Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Christmas Trip

Good times down in the south, y'all. Things went smooth getting there, being there, and coming back.

To give a little more detail...

We were trying to make it work out where Beth didn't have to take me to work Friday morning (lots of extra driving and time), but we didn't want to have to take two cars to the airport and meet there. So, good friend (and classroom next-door neighbor...and racquetball afficianado) allowed me to stash my car at his place (only lives 5 min or so from school) while we were away. It worked out great, Beth picked me up at the end of the school day, and we were off to the airport. Thanks, BK!

Probably the best thing about this trip was that we didn't have to worry about hauling around a bike box. That made things quick getting into the airport and through security (except for when somebody forgot to put their shampoo in the checked bag instead of the carry-on).

We grab dinner in the airport and head towards our gate. As we approach a people-mover, Beth and I notice this guy looking at me. I look back at him and do a double-take. Once we pass him, I asked Beth, "Do you know who that was?" She says no and I tell her that it was Dave Littlefield (former Pirates' General Manager). We settle down at our crowded gate and, sure enough, DL and his wife and kids are at the gate too. In my head at this point, I begin conjuring up all of these profound things to discuss with him:

*Did you really think Daniel Moskos was better than Matt Weiters when drafting?
*How painful was it to have to trade Aramis Ramirez to get in line with MLB's debt ratio?
*Why exactly did you take ALL of Matt Morris' $10M salary on AND give the Giants Rajai Davis?
*What was your overall draft philosophy?
*What are you up to now (researched on Wikipedia he was a scout with the Cubs in 2011)?
*What is it like working in baseball?

The list could go on and on....

However, an opportune time didn't come up while waiting to board the plane (that and of course I was chicken). However, we did strike up a conversation while on the plane. Okay, it was as I was walking past his seat as I went back towards mine and it went something like this:

DL: **sneeze**
OS: Bless you.
DL: Thank you.

And I kept on walking. There it was. Maybe next time I run into him, I can go through my list since we are now acquaintances.

After that, I am happy to say that I finally got around to finishing my book on the life of
John Wesley (founder of the Methodist faith). It's interesting to see the characteristics of a strong leader - unwavering belief in a cause, personal exceedingly high expectations and standards, high expectations of those around you, compassion, selflessness, and many others.

While I finished one book, I was furnished with FIVE new books from my mother-in-law (former librarian). The one I'm starting with is called
Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. From what I understand, she's a noted historical author, but wrote this book about her life and growing up and how it was intertwined with her passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Does my MIL know me or what?

While in HHI, we ran outside (in shorts!), swam a few times, played mini-golf, scrabble, Settlers of Catan, watched movies and ate a lot. I always love the Christmas Eve service and the singing of 'Silent Night' as we light the candles. Good times all around.

Now, we're back in PA and getting ready to ring in the new year with our triathlon friends.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Taking a Big Risk

Something from the message at our church on Saturday night has really stuck with me. It revolved around the risk that Mary took of accepting God's plan of bringing Jesus into the world.

I keep thinking about the many people who have become admired throughout history for the great things they have done. But, many of those things were done by taking a very big risk. They didn't know how it would turn out. Some of the ones I was thinking about on my run today:

*Christopher Columbus and the many explorers to the 'New World.' What if it turned out the world was as flat as a pancake and they fell off the end of it? There was a chance they would never come back. That was a risk they were willing to take.

*George Washington and the entire American Revolution. What if it failed? How would the British deal with these 'rebels.' They would probably be put to death as traitors. That was a risk they were willing to take because they believed in their cause.

*Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. The easy thing to do would have been to let the south secede and not make slavery a major issue. But, he took a risk and stood up to that and kept this nation together. Imagine how different things would be today in the United States if he didn't believe it was a nation worth keeping as one.

*The astronauts on the first space mission. What if they couldn't get back to earth? They would never see their families or friends again. They would be lost in space.

*Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement. They withstood many negative things to stand for their equality and freedom. They didn't know how it would turn out. Martin Luther King ended up dying for the cause.

*Countless numbers of scientists and inventors who placed their entire lives and financial savings into a product. There were many failures along the way. They didn't know if it would succeed or fail and they would ever make any money.

All turned out well in these scenarios. However, in all of those situations, gigantic decisions were made without any assurance that it would turn for the positive. They took major risks. They believed. It's easy to look back and say they made the right choice, but that's hindsight. At the time when they made that decision, they didn't know how it would turn out. It's like watching a movie for a second time, you know how it's going to turn out. You have a lot more ease when the character is making the decision because you know it's going to turn out good in the end.

Mary believed. You can read the account in the
first Chapter of Luke in the Bible. To boil it down, she was engaged but not married and is told by and angel that she is pregnant by God. The consequences of an unmarried female being pregnant were very bad in that times, potentially punishable by death. On top of that, if her life was spared, she would face ridicule and looks every day as she went about her daily routine.

But she was willing to endure all of that and trust in God. In verse 38 of Luke 1, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant." She was willing to trust God and follow God. I admire Mary and the many other risk-takers throughout history. Their willingness to take a risk in spite of potentially negative results did not dissuade them from making their decision. They did not know how it would turn out, but believed anyway that it would turn out for the good. That is faith.

The closest thing I can think that we've done is that we decided to leave Grad School at Virginia Tech after only one semester. I was there to continue towards my PhD (after a BS and MS in engineering at Penn State) and Beth was starting grad school after a very successful undergraduate career. Up to this point, we each had just met each obstacle in life and achieved in it. Success came with most everything we did to that point. However, this was different. It just didn't seem like the right fit. We weren't sure if we should continue, but we had always continued to that point.

We made the choice of moving back to Pennsylvania after only one semester at the risk of altering our planned career paths. Looking back now, I'd say things have turned out well with my getting into teaching and coaching and Beth's work at the hospital and triathlons. But, at that point, you could only put it in God's hands and see what was in store. There were many unknowns. No jobs waiting for us back in PA. No assurances on what we would do next. But, we trusted God that it was the right decision and we went with it. And, it turned out well.

So in closing on this very scattered ramble, I hope that each of us can be like Mary and willing to trust God and take a risk without knowing how it's going to turn out. It's scary to have that unknown staring you in the face. You may fail, but things could turn out better than you ever imagined. It sure did for Mary (and the rest of mankind as a result).

Now onto some lighter topics. In other news...

*Christmas kind of snuck up on me this year. I don't like playing the Christmas music too soon because then you get tired of it when Christmas arrives. But, it is now only 5 days away. So, I cued up my Christmas playlist for my run this morning and was loving it. I think it put an extra hop in my step.

*We're heading south for Christmas to visit Beth's parents. Looking forward to the nice weather!

*For the spring semester at school, I am going to be working with a student teacher. I had a chance to meet her today and I'm looking forward to the opportunity. This is my first chance to work with a student teacher, so I hope over the last 8 years I've learned a thing or two that I can pass on. Hopefully it's more than just "don't do what I just messed up."

*One of the great things of being a teacher is seeing students come back to visit. Several were at track practice today and it's great to hear their stories about how college went, how they're acclimating to the new environment, and (most importantly) how prepared the felt in their college math courses!!!! But on a serious note, it is rewarding to see that your investment in a student has paid off, whether that was academically, athletically, or simply as a human being.

*So far I'm 1-2 on the bowl picks. Just sayin'. Mediocre (or worse) here I come.

*If you're looking for a way to make a difference this holiday season, would you consider helping me support the
Running for Laptops charity? I'm working with them as I prepare for the Pittsburgh Marathon. Their mission is to raise funds to supply students who 'age out' of the foster care system with laptops as they move on to their next endeavor. If you could find it in your heart to help out (even if it's just $5, that adds up too!), you can click the link here.

