Monday, August 31, 2009

And So It Begins....

The school year is upon us. I like the Staples or Office Depot/Max where the dad is dancing through the aisles to the tune of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" as the kids are sulking behind him. It always cracks me up.

So, my summer days of getting up, going to 8am cross country practice and being home before lunch are now over. They're replaced with me leaving by 6:15 (if not swimming--then it's 5:15) and home by 6:15-6:30 after XC practice. Not that I mind--I love what I do and having the ability to teach and to coach. It's just an adjustment phase.

After one week, things are going well. I enjoy my classes and always look forward to getting to know the new students. The XC teams are rolling and we're getting ready for our September Invitationals.

Marathon training's going well. I can't believe I'm 6 weeks into already. I also can't believe it's still however many weeks until mid-November for the marathon. Not that it matters--one week at a time. My training consists of jumping in with the XC boys during the week and getting a long run on the weekend. I do run in to some issues like today where I'm coming off an 18-miler on Sunday (and felt GREAT!) and this afternoon the team was doing 3 miles on the road then 3x1600 on the track (6:00, 5:40, 5:20). I did the first 1600, but feared that my hammy may detach if I tried to run faster than 6:00 pace after running so far yesterday. So, I put on my coaching hat for the other two.
Other notes in the past TWO WEEKS of ignoring this darn blog:

*The Pirates lost a whole bunch in a row, followed by winning 7 of 9, followed now by losing 5 in a row. They need a fresh start in February. Looking forward to the September call-ups--especially Jeff Clement. Beth and I are going on Saturday (thanks Mom B for the gift card!!). I'm sure there will be nachos involved

*Penn State starts this weekend. Beth asked me who they played. I hesitated and then shrugged my shoulders. I need to shift gears and get in to football season. A little Zombie Nation Penn State style on YouTube usually does the trick.

*Roxy has taken to hole-digging under our porch. The problem is that the porch's perimeter is lined with a lattice fence. So, el poocho decides to pull away the lattice fencing from the porch and dig up some mice or moles or something. For now, she's on the proverbial 'short leash' in the backyard. No unsupervised times out in the yard.

*She also has identified a skunk that likes to roam up and down our street at night. On several occasions in the area of 1am-4am, she'll start whimpering and going to the windows and nudging me to let me know it's out there. The first night I had trouble figuring out what it was. But, now I know what it is and tell the dog to go back to sleep and there's nothing we can do about it. Nice little intro preview into when we have a baby in the house I suppose.

*Finally, we had a great trip to Alabama. So many great things there:

-Met more people that I previously just knew names of through Beth like Cathy & Kerry Y, Lindsey J, the Minnesota crew (big Jasmine Oenick fans), Chris W, and got to see others again like Kari M (from the evil empire USC--local Pittsburgh joke), Eric L, and Aimee K.

-The University of Alabama campus was beautiful. All the buildings looked so new and it was such a clean campus. Their sports facilities were top-notch and the baseball and softball fields looked like professional stadiums (although the football stadium was a good 20,000+ less than PSU). The people were great, too. I hope we get a chance to go back there.

-We learned the significance of the Elephant mascot. It goes back to the 1930's when a newspaper writer characterized the 'Bama 2nd and 3rd stringers who were dominating another team as a pack of thundering elephants. I guess it stuck, kind of like the Hokies of Virginia Tech.

-One rough part of the weekend was that there were some big thunderstorms Friday afternoon/evening. In fact, it was so much rain the dams/levees(?) were opened downstream, actually causing the water to flow backwards and cause the poor triathletes to swim against the current for 2/3 of the race. I feel bad for the athletes (Beth's time in this Olympic Distance swim was SLOWER than her half IM from August!!!), however it was nearly comical for us spectators on the shore. See diagram below. The straight yellow arrow depicts the path the swimmers SHOULD go. The white curvy boundaries outline where most of the people went. Beth was better than most, but was still sucked up in the current some.

-Yet again, great travel thanks to Southwest Airlines. How do they charge $50 for Beth's bike case and other airlines charge $150? Heck, our plane tickets don't cost that much on Southwest. Our trip from Birmingham to Baltimore was accompanied by Lindsey making the time fly by. Two more trips this year to go for Beth and I--California in late September and Tampa in November. It's fun to travel (especially when you're not the one racing!!!)

