves. This is important to kids who choose to be on stage! I shared my 400 photos with the cast and crew using Google Drive, and I hope they download & share them to their hearts content.

trainlow shpoopielow iowalow

You might think 400 is a lot of photos… but I was just getting warmed up. The following week was Celebrate the Arts week at school. Classes had visiting artists of all different mediums to be photographed, and there were juried art awards to be photographed, and a cocktail party on the opening night of “The Music Man”. And a performance by the middle school kids and high schoolers in the gym. And just when I thought my fingers would fall off from editing photos, there was a spring concert with all the school musicians playing – including DD1′s boyfriend on guitar with his rock band – so that could not be missed. (Classic rock, not punk, FYI.)

But then the best photos happened… I was asked to be the official race photographer for the Best Buddies Friendship Walk in Tampa. DD2 came as my backup photographer. We were there for 5 hours and took about 1200 pictures, which I then had to edit and upload to Facebook – but it was SO worth it! Best Buddies is an inclusion program that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities make friends, find jobs, mainstream at school, etc. inclusion

Many of the Buddies who were at the event were high schoolers with Down Syndrome who were paired up with an average high schooler to help them find their way around, eat with at lunch, go to parties, etc. One high school had their Varsity Cheerleaders there, along with a team of cheerleaders with different abilities, and they got up on stage and cheered together!cheerleaders

It was a day full of smiles and warm fuzzies, as well as a 5k fun walk. walking

PDQ, Starbucks and Whole Foods all had booths with free food. There was a face painter and a bounce house. And the DJ was awesome! He handled the day’s unpredictability level very well!

I’m so glad DD2 came with me. She’s been dealing with typical high school girl social crap, and suddenly there were a few hundred people who wanted to hug, high five, and just hang out with her. No one was there to judge. Everyone came in friendship, with an open heart, and that is how my daughter lives her life. She always gives people a 3rd and 4th chance to be a friend and keeps her hopes high. As much as she did NOT want to get up at 6am to drive to Tampa for this event – she left with a grand smile and positive words :)


Our other recent event – also full of photos – was Prom. Only it was NonProm… here’s why. My daughter is a sophomore. Normally she wouldn’t go to her school’s junior/senior prom. But her boyfriend is a junior. And then along came the Regional Track meet. My daughter was just waking up to volunteer for the meet because she was out with a stress fracture, when her phone rang. Someone was having diabetic concerns from the girls 4×800 relay team and they needed a 4th runner. She literally ran up and down the block a few times to test her leg out, and decided to do it. 3 hours later, I was watching her relay team win the Regionals (while taking photos), sending them to State.


And a few hours after that her boyfriend’s relay team made it to state as well. AWESOME! But… State meet was the same night as -  you guessed it – prom!

So we cancelled the hair appointment and put her dress in plastic for next year. He cancelled his tux and invited her to dinner the night after Prom at the Melting Pot instead. He wore a jacket and tie, and she wore a cute dress from the back of her closet. They went ahead with the boutonniere and corsage, which made me happy because we ordered Van Halen guitar picks to be added into his boutonniere. (I told you, classic rock.)


Flowers by in St Pete. The photo doesn’t do them justice.

I really nailed her makeup. We did a run-through at the Dior counter at Macy’s a couple weeks ago and I watched very closely. BTW – eye makeup before concealer and foundation. Who knew? The curls fell out of her hair though, so we’ll have to keep trying with that one or go professional for real prom next year. She asked to take photos in her friend’s yard, which is large and lush, so we would have a nice backdrop. And then they went to dinner.


Goofing around like a true thug.

After the Melting Pot, he took her to the park and pulled a hand-made “Prom 2013″ banner out of his trunk. He played some of their favorite songs on his iPod and they danced in the park at twilight.


Yep. He’s a good one…

Then they came back to my house to watch “Dr. Who”. My daughter promptly fell asleep with her head on her date’s shoulder — before 10pm.

That’s how those crazy teens roll.


And now I am preparing for Ragnar Cape Cod. It’s going to be a cold one, ladies and gents. About 54 degrees for the high, and camping out in 45 degreed. Compared to the 85 with high humidity I’m used to, I’ll be packing gloves and wool socks. No joke.

What’s the best event photo you’ve taken recently?