Sunday, July 31, 2011

Post-Deadline Buccos & Junkyard Jaunt

The Pirates wrapped up their road trip today by getting swept by Philly. Their key stretch against St. Louis, Atlanta, and Philadelphia didn't quiet goes as well as hoped as the lost 2 of 3 to the Cardinals, split with Atlanta, and the aforementioned sweep by the Phillies (3-7). Meanwhile, the Cardinals and Brewers took turns beating up on the Astros and Cubs to put a little gap between them and the third-place Pirates.

So, the Buccos stand 2 games over .500 and 4.5 games out of first place heading into the final two months. ANY fan would've taken that back in March. Hopefully with the additions of Derek Lee and Ryan Ludwick (and playing the Cubs and Padres the next 7 games), the buccos will climb back closer to first place.

Today, I ran the Junkyard Jaunt 5k with my cousin K. Why didn't Beth run it too? Oh, because she was in the middle of a 6 hour bike ride, that's all. She was nice enough to take a break during her ride to see the actual race. Then she went back on her way for another few hours. Things went well. K was the first female (and there was some $$$ involved). I ended up in 4th place, but only 9 seconds out of first.

Out of the gate, one runner took off and I followed about 10 seconds behind. I split the first mile in 5:19 and figured I should reel it in a little. While the first place guy stayed out there a little ahead, three other guys were literally breathing down my neck. The guy out front came back to us around the 2 mile mark (my split was 10:52, so 5:33 2nd mile)

It was a fun last 0.6 miles from the 2.5 mile turnaround. As we did the 180-degree turn, all five of us were line up in a row. Unfortunately, three of them had more left than me. But, I'll take a 17:21 on a rolling/fairly flat course and get ready for my next race. A couple of other notes from the race, the winner was 51 years old!! I just hope to be completing 5k's in my 50's. Second, the race was 1.16 miles from our driveway (according to making it the shortest commute to a race I've ever done. It was nice after the race to just drive up the hill and be home.

Congrats to the many fine performances at the Pittsburgh Tri today included
Chad's overall win and Ben's 5th place finish (with the fastest bike split).

How did it get to be August already?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

West Coast Swing

The trip to NoCal was a great success all around. Travel to and from the Bay area went smoothly. Sonoma County and its acres of vineyards were amazing. Beth had a successful race (1st female amateur). We crashed all weekend at a timeshare condo 3 minutes from the finish line thanks to Cary (who also rocked her age group), a big step up from our usual Econolodge/Motel 6 lodging. We met up with Barb, Beth & James W, who also had great races.

As usual, I didn't get many pictures because I just get caught up in the race. I did snap a shot of the swim start.

The bike was a point-to-point through the vineyards of Sonoma County, meaning I had to leave T1 and head over about 25 minutes to the T2/finish area. Once there I parked the car, went on an hour run (in 50 degree weather in July!!!!), and snapped a few photos of the finish line and waited for Beth to come in off the bike.

She came in first in her age group off the bike and I gave her the news she had a 3+ minute lead on 2nd place as she left for the run. When mapping out the spectathlete strategy prior to the race, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to see much of the race. However, Cary (veteran of 7 or so Vinemans) helped us scout out the run course and determined a way to get out on the course. Since it's an out & back, I would then be able to see her 4 times on the run. The challenge was I had to do 2.5 miles in the time she had to do a little under 4 miles (see the map - Beth is yellow, I'm blue). Challenging, but a good tempo workout.

While waiting for Beth to come by, defending Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae zoomed past in a blur, or shoddy camerawork. She's fast--a sub 1:20 half marathon taking her from 8th off the bike to 3rd!

While I was out at the mile 4/9 area I also saw more pros, then Beth (who was now 5 minutes up on 2nd place), then Beth W, Charisa, and a very excited Barb once she found out that she was running in 5th place in the AG (and ended up passing one more before the finish line to earn 4th). One thing that was great in New Orleans, Eagleman, and Vineman was having the android and being able to access the live results on It sure helps with trying to figure out who is in what place.

When Beth finished the race and was hanging out in the athlete post-race food and recovery area, I notice that she's talking with an older guy with a notepad and figure he's maybe from a local paper and wanted to get her name since she did well. 10 minutes later, I'm still hanging out there by the fence and wondering what interview could possibly take this long. When she left the area and came out to me, she told me how the guy was nice and was asking about what she thought about the region and what other things we were going to do in California and other stuff that she **THOUGHT** was just small talk.

After some more upper 50's running for another hour on Monday, we packed up and went back down to the bay area. On our way out of town, we filled up with gas and grabbed a local newspaper to see its coverage of the race. We thought they may mention Beth since the reporter was talking to Beth.


Timeout from the story to take a multiple choice quiz about this article on the race (take the quiz before reading the article).
Which one of the following was NOT mentioned in the article:

A) men's pro champion Andy Potts who set a course record
B) women's pro champion Melissa Rollison who also set a course record
C) Beth, the female amateur overall champion
D) Me, the "marathoning husband"
E) Tim Lincecum, all-star pitcher for the SF Giants
F) The drastically improved Pittsburgh Pirates

That's right, this article about the Vineman 70.3 triathlon did not include....B!!!