Time for bed and hopefully not another two weeks before the next post (and not another Roxy skunk-spotting episode).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pitching Lines; Looking for ride from Birmingham on Thursday

I present to you some pitching lines from the last 24 hours:

Linescore A - 1 IP, 7 H, 10 R, 1 K, 3 BB
Linescore B - 2 1/3 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 3 K, 2 BB
Linescore C - 7 1/3 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 K, 1 BB
Linescore D - 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 8 K, 3 BB
Linescore E - 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 K, 4 BB

The first four are from the Pirates-Cubs games yesterday and today. Linescore A was the terribly ineffective Charlie Morton (from the Braves in the McLouth deal) who was then replaced by the equally ineffective Linescore B of reliever Chris Bootcheck en route to a 17-2 loss to Jen Harrison's Cubbies yesterday afternoon.

Linescore C was today's hard luck looser (again) Zach Duke with no run support. He was beaten by linescore D, Tom Gorzelanny (traded w/ Grabow at the deadline), and I can't believe he had 8 strikeouts.

The Pirates at the major league level are in some kind of funk right now. Ouch. The minors are doing great, though. Jeff Clement (from Seattle in the Wilson/Snell deal) has 7 HR's in 14 games with an OPS of 1.172 with Indianapolis. 20-year-old Jose Tabata is hitting .333 in his first ten games since getting promoted to AAA. Pedro Alvarez is on fire in AA Altoona, hitting .500 over his last ten games with 23 HR's on the year between Lynchburg and Altoona. Heck, even beleaguered first round pick Danny Moskos chipped in with 8 IP, 2 R, 6K, and has an ERA under 4.00 (although Matt Weiters is hitting .270 in the majors with the Orioles, Dave Littlefield)

Finally, linescore E was actually mine from last night's playoff game. I'll take it after a year layoff. I went in fearing it was going to be more like A or B, except with 10 or so walks. I was able to go 3-up, 3-down in the top of the first and we got 5 gift runs on only 1 hit in the bottom of the first. So, at that point, just had to throw strikes. And, except for 3 walks leading to 3 runs in the 2nd, we didn't give up any other runs and won 11-3. Who knew?

Today, the arm has progressively gotten stiffer and getting tougher to lift above my head, but it's decent. We went swimming this morning and then did a 1:15 bike. Beth's on her taper and she was FLYING with her fresh legs. I was keeping my cadence up over 100 for most of the day just trying to hold on.

The rest of the day involves Pizza, cleaning, and a movie. Tomorrow, I only have a 13 mile run (lighter week) before upping the mileage next week.

Next weekend, we'll be in Alabama for Beth's race in Tuscaloosa for the USAT Age Group National Championships. We're doing our normal deal of me dropping off Beth before school Thursday (in-service starts for us this week; kiddies the following Monday) and then I fly down after school.

Which, by the way, I was looking to see if I could save Beth a one hour (each way) drive next Thursday by getting a ride from the Birmingham airport up to Tuscaloosa. My flight gets in around 8:30pm. Anyone heading down for USAT nationals or know of anyone, let me know. It would be much appreciated.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Potential Disaster Delayed (Not Averted) Until Friday

Softball game rained out tonight (lots of orange and red on the radar that passed over Greensburg)......but it's rescheduled for Friday......AND the other three pitchers are STILL not available. So, I guess I may (pending rain) get my chance for the 2009 pitching debut Friday (for better or worse).

Today, Beth came down and talked to the XC kids about nutrition. It's fun watching her in action and giving all the neat and practical ideas. I remember last year that all the girls had little snack packs with them the next day at practice to take advantage of the '30 minute window' after practice for recovery. Of course the kid's favorite question is, "How can you tell if you're dehydrated?" Hee. Hee. (And, yes, that is a poster of a TI-84 in my classroom on the right by the flag. I am a math teacher after all)

Another great side benefit to Beth coming down to talk to the teams is that it was an excuse to meet up with my cousin for lunch and dessert. Lunch was at Boston Market (nothing noteworthy there), but dessert was at this bakery called 'The Pie Place' and all I have to say is WOW!

The apple tart (mine in the front-center) was AWESOME!!! It was almost as good as my Nana's apple dumplings. My cousin got a black raspberry tart and Beth got this cupcake with lots of frosting and a peanut butter cup on top.

(Did I mention that Beth came down to give a Nutrition Lecture?)

Next softball update Friday...only 20% chance of rain so far.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Oh yeah, my blog has been neglected

A week and a half later and I'm back. It's funny--I'll begin to compose blogs in my head when I'm out and about, but never get around to writing them. Oh well.

