Monday, July 28, 2008

What it boils down to...

Pirates are already down 3-0 in the 2nd inning (and it should be 4-0 if not for a player thrown out at the plate), so that's all I have to say about that.

I'll revisit the topic of the trade in a few weeks to see how the four players the Pirates got in return are doing. Jeff Karstens is going to start this weekend against Jen Harrison's Cubs.....that's a tough assignment to start with, but we'll see.

Anyway, the main focus of this blog is to throw out for discussion one of my favorite parts of the Bible. Over the last month, the series going on at our church is the Sermon on the Mount. Unfortunately, with travel, we've missed a couple of these, but were there this past Sunday.

What I think the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5-7 --click on to read it!) boils down to is the Philosophy of Jesus. Just about everyone knows the main verse for believers in Jesus is John 3:16 and we believe that accepting Jesus as Savior is the ONLY ticket to Heaven. But, in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, he laid out how those who follow Him should live. Don't get too tripped up in the Beatitudes (Blessed are the....), but if you look at the short points that he lays out over the next two chapters, Jesus is saying that it's not about the rules, but rather about the heart.

So, my suggestion to you is to check out Matthew 5-7 if you haven't before and see what kind of a life a Christian is striving for. It's not about perfect Sunday School attendance, not eating meat on Fridays during lent, making sure you give 10%, rules of divorce, fasting, or any other "rule."

Rather, what's in your heart as your living your life, using the rules as guidelines. We shouldn't throw out the rules, but shouldn't be obsessed with the rules instead of the intent behind the rules. This is where the Pharisees got in trouble back in Jesus' day. They were all caught up in the rules and not the compassion.

I hope you take that to heart and (especially if it would be the first time or it's been a long time) definitely read the Sermon on the Mount to get a feel for where a Christian's heart should be....not focused on the rules.

Also, congrats to Maija on a solid 2nd place finish in the NJ State triathlon....especially overcoming the goggle issues!!!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Trade

Well, the Pirates have made their big trade for the season. They traded Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees for four minor leaguers. Three of them are pitchers at AAA (two of which pitched a little for the Yankees) and the other is a 20-yr-old AA outfielder (young for AA).

When Beth and I were driving home from my softball game last night and I heard about Nady and Marte being pulled from the game, I immediately said to Beth, "Marte and Nady, they must have gotten a top pitcher like Ian Kennedy." Unfortunately, this did not come to be. But, this trade did address their issue of not having depth in minor league pitching at AAA. Hopefully these three pitchers can contribute to the Pirates over the next couple of years.

The outfielder, Jose Tabata, has been called a "little Manny Ramirez." That sounds exciting from an offensive standpoint. But, does that mean there's a lot of baggage, too? Also, he's 5'10" and only 160 lbs. I'm his size?!!? Can he possibly have any pop in his bat?

It seems that the rest of the major leagues did not value Nady and Marte as much as us in the Pittsburgh area did. But, I guess if you look at it critically, this is the best year Nady's ever had and he's good for going on the DL a few times each year. Marte was chased out of the White Sox bullpen and was regarded as mentally weak and not good a throwing strikes. Marte's improved, but labels may be hard to escape. This is definitely a trade that doesn't look too hot right now, but may end up being a solid deal depending on what the three pitchers contribute and how Tabata turns out in three years....

Other than that, we won the softball game last night, making us undefeated when Beth shows up. Okay, so last night was the first game she made this year, but it's an hour away from the house and some games don't end until 11pm. That's tough. But, she was a great fan last night and cheered with the grandparents. I pitched and had another bad 6th inning (5 runs). Other than that, we won 16-9. I actually had a triple too.....must of been because Beth was there!

This morning, we went to the pool and while Beth did her workout, I swam a 1650. It felt good, but I I started getting lazy around 800 yds and slacked off to about a 2:20/100yd pace. I finished my last two 100 yds in 2:03 and 2:06 and a 0:59 last 50, so at least I finished strong. My legs were glad to not run after doing 6+ miles Tuesday through Friday mornings with the XC team and pitching softball Tuesday and Friday nights.

