Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Fun

Saturday, December 31, 2011  at 6:13 PM
I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas and are excited for 2012 to begin at midnight tonight!  I've really enjoyed reading so many of your "Best of 2011" posts with all the exciting achievements that you accomplished this year.  One of my accomplishments was growing a three-week-old beard.  Jennifer wanted me to grow it out, so I allowed it to happen for just a few weeks.  Here's what I got.
Complete with "sleepy" hair in the back
My Christmas was a whole lot of fun!  Usually there is a ton of family drama that makes it less enjoyable, but this year, it seems that the drama all happened before Jennifer and I got there.  That's AWESOME!  Jenn and I drove to Dalton, GA where her parents live.  We always flip-flop the holidays between our families to make it "fair."  We got to grab a bite to eat with my dad, mom, sister, brother-in-law and niece at Lupi's pizza in downtown Chattanooga which is possibly one of my favorite places to eat.  That was fun, and then it was on to Jenn's family.  We actually got to celebrate twice, once with her mom's family, and then once with just Jenn's family.  I did score some sweet stuff including some swiftwick socks (my favorites!) and this little gem...
Since I've been doing so much riding on the trainer, I really wanted to see speed and be able to record my mileage as well as have a computer that recorded cadence.  Previously, I had this computer minus the cadence.  The biggest difference is that you mount the magnet on the rear wheel so it'll work on the trainer. It is amazing!  I am really enjoying seeing all that info while I'm sweating.

I also got a sweet little number that I've been wanting for awhile.  It just came in the mail today.

It is so sweet!  I've read the manual and can't believe all the functions it has.  It has "slap technology" so I can just touch the screen, and it'll split/lap.  I'm pretty stoked!

But, I wanted to share my favorite part of Christmas vacation with you.  It happened on Christmas morning, and I can't really take any credit for it.  My mother-in-law, Kathy, decided that she wanted to do something as a family to help others this year.  She works with the community a lot and has quite a few connections, so she hooked us up with Providence Ministries which is a place for men and women that are abused, addicted or just need help.  They were planning a huge Christmas present giveaway for the city of Dalton, and they needed help.  We got up on Christmas morning, and Trevor, Jenn's brother, and Wyntre, Trev's girlfriend, and I busted out a nice 6 mile run which was really awesome.  Then, after showering and eating, we drove over to Providence Ministries.  As we pulled into the parking lot, I about lost my composure because of the huge line of people that were outside in the rain waiting to go inside to have a Christmas.  I was so choked up, and I wondered if I could make it through the whole thing, but we went inside and put name tags on.  We walked into a really large room that was filled with tables surrounded by people eating a special Christmas meal.  Then, we went into another room where all the families that had children were.  They were seated in rows that faced three rows of tables piled high with presents.  Here's what it looked like.
We got a few instructions, and it was go time.  Basically, our job was to take one kid at a time through the tables and allow them to pick out a present from each table, a stuffed animal at the end, dig through a box of miscellaneous items, grab a bag of candy, and then take them outside to where their parents were waiting.  It was so incredible to just meet these little kids that wouldn't have a Christmas present to open without this ministry.  I had a hard time controlling my emotions throughout the couple hours that we were there.  There was a news man from Chattanooga that was there with a video camera, and he asked to interview me for the news.  Sweet!  I'm famous!  :)  I never saw the interview on tv, so maybe they thought I wasn't good looking enough.  :(  Anyway, I felt like a stalker, but I snapped a picture of the last kid before we left.  His name was Kevin, and he was super cool just like all the other kids.
Here's a picture of the four of us siblings after we were done.

I haven't yet completed my 2012 goals/resolutions, but I do know that helping more people will be on that list.  It was so rewarding and such a blessing.  I am so blessed in so many areas, and I don't deserve it.  It's nice to stop from our busy lives to just see how amazing everything is around us when others are struggling at life in so many ways.

May 2012 be the greatest year you have had yet.  I look forward to meeting many of you bloggers at different races.  Have fun and be safe at your New Year's parties wherever you are...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Random New Things

Sunday, December 18, 2011  at 6:23 PM
Thanks for the votes for the gingerbread houses.  I'm pretty sure that Kevin and Jennie won with the one on the right, although I did get several comments about the roof on the Smith's gingerbread house.

