Sunday, March 28, 2010


With Ohio State's loss to Kari's Tennessee Volunteers on Friday, my bracket is done. Busted. Kaput. In fact, I'll be lucky to avoid LAST place. Oh well - just shows why I don't invest any cash in any of these brackets. I'll be watching the rest of the tourney merely as a fan. We'll see what happens the rest of the way. Baylor's looking tough and I'll be interested to see how their game against Duke goes.

Also on Friday, two other events--one from the sports world and one from the music world:

Starting on the hardwood, our girls' HS hoops team made it back-to-back AAAA titles as they dismantled Archbishop Ryan from Philly, 70-43. I was able to make it to a part of a few practices this year and they're as tough as ever for sure. They lost two games this year. Both were in big time national tournaments to teams in California ranked #2 and #4 in the country. They lose three starting seniors, but their best player will be back next year. Maybe they'll make it three in a row.

The other Friday event happened on the South Side. Unbeknownst to Beth and I, one of our all time favorite performers, Jennifer Knapp, was in the 'burgh for a concert at a place called Club Cafe (not that us party animals would know where that's located on the South Side). This came entirely out of the blue. One of the other track coaches, who's a big music fan, told me at the beginning of practice on Friday that he was reading an article about her in the newspaper and he remembered her name because I burned a CD of her music for him a few years ago.

Her story's an interesting one. Back in the late 90's-ish time frame, she came out of nowhere to have a big time album on the Christian scene. It was just Jennifer, her acoustic guitar, and a little backup drums and bass. She has such a strong voice and her lyrics were very honest about learning about her faith and struggles. This connected to a lot of people. Her second and third albums were just as strong. Beth and I even caught her in concert down in Lancaster back in the day.

Then, she just went away. Over the past few years I would check google periodically and see if her name would come up. However, only places with speculation or rumors would come up--nothing concrete. Back in February, her website came back up and there were a few songs on it. It sounds like she just needed some time away, but now is refreshed and ready to get back at it.

She has some very honest quotes in the PG article that shows her character and where her heart is regarding music:

"I had to get away. I was losing where my inspiration came from and shutting down. I was on tour for one album, it hadn't even been out for a whole year, and the A&R guys were telling me they needed a new record. I was writing in stairwells and not even living like a human being. It was insane. "

...later in the article after talking about her living in the Outback of Austrailia for a time...

"I was oddly attracted to sitting down and playing again. There wasn't anybody bothering me. Slowly, I learned the artistic process and the vulnerable preciousness of music." She started playing her new tunes for friends and it was very apparent that it was time to get back to doing "what I was put here to do ... and I was scared to death."

Saturday was our first track invitational. It was a sunny, yet chilly day. Mostly in the low 40's. For my crew, the long jump was first for girls and the coldness showed. A lot of the girls, even the eventual winner who was a state finalist last year, jumped about a foot shorter than usual. But, they persevered and we had a decent day altogether. No meets with spring break/Easter Holy week but we've got some practices and then get back in to competing the week after Easter.

Got finished with the meet just in time to get home and pick up Beth and go down again for the Saturday night church service. They had a live donkey come down the main aisle with a kid on it to commemorate the Palm Sunday arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem. Pretty neat for everybody except the donkey. He didn't seem to like the spotlight and stopped a couple of times. Once it dropped off the kid, the donkey sprinted back up the aisle with the handler. He said, "Get me out of here!"

After church, dinner at Qdoba and we swung by the DSW across the street. Since I don't get shoes provided for me due to my athletic achievements (or lack thereof) like some others that we know, I go there and look for bargains around $50-60. It's a hit or miss chance each time you go, but usually every second or third time I'll find a quality pair of running shoes there.

A negative of this endeavor occurred one time about a year or so ago where there was this nice pair of Saucony's for cheap. The catch was that they were this electric blue shade (see picture). But, being the frugal person that I am, I convinced myself that they weren't THAT blue and I wouldn't mind. Boy they haven't lost their glow yet!! I always get comments (and snickers) from the kids when I wear them to practice.

Anyway, last night was a good trip as I found FOUR pairs of shoes (and none of them were a glowing blue) for less than $60--Saucony, Brooks, Asics, and New Balance. All were originally $80-$100. I thought about getting them all, but ended up just getting one pair. Good deal!