Merry Christmas to all! Remember that Jesus, not gifts, is the reason for the season!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Selections

Since I did so mediocre last year at picking all the college bowl games (18-15-2), I figured why not do it again.

Odds from USA Today on December 17
Date
Favorite Spread Underdog (Over/Under)

My selection is the underlined one:

December 17, 2011
Temple 7 Wyoming (50.5) - Over
Utah State 1 Ohio (60) - Under
San Diego State 4 UL Lafayette (59) - Under

December 20, 2011
Florida Interational 4 Marshall (48.5) - Over

December 21, 2011
TCU 10 Louisiana Tech (55) - Over

December 22, 2011
Boise State 13.5 Arizona State (65.5) - Under

December 24, 2011
Southern Miss 6 Nevada (62) - Under

December 26, 2011
Missouri 4.5 North Carolina (52.5) - Over

December 27, 2011
Purdue 2.5 W. Michigan (60) - Under
NC State 2.5 Louisville (44.5) - Over

December 28, 2011
Toledo 3 Air Force (70) - Under
Texas 3 California (47.5) - Over

December 29, 2011
Florida State 3 Notre Dame (47) - Over
Baylor 9 Washington (78.5) - Under... 78.5!?!?!?

December 30, 2011
BYU 2 Tulsa (55.5) - Under
Rutgers 1.5 Iowa State (44.5) - Under
Mississippi State 7 Wake Forest (48) - Under
Oklahoma 13.5 Iowa (57.5) - Under

December 31, 2011
Texas A&M 10 Northwestern (66) - Under
Georgia Tech 3 Utah (50.5) - Over
Illinois 2 UCLA (47) - Over
Vanderbilt 2.5 Cincinnati (48.5) - Over
Auburn 2 Virginia (49) - Over

January 2, 2012
Houston 5.5 Penn State (57) - Under
Georgia 3.5 Michigan State (50.5) - Over
South Carolina 3.5 Nebraska (46.5) - Over
Florida 2 Ohio State (44) - Under
Oregon 6 Wisconsin (71.5) - Under
Oklahoma State 3.5 Stanford (74) - Over

January 3, 2012
Michigan 2 Virginia Tech (51) - Under

January 4, 2012
Clemson 3.5 West Virginia (60.5) - Over

January 6, 2012
Arkansas 7.5 Kansas State (63) - Under

January 7, 2012
Pittsburgh 3.5 SMU (47) - over

January 8,2012
Arkansas State 1 No. Illinois (63) - Under

January 9, 2012
Alabama PICK LSU (40) - Over


After a stellar 13-20-2 mark last year, Beth wanted to give it another try, too.

December 17, 2011
Temple 7 Wyoming (50.5)
Utah State 1 Ohio (60)

San Diego State 4 UL Lafayette (59)

December 20, 2011
Florida Interational 4 Marshall (48.5)

December 21, 2011
TCU 10 Louisiana Tech (55)

December 22, 2011
Boise State 13.5 Arizona State (65.5)

December 24, 2011
Southern Miss 6 Nevada (62)

December 26, 2011
Missouri 4.5 North Carolina (52.5)


December 27, 2011
Purdue 2.5 W. Michigan (60)
NC State 2.5 Louisville (44.5)

December 28, 2011
Toledo 3 Air Force (70)
Texas 3 California (47.5)


December 29, 2011
Florida State 3 Notre Dame (47)
Baylor 9 Washington (78.5)


December 30, 2011
BYU 2 Tulsa (55.5)
Rutgers 1.5 Iowa State (44.5)
Mississippi State 7 Wake Forest (48)
Oklahoma 13.5 Iowa (57.5)


December 31, 2011
Texas A&M 10 Northwestern (66)
Georgia Tech 3 Utah (50.5)

Illinois 2 UCLA (47)
Vanderbilt 2.5 Cincinnati (48.5)
Auburn 2 Virginia (49)

January 2, 2012
Houston 5.5 Penn State (57)

Georgia 3.5 Michigan State (50.5)
South Carolina 3.5 Nebraska (46.5)
Florida 2 Ohio State (44)

Oregon 6 Wisconsin (71.5)
Oklahoma State 3.5 Stanford (74)

January 3, 2012
Michigan 2 Virginia Tech (51)

January 4, 2012
Clemson 3.5 West Virginia (60.5)

January 6, 2012
Arkansas 7.5 Kansas State (63)

January 7, 2012
Pittsburgh 3.5 SMU (47)

January 8,2012
Arkansas State 1 No. Illinois (63)

January 9, 2012
Alabama PICK LSU (40)


Please don't use these as a reference for betting suggestions. You'll just lose money if you use the picks.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2011 BCS Playoff Proposal

Note: To see this year's proposal, follow this link.

Because for some reason this doesn't get old for me, here is year four of my BCS Playoff Proposal.
For background on my rationale, check out the last three years:
2008
2009
2010

In summary, the goal is two-fold:

1) To give EVERY team a LEGITIMATE chance to win a national championship (see Houston before their loss to Southern Miss on Saturday, or Oklahoma State who's only loss came in overtime a day after the women's basketball coach died in a plane crash)

2) To have every team's final game be a MEANINGFUL game (for example, congrats to Wisconsin and Oregon on their respective conference championships and good luck in your Rose Bowl EXHIBITION game)

This year, I set up the bracket Saturday morning BEFORE the conference championship games were played and just extended the bracket as if the top seeds would prevail. The bracket looked like this:


Not so fast, Houston and Virginia Tech. Today, I revised the bracket and it looked like this:


It actually worked out well because it helped to demonstrate that the "brackets" are NOT like the NCAA basketball tournament, but rather the NFL playoffs so that the seeding is revised for each round.

So, some of the minutiae:


General stuff from years past*EVERYBODY finishes the regular season by November 19 (the weekend before Thanksgiving)
*Non-BCS conferences must have their conference champion crowned by November 19th, whether it's just by standings or by a conference championship game.
*BCS conferences will have their championships after a "bye week" on the weekend of December 3rd (just like they were this year)
*The "Play-in" round, matching up at-large teams (highest ranked non-conference championship game participants) with non-BCS conference champions
*After each round, the brackets will be reseeded by the BCS standings before the conference championships
*Quarterfinals on December 8-10
*Semifinals could either be weekend of Dec 24 or 31
*Finals could be either weekend of Dec 31 (aka the New Year's bowl) or the next weekend

Some of the specifics on the 2011 version
The non-BCS conference champions were, in order from best or worst (based on either BCS or USAToday Sagarin Ranking):

A. TCU (Mountain West)
B. Southern Miss (Conference USA)....can't believe Houston lost
C. Louisiana Tech (WAC)
D. Northern Illinois (MAC)
E. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

The four at-large teams (based on BCS rankings of teams NOT in a conference championship)
1. Alabama - top at-large gets bye to second round
2. Stanford
3. Arkansas
4. Boise State (Note: Boise State didn't win the MWC, that was TCU)
(Kansas State and South Carolina are on the outside looking in)

In this first round (Thanksgiving weekend), games are played at the site of the conference champion (putting the "BIG" guy on the road at the "small" guy) with conference team A vs E, then B vs 4, C vs 3, and D vs 2. So, looking like this:

E-Arkansas State at A-TCU
AL4-Boise State at B-Southern Miss
AL3-Arkansas at C-Louisiana Tech
AL2-Stanford at D-Northern Illinois

So, all three BCS teams would be favored, but penalize them for not being in their conference championship by making them travel and giving the "small guy" the chance to upset the BCS conference team. This also rewards the top non-BCS champion team playing a cream puff like Arkansas State from the Sun Belt conference.

