Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back home...

The trip to California was a success as Beth did great at the BOUS competition. She finished 4th and you can read all about it in her race report on her blog.

To pick up where I left off on the last blog entry, my flight was delayed in Pittsburgh. It turns out that there was a mechanical problem and they had to change planes. So, the time got pushed back from 5:00 to 5:30 to 5:50 (flight crew also got caught up in the rolling closures on the parkway west) and then we finally were all loaded on the plane around 6:10. We're all seated and ready to back out when I see out the window the little guy with the earmuffs and flashlights put up a big 'x' with his flashlights. Bummer--that can't be good. The pilot comes on and says that President Obama is taking off and all planes are grounded for the next 5 minutes......which turned in to 20 minutes.
So, I get some grading and reading done on the plane and I land in Dallas with about 25 minutes to spare. Unfortunately it was about 9:05 pm local time and all the eateries were closed! Bummer. No hot food. I had to settle for some of the granola bars and power bars I packed. At least the Auntie Anne's pretzel stand still had a few pretzels!

Back in the air a half hour later an the plane had the movie 'The Proposal' with Sandra Bullock. It was pretty funny and made the time go by pretty quick. Next thing you know, Beth and her mom picked me up at the airport and we got back to the hotel and in bed by about midnight (3:00 am eastern) making for a 23-hour day.

We slept in until 7am, had an AWESOME breakfast at the hotel and did the pre-race routine of Beth bike/run/swim. My job during that was to jog the run course and report back since it was mostly on trails and we couldn't drive it. So, I jog up the 2-ish miles from T1 to T2 and start running the course and I'm loving it--a gradual downhill for the first two miles (split sub-7:00's without pushing it). Around 2.5 miles in, the directions (which I had on a map in my pocket and written the highlights of on my hand) said to cut through this park and go up a hill. So, I cut through the park and then find a gate that locked with a padlock and chains. I didn't really know what was on the other side of it, so I didn't want to hop the fence. I figured I'd go around it, but pretty much backtracked 2 of the 2.5 miles and decided at that point to just head straight to the finish so Beth and her mom didn't think I got lost or eaten by a coyote. (We ended up being able to drive a lot of it before dinner anyway, so no big deal).

After the BOUS meeting and dinner at Olive Garden (3 rounds of the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl which I paid for Sunday morning before the race). We went back, watched the PSU-Iowa game (ugh!!) and retired before the 4am wakeup call Sunday morning. I've commented a few times how wakeup calls in time zones west of PA seem to be so much easier, but they really are. And, from what I hear, the converse is equally difficult. I haven't seen data this year, but last year in the NFL teams from the west had some terrible record when they had to play a 1pm game in the Eastern Time Zone. Speaking of terrible records, I read a stat that before today the number of Pirates road wins since the All-Star break: three. Ugh! Thank goodness Jen Harrison's Cubbies were nice enough to let them win this afternoon.

Beth swam (really fast) and left on her bike 8th. I knew I had an hour to kill until she got to T2, so I jogged up there and then continued just past T2 to the Saddleback Church campus. And it truly is a CAMPUS--it took me a good 8 or so minutes to jog the perimeter.
It was a little before 8am and none of the THREE services (traditional, praise, and 'overdrive') started until 9:00am. However, in two of the 'tents' I could hear them warming up and just listened from the outside and even poked my head in for about 5 minutes. It was great music with electric guitars, drums, and a great message. I could have stayed there all morning. However, all the time they were probably thinking, "Who's this weirdo in bright yellow and headphones hanging out in the back of the room while we're warming up?" Oh well.
Said weirdo with bright yellow shirt (a must for a true spectathlete so the triathlete can pick you out)

Senior Pastor Rick Warren's Parking Spot at Saddle Back. If the name sounds familiar, he's the author of "The Purpose Driven Life" and several follow-up books. I heard somewhere that it's been so successful that he and his wife now do 'reverse tithing' which means that they give to the church or ministries 90% of their money and keep the 10%. That's cool! One other thing was that they had a road leading into the church called 'Purpose Drive.' I find humor in wording like that!