Obviously, since it is the "off season," I haven't been doing a whole lot of actual training.  For the most part, I have been spending 4 or 5 nights on the trainer downstairs as my workouts.  Don't jump on me too bad; I go HARD when I'm down there.  But, there hasn't been much running or swimming going on.  I do have to take a second to brag on my awesome wife.  She has been on the trainer just as much and probably more than I have been, but this afternoon, she switched it up a bit and went for a quick 5k.  I was out washing our car, but when she came back she reported to me that she had just run her fastest 5k at 8:57's!  That's so stinking fast from where she was at the beginning of the year.  Jenn is definitely the Most Improved Athlete!  Way to go Jenn!

Now, on to the random newness...

#1: "The Stick"
At the Atlanta Half Marathon, Jennifer and I got introduced to a sweet little item that might be the best weapon in the recovery arsenal.  Say "hello" to "The Stick."
This baby is amazing!  I'm sure many of you athlete followers of this blog have one, but we didn't.  If you don't know what it is, it is basically a bendable muscle stretcher that you rub on your muscles to get rid of soreness and pain.  I actually went to the expo with some tightness in both of my legs, but after 2 minutes with "the stick," I felt so much better.  We actually didn't buy it at the expo, but did the day after the race for some instant pain/relief.

#2: Maglee's House Coat
Our little pup, Maglee, is a short-haired dog, and this means that winter isn't her favorite part of the year.  It could be 80 degrees in our house, but she will still sit on the bed and shiver.  We've tried to buy her jackets and sweaters, but because she has such a big chest and tiny waist, they never fit really well.  We decided that we were just going to have to make a custom house coat for her that would really fit, so here's how it went down by way of pictures...
I had to make some measurements...  Doesn't my "model" look more like a Dachshund?  
I used some scraps to make a test jacket to make a pattern
After drawing the pattern onto the fleece, it was time to cut the real jacket
Using my mom's old sewing machine, I started stitching it all together
It was obvious that Maglee was already enjoying the soft warmness.  She was excited!
Finally it was done and ready to be worn.
Perfect fit!
It even has velcro to keep it tight.
#3: My new ringtone
Now I know some of you might be thinking, "Personal ringtones are so 90's.  That is lame!"  But hold your horses, because you haven't heard mine.  My good buddy, Donnie Keele, is gifted in so many ways, but he's really good at mixing some pretty sweet beats too.  I had asked him a couple times to make me one, and so when he got some free time over Thanksgiving break, he made me one.  Here it is!
I's pretty amazing and hilarious!  He does it all: the rapping, the singing, the mixing.  I told him that he needs to make a website and start selling personalized ringtones for everyone.  You could just tell him about yourself and your personality, pick from a couple different beats, and then he'd make one just for you.  In fact, if you think he should turn this into a business, shoot him an email at to let him know you want one!

So, although my blog is going from being about training to more of a blog about life, I've been staying in shape and dreaming about triathlons and other events in 2012.  Actually, I made a new page at the top with some possibilities for next season.  Tell me what you think.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011  at 6:59 PM
Sunday was the great blogger gingerbread house decorating competition.  Here's how it went down.

Kevin and Jennie Neumann were nice enough to invite us to come play with them.  And I have to take a minute just to say that they are some of the greatest people in Michigan.  They are so generous and kind.  I can learn so much from them and their caring way of life.  They seem to always be cheerful and upbeat.  I just like hanging out with them as much as I can.  Kevin probably will record his side of the story on his blog HERE.  But, to make this day epic, we needed a plan.  I came up with the bright idea to do gingerbread houses.  The problem was that I'd never done them before and had no idea how much work it was.  It wasn't till Saturday night when I got a picture message from Kevin that I realized that he had spent much of his day in the kitchen building our houses.  Here is the picture:
His text: "Are you ready?"
What a great guy to get a suggestion from his guest and then buy gingerbread cookie cutters, find a recipe, and then spend hours building and baking.  Thanks, Kevin!

