Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Soggy Trot RR and the weekend

Normally they're called Turkey Trots. This one was a SOGGY Trot along the North Shore and Downtown. Upper-30's and LOTS of rain. But, it's the same weather for everybody (at least the 50% of the registrants that decided to show up), so onto the race.

After warming up (in the rain) but finding a dry covering by the FSN Pittsburgh studios building to stretch it was time for the race. Of course, when lining up, there were the usual suspects of people who SHOULDN'T be lined up in the first 5 or 6 'rows' of runners - the group of four wearing the elf costumes, the lady with the headphones and 80's warmups, the 'rookies' wearing their bright yellow Turkey Trot long-sleeve t-shirt for the race (a 'true' runner fashion faux pas), the couple with the turkey hats, and the list goes on and on....

The gun goes off and I weave around this group and settle in to see 'Racer X' (see background story for that) only a quarter mile into the race. I figure I'll just hang out on his hip for the first 5k and see how things go from there. The night before, I was studying the course map (so I wouldn't get lost again) and plugged it into to see where the mile markers were. Good thing I did because there were no mile markers on the course. So, I split my watch at about the points where I thought the mile markers were. I checked out the map after the race and adjusted my splits.

Anyway, the course is mostly flat other than going over the Clemente Bridge and back. So, it went out fast, but staying on Racer X's hip helped me stay under control for the first mile in front of Heinz Field and around PNC Park--5:50-5:55-ish. Up over the Clemente Bridge and hang a right past the KDKA studios over to the Boulevard of the Allies. The hands were pretty cold, but I figured wearing wet gloves wouldn't make much of a difference (other than being heavy) so the hands were bare for the race.

There's a turnaround around the two mile-ish mark by the old YMCA and I was able to see how many runners were ahead (though it didn't really matter yet since the 5k runners were with us still) and see who was behind. I saw Charlie among the group on their way back in his usual racing red top. It looked like there were 20 or 30 or so people ahead of me, but not much to learn from that yet.

We go back over the bridge (with Racer X still right around me) and hit the 3 mile mark. I was right around 18:00 at this point. The 5k-ers turned in to the finish by the home plate entrance to PNC Park while us 5-milers moved on to go around Heinz Field and turnaround at the casino.

In my vicinity, there was a group of three runners and then me and Racer X. I started sizing things up at the casino turnaround (mile 4-ish) and thought I felt pretty good considering the circumstances of the weather and everything. So, with about a half mile to go, I put a surge on before the final U-turn. I planted my foot hard at that turn and sprinted a couple of strides. Then, we had a right turn onto Art Rooney Ave and I planted the foot and sprinted a couple of more strides. Next thing you know, it was no longer about holding off Racer X but realizing that group of 3 in front of me just may be catchable. We make the final turn onto General Robinson St and I'm sizing up how far away PNC Park is off in the distance and how soon and how hard I should make my kick.

I go for it and pass the first runner, putting on a surge so he wouldn't hold on. This transitioned me right beside runner number two so I just kept it up and went past him. I'm closing in on runner 3 and laying it out there. Unfortunately, I didn't catch him by surprise because I think I let out a few grunts of effort in my attempts to close the gap on him. He looked over his shoulder, saw me, and put in an extra little kick to where I couldn't catch him.

But, it was a fun time trying to chase him down. We talked after the finish line and he was in town from Denver, Colorado visiting family. Real nice guy....and I couldn't believe from hearing the results that he won the masters division. I looked in the results when I got home and sure enough there he was. No way this guy was 42! But, I guess staying in shape pays off and makes you look younger.

The final tally was I ended up a soggy 30:43 on the chip (6:08 pace) good for 10th overall and 1st in my age group (30-39). The first picture is from the race website photos. It's funny because that diagonal copyright text flowed down the screen--very fitting analogy for how it rained all day.
Also, I posted the picture of the bobblehead award on facebook and it earned a description of 'creepy.' Can't say I disagree with that....especially when the head starts bobbling and those eyes seem to follow you around the room.

