Saturday, June 20, 2009

Now THIS was a Summer Saturday

It started with a 4:30 wake-up to get rolling and out the door for Erie by 5:20. The rain had started already (along with Thunder and Lightning) and I could only think that if we drive the WHOLE WAY up to Erie (2.5 hrs) and this swim race gets cancelled, I'm going to be bummed.

So, we progress up Interstate 79 northbound to Erie with wipers on high half the way and my concerns grow. We get up to the Presque Isle Park and take the shuttle to the check-in. Oh great--there goes some more lightning over the harbor. Bummer! But, the rain (at least the lightning) let up and the swim across the bay got started with only about a 15 minute delay. I was soaked, but glad that Beth was able to get in her open water swim.

We get back to the car and change into running clothes and do a 10 mile run. The whole run on Presque Isle was so pretty and it just sprinkled the whole time--no torrential downpours as we had all morning.

We get back to the car, change, and get on the road--IT'S HOSS'S TIME!!!! For those of you who don't know, Hoss's is a western PA chain that offers steak/burger products with this awesome salad/bread/dessert bar. I may have had my best performance EVER today. I went out at an aggressive pace, but (to Beth's surprise) I maintained the pace throughout the entire meal. No letup today. It must be the increased training I've done this week.

Anyway, here's the carnage (rivaling the All-you-can-eat seats performance from last summer):

Trip 1: Salad, two pieces of garlic bread, and 1 slice of cinnamon bread, small slice of pizza (something I haven't seen at a Hoss's before)
Trip 2: Taco, mini-burger, mac & cheese, bowl of fruit (cantaloupe, apple slices, jello, ...)
Main entree: Sliced steak sandwich & fries (when the waitress delivered the entree she asked if I was going to need a box. I just laughed)
Trip 3: Dessert concoction consisting of brownie, ice cream, peanut butter sauce, hot fudge, and whipped cream
Trip 4: For good measure, an apple crisp thing and an oatmeal raisin cookie

I never really hit the wall. I was kind of surprised. In fact, I still feel decent.

Then, back on the road. I was getting a little sleepy and we were running a little low on gas, so we stopped in Grove City where they have an outlet mall. I tell Beth, "Let's just go into the Nike Outlet Store to get out and stretch our legs and wake me up."

Next thing you know, we went not only to Nike, but to Reebok, Gap, Aeropostale, Old Navy, Adidas, American Eagle, Haggar, and Nike again. I ended up getting new jeans (my old ones had holes in undesirable places), dress khaki pants (they're wearing out from school), and khaki shorts (what I wear all summer). Beth ended up with this purple hoody from Nike and shorts from Old Navy. Total bill for all that--$79. That's right, we're thrifty.

Now we're home and finally having a chance to get all of the crust and filth off of us from this morning (hoping that changing clothes and putting on deodorant in Erie was good enough for Hoss's and the outlets!!!)

I was telling Beth that this is about as relaxing of a weekend day as I've had in a while now that the stress of grading and planning for school is off the shoulders for a few months. Sure, I've got the summer elementary program for the next four weeks, but it's only 3 hours a day and it's only 6-12 kids and there's no intense lesson planning or grading. I love it!!!

Big ride planned for tomorrow. Look out bike computer!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In-between jobs

Thanks to all who pass along birthday wishes on Facebook & email. It's been another fun year.

For my birthday I slept in until 8am since I'm in my week between the end of school and the summer elementary camp. Might as well take advantage of it while I can.

Speaking of birthdays, Beth and I are so sneaky (a.k.a. cheap) when it comes to finding birthday deals. If you sign up your email for different places, you can get free stuff. Here's our list of items that we took advantage this week (and most that Beth used last month):

Monday - Qdoba (free burrito) and Cold Stone Creamery (free 'like it' with one topping)
Wednesday - Dad came up and took us out to dinner (mom was working in NJ)
Today - Red Robin - free burger and small sundae
Saturday - Hoss's - $5 off entree

With being done with school, my training has picked up this week. Tuesday we did this crazy running tempo run. Something like 15 min warm-up and then 9 min hard, 4 min hard, 3x2 min hard, 7 min hard, 3x2 min hard. Whew!!!! The killer was the hills that we ended up going up for the 7 min hard part. I've also done swimming and biking.