Next weekend, we're off to Benton Harbor, Michigan for Beth's first half-IM of the year. She's excited for it and I'm excited that it'll be a much less stressful equipment manager weekend. First of all, we did it last year, so we know the general layout and procedures. Secondly, it's rural western Michigan along the lake so no traffic/parking issues. To keep it all in perspective, I think our biggest decision for the weekend is where to go for breakfast. It comes down to:

a) Panera Bread with the wireless internet (we don't have it in the hotel)
b) IHOP (Jen Harrison's favorite!!!)
c) The local choice of Sophia's House of Pancakes--it sure looked good last year!

Stay tuned for the result of that....

We're going to also appease me on the way home on Sunday and stop in Akron, Ohio for a minor league AA baseball game between the Akron Aeros and the Harrisburg Senators (don't forget, Beth married a baseball nerd). We were going to do one closer to Michigan, but South Bend, Toledo, Lansing, and one other one were all on the road next weekend. We've seen a game at Akron once before 3 years ago when we went out there to do a 10k.

Well, time to finish printing out the maps and directions for next weekend.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Unwritten Rules

Some events that occurred at my softball game last night didn't sit well with me. It comes down to the concept of etiquette and unwritten rules of sportsmanship and courtesy within the sport.

To relate this to the triathlon world, Beth and I came up with a short list of unwritten rules in triathlon competition:

- No drafting on the bike even if an official isn't around. (I think Maija had something to say about this in her blog the other day from her NYC race report)
- No stealing other people's gear (like sunglasses!!) before, during, or after a race from transition
- Don't mess up another person's transition area or hit their bike and mess up their aero bar
- No hiding of one's visor from her (okay, this probably has only happened to Beth)

Okay, so the last few just happened to Beth and were freak events, but you get the point.

Back to last night, the first game went awesome against a pretty tough team. I shut them out for the first 5 innings, ran into some trouble as I gave up 4 runs in the 6th, and then finished the game with a strikeout. I actually had 5 K's, probably a career high though I haven't really kept track (I usually don't get many swings and misses as a soft-tossing lefty). We won 6-4.

Due to some rain-outs, we had a double-header. Game 1 was a pretty big high, so we came out a little flat in the second game. Okay, A LOT FLAT. The other pitcher was late arriving, so I went back out to start game 2 against a team we should beat. In the first inning, I walked a few guys and we committed FIVE ERRORS to give up 4 runs. I went out for another inning and gave up another run so we were down 6-1 or something like that. By the 4th inning we were down something like 16-5.

Here's where the unwritten rules come in. When one team is up by a lot on the other team, there are certain things the winning team doesn't do:
- Don't bunt for a base hit
- Don't steal
- Don't take the extra base on hits

The other team violated all three REPEATEDLY in the last three innings. One one hand, you could say that if we didn't like it, then stop them from doing it. But still, it's just the courtesy of it---you don't pile on--especially in a regular season game in a church league. What did they gain from rubbing it in? Let's just say that if I was still pitching there may have been a few batters hit to let them know I didn't appreciate it.....

Anyway, after a good night's sleep it didn't bother me as much. But, I wanted to just get that off my chest.

In other news, I'm getting back in to the swing of things of running every day with the high school XC team, about 6 miles a day. The rest of the week is fairly light and then we'll get ready for the much less stressful trip to western Michigan next weekend.

Friday, July 18, 2008

NYC Bound....Eating suggestions?

Well, us two country bumpkins are making our trek to the big city today. On the way, of course, we're going to stay "small town" and stop in DuBois, PA (where my grandparents used to live in a log cabin in a place called Treasure Lake) and stop at our favorite restaurant chain, Hoss's. Picture the All-You-Can-Eat Seats, except salad, bread, soups, fruit, desserts, and ice cream to go along with a hamburger or steak sandwich. It's awesome and another place I sure get my money's worth. (Note: When we lived in our apartment before this house we had a Hoss's within WALKING DISTANCE.)

I talked to one of my fellow teachers at school yesterday who actually taught and lived in Manhattan for three or so years. It turns out he lived almost right across the street from where the transition area is. After our 15 minute conversation, I feel a lot better about some of the little details like parking, subways, and taxis. The navigation never bothers me because I love maps, I'm just wondering what's going to happen when we pop out of the Lincoln Tunnel and need to stash the car somewhere.

One other thing he helped out with was a suggestion of a good Italian place to eat. So, I figured I'd throw it out to the bloggers and see if there were any recommended places to eat in NYC. The two big things Beth and I would be looking for would be Italian places that are "economical" and pizza and sandwich places. We're open to any and all suggestions.