Another thing, I'm not a big fan of when the age group is 30-39 because the next number after 39 is 40 and that just seems OLD (just kidding and apologies to those great athletes already in their 40's--not that I'll mention names and call you out since you don't look like you're 40. You know who you are!). I'm real excited about a top 10 finish in this big of a race. Also, I was really happy about how the race played out. Staying conservative at the beginning and not getting pulled in by the top 5k people left enough in the tank for a strong half mile surge to the finish to pick up three spots. Other than the rain, a real fun, fast race and I'll definitely consider doing it again next year.

Congrats to all the people who toughed it out and showed up and raced in that weather including Charlie, Jeremy & Jocelyn, Tara, Shelly, and a handful of the students from my school. Up next, we're doing the Trot for Tots next weekend and then I'm going to shut it down for December before ramping it up in January for the Pittsburgh marathon.

I ended up sticking around for the awards, which of course weren't done in a timely manner despite there only being about 30 people standing there inside the PNC Park garage. I thought it would be most efficient to just ask each person still there to state their name and give each poor, soggy soul their award so we could go home to get dry and warm!!!, Although a little tighter on time than originally planned, I stopped at home for a really quick (and very HOT!) shower and, thanks to Beth's exemplary driving (that officer was targeting someone else for speeding!), we made it just in time for the Thanksgiving lunch at my parents house.

Then, Thursday night we went down to Uniontown to save a drive the next morning when they were calling for a wintry mix. After a nice, chilly (although thank goodness dry!) hour run around downtown Uniontown in the morning, we caught the Pitt-WVU game. What was up with those uniforms? I read something about it paying tribute to the miners and steelworkers, but...ugh!

We then went down to Fallingwater. That was my first ever time there. Pretty impressive structure. It would be amazing to live there in the summer and fall asleep to that running water every night.
After an amazing dinner at Nemacolin (Beth and I only managed to make ourselves look like country bumkins a handful of times), back home.

Saturday, we saw an amazing movie called '127 hours' about Aaron Ralston and his fight for survival after getting his arm pinned underneath a rock while hiking. I heard his interview on Dateline NBC a few years back and it was amazing to see that story be placed on the big screen. Amazing is all I can say. If you're looking for a Christmas present, he wrote a book telling the story. It's called 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place.' At least the man has a sense of humor with that title.

Back to school on Monday and the start of indoor track practice, but Christmas will be right around the corner I'm sure. That's how December usually works!

Good luck to Kim competing at IM Cozumel today!

Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

This n'at

It's my offseason from coaching and other stuff, so nothing really noteworthy going on around here of late. However, might as well do a little post for the sake of doing one for the first time in a few weeks. So here's a little bit of ramblings about the Pirates

(Note: For non-Pirates related matter, skip down to the next heading)

*The Pirates hired a new manager in Clint Hurdle. Not that it'll make much of a difference. I say that in the sense that a great manager vs a poor manager will only make a 5-8 game difference. When you're the last-place team that doesn't help much. That said, I thought Hurdle was the best candidate for the job and there's only one way to go. It's a young team and should be improving. Also, maybe Hurdle can sway a free agent or two to come to Pittsburgh.

*I'll be interested to see what kind of moves the Pirates make this winter. There is a definite need for starting pitching, but a very thin market. They could also use a right-handed power bat in the mold of 2003-2004 Reggie Sanders.

*It's a shame to see Zach Duke, Delwyn Young, and Andy LaRoche be released but being good guys isn't enough to warrant remaining on the roster. Duke would've been making $5-6 million this year and have a 5-6 ERA. We'll see if he'd want to come back from $1 million or so. LaRoche had his chance at 3B and, while he played great defensively in 2009, he wasn't good offensively OR defensively at a corner position in 2010. Had the bat played, there would have been a spot for him (like Neil Walker) even with Alvarez coming up. Young was a nice bat off the bench, but didn't offer much more than that. A dime a dozen.

*Just for curiosity's sake, let's take a look at the starting lineups for the Pirates and the San Francisco Giants and tell me who you'd rather have going into 2011.

