Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ear plugs helped, but.....

....still a little congested last night and today. But, definitely better than previous times. I can certainly feel the difference in the water with my ears not "popping" every time they go in and out of the water. I'll continue to experiment and just go swimming once a week for the time being. But, I did have a pretty solid workout that I couldn't have come close to doing a year ago at this time.

It was 14 x 100 yds (supposed to be 16, but I ran out of gas) on 2:30, but with a decreasing time to complete the swim. So, here's how it went:

700 yd wu (400 free, 100 kick, 200 pb)
4 at 2:05 (tough to go that "slow" believe it or not--1:56, 1:58, 1:59, 2:02)
4 at 2:00 (a little better - 1:56, 1:58, 1:58, 1:59)
4 at 1:55 (1:53, 1:52, 1:54, 1:54)
2 at 1:50 (1:48, 1:55, ...enough!!!!)
150 yd cd

Considering I hadn't even PR-ed at 1:48 at this time last year, it's encouraging to know that I can do that many 100's before doing a sub-1:50. I feel like I'm not really getting much faster the last few months, but the endurance in the water is definitely improving. Just need to get this post-swim congestion under control!!!!

It's been a hectic week at school (Tue delay, Wed cancel, Thu delay, Fri - 2 hrs of the day for a community service project). Not to complain because I feel fortunate to have a job where I don't have to go out and drive in bad weather (or at least wait an hour or so later to arrive). But, trying to cram everything into 32-minute periods vs 48-minute periods all week is wild. The toughest one is Calculus because we need to stay on pace to be prepared to take "Pitt Tests." Our Calc course is affiliated with the College in High School program at Pitt, so there's milestones that they must reach through the year. I hate it, but they're going to have homework over Super Bowl weekend. Bummer!

I hope everybody survived the winter weather and GO STEELERS!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2 hour delay

I woke up this morning and walked Roxy and there wasn't a flake on the ground. But, I always listen to the radio when I'm walking Roxy to get an update on news, weather, and traffic (and school delays in the winter). I was really surprised to hear that there were delays. It turns out that they were all south of the city. Being a weather & map geek that I am, I find it fascinating that the weather front (so far) has cut Pittsburgh right in half.

But, we're supposed to get some more bad weather tonight into tomorrow. 2-hour delays mean that I have more time to prepare and get ready for the day which is always a good thing!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Windex in 10 degree Weather...

....doesn't work all that well. I was cleaning the insides of the cars this afternoon because they needed it bad. I had been putting it off for weeks with this terribly cold weather. I actually had a chance to take them to get washed on the one day it was actually above freezing this past week. So all the salt and grime was rinsed off for a day or two at least.

Today, I wanted to work on the interior. Vacuuming went well, but there was some salty crust on the floor mats that I couldn't sweep off. Then, on to the windows and wiping down the interior. I sprayed the Windex on the windshield and it pretty much froze on the spot. Uh-oh! So, I wiped a little harder and got the initial spray of Windex addressed. This wasn't going to work too well.

My plan B for the other car was to go run my errands and come back and keep the engine running and spray down the interior when it's warm. It worked a little better, but definitely not my best interior clean of my career. It was just SO COLD. My fingertips were getting numb after only a few minutes of vacuuming.

Anyway, I'm back inside in the mostly warm house now.

One more week until the Super Bowl. This should be a fun week leading up to the game. I bet the Steelers are going to love the weather in Tampa. Troy Polamalu had a quote about it being much nicer to play the Super Bowl in Tampa instead of Detroit.

As far as my training, it's consisted of running with Beth on Sundays, box agility drills with the track kids and only a little swimming. The swimming has been cut back because Beth and I have determined that I may be allergic to swimming. Not really, but what I mean is that 5 or so hours after I swim, I have this massive congestion where my nasal passages essentially close. We had this theory running for a little bit now (remember my month of congestion in December?...I swam 2-3 times/week), and we've confirmed it with the last two times I've gone swimming (most recently Friday).

