Category: Miscellaneous

They grow up so fast…


It amazes me how fast kids grow.  I thought it would be cool to take a pic of our daughter and her big brother at the same window in the same position about 3 years later.  Sometimes, you don’t realize they are growing right before your eyes unless you document it.

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Completed my First Half Ironman !! Augusta, GA


I’ll start by saying that my photography blog has been a quiet ghost town recently.  When I made the decision late last year to attempt my first Half Ironman race in Augusta, GA for this year, I knew it would come with a significant time commitment.  Working a full-time corporate job, helping raise a 3 year old, photography, and now training for a Half IM….something had to give so I made the difficult choice to cut back on photography this year to allow myself proper time to train.

I started doing triathlons 3 years ago…mostly doing all the local Sprint distances in the Charlotte area, then a couple of Olympic distances, then decided I’ve give the Half Ironman distance a try.   For the last 8 months, I had been spending on average 8-10 hours per week preparing  for a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.  It was a huge sacrifice to miss so much family time.  Many mornings, I would miss taking my daughter to school because I was getting back from a 6 or 7am training.  Many nights, I would miss dinner or putting my daughter to bed because I was getting home late from from training.  My wife would joke…she’s been a single parent for the last several months.  I am so thankful that I stayed healthy throughout all of my training and never suffered any major injuries.  Just the usual dead legs and soreness….and an ear infection 🙁  I was so paranoid the last 2 weeks before race day trying to make sure I didn’t suffer some freak accident like spraining an ankle or knee or something.  When you’ve spent 2/3rds of the year preparing, I knew it would be devastating to not be able to race because of some last minute injury.

We made the road trip down to Augusta, and I had never been so excited to pick up a race packet in my life.  The Expo was exciting….I was so overwhelmed with seeing the M-dot brand everywhere.   Of course I couldn’t resist buying a few things (just nothing with ‘Finisher’ on it).   I couldn’t believe how big the transition area was….it looked like 2 football fields.  I’m used to races capped at about 500-800 racers.  Augusta Half IM had about 3,500!

Here’s a small glance of the transition area.

And my bike racked the day before.  It was a lot more crowded on race day.

The night before the race, I woke up at 1 am and my mind starting racing.  This was my biggest event to date and I started thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong the next day….what if I had a panic attack in the water ? What if I had a mechanical issue with my bike, have a flat, or crash ?  What if I can’t finish the run ?  Despite trying to counter-act all the negative thoughts with positive one’s, it didn’t help.  I simply could not go back to sleep and was staring at the ceiling until 4 am, then decided to get on up and get ready.  After getting all setup in transition, things went pretty quickly.  We got shuttled via bus to the swim start and the festivities were kicked off by skydivers.  It was pretty cool to see the pro men and women start the first 2 waves.  I don’t think I ever saw them again because the last pro athlete’s were finishing up their bike as I was starting mine.

My and my buddy Brian before the swim.  He’s kinda like an awesome, semi-pro triathlete

Wetsuit on and ready to go.


I was in swim Wave 20 (yellow caps).  During our 4 minute warm-up was my first time plunging into the Savannah River.  It was the coldest water I’ve ever been in, but the wetsuit warmed me up pretty quickly.  The horn sounded and we were off.  I didn’t get over to the middle of the river to get maximum benefit from the current but still had a decent swim.  The water was clearer than I thought and it was weird seeing the river weeds passing underneath me.  A few got caught on my arms and face, but no biggie.  I finished the swim in 36:20 .  I’m a terrible swimmer, but the wetsuit and current helped me set a new PR!.  My first point-to-point swim complete.

I felt pretty good heading out on the bike.  I love these pics of me acknowledging the #TeamClay support crew while unknowingly being photographed by the official race photographers.
The bike started out pretty fast the first 17 miles.  I was averaging almost 18 mph until I got to the first climb between mile 17 & 18.  Then held about 16.5 for a bit.  There were several long, gradual climbs that raised my heart rate, but overall, it was a great ride.  The last 10 miles seemed to be mostly downhill so I was able to pick up the pace and finished in 3:15:02 with an average pace of 17.23 mph.  I was pretty pleased with my race so far then…

The run…this is where it got ugly 🙁

The first 2 miles coming off the bike, my legs always feel sluggish.  But in mile 2, I stopped to stretch my quad and then my hamstring cramped really bad.  This is when I knew I might be a little dehydrated.  Not good news with 11 more miles to run.  I was able to run the cramp soreness out and actually found a halfway decent rhythm miles 3-5.  I was drinking and eating everything I could at the water stops to try and keep my potassium, carbs, sodium, and hydration up. It didn’t help….I was getting slower each mile.  Then mile 8 is when I hit rock bottom.  Each time I tried to run, I felt nothing but muscle pain in my legs….I had nothing left in the tank and started to get a bit worried because I had another 5 miles to go.  I truly thought I may not be able to finish the race at this point.  It felt like it took 20 minutes to run that mile, but it actually took 13 and some change.  Still…the slowest mile I’ve ever run in my life.  I got a couple of boosts of energy from my tri Coach and #TeamClay as they cheered me on several times throughout the race course.  I managed to smile for pics, but my body was NOT smiling on the inside.