C - Buster Posey vs Ryan Doumit and Chris Snider. Just wanted to get the 4-hole rookie-of-the-year obvious one in favor of SF out of the way, but the rest of the argument is pretty compelling.
1B - Aubrey Huff vs Garret Jones. Huff, who will be 34, had a great 2010, but look at the average OPS over the past two years for the two players
2B - Freddy Sanchez vs Neil Walker. Sanchez will be 33 and is declining. Walker, 26, had an over .800 OPS and is still just learning second base.
3B - Juan Uribe vs Pedro Alvarez. No contest here - go with the raw middle-of-the-order power of Alvarez
SS - Edgar Renteria vs Ronny Cedeno. Only because Cedeno's not that good, would you pick the old has-been Renteria (who was so clutch in the playoffs). Can anyone say a 2007 model of Jack Wilson instead?
LF - Pat Burrell or Cody Ross vs Jose Tabata. Ross caught fire down the stretch but was just a September waiver trade. Burrell (and his contract) got released from fiscally conscious Tampa Bay. Take the youth and speed and potential of Tabata.
CF - Andres Torres vs Andrew McCutchen. Torres is pretty good, but McCutchen is getting close to being all-star material (16 HR, 33 SB, .814 OPS). Close call, but both are good options.
RF - Aaron Rowand vs TBD. Okay, but here's where the Pirates need to make a good move.

The moral of the story is that, from a batting order standpoint, the Pirates match up fairly well against the World Series Champs. HOWEVER, there's that little thing called starting pitching. Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, and Bumgarner are ALL better than the Pirates' best starting pitcher. But, that's why I find no fault in the Pirates investing so much the last few years in the draft in high-end pitchers. It seems like you don't need a great offensive team (just an adequate one), but you NEED GREAT PITCHING. Talk to me in 2-3 years when the Pirates' rotation is made up of Morris, Locke, Owens, Tallion, Allie, Heredia, or maybe a few others. It's all about developing pitching.

One of the runners from our school is going to the Foot Locker regional meet in New York this weekend. He was inspired by his teammate from last year qualifying for and competing at Foot Locker Nationals. Since he's a junior, he's going into this race with an open mind, trying to gain experience to put him in a position to try to be top-10 next year. However, who knows, maybe this year...

So, since the rest of the team was resting up and getting ready for indoor track training to start in December, I volunteered to come a few times and workout with him to give him someone to train with. As with Rad last year, I enjoy training with these high-caliber athletes because it's a great challenge but also a good humbling exercise to keep in perspective my level of talent (or lack thereof). For example from this past week:

His workout - 6 mile long run
My workout - 6 mile TEMPO RUN (left wheezing up the final hill to the locker room)

His workout - 3x1600 working down towards 5:00
My workout - 3x800 (2nd half of his 1600's) holding on for dear life to run beside him even though he was going twice as far as me and I got extra rest

His workout - 9x400 in the 70's
My workout - 2 out of every 3 400's and I get to run in lane 1 while he's running in lane 2 (yet I still use his stagger)

But, it's fun and I'm hoping he has a great experience up there this weekend.

This training has been fun preparation for the Downtown Turkey Trot. I'm going for the 5-mile option and am excited to run this race for the first time. I've done the Greensburg Turkey Trot, but this'll be my first time dahn-tahn. I'll be sure to study this map a little closer than I did than my last race. The Turkey Trot is such a great idea to burn a few calories and have fun prior to feasting on some turkey and fixin's. It should be a prerequisite for Turkey day.

Congrats to JoePa on win #400. No coach will ever do that again. I'll be interested which Michigan State and which Penn State teams show up Saturday. MSU has a lot riding on the game, but they haven't won at Beaver Stadium since the inception of the Land Grant Trophy (aka concocted rivalry) when PSU came into the Big Ten. PSU looked equally impressive then embarrassing for stretches the last two weeks against Ohio State and Indiana. Who knows what kind of team will show up.

