Friday, November 28, 2008

Do we have to go back?

It's in the 60's and I've been wearing shorts. How can I go back to the snow? There have been so many things to be thankful for and that have been so enjoyable since we've been down here:

-Our overnight stay in Beckley was great, included a crisp Thanksgiving morning 5 or so mile run and decent (not great) hotel breakfast.

-We then had 100% perfect weather to drive down the rest of the way to Durham. It was all sunny skies and not too much in the way of traffic. Gas is UNDER $2 here (we've seen couple of $1.59's). Beth dozed for some of the trip so I (quietly) jammed to my podcast praise sessions from the in Oklahoma.

-Thanksgiving dinner by B&D was super! Many compliments to the chefs on the turkey, stuffing, taters, salads, and desserts

-Their dog, Luna, is much better behaved than when we last saw her. She reminds us a lot of Roxy.

-Friday morning, Beth and I met her triathlon friends Bri and Marty at the aquatic center in Cary. This was a major league swimming facility for a minor league swimmer like me. I'm glad the post-Thanksgiving crowd was small so I didn't embarrass me or Beth too much. Thanks to Bri and Marty for inviting us, taking us to a great breakfast place called the food factory, showing us their house and dog, and the Insideout Tri store (where Beth got her new wetsuit--great deals this week there!)

-Back to B&D for an afternoon of watching the Pitt-WVU game...if you want to call it that. It wasn't a very fun game to watch. Both teams had a handful of terrible turnovers and pre-snap penalties. WVU made more mistakes and ended up losing out at the end to Pitt. I mentioned during a couple of points during the game that it looked like a Comedy of Errors (to borrow a title from Shakespeare--that I had a role in during the 4th grade enrichment program). By the way, during halftime and the first 10 minutes of the third quarter, I was out cold (turkey hangover and boredom of the game, I guess).

-For dinner we went over by the Durham Bulls stadium and ate at a restaurant called Tyler's (great burgers!) Then we had an evening of scrabble, monopoly, and Settlers of Catan.

Tomorrow, we're going to run over at Duke's campus (and hope to avoid the Duke-UNC football traffic) and then we're heading back. Maybe we can stick around until Sunday, but I'm sure Roxy the Dog misses us.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fantasy XC Champion

Much like Eric Mangini beating Bill Belichick. Or like Cincinnati beating Pitt. In other words, the student has now become the master......or perhaps I just had some lucky picks.

Either way, I beat Beth 24-31 in the 6th annual Fantasy NCAA Women's Cross Country Meet. That makes two in a row and four out of the six.....don't mess with the sports nut/math teacher (I wish I could translate this to some success in my fantasy baseball league one of these years!!!)

I didn't get a chance to post the original draft or ground rules, but here's a quick summary:
*Beth had the first pick and we alternated for 10 total picks
*As in cross country, top 5 places count and lowest score wins

Sally Kipyego - Texas Tech 1
Racheal Marchand - Iowa 5
Angela Bizzarri - Illinois 6
Nicole Bush - Michigan State 9
Nicole Blood - Oregon 10
Kendra Schaaf - Washington (12)
Frances Koons - Villanova (20)
Bridget Franek - Penn State (23)
Marie Lawrence - Washington (25)
Dannette Doetzel - Providence (31)

Total - 31

Susan Kujiken - Florida State 2
Tasmin Fanning - Virginia Tech 3
Brie Felnagle - UNC 4
Christine Babcock - Washington 7
Alexandra Kosinski - Oregon 8
Hollie Knight - Auburn (11)
Gwen Jorgensen - Wisconsin (19)
Nicole Edwards - Michigan (24)
Pilar McShine - Florida State (29)
Megan Duwell - Minnesota (32)

Total - 24

This was our best year in terms of combined scores. The next best was the 2005 duel where Beth won 23-38. My 24 was the fourth best all-time score behind Beth's 23 (2005) and 20 (2006) and my 2003 rookie debut of 18 points (Beth didn't know what she was getting herself into). One other surprising part this year was that our worst place was 32. Usually we have a couple of duds in the 70's or 80's, but not this year.

Here's the history of the match-ups:
2007: O 32-63
2006: Beth 20-117 (didn't hear the end of the trash-talking this year)
2005: Beth 23-38
2004: O 28-58
2003: O 18-53

......can you tell it's a slow night!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


The exciting part was that the game was a no-doubter by halftime. The 2nd half was so fun as the defense just teed off on MSU and the offense kept the pedal to the metal until halfway through the 4th quarter. No let up this week!