The winner of those games move on to play in the second round (Dec 1 & 3) again seeded based off of the BCS rankings in a 1/4, 2/3 setting. The higher seed is the home team. If seeds would hold, this would mean:

#18 TCU at #4 Stanford
#7 Boise State at #6 Arkansas

In addition to this, there are the five other conference championship games (kept the Big 12 since Oklahoma St and Oklahoma played just to keep it simple. Also, moved Notre Dame to the "Big East/at large" slot since the Big Ten now has 12).

SEC - LSU vs Georgia
ACC - Virginia Tech vs Clemson
Pac-12 - Oregon vs UCLA
Big 12 - Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State
Big Ten - Michigan State vs Wisconsin
At-large #1 at Big East/ND - West Virginia vs Alabama

The winners of these games would play in the third round (Dec 8 & 10) at the site of the higher BCS-ranked team. It doesn't work out this year, but you'd love to see a warm-weather team have to play in snow for the quarterfinals. Based on the conference championship results, it would look like this:

#15 Clemson at #1 LSU
#5 Oregon at #4 Stanford (rematch!)
#6 Arkansas at #3 Oklahoma State
#10 Wisconsin at #2 Alabama

So, that's my two cents. Here's the bracket again if you don't feel like scrolling back up:


Then, the final four could be perhaps a double-header at a neutral site (New Orleans, Miami, Phoenix, Pasadena) with the two winning teams staying in town for a "Super Bowl-like" media week. (They're on semester break, so the student-athletes aren't missing any school). Also, this eliminates all but 8 teams by this year's deadline for the bowl announcements, so you could still have your slate of meaningless exhibition bowl matchups.

But, it all comes down to money, TV contracts, and bowl officials. So, the odds of this plan that makes sense to me coming to fruition is probably slim and none. But, it's a fun little annual exercise. I hope you enjoyed it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thankful, Marathon Reflections, and What's Next

THANKS
First of all, with the Thanksgiving Holiday having just passed, a couple of things I'm thankful for:

*Beth - for being so supportive and encouraging of all that I do, even when I come up short of my goals.
*My family - that I had a chance to spend some time with on Thanksgiving.
*My job - some days I truly reflect at the end of the day and think, "I'm even getting paid for this." At least most days. Some days are rougher than others. Also, just thankful with so many people out of work.
*Our church - it's great to be able to celebrate our relationship with Jesus with such amazing people. And, if you are into praise music, you have to check out Cornerstone's newly released 2-CD album of live and studio music. It's so neat to think that these talented people on the album are the ones up in front leading worship each week. Check it out!
*My health - to have the chance to do all of these fun sports activities

And, I'm just thankful for each day God's given me to make a difference. Not to get into the details, but I was in a car accident two weeks back. The car got totaled, but I came away with just a sore neck for a day or two (I kidded with the insurance adjustor that my legs were sore, but that was more due to running a marathon two days prior). A split second one way or another, things could have been very different.

MARATHON REFLECTIONS
So, it's back to the drawing board with the marathon training to get ready for the Pittsburgh Marathon in May 2012. We've determined that we're going to tweak my training since I've done the same plan the last two times without achieving my desired goals.

I liked the weekly mileage I hit since mid-July (51, 47, 49, 45, 46, 55, 50, 51, 53, 50, 43, 46, 49, 45, 45, 53, 42, 32, marathon week), but there must still be some things that I can tweak so that I'm not running out of gas at the end of the marathon. Here's some of our ideas that I'm going to implement with my next plan:

*Weekend piggy-back of long day and medium/hard day to try to fatigue the legs more for either the long run or the medium/hard run.
*Throw in a double run day here and there (like Beth's doing for her current training)
*Maxing out the long run to more like 25 miles instead of 21. Beth was telling me that Josh Cox has a long run where he does a 3-mile warmup, 18 at marathon pace, and a 3-mile cooldown. I think that would be a good way to push the legs a little more on the long days.
*Not be so 1-dimensional in my training. Due to working/coaching/spectathleting, there's only so many hours in the day that I can allocate to training. So, I got all my runs in, but that was it. Just runs. My only "swim" since the start of school was 15 minutes in the Pacific when we were in Kona. My plan is to be more involved with weights (and I've started already) even if it's at the sacrifice of a few miles. Also, I want to "cross train" with some other sports. Whether it's going back to doing the box drills with the track kids, basketball,....and I think I want to channel my college days and get back into racquetball, but I've found there aren't many courts in the Pittsburgh area. So that may be on hold.

So, that's where I'm going to start. In the last week I got three swims in, so that's off to a good start. Any ideas out there are more than welcome in the comments section. I know there's a sub-3:00 marathon in me. It's just a matter of doing the optimal preparation to get it done.

RUNNING FOR LAPTOPS
And, with the marathon, comes another opportunity to support a great charity. The Elizabethtown College Alumni Group (Pittsburgh Chapter) wanted to support a charity as a group for this year's Pittsburgh Marathon. We started out with a list of 8 or so great charities and, after lots of discussion, narrowed it down and decided to go with Running for Laptops. I worked with them for the Great Race back in September and found it to be a great group and very easy to lend my support.

So, whether it's $5 or $500 (more like the $5), I'd love to have you join me and my Etown alumni friends in supporting this group that provides laptops for students who have "aged out" of the foster care program. These students don't have all the love and support that so many of us have with our families and having that computer to help with college, being organized at home, or looking for jobs could make all the difference.

What are YOU thankful for? Think about sharing just a tiny bit (the value of two cups of coffee) of what you've been blessed with to someone who hasn't had it as good. Thank you!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Harrisburg Marathon Race Report

...or the alternative title: "Back to the Drawing Board"

Well, where to start?

The good:
-My hamstrings didn't cramp during the race
-The weather was nearly perfect (started in the upper 30's, finished in the low 50's)

-I ran under control for the first half (even through 20+ miles), and was on target for 3:10 through 23 miles

The bad:
-My next to last gel went down very slowly
-My final gel really wouldn't go down (and only took in half of it before tossing the gel pack into a garbage can along the course)
-That gel (and pretty much all other items I ingested that morning) got tossed out in three successive heaves about 100 meters apart around mile 24-ish along the riverfront
-While not cramping, my hamstrings were "letting me know they were there" from about mile 6 or 7 to the end. They just felt tight and never got loose (maybe this was a good thing and held me back on my pace, though)

Needless to say, I didn't hit my 3:10 goal.

After the gun went off, we departed city island and I tried to settle in to a 7:15/mile pace. I felt like I was crawling along, trying to NOT go out too fast. The result - 6:52. Ugh! Miles 2 and 3 were just over 7:00. I saw Beth and told her that I was trying to throw on the brakes. Finally, mile 4 and 5 were 7:18 and I was settling in.

As I saw Beth, it was back over to city island with miles 6 and 7 at 7:05's. After leaving city island, the mile 8 sign was missing, but miles 8 and 9 averaged out to 7:19 each. The next three miles were along the riverfront and were in the 7:0x's (with a little bit of a tailwind).

We then veered off the river and up towards the industrial park. I went through the half in just under 1:34. I was hoping for 1:35, but I wasn't all that far ahead of pace (and much more relaxed than the 1:28:30 in Pittsburgh). The least scenic part of the race was along the industrial road with the 18-wheelers. But then we went into the HACC campus (where I saw Beth 3 times) and was feeling great for miles 16 and 17.



Mile 18-20 took us through a park. This was the only hilly portion of the course. They were short, steep ups and downs. Things felt good and, after a 7:25 of a mostly up hill mile, mile 20 was 7:06.