So (back to the race) I leave the campus and head back over to T2 and see PA's male representative, Brian Duffy, come out first. I figured this was some good motivation to pass along to Beth since there was a state team title. For the women, out comes the first female who I didn't know (turned out to be a neat person who's a Christian named Bethany from Oklahoma), then Cindi B, Alice H, and Beth (All of which I then posted to Facebook before heading to my next cheering point to keep Marit and others updated)

This is Beth climbing a hill around 4.5 miles in to the run. Kimberly from Washington (a crazy-fast runner) had passed Cindi and Beth, but Beth had passed Alice so she was still 4th. Beth and Brian ended up losing the State title to Cindi and the Wisconsin Cheeseheads by 23 seconds. We were joking afterwards that I should have told Cindi (who had a 2-3 minute lead on Beth), "You've got 3rd wrapped up. Go ahead an slow down and save it for Kona in a few weeks." But, no, my coaching instincts wouldn't allow me to do that as I'm telling her good job and to drive her arms and keep the eyes up and to finish strong. Oh well.

This is Beth under the PA flag after the race. The wind wouldn't cooperate, so you can't see the flag too well.

Finally, big thanks to Jerry MacNeil (and wife Trudy) for putting on such a neat event. I know Beth loves it, I really enjoy the concept and going to it and I hope it continues to grow. I know Beth has made some good friends (and being the groupie that I am, I pick up friends, too!)

On the flight home, we had some crazy people in the row behind us with two cats. They were just weird! Our layover in Chicago was short and we were back in (now chilly!!!) Pittsburgh around 6pm. We picked up the dog, unpacked and went to bed and started the school week.

Training-wise, I snuck in 8 miles on Saturday morning (checking out the course) and estimated 5+ on Sunday during the race, so I'll take it. Back to serious running this week and gearing up for the big marathon in November.

The time from now until Thanksgiving has something going on just about every weekend (including two football games, three competing races, 4 big coaching/spectating races, and a college fair) but that's a whole other post in itself.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Heading West

I'm at the airport waiting for my flight to leave for Dallas (and then on to California). From what I understand, getting here in itself was a pretty good accomplishment with the 'rolling closures' of the Parkway West with all the International Leaders leaving the G20 Summit. I could see state trooper cars at each on & off ramp ready to shut things down when people came through.My flight was originally scheduled for 5:00, now it's backed up to 5:50. I had a 2.5 hour layover in Dallas, so I'm not too worried yet. But, another hour delay and I'll be worried. I'll have to update this with any major changes. Just for the record, Beth and I scheduled our flights back in June. The G20 wasn't announced until July. President Obama should have checked with Beth and I and the BOUS race before setting up the meetings here it Pittsburgh!

She's competing in the Best of the US race where one male and female from each state compete. It's a fun head-to-head competition that goes across all age groups. We did our normal routine for this trip and it goes something like this:

*I drop off the dog the day before (except this time it was Wednesday because I was at a College Fair)
*We pack the bags and bikes the night before
*Drop off Beth at the airport before school (school's about 20 min away)
*I go to school and teach while Beth's at the race location getting organized and putting the bike together
*Leave after school back for the airport and fly out (usually with grading or a book to kill the time)
*Beth comes to the airport and picks me up

These California ones are a little bit trickier in that I'm arriving at 10:30pm California time (which is 1:30am!!). This is especially long since we got up at 4am to get out to the airport for Beth's flight. I hope Beth and her mom don't fall asleep and forget about me! I'm looking forward to this race as Beth competed in it last year. I was really impressed with how the put it on and the pre-race meeting and how state-oriented it was. It gave you pride in Pennsylvania. Beth's PA teammate is pretty good so hopefully the equal or better the #3 state finish from last year.

Back on Wednesday, I dropped the dog off a day early because I was helping out at a college fair representing Elizabethtown College. With it being a smaller school (1900 students) they recruit alumni to serve as representatives at fairs to get more reach at more places. I really enjoy it. It's an easy sales pitch for me. I always tell the people there that I liked it so much, I convinced my sister to go there also and follow me in engineering.

My pitch line to the people who wander around is "Have you heard of Elizabethtown College?" And if they haven't, I follow-up with, "Have you been to HersheyPark? It's 10 minutes down the road and we loved going up for visits on the weekend for chocolate!!!" Then I go on about the great programs, the small class sizes, and the personal touch of the small school.