With the biking, Beth had an extra bike computer that I put on my bike and used for the first time this week. Wow, the possibilities of analyzing the data that I get--especially if I start using a heart rate monitor. As I was on the bike, I kept on looking down at my cadence and average speed and current speed. It's a good thing I was back on country roads without cars because I was weaving back and forth as I kept looking at the bike computer.

That's about it from here. Hope the storms in Pittsburgh yesterday didn't affect people too much.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One good workout deserves another

Today, Beth and I did 12.5 miles on the trail to start our day. I was beat after that!

In other news, the Pirates won again today and are only 3 games under .500 and only 4 games out of first place (albeit at the same time tied for 5th place). We'll see what happens when they go on the road this week.

This week is should be a nice week. We've got one more official day of school tomorrow for a clerical day. It's a day where I finalize grades and clean up my room of all the piles of papers strewn about over the past 9 months. I need to go back in to school on Friday to get my rosters for the summer elementary program I do over the next four weeks. Other than that, some relaxing and getting some tasks done around the house because the summer elementary program rolls into cross country training which rolls into the start of school in August!

Finally, great job to everybody who did the Eagleman 70.3 tri down in Maryland today. Chad & Jen, Jeremy & Jocelyn, Jen H, Lindsay, and a bunch of others. Jeremy and Lindsay earned Kona slots and Jen H won her age group. Awesome job!!!

Have a good week all!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Get me some butter....

...because I'm TOAST!!

I went with Beth today on her workouts. Since I got my bike back in April, I've gained an even better appreciation for her training. Ouch!!!

It started this morning with a 3 hour ride with Beth (and Ben came up, too). This is after she already did 30 miles as a warm up. Then, a 30 minute run right off the bike. Then, a swim workout ladder similar to the one from a couple of weekends ago. After all of that work, we went to Subway for a $5 footlong. I'm beat and again even further respect all of her training she does day in and day out.

In other news, the Pens won the Stanley Cup!!! My playoff beard was getting pretty itchy. I forgot that the playoffs took two months to complete. I even trimmed the beard twice along the way. This picture was from Thursday.

The Pirates have done some interesting things in the past few weeks. I've already established my supportive opinion on the McLouth trade. However, the new management team may have made the first move I may disagree with regarding their draft strategy. Instead of going for a college arm like Aaron Crow (the guy I wanted) or Alex White, they went with a college catcher who was 'signable' with the strategy of spending less on the first round than last year, but spending the same amount as last year on the draft (about $9 million) over many picks with the focus on high schoolers who have scholarships to big time college baseball programs. If it works and they sign a lot of these guys, I'll agree with their strategy. However, I believe that they may only end up signing a few guys and this may backfire (creating more public backlash). I'll get back to you on August 15th.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Beth's having a great time in Boulder this weekend. In fact, she suggested on her facebook status that she would like Roxy and I to pack up and meet her in Boulder to move in. However, I have an alternate suggestion of moving--Altoona, PA. Here is home to the Altoona Curve and the main focus of my baseball binge weekend.

After dropping off Beth at the airport, I went over to school and got a 30 minute run in before school. After school, I came home and fed Roxy the Dog and took her for a walk. It was around 4:30 or so when I was done with that and tried to figure out what to do. I checked the radar for Altoona and it said 10% chance of rain and in the upper 50's.

I figure no problem just throw a jacket and sweatshirt in the car and I should be good. As I'm going up into the mountains by Ebensburg, I notice that it's becoming somewhat foggy and begins misting. Um, yeah--that lasted the rest of the night. Oh well, I caught the game from underneath the lower level deck. There's picnic tables there, so I even had a place to sit. I was such the baseball geek, though, and took my walkman and listened to the broadcast as I was watching the game.

