Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hockey, eh?

If you go back and refer to my sports priority schedule, this time of the year is usually:

1. College Hoops
2. Pirates and Spring Training
3. Penguins

The problem with this is that my three college hoops teams (Arizona, Penn State, Davidson) are still floundering. Secondly, with the Pirates 'plan' coming into view, I'm even more excited about that than basketball. However, the biggest shift is, with the Olympics, there is some viewing there....especially the hockey--men's and women's.

I can't get enough of the Olympic hockey. The US team is making an improbable run (so far) and how about that US-Canada game. The Russia-Czech game from Sunday was great. Canada finally loosened up and they're taking it to Russia (as of the 2nd period at least). Also, I'm really impressed with the US & Canadian women's teams and can't wait to see their final on Thursday.

In other news, I finally made it up to the GaREAT Center in Geneva, OH. It's a 2+ hour drive to get there, but man-o-man is it a nice facility. Wow.

After being up at Penn State and watching Beth compete at the indoor track (and also working as the scoreboard/timing system operator for 3 years), I didn't think I'd ever be in a better facility. Well, I found it. This place is so BIG and amazing. 8-lane 300m oval (with lane 8 being 400m if you'd ever want to do an INDOOR 400m repeat workout). 10-lane 100m straightaways. Two Long/Triple Jump Pits (makes a jumping coach happy). Two High Jump Pits. Two Pole Vault Pits. A large turf football field in the middle. There were 1800 athletes there and it went just as fast as a meet at Slippery Rock or Robert least as quick as indoor meets can go. Double Wow!

We're going up there again next weekend for our district championship. Then, the athletes who have the times will then compete in the state championship at Penn State. Oh yeah. I almost forgot. Our top runner pulled off an 8:47 3000m. Apparently, it's the best time in the state and among the top 10-20 in the country. Not bad for his first race since Foot Locker back in December. He took a few weeks off and then had a minor leg injury. Since then, he's been working out great, but between all the snow cancelling TWO meets and some of his recruiting trips, this was the first meet he actually ran at. Amazing. I'm looking forward to see what he can do the next two weekends before moving on to outdoors.

A neat thing about this facility is that it was completely privately funded and they have also a football stadium, huge volleyball complex, an indoor soccer complex, and an indoor-outdoor swimming complex is being completed. You can check it all out here. One of the neat things of the day was the opening introductions and announcements where the director of the complex got on the microphone and said a few words about how this was a Christian facility and that all are welcome to exercises their faith, whether it would be through saying prayers or reading the Bible. Pretty neat.

So, off to check where this Nor'easter is heading and if we'll get any of it here in Pittsburgh. I've had my fill of snow, so if those east-coasters like Maija want to keep it that would be fine with me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Pitchers and Catchers Day!

The best four words to a baseball fan snowed-in for what seems like the entire month of February:


This day is one of my annual 'holidays.' While this may not be so exciting to someone like Marit in CA or people in Hawaii, Arizona, or Florida, those four words bring music to my ears. It means I get to hear about baseball again. It means I get to hear about the warm weather in Florida and Arizona. It means I get to hope, hope, hope the Pirates can at least be respectable (at least until mid-April when reality sets in). It means I can think about my trips in the warm, warm summer (with no snow....and no school) to PNC Park downtown to cheer on the Pirates and Blair County Park in Altoona to watch the Curve and evaluate future Pirates. Yes, today is a good day.

Granted, not much really can be read in to a team on the first day. Heck the position players don't even report until the weekend. Spring training games are a few weeks away. But, it's just the hope and warm thoughts. Also, 22 of the 25 roster spots are already figured out for the Pirates, so it's just a matter of some of the bench guys and relievers. The other entertaining part of the spring is hearing SO MANY players say:

"I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life."

My goal is to try to document all the quotes I read of this over the next month. EVERYBODY'S amazingly in better shape than ever before. Does that translate to a better team? We shall see....

In other realms, the snow just keeps on falling. I had a 95 minute commute home Monday night and a 60+ minute commute home today. I would like to make a request for the snow to stop falling, least during the afternoon commute.

