Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to the Grind (and the 81-day streak ends)

This week started back the routine of the 12-hour school/practice/commute days. Also, I'm starting (albeit slowly) back to the training routine--I figure with the whole first week of school madness I'd hold off on getting the serious training going until Labor Day weekend.

Last week was the preparation week for school--meetings, setting up the room, checking out class rosters, preparing the first week or two of lessons, mapping out the fall schedule, etc. Things were going quite smoothly and I was set to tie up the loose ends on Friday in-between two-a-days. However, my stomach had other ideas...

Friday morning I was working with the girls timing a 400 repeat workout. Things were going well. I was checking out splits, offering encouragement, and keeping them rolling. Then, with about two or so repeats to go, the girls are off and running and I think, "Whew, I don't know if I feel too hot." The workout wraps up after what seemed like forever to complete the last two 400's. We record their last 400 time to use it as a gauge for the next workout, but I just needed to sit down to record the times (feeling dizzy...). Leaning up against the fence wasn't cutting it anymore.

Due to some issues located as JoePa called this summer "a little bit below the intestines" I then make what I will label as a "strategic trip to the lockerroom" while the girls are cooling down, and come back out to see the girls off at the end of practice. They leave and I head back up towards the school.

I didn't get too far.

I'm about three steps off the track surface when my stomach revolted. Fortunately, there was a garbage can right there, being a football stadium and all. My stomach was not happy. Yuck!

I make it up to school and figure if I lay down in the teacher's lounge for a little bit I might feel better. Two and a half hours later I wake up and try to get a few things done on the computer, but that ill-fated effort lasted about 30 minutes. I go back and lay down again hoping I'd feel better by afternoon practice. After another two hour nap, 3:00 rolls around and head is still spinning, I'm hot then cold then hot then cold, and the stomach still isn't my friend. So, I check with the coaches and have their blessing to head home and not infect the team with my stomach virus.

I get home and do much of the same through, oh, about Saturday dinner time. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Stomach grumble. Sleep. Unhappy belly. Sleep. Watch the Pirates losing again. Sleep. Hear for the 186th time the words "Lastings Millege" and "misplayed fly ball" in the same sentence. Sleep. Sleep.

Finally, by Saturday night I started to feel a little better, got a little bit of food down, and was able to go home for my Grandma's 80th birthday party on Sunday.

She's awesome. She's the pitzelle maker, the one who would take care of me when I was sick back in elementary school, she goes to so many church softball games and I remember even dragging her down for a Pirates double-header back in the late 90's--what a saint!!

We get home from the birthday party and I start getting ready for the first day of school. That's when it hits me, where are my dress shoes?

Turns out I hadn't worn them since the last day of school and they've been tucked away since June. To that effect, I hadn't worn long pants, only shorts (unless you count a softball uniform), either all summer.

How did that 81-day streak happen? Not quite sure, but I guess there weren't any weddings or formal events and we rock the shorts and sandals for the Saturday night church service all summer. Ah, the life of a teacher!!

On the cross country front, we've got an invitational this weekend and then things really get rolling for cross country with five straight weekends of invitationals and some dual meets sprinkled in on Tuesdays. It should be a fun year. Both the boys and girls teams are young, but we'll see what they can do.

Off to make sure my ties didn't run off this summer either....although it's going to be another 90-degree day, so I may just go with the short-sleve polo shirt for a few days.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hanging with the Youngins

Saturday was my high school's alumni meet where it's an exhibition for the high schoolers to get a race in and they invite alums to come back and show how out of shape they are.

As documented previously, my legs have been dragging since the half. But, the goal (after a marathon-worthy taper this past week) was to run hard for this one race and then to shut it down for a week of no running to get the legs rejuvenated for the fall. The other goal I always have coming into this race is to 'make varsity' meaning to finish with only 6 high schoolers in front of me.

The race went out pretty hard and I found myself in the top 10. I wasn't able to determine whether the guys in front of me were varsity or alums, but I was pretty sure at least two of them were alums. The course is mostly through the woods--a dirt path with short, steep ups and downs with sharp curves. It's a very technical course. I just relaxed and slowly worked my way up past some people.