Action from the first inning on Friday night. Notice all the umbrellas. (I went with long-sleeve T, hoody sweatshirt, and rain jacket and was just about right--not exactly baseball weather)

My favorite aspect of the ballpark, the roller coaster beyond the right field fence. It's part of Lakemont Park, a small amusement park that's been around forever. You can also see the fine mist in the lights.

Friday night was also Diesel Dawg (that's right, it's spelled DAWG) bank giveaway night. This will make a nice gift for somebody during my summer elementary enrichment program.

As far as the game goes Friday, Kyle Bloom pitched well (no runs in 5 innings), but the bullpen gave up 8 or 9 runs and they lost something like 12-5 (I left after the 8th inning since it was already 10 and I had a two hour drive home and I got up at 3am for us to head out to the airport.

Saturday, I get up and walk the pooch and do another 30 minute run, then off to Greensburg for the rest of the weekend to hang out with my dad (mom was at a PA Baptist women's conference at Bucknell). I helped out with some tree branch clearing and painting of support posts during the day and then my dad and I went up to Altoona (again!) for a DOUBLE HEADER!!!! I know, it's a lot of baseball, but I enjoyed it.

Here's some shots from Day 2:

You can see it was a lot brighter for Saturday's games. I only needed shorts and a t-shirt. This first photo is the view that I USUALLY have for when I go to the Curve games. General Admission bleachers just behind first base. You can usually be in row 1 or two and it's only $5. One of the best deals in minor league baseball.

The gentleman in the foreground with the tan Indiana Jones hat and red shirt has been in this exact location EVERY time I've gone up to a game (kind of like "Chalk" at the PIAA track meet for those who know him). He's got the same thing every game--headphones, a cushion, a score card, a Curve and Pirates official media guide, a ruler that he uses to draw lines on this sheet that isn't even a score card (something in addition to a scorecard) and USUALLY Altoona Curve socks. But, I was disappointed on Saturday to see that he only had on white socks. I guess the Curve socks were in the the wash after the rainy Friday night. By the way, this could conceivably be me in about 40 years. Stay tuned.....

This last shot is the first pitch of game 2 of Saturday's double header. We moved out to the outfield bleachers to get a different view and to be closer to center fielder Gorkys Hernandez (picked up in the McLouth deal earlier in the week).

Okay, so here's some views and opinions about the Pirates in general and Altoona specifically after seeing three games and 20+ innings of the Altoona Curve (skip below to read about the wrap up of my weekend):

*Brad Lincoln is a stud. The former 1st round pick from 2006 is all the way back from Tommy John surgery. 7IP, 3 H, 0ER, 8K, 1BB, very efficient with his pitches and still hitting 95 in the 7th inning. Send him up to AAA and get him in the Pirates' starting rotation for the start of the 2010 season at the latest.

*Gorkys Hernandez, OF picked up in the McLouth deal, looks like he could be decent. His defensive abilities are as advertised. He ran down a couple of balls in the gaps, plays a shallow center field (like Andruw Jones did) and still almost got to two shots that were driven to the warning track. He's got an arm as he fired a laser to home on a ground ball to the OF (even with the wet conditions) just up the 3B line or else he would have got the guy at the plate. However, his hitting left a lot to be desired. In the 8 AB's I saw, only one ball left the infield and it was a lazy fly ball the OF had to come in on. Granted, he collected two infield singles and made every ground ball out interesting with his speed, but he needs to do better there. I'm hoping that it was mostly due to the fact that he was just transfered to a new team and he'll get his hitting rhythm back.

*Brian Friday is the Pirates' shortstop for 2011 at the latest. He can hit line drives, and he can field. I saw him make two 'web gems' and has a pretty strong arm. I'm sold.

*The Altoona bullpen stinks. They gave up 12 runs on Friday, a solo HR on Saturday, and a handful of runs today I heard on the radio.

*As far as the Akron Aeros, catching prospect Carlos Santana (#26 in Baseball America) is the real deal. Lots of hard hit balls including the game-winning home run on Saturday. Beau Mills was an all or nothing guy--big home run Friday night, but also lots of strikeout this weekend. Nick Weglarz was so-so, but a young guy in AA.