The past two Sundays I've heard some interesting messages at church that used good catch phrases, so I thought I'd pass them along since they not only apply to one's Christian walk, but just to life in general:

*Consumers vs Contributors: The main focus of the message was to encourage active participation and acting out of your faith. Just sitting in the pews each Sunday and saying 'well that was a nice sermon' doesn't do much for one's spiritual growth. It's about living it out every day, whether that's in the form of serving others or actively pursuing your own growth through reading/music/groups.

This can certainly be transferred to life in general. No matter what activity you're involved in, get involved beyond just sitting on the sidelines. For me at track meets, I like helping out with the events because it makes the day go by faster. Be willing to help out in addition to sharing opinions.

*Trying vs Training: I first heard this phrase a few years back when I was coaching softball during my student teaching days. The head coach was getting frustrated with the team because he felt that the team wasn't getting good hitting results in the game. He felt the reason was that they were going through the motions in drills at practice and, when they got to the games, they weren't able to execute. They could try in the game all they want, but since they hadn't developed the skill sufficiently in practice, they were not prepared to produce timely hits in the game.

The analogy the pastor used was that if you were in the weight room and the heaviest dumbbells were laying on the floor beside you. You could 'try' all you want to lift them and all you'll get is a herniated disc in your back. Conversely, the best approach is if you start with lighter weights, train day-by-day and you'll see your results improve over the course of months and years. I know I need to apply this to my swimming and bike training. I can 'try' as hard as I want in the pool or on the bike, but if I'm not in the water or on the saddle putting in the hours, my progression isn't going to come along as much as I would like.

This is true in your faith, too. You can 'want' to be a better person or 'want' to be closer to God. However, if you don't set up daily disciplines and make daily decisions to put you closer to this goal it's just not going to happen.

So, the challenge for today (perhaps even a great idea as lent begins) is to shift from merely a consumer to a contributor and to commit yourself to consistent daily training versus simply trying.

Happy Pitchers and Catchers Day!!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Roxy the Guard Dog

Now that I'm going on Day 4 of school cancellation and all the grading has been done since Tuesday (what day is it?), I've now moved on to finding new ways to occupy my time. Today's objective was to capture the actions of Roxy as the mailman approaches. She does the same routine each day and it's pretty funny.

My favorite part is that her tail's wagging the entire time as she's trying to be a mean dog.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

We ended up with about 21-22" for our area, and there was more in the mountains and down in Maryland......and there's more (6-10" according to our Winter Storm Warning) on the way Tuesday afternoon/evening into Wednesday.

So, to pick up where I left off with the last pictures:

After I measured out the 18 inches, I decided that I should probably go do something about it (also, the more time I spent shoveling snow meant less time to join Beth for her FOUR HOUR trainer ride). I go to the back of our house to find that our neighbor across the alley had already used his snowblower on our little area behind the garage. So, I proceeded out to the front of the house (wading through 3-4 foot snow drifts) to take care of the front driveway.

The guy in the picture below was so excited about his new snowblower that he decided to take care of our entire street.....literally. He was working his way up the street when I snapped this pic from inside the house. By the time I got out to shovel the front, he was coming back down and offered to snowplow our driveway. I felt bad and told him that I could do it myself if there were any older folk who still needed their driveways/sidewalks shoveled. But, he just jumped right in and his snowblower was top-notch because it plowed through that 20 inches like it was nothing.

I felt bad that I hadn't really shoveled anything, so I followed him down the hill and we dug out a car that had been left out on the street from the night before. We dug out one other car and he decided to call it a morning. So, on to the trainer for me.

I ended up riding 90 minutes with Beth. We had the movie Duplicity (Clive Owen, Julia Roberts) from Netflix, but it was tough to follow and pretty slow-developing. So, 45 minutes into it, we shut it down and went back to the good old reliable Law & Order. I finished up a little early and prepared the ingredients for our 2pm chicken burritos for lunch/dinner.

Also Saturday afternoon, I expanded Roxy's roaming area in the backyard. Saturday morning (at 5am---why can't dogs sleep in!!!), I carved out the right rectangle that connects our back porch to our garage via the sidewalk. Saturday afternoon, I could tell that Roxy wanted more 'space' so I expanded off the left side to create a Figure-8. This way she could run a round like a crazy dog and not run out of space (not to mention more places to take care of business).