The whole tone was set on MSU's first drive when Ringer was stuffed again and again. Then, after PSU's first offensive possession, they started to make plays and, before you knew it, the rout was on. It was so great to see the seniors have such an impact. The three smurfs (Williams, Norwood, Butler) all had big games. The O-line was opening HUGE holes for Royster all day. Scirotto and Sargeant made big plays in the defensive secondary. Kevin Kelly just had to keep kicking all those extra points...

I have to admit that I was a little surprised when the offensive playcalling for Pat Devlin included the big pass up top. But, at the same time, after reading some quotes in the paper about MSU coming up and pressing all day, that's the only place that you have to throw. Plus, there was still 12:50 left in the game. That was pretty bush-league of Mark Dantonio to call those TWO time outs with just a couple of second left in the game. Why would you do that? Was he bitter at the Devlin-Butler touchdown? Was he bitter about the time out PSU took to take out their seniors on defense? Was he just plain mad for getting dominated in his only two marquee games this year?

The "Other" Big Ten Champions
When Beth and I were young pups back in the day in Happy Vally way back in the late 90's, one of our favorite things to do in the fall was go to PSU women's volleyball games. Beth knew one of the players through a Bible study group and I took a volleyball class at Penn State and found out I LOVED volleyball (the problem is I'm about a foot too short to make any positive contributions to a real volleyball game). Regardless, the women's team was so dominating and their games at the often sold-out Rec Hall were electric. It was an awesome atmosphere. (The men's team was a national contender, too).

So, I just wanted to point out what the Women's Volleyball team has done since last December. Since they won the national championship in an exciting 5-game finale, they have not dropped a SET. That's right, EVERY game they have played this year, they have SWEPT 3-0. That's dominance. There's one more weekend left in the regular season, then the Big Ten tournament, and then hopefully a long NCAA tournament run.

Actually, DOUBLE BRRRR! Yesterday, Beth and I had a neat time at the D2 XC NCAA National Championships held just up the road at Slippery Rock. Beth has the pictures on her blog to show how cold it was. It was a fun day watching all the loonie teammates that weren't running the race bouncing all around the course in very little clothing and lots of body paint. It was fun to watch Shippensburg's Neely Spence almost win the championship, but a girl from "SPU" (aka Seattle Pacific University) dominated and won handily. Neely did come in second, though.

Then, this morning, Beth and I did an hour run. The temp was 15 degrees (F) and the wind chill was even less. DOUBLE BRRR!!

Since then, we've followed our normal Sunday routine: gone to church, ate lunch, taken a LONG nap, watched some football, .... Next we'll eat dinner and then I'll do some grading. We're looking forward to a short week and some Turkey with family on Thursday!

Finally, congratulations to all the people Beth and I (mostly Beth) know that were doing Ironman Arizona and the Philly Marathon today. Just training and competing in events like that is an accomplishment in itself. Hitting certain times and places in the races is just icing on the cake. Great job!

WE ARE.....

Friday, November 21, 2008

DiGiorno Heals Many Things

In short, it was a long week for me. So, Beth and I decided to stay in, but then tried to determine what to have to dinner. I decided to drown my weariness into a DiGiorno for one Pizza. It sure hit the spot--as well as the two brownies afterwards. Good thing winter track starts the week after Thanksgiving!

Enough already about this week and dinner, moving forward to the weekend, we've got some fun things in store:

*Tonight we're going to start booking the hotels for Beths 2009 triathlon schedule. We're going to be visiting some new spots like San Diego and Washington, DC.

*Also tonight, we're going to hold our 6th annual fantasy NCAA Womens Division I Cross Country Championship draft where Beth and I are probably the only two people nerdy enough to conduct something like this. I dominated her in '03 and '04, but she came back to kick my butt in '05 and '06. However, I'm the current defending champ with my resounding 32-63 rout thanks to my 1-3-4 overall finish at the top. Beth's been talking some smack, so we'll see what happens. This weekend, I'll post our lineups and the past results.

*Speaking of NCAA Cross Country Championships, Slippery Rock is hosting the NCAA Division II XC championships tomorrow. Beth and I are going to go up and see who is crowned national champion.