So, what to do about it? I enjoy the swimming even though I'm still pretty slow because it's a nice alternative to beating the legs up with running. I'm not affected while I'm swimming. Heck, I PR'ed in my 200 on Friday by 6 seconds (down to a blazing 3:36) and felt great. But, by lunchtime, I could feel it coming on and couldn't breathe out of my nose by dinner time and didn't sleep too well Friday night. By mid day on Saturday it was gone. This was what happened the last time I went swimming also last Monday. The weird part was that this didn't start until November. Maybe it's the cold weather, too? Maybe it has something to do with the ear problems/tinnitus that has plagued me since my youth.

Solutions? I'd be open to any suggestions. One thing I'm going to try is using ear plugs to see if the water is getting in that way. I've stopped doing flip turns for the past month to hopefully stop the water from getting up my nose, but that doesn't seem to be stopping the congestion. I'll post an update later this week on how it goes.

Finally, in college basketball news, my three teams I follow all won on Saturday. But, the victories were in very different fashions:

Penn State played sluggish at home against an inferior Iowa team and trailed the entire game until about 3 minutes left in the game. They were able to come back and are now 5-3 in the Big Ten. But, hold on there Sparky (to steal a quote from Jen Harrison), they've got a tough stretch for the next month: at #7 MSU, at Michigan, Wisconsin, at #18 Purdue, #20 Minnesota, at #24 Illinois, at Ohio St. This will determine whether they are NCAA or NIT worthy. We shall see.

Davidson won their 39th consecutive Southern Conference game by 23. They just need to keep the pedal to the metal and keep working on the little things to make them a tough out in the NCAA tourney.

Arizona actually stopped a 3-game losing streak by coming back to beat big bad (not really) Houston in a non-conference game in overtime. They were trailing most of the game also, but were sparked when one of the UA players' face was stepped on intentionally. They tied it up in the last minute and then held Houston to only two free throws in overtime. They've got a lot of work ahead of them if they plan on keeping their NCAA-best streak of consecutive tournament appearances going. They're 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the Pac 10. Ugh!

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Here We Go" Steelers song/video

This just rocks. I remember rocking to this back in the '94-'95 Super Bowl year. They keep the same song, just change the names to fit the current roster. GO STEELERS!!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

On to Tampa!!!

The Steelers did it! They withstood the hard-fought efforts of the Ravens. It was not a game for the faint of heart, but it sure was fun to watch. Here's a couple of observations from a common fan:

*How the heck did the referee, after viewing the video replay, overturn the completed pass to Santonio Holmes? If anything, it should have been ruled a touchdown. I consulted with one of the football coaches at school today and he concurred with me that (we think) the referee incorrectly applied the rule of the ball coming loose when the player hits the ground. That's for when a player jumps up for a ball and comes crashing to the ground. But, in Holmes case, he caught it, reached out the ball in one hand, took two steps, and then lost control of the ball as he reached it across the goal line. I'd like to hear a referee's rationale of the situation.

Here's the video. You be the judge:

*Boy did Mitch Berger have a bad game. He saved a TD by tackling the returner on one of his low punts and caught the turf with his toe as he was in his kicking motion on another punt. I can't wait until Sepulveda comes back next year from his knee injury. At least Berger drew a phantom roughing the kicker penalty (make-up call???)

*Roethlisberger sure can move around in the pocket and make plays. A quote from a Baltimore d-lineman was to the effect of "You might as well just drop everybody back into coverage because he'll elude the rush and make a play."

*2nd round pick Limas Sweed has some growing up to do. He's only a rookie, but oi! His last few strides he slowed down a little and then, even though he could still catch the ball somehow took his eyes off of it (the TV replayed showed that clearly).

*I've been watching more closely the last two weeks, but it sure does seem like James Harrison gets held every other play. At least Woodley is there on the other side to put pressure on the QB, too.

*Looking on to next week, the Warner-Fitzgerald connection really worries me. If Philly couldn't put pressure on Warner, it's going to be tough to see how our DB's are going to cover them.

Much more news in the next two weeks! Hopefully Hines Ward and Ryan Clark (among others) are healed up. GO STEELERS!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

What to Wear Running When It's -4F Outside

Beth had a 30 minute run on her training schedule this morning. Being that school was cancelled for me and I had nowhere to be, I figured it was only right for a husband/training partner/equipment manager to accompany her on the run.

Did I mention that the current reading on the weather channel website says that it's -4 degrees with a windchill of -20? Brrr!