Somehow, I managed to alternate walking and slow jogging the last 5 miles and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the finish of a race look so appealing!  Despite finishing the run in a disappointing 2:43:58, I had completed my first Half Ironman 70.3 !!  Total race time was 6:47:03.  By far the the toughest mentally and physically challenging race I’ve completed.  I felt like I was eating everything I could my hands that night and for the next 3 days.  I went back and looked at my Garmin details….I had burned 5,700 calories just on the bike and run.  Including swimming, I’m sure it was over 6,000.

Here’s a few post race pics…


I loved the signs my sister and daughter made for me

The long journey was finally over.  I have no idea what’s next.  I’m strongly considering training for a full marathon.  I would need to complete another half Ironman more efficiently before I can even consider a full Ironman.  I have to give a huge THANKS to my wife who suffered through the training almost as much as I did 🙂  But we both thought it was extremely important to show our daughter the  valuable life lesson of setting goals and working hard to achieve them.


  • Makia · Posted 10-07-14 at 3:25 pm · Link · Reply

    Way to go Mike! I love Alissa’s sign!

  • Felicia P. Williams · Posted 10-07-14 at 3:31 pm · Link · Reply

    Hello Mike, I am so proud of you. Talk about taking it to the NEXT level. Be proud, no disappointing finish, FINISH is the key word here. When you body was telling you that you couldn’t go on, you proved it wrong. I am go glad to know you and have watched your growth to become such a great athlete. You can do anything, you are an IRONMAN. Enjoy your HUGE accomplishment.

  • Becky · Posted 10-07-14 at 3:41 pm · Link · Reply

    Way to go! What a great accomplishment! Love the signs!

  • Matty T · Posted 10-07-14 at 7:09 pm · Link · Reply

    Nice post Mike! I love the pics and especially the signs!

  • Kia Miller · Posted 10-07-14 at 10:01 pm · Link · Reply

    congrats on envisioning and making your long term goal a reality! A lot of us would have just given up and threw the towel in!! You didn’t! You perservered through it!!! My, my, you are amazing and an awesome role model to many!! Get your rest! It’s well deserved! As you said, ‘On to the next!’

  • Shana · Posted 10-08-14 at 6:03 pm · Link · Reply

    Congratulations! Way to go on completing this challenge. This was very inspirational for me.

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Farewell to Smitty | Carolina Panthers


Yesterday the rumors became official news that the Carolina Panthers parted ways with 13 year veteran Steve Smith.  It was truly a sad day for the City of Charlotte as Smith has been one of the most familiar faces of the team and helped build the Carolina Panthers franchise.  He’s also been a huge part of the teams success in making the playoffs several times and a Superbowl appearance.  He’s helped quite a few fantasy rosters along the way as well 🙂

I had the pleasure of photographing several games over the last couple of years and I was able to witness first-hand the toughness, passion, and intensity that “Smitty” always brought to the field.  Here is a collection of photos I’ve captured of of the best players in Panthers history:

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Panoramic image of downtown Charlotte | Wedding Photographer M. Clay


While waiting for guests to finish up dinner at Megan & Terry’s reception a couple of weeks ago, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful bird’s eye view of downtown Charlotte.  It’s not very often you get to see the city from that high of a perspective, so I took a panoramic image that you normally wouldn’t be able to get unless you were pretty high up.  You can see the Transit center and TimeWarner Arena on the left….in the center is some colorful building & parking deck they’ve been working on for like the last 4 years.  I have no idea what it is ??

Panoramic image of downtown Charlotte

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Playing with sun flare... | M. Clay Photography


Things have been slow recently at the studios of M. Clay Photography which is expected this time of year.  November thru February is usually the slowest part of wedding season until the warmer weather starts to emerge.  I enjoy the downtime because it gives me a chance to get organized, prepare for the upcoming peak wedding season in spring & summer, and practice.   We shoot our first wedding of the season later this month.  I recently took my #1 model out to play around with a little sun flare.  I usually don’t incorporate this a lot in my style, but it’s always fun to get out and experiment.

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