*Of course, my personal highlight of the weekend (other than the XC Draft) is Penn State's attempt at winning the Big Ten title for the 2nd time in four years. Michigan State and Javon Ringer are going to be tough, so we'll see what happens. WE ARE........

*No Steelers on the weekend since they played Thursday night, so lots of naps and schoolwork on Sunday. Naps are never a bad thing.

Stay tuned for the much anticipated draft results....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Game Day!

It's a rare Thursday night home game for the Steelers tonight. They're calling for a little snow (just an inch or two), but that will make it look like real football.

Although I have a 45+ minute drive home each day, there are some perks to it. First, it gives me a chance to unwind and catch up on the news & sports going on or to just jam to some music on my IPod. Also, at this time of the year, it gives me a chance to rehearse my songs for the Christmas choir (the director gives us each a part CD where she overlays our specific part onto each song--it really helps with learning the part).

But, perhaps the best perk for a sports nut like myself is the opportunity emerge to downtown from the Fort Pitt Tunnels and drive past Heinz Field and PNC Park every day. My favorite is in the spring when the Pirates games are going on (and they're not yet mathematically eliminated) and to be listening to the game and to look at the scoreboard as I drive by.

Today, I (safely) snapped a few shots of the two stadiums since I knew the lights would be on in preparation for the Steelers game tonight.

Also, it was funny how on Tuesday I mentioned about Davidson and Arizona hoops getting started. I swear I didn't even realize it, but BOTH were on ESPN that evening as part of their coverage of the Preseason NIT. Davidson's game at Oklahoma started at 9pm and I stayed up to watch the first half. The Wildcats got down big in the 2nd half (like 20 points), but made a furious comeback and cut it to four points behind the hot shooting of Stephen Curry (44 pts). They are just a scrappy little team.

The other Wildcats (Arizona) were on after that (11pm start) against the vaunted powerhouse of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, but there was no way to be able to stay up for that. But, I learned the next morning that Arizona was down most of the game and, after tying it in the last minute, made a really dumb foul and lost the game. It may be a long year for them as they transition into the post-Lute Olson era.

Okay, time to take care of a few last things before the game.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back in the Routine

I realized today that I hadn't blogged since last weekend. Oops! Not much going on since it's the "offseason" for Beth's triathlons and I'm in-between coaching/training seasons with cross country and indoor track. Track starts up after Thanksgiving, so I'll be going at it more then. Also, I think I've fallen into the facebook trap of posting status updates on there instead of blogging. Oh well.

In the mean time, I've started up some swimming again. I haven't regressed to the absolute pitiful times that I was doing last fall, but I've definitely got to get back in the swing of things to get my times to where they were last spring/summer. One thing that will help is that I'm swimming once a week at the school where I teach with a group of teachers. It's nice to have people push me since I don't swim that fast in the first place.

In other news, I had a chance to visit with my grandma some this past week after school. She had back surgery at a hospital about a mile from my school. The weird part about that is she's from our hometown which is over an hour away from the hospital. There's probably about 5 or 6 hospitals in between her house and this one, but maybe this is what the insurance dictated? Anyway, she went home today, so that's exciting. I know my family is glad to not have to navigate the squirrel hill and fort pitt tunnels daily to visit with her.

Penn State was sluggish against Indiana, but got the job done. There weren't any upsets ahead of them, so it's looking like the Rose Bowl IF they can beat Michigan State this weekend. Javon Ringer worries me with his punishing running style.

The Steelers won, but a lot of people aren't happy about that. It's due to the final play being overturned on replay changing the score from 17-10 back to 11-10. I've looked at the replay a bunch of times and can see the point of the illegal forward pass, but it's too close to have overturned I think. Anyway, maybe this will make people less willing to gamble. Yeah, right!

College basketball is getting rolling. I really don't get into it until Christmas or January. But, we'll see what happens. Arizona is in a state of turmoil with Lute Olson resigning and some of the high school recruits backing out on their verbals. Arizona's not even ranked--it's the other Wildcats I follow, my dad's alma mater Davidson Wildcats who are ranked. We'll see how they do with the target on their back and the added pressure from the elite eight run from last year. Also, the point guard (Jason Richards) graduated and Stephen Curry is going to play some point. We'll see how that works out.