Next update will be from across the river from NYC....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Butler YMCA Aftermath

Well, now that I've had a few days to let the triathlon experience sink in (and I just got some photos from my mom), here's some impressions from the race:

The first picture of me is coming out of the water as I'm asking Beth, "I cut the swim course, didn't I?"
Next, me in T1 having a little fight with my shirt.

Me coming back in to T2 with my speedy bike and helmet. Racking the bike was kind of tough because of short racks and not being able to rack with the handlebars. I had to back it in.

Me finishing the run (I actually ended up with the 2nd fastest run time, all 8 minutes of it!!!)

Here's me just now figuring out how to use the webcam on my laptop. Pretty neat! In the background is the photo of the first pitch of the first game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh (before they offered the All-You-Can-Eat-Seats).

Training-wise, I'm just going with the flow right now. I did 12+ miles with Beth Sunday morning (that 1.3 mile run in the tri didn't wear me out that much) and a really short track workout with Beth Monday morning. The last two mornings I've been out to my high school's xc morning runs and did about 5 or 6 miles each day. They got started last week, but couldn't start because of the summer program. I'll probably be with them 3-4 times a week until two-a-days start in August.

In my softball league last night, I had one of those games where the manager says "I thought he pitched well." This has been used in MANY game reports for the woeful Pirates pitching staff (and their MLB-worst ERA). Translated it means, "There were some bright spots, BUT there were some bad spots, too."

That's how it went for me last night. No hits given up through the first two innings, but then I ran into some trouble. I gave up a two run homer in the third and a grand slam in the sixth and we lost 9-3. Oh well, I was able to mix in a few changeups and keep them off-balanced at times (which will help in the playoffs if I can consistently throw it for a strike).

So, that's about it from here. We're getting geared up for the big NYC trip that we're leaving for Friday morning. I'm taking the pooch down to my parents' house tomorrow and she'll be hanging out there for the weekend. My dad will be there, but my mom was able to work it out that she's working in NYC this week, so she'll be there for Beth's race. I was checking out some of the area around the tri course using the google maps "Streetview." That's a pretty handy tool as I now have a better feel for where the Hilton New York is, what Central Park looks like, and where our hotel in New Jersey is.

(Note to reader: I have only been to Manhattan one time on a bus with a group of PSU students for an NIT semifinal game at MSG in college, so I'm pretty unfamiliar with the territory and will gladly take any recommendations about subways, taxis, buses, driving, tunnels, and parking. This equipment manager is going to try his best with the navigation)

The next post may be from NYC, so good luck to all racing there and other places this weekend. My friend Ben is competing in the Pittsburgh Tri (it's his first Olympic) and I really admire the time and dedication he's put in and know it's going to pay off for him this weekend.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tri #1 in the Books

Well, simply by writing this blog entry means I survived my first triathlon. All in all it was a pretty good day and I can't thank my great equipment manager Beth enough for all of the help and preparation and knowledge. It was also pretty neat to have my parents come out for the race, too. It was a long 90 minute trip for them to watch me finish in the middle of the pack of a local sprint triathlon.....that's something only parents would care enough to do.

Okay, on to the actual race. Beth and I got up around 4:45, fed and walked Roxy the dog and were on the road around 5:30. We arrive at the race site around 6:30, pick up the packet and chip and set up the bike's transition area. Since it was a smaller race, it was first come, first serve on the bike racks and we picked out a pretty nice spot. The array of bikes was about what I expected--ranging from the dude with the disc zipp wheels and aero helmet down to the people using mountain bikes. I had a hybrid bike, so I was somewhere in the middle.

I mentioned in previous a blog that some fellow math department and high school teachers were involved in the race also and I want to throw out a congratulations to Ben, Heather, Carl, Jon, and Shelly for completing the triathlon.

Ben and I warmed up together doing an easy jog out on the run course. Remember how I wrote last year's running times seemed a little fishy? Well, Ben and I passed the "1 mile" mark (note the quotations) around 4 minutes into our warm up--and we weren't running hard. Hmmmmmmmmm. So, we file that away and remember that for the race.

The time comes for everybody to get over to the swim start and we're all conversing about the race and, before you know it, an air horn goes off and it's time to go. So much for the 1 minute until the start of the race!!!!!

