Saturday, October 30, 2010

Heading in the Right Direction

So a funny thing happened along the way between mile 9 and 10 in the race this morning....

Before getting to that, to recap the last few days.

Thursday, both the boys and girls XC teams each finished 3rd and earned berths to the state championship in Hershey next Saturday.

This is a picture of the girls. The exciting thing is that there is one senior in our top 6. On the boys' side, there was only one senior, too. The makings of a solid foundation for next year!

Friday night, we went to the high school football game--my first I've attended (listened to many online) since I started there five years ago. Both teams were undefeated in the section and our Blue Devils beat the hated rival Panthers from Kari M's school.

Then, on to the race on Saturday. It was a chilly morning (about 35 degrees). Beth came out to offer her support since she's just starting to get back in the swing of things after Kona. My cousin K came out to do the 5k and I was doing the 10-miler. The topography of map my run made it seem not too bad. Not so fast my friend. It was either up or down. No killer hills, just lots of little ones....and the mile uphill from 7 to 8.

There were people at just about every turn, guiding you to head left or right. Until the final turn. Nobody there. You see, as illustrated in the picture below, I THOUGHT the 10 miler was going to finish like the 5k. However, we came out on to Beaver Grade Road where I needed to take a left. I make the right, and start opening it up down the hill (only a half mile to go, right?) when I see two racers who were in front of me coming back up the hill.
I think, "uh oh." As I'm approaching them I say, "Is this the wrong way?" They say, "We think." So, I throw it into reverse and try to follow them in. All told, probably about an extra half mile. Oh well. It didn't really affect the finishing places, just some of our times. It was crazy that those two guys ended up independently making the same error as me. After the race, I cooled down and went back to see what went wrong. The intersection wasn't marked at all. However, there was NOW a police car guiding the runners to turn right. In the end, 1:07:10 for 10 (and a half) miles, good enough for 6th place. Congrats also to Karen for a 5k win!
Time for a fun week of preparations for the kids for the state XC meet. Countdown to Hershey!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Post-Triathlon Season

My triathlon spectathlete (spectator/athlete for those who were wondering) duties are wrapped up for the year. Since we've been back, I've been playing a lot of catch-up (especially on sleep) and enjoying the meat of the cross country season.

The Wednesday through Friday back at school were interesting. Trying to get up to speed on what the students did while I was gone and trying to keep pace with the other teachers who teach those courses was interesting. Waking up wasn't too bad (I thought it would be rough to wake up at "11pm" Hawaiian), however I hit the wall each of those days on my drive home from work. I was struggling to keep the eyes open and tried everything from blasting music, singing at the top of my lungs, listening to political debates, having debates with myself, and calling Beth. Ultimately, I made it home each day in one piece, and (after getting 10+ hours of sleep each day of the weekend), I felt back on track last week and this week.

On the cross country front, our district meet (precursor to the state meet) is this Thursday. Where did the season go? Next Saturday's the state meet already!! I am ready as I've got my XC Playoff beard in tip-top shape.

They're calling for sun, wind, and highs in the upper 50's. Just about perfect! The top 4 teams qualify and I think both our boys and girls have decent shots of making it. That would be fun to have both teams make it, but we shall see. That's why the run the race! The district JV race was Monday in the POURING rain. Ugh! It's fun watching the younger kids go out and compete and have the day be about them. Those are the future stars. Just for the record, North Allegheny is loaded on JV and could probably field about three teams at WPIAL's and qualify them all for the state meet.

In other news, I'm signed up for a 10-miler this weekend. The race website describes the course as "Some challenging hills mixed with mildly rolling paved roads around the Cherrington Office complex and the roads around Moon Township." This is making me worry that it's going to be some crazy course (like the end of the Frigid 5). Then, to compound things, I've been going into the race thinking that I'd like to shoot for 6-minute pace when I see the winner the past two years (my archnemisis Racer X) has won the race in 1:03. Hmmmm.

So, I did a little research to see how bad the hills really were using I compared the following course's elevations:

1) Martha's Run 10k
2) A loop near our house that starts up in "The Heights" and goes down to the river and back
3) The Frigid 5-miler (with the crazy hill at the end)
4) The Harvest Moon Run 10-miler

So, this eased my concerns about the hilliness of the course, but I still wonder why the times aren't all that fast. Regardless, I guess I'll just get out there and compete and let the time take care of itself.

After this, I may do a Thanksgiving day race and/or a race the 1st weekend of December. Then, a little time off for cross-training before ramping up the training for the Pittsburgh Marathon in January.