The course is two loops and on the second loop, I could feel the fatigue setting in. But knowing that it was only a little over a mile to go, I just kept plugging away on the hills and worked my way up to 6th place. The 5th runner was within my grasp (maybe 100 yards) with about a half mile to go. However, the legs just didn't want to go up the last hill, so no closing of the gap.
The last 400 or so is around a soccer/football practice field and then a U-turn up to the water tower. I strided it in and crossed the line in 20:01 and good enough for 6th place. I had hope to be under 20, but I'll take it. Just for perspective of the toughness of the course, the winning time was 18:28 for a guy who ran 17:23 at the district XC meet and a 4:33 mile in track last year (and the 3rd place guy ran 16:55 at districts). Of the guys in front of me, there were 4 varsity and 1 alum, so another year of hanging onto a varsity slot.

My cousin K also ran. She's a machine! After her amazing 3:23 Pittsburgh Marathon this past spring, she's been on a tear all summer. She's also been a previous female champion of the alumni meet and she ran a solid race and took home the big trophy again for the year (kind of like the Stanley Cup).

After the race, an alum from the class of '83 arranged a lunch get-together to share stories across the decades and to chat with Coach Colland away from the course. Oh the stories those guys had from the 80's. There were pranksters in my time, but they pale in comparison to some of the stories we were laughing to. In fact, I definitely can't publish most of the tales told.

Beth made it home and brought with her some awesome stories and pics from Colorado. A good weekend indeed.

We're back at school for in-service and clerical days this week. So much for my mid-afternoon naps (I know, people with real full-year jobs roll your eyes at that). The kids start next Monday so one more week of preparations.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

18 and Counting

The Pirates made it official last night. By losing their 82nd game of the season, they have guaranteed and 18th consecutive losing season. As Rocco DeMaro (Pirates Extra Innings Post-game Show host) said, "The losing streak is now old enough to vote." Ouch. Kids that are graduating high school weren't even alive the last time the Pirates had a winning record back in 1992. It couldn't look worse, right?

I submit to you that success is right around the corner. Now I know that really sounds optimistic, but you can FINALLY see the groundwork being laid.

First of all, you can see it in their starting lineup:
1. Andrew McCutchen CF
2. Jose Tabata LF

3. Neil Walker 2B
4. Garret Jones 1B/RF
5. Pedro Alvarez 3B

All of these guys are in their rookie year or first full season. That sounds like an exciting group to grow with. You need to surround that with a long-term solution in right field/first base (Doumit, Clement, Bowker, Moss, or a FA), catcher (Snyder for now and Sanchez in 1-2 yrs) and shortstop (not sure here, maybe a FA for 2 years or so until D'Arnaud is ready).

Okay, so the pitching staff. Currently:
Maholm - inconsistent between solid and below average but good to have around
Duke - see Paul Maholm. He's in his last arbitration year this off-season, so you wonder if the Pirates will pay the $$ for a #5 pitcher.
Ohlendorf - he of the 1-10 record, but has pitched great the last month. He also was statistically one of the best pitchers in the NL for the second half of last year. I think his back issue that first week of the year really set him back this year.
MacDonald - What a steal in the Dotel trade to get a solid starting pitcher and a 22 year old power bat in AA (Lambo)
Karstens - He's just a filler until we can find someone better. You know what you'll get out of him.

I think Maholm is good to have around, Duke is expendable, Ohlendorf and MacDonald can be part of the future, and Karsten's time is limited. So, that leaves two spots open. One spot should be filled with a legitimate starter though free agency. Obviously it doesn't make sense to allocate 50% of your payroll to a guy like Cliff Lee. However, there has to be a guy that you can sell to make a case of the up and coming team, a clear spot to be a leader of a staff, and a solid home park to pitch in.

Spot number 5 needs to come from someone stepping up from the minor leagues: Lincoln, Morton, Veal, Ascanio, D McCutchen, Hart, Crotta, or one of the AA guys midway through the year (Morris, Locke, Owens, Wilson). There are plenty of options, the Pirates just need that guy (or guys) to show they're major league caliber.

The bullpen looks solid with Hanrahan and Meek at the end. I really like the pickup of Resop. I was hoping Dan Moskos would be up by now but he regressed to the point that the Pirates sent him back down to AA. Just like the last two years, I trust managements philosophy of filling in parts of the bullpen in the offseason and figure they'll do that again.