Okay, so let's go back to my goals I wrote the other day:
1. Survive the Swim
2. Push it on the Bike
3. Let it rip on the 5k
4. (The one I forgot to write but was reminded by Kim) HAVE FUN!!!

My fears of "deep water" growing up have been stated previously, so first and foremost I had to just make sure I relaxed. I kept telling myself before the race that it was only a 400 yd swim and I can swim a mile without stopping and tread water for 15 minutes without holding on to anything, so it wasn't like I was going to sink to the bottom of the lake.

So, the horn goes off and I run into the lake about waist-deep before I take the plunge and begin swimming off to the first buoy. Beth suggested to stay a little wide and not in front to avoid a lot of initial contact. I did that and it worked out well, but I ended up drifting a little closer to the buoy than I had planned and had a little bumping.

We make the turn around the first buoy of the "C-shaped" course and suddenly I realize that I'm relaxed and calm and getting into a decent rhythm for swimming. See, it wasn't so bad. The long stretch of the "C" was parallel to the beach and the sun was in our eyes at this point, so sighting was a little difficult. I just kept following the feet in front of me. I happen to look up when about 3/4 of the way on the stretch and I see a boat with a buoy to my RIGHT (we had to keep the buoys to the LEFT). Ooops!

So, since I don't want to get DQ'ed from my first ever triathlon, I start swimming toward the boat even though it looks like just about everybody else was cutting the course. The lifeguard on the boat yelled to me, "Do you need help?" I said, "No, I just missed the buoy and am coming back around it." She told me to just keep going and not to worry about it. It turns out, as Beth tells me, that just about everybody after the first five swimmers cut the swim course short.

My swim time was 7:33, so maybe around a 300-ish yard swim??? Regardless, I survived the swim and actually had a relative calm and determination. I actually passed some people during the 2nd half of the swim!!!

My T1 (1:44) went pretty smooth as I ran up the grassy hill and to my area. During the jog up the hill, I had enough breath to say to my wonderful equipment manager, "We cut the course, didn't we?" And, of course, she confirmed.

When I was putting my shoes on, I felt the dizziness that Beth has described to me. Who knew? But, I threw the shoes, shirt, sunglasses, and helmet on and off I went on the bike.

Now, I knew going in that I had a technological disadvantage against many of the top riders (especially disc wheel-aero helmet guy), but my goal was just to push hard the whole time. Sure enough, I was solid on the up hills, passing some people, but the guys with the tri and road bikes would go past me some on the down hill and especially the flats. No problem, I knew I had inferior equipment and it just made me work harder to want to pass them on the up hills.

Goal 2 - Mission Accomplished in 27:18 (about 16 mph) on a hilly course. That includes my T2 time because I didn't want to split my watch while trying to slow down and dismount the bike...

After a pretty quick T2 (trade helmet for visor and park bike), I took off as Beth's high school XC coach would say "like I stole something." I had a sneaky suspicion that it was going to be short, so I went pretty hard. I wasn't even to the "1 Mile" sign and I saw Ben already on the way back. I thought, "Man, he must have been FLYING on the bike since we left T1 at the same time." Next, comes fellow teacher Jon (an assistant swim coach at the HS who wouldn't pick running as his favorite pasttime) and I'm kicking myself for how slow I must have been on the bike.

Next thing you know, I'm at the turnaround. Okay, it seemed short (didn't check my watch), but last year people ran in the 15's. I push it hard on the way back and hit my "GO" point and kick it in to catch one last person. Run split - 8:05. As in my run was only a half minute longer than my swim!!!! What the heck. Estimating I was going around 6:00 pace, that would make it around 1.3 miles long?!?!?!?!? Who set up this course?!??!! As a math teacher I hope that they would know that this measured a LITTLE BIT short of a 5k. Oh well. The official results aren't up yet, but I hope to be among the top running times. We shall see. I joked with Jon the swimmer that I think he rigged the run course so I wouldn't catch him.

So, all told, the entire race was truly a "sprint" and I was done in 44:43. Ben did great job with his finishing place and it was neat to see some of the other people from school competing.

Beth was doing a 30 minute run afterwards, so I joined her for that as an extended cool down (since I was short-changed on the run during the race).

So, that's our day and Triathlon #1 is in the books and I had fun and think there will be a triathlon #2 in the future....but probably not until next year with Beth's racing schedule and cross country starting to roll in the comings weeks.

