Thursday, April 21, 2011

Martha's RR, Track, and The Big Easy

In what is a LOOOONG overdue blog, here we go.

Martha's Run 10k went well. Unlike last year when the top three were long gone two minutes into the race (winning time 33:48), the makeup of the running group was different. I looked around at the start line and saw one local big-time runner (and a big fan of giving high-fives) and the college kid who went to Mt. Lebo and wrestled but is now getting really fast at road races.

The starter said "GO" and I took off from the line....and nobody went with me. And it stayed that way for the first mile and half. I told myself this is just like my morning runs on the course....except it's light out....and I'm running on the road instead of the sidewalk....and I'm following a fire truck...and I'm running faster. Other than that, just like a morning run.

Finally, around two miles into it, the big-timer caught up to me (I was starting to think he was just using this as a tempo run). We ran together for the next mile, but then he started to put a gap on me. He was about 5-10 seconds ahead as we got to the 5 mile mark. We descended down the last big hill and I couldn't close the gap (similar to my experience from last year). We get to the final flat (about a half mile long) and I picked it up and tried to close the gap but was unable to. The end result: 2nd place 36:32 (5 seconds behind the winner), just under a minute faster than last year.

The race is in memory of a Mt. Lebanon graduate Martha Dixon who worked for the FBI Cold Case Squad. A gunman entered their office and began shooting. She returned fire and wounded the perpetrator but was killed in the exchange. The goal of the race is to raise money to build playgrounds to keep kids active. The playground in the picture below was the first one built a few years back. Their next one is going to be in conjunction with the South Hills YMCA.

Sunday was a long run (17 miles) and I hit that pretty good. Monday I did 6 miles. Then, I hit the wall. My legs felt like lead the rest of the week. I think I overdid it. I took off Tuesday, ran a sluggish 10 miles Wednesday and 5 miles Thursday. Then, I took Friday off with the travel day and started to finally feel better on Saturday. More on the New Orleans portion in a minute....

Our weather continued par for the spring. Cold, rainy, throw a little snow in there. While we were in New Orleans, the invitational got cancelled due to wind and rain. It's been a crazy spring. In spite of that, our boys and girls have been adapting, adjusting, and excelling and we haven't lost yet heading into our final week of section meets. Hoping for a string of nice weather for the final month of the season.

Off to a new and exciting place again. Beth's triathlon season has started. We did our usual routine--Beth packs her bike and everything Thursday night. Friday morning I drop Beth off at the airport before school. She flies down while I'm at school and practice. Then, I fly down. My flight from Pittsburgh got delayed about an hour. Then, due to thunderstorms, the Atlanta airport closed and we were left sitting on the runway in Pittsburgh.

A half hour later, we finally took off and made our way off to Atlanta. The descent into Atlanta was a little dicey. There were lots of corrections made by the plane due to the wind. A lightning bolt flashed right outside of the window. Whoa! After a hard landing we made it. My flight to New Orleans was also delayed and didn't take off until around Midnight. I get into New Orleans around 2am central (3am eastern), making for a 23-hour day.

On to the weekend, Beth had her usual pre-race routine. She went in the (choppy) water and I did an hour run. The legs started to come back a little bit. Sunday was race day. The choppy water ended up forcing the cancelling of the swim. Beth did awesome and was the 4th amateur to finish and she cracked 1:30 in the half marathon! I did my usual thing of being out on the course.

While I was out there I snapped a few pictures. These pictures turned out pretty clear since our new phones have a higher resolution.

Beth about 3 miles into the run.

While waiting for Beth on the run, I was snapping shots of the pros (some of which are on FB). This one was interesting, though. Racer number 57, Kelzie Beebe, threw me for a loop as I was cheering the runners on. She says, "You're Beth Shutt's husband, aren't you?" I guess my reputation is starting to preceed me.

Beth about to overtake 4th place with about 3 miles to go. She was trucking!

This was a little tricky since it was point-to-point for the run, but I made it work. I checked it out on mapmyrun and it turns out I logged 11+ miles on race day.


With it being our spring break at school (and because tickets were a lot cheaper to return on Tuesday) we stuck around an extra day than usual and actually had a chance to check out the host city. New Orleans has been through a lot with Hurricane Katrina. Some parts, like the French Quarter, seem like they've fully recovered. Other parts up by Lake Ponchartrain, had areas that have recovered but others still with the spray paint on the houses. The roads were real bumpy in that area. It also looks as though they are working on levee projects still there.

The French Quarter was...unique. Driving the course on Saturday we saw a whole bunch of people out including people dressed up as pirates (not from Pittsburgh). There were beads everywhere and I can only imagine what it was like there at night.

I found a new favorite treat in beignets - doughy funnel cake-like donuts with mounds of powdered sugar on them.
Cafe DuMonde does ship the mix!

We went past the Super Dome. It's so much bigger than Heinz Field, an amazing structure.

On Monday, I ran along the Mississippi River levee. It just went on forever. My 8.5 miles out went pretty well, however I melted on the way back. Must have been something to do with the 80-degree temperatures and humidity since I was coming from 40's and 50's.

Monday night, we saw a AAA baseball game between the New Orleans Zephyrs (Florida Marlins) and the Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers). It was a good game, but selfishly I was a little disappointed because there weren't any real top prospects playing in the game. In fact, there were a good number of late-20's journeymen who I recognized from playing in the big leagues.

The first pitch. I think it's in the air, but you can't see it. It's out of the pitcher's hand, the batter is still looking out and the catcher still has his target up.

Like with many things in New Orleans, there is a levee incorporated as part of the outfield beyond the right-center fence.

Our flight back went smooth and soon after I got home, it was off to another track meet, where it was 50 and rainy (of course).

I'm excited for Easter this weekend to see family and to remember the whole reason for our faith. Jesus loved us so much to die for us and take our place for all the bad stuff we have done in our lives. We don't owe Him anything, but knowing what He did for us makes you want to make a difference for Jesus with other people.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Has Sprung?

It's April! Start of the baseball season! Two track meets so far in April and......IT SNOWED AT BOTH!!!! Here's a picture of me driving to Saturday's meet.

Today, we had more snow flurries at our meet. My workout this morning was in the rain/snow of mid-30's temperatures bringing back memories of the Turkey Trot. It's just not right. But, hopefully things will start warming up.

Training is going well. Last week I had 5x1000 at 5k pace on Wednesdsay, 17 mi with 14 miles at marathon pace on Saturday, and 5x600 at 5k pace today. I'm doing a 10k Saturday (Martha's Run from last year) and 17 on Sunday. This weekend will be 5 weeks to go. It's getting close. And, thanks again to all who have been so generous in donating to the Alzheimer's Association on my behalf. It's so awesome to see how many people are willing to support. If you haven't had a chance yet and would like to, you can donate here.

I also need to get around to my Pirates preview. Last spring, I wrote a blog on why the Pirates couldn't be any worse. Well, they were worse. So, I'm not going to write an opinion on whether they'll be better or worse. I'll just focus on individuals.

Even though it's a few days late, my concern for the year is starting pitching (off to a great start) and infield defense (kind of ugly so far). I feel Neil Walker will regress to his minor league stats (he's off to an awesome start) but think Tabata and McCutchen will take off this year (so far so good). Through five games, they LOOK better. But, we shall see.....