Okay, 10k to go. Mile 21 was 7:35. The legs were starting to feel tired, but I wasn't too concerned. It didn't feel as bad as Pittsburgh. Also, I figured to just back off and fulfill my goal of jogging the whole race. If I didn't hit 3:10, so be it. Mile 22 was 7:42 and the thought, "that's fine" went through my head. Mile 23 slowed down to 8:08 as I'm attempting to put down my final gel.

It didn't go down too well. I forced down maybe a third of it. Then, I finally chucked it into a garbage can because I couldn't take anymore. I'm not sure if it happened before or after the 24-mile marker but I'm definitely sure of what happened. It felt like there was a direct hose from my stomach leading out of my mouth and someone turned the faucet on. With that taken care of in the riverfront park, I shuffled forward. However, after another 100 or so meters, a repeat of what had just happened.

Okay that has to be it, right? Mosey on down the road another 100 or so meters and somehow I hit the triple. How was there anything left in my stomach?

After all of that, the final three miles are 8:58, 11:38, and 11:48. Heck, I even picked up a cramp in my chest as I did the final 0.2 across the bridge (2:41 for the last 0.2).


So much for comfortably jogging into the finish line. Oh well. Final time 3:22:02. At least it was a couple seconds faster than Pittsburgh!

So, it's back to the drawing board. But, like Steve P reminded me on fb, I still got in some good training miles this summer and fall and will hopefully set me up for a solid training cycle for Pittsburgh in the spring. Also, Ben said it is just as much about the journey as the goal. So, onward we go!

Thanks so much to Beth for being the spectathlete extraordinaire all weekend!

So, some reflection to come and some adjustments for sure to get me to that sub-3:00 goal.

Thanks to everybody for the kind words!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Marathon Weekend!

Last weekend we were staying in Harrisburg and the XC teams were racing in Hershey. This weekend, it's my turn to race in the Harrisburg Marathon!

First, about the state XC meet. Our
boys ended up a CLOSE 4th (our 153 points were only 21 points from a state championship) and the girls ended up 8th. Great efforts on both ends and a great season!

Back to the marathon, it actually kind of snuck up on me. Not from the standpoint of my training. I was logging all my miles and hitting my speed workout goals since August and all throughout the fall. But, you're just so focused on the schoolyear and the XC season and helping the kids be successful. So, when the races were over last Saturday, I had the realization, "Oh yeah - I'm running a marathon next weekend!"

So, here we go. I think I've mentioned a few times that I'm trying to make this marathon more of a low-key stop along the way to my third attempt at a sub-3 hour marathon next May in Pittsburgh. The goals are a little more simple than the last two attempts in May 2011 and November 2009:

1. Run the entire 26.2 miles (aka NO MUSCLE CRAMPING/SEIZING UP)
2. Finish around 3:10 (7:15 pace)
3. Negative split the first 13.1 vs the 2nd half

With that, I'm hoping for a positive day. The weather looks like it's going to cooperate - starting out in the upper 30's and finishing in the mid-50's with sunny skies all day.

In other news, there's the entire sad story surrounding Jerry Sandusky and the leaders at Penn State who did not do enough to help the situation. Very, very sad. I'll repost the facebook post from Tuesday:

So sad to hear about everything coming out of Penn State. My heart breaks for the young victims, angers at how Jerry Sandusky could allegedly continue those acts over so many years, and is confused over the alleged lack of action from other leaders. A request for the media as the story evolves is that they are more concerned about getting it ACCURATE instead of getting it FIRST.

That's all you can really say. Beyond the grand jury statement we don't know anything else. Because of that, I wish people wouldn't give opinions or speculation on things they don't know about. It was a bad situation and not enough was done. I will be very interested to see what further information comes out and trust that the administrators and the legal system will help sort everything out and do their best to make things right moving forward.

Keeping in perspective that this is all relative that pales in comparison to the victims of the abuse, I feel bad for the Nittany Lion football players. They did not sign up for this. This is not like any other college sports scandal. They did not do drugs or steroids. They did not accept any money, cars, or other illegal benefits. They did not cheat on tests. They did not do anything wrong.

However, they're lumped in with the evil things that Jerry Sandusky did AND they have to find a way to focus and attempt to put their best effort on the field against Nebraska on Saturday. Obviously this is a bad situation. I just ask that people support the players, especially the seniors on their final home game, and keep in mind who were the bad guys with all of this.

Enough of the heavy stuff. Off to pack and then tomorrow off to Pennsylvania's capital to get ready for the 26.2 on Sunday.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scoring Machine

When an individual or a team is referred to as a scoring machine, it usually implies that the person, or team, is capable of producing many points in a game. This could refer to a basketball player putting up 40 points in a game, or a football player scoring several touchdowns. It could refer to a team's "high octane" offense....nah, I won't go there. Especially since Penn State slogged to an ugly 10-7 win.

Anyway, Thursday was our District (WPIAL) Championship and both our boys and girls teams finished in 2nd place. Since the top four move on to the state meet next Saturday, we are packing our bags for Hershey. How both teams got to 2nd place and how the 2nd place was viewed by the team were certainly two different reactions.

Let's just say our boys were at least considered even favorites with our big rival, if not a slight favorite since we had won last week's invitational. End result is that we ended up 2nd by a margin of 50-115. On the girls' side, a team with 3 sisters was the heavy favorite and everybody else was gunning for second. We were probably a little behind another school and perhaps regarded as the third best team. However, our girls had a great day and we ended up 2nd.

Overall, though it was yet another muddy mess. Lots of slop (one of our runners even lost a shoe in the mud!!!!) and I'm sure this snow won't help the state meet course at all. However, the recap of the day at the district meet doesn't reflect back on the title or opening paragraph....or so it seems...

Last week at the previous Thursday's invitational, I decided to forgo my cheering in the final half mile and position myself in a spot to record places of the top boys and girls teams to get a feel for the scoring. The calculations were pretty close, so I decided to enlist the help of my lovely assistant (Beth) and see how well "Team Shutt" could perform counting places and scoring a large high-stakes district final.

The results - I think we're ready to take our show on the road!

Girls' results done by us in black; actual results in bold red

NH - 1-2-4-16-23 = 46
NH - 1-2-4-16-23 = 46

ML - 10-12-13-45-62 = 142
ML - 9-11-12-43-62 = 137

NA - 21-27-33-34-41 = 156
NA - 21-27-33-34-41 = 156

PR - 18-30-38-76-77 = 239
PR - 18-30-38-60-77 = 223

HA - 5-25-40-67-100 = 237
HA - 5-25-40-67-98 = 235

So, other than missing PR's #4, we were pretty much right on. Unless, you consider the fact that we had the wrong 4th place team, or the last team moving on to the state meet....and the fact that it was my alma mater and I told the coach that we scored them as being in (with the big disclaimer that we were just guessing) and they finished 5th.

On to the boys' race. We only scored us and NA because we figured it was only the two of us realistically fighting for the championship:

NA - 1-9-10-11-18 = 49
NA - 1-9-10-11-19 = 50

ML - 8-12-25-26-44 = 115
ML - 8-13-25-26-43 = 115

Not too bad again, but we were just having to keep track of two teams and only had to count up into the 40's (and it shouldn't have even been that high if things would've went better).

This brought me back to my Grad School Days when, as part of my Masters Thesis, I developed an application for the Palm PDA (remember those things?!?!?). The goal of the application was to capture what Industrial Engineers call "time studies." Here's a screen shot of my application:



Okay, so that's not really related to cross country, but since I was dating this gal on Penn State's cross country team (aka Beth), I decided to take a lot of the same code language and create a cross country scoring application that I called XC Score. I have to say it worked pretty well at a couple of the meets I tried it at. I couldn't dig up any screen shots and we gave away the PDA's so it's erased from existence other than I still have the code file from some archaic PDA programming language on my computer.