I did at least try to talk her out of going outside. I said, "Wouldn't you rather go over to the YMCA and go on the treadmill since it's just for 30 minutes?" But, she didn't bite on it.

In this type of weather, you need to bundle up. And, if you do it right, it's really tolerable to run outside in this. I'm not saying that it feels like a spring day, but it's not bad.

Here's what I wore for the run:

On the lower body:
1 pair of long socks
1 tight running pants
1 wind pants (over top)

On the upper body (from inside-out):
-Underarmor layer
-Short sleeve t-shirt
-Long sleeve t-shirt
-Thick Steelers hoody (GO STILLERS!)
-Lined wind breaker

On the head:
-Fleece-lined winter hat from Powerbar (thanks Beth!)
-Hood from Steelers hoody
-Fuzzy head band that normally goes over ears, but I used as a cover for my mouth and nose.

On the hands:
-My big, thick snow shoveling gloves

This reminds me of a day over Christmas break back at Penn State right when Beth and I were first dating. She wanted to meet for a run at good old Lynch Field in Greensburg. Like any new boyfriend I couldn't turn down an opportunity to go running, but I was a little hesitant since it was only in the single digits and the wind chill was around zero. It turned out to be a nice (yet cold) run and the rest is history as they say.

Stay warm out there!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Brrr - Steelers and Race

Update - Congrats to the Steelers. Bring on the Ravens next week. It's going to be slug-fest!

Anyway, after a prediction of 5-8 inches of snow Friday night/Saturday, here in the Pittsburgh area we just got about an inch or two. I know that in Cleveland and around I-80 they got it more, but it's funny how we keep getting lucky and missing the big snow.

This morning Beth and I did a race up at North Park. There some uncertainty on Saturday as to whether or not we'd have it today, but the Allegheny County Parks Department did a good job of getting the roads ready. It was a smaller race, but a good one to start the year with. The course was a 5 mile loop called the "lodge loop" on the upper edge of North Park. It consisted of the first two miles being rolling and then a sizeable down hill. Then rolling again before a HUGE uphill for the last 0.7 miles of the race (we know it's 0.7 because we clocked it on our odometer up to the start of the race).

So, I'm definitely not in cross country shape, but I have been running with the indoor track guys and swimming 1 or 2 times a week. But, I didn't know what to expect. I figured go out in 6:15-ish pace and see what happens from there (especially with that last hill!).

So, here are my splits. Check out that split for the final mile due to the huge hill! (Beth had similar issues with the hill at the end, too)

Mile 1 - 6:24 (a little icy in spots and you had to weave back and forth on the road to find a clear "groove")
Mile 2 - 6:06 (more down than up and less icy)
Mile 3 - 6:12 (very happy with this one as I made up ground on people; clear main road for this mile)
Mile 4 - 6:40 (a little hill to slow me down plus I wanted to make sure I had enough left for the BIG hill).
Mile 5 - 7:14 (big hill...that's all I need to say about that)

So, I ended up 32:36 and 6:31 pace (6:20 pace before that last hill) for 7th place overall (it WAS a small race--about 200 people) and 1st in the 30-39 age group (39!!! I'm getting OLD!!). Beth was right behind me was was the second overall female. She really liked the race shirt with the colorful running snowflakes. Heather from where I teach also came and she did a good job as she's laying a great foundation for her first marathon this May in Pittsburgh.

With us having the race this morning, we were obviously not at church. But to make up when we're away on a Sunday for races (just for a week, not a permanent thing!), we like to listen to a message from the Hillsong Church in Australia via podcasts. It's neat to hear the perspective and message from someone in a different country (and also Brian Houston's accent).

The message that we downloaded was about being "predictably unpredictable." His main point was that we shouldn't get too comfortable in our lives, but rather have the flexibility to allow God to work through us and in our lives. That's something I definitely need to work on as I like things to be organized and always have things work out how I expect them to.

Alright, time to watch the second half of the Steelers' game and then do some grading I've been putting off all weekend.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My College Football Playoff Proposal


As I mentioned previously, it's tough to get excited for bowl games when they are essentially exhibitions. It's fun to see how the different conferences match up, but you never know how teams are going to play after a several week layoff.