The Pirates are finally doing what Dave Littlefield's administration was unwilling to do--get the big time upside guys regardless of their agent or asking price. Had they been doing this before, those guys would now be up in the big leagues. Since they didn't, we're left waiting for 3 or 4 years for Tallion, Allie, and Heredia to make their way up. Also, since the Pirates now have invested in a state-of-the-art Domincan Facility, they should make more progress there (again since Littlefield essentially ignored that area).

It's so exciting to see what's coming. When Dave Littlefield made that horrendous trade of acquiring Matt Morris and his two years at $10 mil/yr while giving away Rajai Davis (a decent fantasy baseball option for those looking for SB) in the deal, I was angry, had too much time on my hands (it was the summer after all) and decided to take an in-depth analysis of the minor league system. What I found was scary. 27 and 28 year olds at most of the start spots at AA. No high-impact players in the entire system (5 teams) other than Andrew McCutchen. The result of that is the current mess in the major leagues. I can't speak to what happened earlier in the decade, but I feel confident that the current 40-82 mess is directly thanks to Dave Littlefield's administration.

HOWEVER, the future looks bright with all the well-regarded prospects that look like they can begin to annually have players ready for the major leagues. I think I mentioned earlier this year how different this year is where there are impact guys coming up from the minor leagues. Like multiple guys. Before, the Pirates were lucky to have one legitimate contributor from the minor leagues per year.

Consider that, on average, a player moves up a classification per year, you can see the waves of players that are coming:
AAA - SP (Lincoln, Morton), SS (Friday), OF (Moss, Bowker, Presley?)
AA - SP (Morris, Locke, Owens, Wilson), SS (D'Arnaud), 2B (Mercer), 3B (Harrison), 1B/OF (Hague), CF (Hernandez), OF (Lambo)
Hi A - OF (Marte, Grossman, Latimore), 3B (Farrell), C (Sanchez)
Lo A - SS (Cunningham), OF (Chambers)
Rookie - P (Van Rosenberg, Pounders, Dodson, Waldron, Fuesser, Cain), OF (Rojas)
Just drafted - SP (Tallion, Allie, Heredia)

While obviously not even half of these guys will be major league contributors, the Pirates are at least putting themselves in a position of having more options to reach to the major leagues.

It stinks that Neal Huntingdon had to get rid of the average guys like Bay, McLouth, Wilson, Sanchez, and others but it had to be done to help solidify this minor league system so they can have a self-replenishing system much like the Twins, Rays, Marlins, and A's have done and been successful with. While it would be nice to spend like the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, and Angels there is another way to do it.

Still holding out hope and looking forward to the day when the Pirates will be relevant again...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Osc's and Ends

Catchy, isn't it? Borrowed from a Central PA newspaper writer/blogger who covered Penn State and labelled his items "Todds and Ends"
I suppose a recap of the last week or so is in order since last writing about the Triathlon.

*Beth gave a nutrition talk to the boys and girls XC teams. It's fun having her come in as a guest speaker. Makes me feel like I've got connections. By the way, The Athlete's Eutrophia is now on Facebook.

*XC Practice is now in full swing with two-a-days. We've got the annual Corrigan Drive 4 mile time trial Friday and our first meet next Wednesday. I'm abstaining from the Corrigan Dr because I'm subjecting myself to the entertainment of running against high schoolers on Saturday at my high school's alumni XC meet. My goal the past few years is to "make varsity" meaning to have 6 or less high schoolers in front of me. We'll see how that goes. The legs have been somewhat uncooperative since the half IM. I'm sure I've got 3 miles in them though (boy will that feel short compared to the triathlon!)

*I wanted to throw out a congrats to former PSU runner Steve Walsh as he was named the head XC and track coach at William and Mary College. It's kind of a small world because I had run into him a few times over the past few years. Once at a track conference in Atlantic City and then at our State XC Meet this past November (when he was an assistant at Providence). At the state meet, I introduced him to one of the high-schoolers on my team. Well, the high-schooler ended up going to W&M. So, he'll get to run for Steve there. He's going to do a great job. My favorite memory of Steve from Penn State was when I would meet Beth for dinner and other members of the men's and women's teams would join us. Steve would do some Coach Groves impressions that were pretty funny.