Penn State's is 2-0, but that won't last. Their latest victory was against the New Jersey Institute of Technology. NJIT just set a record for most consecutive losses in college basketball. What division are they anyway? After all, they are from New Jersey...what good comes from there? (Just kidding, Maija!). I always hope for PSU to be good at basketball, but they just can't recruit well for some reason (other than being in the middle of nowhere trying to convince city kids to come). But, it works in other places, like Kansas State for example, so why not Penn State?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weekend Aftermath

Here's the quick and dirty summary of the weekend:
*Got lots of R&R since I'm not really training now
*PSU & Steelers lost; Pitt won
*Great breakfast buffet and church today

Now for the longer version:

The bottom line with the Penn State game is that they didn't put them away when they could have. Three field goals when they should have went in for touchdowns. A dominating first half with time of possession yet only up 13-7. An inability to get off the field in the 4th quarter on defense. And (of course since I'm a homer) several missed holding calls on the last drive and a questionable pass interference call on Anthony Scirotto. Yeah, I know he technically made contact with the receiver before the ball got there, but he was COMPLETELY making a play on the ball. Maybe it's something a rules committee needs to revisit, but Scirotto probably had a BETTER chance of making that catch, but he gets penalized for it.

Oh well, life moves on. Hopefully they can take care of hapless Indiana next weekend at home and finish with a strong game against Michigan State. If that happens, they'll still go to the Rose Bowl with only one loss. Not bad for a team coming into the year preseason ranked around #20, breaking in a new quarterback, lost three starting D-Lineman since summer, and lost their all-american linebacker in spring drills.

What makes it stink worse is that Pitt beat up on a terrible Louisville team (5 turnovers?!?!?!) and Pitt eeked out a win against Iowa earlier this year. So, now they'll all be yapping about how Pitt is better than PSU. We'll see....

The Steelers lost today--they couldn't put the game away either. But, I don't get too high or low on them until December and January. That's when it matters in the NFL.

Beth and I took Roxy the Dog for a walk up at Hartwood Acres where they have an off-leash doggie play area. There were a couple of other pretty big dogs in there and Roxy seemed a little intimidated at times.

Today, we went to Eat'n Park before church. They have good breakfast buffet and we never get to take advantage of it with our general weekend training & church schedules. That was yummie!!! At church, we talked about forgiveness and how we all need it. One neat thing that our Pastor said was that Jesus made the decision on the cross to choose to forgive all of those people who beat him up and ridiculed him that week. Most mortal humans would have said, "Give them what they deserve!" Yet, he chose forgiveness.

Have a great week!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hair Before & After; Roxy Pumpkin; PSU Pre-Game

I didn't get around to posting these earlier, but I wanted to show the "before" and "after" pictures from my Cross Country Playoff Beard.

Wow, I was a hairy man.

Next, a picture of Roxy. I stopped at Target on Friday and they had some clearance Halloween costumes. I found this one for $2.50. Even though Roxy wasn't excited about it, she was a good sport.

Finally, it's PSU gameday! The Lion's bye week worked out well since I was at the state XC meet. Now, they've got a tough test out in Iowa. Hopefully they can jump out early and take care of things before halftime. That would be ideal, but we'll see what happens.

Here's the PSU "Zombie Nation" Video to get all the Nittany Lion fans pumped up! I'll probably play it another couple of times before game time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

McLouth wins gold glove!

I am soooooo pumped that Nate McAwesome won a gold glove! Good for him. He is such a hard worker and was always stuck behind Chris Duffy coming up through the minors. I'm so glad he had his breakthrough year. The other interesting thing is that McLouth did not rate very high in the various statistical defensive metrics for outfielders. But, even if he wasn't the fastest guy, he sure was able to get to a lot of balls and made so many running and diving catches. Hopefully the can continue it next year!

Here's the short blurb from the post-gazette online:

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Nate McLouth has been named to the 2008 National League Gold Glove team, becoming the first Pirate to receive a Gold Glove award since 1993.

McLouth, 27, made 155 appearances in the outfield in 2008 and just one error. His .997 fielding percentage led NL center fielders and was second behind Milwaukee's Ryan Braun among all NL outfielders.

The last Pirate to receive the Rawlings Gold Glove award was shortstop Jay Bell in 1993. Center fielder Andy Van Slyke received it in 1992.