I'm getting ready to prepare my annual BCS Playoff proposal. Here's the ones from last year and the year before. It's all about giving every team in Division 1-A a chance when they start in August.

Congrats to Penn State (and Richmond men for Charlie!) on their performance at NCAA Cross Country Regionals and Nationals. Also, congrats to Etown men & women for top 15 performances at D3 Nationals.

The Steelers bounced back from the beating they took from New England. They handled the Raiders easily. I thought after the game against the Patriots they may start tanking. Too bad about Jeff Reed getting cut. It's a result league and he wasn't getting results (and he was running his mouth).

In other NFL news, I'm right on the bubble of making the playoffs in my fantasy football league. Who knew? If only I had a running back...

Prayers go out to Colt Brennan, his girlfriend, and the passenger in the other car from this accident in Kona on the Queen K just north of the airport (where Beth was riding last month). An interesting link for us is we met Colt Brennan's mother in Alabama when we were down there for Beth to compete in USAT Nationals. It was the Sunday morning after the race and we were eating breakfast in the hotel (yummy waffles) and she came up to us and said, "Do you know the score of the Redskins exhibition game from yesterday?" Since it was August and I was still in baseball mode, I said, "Sorry, I don't follow the NFL too close and just pretty much the Steelers." Well, it turned out the Redskins played the Steelers (oops!) and I was just uninformed. She introduced herself and told us how she was visiting relatives and on her way (either from or to) Texas to catch his next game. Very friendly woman and very humble about her son being talented NCAA quarterback trying to stick in the NFL.

Okay, that turned out long. If you can't sleep tonight, this just may do the trick. Good night!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oh DEER, Oh BABY, what a weekend!

If you told me Thursday night that my weekend would be highlighted by a deer and a baby, I probably would've been stumped. Let's see....Pitt Calculus Meeting doesn't really involve deer (maybe a related rates problem?), the runners competing in Hershey are amazing and tough--no babies running at the state meet.

So....I think I left off with the great pasta and chicken parm we had friday night. yum! Race morning was the usual preparations. It was a cool, crisp morning (low 40's), but the sun was shining--perfect for racing!

(The hillside says PIAA--Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association--if you can't tell with the sun)

The girls raced at 10am so they were getting ready first. I mapped out my plan to try to catch the girls multiple times out on the back of the course. Things were going great. Our girls got out quickly and were in great position to achieve the top 10 finish we were shooting for....that is, until a little incident shortly after the 2 mile mark.

Our first four girls had gone by and I was cheering for them and snapping photos. Our 5th girl was approaching and I snapped a good shot of her. I was yelling something encouraging when I see a rustle in the bushes to the right. Next thing you know, a deer pops up and starts running towards the runners. This was about halfway out of the nearly 300 runners, so it was a pretty tight pack. Wouldn't you know it, out of all the runners, our girl was directly in the path of the deer.

I didn't get to snap a shot of the deer, so I "modified" the picture that I took seconds before the deer emerged to capture the essence of the situation. The deer just plowed through, drilling the girl in red from CB East (#362) and knocking over our girl (in yellow).

The result was the girl in red down in a heap with a bloody nose and our girl got the football equivalent of being 'ear-holed.' Here's an example I found on YouTube:

The coach in me kicked in for a split second, thinking if I go out there and help her, I may get her DQ-ed. However, realizing that a DEER JUST BLINDSIDED HER I figured I needed to see if she was okay.

Doing my best to stay within the rules (just because that's what I do) I moved her over to the side, careful not to assist her forward. I checked her out--no blood, just stunned and I'm sure dazed and confused about what just happened. Seeing she was now pretty coherent after some time (30-60-90 seconds???....time was standing still!!!!), I extended two fingers and asked her how many fingers I was holding up. She laughed and said, "TWO." So, I told her it was her senior year and that if she felt good, that she should finish the race. She said okay and went on her way just about at the back of the pack.