*My dad and I went to an Altoona Curve last Sunday. This was an interesting trip. The previous Wednesday, the Curve held a "Wacky Wednesday promotion called Sponsors in Wonderland where pretty much anything could be sponsored that night--home plate, the infield dirt, the foul pole, the rosin bag. You name it, it could be sponsored. I was checking out some Curve player stats when I stumbled across this promotion that stated it was a "great opportunity for small businesses."
Well, I figured why not call up and see how much it cost to sponsor and maybe get some exposure for The Athlete's Eutrophia (and maybe give me an excuse to go up to a Curve game). So, I talk to the really great and friendly advertising person with the Curve and determined it's a solid deal that may be within our budget. However, the graphic, 10-second blurb, payment and all the other stuff needed to be done by the next morning at the latest and it was just too rushed. But, I hope that they do the promotion again next year because it seemed like a neat opportunity.
So anyway, just by talking with the guy, he offered me seats to the game last weekend. I was really appreciative and thanked him a bunch of times. And, my dad and I were big-timing it, picking up our tickets at the VIP Will-Call. When my dad and I got there, I had mistakenly gone to the "commoners" will-call. That was so below us! :)

Rudy Owens was on the bump for the Curve. He's one of four promising young starting pitchers for Altoona (also Morris, Locke, and Wilson).
Owens did great. He went 5 innings without giving up a run. They took him out then because they're limiting his innings for the season and want to make sure they budget enough for the playoffs. Here's my attempt at a scouting report on his night:
Owens' fastball sat in the 86-88 mph range, hitting 90 mph twice. His offspeed pitches produced a lot of swing-and-miss by the opponents. A good comp would be Maholm or Duke with the Pirates.
Also, while at the game, I got my revenge on a funnel cake by cosuming it all within two innings. It didn't stand a chance.

*Beth's heading out to Colorado this weekend. The Curve are out of town, so I'll have to find something else to do to kill the time.

*My racing schedule (or at least what there is of it) is coming into shape. I'm going to do the Pittsburgh Marathon in the spring instead of Philly this fall. There are a handful of factors that go into it. First, I need a break after training all summer for my first half IM. If I was going to do Philly, I would have to start ramping up again right now and I'm just not ready to get back into weekend long runs.
Another reason is that I've moved into an official XC coaching position from just being a volunteer. What this means is that I don't have the freedom to just run with the guys everyday this year. There's that whole responsibility thing of working with both the boys and girls and help with getting splits and papers and stuff. I proved to myself last winter/spring that I could successfully train during those months and am confident I can get in the mileage and intervals to set my up for that sub-3:00 marathon.
Also, that means one less trip in a fall that includes a little trip out to Hawaii. Now, I'll just sleep in my bed the night before the marathon and drive down to it.
So, this fall I'm thinking of the Great Race 10k and maybe a half marathon (Buffalo Creek or Spirit of Pittsburgh).

*The first teacher day is Monday and the kiddos come back the 30th. Where did the summer go? It should be a fun year. I'm teaching the same classes as last year, but just in different amounts--Calculus, Algebra 2, and Algebra.
That's all for now. I'll have to report back on the weekend of flying solo and the alumni XC race.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mountaineer Tri

Well, I finished my first half ironman. It hurt (as evidenced by the finish picture). The goal going in was to finish under 6 hours and I did that (5:47:30). How I got there certainly wasn't the way I thought it would play out. But from my observations of others through the years (since this was only my 2nd ever tri) is that they usually don't exactly work out how you plan.

We got down there Saturday afternoon after dropping off the dog and a quick stop to see Beth's grandfather (who's going to be joining us in Hawaii). We met up with Ben and did the usual packet pickup, course driving, and pre-race dinner at the Olive Garden (where Chad & Jen joined us too). It turned out the half IM bike course was changed from one big out and back to two loops of a shorter out and back due to recent (like the day before) oil and chipping on the roads. Boy am I glad I didn't have to ride on that!

Race morning comes and we head off to the course. It was a little odd for me to have to worry about all these preparations for racing. Usually I'm just hanging out and munching on some poptarts or something while Beth's off warming up. Not today, though.

They announced that the water temperature was just cool enough for wetsuits. While I had only worn my wetsuit once before, I was glad to be able to use it (even if it took me 20 minutes to get it on).

See, I did get the wetsuit on finally.