Thanks to all for the kind wishes and finally thanks to the guy in the yellow shirt at the race today who came up to us after the race and said that he reads Beth's blog and my blog. Go figure, someone outside of Beth's triathlon posse actually reads this?!!??! I wanted to say thanks for coming up, but apologize for not getting your name in my tiredness after the race. Sorry your swim didn't go well and good luck with the next race!

So, we're home now relaxing and soon we'll have dinner and then head down to Uniontown for Beth's grandmother's viewing. She passed away on Thursday after a bout with cancer. Beth has written about it, so I won't go into much more detail, but I just wanted to share my feelings.

She was a great grandma and always made me feel welcome from the very first time I met her. Beyond her great heart for service to her church, she was the BEST COOK. Beth and I eat fairly healthy, but don't "make" much food beyond pasta. Beth's grandma's Thanksgiving and Christmas meals were THE BEST and I will miss her a lot. My heart goes out to Beth's grandfather as we saw him in the hospital sitting by her side and showing his love for her. I hope we can all help pitch in and help him with the transition of losing his best friend of so many years.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Debut 3 Days Away

Well, my triathlon debut is coming up this Saturday. It's getting down to crunch time. This week's training has consisted of a lot of taper:

Sun - run 14 miles with Beth (this wasn't part of the taper--it starts next)
Mon - OFF
Tue - 50 min run with Beth
Wed - Easy swim (8 x 100 w/ 2 min rest); 45 min bike
Thu - OFF
Fri - ?? Some easy combination of all three ??
Sat - RACE DAY!!!!

This race is the Butler YMCA sprint triathlon at Moraine State Park. It's a 400 yd swim, 7 mi bike ride, and 5k run. Last year, a lot of the people ran in the 16's and 17's, so I'm suspicious of the run distance. But, all the previous years (including '06 when Beth did it and won), the 5K times were more legitimate. My goals are pretty simple--survive the swim (but go hard), push it on the bike since it's only 7 miles, and let it rip on the 5k and see how many people I can pass. We'll see where that gets me.

In other news, the summer elementary program I'm working with is ending tomorrow. It's been fun showing the little kids how to calculate all kinds of baseball statistics and football scores, but I'm ready for a break. Those little kids wear me out......and it's only for three hours!!!! I'm definitely not cut out for elementary school, I'll gladly stay up with the high schoolers. Some people pooh-pooh elementary school as glorified babysitting, but I can attest that you need to really work hard to keep those little energy-filled munchkins' attention and get them to learn something.

Something else I came across on's website over the past few months was this story of an athletic female who was seeing if she could qualify for the olympics. It was started over a year ago with the following thesis:

What would happen if a better-than-average-but-not-great athlete, who also happened to be able to write, tried to make the U.S. Olympic team in the Summer Games' equivalent of the two-man luge?

So, she tried things like the modern pentathlon (cross-country running, swimming, fencing, horseback riding and pistol shooting), team handball, track cycling, and triathlon before settling in on cycling.

This is her first entry to give you some background. This is her entry just posted detailing her attempts to make the olympics in cycling. It was a pretty interesting series. I saw a lot of Beth in the cycling events and how she persevered through some difficult times. It's a great read and I fully recommend it. It makes you laugh, think, get teary-eyed, and inspired. Some of the pictures and captions are priceless.

The Pirates update is that they're currently 5 games under 0.500. Getting swept last weekend in Milwaukee sure didn't help things. Their closer Matt Capps is out for another 8 or so weeks and that certainly doesn't help. I'll still not be disappointed if the Pirates make some deals at the deadline to bring in some prospects in the same way the Cleveland Indians traded C.C. Sabathia (although the Pirates' trade value probably isn't as valuable). As I mentioned last week, the minor league system is not in good shape, so more good prospects would be a good thing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

20 more hours until Beth's home...

It's been a fun week for Roxy the dog and I, but we'll be ready to have Beth back to keep us in line and get us back on a normal routine......

With yesterday being a holiday, I decided to take it off from blogging and training. :) Pretty much it was because the pool was closed, I slept in kind of late, and then was fiddling with my new and old computers to get the new one ready (transferring files, music, photos, etc.). Before you knew it, the time had come to go down to my parents for the 4th of July picnic.

