The irony of the photos included here (taken Sunday, August 9 at the Cooper Aerobics Center on Preston Road) is they show Bob on his new and latest hobby, his bike. But more than likely, you know Bob as a runner. You can’t always tell a book by its cover.
On the starting line, Bob is well known and respected. He lines up on the start line or just behind it. He’s that good. He is part of the nervous chatter that takes place before the starting gun is fired. He shakes hands with his fellow competitors, people he’s known for years through running, hoping his best effort lies before him.
He runs with a clean, efficient stride staying upright, with an almost perfect arm swing. His eyes are always watching…for the angle of the sun, uneven road surfaces, debris, friends, strangers, or competitors. He’s very much aware when he runs…of what’s around him, where he’s going, where he’s been, and who he is inside. Seeing him run by, he looks intense, already plotting how to overtake the guy in front of him and how to stay in front of the guy behind him. You feel sorry for the guy one place in front of Bob because the target Bob put on his back is so big, you can almost see it.
Though running is still his “home sport,” biking is quickly moving up the ladder. After playing tennis for many years, earning a 3.5 rating after playing three years in various area leagues, he got burned out on it. He said he “needed a different sport to compete in and keep me fit.”
So in 1994, Bob began running, quickly climbing the local ranks and becoming one of Dallas’ formidable Master’s category runners. He has a 2:53 marathon to his credit and a 46:59 at the 8 Mile Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot (5:52 minutes per mile pace), one of his favorite races.
“It is hard to explain,” he says about running fast. “I just know [I’m pushing it] because I am not thinking about how bad I feel, but how good I feel. I have nothing but positive thoughts and energy flowing at the time. With age and just fighting through the hamstring thing, I listen to my body when it says it needs a break.”
Miraculously, he has no injuries at this time and is very happy about that. He’s had hamstring issues almost continuously in both legs starting in 2013.
The bike pictured is his first real bike. To aid in rehabbing a hamstring injury, he began cycling and swimming. “I started this year and I wouldn’t call it competitively.” Since he was essentially triathlon training, starting this year he decided to give triathlons a go.
His first race was the McKinney Kiwanis Historical Sprint Triathlon on April 3. After finishing he said his adrenaline was pumping strong. But a bonus was winning his age group. Not bad for a rookie.
It’s early in Bob’s triathlon career but he says the sprint distance races that finish with a 5K are his favorite. “I think the area is good based on the amount of races being held and local organizations you can join. I am new at this so for me it looks like it is supported well. I think it is fine. I get my rear kicked a lot. It has gotten me healthy again. There are so many aspects of training and racing sprint tri’s that it gives me many options to improve and not get bored.”
To date, his highest mileage per week has been three miles in the pool, 70 miles on the bike, and 25 miles on the run. That’s broken up over 12-14 hours of training per week, the same as having a part time job. “I do two one hour strength circuits, core work in my office at lunch time four times, two one hour indoor cycle class sessions, one long run, and one long ride.” That’s a lot. He mixes up the different disciplines with speed in the form of intervals and tempo workouts.
He credits his multi-sport training with keeping him healthy and injury free. He says his hamstring feels great now. “Two days a week of doing a strength circuit at Cooper in McKinney has helped also.”
He’s planning on doing the Cooper Sprint Triathlon on September 12 at the Craig Ranch in McKinney as his next race, and then his 15th Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot on November 26.
He also has plans to race Olympic and half Ironman distance triathlons next year in 2016. And in 2017, he’s planning on a full 140.6 mile Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run).
But Bob wasn’t always this healthy. He’s a former smoker. From 1974-1982 he puffed. “I was just a slug, but I did do a lot of hiking and skiing while I lived in Colorado in 1979 and 1980.” He agrees smoking is a nasty habit. “I was blessed to work as a manager of warehouse operations for Obermeyer Skiwear in Aspen during those two years. But had to come back [to Dallas] to the real world.”