Going in, I formulated my sub-6 time by the following:
Swim: Try to keep it under 50 minutes
Bike: Try to keep it under 3:30
Run: Try to keep it under 1:45 (8:00-ish pace)

We head down to the swim start, Beth and I say our good lucks and Ben and I get in the water for the Men's Half start. The order was men's half, women's half (5 min), men's olympic (15 min), women's olympic (20 min). Beth and I were joking the last week about who would get out of the water first between us. I did have a 20 minute head start, but had to go a little further. If things played out how I had predicted, she would be well on her bike before I came out.

However, the swim went relatively well for me. I stayed wide and in the back at the start because I didn't want to get beat up and just very methodically keyed off the people around me and periodically sighted for the buoys and the bridge. Next thing you know I'm actually passing a few people and turning around making my way towards the swim finish. Not too bad at all and probably the highlight of my day was seeing the 40:0X on my watch (started the watch during the countdown from 10). I ended up swimming 39:58 and did indeed beat Beth out of the water (in spite of her AWESOME sub-21 olympic swim split). I was just in the process of attempting to get my wetsuit off as I saw her run by in transition. She was telling me that she was glad to see me and know I made it out of the water. Statistically, I was 54th out of the water out of 103 male and female competitors in the half. How about that, I didn't finish last!

It started out on the blacktop paved bike trail for the first four miles and I was loving the fact of seeing my average mph so high. We get to the end of it and have to go up this short but steep hill to get up to the bridge and the main road for the rest of the course. Wouldn't you know it, I drop my chain when I shifted down to the small ring. Bummer! I just kind of laughed and put it back on, waited for a clear path and zig-zagged my way up the rest of the short hill. That didn't really faze me too much, maybe because I was still loving the fact that I bought myself 10 extra minutes I wasn't planning from the swim. The rest of the course was essentially up, down, up, down and then back.

I was a little concerned about getting my nutrition on the bike in because I'm a little shaky when it comes to balance and control when riding. In other words, if I try to take my left hand off the bike to reach back, I feel like I'm going to lose control and tip over. But, I mapped it out and told myself to just pull over if I needed to to rotate the bottles. After lap 1, there was a bottle exchange, so I just pulled over there to rotate the bottles and all worked out well. In the end, I stuck to my plan and finished 4 gels (all while in motion) and 2-2/3 bottles of infinit drink mix.

Also, with it being a two-lap course, I think that helped me map out lap 2 and have a strategy since I was a little tentative on lap 1 (to not overdo it and uncertain of the road surface and topography). I looked at my watch when I completed lap 1 and saw it said 1:36-ish. So, I figured if I could hit 3:15 on the bike, I'd definitely hit that goal. I ended up 3:12:56 and 59th on the bike (that's right, my swim wasn't my lowest-ranked leg). Someday I'll have more confidence on the bike.

So, I'm down in the aero position finshing the last four miles on the bike into transition (and actually passed four people) and drop the bike off for the run. I pop a few "gummies" (aka Powerbar Gel Blasts), throw on my shoes and visor, grab my gel, and get on my way.

I don't know if it's the good part or the bad part of the running, but having mile markers gives you a lot of feedback and lets you break up the race more. I'm leaving T2 under 4 hours, so I'm figuring things are looking pretty good for the sub-6 milestone. However, knowing
how things unfolded for me in the Philly marathon in the last 13 miles, I didn't want to take anything for granted. One thing I failed to get at T2 was some salt tablets (we found out that they were under my wetsuit when I threw it down--should've had them in my shoe like the gel....rookie mistake). Based on the cramping I had in Philly our one theory was I was sweating out too much salt. So, I was going to take it this time and see if it helped. I realized I didn't have them around mile 3 or 4. Too late then!

I must have been really pumped leaving T2 or perhaps the first mile was too close, but I split a 6:06 first mile. Oops!!! I wanted to start out at 7:30-ish for the first half and see how I felt from there. The next few miles were right on target (7:24, 7:26, 7:15). Going out was a slight uphill (like our Butler-Freeport trail) so I knew going back we'd have the slight downhill. Also, somewhere around mile 3 or 4, Ben passed on his way back. I was counting to let him know where he was. He was 7th and held on to it with a guy closing in. Great job, Ben!