That was nice and then I came home to find that my neighbors across the street were launching big time fireworks from their back yard. I'm not sure of the legality of that in PA, but I pulled out my lawn chair and sat in the driveway and watched the show. Pretty impressive--and it must have cost a pretty penny for all of the fireworks they launched. (Also, Star Wars - Empire Strikes Back was on last night, so I've got my Star Wars fill for a while now).

So, back to work today. I went to the pool around 9am and did 3x400 with 1 minute rest between 1 & 2 and 2 min rest between 2 and 3. The three times were 7:52, 7:54, and 8:13. I don't really know what happened on the last one (fell asleep while swimming?), but I was pleased with the first two keeping it under the 2:00/100yd pace. If I can keep it somewhere close to that for the 400yd swim in my triathlon a week from today I'd be pumped. Of course, add like two minutes for sighting, swimming extra distance, and overcoming my fear of deep water in a race....

Then, I came home and ate a bowl of cereal and let it digest, then on to the brick. I picked out a slightly different course that came out to a hilly 18.8 miles and I averaged 15.5 mph. I'm hoping for the 7 miles in the triathlon next Saturday I can go out and hammer a little harder than I do for the "longer" rides (for me, not for real triathletes and cyclists).

I worked on the T2 again by parking the bike, taking off the helmet, putting on the visor and going out. My bike is pretty simple, so no special pedals meaning no shoe transition time. Then, an easy 20 minutes of running and back to take care of some things here to make it look like I've been keeping things tidy and organized all week while Beth's been gone.

In other news, I received in the mail today a "seeded slot" for the Great Race 10K here in Pittsburgh in late September. For having a very average athletic background, I'm pretty pumped about that. Not that it's anything special and a lot of people get them, but it's neat to say I'm "seeded." Plus, as you can read from my guest entry on Beth's blog last year, there were a lot of annoying people in front of me at the start of the race in the non-seeded area. It will be nice to not have to worry about them. I think Beth's going to be running it this fall too since I took over the Shutt family 10k PR. She wants it back!!!!!

Well, time to get back to putting the house in one piece before Beth's flight arrives tomorrow.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Problem Solved

I've got my plans now for tonight. Star Wars Episode IV (the first one from 1977) is starting now on SpikeTV. I'm set. See you in a few hours....

Chicago Time

So, I get back from the Altoona Curve baseball game around 11:30 last night and I wasn't really tired. So, I wrote a blog entry, read Beth's and the Chicago crew's blogs, watched the baseball highlights on Sportscenter until around 1am. I rationalized that it was simply that I had adjusted to Chicago time here in Pittsburgh, so it was actually earlier.

I followed that trend this morning with not getting up until after 8:30 (only 7:30 Chicago time!!!). Next I checked out the internet for a little bit but realized that I didn't get my butt moving quick enough to fit in a swim before lane swimming ended and the aquatics classes started. Oops.

So, I had to rework my schedule of training today since I had set out to do all three. No problem--bike and run first and then a swim. I looked on the internet mapping and made up a new route that was a little over 13 miles. It was a little hillier than my other route and it took a little longer (about 14.8 mph).

I made this a brick and had my running stuff set out in the garage. Off the bike and then out for a run. The original plan.....note that my workouts aren't really pre-set, I kind of roll with how things are going......was a nice easy 30 minute run since the bike ride was a little sub-par. But, I felt good running, so I picked it up a little bit on the run. I went over to the track (about 12 minutes away) and decided to do some 800's. It turned into a 3x800 at 3:00 pace with 1:00 rest. It went well, I ran 2:58, 2:55, and 2:54. I was very pleased.

After stopping at home and letting Roxy the dog out, I went over to the YMCA to swim. I did 10x100yd. My goal was to keep it around the 2:00 pace with 30 second rest. But, I wanted to see if I could rock one and set a PR. On my second one I went out really hard and even did a flip turn in the deep end! I ended up doing a 1:46, off of the PR by a couple of seconds, but still a good day.

Lunch was a Little Caesar's Pizza (only half, don't worry). Dinner's going to be--you guessed it--the other half of the pizza. Yummie!

So, now I'm watching the movie "Field of Dreams" On-Demand ("People will come, Ray." and "Dad, do you want to have a catch?" are my two favorite lines.) and writing the blog. As far as tonight, no trip to Altoona. I'll have to keep myself busy doing something else, like my "State of the Pirates" Excel Sheet. I'll have to report back on this dismal current state of the franchises' minor league system. Hopefully this year's draft will help improve that.....