Once Jenn and I arrived, we first had to have a blogger-puppy meet up in the back yard.  Bailey is such a good dog and was happy to chase Maglee around as they both nipped at each other.  They are about the same size and seemed to like each other, at least Bailey sure "liked" Maglee if you know what I mean.  ;)
We all just hung out for awhile, but then it was go time on the gingerbread houses.  Kevin made a batch of "glue," and we began.
Jennie helped out too.
We had a great spread of candy to decorate with, so there were plenty of options.  Jennifer and I were rookies, but I think they turned out pretty great.  But here is where you come in.  You get to decide who wins!  Which one is better?  Who did a better job decorating?  The one on the left or on the right?
So you could see the whole house, I decided to take a little video, so here it is...

Who is the Gingerbread House Decorating Winner?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Break Part 2

Wednesday, November 30, 2011  at 8:32 AM
Thanksgiving break was a lot of fun!  Not only did we get to do a race, but we got to see family and eat good food.  Here's the rest of what Thanksgiving break had to offer.

After running the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving day, there was only one thing to do...EAT!!!  And that's one thing the Smith family knows how to do!  My mom, sister and wife are three of the best cooks I know, and they didn't disappoint again, because the Thanksgiving meal was AWESOME!  Here's what we had:

  • Candied Sweet Potatoes
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Winter Salad (It has apples, nuts, cranberries and feta cheese...Everything is betta with feta!)
  • Pear Jello Salad (We actually forgot to put it on the table and had to eat it the next day. Haha!)
  • 2 Kinds of Dinner Rolls
  • Mock Turkey Loaf (Here are the ingredients)
    • Celery
    • Onions
    • Chicken Seasoning
    • Eggs
    • Oats
    • Vege Chicken
    • Sour Cream
    • Bread Crumbs
    • Walnuts
As some of you already know, I'm a vegetarian, so that is why we had Mock Turkey instead of a big bird sitting on our table.  I always get a kick out of people when they hear that I'm a vegetarian and say things like, "But you eat fish and chicken right?" Nope, that would declassify me as a vegetarian.  I've actually never had any meat (other than an accidental bite of a "bean" burrito at Taco Bell that actually was beef).  It's just how I was raised and it stuck.

Here are a few pics of the food and its preparation:
I love me some Jello!

My Mom
My Sister-Mindy with the Mock Turkey Loaf

After stuffing ourselves and downing some delicious Apple pie and Pumpkin Cake, it was nap time and go-on-a-walk time with the dogs.  Once again, Thanksgiving was a winner

On Sunday, my dad said, "Matt, want to go see the Falcons play the Vikings?"  Well, I'd never been to a football game, so the answer was an obvious, "YES!"  We snagged some nose-bleed cheap seats off for $9 and headed to Atlanta.  As we approached the Georgia Dome, we drove through a sketchy neighborhood and watched a group of about 25 people get ready to brawl.  One guy ran over to a house and busted out the railing slats to use as weapons.  Needless to say, we got out of there really quickly!

The game was fantastic...especially because the Falcons won 24-14!
What do Falcons do?  Rise up!

Then, Monday morning, Jenn and I started the LONG drive north back to Michigan.  We like to leave at the butt-crack of dawn to get home and still have part of the day left.  We actually had enough time to set up the Christmas tree.  All the ornaments are from Jenn's mom who has given her (and me) one every year.  It's pretty cool.

Last night, we drove to South Bend to get another trainer.  We basically ride the trainer every day, so there's a big chunk of time that we can't hang out while we separately ride.  We had to remedy this, so we picked up a Cycleops trainer off Craigslist for $75.  I think that was a pretty good deal.
It's nice to have a basement to just sweat it out any time you like!
This is the last week of class for me with finals next week.  It'll be a bit crazy getting everything finished.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Atlanta Half Marathon Race Report

Tuesday, November 29, 2011  at 8:50 AM
After 10+ hours in the car through nasty weather yesterday, it's good to be home!  The long drive to Georgia and back is such a toughy, but it was well worth it.  I'll be posting two blog posts pretty close together about my Thanksgiving break.  The first will be the Atlanta Half Marathon Race Report, and the second will be about the rest of my Thanksgiving.  So here's how the race went.