A fellow teacher (and fellow strong Pirates supporter) forwarded me this link about a Pirate fan who placed a $20 bet against the Pirates every game this past year and ended up making a 9.8% return on investment. I put on FB that I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or try the investment strategy next April. That's an ROI that would even impress Marty the investor! If you look at the excel sheet linked in the article, you can be really entertained. Okay, if you like math, money, and followed the Pirates all year you would like it. Had the Pirates not put on a mini-surge in September, he would have even made more. Alas, one of these years they'll be relevant...

Looking forward to the World Series starting Wednesday and I'll break out my baseball tie my sister-in-law got me a few years back.

I'm excited to see Cliff Lee throw a few more times. I heard this stat on the radio that Cliff Lee has 4 postseason games where he's struck out double digits and walked NONE. In postseason HISTORY (since 1903), only two other pitchers have done it ONCE!! And to think the Indians offered him as part of a package deal for Jason Bay. Sigh. Josh Hamilton is a great story, too, if you haven't heard it before.

I guess I was pulling for a Tampa Bay-Philadelphia final, but this should be fun, too. All the pitching that San Francisco has should match up well against Texas. And, how about mediocre and expendable Pirates reliever Javier Lopez becoming the dominant left-on-left reliever against the Phillies? Who knew?

Off to catch up on a few more things I haven't gotten around to in the last few weeks....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To Sum Up The Kona Experience

Here was Beth's day:

with my amateur video capturing her finish

Here was my day:

Of course, if I left it at that, this would be a fairly boring entry. So.....

Where did I leave off?

Ah, yes, Seattle. I got in a nice 4 mile run in the morning and then trekked back across the street to SeaTac Airport. I was very impressed with the area and the organization of the airport (except the security lines). Of course, since I was in Seattle, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase something at Starbucks. However, I'm not a coffee drinker, so I went for the smoothie option.

The flight across the Pacific went off without a hitch and I was in Kona around noon (Hawaiian). We stopped off at the most-popular Lava Java for some food and then went over to the expo. There, we swung by the MAO tent and I finally got to meet Mark Allen in person. Not being a big triathlon participant myself, it wasn't that lifetime memory or anything. However, the man is the Michael Jordan of his sport and you've got to respect that.

Back to the home for the rest of Thursday afternoon and I tried to take a nap to help adjust to the time. However, the Welcome dinner went on until almost 9pm (3am for me as of 24 hours previously) and, as you can see in the photo, I don't know how coherent I was for this.

Friday was pre-race day. I ran with Beth and ran a little further as she did a short bike workout. We then went over to the Kona pier and I had a chance to swim there. That was amazing seeing how clear the water was--seeing the coral, swimming among the fish. After a pasta dinner courtesy of Beth's mom, it was off to bed for the early wakeup call.

Race morning, I dropped off Beth and her mom near the pier on Palani and then drove back to park by Lava Java. I met up with them, we got our morning photos and then the pros went off and then the mass of age-groupers went off.

In addition to Beth's parents, I was joined by some other Pittsburgh area spectathletes--the significant others of Chad and Matt (and Kristen's sister). They came ready to represent the burgh with the shirts and the terrible towels.

After we saw everyone go past on the bike out to the Queen K, we went our separate ways. Beth's mom and I went over towards Lava Java. It was packed so we went next door to U Top It and set up information tracker headquarters (not to mention eat some food!)

As they came back from the bike we went out to Alii Drive outside of Lava Java (Mile 1 & 9-ish). Our setup can be summarized below with the spectathletes cheering and shooting photos.

Matty Mo was soaking it all in, stopping for some hi-fives and a kiss for his lovely wife.

Beth and the crew went back to the finish before midnight to cheer in the final competitors. I wanted to go, but my body started revolting. I slept almost as soon as we got Beth home from the race. She tried to get me to go, but I remember making my argument to her about how I just couldn't muster up the energy to go as my eyes were closing shut. I know--pretty weak. Something I'll have to improve upon if Beth makes it back.

The day after the race, we had a chance to swing by a beach, take our underwater camera, and do some fun swimming. Beth even snapped a shot of a turtle!

Then began the long trek home: Kona-San Jose-2 hour layover-overnight to Atlanta-1.5 hour layover-Pittsburgh. We made it home!