Well, that's about it. I heard the people at the airline desk say the airplane should be here at 5:30, so we should be out of here around 6pm. I'll try to sneak in a turn or two on Facebook Scrabble. See you in California!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Catalytic Converters and Monroeville

Over the last two weeks our (newer - 2007) car was starting to run pretty loud. We couldn't quite pinpoint the exact issue, but knew that (in spite of it still keeping its great 31-32 mpg) there was something wrong. We were worried as it was getting louder by the day/week.

So, what to do? The normal routine is to drop off the Saturn at the dealership that's about 2 miles from my school. I take in clothes and food the day before and just jog up after dropping it off in the morning. Then, after practice, I jog back over and pick up the car. This works most times for both the Saturn and the VW (just a block down the road).

However, we have had some snafus. Like the time they had know clue about the Saturn Car Care plan or the time the VW people never read my note that said to call Beth because I couldn't get to my phone and I show up at 5:30pm all sweaty at the dealership and they were still waiting for our permission to start the work.

So......with this being a potential big issue, we wanted to take it back to the original dealership in Monroeville since we bought it there (and if there was any warranty issues). The problem with this is that Monroeville isn't on the way to work for either of us. Fortunately, a fellow teacher comes to school this way so I was able to hitch a ride with her. The only issue was that it was this cracked catalytic converter that they didn't have in stock had to be replaced. So, they couldn't repair it until Saturday. So.......plan B was fortunately okay in that I got dropped off in Oakland after work and went home with Beth.

This put us one car down for Saturday and we had to go down to Monroeville to pick it up at some point. We were able to work it out in the morning--Beth used the car to go swimming and then I drove out to Ohio for the team's XC race. Our guy finished 2nd--gave a solid effort, but got passed with about 400m to go. On the way back, I was able to listen to the PSU game (decent effort on defense, but offense still has some question marks).

Then, I went home and Beth and I spent our evening in Monroeville. First, we went back to the Cornerstone Church in Export (great music and message about putting family #1). Then, off to Boston Market (who by the way has a free meal for teachers in September w/ the purchase of a meal), Sam's Club, and picking up the car. We were just crossing things off the list left and right.

And, by virtue of going to church Saturday night, we slept in on Sunday. Beth got up earlier, but I don't think I rolled out of bed until after 8am. On to Sunday where I had my run. With the upcoming weekend of travelling to California, we figured the 20-miler wouldn't fit too well into the race weekend, so I flip-flopped my training weekends and just have 13 for next weekend. It went well, but I felt pretty sluggish today. It may have something to do with my last three weekends have been 20 miles, 16 miles w/ 12 at race pace, and 20 miles. I'm hoping the upcoming week of lower mileage will help me recover some.

Why the lower mileage? Well, the travelling to California this weekend of course cuts in to it. We've got a big XC meet for the section title Tuesday (so no real running for me other than spectathlete-ing). Finally, on Wednesday, I'm going to a college fair to serve as an alumni rep for Elizabethtown College. I enjoy sharing my stories (and my younger sister's) about Etown with the high schoolers.

So, busy week and the a fun weekend to watch Beth race this weekend. Cool BOUS preview talking about Beth here:

Okay, my favorite non-sports show is coming on--the Big Bang Theory. Look for a blog this weekend about the trip.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lovely Weather!

I can handle this weather--highs in the high 70's and lows in the mid 50's. This is super! Can we arrange it to stick around until April?

What does one do with this weather? Work out, of course! The training's coming along quite well. I'm happy with how things are going and the balance I'm able to strike between my training, the XC team's training, and Beth's training. Sunday, I had a time trial of sorts. The prescription was 16 miles with 12 miles at marathon pace. I did the first three miles with Beth and then went off to run my marathon pace. Shooting (hopefully) for a sub-3:00 marathon in Philly, I wanted to hit around 6:45 pace. About 3 miles into it, I thought, "How exactly am I supposed to hold this for 26 miles!!!!" But, sure enough, the 12 miles finished and I ended up around 6:35 pace. Mission accomplished.

I then did 70 minutes on Monday with the XC team and felt pretty good. Today, they had a meet, so it was a rest day for me. By the way, boys & girls both won the double-dual meet against Bethel Park at Kari's alma mater USC (Take that Kari!!!!!!!!!...of course just kidding). Back on Saturday was the first invitational of the year. Our guy took #1 and looked great! The rest of the team looked a little tentative and rusty, but that was their first competition against anybody but themselves. I'm confident based on their workouts, they're going to do better than that between now and October.