I see that the other girl (who ended up with not only the bloody nose, but also a concussion and a facial fracture) was being attended to by two other people plus the medical cart was coming. So, I made a mad dash for the finish hoping I did the right thing by sending Shannon on her way. Turns out that she is a machine. Not only did she finish the race, she passed back our 6th and 7th runners (who passed her during the minute or so I was checking her out) and ENDED UP OUR 5TH RUNNER! If that isn't tough I don't know what is!!!!

Here's an article that talks about the deer. Apparently, the deer were in several places during that girls race. To sum that up--surreal.

As the picture shows, all survived the race!!! So, to come off of that (after talking the newspaper guy, retelling the story to all the parents and coaches, and still trying to wrap my head around seeing that deer plow through the crowd of runners), now to get ready for the boys' race.

Going in, we were hoping to be in the top 8-10 with a chance of getting a little higher with a good day. I round up the JV and alum guys who came out to watch the race and we head out to our spot on the course. We see the guys go by about a half mile in and they are in solid position (not that you can really tell and count places that early in a race). They head into the woods, pass the mile mark, emerge from the woods, cross a little bridge and the leaders approach us......wait a minute, who's that in the lead? That's our guy!! Gutsy start to the race!

Talking to him after the race, he said things settled in a little too much for him and he felt good so he went for it. It was a good race for him and he ended up 14th overall. The team ended up 7th, but only 11 points out of fourth. That's each runner passing two guys in the home stretch.

The exciting part is that we only had 1 senior in the top 10 of our team, a handful of freshmen knocking on the door of varsity this year (who will only get a year stronger), a sophomore who was going to be our #2-4 runner out with a stress fracture, and some 8th graders who rewrote the middle school XC record book coming next year. Exciting!

Also, amid the chaos, I found out at the awards ceremony that North Allegheny won the boys AAA team title. Congrats to the New York Yankees of the WPIAL!

I also caught up with Elizabethtown College XC and T&F head coach Chris Straub (posing with a couple of great XC playoff beards!!!!!). He started at Etown right when I left for Penn State and has done an amazing job. Something like 10 out of the past 12 conference championships for the men and 4 in a row for the women. If you know someone interested in running at the division 3 level, it doesn't get much better than Etown (plus they're great academically and socially).
They'll be up at Cooper's Lake (where WPIAL's was) for the D3 regional meet this Saturday. Beth and I will be up at Penn State to watch the Nittany Lions at their regional championship and meet up with some other friends.

Oh, by the way, after the race, I then went southward to Maryland to visit my sister and her husband to see my new nephew!!!
Oh by the way #2: JoePa won his 400th game as my dad and I were listening to it on the way home from Maryland (XM radio was never more useful!). Definitely a historic milestone that will never be reached perhaps ever again.

So, I don't know what this weekend in Happy Valley has in store when we go up for regionals, but I can't imagine it topping the excitement of this past weekend. But, I guess stranger things have happened.....

Friday, November 5, 2010

Winning Whirlwind Weekend

Lots of stuff going on this weekend.

Friday morning, I was down at Pitt for a Calculus teacher get-together. We talked about policies and guidelines for teaching our Pitt-affiliated College in High School Calculus (aka Calc 1, the first semester of college Calc, AP AB Calc). We then had two speakers. The first had a talk on proving Pascal's Triangle and the Binomial Theorem. The second was on looking at volume of a ball in the 4th dimension and beyond. That's right, 4th dimension. Made my head spin.

Then, on the road to Hershey to meet up with the XC teams. I didn't quite get a chance to meet up with them to run the course, so I met them at the hotel for the team dinner. We had a little get together and then tomorrow's race day! Good luck to MB and Jay on getting their runners to the State Championship. It's going to be a little chilly (around 40 degrees), but should be a great day!Below is a picture of Rad and the top boys from the AAA race last year.

Then, from Hershey, off to Maryland to meet up with my parents because my sister had her baby! Congrats Daph and Taruan and welcome to the world, Damian Jovani Matthews! Aunt Beth and Uncle Oscar has a ring to it!

So, time for some sleep and then the big day of racing and baby-visiting Saturday.