So that's the weekend. Now we're drying out from finishing our long run in the rain and watching some basketball. Good luck to everyone else's brackets. Feel free to take my leftover luck since I apparently didn't use up any of it for my bracket.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weekend Recovery and Perseverance

Ah, March Madness. I probably watch more tv in the tournament's opening 4-day span than I do in most WEEKS. Leading up to it, I was trying to convince myself that I wasn't that in to it this year with Davidson/Penn State/Arizona not being in the tourney. However, we get to Thursday at lunchtime and I'm right back in to it.

I was able to catch the RMU-Villanova and BYU-Florida finishes while I was finishing my planning at school before practice. Then, I come home to watch another 4 hours Thursday night only to fall asleep during the late games and wake up around 1am with the TV on. Friday, more hoops in the afternoon and evening (and again falling asleep). Saturday, more in the afternoon (including Villanova losing) and we get out of church Saturday night to find out that Kansas was down to Northern Iowa with only a few minutes left. Wow! Sunday had some great finishes including Pitt losing (hee hee) and an amazing finish to the Michigan St-Maryland game. I'm not faring too well in my bracket (but I never do). However, I still have Ohio State winning it all and WVU and Syracuse in my Final Four. We shall see.

Beth and I have been going to this Saturday night church service down in Export, PA (between Murrysville/Delmont) called Cornerstone. While it's a good 35 minutes away, we just feel like we connect so well there to the music and message. Also, we're finding that Saturday night is working out well with our training schedule right now.

This is a picture of their stage setup for the music. You can check out some of their music at their own site: It's definitely not your grandpa's music. Don't get me wrong--I love hymns and 4-part harmony. However, contemporary praise music from groups like Hillsong and others just really moves me. This group is just so good that it makes you feel like you're at a concert and the words and music just inspire you. We always think that they're so amazing and they could go on tour like big time music groups. However, it's probably the same line of thinking that wonders why Beth and her triathlon buddies don't try out for the Olympics. They're great triathletes, just not quite at that level. These guys are great, so I wonder what makes groups good enough to go on tour?

One neat item from the message on Saturday was the definition of the word perseverance. It's used a bunch in the Bible, especially in Paul's letters to the beginning churches. The pastor stated that the original Greek word (hupomone) in the text defines perseverance as cheerful or hopeful endurance. Somewhere in there is a motivational slogan.

Not only can this apply to one's faith and weathering hard times knowing that God can pull you through, but you can definitely apply it to life and sports. All of the training that we do is not done reluctantly or begrudgingly. Rather, we do it knowing that it's going to make us stronger and we hope that it helps us reach our goals in racing or fitness.

So, keep up the hard work and endurance in your faith, your relationships, and your training!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Definition of Toast

A. What Beth eats most mornings to start her day.

B. My body after 2 hrs of running in this BEAUTIFUL weather today.

C. My brackets after Villanova (ANOTHER chump Big East team) lost....I kind of had them in the championship game. Oh well. Yet another year to prove why I don't invest money in brackets.

D. All of the above

UPDATE: With Kanas losing, there's still a chance for me to get back into the running. I've got Ohio State winning it all. To quote the Movie Dumb & Dumber: "So you're saying there's a chance!"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sun, Pi Day, NCAA Hoops, Pirates, First Track Meet

How about this weather!!! Beautiful!
On Friday, we celebrated Pi Day (March 14 -> 3/14 -> 3.14 = pi) two days early (since we're not in school Sunday) and had good times. Even Google's webpage logo got in the mood with a bunch of pi's. We make a t-shirt and encourage the kids and staff to get one.

My personal highlight of the day is that I have the Calculus classes bring in pies or other sweets to celebrate the day as we put homework problems on the board. What could be better, right? Pies with Derivatives and Integrals!

The apple pie above was definitely the most creative. Others included peach, apple/berry, Oreo creme, Boston creme, brownie circle (like a pie), and (my favorite flavor) lemon meringue. The unfortunate thing about the LM was that, as I was getting it out of the refrigerator, the thin foil tin folded up like a book. Not on the ground mind you (although I still would have eaten it since it was Lemon Meringue--10 second rule), but just all slopped together.

Naturally, it didn't "look" appealing to the population. However, like the saying says, it still tastes the same. I hated to see such a scrumptious pie go to waste, so I MAY have eaten 2/3 (or so) of the pie myself after the period.