The Pirates are just plenty woeful of late. I think they're something like 11-34 since their big trades back in late July. Ouch. They're losing every which way. One day they pitch good but don't score any runs. The next day, the pitching isn't good. The next day it's the relievers. Ugh! You see hope with Andrew McCutchen and Garret Jones. I can't believe Jones is still hitting .300. I became a believer when Beth and I went a couple Saturdays ago. He had three singles (and two walks) and most impressive two of them he just went with the outside pitch and served them into left-center. Most power hitters are really pull-happy and would strike out in that situation. Not Jones. That's why he's still hitting .300. I just don't get why he couldn't get out of AAA with the Twins.

With the Pirates and their plight, I'm getting my playoff fix with their High A affiliate, the Lynchburg Hillcats via internet radio. They won their first round best of 5 series in an exciting game 5 and were anchored by the much beleaguered Bryan Morris. It's fun having a rooting interest in meaningful baseball. I find myself hanging on every at-bat and every pitch. It's fun! Now, they're in the finals against the Salem Red Sox. Salem and Lynchburg are just 90 minutes apart and it's a big rivalry in those parts. Back in the day when Beth and I were at Virginia Tech, we went up with our church group to Salem and saw the (then) Salem Avalanche (Rockies system) take on Lynchburg. The game went like 16 or 17 innings on a Saturday night and we stuck around for the whole thing. Needless to say, we were all a little sleepy the next day at church.

Back to the Lynchburg game and some odds & ends to get ready for school and more enjoying of the beautiful weather! Update: Hillcats win 5-4 with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th!! They're now up 2-0 in the best of 5 series.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Big 2-0

My marathon training hit a milestone today--my first 20-miler. I was glad to have Beth with me for the first half to help break it up a little. It went something like this: 4+ miles out and back on our trail, then we did a little less than a mile out and back to check out how the finish of the half marathon goes that we're going to do in October.

Then, Beth took the car back home while I went on my way armed with my Ipod and one final Powerbar Gel. It went pretty well. There's a big uphill right out of the trail for about a mile or so. Then, I went into a county park and did about 5 miles in there (including running the XC course loop for the local HS). Then, a trip down the road through the cemetery and, before you know it, I was at 20 miles. It sure was getting hot for the last hour or so and I was glad I was among the trees and trails for a good bit of it.This brings up a good question though. Which was the tougher of the two: Trying to hang on to Beth's back wheel for 25 miles Saturday or the 20-miler today? I'm going to call it a push because both were REALLY hard and I was beat after both.

In other news, Penn State looked great against Akron for the first half. The O-line gave Clark all day to throw and, in fact, he set career highs in yards and TD's in the process of getting to know his new, tall (and still fast) receivers. Derek Moye from Rochester, PA (same as sprinter Lauryn Williams) is a quick dude for being 6'5". His senior year, he was the AA state champ in the 200 and 400. The secondary is still a question because they didn't really get tested since the D-line (espcially Odrick and Latimore) were in the backfield every play. Heck, Akron didn't even have a first down until the 3rd quarter. Dominating. The second half was a snoozer, but being up 31-0 at halftime works for me.

Last night, we went out to the Pirate game and were not disappointed. Beth's mom gave me a gift card for my birthday and I set it up for tickets and 'loaded' the tickets with $25 for concessions. I'll tell you, $25 at a baseball game sure doesn't go as far as it used to. An order cheesy fries, two large diet cokes, an order of 'Extreme Nachos' and we only had a $1.25 left. That didn't stop us from getting ice cream cones in the 7th inning.

Speaking of the 7th inning, we (while waiting in line for the ice cream) witnessed something that has only happened 43 times before in major league baseball. I was keeping an eye on the TV monitors while in line just to follow the action. If the game had any meaning you better believe I would have been glue to my seat the entire game. But, with it being a September game for the Buccos, I wasn't tuned in to every pitch. I noticed that pitcher Ross Ohlendorf (from the Nady/Marte trade last year) struck out the first player. Then I hear the crowd cheer as he strikes out guy number two. Finally the crowd cheers even louder as Ohlendorf finishes off striking out the side.