Ah, Jay Bell and Andy Van Slyke. Those were the days back when I was young and the Pirates were good.....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Election Day is pretty exciting this year. Lots of drama with many different races:

- McCain vs Obama (here in PA; also in OH, IN, VA, NC, and FL)
- US House (PA): Hart vs Altmire and Murtha vs Russel
- PA House: Dermody vs Davidek (Highlands and PSU Graduate)

The national media is predicting big gains for the democrats, but they were saying similar things in 2004. We'll see what happens. I hope that the mess with the economy gets worked out soon, though.

BOUS Statistical Analysis
Also, because of election day, the kiddies weren't in school today as we had an in-service day. I spent the day looking at math technology. In the morning session, we were looking at a statistical software package called "Fathom." One neat thing about it was that you could go to a website and drag it in and fathom was pretty smart at converting it into a table like you would see in Microsoft Excel. You had to fix some headings, but it was pretty easy (and a lot less typing).

We were able to look at any data from anywhere and play with it, so I uploaded the BOUS women's results from Beth's race a few weekends ago. I looked at the correlation between the overall finishing place vs the three disciplines (swim, bike, run) to see which was the most/least connected.

To probably nobody's surprise, the swim was the least connected (r^2 value of 0.17). The bike was the best predictor (0.82), and running was okay(0.66). For non-math people, those numbers are kind of like a grade, the closer to 100% or 1.00, the better. Since the swim was shorter than usual and this was a non-drafting race, no big surprise. I was surprised at how much more significant the bike was than the run. But, I guess the bike is a longer time portion of the race (and the bike was long by a few miles on top of that).

Beth and I agreed that we'll have to check out the 70.3 world championships and run the same analysis and see what happens.

Okay, enough math to bore for one night. In other news, I've joined the facebook bandwagon. The best thing about it is reconnecting with college and high school friends. I can see how it can become very time consuming if you're not careful.

XC Playoff Beard Gone
Pictures to come, but I'm back to being a clean-shaven man. No more scruffy/harry look.

Swim Workout at School
At school this morning, Six of us (among some other masters from the community) swam at the High School's pool. That was neat to be a part of a group and I'm looking forward to training with them this winter. Today, since it was the first time a lot of us had swam in a while, we took it kind of easy. We only ended up with 1600 yds with a 5x100 yd set in there. I'm sure we'll be upping the yardage as we get back into the swing of things.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


No, I don't have any chocolate to bring back from Hershey, but it was a good time indeed. It all started with a 4:30am walk with Roxy the dog and I was out the door by 5am to the school. The head coach set up a bus to take any of the JV guys and girls who wanted to come and watch the race. At 6am, 9 guys and 2 gals and I pulled out with the bus driver east toward Hershey.

We arrived just after 10am, so the girls jumped out as soon as we got to the course to catch our girl running. The rest of us got out after we parked and went over and saw the AA and AAA boys races. It was a nice day. The boys' team was running without their top dog (leg injury at WPIALs), but still had a strong day and finished 15th. Our top runner was in the low 40's. Our girl finished under 100, so not a bad day. The WPIAL girls were representing well as they went 2-3-5-6-7-8-9-13. Wow! Wendy's school finished in the top 10.

Next, trip home with a stop at the Hoss's in Bedford. It's become an annual tradition that I'm glad I get to be a part of. I LOVE Hoss's. The steak sandwich, the salad bar, fruit, bread, nachos, desserts....yummie!

After our 4 hours plus dinner, we arrived back at school around 6:30. From there, back over to Irwin where Chad was hosting a little triathlon get together for Beth & other friends. We hung out there and I met some new people including Jeremy, who's done an Ironman and was actually out at the state meet rooting on Quaker Valley in the AA boys race (finished 2nd by just two points!).

Then, drove home and got home around 11pm. All together I ended up with 10 hours spent in a vehicle today. I'm sure glad there was an extra hour of sleep last night.

How about that Texas Tech upset of Texas? I don't know what's going to happen in the polls, but I personally thing that Tech should be moved up to #2 and keep PSU at #3 since Tech is also undefeated and they just beat the #1 team in the country. But, TT has some tough games over the next three weeks, so we'll see if they can handle the pressure. Also, hopefully PSU takes care of business at Iowa next weekend.

Finally, congrats to Bree for a great finish at Ironman Florida. That's awesome!