Brooks Inspiring Coaches: Part One

Without a doubt, this is probably the craziest job I’ve ever been a part of. There’s no better way to describe it than to share basically the initial call I received: “Hey Zach, we have this project for you. It’s kind of crazy but if you could pull it off that would be amazing. We need you to go to 11 cities in 11-days to photograph 13 people. So, What do you think? Oh, and you need to leave on Sunday!” My initial gut reaction was that there was no way this was possible. But then, I sat down and started to look at the cities and plan out an itinerary. A couple days later I was boarding a plane and here’s how it all went down.


Early Sunday morning I head off to the airport with my camera backpack packed full with everything that I could possibly fit. A couple camera bodies, a couple lenses, laptop, Wacom tablet, hard drives and all the other little accessories I could possibly fit. My roller bag is filled with all the clothes I could possibly fit to minimize the need to do laundry on the road. The flight is quick and before I know it I’m picking up my rental car and heading into downtown Seattle. I have some time to kill before heading to my first portrait session of the job.

I grabbed a quick bite to eat and then started prepping my computer for the trip ahead. (In case you don’t know me all that well, I’m a fairly big perfectionist and have some solid OCD tendencies). I have to make sure file organization is ready so that I don’t lose any files and know exactly where to find them when I have some down time on the trip to edit. Afternoon rolls around and it’s time to go meet up with my first portrait of the project, Alysun Deckert.

Quick Note: I’m going to mention a little about each person but not go into a ton of detail. If you want learn more about their stories you should head over to Brooks’ website and read up on each one of these amazing people! Ok, now back to the post!

Alysun is part of an amazing program called Team Transplant which helps people who have received a transplant get moving and find a community. It was an absolute blast getting to know Alysun and hearing her amazing story. Both of us living in the PNW and big track fans meant we didn’t have a lack of stuff to talk about! Here’s her portrait:



Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. (Drive)

As I finished up with Alysun it was time to head north of the boarder to Vancouver, B.C. to meet up with the eventual winner of the Brooks Inspiring Coaches award. I’m a fan of getting in the car and driving for hours and this was no exception. I had never been up to Canada and never had made this beautiful drive. I highly recommend taking the trip if you ever get a chance. Anyway, I arrived into Vancouver in the evening, checked into my hotel and grabbed a quick bite to eat before catching some sleep and closing out the first day of the trip.

The next morning I met up with Ashley Wiles who is an incredibly inspiring person who created an amazing program called Sole Girls. The program helps empower young women by helping build self confidence. Of all the people who I met along the trip Ashley is probably the one who challenged me most to get back to running. I haven’t run very often since I finished running at the University of Oregon and it’s probably time to get back to it. Anyway, she’s an absolutely amazing person and you have to check out her program. Here’s her portrait:




Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle | SEA to LAX

I finished up with Ashley and quickly made the trip back down to Seattle in order to catch a late flight down to LA. This was kind of the rhythm for the rest of the trip. I got in late to LA and had to make a 30 minute drive up to Burbank. I checked into my hotel a little after midnight and uploaded the files before going to bed. One thing I should note here is that a lot of these coaches had to meet up with me during the week and a lot of them were teachers/coaches. So, that meant fitting in a quick photo session during their lunch break. 

I met up with the next nominee John Peebles and had about 30 minutes to work with him before he had to get back to the school. We set up on the track and talked about his coaching philosophies. The great thing about this project was that for the most part I was spending time with track coaches who I could relate to so well from all my years running track. John definitely reminded me of some of those coaches I had growing up and was such a fun guy to get to meet with. Here’s his portrait:




Again, this was another late flight out of LA and got into San Antonio close to midnight. This was probably one of the stops that I was most surprised by (this and Missoula). Part of it might be because I actually got to stay there for more than one night (the only stop I was in the same place for two nights). At this point of the trip I started to get to the legs where I also had to make some decent drives to get to some of the locations as well.

The next morning I woke up and was a little nervous to see the roads were wet. With how tight the itinerary was for this trip it left very little margin for error to have to postpone a portrait session. Luckily, as I drove an hour and a half to a little town outside of Austen called Dripping Springs the clouds disappeared and my worries washed away. Once I arrived in Dripping Springs I met up with Marisa Parks who was someone I could totally relate with. She ran track in college as well so we had a lot to chat about. I also loved her quote about track: “I try to give them a lot of attention because they’re not under Friday night lights.” It’s no wonder her athletes nominated her for this award! Here is her portrait:



In attempts to not make this the longest blog post ever I’m going to break this into three segments. Come back tomorrow to read about the middle leg of the trip.

Brooks Inspiring Coaches: Part Two


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