The next mile (5) was 8:01 and I was a little bit uncomforable so I was planning a pit stop in the woods. However, right after the mile 5 water station there was a porto-potty (that's right, I just used that in a blog) so I make a quick stop and mile 6 was still 8:34. Then, the sun, the hill, the undertraining, the loss of electrolytes (in spite of solid nutrition on the bike and taking my gel on the run) all caught up to me as I hit the turnaround.

Can you say cramp city! Although not the hammies this time, but rather the quads (probably from biking 56 miles and then forcing the body to run 13 miles for the first time?). No major muscle siezures this time, but they were tightening up. So, the rest of the way back, I just did my little shuffle, stopped for water at every rest stop and tried to make it in to salvage the run.

The consensus was that there wasn't a mile 7 marker, but 7 & 8 were 17:01 (8:30 avg), 9 was 8:55, 10 was 10:28 (and 5:18 overall for the race). I told myself to keep it together for the last 5k. Heck, even if I averaged 10 minute miles walking out with water from the aid stations, I'd still hit my goal. So, onward I go. 10:26 for mile 11 and I told myself just 20 more minutes to finish. 8:59 for mile 12 and 9:03 for mile 13 with a rocking sub-60 for the last 0.1 for a total of a disappointing 1:50:42, but overall 5:47:30.

Afterwards we were all smiles. Great day all around. Beth won the olympic race, Ben finished 7th and first in his AG, Jen was 3rd OA.

So, not how it was drawn up but a good experience and lost of good lessons learned for down the road (WAY down the road).
*I feel like I could maybe even push the swim a little more
*I need to work on my bike to get more comfortable with it
*Salt tabs or something needs to be done to address my cramping on the run
*If I want to do this again, I need to train MORE (begging the question if I want to do this again).
*Ben is an up and coming triathlon machine. LOOK OUT!!
*It's great to have a great supporter to bounce all kinds of ideas and to learn from the best training partner in the world. Go Team Shutt!

The other great thing about the race was we were home by dinner time since it was only in Morgantown. I can definitely get used to that.

So, now to figure out my plans for the fall. Is the Philly marathon right around the corner....or do I go a different route and take a little break then train for the Pittsburgh marathon next spring? Hmmmm.... To be continued....

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Whopper of a Meal....and other stuff

On Saturday, Beth and I stopped at Hoss's for dinner before heading to the Saturday night service at Cornerstone. Great music and message by a guest speaker (more on that to follow), but it begins with the dinner. For those unfamiliar with Hoss's, it's known for it's steak and seafood, but also for its buffet of salad and many other items. I documented the effort I put in one time last summer at Hoss's, and I was feeling like this could be a solid performance as well.

Just like when you can tell a pitcher's got his good stuff working on the mound and there's potential for great things like a no-hitter or perfect game, I went in to Hoss's feeling hungry. So, unlike the verbal description from last summer, I figured I'd capture the images of my evening at Hoss's:

Round 1: Salad, garlic bread, and cinnamon bread. Got me rolling and I was feeling good.

Round 2: Jello w/ whipped cream, pineapples, apple slices, and melon. Just to continue the warmup before the main course. (apologies on the blurry picture, I was hastily snapping the shots on the phone in an attempt to not appear weird--probably unsuccessfully--to the servers and other patrons)

Round 3: Steakhouse sandwich (formerly sliced-steak sandwich) and fries. And they sure loaded on the fries. I was worried I was starting to hit the wall and questioning my effort (much like one would a mile into a hard 5k), but I got my second wind and was rolling to the finish line (and preparing to roll out the door).

Round 4: A little mac & cheese and chips w/ nacho cheese. Just because.

Round 5: Dessert - A brownie on the bottom (a hidden treat!), vanilla ice cream, crushed oreo, peanut butter sauce, hot fudge, and whipped topping. Yum!

Round 6: Oatmeal Raisin cookie and applesauce. Think of it kind of like a cool down.

So there you have it. I do believe Hoss's didn't profit off me this evening. By no means was it a no-hitter or PR, but a very solid effort.


The current series at Cornerstone is dealing with Creation and is then going to transition to the End Times. With our summer travel schedule, we have missed a few Sundays, but that's the great thing about modern technology and podcasts. If any of this stuff interests you, you can check out the messages
here (under Weekend Sermon Series)

I find the idea and debate of creation interesting, probably because I come from a mathematical/analytical background. On the surface, no one was there when life started, so this debate is not going to end any time soon.