Just for the fun of it I googled "XC Score" and it turns out that Apple (and the Android) have an app for that.





I'm thinking about downloading and trying the Android app, but not sure how well it will work at the state meet with so many teams, plus I usually position myself out in the middle of the course and miss the finish of the top runners in the field. But, I think I may use it for next year's invitationals.

So, sorry for the boring running-computer post, but it was a fun trip down memory lane for me.

Two weeks until the Harrisburg Marathon! Starting to get a little more focused on that task as the cross country season is winding down.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kona-rific!

...and other happenings in the past few weeks.

First of all, a photo from my endeavor at the Great Race taken by Beth.



Since the Great Race, there was a little trip to Hawaii. However, before I got out there to join Beth in the 80-degree temps on the Big Island, I endured a 40's and rainy weekend, where we were at the Central Catholic Invitational. My pants and shoes are evidence of it.



Next, it was a few days of school and then across the Pacific to Hawaii.



Beth had an awesome race (as you can read about
on her blog). My day started with dropping Beth and her mom off at the start area and parking the car. Then, I met up with them and we said our good lucks and good byes to Beth and she went in for the swim start. We saw her come out of the water and then back past us 8 or so miles into the bike. We let her know she was in 5th place in her age group.

Then, we had some time to kill, so back to the rental house with the rest of the crew. Somehow, it worked out that the PSU-Iowa game was the "regional" college football game on ABC, so I was able to catch the 2nd and 3rd quarters. (Side note: PSU is somehow 6-1. It's been ugly, but 6-1 nonetheless while Pitt's "High Octane" team mustered 100 yds of offense last week....hee, hee).

We went back down to position ourselves for the run before the pro's came through. We (Beth's mom and I) were around mile 2/9 (ish?) on the run and had a chance to see the pro race unfold. Then, some more waiting and random photos like this one to kill the time.



Beth came through and looked great. After a stop at McDonald's for a Mango-Pineapple McSmoothie, I went up on to the Queen K (around mile 24) to cheer everybody in.

By the time we got back to the house and also knowing that I was going to do a 19 mile run the next day, I opted to go to bed while the rest of the Kona crew headed back down for the midnight finish line.

So about my runs in Kona. Between Thursday and Monday, I got four runs in and totaled 39 miles (plus my running around on race day). Each time, I was too stubborn to drive anywhere, so I finished on a *little bit* of an up hill. It looks so innocent on a google map....



...however it just shoots up and up and up from the Queen K.

Here's the gate and the entrance looking back towards the Pacific.



Then, up to the first stop sign.





And you get to the first stop sign and go up more.



Up to the next little circle.



Through the circle and up some more.



Halfway up the "up some more."



Finally, make a left and get a little bit of flat relief.



Hang a right up the hill (Do you see the angle of the hill?????)



And then around the corner.



Make it to the driveway (which, of course, is uphill).



Make it to the front of the house (which, of course, you have to scale steps!!)



Whew. I'm tired reliving that!

One of the good things of being up on the hill was that we had an awesome view of the sunset each evening from our place.



We said goodbye to our gecko friend and packed up on Monday (in addition to an interesting day at the Kona hospital for Beth's blisters on her feet).



Our time in Hawaii wrapped up on Monday night with an 11pm red-eye flight through Phoenix, then back home. By 4 pm on Tuesday, we were back to the Pittsburgh International Airport. After a stop at Chipotle in Robinson with
Chad & Jen, we got home and started to get transitioned back to reality.

Back to school on Wendesday and all of the sleeping on the plane must have worked. It wasn't too bad getting up at 5am (or 11pm Hawaii) the next few days.

The one down side was the pile of homework and tests that needed to be graded since I left...



Saturday was the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon. I've run it twice before -
2009 and 2008. I was just getting into my long distance shape back in 2008 and was pumped with my sub-1:20. In 2009, I was in pretty good shape a month out from the Philly marathon and somehow averaged 5:50 miles. My goal for this year was to be in the neighborhood of 6:00-ish pace. However, as the race drew nearer (and I was feeling sluggish with an 8:30 pace run on Thursday) in my head it was becoming 6:10 pace....maybe 6:15 pace.....okay maybe just keep it under 6:30 pace...

You get the drift.

Fortunately, I ran into Beth's Ballou Skies teammate Jason Jacobs at the start line and he was shooting to run 6:00-ish pace, too. So, off we went and we ran the whole thing side by side as, what we termed, a really fast and hard partner tempo run.



Before getting to the splits, just like the Great Race, a disclaimer about the race being point-to-point and net downhill:



Here were the splits:
5:44
6:09 (11:53)
6:01 (17:54)
6:05 (23:59)
11:50 (35:49) - mile marker missing
5:49 (41:38)
6:02 (47:40)
6:09 (53:49)
6:07 (59:56)
6:13 (1:06:09)
6:08 (1:12:17)
6:42 for the final 1.1 for 1:18:59 and 6:02 pace.

I'll take it coming off of all the travel and everything. It was really great having Jason along. I don't think I could have kept going that fast for that long without having him push me. Thanks, Jason!



Check out what Jason's GPS said we did:


A 14.5 mile half marathon at 5:27 pace. Those GPS devices were always a little fishy out in the wilderness...

Five other Lebo friends came along and ran and had outstanding days as well, including a couple of first-time half marathon people (not pictured)



A BIG thanks to Beth who, during her Post-Kona recovery, got up early on a cold, blustery Saturday and was Team LEBO's driver, coach, equipment manager, cheeleader, and photographer!

Up next is the finish to the cross country season. We have the Tri-State Invitational Thursday (a preview for districts), then WPIAL's (districts) next Thursday. The top four teams then go on to the state meet on November 5th. We've had a good year on both the boys and girls side, so we shall see how things stack up at WPIAL's and states. Could this be our year?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Keeping Busy

Things sure seem like they're busy in the fall. I was reflecting in the car on my 4-hour drive home from Hershey on Saturday. Now, I know that all the triathlon friends out there have most days like this but it was interesting to map out how this week went down:

Tuesday - up before 5am, 7 mi w/ 5x600 on the track, school, xc practice, pick up Beth's bike from Big Bang Bicycles (the best bike shop in the entire world!), eat dinner, go to bed.

Wednesday - up before 5am, 11 mi before school, school, xc practice, real quick dinner at Chick-Fil-A, represent Elizabethtown College at the Mars HS College fair (6:30-8:00), get home, & go to bed.

Thursday - up before 5am, 5+ miles, school, xc practice, dinner (DiGiorno Pizza night!!!), cut grass (it gets dark quicker now!), clean up & go to bed.

Friday - up before 5am, 5+ miles, school, xc practice, rush over to the South Side to pick up my Great Race packet (which actually was amazingly efficient), actually home before 7 (I was fearing worse with the Friday traffic & picking up the packet after work on Friday), dinner (Beef taco skillet - google it, it's a kraft recipe. yum!), clean the house, & go to bed.

Saturday - up before 5am, leave before 6am for Hershey. Watch our high school guys have a good day at the PIAA Foundation meet, drive back to western pa, make it to the Monroeville Chick-Fil-A to meet Beth by 5:30, eat dinner, and off to Saturday night church service at Cornerstone at 6pm (or 6:05-ish). Stop for a DQ blizzard on the way home, set out the Great Race race gear and get to bed.

Needless to say, it was one of those weeks. However, like we told the guys about the bus ride out to Hershey before their race, just go out and get the job done in the race. So, that was my goal for the Great Race.

Annual disclaimer about the topography of the Great Race course:



I aimed to park at the start line so I didn't have to worry about shuttles and had my car to put stuff in right before the race. Turns out my triathlon influence caused me to get there so early that I was there before ANY other car....and I was worried for a minute that we couldn't park along Dallas Ave for some reason. So, I circled around and parked on the side street and hung out there for a few minutes. After walking around, some cars did show up so I moved my car onto Dallas Ave so it was a little closer.