What's so impressive about striking out the side? Nothing. It happens all the time. What made this one special is that he did it on ONLY 9 PITCHES. Batter 1: Strike 1, Strike 2, Strike 3. Batter 2: Strike 1, Strike 2, Strike 3. Batter 3: Strike 1, Strike 2, Strike 3. That's pretty cool and something you usually only see in little league when there's this really big kid on the mound or in a fastpitch softball tournament when the hitters are just completely over matched. Pretty cool.

Other highlights include Oliver Onion winning the Pierogie Race (N'at), Ohlendorf only giving up one (unearned) run over 8 innings, and (unfortunately for the Pirates but still cool to see) Albert Pujols coming in and sending a Matt Capps fastball over the centerfield fence for an extra-inning pinch-hit game-winning home-run. The Buccos put guys on base in the 9th and 10th, but couldn't get a run across, losing 2-1.

The night was capped off with a Zambelli Fireworks show. All in all a good night to hang out with my sweetie.

Labor Day picnic tomorrow after morning XC practice then back to the grind on Tuesday.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Game Day

While baseball is my favorite sport to follow and running is probably my favorite sport to be involved with, there is just something about football that makes the end of summer and the eventual
introduction to winter less noticeable. Friday nights with high school games, Saturdays with Penn State, and Sundays with the Steelers.

This weekend it started. Last night was the opening high school games--mostly non-conference. My high school was going up against Beth's high school and my Spartans romped 40-7. To be fair, I have to state that my school's a big AAAA school and Beth's school is a small AAA school with a little more than half the enrollment of mine (1504 to 831 in the grades 9-11 enrollment from 2007). As one of Beth's fellow alumni of GS pointed out, the rest of the high school season goes like this for our two schools - mine will MAYBE win two more games the rest of the year against schools its size while Beth's will go on to the playoffs. Oh well. Our bigger rivalry is on the XC course anyway!

I also follow football for the district where I live (and used to teach) and also where I currently teach. All the students have now graduated from Highlands, but you always want the local team to do well. We find it funny that the year I was there they weren't too good, but the last three years have been very successful in the playoffs. My current employer's team is looking to rebound from an off year last fall and earned a solid victory against North Hills. I was listening to part of the internet radio broadcast last night and always find it funny how many of the names I can't put a face to and the other handful of names that I've never heard of. That kid actually goes to my school? I do teach there, you know!

But, of the weekend, I think Saturday's my favorite. Penn State's my #2 sports team behind the Pirates (unfortunately). There is so much drama in college football because of how the system is currently set up with no playoff. So, essentially every weekend is a playoff. You can't lose more than one game and hope to make it to the national championship. I still hope they figure out something similar to my proposed playoff blog post from last fall. I'll see how it works out this fall and do an updated post.

I'm getting pumped up for the start of the season. I'll be excited to see how the Lions come out with a revamped O-line and secondary. The receivers should be fun to watch. The lost the highly successful smurfs, but replace them with three guys who are 6' 3" to 6' 6". Darryl Clark and Evan Royster are a year better and more experienced. We shall see how it goes against Akron.....I work with a guy who played QB for Akron back in the late 90's and he was telling me on Friday that if Akron somehow upsets Penn State he's bringing in a Zippy the Kangaroo mascot outfit and wearing it Tuesday. All I know is I witnessed Penn State's only loss to a MAC school when Toledo, led by Chester Taylor (now with Minnesota Vikings), stuck it to Penn State 24-6 in Happy Valley in 2000. I hope it doesn't happen again. Speaking of MAC teams, how did that Bowling Green-Pitt matchup work out to start last year? (Heh, heh, heh)

A game like Virginia Tech-Alabama tonight is going to go a long way towards determining this path. I'm torn on who to root for. Beth and I spent a fall of graduate school down in Blacksburg and loved the atmosphere. It was so much like Penn State except for the Maroon and Orange. However, after our trip a few weeks ago to Tuscaloosa, I was really impressed with the Alabama community and tradition. So, I guess I'll hope for a good game tonight and jump on the bandwagon of the winner to hopefully face Penn State in the national championship. (Oh yeah, I guess Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, USC, and Ohio State may have something to say about that, too).

Steelers don't start until Thursday. They've now won two Super Bowls in the last four years, so I'm not as 'hungry' to follow them as I am the Pirates (last title in 1979) or Penn State (1986). So, just let me know when their season gets started and I'll watch the games.

Off for a ride & run with Beth and then time for some college football before going to the Pirate game tonight (thanks Mom B for the Pirates gift card for my b-day!).