Jennifer and I drove the seemingly endless drive from Michigan to Atlanta to make it in time to go to the expo and get our packets.  I have to say that this is such a well-organized event for being so large.  There were 10,000 runners, but the packet pickup was a breeze.  Maybe it is because we were within the last hour before they closed or something, but we were in and out in no time.  I signed up to run with the 1:50 pace team as that was my ultimate goal.  They gave me a separate number to pin on my back to identify what my goal was.
The race shirts are pretty cool, but mine was a bit too big.  Maybe I'm not a Large anymore...  We headed over to our hotel which is right next to Turner Field where the Atlanta Braves play.  This worked out perfectly, because the start/finish line is basically in the parking lot of Turner Field.  We were probably a half mile from where everything was happening.  After checking in and laying everything out, we went to sleep for the big day.
I always like it when they put your name on the number
We woke up at 5:50 to get something to eat and make our way over to the race.  Again, everything was well-run.  There were plenty of porta-potties.  The lines weren't too bad.  It was obvious where we needed to be.  I was starting in the "B" corral and Jenn was starting in the "D" corral, so we had to say goodbye and get ready for the start.
Another crappy Iphone 4s picture...
There were SO many people there!!!
This was in front of me..(notice the 1:50 pace group)
This was behind me.  They stretched on forever.
After the national anthem, the "A" corral started, and then 5 minutes later, we started.  I was thinking I'd take some video to show, but it was too much of a hassle to get my iphone out.  My goal was to start out a little quick, as I do on every long run, and then fade towards the end.  I hardly ever get negative splits, so going out quick seems to be the only way to get a better time.  Maybe this is something I need to work on!  I was hoping that when the 1:50 pace group caught up to me that I could just hitch on the back and they'd take me to the finish line.  I had been pretty pumped about this race, so it was go time.  There were so many people out there running, but I was doing alright weaving through them.  The first few miles went by pretty quickly.  The course was pretty flat with only a little bit of rolling.  It's always fun to run downtown in a big city.  We ran right by the capital building twice.

I was feeling good through the first 5 miles, and then came some hills.  I had looked at the elevation chart for the course, and it didn't look too bad, but running it sure sucked.  They kept running us up hills and then turning corners up another hill!  It was annoying.  Of course, I slowed down a bit, but I started to fall a part at about mile 7.  

I wish I could give an excuse like, "It was too hot" or "There were too many hills," but I hate excuses.  The REASON is that I slacked on training.  I know I didn't train hard enough.  Yes, I had some good long runs that showed that I could hold my 8:24 pace or better.  But when it came down to race day, I didn't have it in me. 

The 1:50 pace team went by me like I was standing still around mile 8.  I tried to hang on, but there was no way, so I had to pick out another goal for the day.  I had previously set a "sandbagger" goal of breaking 2 hours, which would be a PR for me, so that's what I aimed for.  My sister called around mile 11, and it was so nice to have her talking to me for the next mile or so.  Those were some tough miles!  At 12, I latched on to a guy going my pace, and we chatted it up to the finish line.  I crossed the line at 1:59:10 to get my PR and BREAK 2 HOURS!  It's not exactly what I wanted, but it was a PR for me.  The course was actually 13.22 miles, so I did 13.1 in 1:57:54 for an average of 9:00min/miles. 

As usual, the medals are super rad.
 Jenn did really awesome!  Although she thought it was a tough run, she got her goal of under 2:15 with a 2:14:50ish.  Way to go, Jenn!!!!  By the way, she gets a pukie award (5 or 6 of them actually).  Way to suck it up and get your goal, babe!

My dad, mom, sister, brother-in-law and neice all came to walk the 5k.  They had a good time and even GOT MEDALS.  Have you ever done a 5k where they give finisher medals?  If I had known that, I would have done the 5k.  :)

 Here's little Brynlie with her first race medal.  Way to go, Little B!
All in all, Jenn and I had a great time at the Atlanta Half.  Although I didn't reach my true goal, I got a PR. It'll just be easier to get a PR next time!  Thanks for all the encouraging comments, text messages, facebook comments etc.  You guys are great!  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for a recap of Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Last Long Run and Pic Dump

Sunday, November 20, 2011  at 10:17 PM
As I write this, my legs and calves and knees and everything associated with running is still sore from our last long run this morning.  This Thursday will be the big day as Jenn and I run the Atlanta Half Marathon for our pre-Thanksgiving-meal-calorie-burning run.  But, today, as we ran 10 miles, there was a distinct difference in the outcome.  Jennifer smoked her run with the fastest average yet of 9:56's/mile.  That was a huge jump from a few weeks ago when she ran the same route and averaged 10:10's/mile.  She's pretty awesome and is totally going to dominate her goal of finishing in under 2:15.  I, on the other hand, was a perfect example of poor and lazy training.  I wish I could say that I have a good excuse, but I'll have to chalk it up to laziness and bad weather.  Well, another reason would be that I'm carrying around a little more weight than I did this summer due to eating too many of these babies:
There's nothing like some good chocolate chip cookies!

