Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hope on Wheels 5k Victory

[This is a guest post from Jason, primarily derived from an email that he sent a friend who inquired about his performance in a 5k road race last weekend.]

I got your text today, and it caused great perplexity in my mind. 

"Did u win wheelchair div this AM????? Did something happen I don't know about?"

Just a few minutes ago, Laura pointed me to an AJC article that might be the cause of the confusion:

"Jason Smucker, 38, of Marietta (0:25:37) and Mary Hogenmuller, 33, of Atlanta (0:27:27) won the wheel divisions."

Is this what prompted your text?  Gotta love the AJC!  :-)

Contrary to what may be reported by the AJC, I'm fine.  I'm not wheelchair bound.  I have not suffered a traumatic physical impairment.  Mental impairment, perhaps.  But not physical.  I think the explanation has its roots in the naming of the Hyundai Hope on Wheels [emphasis mine] 5k that I raced this morning, and apparently won.  It is a parallel event to the Allstate Atlanta Half-Marathon (Produced by US Road Sports & Entertainment Group as part of their "13.1 Marathon" brand of half-marathon races around the country.)

Regarding the mental impairment, the back-story goes like this...  Back in the spring, I signed up for the Publix Georgia Marathon in March 2014.  This past weekend, Laura and I committed to running regularly (she is registered for the Publix Georgia half-marathon) and laid out a training plan to get us ready for March.  Last Sunday (Sept 29), I filed that plan in a folder on my computer named "running." Curious as to what was in that folder (because I didn't remember creating it), I investigated and found a registration receipt for today's Allstate Atlanta Half-Marathon.  Apparently I had signed up during a registration "blitz" (discounted period) back in January 2013, but had failed to make note of it on ANY of our family's calendars.  So here I was, one week from a half-marathon that I didn't know I was registered to run.  ...hence my above claim to some mental impairment. :-)

I could have slogged through the half-marathon today; I've certainly done similar races while woefully under-trained in the past. But I had already committed to helping lead worship at our church this morning and needed to be there around 9am. Additionally, running the half-marathon would have required about a week of recovery time and would have been counter my commitment to Laura (and myself) to begin running more regularly.  At packet pick-up, I asked about the legality and feasibility of switching down to the 5k on race day if I wasn't feeling up to the 13.1 mile distance of the half-marathon.  The race rep said. "No problem. Just run the route you want to run and the computers will automatically sort you into the appropriate race." Great!  5k, here I come!

In the meantime, I (slowly) ran 3 to 4 miles on 6 out of the 8 days leading up to the race.  So with only a week of training, I was as ready as I was going to be to run the 5k race this morning.

I lined up in the middle of the start area, after the A, B, and C corrals for the more qualified runners.  My only goal was to run a pace below my blow-up/throw-up threshold.  When I'm in better condition, I typically target 180 BPM efforts when I race 10k races.  Not being in great condition, I aimed to see if I could hold 180 BPM for the shorter 5k distance.  Until the end of the race, I pretty much held between 170 and 184 BPM depending on the road grade.  It was a hard effort for my current condition, but it seemed sustainable.  That translated into running paces between 7 and 9 minutes per mile.  I was all over the place, pace-wise, but so was the terrain. 

At about the 2.3 mile mark, the 5k course split left from the half-marathon route.  I went left inquiring of the volunteers, "5k?" and they confirmed I was on the right path.  I hadn't seen anybody else make the left turn, so I suddenly felt like a non-conformist.  Little did I know how non-conformist I really was!!!  As soon as I turned left, a bicycle rider started riding along side and ahead of me.  As best I could, I started chatting him up.  Turns out he was the 5k race leader escort.  Dumbfounded, I asked the obvious question, "Does that mean I'm the first person to split from the half-marathon route?"  He confirmed that I was, if fact, the race leader.  I would describe my thoughts as incredulous!

The 5k route ran downhill for about a half-mile after the split, I averaged about a 7:15 pace.  Euphoria!  Then came reality: a painful uphill climb on the out portion of a short out-and-back section.  It was only about 25 feet in elevation gain, but heart rate rose to 187 BPM and my pace dropped to 9:20 over 0.15 miles.  I had no power and felt like I was going to implode right at the 3-mile mark.  It always seems demoralizing to run past where you are ultimately headed knowing that you are going to do a 180-turn and have to head right back to where you came from. It's extra demoralizing when that outbound section is uphill. 