Back to non-baseball blog:

Okay, that's all for now. Went to church back home today and sat with grandma. That's always a good time. We went out to Old Country Buffet for lunch--that place should be outlawed due to chance of causing heart disease and obesity. One more week of school. Picking up Beth after school tomorrow. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pirates Trade McLouth, I Feel ______ About It

Before getting to the McLouth trade, here's an update on my week:

Monday - took the day off after the workouts on the weekend
Tuesday - 5.5 mile run before school down in Leboland
Wednesday - Rough track workout with Beth (4x400 @ 88 sec; 2x800 @ 3min; 4x400 @ 85 sec with the last one at 79!!!). I was going to swim in the evening, but there was lightning right when we got to the YMCA, so I just lifted with Beth
Thursday - I was going to run in the AM, but was a little sleepy and wanted to get an extra hour of sleep before my long day on Friday. I was going to run when I got home before dinner, but it took me 2 hours to get home as I got caught in the Pirates afternoon game/rush hour traffic coming home.

Another funny thing happened on Tuesday night. I was outside mowing the grass and doing yard stuff and then came in and we were watching the Penguin game in bed before going to sleep. We both fell asleep before the 3rd period started. Nothing funny about that, but here's the crazy thing. I didn't get around to taking out my contacts, so I fell asleep with them in. The next thing I remember is my alarm going off Wednesday morning. Oops!!! I was reaching for my glasses on the night stand and couldn't find them (not knowing I didn't take out my contacts). So, I go to my bag and get my other glasses. When I put them on I realize that it's blurry. When I take them off, it's clear. Oops!!! That's a first for me. I must have been tired to not wake up the entire night.

Beth's leaving for Colorado in the morning for a Mark Allen Triathlon Camp. We're getting up early and I'm dropping her off before school. I'll probably end up in Altoona this weekend to check out a Curve game. Speaking of baseball....

Wednesday night, my dad calls me and tells me he sees on the Pirates website that Nate McLouth was traded. I was surprised to hear that since he wasn't really being shopped. Hmmm. After a day of reflection, here's my opinion on it. I feel........

Perplexed - at the timing of it. Most trades in baseball don't take place until late June through mid-July

Irate - at the idea of trading away another all-star outfielder, but....

Reflective - at the idea of trying to build a 'system' that will sustain itself with the three new additions

Admiration - for Neal Huntingdon to have the guts to trade away the Pirates' most popular player for guys who won't help the team much in 2009

Trepidation - for the unknown quantities of getting younger guys. Hernandez the OF hasn't hit a HR this year. Morton has a 6.00+ ERA in the majors with the Braves last year and Locke hasn't been very effective statistically this year.

Excited - at seeing Andrew McCutchen up with the Pirates now. He sure had a great debut today! Let's see if he can keep it up.

Supportive - for the 'system' and the clear plan that the Pirates are now following. Yeah, it may not be popular with casual fans, but the Pirates are trying to be like the Twins, A's, Indians, and Rays. Trade players at their peak value to get a good return on them. Nady was having a career year when we traded him (he's been stinky and injured this year). Bay is peaking and on his way down over the next year or so.

McLouth had a GREAT April and May last year. Other than than, he's been pretty average. Remember, going in to 2008, we weren't even sure if he was a full time starter. Now, we get 3 solid minor leaguers including two of the Braves' top 10? Not bad. Statistically, he's a below average defender (limited range and below average arm) and average hitter (only hitting .255 right now). McCutchen's upgrading the defense and we've got more on the way. Lots of younger guys in the system being added, unlike my observations this time last year when I went to Altoona.

We'll see what the future has in store. It's going to take patience (I know, they haven't had a winning season since that fateful day of Sid Bream in 1992), but they are building a system that will support itself. Check out what the Pirates do in the draft and the Latin American signings over the next few months. Until then, GO P-I-R-A-T-E-S!!!!