At some point Saturday night, our back alley was plowed, so we were able to get out to church on Sunday. (Had it not been plowed, we would have been able to get out of the garage, but would have ran into a 2-3 foot wall of snow for about the lengthof 5 houses to get out of our alley). The message was one in the series about change. The theme for this week was shifting from Spectators to Contributors--to get off the sideline and to make a difference with your time.

We went did a short run and then went over to the YMCA where Beth did some aquajogging (still healing up those rib muscles) and I swam. Every month or two I'll swim a 1650yd to see how I am progressing as a swimmer (remember, I slowly evolving from embarrasing to merely a slowpoke). My rationale for doing the 1650 yesterday was that we were a little tight on time, so I figured if I didn't stop at all, I could get in more yardage!!!

Over Christmas, I had some suggestions to improve my form from a handful of people including Beth, Chad & Jen H, an old lady swimming in a lane beside me, and a lifeguard. I definitely noticed in January that my interval times had improved and I felt a little more efficient going through the water. The big observation by most of the people was that the way my arm was going into the water, I was creating more drag and actually slowing myself down (never a good thing!!!). So, I figured I may do okay compared to my past 1650's. However, I had some things working against me:

1) I hadn't swam in 10 days due to the way my schedule played out
2) I was really sick in the middle of this past week and hadn't worked out much this week
3) I shoveled snow for a couple hours Saturday morning and then joined Beth for 90 minutes on the bike
4) I had just run for 30 minutes prior to going to the Y

Nevertheless, off I went after a 150 yd warmup. I ended up swimming 31:53-ish and beating my previous best by almost 40 seconds. I figure if I keep improving like that, I just need to swim 15 more 1650's to be as fast as Beth...that's how math works, right? I'll just be happy for the day when I can get under 30 minutes. Slowly but surely.

On to the Super Bowl. I didn't really have a team I favored. There were compelling reasons to root for both teams. I'm really impressed with Peyton Manning and how he's a coach on the field. I enjoy watching Colts games when they're at home because the crowd's quiet and you can hear all the directing and motions that Manning does. Here's a
great article on Peyton Mannning's character and charitable side. Also, the Colts' punter is Pat McAfee. He's a Pittsburgh guy and WVU grad and actually was a senior at the school that I student-taught at.

Then, you also have the Saints and Drew Brees. Just the fact that the Saints are still in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is amazing in itself. Drew Brees is also a great story. Given up on by the Chargers because of shoulder issues, he went to New Orleans and became one of the top passers in the league. On top of that, Drew Brees is a great character and he was
on the cover of the most recent FCA magazine called 'Sharing the Victory (STV).'

The bottom line, I told Beth, was that I just wanted a close game that came down to the end. They definitely delivered and, had it not been for an aggresive cornerback and Wayne's slight slip out of his cut, the game may have gone to overtime.

Today, we had school cancelled and it turns out that school is also cancelled for Tuesday. With this impending storm coming Tuesday night, I'm not sure what's going to go on Wednesday either. This is definitely throwing a wrench into my plans for the week. But, you adjust and make do. While we'll make up these days in June, they're after finals, so you lose the instruction time.

It's kind of funny how the roads are here in Pittsburgh are. As you can see below, around our house the roads are clear and dry for the most part.

But, if you head down closer to the actual 'City of Pittsburgh' it's a lot worse. Here's a photo slideshow from the local paper. I drove in with Beth this morning to drop her off and it took TWO HOURS. The roads looked like they hadn't even been treated all weekend in some places. And these were main arteries. So, more snow on the way and we'll see how much we get this time--if it's actually 6-10 inches or a whole lot more!!!

Stay tuned!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

18 Inches and Counting!!!

Looks like we ended up with a little more than 5-8". No problem. We weren't planning on going anywhere today.

We lost Roxy!!! All I see is her tail!!!

Picture of Roxy in her "channel" I dug out for her in the back yard. Looks like she's preparing for a World War I reenactment of trench warfare.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Sniffles Got the Best of Me

I had a feeling it might be coming. Most winters I get the sniffles, but I usually just fight them off. Last year, it turned into a once-in-a-decade-for-me flu (as I don't get *sick* too often). I was just hoping that it wouldn't happen two years in a row.