I met up with cousin K and we warmed up. We lined up in the 'seeded' area, but I still got caught up in traffic when the gun went off. K was able to sneak through it but the gap closed before I was able to pass. Not aggressive enough So, swing right and then around, back up to K and then up the first hill.

My target for mile 1 was 5:40 and I went through in 5:38 but expended a little more than I had hoped due to the weaving and congestion. Mile 2 is downhill and I split a 5:26 (with a target of 5:30). I came through Oakland and mile 3 and then split the 5k at 17:29 (on pace for the sub-35:00). But, things just weren't as solid on the 2nd 5k. Mile 4 was just sluggish at 5:36 (shooting for 5:30), but I figured I could maybe make up time in mile 5 up the hill by Duquesne with my marathon base underneath me, but split a 6:02 (shooting for 5:55). Mile 6 was a downhill 5:35, but I did 5:25 last year.

Put it all together for a 35:31. Not quite the sub-35, but it was a little warm out I guess. It seemed like a lot of people I talked to ran slower than they had hoped. I finished in 37th place, which is better than my last two appearances at the Great Race (both in the 40's).

A big thanks to Beth who was all over the course riding her bike to cheer me on as part of her long training day. Big thanks for all the support!

Finally, a shout out to Running for Laptops and thank you to all those who supported the cause. Click on the link in the margin to find out more about that great group!

So, time for a more routine week.....oh wait, Beth's leaving for Kona on Friday and I'm leaving a week from Wednesday. Perhaps more fun in store this week!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rolling along...

How did 3 weeks of school already pass? Wow! Time flies when you're busy.

Let's see, since last time:

Beth, her mom, and Ben went off to Las Vegas for the 70.3 World Championships. Beth came away with 2nd in her age group and 3rd overall amateur in the world! Ben came away with a lot of great experiences and represented himself very well out there. Big things are to come for this guy. Look out.

I was tracking the entire day from the comforts of my couch.


You see, I was also slated to race this weekend - in the tourist destination of....Harrisburg. However, mother nature decided to have other plans for my half marathon. The remnants of a tropical storm drenched the central and eastern parts of the state. The half marathon was supposed to start on City Island and run along the river. However, the river swallowed up the course. So, instead I was tracking the triathletes and watching the Steelers (and did a 12-mile tempo run on our trail instead).

The only difficulty was that Beth's chip wasn't registering as she went over one of the mats. So, I went from seeing her being 2nd in her AG off the bike to seeing 25 or so people pass by the next timing mat without any report on her. Fortunately, the next mat caught her and we were back in business. I'm on the phone with Beth's mom feeding her updates to pass along to Beth (just like as if I was there I guess) and Beth did a great job of holding on to 2nd place!

Our boys and girls cross country teams are off to a good start. It's really fun to watch all of the hard work pay off and apparently a high school running site is noticing. Hopefully they can keep the hunger and the drive to be successful as continue on through the rest of September, into October and the first Saturday of November for the state meet.

The next race for me is the Great Race on Sunday. I've been in the low 35's the last two times I've ran it. I'm wondering if I can sneak a 34 in front of my name this year? I guess we shall see.

Regardless, I hope you can help me exceed my goal of raising funds to purchase laptops for youth who age out of the foster care system through the group Running For Laptops. No donation is too small! Thank you for your help!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!



First of all, thank you so much for the incoming donations and comments already for the Running for Laptops charity! If you'd like to donate, you can do it here.

We have reached that time of the year.....some may say the most WONDERFUL time of the year!



Don't get me wrong, I LOVE summer. I LOVE baseball, trips to Altoona Curve games, road trips to distant places for Beth's triathlons, afternoon naps, 15+ hours of daylight each day, running in shorts and a t-shirt, not having to bundle up before & after pool workouts, and everything else associated with summer.

But, at the same time, I do start to feel guilty about only having 2-4 hour workdays for the two months from mid-June to mid-August. It's time to start earning that paycheck again with 10+ hour days of teaching and coaching. Seriously, I always get excited for the fresh start of a school year - new students to begin molding and also seeing how our cross country season unfolds.

Before getting to the fall, one other item to tie up from the summer - the alumni XC meet at Hempfield. It rained pretty hard on Friday.
In fact, it rained so hard and quickly, a stretch of road by the zoo actually had about 6 ft or so of water and 4 people died. It was very sad. This made part of what was already a tough trail run through the woods even tougher in spots.

My cousin K ran and her parents (my aunt & uncle) and my dad came out to watch. I can't believe he still had it, but dad was representing Hempfield XC with a hat from back when I was in high school. Pretty funny.



I did have the XC spikes borrowed from one of the runners where I teach at, but it still didn't help me as I bit it on the first twisty downhill in the woods. I was left with a nice cat-scratch-like souvenir from it, but since it was in the first half mile, I had enough energy to pop right back up and continue on.


I was in 3rd position - an alumni from '05 that was a solid D2 steeplechaser was leading, a high schooler that ran around a 4:30 mile last year was about 5-10 seconds behind him, and I was 5-10 seconds behind the high schooler. And, after a bunch of twists and turns (and several other near falls), this is essentially how the rest of the race stayed. The winning time was in the low 19's, and I ended up hitting my goal of sub-20 with a 19:39. Not speedy, pretty ugly, but got the job done. Here are some of the alumni.


Then, there was the post-race lunch with a bunch of these guys who graduated back in the mid-80's. All you have to do it sit back, eat some pizza, and listen to their stories.


And, boy did they have stories. I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard on two or three occasions. Pretty much none of the stories are acceptable to be published here. In fact, after many of the stories, the phrase "we would probably be arrested if we did that today" was thrown out there. Funny stuff, but it makes me wonder now, as a coach, what are our kids doing on their long runs?

Two other notes from the day:

First, remember the
tornado that hit the high school back in March?



Well, it caused the home track meets to be cancelled for Hempfield. This is unfortunate because the cross country parents use the concession stand at the track meets as their main fundraiser. So, with that (and all the budget cuts across the state/country in education), they're a little behind in their account. Fortunately, a lot of those goofy guys from back in the 80's are also now leaders at many of their jobs and they are organizing a collection to help out. Those guys are great in so many ways!

Second, Terrelle Pryor stopped by Hempfield for the alumni cross country meet. Well, he got there after we finished and was down on the track (he must have missed the memo about the start time and the location of the new course up by the water tower above the stadium).



Either that,
or he was just there for his pro day workout. The Jeanette grad was selected by the Raiders and good luck to him. I hope it works out. I was obviously rooting against him when he was at Ohio State, but now that he's no longer a rival for the Nittany Lions, you pull for the local guy to do well. Beth and I saw the Raiders/A's stadium out in Oakland. Let's just say it made Three Rivers Stadium and the area surrounding it look nice.

So, time to dig out the dress shoes (not really sure where those are still), set out the pants, shirt, & tie and get ready for a new schoolyear!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Running for Laptops!

UPDATE: YOU CAN SUPPORT RUNNING FOR LAPTOPS FOR MY 2012 PITTSBURGH MARATHON BY CLICKING ON THIS LINK ***HERE***.

How many hours a day are you on your laptop, desktop computer, or web-enabled phone?


http://www.runningforlaptops.org/

After such a successful experience made possible by all of the generous donations for the Alzheimer's Association as I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon (at least the first 20 miles of it), I found another awesome charity to get involved with as I prepare for the Great Race 10k at the end of September.