But finally, the turn-around point arrived.   And with it, the welcome relief of a downhill grade.  I "coasted" for about 30 seconds and let my heart rate recover back down to about 182.  The downhill ended with the final (right) turn toward the finish line.  Feeling a little "better," I picked up the pace for a final kick.  With about 150 yards to go, the bicycle escort called out to the finish line area workers, "5k runner!" The volunteers let out a veritable roar of cheering when I came into view propelling me on with an adrenaline rush over the final yards.

Dilemma: What are you supposed to do when you're the first person across the finish line?  ...especially when you're not expecting to be anywhere close to being the first person across that finish line?  I could see two people holding a ribbon across the road.  It didn't stretch completely from side to side.  Given how unexpected the situation was, I half thought to just go behind one of the people and let someone else break the ribbon. But that might be considered rude.  So I lined up with the middle of the ribbon and sprinted ahead.  As I got close, I had a momentary yet very distinct thought of, "Don't worry about stopping the wristwatch. Someone might be taking some pictures. Don't be 'that' guy looking at his watch while crossing the finish line."  So I summoned as much power as I had left (not much) to run through the finish line.  The result was apparently a blur to all who witnessed my finish:

So fast that I look like the Flash
See what I mean?

From a different angle, breaking the tape.

It probably took me about 5 seconds to get around to stopping my watch.  Time on the watch = 24:52.  I figure my net time was probably about 24:48 (7:59 pace for a true 5k, 3.107 miles).  We'll see how that compares to the official results.  The results as currently posted just show the gun time (25:37). 

Published results from
 And the GPS watch measured my route on the course as being a little long at 3.21 miles giving me a sustained pace of 7:44.  I'm really happy with that for just starting up the running routine recently.  This is a great start to marathon training. Now I just need to maintain consistency over the next 20 weeks.

The finish line volunteers were hilarious.  One lady at the chocolate milk table asked if I had been running 6 minutes miles.  She didn't look phased when I said I was probably closer to 8 minute miles.  She said she's signed up for her first half-marathon a few months out and wanted to do well. I tried to encourage her to focus more on having fun and experiencing it.  Another group of volunteers wanted my picture with them.  I was happy oblige in exchange for a banana.  :-) 

I didn't stick around to see if they had an awards ceremony.  Was that rude?  I had to "get me to the church on time." 

All in all it was fun.  ...and since my entry fee was based on the half-marathon rate (~$50) this was quite possibly the most expensive race I've ever run on a per mile basis (~$16 per mile).  It makes the Peachtree Road Race look like a bargain.  :-)  But the organization was good, and I would consider running the race again, either the 5k or the half-marathon version.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Spring Dance Recital

We have been spending 2 hours a week at Champion Kids on Thursdays this Spring.  Emma has been enjoying a gymnastics class.  Rachel has been taking ballet.  And Heidi has been taking a ballet/tap class.  The dance classes culminated this past Saturday with their dance recital.  The girls did great.

Champion Kids does a great job with everything they do.  They really think through things with these little kids.  The recital started with a parade of each dance class - so they could see how many people were there, wave to their families, and maybe get some wiggles out.  This is Rachel's group - she's in the middle.
Next was Heidi's class.  Heidi is on the end - yes, she's the youngest in her class.

Then the show started.  The theme was "Welcome to the Jungle!"  So the music fit that description.  All the girls did so well.  Rachel's class was second to last.  They danced to "Born to be wild."

Getting ready to go.  That smile stayed on her face the entire time!

Action shots.

Heidi's class was the last group to go.  They danced to "Real Wild Child."  Getting ready to go.

Action shots.

I think Heidi's favorite part of the day was receiving flowers.

Grammy & Papa were able to come too and they brought flowers too!

Girls and their flowers.

Hugs for their teacher Miss Emily!

It was a really fun recital.  We're taking a break from gymnastics and dance for the Summer to check out swimming, tennis, and do other Summer activities.  We'll see what we get back to in the Fall.  I'm guessing Rachel will have more recitals in her future - but we'll see.