Teams that are hurt by the current format are ones like USC and Utah. USC looked like a finely tuned engine as Sanchez and company carved up PSU's defense (unfortunately). What does USC take away from it other than winning the Rose Bowl. Pete Carroll was asked after the game if he'd want to take on the Florida-Oklahoma winner. You bet he would. Then, you have Utah. They beat every team they played including 3 in the BCS top 15. They get a pat on the back for winning the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, but don't you think they would like to make a name for a non-BCS conference team?

There are playoffs in all the other divisions of college football and I wish they could figure out a way to make it work for Division 1-A.

So, after working out several rough drafts on scratch paper over the weekend, I'd like to outline my proposal for a Division 1-A playoff. I'll show a picture of what I think the bracket would look like for this year's rankings and then explain some of the meaning behind it.

Weekend of Nov 22 - Last weekend of regular season for BCS Conferences; Change to also include conference championships for non-BCS conferences (or at least finish season to determine conference champion)
Weekend of Nov 29 – currently the final weekend of most regular seasons; change to no regular season games but a play-in round for five non-BCS conference champions (plus 3 at large BCS teams not in their respective conference championship). The top four non-BCS conference champions (determined by BCS or computer rankings) would have home games hosting the lowest rated non-BCS conference champion and the three at-large teamsWeekend of Dec 6 – currently the Conference Championship Weekend; Now championship games for BCS Conferences (Have to decide what to do with Big 10, Pac-10; institute a Big East vs best at large non-conference champion because the Big East has the smallest amount of teams…and they aren’t that strong of a conference) ; Also, for the final two spots the round of four of the play-in. This will determine the 8 teams to consist of a BCS playoff of 8 teams.
Weekend of Dec 13 – Round of 8. Teams are seeded and top 4 teams get a home playoff game. 1 vs 8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5. (Currently no Division 1-A games this weekend, but it’s only 8 teams)
Nothing around Christmas for the playoff, but other minor bowl games can still occur for teams not in the playoff.Jan 1 – Round of 4 – Use two BCS Bowls to host semi-finals on a rotating basis plus other smaller bowls continue to have Jan 1 bowl games.
Jan 8 – Championship at BCS bowl (again on a rotating basis)—same date as it is this year.

Some thoughts:

*This wouldn't be like a college basketball tournament where you could set up a pool with a bracket. Rather, it would be like the NFL playoffs where, depending on who wins in the Wild Card Round, teams would go to various sites.

*I think this method would also be exciting in that there would be home playoff games for teams on the weekend of December 13...also causing some of the southern teams to possibly come north for a game in December.

*Teams like Texas, Texas Tech, Georgia, and LSU would still have an opportunity to make it to a championship game even though they didn't get into their conference championship, however....

*They have to do it on the road at a non-BCS conference champion. Could you imagine the excitement of a home playoff game for someone like Utah or Boise State (on the blue smurf turf) against a team from the Big 12 or SEC?

*I guess we'd have to figure out what to do with independents if Notre Dame ever gets good again or if Navy and their triple option would have an amazing year. There is the #1 BCS at-large spot available to play against the Big East, I guess.

*The thing I like best is that this guarantees EVERY team in Division 1-A at the beginning of August a clear-cut opportunity to be a national champion. Utah or any non-BCS conference team (like Hawaii, BYU, or Boise State) doesn't really have a legitimate shot as it currently stands.

So, that's my thoughts. I'd be glad to hear comments and suggestions. Realistically, anything like this would be a good five to twenty years away because of TV contracts, Bowl Officials, and college presidents. But, at least I can dream.....

Thursday, January 1, 2009


This Rose Bowl sure isn't going too well. At least the PSU-USC game isn't like the Pitt-Oregon State 3-0 snoozer. That was just awful to watch. Did Pitt even have 100 yards of total offense? Oh well--all these bowl games are essentially scrimmages other than the Florida-Oklahoma game.

I think I've devised a scenario for a playoff that could make sense. You take all of the conference champions and a few at large teams, have the regular season done by Thanksgiving, and poof there's a playoff.

It was a fun New Years eve of dinner at Atria's and Pictionary with Chad & Jen. Good times.