Bob Smeby is a nice guy, ever the gentleman. Yet at any one of the numerous runs (and lately, triathlons) you’ll see his name in the paper winning Master’s or his age group. He unleashes a fierce competitiveness. If ever racing against Bob, one thing you can be sure of, he won’t hold back. No quarter given.
His wife, LORI SMEBY, plays a big part in his life. “I have a loving and supportive marriage.” She helps to influence him and is his hero, Bob says. (While growing up, he says his heroes were The Dallas Cowboys.) He and Lori met through the Corporate Challenge running race. It was a very popular series in the 1990’s that was held in every major U.S. city. Corporations took the race and the competition very seriously. Lori directed the Arlington race while working for Arlington Parks and Recreation. “I was my company’s coordinator,” says Bob. They’ve been married 19 years.
When asked about his PR’s he responded with, “And the first one now will later be last,” recognizing the effects of age and competing.
1500 – 4:38
5K – 17:04
10K – 35:22
Turkey Trot – 46:59
Half Marathon – 1:17:32
Marathon – 2:53:15
He was born October 7, 1956, in Madison, Wisconsin and has three siblings. The family moved from Iowa to Texas in 1966. His dad worked for General Dynamics while his mom, was, well, his mom. Bob grew up in the mid-cities area with the rest of the family. That’s Hurst-Euless-Bedford, or HEB.
Not surprisingly, he was competitive growing up, but was also outgoing, making friends easily. The competitive part of him would come out in other ways such as band and choir. “I loved to practice and perform.” So music was one of his interests when he was younger. He also liked to travel and still does.
But the thing that scared him most when he was younger and in school? Failing. “I don’t really know what I mean by that, but I grew up being very competitive and wanting to be the best I could be. It may have come from my choir and band days. I had great directors that motivated me and my classmates to be the best musicians and singers so we could, to compete with the best in Texas competitions. That need for perfection rolled over to all other aspects of academics, too.
Perfect practice makes perfect. The only punishment was me being hard on myself if I made a mistake.”
He graduated from Trinity High in Euless and went on to the University of Texas at Arlington, graduating in 1990.
He’s been with the City of Grapevine for the past five years as their purchasing manager. He plans to retire there. “I am wrapping up a great career in the supply chain management arena in the private and public sectors within the next two years.”
Bob likes listening to Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, St. Vincent (Annie Clark), and Imagine Dragons. He eats out at Roy’s, Rick’s Chophouse, Lawry’s, or PF Changs. The last book he read was “Unbroken.” Currently, he’s reading “The Time Crunched Triathlete,” a gift from Lori. And he attends church at the Custer Road United Methodist Church of Plano.
Bob is a lonely figure on the road, usually training by himself. “It is hard to coordinate schedules nowadays. I jump in on a ride with the North Texas Multisport friends when I can.” But it gives him time and space to think “about how lucky I am to be able to train and race.”
He believes exercise contributes to a healthy life. “It is the best way to give yourself a chance to live a long and healthy life. I learned how to be patient, have fun, and that I am not afraid to try new adventures.” He admires “anyone who challenges themselves to do their best in life.”
He’s not fashion conscious when working out, but does like to run in New Balance shoes. He shops at Luke’s Locker, PlayTri, and Performance Bicycle for his sporting needs. Everything else, Amazon.
His favorite moments include marathon memories among others. Running his first marathon, running the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996, breaking the three hour marathon barrier, and running his last marathon, The Pike’s Peak Marathon (6:22:13, August 2010), where he enjoyed running down the mountain. This is a tough race where you run over a trail for 13.1 miles achieving a time equivalent to a regular marathon, then run down 13.1 miles on quadriceps ready to explode. “It was a ‘And now for something completely different’ experience since it was going to be my last.” Best moments also include racing his first sprint triathlon, and “way too many others to put down here,” he says.
Still, after the interview and photos and years of running alongside of him, he says, “What you don’t know about me is I love to drink a good cup of pressed coffee and watch the sunrise on the weekends.” Go, Bob!