The Conference Tourneys and the NCAA Tourney sure snuck up on me. Maybe it was the Olympics, maybe it was the travelling for indoor track, was just that my three teams (Arizona, Penn State, Davidson) all had rough years. However, with the conference tournaments there comes that *slight* hope that my teams could make a magical run and win the league's automatic bid. Here's how that turned out:

*Arizona (seeded 4th in Pac-10 Tourney) - Lost in the first round to UCLA 75-69
*Penn State (seeded 11th out of 11 in Big Ten Tourney) - CLOBBERED by Minnesota 76-55 (after being in just about every game but coming up short by single-digits all season)
*Davidson (#3 south seed) - No Stephen Curry and no magic this year. 66-59 Elon.

So, that's that.

I set up my tourney brackets, but have to admit this may be the LEAST informed I am going in to a tournament. Looking forward to seeing how "guessing" compares to my deep analysis.

The Buccos are plugging along at spring training. Some people are looking good, others look like they're getting there. Ultimately, it doesn't matter until the records count on opening day. One thing that is really annoying me on the radio is that they will open the Pirates' coverage with the score and say something like "the Pirates couldn't continue yesterday's success and fell to the..." or "That's two in a row for the Buccos." RECORDS DON'T MATTER IN SPRING TRAINING!!!! Tell me how the guys who will be in the major leagues this year did in the game. I couldn't care less about the final score.

Okay. Got that off my chest. I was going through the Pirates' major league, AAA, and AA depth charts and I'm really encouraged. Again, this year probably will be a struggle to get to .500. However, the AAA in Indianapolis has 6 out of 8 positions with legitimate major league talent (not necessarily all-stars, mind you). There are 4 out of the 5 starting pitchers in Indianapolis who look like they're legitimate future major league starters. In years past, AAA and AA were littered with 28-34 year old minor league journeymen with no future and MAYBE one legitimate prospect. Things are looking up. A "system" that can replenish itself is being established (like the Twins, Rays, Marlins, and A's).

While the last post was complaining about the snow somewhat, there hasn't been much to complain about lately. It's been really nice weather for practice. We've got our first meet/scrimmage on Wednesday. I'll be excited to see how everybody does. There's a handful of new jumping prospects, so we shall see.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Next Stop....Memorial Day

Day 1 of the zoo known as Spring Track Practice is complete and went pretty well all things considered. Those "things" being the nearly 3 feet of snow dumped on us in February. The district finally got around to doing something about the track on Friday. After skimming the upper foot or so of snow off the track, the weekend sun did its job and we had 5 solid lanes to work with today.

One exception was the jumping area on the left. The picture above was taken this morning. The pole vault runway was mostly clear, but not the jumping area. Boo. By this afternoon, most of the turf was cleared, but there's still some melting to go. I guess it could have been a lot worse...

The other thing about track is I always say, "The next thing you know, it's Memorial Day." I think my fall schedule may give this spring a run for its money, but we've got meets going on just about every weekend starting next week.

I also did a 5k this weekend over on the South Side by the Steelers' practice facility. I had been training a little more than usual in January and February due to some fellow teachers goals to get in shape and to lose some weight. They've been so dedicated and I'm so impressed with them. In turn, our 'Treadmill Tuesday' expanded also to Thursdays. I even got to the point where I did some mile and half mile repeat workouts on the treadmill. Crazy!

So, raceday comes and it claims to be a high of 45-50 for the day. Beth and I get up and it's 18 degrees out. So much for shorts, I thought. But, I pack for three or four different scenarios since I knew the weather was supposed to warm up. We get there and Beth does her long run (not racing since just getting back to 100% from the rib muscle issue) while I go in and get registered and place our tickets in a 'raffle.'
Being sponsored by the athletic trainers in the Pittsburgh area, they've got some bigtime sports connections and had some pretty nice items for silent auction and raffle. Beth and I aren't big autograph or jersey people, but they were impressive:

A signed Sidney Crosby authentic jersey and signed Marc-Andre Fleury Jersey were two of the auction items.

There was a raffle where you could put tickets in to win various prices like a signed Pitt helmet, running gear packages, Market District food package, Rashard Mendenhall signed picture,...., and about 8 or 10 more. You got one ticket with your registration and you could buy more.

Where did I put my ticket? A World Baseball Classic package (baseball of course) that included a bag, hat, shirt, pin, and wristband. Predictably at a running race in Pittsburgh, there were only about ten or so tickets (out of the 200+ runners) in my choice of the baseball package.