I am looking forward to helping to support the group RUNNING FOR LAPTOPS that is associated with Family Services of Western Pennsylvania. Obviously, the group is fundraising for laptops (a vital thing in today's technology-laden world). But, what caught my attention about this was WHO it was for. According to their website, it is for this group:

The vast majority of our (Family Services of Western PA) students are either aging out of the foster care system or the mental health system. Our students are studying to be nurses, auto mechanics, artists and even social workers. They are a special group of young adults who have not let their misfortunes keep them from being successful.

This is a type of group that gets support for a while while they're "in the system." But, once they get too old or complete the support, they are left to fend for themselves. The idea of equipping these young adults who have come from not the best backgrounds with a laptop seems like such an awesome thing to do. I know I use my (two) laptops (home & school) for many hours each day. AND if you throw in my phone (which is like a mini-laptop), I am constantly using it and am connected to it.

The goal for each individual fundraiser is $100. I figure after all of the great support from the Alzheimer's campaign, this is very reachable and hopefully I can exceed it (as of this post I'm already 30% of the way there--you do the math on how much that is!). If you did donate on my behalf for the Alzheimer's Association, thank you so much! I would love it if you had another $5 to give to another great cause. If you didn't get around to donating for me back with the Pittsburgh marathon, I'd love to have you on board this time.

$1 or $5 or whatever you can give in these tough times. Thank you so much!


YOU CAN DONATE HERE

Thursday, August 18, 2011

XC & Pirates’ "Success"

The last week or so has been more of the same - clicking off the mileage on the running, cross country practice, getting stuff done around the house, and following the buccos.

Our two-a-days started for XC. The practices are at 8am and 3pm which presents for me a dilemma. Do I go home between practices with my 45-minute commute each way? It takes time and uses up gas. So, I pack a lunch and get my classroom set up early (less to worry about next week). The team has their first scrimmage next Wednesday and I'm excited to see everybody out on the course and how their summer training has paid off.

My next race is this Saturday. It's a "scrimmage" for my old high school (that I graduated from) where they compete against alumni willing to go back and subject themselves to the torture that is the Hempfield Cross Country course. Over the summer, I've been in the 17's with my 5k's. This race, my goal is to go sub-20 for the first time. It's a HARD trail course (here's
last year's race report). After not being able to crack 20 the last few years, I have acquired/borrowed a pair of XC spikes from a kid on the team (where I coach) to try to give me a little better footing this year (there's no truth to the rumor that I offered any grade assistance in Calculus this year in exchange for said spikes).

As always, my main goal is to "make varsity" meaning that I finish among the top 7 high schoolers. We'll see how it goes. Also, I get excused from my coaching duties for practice that Saturday morning with the justification that I'm out "scouting" a competitor team for later in the season.

PIRATES
The Pirates made some great strides forward this week. Yes, they got swept in Milwaukee last weekend, eliminating any shred of hope that may have been left to sneak back into the division playoff race. However, two of the games were 1-run games. Then, they came home to take 2 of 3 against the Cardinals, who always give them trouble. Can we get .500 by the end of the year!?!?!?

The most pivotal action the Pirates made this week was signing their 2nd round draft pick, high school outfielder Josh Bell. To give you a background, Bell was consider a mid-first round talent (among the top 10-20 range overall) and considered to be the 2nd best high school bat. Prior to the draft, he sent out a letter to all 30 MLB teams telling them not to draft him because he was going to honor his scholarship to the University of Texas. The letter stated about how his mother was a college professor and she wanted him to go to school.

Meanwhile, he enlisted the assistance of super-agent Scott Boras to be his "advisor" (it's funny how that works to allow the players to remain amateur). If he REALLY didn't want to be drafted, why did he find the most tenacious sports agent out there? Well, the Pirates called his bluff and drafted him in the 2nd round (after every other team had passed at least one chance to draft him). As the evening moved on Monday night to the midnight deadline, I read about how the Pirates threw some big money at a mid-round high school pitcher and assumed that meant they were no longer pursuing Bell. But, to my surprise when I woke up Tuesday morning, the Pirates committed not only the $8 million to their first round pick Garret Cole, but another $5 million to Josh Bell, and additional bonuses to rank first in the MLB in doling out $17 million total for their draft.

While this is great, it has to be kept in perspective. Cole won't become a major league factor until probably 2013. If Bell follow's Andrew McCutchen's path (drafted in 2005), he won't be up and making significant contributions until 2016 or 2017. But, it's just knowing that the commitment is there to build a winner through developing minor league talent. In the last calendar year, the Pirates have acquired FOUR pitchers regarded by national publications as potentially being "Ace" #1 pitchers in the majors (Tallion, Allie, Heredia, and Cole). Not all players will work out, but it's how teams not named the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox have to do it.


TRIP TO ALTOONA
While Beth was wrapping up her epic training weekend on Sunday, I got the crazy idea to take a trip up to Altoona to see the Curve (the Pirates' AA team) on Sunday night before the schedule got busier with two-a-days and school then starting. I was going back and forth all afternoon about whether or not to go because there was rain in the forecast. After Beth got home, I checked it one more time and the hour-by-hour precipitation chance dropped from 50%-60% down to 20-30%. It was 4:30 pm and I needed to get going for the 6pm game if I was going to go.

I end up going, but as I roll out of Ebensburg (about 20 minutes West of the stadium) I run into a monsoon. I turn on the radio and the pre-game show is not mentioning a thing about the rain. In fact, I'm running a few minutes late (literally slowed down to 35 mph on a 4-lane highway because of how hard the rain was coming down) and the game starts. I'm thinking, "how is it not raining there?"

By the time I pull into the parking lot, they are starting the second inning. Then the rains come. Drat! Did I make the 90-minute trip up to Altoona for nothing? Fortunately, after a 25-minute rain delay, the game resumes and I head in to watch the game.

One of the reasons I was interested in coming was that Tim Alderson was starting for the Curve. He was acquire straight up from San Francisco two years ago for Freddy Sanchez. Alderson has gone backwards to the point that he was demoted to High-A. But, this season he's been pitching out of the bullpen with great results and the Curve needed a starter so they put him in there.



The result - not too impressive. Sure, he got some people out, but he didn't have good control (hit two batters) and his fastball was sitting around 85 mph. His curveball (his best pitch) was sharp and had a lot of bite to it, at least.

His lack of control also caused his ejection one batter into the 4th inning. It was kind of odd. In the second inning, he hit one of the players near the bottom of the order. Fortunately, that runner got picked off of 2nd base later in the inning to cause no damage on the scoreboard. But, then the pitcher was up, and Alderson hit the pitcher. You don't hit a pitcher on purpose, he's an easy out!

The next inning, Alderson came up to the plate and, after two inside pitches, got plunked on a 2-0 fastball right in the middle of the back. Baseball's way of policing itself, I guess. The umpires (as they should have) warned both benches, meaning that any future intentional hit batters would cause ejections.

So, I went behind home plate to see his curveball better and snap a few shots in the 4th inning, but only saw two pitches from that vantage point due to the ejection. It's been misting this whole time, so not the best of traction and footing. Alderson is facing that same player he hit in the 2nd to lead off the inning.
The first pitch was inside. The 1-0 pitch went over the batter's head, making it look like Alderson was head-hunting. The umpire perceived it as intentionally throwing at the hitter and automatically ejected him. The manager came out to plead his case that it wasn't intentional, but to no avail. Oh well. Not that Alderson pitched that great anyway. Good thing I snapped a shot on the first pitch of the 4th inning, I guess!


In other events, outfielder Andrew Lambo (acquired in the Dotel deal last year) is finally coming around in AA after being demoted down from AAA, where he struggled mightily for the first three months of the year. Lambo blasted a 3-run homer over the right field wall to give the Curve the lead early in the game. The picture is a celebration of the players heading back to the dugout after scoring on the home run.