It all started back last weekend with my training. Last Thursday, I did hard 4x800-ish around the parking lot with the boys. Friday, I went through a tough box drill workout with them. Saturday, I joined Beth for a trainer ride (my butt lasted about 30 minutes, but I spun gingerly for 2 hrs total). Sunday, I ran 10 miles that included a really big hill (my pace was slower than I had hoped, but figured it was just the hill and cold and the hard workouts).

Sunday night we dropped off our car to get worked on Monday and I came back and my nose was running and I was sneezing. Monday we rode in together (since one car was in the shop) and I was fine. Tuesday morning, I felt sluggish but had a solid 30-minute treadmill run (4+ miles), but then my nose started to drip, drip, drip. All day long at school. It got to the point that after about 5-10 minutes of teaching, I could feel the nose preparing to open up like a faucet unless I got a tissue. Throw in a couple of sneezes and it was frustrating. But, I kept telling people all day that it was just my nose and I wasn't sick. After more nose-blowing at practice, I came home and was getting more clogged. Dinner was rough because it was a trade-off between chewing, swallowing, and breathing. Slow going!

Since I was a little tired from the day of congestion, I laid down after dinner to watch a movie we got on Netflix called Sugar. I put it on the list based off of a recommendation by the Pirates beat writer on his Post-Gazette Pirates blog page. The movie is a fiction story of a young pitcher from the Dominican that works his way up to being signed by a club and works up into the minor leagues. About 2/3 of the movie is in Spanish with English subtitles, but that made me enjoy it all the more! The parts I really liked were how the movie captured the struggles of a non-English speaking player dealing with things off the field like going to a restaurant and living with a host family in the middle of Iowa. Great movie for die-hard baseball fans....

...Anyway, as I go to bed I figure it was 60-40 odds of me making it to school the next day. The alarm goes off at 4:45 (had planned on swimming before school) and I feed Roxy and take her for her walk. I notice that my congestion is mostly gone from my nose, but has moved northward to my sinuses and is affecting my balance some. I seriously almost tipped over twice walking Roxy. So, that was the deal-breaker. No school.

I ended up being in bed for probably about 21 of the 24 hours on Wednesday just due to congestion, dizziness, and general tiredness. I think I fell asleep for an hour or so on two separate occasions after getting up around 9am.

Not being home much during the weekdays, I was enlightened by some amazing information on the television throughout the day:

*On ESPN, I found out there's a big football game going on in Miami this weekend
*On CNN, I learned during President Obama's Q&A with the Senate Democrats that if only the Republicans would stop holding up the process on so many things, the government would be able to accomplish so much and get us out of this financial and health insurance mess.
*On FoxNews, I learned that the Democrats are running the country in to the ground.

Then, I fell asleep some more....

*Also on ESPN, I learned that college football signing day is a big deal to some people (just let me know when they step on to the field for Penn State)
*On The Weather Channel, I learned that there's a big snow storm coming up the coast this weekend.

Then, I fell asleep some more....

*On the Big Ten Network last night, I learned that Penn State may not win a conference hoop game this year after falling short against Ohio State. It seemed like PSU was down 5-10 for just about the entire game. Every time the Lions would mount a run, OSU decided to start playing harder again and open their lead back to double-digits. Also, Taylor Battle has zero help. I hope by next year some of these younger guys can help compliment Battle's amazing skill.
*On FSN, I learned that the WVU Mountaineer fans are pretty rotten. They yell lots of nasty chants and threw stuff onto the court. One item (a coin?) actually hit one of Pitt's assistant coaches near his eye. But, the best part was that Pitt still lost.

So, I went to bed Wednesday night thinking the chances were 70-30 of making it to school Thursday since I had rested up and weathered the storm. Alarm went off, fed and walked the dog and felt better (not great). So, I made a go of it and survived school and practice.

There's apparently a big snow storm coming our way. Depending on how it tracks, the Pittsburgh area could get 2 inches or 12 inches. We shall see. Our track meet this weekend is up in Geneva, Ohio, and they're not supposed to get much snow at all since it's a Nor'easter. It's just a matter of whether or not we can get out of Pittsburgh. From what I've seen Baltimore, Philly, and DC are going to get hit pretty hard again.

Updates and photos this weekend of the greatest indoor track in the history of indoor tracks (allegedly), weather permitting.