Last weekend, we were out in Meeeeeee-shigan for Beth's race (as the race director described it): The Whirlpool Steelhead Ironman 70.3 Triathlon Presented by Pizza Hut. The trip out Thursday was pretty uneventful. We made it out in about 6.5 hours. Highlights of the trip out included some weird characters in the Boston Market outside of Cleveland, investigating the rank of various country's and state's area and population (who knew Canada was the #2 in the world in area?) and a lively debate on the pronunciation of the "Eau" in 'Eau Claire.' I said it as a long 'o' while Beth was insisting it was more like 'ew' or 'you.' Thanks to the help Facebook's mobile application on our phones and her friends on facebook, we find out I was right within minutes!

We did the standard weekend: drive the course, pre-race swim/bike/run/packet pick-up, and then early rise on race morning. With my marathon training started, my plan was to sneak in my 17 mile long run while Beth did the bike portion of the race. It worked out pretty well, but I sure was tuckered out as I cheered her on during the run. Part of the run is up on the Whirlpool campus (about 3 mi from the finish), so I had to move on back to the finish area after she started her 2nd loop on the run. As I'm running down the back road, I see this oasis of a store called something to the effect of Bob's wine & spirits & groceries. I was just hoping they had something cold as I had exhausted all of my liquids already. Thank goodness they did and I finished off the 32 oz of powerade between there and the finish line (and felt that in my stomach the rest of the afternoon but well worth it!!).

The trip home was a little rougher. We went to go swim in the lake on Sunday, but it was very choppy (in fact, I saw a rip tide warning on the weather channel when we got back to the room). Then, we start our travel towards South Bend, IN and figure we'll get lunch there. College town--lots of eateries. Well, somehow we missed all of them except for some local places that looked shady. So, back on the road and of course (with there being nothing in Eastern Indiana) don't eat for another two hours. Oops. Then, we almost run out of gas (my bad on estimating) as we crossed the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. But, all was good after dinner in Cranberry (Boston Market, DQ, and Krispy Kreme).

This week's been more running for my marathon training and running with the XC team. My big highlight was a 3x1600 day where I went 6:26, 6:10, and 5:50. We start doubles Monday. This should be interesting to see how this fits with my training. Also, I did a swim and long bike with Beth today, so my 18-miler tomorrow should be interesting.

The men's group at our church is singing a 4-part gospel endeavor during the offering tomorrow morning. I'm hoping my legs don't give out on stage after all this training. :)

The other potential disaster this week for me may come in the form of a softball game on Tuesday. I know that I may be pulling a Brett Favre of sorts after declaring my retirement last August, but there's more to the situation than meets the eye. The softball league is down to three teams, so they merged with the Scottdale league to play regular season games. But, our playoffs is just the three teams from Greensburg. Well, FBC made it to the best of three finals. For Tuesday, their #1 pitcher has been in New York for the past two weeks, the #2 pitcher is going to be in Missouri, the #3 pitcher has an injured shoulder, and the #4 pitcher is........I guess me since this is a small church league in western PA.

So, my dad sought permission from the other team to have me come in and pitch on Tuesday in an attempt to be somewhat respectable. The other team probably laughed and said, 'Sure. He hasn't pitched all year. We'd love to do some raking (lots of hitting for non-baseball folks) off of his rusty pitching.'

I don't know what to think. Part of me is excited to give it a try since I really enjoy softball and I've missed it since I haven't played since last August. Another part of me sees this as turning out like John Smoltz with the Red Sox this year (terribly ineffective). Yet another thought is how well my teacher vs. intramural basketball team went back in February (severely twisted ankle). So, maybe it would be best if there is rain on Tuesday. All I know is that my arm will be fresh (maybe not the legs after this weekend) and we'll see what happens. I'll be sure to update on the details and take any pictures of any injured limbs like I did back in February.

The Pirates......ugh. Not going well now at the major league level. But, lots of good parts for the future. 26-year-old Kevin Hart (from the Cubs in the Grabow/Gorzo trade) looked good last night for the Buccos hitting 95 mph. 21-year-old Jose Tabata (from the Yankees in the Nady/Marte trade last year) got promoted to AAA and is raking (.407 AB and 1.022 OPS) in his first two weeks there. 20-year-old Tim Alderson (from the Giants in the Freddy Sanchez trade) pitched six innings of no-hit ball in Altoona last night. 2011 here we come!!!!

The last note on the Pirates is that their much-criticized draft strategy looks like it's working out. First round pick catcher Tony Sanchez is said to have, according to scouts, major-league ready defense right now and is being compared to Yadier Molina. Oh by the way, his bat is playing, too, as he's hitting .321 with a .920 OPS albeit at low A. And, the Pirates were able to sign three young high school arms (and hopefully a fourth) in later rounds, pulling them away from their big-time college commitments. Maybe one of these guys can be the Pirates much-needed anchor of the rotation (like a Tim Lincecum) to complement some of their soft-tossing lefties.