The idea of "on the first day..., on the second day, ..." and so on is a sticking point for a lot of people. The Bible states in Genesis that the world was created in 6 days and on the 7th God rested. I must say that the whole 6 days to create the current world is hard for me to wrap my head around.

I don't want to turn this into a thesis of Creationism vs Evolution, but one other point I want to mention that really hits home for me from a mathematical standpoint. What evolution means to me is that these living organisms have changed over time (and now we have humans). However, the statistical probability of all the right things happening for us to end up where we are now leads me to believe that there is some higher being (aka God) guiding the entire process.

Some questions that I mull over any time this debate comes up:
*Is the 6 days literal? Or did it happen over a longer period of time?
*Suppose life is 'evolving' where did it start? Conservation of matter would go against the idea of a 'Big Bang' (but boy does that TV show with their physics and math jokes make me laugh!!)
*How is it that earth was perfectly positioned relative to the sun for climate, gravitational pull, rotation speed, and many other factors to sustain human life? Could this be statistically probable?
*If things are evolving, what's the higher level after humans?
*What is the probability of things working out perfectly for animals to evolve into humans? I am sold on adapting to your surroundings, but this seems like a stretch to me.
*One thing brought up in the message was about DNA and RNA (of which I've gleaned all my knowledge about from Law & Order and 48-Hours Mystery). How is it our cells are perfectly programmed to make us who we are? Again, I go back to the statistical significance of it happening.

So, the evidence for me leans me to the side of Creation. I'd love to look into resources and references that make cases for both sides. The one thing I hate with debates, though, is that it turns into a mud-slinging, name-calling, throw-out-all-the-facts-and-resort-to-yelling, and we lose the point of the discussion. So, if you are going to comment on either side be factual, informative, and don't be a meanie!

Well, since the All-Star break the Pirates have looked great and then terrible, decent, and then terrible. However, the core (McCutchen, Tabata, Walker, Jones, Alvarez) is really starting to take shape. The pitching is a little uneven still, but I'm glad they held on to Maholm and Duke to give the younger guys some older stability.

The trade deadline was interesting this year. The last two years, they unloaded starters who were in the last year of their contract or had only one or two additional years on the contract (Nady, Bay, Sanchez, Wilson,...). By getting rid of starters, it was a clear sign of rebuilding. However, this year they traded two bench guys who were hitting .200 and three relief pitchers on one-year contracts. That's progress to me. That's saying we have our group and we're starting to move forward.

Now, the return wasn't the greatest, but what can you expect for backups and relievers? If ANY of the guys contribute (C-Snyder, SP-Martinez, OF-Bowker, SP-McDonald, OF-Lambo), it was a success because none of the players dealt away were going to be significant pieces next year. Progress!

Now, the Pirates just need to make sure to sign the two high-school arms they drafted in the first two rounds this year. More to come on that in mid-August.

*Congrats to all the PR's at the Pittsburgh Triathlon this past weekend. Our friend Ben had the fastest bike split in the ENTIRE RACE and finished 12th overall and 3rd in his AG.
*AND, he's racing again this weekend with Beth and I down in Morgantown. Beth's doing the Olympic as a little tuneup and Ben and I are doing the Half IM. It'll be my first half and the goal is to finish. Under 6:00 would be great, but I just want to cross that line and check it off the list.
*Beth's coming to talk with the XC teams next week, so that should be a good time as she drops some nutrition knowledge on the kids.
*This Friday I'm meeting up with some Etown alums for a night out at the Pirates. We're in the All-You-Can-Eat seats, but I need to behave since the triathlon's on Sunday.
*The softball game last Friday didn't go too hot, I pitched the last three innings and there was a lot of solid contact (and a lot of balls getting through the infield and getting thrown to the wrong bag) and it wasn't too pretty. The silver lining of the night was that I was 0-for-4 with my first strikeout in years (in my defense strike two was low and outside and strike three was inside, but I guess you have to swing if it's close). Why was this good? Well, it saved some wear and tear on my body from running the bases. Yeah. It was that kind of night to have that as the silver lining.

Well, off to recover some more from my Hoss's eating episode and arm-contorting fastpitch appearance.