Memorial Day Weekend

We continued our Memorial Day weekend tradition of driving out to the St. Louis area for the Gateway Classic Boomerang Tournament.  We drove all day on Friday to arrive in Waterloo, IL.  We are so thankful to Chicago Bob and his family for hosting our family year after year.  It's so nice to have a home to stay in (and it's a pretty fun place!).

We started our weekend by driving in to St. Louis on Saturday and going to the St. Louis Zoo.  What a great zoo!  We had to drive around awhile to find a place to park - and then we had to walk a ways to the zoo, but with snacks in hand, we made the hike.
Emma enjoyed reading as many of the animal information signs as she could.
We all enjoyed seeing the Grizzly Bear.  Boy, was he big!
Emma made friends with an old looking chimp.
Rachel panda.
Heidi panda.  (Emma did not want to panda.)

This is a Rhinoceros Hornbill - it has got to be the loudest bird in the world.  We were in an aviary dodging a thunderstorm and met these guys.  Wow, are they loud!
After lunch, we checked out the map to see what was left that we wanted to see.
Heidi was very interested to see the butterflies.  She enjoyed them.  Rachel was swatting at them, and Emma said they scared her.  Heidi borrowed the camera several times throughout the zoo and this is one of the pictures she took!  Beautiful!
We LOVED the hippo habitat!  This is Emma's hippo imitation. :-)
She really enjoyed watching them swim by.
Emma and Mr. Hippo.
Sisters taking a break.
OK, it's a statue, but she seems to be enjoying this picture opportunity a little too much!
Everybody with the elephants!

They had a super cute baby elephant.  Turns out she was only about a month old.
We also got to see a baby zebra.
Emma and Heidi with a camel (hiding behind the grass).
The sea lion show was wonderful and we all really enjoyed it.  This is Robbie waving to the crowd.  Such fun animals!
After wrapping up our trip to the zoo, we headed back to Bob's house for a cookout with lots of boomerang friends.  A great evening and then Sunday it was time for the tournament.  Jason had the camera, so we have no pictures of him throwing (need to work on that next time).  This is me throwing the accuracy event with our friend Betsylew.
It was a good day - great weather - and everyone realized they needed more practice (that's what happens at the first tournament of the season).  Our girls survived hanging out at the field all day - coloring, bubbles, rocket balloons, and climbing on the benches.
After the tournament everyone returned to Bob's house for the post tournament party and awards.  Jason finished 4th overall and I finished many behind him. ;-)   We got up Monday and hit the road back to Marietta.  It was a really fun weekend with great friends!

Back to Blogging

OK, so I apologize for falling off the face of the blogging earth.  I have no specific reason, other than life and then it got away from me.  Trying to catch up is overwhelming at this point.  I might try to do some posts on things from the past here and there, but for now, I'm just going to cut my losses and start again.

The 2012-2013 School year came to a close for Rachel on May 16 and for Emma and Heidi on May 23.  Here are their last day of school pictures.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

November, Minus Thanksgiving

More catching up...

We have a collection of maple trees in the front yard that deposit quite a collection of leaves in the Fall.  They make for a great leaf pile to play in!
One of our girls' favorite characters is Miss Patty Cake. We love her in this house!  She was doing a show at one of the local churches and a friend invited us to go with them.  The girls were so excited - especially Rachel!

She was so mesmerized!
She did all of the motions to all of the songs.
All of us thoroughly enjoyed the show! Afterward there was a reception and an opportunity to take pictures with Miss Patty Cake.  Emma loved it!  Heidi was willing.  And Rachel refused. So I had to jump in too.

I'm so glad we had the opportunity to go!

Next came Thanksgiving festivities at schools. Heidi's Kindergarten class had a feast that we were invited to attend.  They sang a couple songs then had a feast (snack) of their own.
Rachel created her own Thanksgiving themed things at preschool - a turkey picture, turkey hat, and Indian costume.

Finally, Rachel loves to sing and a song she has learned at BSF has to do with monkeys swinging from a tree and an alligator snapping them out of the tree. :-)  It's super cute.  I just had to get a video of it to share.