Pretty good odds, eh? Sure enough, I won the package at the post-race drawing. There was a kid that came up all mopey hoping he was going to win the prize using the same thought process I did. The hat was a fitted hat and wasn't my size so I gave it to him and it made his day.

Oh yeah, back to the race. It's still chilly as we're (we being me, Chad & Jen H, Doug, and Beth on her long run) warming up and I'm doubting I'm going to be able to wear shorts. Next thing you know, 20 minutes later, I'm not only wearing shorts, but I even shed my hat and gloves into the car before the race. Turned out to be just about a perfect day for racing. Upper 40's, sunny, no wind, flat & straight course, good blacktop surface. Sounds like PR material to me.

My official PR is just above 18:00. Over the last few years, I've split a sub-18 5k in some longer races (some of which were downhill point-to-point so probably cheating), but I've never had a 17:xx by my name for a 5k (not even in HS). So, that was the goal. The conditions were there and I went out with Chad and we were cruising. After splitting 5:16, 5:39, and 6:11 (1.1mi), I end up almost cracking into the 16's with my 17:06! Whoa! Good for 3rd overall (my second ever 'podium'). I'll take it. I guess when I get back in shape this summer (the spring is my off-season with track) I have to adjust my goals to maybe a 16:xx.

So, on to day 2 of track tomorrow and our first scrimmage next Wednesday...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Welcome to March

Whew! February is finally over. That sure was a lot of snow. In fact, it was the snowiest month EVER in Pittsburgh! I'm ready for warm weather for sure.

March definitely turns the calendar in many ways:

*Outdoor track starts Monday. My saying with track is, once it starts, the next thing you know it's Memorial Day. One problem is that there is still almost a foot of snow on the track. We'll have to see how soon that goes away.

*The Olympics wrapped up. What a fun game between US and Canada. Apparently a lot of people are bummed that the US lost and are mad at Crosby for scoring the goal. Maybe just because I'm not a die-hard hockey fan, I enjoyed the game. My reaction of the overtime goal was, "Wow, Sid scored! That was a nice play and a good game." Then, I turned the TV off and Beth and I went out to dinner. Only when I listened to the radio and TV the next few days did I realize that so many people were upset about the US losing. Come on. Could these same people name three guys on the US team before the Olympics started? They were the 6-seed going in and won the silver medal. Sure, everyone wants the gold, but it was a great run.

*Spring training is in full swing and the Pirates had their first exhibition game today. They lost 6-3 to the Yankees. But, I always take spring training with a grain of salt. First, a lot of minor leaguers finish the games, so I always go back and look at what the score was at the end of the 5th inning. Second, I don't look too much at team results, but rather how did do? Finally, spring training statistics don't correlate very well to regular season results. Regardless, I'm excited to be tracking baseball games again.

My Pirates sleepers this season are Lastings Millege, Charlie Morton, and Akinori Iwamura. The flops I'm worried about are the shortstop position (fill in the blank), Zach Duke, and Jeff Clement. I'm encouraged that the bullpen looks stronger and I'm encouraged that there are legitimate prospects knocking on the door (Alvarez, Tabata, Lincoln) not just because the major league team has holes, but because they are actually good.

*March also means March Madness is right around the corner. I've kind of missed the entire season, especially with the Olympics. Davidson's tourney (Southern Conference) starts Thursday. They're the 5-seed, so we'll see how that turns out. The big conferences have one more weekend of conference play and then their conference tourneys next weekend. Penn State has won 3 of 4 (two against Northwestern), but finish with Purdue and Michigan State. Not too high of hopes for them. Arizona is 8-8 in the Pac-10 and tied for 4th. They play the LA schools this weekend and we'll see what happens in their conference tourney.

*Another new thing around here is that there is a new sports station on the air--93.7 The Fan. It's an FM all-sports 24-hr local programming station. I like it because I now have something to listen to when I'm driving down to school at 5:30am to go work out. They're hating on the Pirates already, so it gets me fired up and wakes me up on the drive in.

*I'm running a little 5k this weekend. We'll see how that goes. I'm in better shape than usual for this time of year, but it's all relative since it's still the middle of winter. I've been swimming at least once a week and hitting the treadmill twice a week before school plus the training with the track team and my training with Beth on the weekend. I did a 6x800 workout on the treadmill. That was pretty fun to crank up the treadmill.

Hoping that March provides warmer weather, no snow, and fun basketball and baseball!