I realized today that I haven't had a long run or ANY run at the pace I'm shooting for in about three weeks.  That's pathetic!  Yes, I've gone on some shorter runs with Jenn, but the problem is, that even though they are way more fun with her, they don't help me work on the speed I need. So today's run was a pretty good sufferfest.  My goal was to average anything under 8:24's/mile, which is the pace that I have to run in order to beat 1:50.  My average after 10 miles, you ask?  8:23's.  Yes, I made it, but it was really tough, and I think that from the way the average was hemorrhaging, I don't think I could have held that pace for the last 5k.  That being said, I do think that with the adrenaline, the crowd support, and the pace groups, I'll be able to beat my goal and not FAIL!

On to other things...

On Friday, I spent all day working on our car.  It has 130,000ish miles, and the struts and shocks had NEVER been changed.  From the unusual wear pattern on the tires, it was obvious that everything was shot and needed to be replaced.  So, I ordered the struts and shocks from a business that I totally recommend for anything auto,  They have amazing prices, free shipping, and my parts arrived so quickly!  In fact, I ordered them on a Wednesday afternoon, and they were sitting on my front porch by 11am the next day.  That's amazing!  Anyway, I had never done this job, but after renting a spring compressor from Autozone, I had everything off and replaced in no time, like 6 hours!  Here's a picture of me in the middle of it all.
You can tell I was doing this for the first time as you see my laptop open to a forum with picture to help.
Everything works, and it is SO MUCH better than before.  I bet our tires will wear much better and last much longer now too.

Yesterday was a whole lot of fun.  After church and eating with some friends/family, Jennifer and I decided to get our Christmas cheer on.  We drove to Michigan City, IN to hop on the South Shore Line train that goes from South Bend to Chicago.
Jennifer had taken the train a couple times, but I was all giddy as this was my first ride.  It wasn't too bad at all.  It took about an hour and a half that included several stops to pick up passengers.  It was pretty comfortable, and I really have no complaints since we didn't have to drive or pay for parking!
I was messing with Instagram on my phone for this pic.  Can you tell we're not really looking at the lens?
Finally, we arrived in Chicago for the Magnificent Mile Christmas Lights/Parade.  We had to walk a couple blocks to the corner of Michigan and Wacker where the parade would pass by.  All I can say is, we weren't the only people that thought this would be a great way to welcome the Christmas season.  There were TONS of people there, and to top it off, they were all cranky and pushy.
Jennifer was pretty awesome and "pushed" us to about 30 feet from the front.  It would have been a great spot to see the parade, but as soon as Mickey Mouse came by, all the parents popped their kids on their shoulders, and we got a great view of their backs!  Why should the kids get to see the parade?  :)  We spent the next hour right underneath this streetlight with shoes.

The only way to see the parade was to raise my phone and take a couple pics.  I'm not too sure about the iphone's camera.  Sometimes the pictures are great, but other times they are pretty weak.  Here are a few pictures from the parade.

After the parade had ended, there was a ten minute fireworks display that was a little lacking.  Here is a little video of what it was like.

Once everything was done and the crown began to disperse, Jenn and I were starving!  We tried to eat at Giordano's pizza, but the hour and 20 minute wait was a little too much for us.  We ended up eating at one of our favorite places, Noodles & Co.

After some delicious noodles, we decided to walk down Michigan Ave. to see the shops and lights.  It was a lot of fun!

We made it to our train on time and got home around 1am.  All in all, it was a blast.  The parade wasn't all that great.  The fireworks weren't all that great.  But to have a fun night with your best friend is always terrific!

I leave you with one last picture of Maglee to wish you a good week.  She's a huge fan of clean laundry, especially if it is soft!

Have a happy Thanksgiving!  I'll give you a race report and a meal report sometime next week.  Jenn and I are headed south to my parents place.  Have a great time wherever you will be, and take it easy on the Turkey!