The other player I wanted to see was catcher Tony Sanchez. He didn't play (night off) when Beth and I went up in June. Sanchez, the Pirates' first round pick from 2009 out of Boston College, hasn't been hitting well either this year. I was hoping to see something from him but he had some groundouts and a flyout. In the 12th inning (I had left after 9 because I was getting up at 4:45am to do a run before the first day of XC practice), I heard on the radio he allowed a ball to get past him on a 3rd strike and compounded the problem by sailing his throw to first base out into right field. This allowed the winning run to score. I hope he can get back on track next year.



The surprise of the night was Duke Welker coming out of the bullpen in the 7th. Welker, a 2nd round college pick from Dave Littlefield's last draft in 2007 had been scuttling along the past four years in low-A and high-A, never really putting it together. Well, this year I think he may be putting it together (and about time for a college pitcher picked in the 2nd round!!!). He went 3-up and 3-down, striking out two of them with a 95 and 96 mph fastball and a devastating mid 80's slider. He should be up in AAA Indianapolis to start next year and may make it up to the Pirates next summer if he continues to deal like he did on Sunday.


So, that's my report from Altoona. Thank you to the rain for cooperating and for Beth not missing me for an evening!

Monday, August 8, 2011

St. Barnabas 5k, Pirates Sabbatical, Fall Schedule

Over the weekend, I did the St. Barnabas 5k. When I was mapping out my summer races, this one came on to my radar. After checking out previous years' results, seeing some fast times and tough competition, and getting positive reviews on the course and event, I decided to go for it.

On top of this, St. Barnabas is an amazing place. I really didn't know what it was. However, after perusing their website and hearing people talk about it before and after the race, they do great things there. According to the race site...Proceeds from the St. Barnabas Medical Center 5K Run/Walk benefit the St. Barnabas Free Care Fund. The fund supports the poor and low-income patients of St. Barnabas Nursing Home, Valencia Woods at St. Barnabas and The Arbors at St. Barnabas. Since its founding in 1900, it has been St. Barnabas' mission to never turn a patient away because of their inability to pay. In 2010 alone, St. Barnabas provided more than $4.7 million in free care. Impressive.

Overall going in to the race I felt okay. I put in a lot of volume for the week, but didn't do any speed work because I wasn't sure how the body would react to back-to-back weekends of 5k's. On top of that, my shins were a little tender after last Sunday's race (but this was probably me just being wimpy). This got me thinking about how exactly back in high school we were able to do some weeks in cross country of three 5ks (dual meets Tue and Thu, Invitational Saturday)?


I thought, well surely this was because I didn't take them as intensely in high school. Now that I'm a more competitive runner I put more into it and need more time to physically and mentally recover. But, Kari put it all into perspective by noting to my post on FB that it's simply "cause we are OLD!" So true, so true.

Unlike the last two races where I had thoughts of being in the mix to possibly finish at or near the top, I didn't have to worry about that in this race. The winner from last year went sub-15 and there were about 10 runners sub-17. So, I went into the race trying to employ a more conservative strategy in the first mile (like not going out in sub 5:20 like last weekend).

I did start out in about 20th or so place, however, that still put me through mile 1 at 5:27. I was around two guys I was with last weekend (and the 4th of July 5k) so I figured I would just tuck in there until the turnaround. The course was an out and back on a rolling road called Meridian between Bakerstown Road and Route 910 in Gibsonia. The start was about a half mile up from the finish, so the turnaround was just before the 2 mile mark.

We get to the turnaround and I split an 11:12 (5:45 for mile 2) and figure I'm hopefully in better shape to pick people off than I was last weekend. Sure enough, the two guys I was around from last week started to fall back from me on a little uphill and I make my way up to a pack of three more runners. Things continue to go well and I put a little gap on them and move up to the next group of two young runners. One of the two falls back but the other one is still with me.

It's another little uphill as we approach the 3 mile mark and I'm able to put a little gap on the high-schooler beside me. Mile 3 splits in 16:53 (5:41) and I know I've got a fight on my hands to hold off this young'in. We turn the corner for about a 150 meter stone path to the finish. I'm kicking with everything I've got, but the youthful runner blows past me like I was standing still. No fair. Where have my base-stealing wheels gone? My get-up-and-go got-up-and-went.

I finish through the line holding off another charging youth to run around a 17:28-ish. I say "around" because something happened with the timing mat and they missed about 6 or 7 of us going across the line at this point. And, just my luck, the one race where I go to stop my watch I whiff on hitting the button and notice it's still running as I get a bottle of water. The results on runhigh.com say I was 12th and ran 17:25, beating the 15-year-old, but I know he's the one that outkicked me, so let's go with 13th place and 17:28. Good enough to be first in my age group (and the first person across the line older than 29...another sign of being old!!).

Great course, humid day (fortunately lots of cold Gatorade, fresh-sliced fruit, and superdonuts at the finish line!!!), and well-organized race. I'll definitely be going back there in the future.

On Sunday, Beth brought out her sprinting shoes and won (and set a new course record!) at the North Park Sprint Triathlon (it also had a little cash prize with it!!!). It was also fun to see one of the students on the XC team at my school compete and finish 4th. He's only going in to 9th grade. Very impressive.

MONEY
In other news, the economy's not doing too well. Not to take political sides, but the bottom line to all of this lengthy debate has to be to make sure our country is not spending more than we take in. Simple budgeting, right? That's the first thing that needs to happen in my opinion.

PIRATES
On to the diamond, I am going on a short-term sabbatical for watching the Pirates games on TV or listening on the radio. They are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak and it was just getting too frustrating. I'm still reading about them in the paper the next day and following the minor league teams, but I just needed a break (and maybe it'll help change their luck).


My sabbatical started on Friday (we watched a movie), continued Saturday and Sunday yet they still lost. I figure the next three days it'll be easy because they're out in San Francisco and the games won't start until after 10pm. I'm just hoping I wake up in the morning to find out they win one of these days.

So many reasons why this happened. First and foremost, the scrappy Pirates were playing way above their heads for the first four months of the season. Their pitching was some of the best in all of baseball yet not having a true "#1" or heck even a "#2" starter. It caught up to them. As the starters wore down, the relievers had to pitch more (plus all those innings from the 19-inning affair), and they were less effective. Throw in the season-long underachieving hitters and you've got a 10-game losing streak.


The "playoff run" and trade-deadline tracking was fun while it lasted, but now the goal is to get to .500 or above and break that streak of consecutive seasons below .500. It was last year around this time that I went down to PNC Park and witnessed history being made when they clinched losing season #18.

FALL RUNNING SCHEDULE

Finally, I just wanted to throw out the fall racing schedule that is culminating with the Harrisburg Marathon in November:

Aug 20 - Hempfield Alumni Meet (why do I subject myself to the torture of that course against more youngins? To try to make Varsity--top 7--of course)
Sep 11 - Harrisburg Half Marathon (To scout out the course before the marathon and, why not since Beth is going to be out in Vegas for the weekend racing the 70.3 world championships)
Sep 25 - The Great Race (hoping to feed off of my summer 5k's and PR in the 10k)
Oct 15 - Buffalo Creek Half Marathon (fun downhill course close to home)
Nov 13 - Harrisburg Marathon (with the goal going in to run a 3:10 so that I am CONSERVATIVE and complete a marathon without having to walk or cramp up)

I'm hoping this plan lays out a solid base to then get rolling again in January to hopefully run Pittsburgh next may and hit that elusive sub-3:00 marathon.


Uh-oh. It's 10pm. Better wrap this up and get to bed before I'm tempted to watch the Pirate game....