Some summary statistics:

6 days for this trip
6 cities stopped in (PIT-CHI-SEA-KOA-SJ-ATL-PIT)
4 beds slept in (if you include the airplane seat on the redeye back)
7 smoothies consumed
5 trips to Lava Java
1.75 books read
71 tests graded on the airplane (very cramped!)
1 turtle spotted
1 fellow teacher spotted impersonating an evil villian at the Chicago airport (see the Make-a-Wish foundation)

We traveled from the NLDS winner (San Francisco) to the loser (Atlanta)
On Wednesday, I was fortunate to hit my layover in Chicago out perfectly to witness innings 5-9 of Roy Halladay's no hitter (my first ever one I've seen live)
Hundreds of pictures taken

Great job to Beth, Chad, Matt, Jeremy, Jocelyn, and everybody else out there who can now call themselves an IRONMAN!

To sum it up, a marvelous time!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Almost Aloha

I survived my days flying solo at home. Actually, it flew by. (Two sentences, 2 travelling puns! Yes!)

By the time I dropped Beth off, took the dog to my parents, had a cross country meet, set up my lesson plans, it was time for me to get to the airport and go.

This travelling from the east coast to Hawaii sure takes a while. My route took me from Pittsburgh to Chicago to Seattle, sleep, to Kona the next day. And, this was no mindless last-minute thrown together itinerary, either.

This route was the result of a very complex linear programming algorithm worthy of my IE 405 class at Penn State that I started working on the day Beth qualified back at Eagleman. Here were some of the constraints that came into play to get me out there:

*Minimize cost
*Minimize travel time
*Maximize time in Hawaii
*Days of school missed <=4
*Departure time > end of school day
*Return date <>

....and probably a couple of other constraints I can't think of off the top of my head since it's 1:46 am eastern (but I figured writing a blog would force me to stay up later, acclimating me more to Hawaii time).

I utilized all the travel sites. I looked at one-way and round trip. I looked at multi-day, multiple-airline options. I looked at layovers between Pittsburgh and Kona at (from North to South, then East) Seattle, Portland, San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas,....I think that was it. And, this is what I came up with.

On to the as I'm exiting my plane in Chicago and heading towards the central food court area, I see a familiar face in the airport....although he was on the wall:

Yep. One of the teachers I work with did a Make-a-Wish event a few years ago and there he is on a billboard inside the airport. I've seen this ad in a Pittsburgh magazine before, but he's going big-time now! The Chicago airport!

Speaking of people in magazines, guess who was part of the Mark Allen Online ad in the most recent triathlon magazine?

That's right. I know famous people (ha, ha)....and I'm sure I'll see some big time famous people when I get out to the island for the race.

One other thing of note is that when I get on an airplane I turn into a bookworm. For some reason I can't ever sit myself down to read at any point during my daily/weekly routine. Actually I know the reason--too many things to do: school, practice, training, spending time with Beth, watching sports. However, you put me on a plane, and I'll read for hours (at least until I fall asleep).

I actually ended up bringing three books (two of which I had started on previous occasions but didn't get too far). I polished off one and am well on my way to finishing the second.

The one I finished was Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald. I have to admit, it got a little fluffy at times and I rolled my eyes. However, there was a lot of good stuff in there about pain threshold, preventing injuries, cross training, and body strengthening. In fact, I may use one of the suggested training plans for racing next spring. He did have some stuff in there I questioned about the whole running barefoot (or with those weird barefoot shoes) and hydration/nutrition during workouts. For those, he kept referencing back to what our ancient ancestors did when they were hunting down dinner on the African plains.

After wrapping up that book, I moved on to a book that I keep reading part of, but then it gets pushed to the back because I get another book I want to read more (like the Brain Training). It's called Wesley and the People Called Methodists. It's an interesting biography of John Wesley and how he started the Methodist faith. It's a little slow at times (thus putting it behind other books), but it's neat to read some of the quotes from his journal throughout the years. I just finished the portion where he left England to travel to the "colonies" across the Atlantic and started up churches in Savannah, Georgia. There was a map that was pretty neat to look at that had Hilton Head on it. Wesley was a very devoted man who was striving to always get closer to God with all of his daily activities--a very good role model.

And, if I get to it (I do have lots of hours still left to fly there and back) I also have "The Federalist Papers." I picked this up three or four years ago when there was a lot of presidential bashing. Much in the same way I did with my expansive investigative excel sheet looking at the state of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I thought it would be a good idea to read the "documents that shaped a nation" and see whether or not our leaders were sticking true to the goals of the founding fathers. Well, I never got around to it (see "time, lack of" from above), a new president is in, but I think the idea of seeking out the heart and intent of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay seems fascinating to me.

Oh yeah, I need to get some tests graded and analyze some student data from a standardized test they took.

So, off to bed in the Pacific Time Zone (beyond 2am in the east--I did snooze some on the flight) and onto the big island tomorrow to reunite with Beth, her parents, and grandfather. Looking forward to shooting lots of pictures and sharing lots of stories over the next few days!