Solo night out...

Well, Beth's out in Chicago having a great time training with the triathlon blogging crew. Roxy the dog and I are back here hanging out.

Tuesday night, I had a softball game. With all the rain, I didn't think it would happen, so I went out for a bike ride on my loop I've established (13 miles) and ended up over 15 mph again. Slowly but surely improving the speed and climbing abilities on the bike. We ended up losing the game 3-2. I pitched the whole game and gave up 2 runs in the first on a couple of cheap bloopers beyond the infielders. We battled back to tie it 2-2 in the 5th. But, in the 6th they regained the lead when a guy I walked came around to score when we had some throwing errors.

Offensively, I went 2-for-3 with an RBI without hitting the ball more than 55 feet. At bat one was a crap pop-up back to the pitcher (got fooled), at bat #2 was a hard hit grounder that went off the diving 1st basemen's glove and scored a run. 3rd time up I got on with a bunt down the third base line. I always tell Beth I'm a "punching Judy" when it comes to hitting. I equate my hitting to that of Jason Kendall.

Okay, enough of the boring softball. Tri training is down to 10 days until triathlon #1. This morning was a swim with 100 wu, 6x200 on 4:30, 2x100 on 2:30 and cool down. That 2:00/100 yd pace is starting to feel more comfortable. Perhaps I'll break through to a faster pace as the summer goes on.


Now to the big, juicy news. So, with Beth out of town, I had to find something to occupy myself with tonight. I'm on my own, it's a beautiful night so what do I do?

- Go out to the I don't drink
- Call up my buddies and hang out....not really an option since all my good friends from college live all over the mid-Atlantic area instead of down the street.
- Stay home and watch TV...the Pirates are on, but I did that on Monday night after dropping Beth off at the airport.

So, the solution? Drive the 90 minutes over the mountains to Altoona, PA to watch the Pirates AA affiliate the Altoona Curve play. For $5 and half a tank of gas, I had a great night! This might have been an even better deal than the $35 all you can eat seats!!

I know I'm a baseball geek to drive 90 minutes and sit by myself to watch a baseball game, but I can't help that I love baseball. This gave me a chance to check out the state of the Double-A team (which was about as mediocre as I expected). Other than the nice weather, the other deciding factor in my going to the game was the starting pitcher for the Curve--Yoslan Herrera--the 29 year-old Cuban defector the Pirates signed two years ago. I wanted to see if he was a total bust or if there was some hope for him.

I came away with mixed thoughts. Yes, he did pitch 7 innings and only give up one unearned run. But, his fastball is still only in the upper 80's (he was out of baseball for two years and they keep saying his low 90's fastball will come back...I'm not buying it). He did have some good curve balls and change ups to keep the batters off-balanced and not crushing ALL of his offerings. But, I don't know how he'll do at AAA and maybe someday at the majors.

This was a big night for Herrera as the Pirates management is trying to figure out what they have in him. I knew they were considering bringing him up to Pittsburgh with some of the injuries. What I was surprised at was to see Frank Coonelly (President of the Pirates), Neal Huntingdon (GM), and Kyle Stark (Director of Player Development) all sitting behind home plate presumably to watch Herrera. I don't think that this is a common occurrence to have all the big wigs at the same minor league game.
Other impressions from the Curve:

-They're old.....a lot of 24, 25, and 26 year olds playing for them as opposed to the 21-23 year olds for the Binghamton Mets.
-The middle infield of Luis Cruz (24 yrs old) and Shelby Ford (23) look like they could help out in the near future. Beyond this, not much else. James Boone was the leadoff guy, but he didn't have a good night and he's already 25 and has fought through a lot of injuries over the last few years. Since players usually progress one level per year, that's putting most of the Curve players at 26-28 by the time they reach the big leagues--already almost on the downslope of their "prime."

Last summer I was bored one day and made this elaborate spreadsheet I entitled the "State of the Pirates" where I looked at the Pirates drafts since 2002 and also the minor league depth and age of the players. It was depressing. I may do that sometime this month, and I think it's going to not be good again. I'll keep you posted.

Okay, time for bed. Thursday, I'm going to try to do all three training starting with a swim when I get up (NO alarm tomorrow since no school).