Here's some of the article:

Beth Shutt, 32, of Pittsburgh, Pa., said she made her first trip to Northern California just to bicycle past vineyards and wasn't disappointed.

“It's almost surreal,” she said. “I've never seen anything like it.”

Shutt finished in 4:38:57, tops among women age 30 to 34.

She and her husband, Oscar, who runs marathons, are staying in the area until Tuesday and plan to see the sights in San Francisco, including a Giants game at AT&T Park.

Her hometown Pirates were in first place on Sunday, “unheard of because they usually stink,” Shutt said.

Asked who she knows anyone on the World Series champion Giants, Shutt said, “Tim Lincecum, that's about it.”

Journalism at its finest....

With it being summer and not having to rush back for school, we took an extra day and explored the region. However, it easily could've been another 3-4 days. So, we did mostly a driving tour. The color-coded map details our lap around the bay.

1) We stopped off at the Golden Gate Recreation Area overlook of downtown San Francisco. First of all, the roads were pretty steep and twisty and I was getting a little nervous driving up to the lookout (this coming from someone who gets squirmy driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge--not a fan of heights).

However, the view of downtown was amazing. To put it in perspective for Pittsburghers, it was like looking down at the 'burgh from Mount Washington.....but times 10. Amazing.

You also can see Alcatraz in the picture. This next photo is from a boat tour of the bay that I 'borrowed' off of fb from a teaching buddy who happened to be out in San Francisco the same weekend. Of course, seeing The Rock prompted me to recite quotes for the next few hours from the similarly-named movie starring Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. This movie holds significance for me and my best-man J as it was in the movie theater back when we worked at the Carmike Cinemas in North Huntingdon. Ah, those were the days.

We crossed over the aforementioned Golden Gate Bridge (6 dollar toll?!?!?) and drove through the city. Some of the roads are sooooo steep!

2) We then continued southward down the 101 to Palo Alto to check out Stanford's campus. Another amazing place. We drove around campus and stopped at the track and athletic gift shopped and picked up some t-shirt souveniers. I went the traditional "Stanford XC" shirt, while Beth went for the "Fear the Tree" theme. I'll let her show you a picture of it.

3) Crossed over another bridge and went back up to Oakland to our hotel that was across the street from the airport (early flight on Tuesday). We dropped off our stuff and then went over the Bay Bridge back to San Francisco and parked inside a pier and went to the Giants-Dodgers game.

4) The park was very nice (almost as nice as PNC Park, but I'm baised). I knew the Giants and Dodgers had a rivalry, but wow, I didn't realize how intense it was. 90-95% of the crowd was decked out in black and orange and many had Giants jerseys. The remaining percentage were brave Dodgers fans proudly displaying their Dodger blue. Then, there was Beth and I trying to play the role of Switzerland, but were cheering when the Giants did good things for fear of having the "Beat LA" chants get directed at us. When the starting lineups were introduced, the fans booed every single Dodger. Wow, it was like being at a Steelers-Ravens game.

Now we're back in the burgh and I'm back to XC practice. I'm getting my mileage in and need to figure out which November marathon I'm going to do. Oh yeah, and the Pirates were in first place the last few days. I'll have to get in a blog about that.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mid-Summer Classic Memories and Such

Since I'm already bored with the Home Run Derby, I figured I'd blog about my All-Star Memories. There's only so many HR's you can watch. When are they going to have a skills competition similar to the NHL's? You could have fastest runner, fastest pitch, OF accuracy throws, hitting targets, etc.

It does bring back some good memories as it was in Pittsburgh TWICE since I started high school ('94 and '06). This also means, since there are 30 teams, it may not be back to the 'burgh again until I'm retired. The reason for two so close was that in '94 it was Pittsburgh's turn in the rotation with Three Rivers Stadium. Then, PNC Park opened and they wanted to show off all the new MLB stadiums (I still think there was some sort of deal made to appease the Pirates ownership by giving them the game again so quickly even though there were other new parks. Regardless, that's a whole other story).

In 1994, my neighbor up the street who I mowed the grass for, Dr. DeNino, invited me and two other younger neighborhood boys to go since he had four tickets and his two daughters were still in diapers. What a guy! He took us to the day of the batting practice and home run derby (back when it was in the afternoon). I still remember the moon shots Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas sent to the third deck of right and left field, respectively as they dueled it out for the HR Derby title.

In 2006, I went with my dad and we went to the Sunday events: The Futures Game, a concert (don't remember who), and the Celebrity & Legends softball game. It was a fun time. Here are some of the pictures pulled out of the pre-blog archives:

Crossing the Clemente Bridge over to PNC Park with the All-Star banner overhead

Our seats up in right field. I found out that day that there truly are no bad seats in PNC Park. This was about as far away as you can be from home plate and it still felt close.

The Futures Game.

When they're playing in it, you don't really recognize many of the names, but it was fun to go back and look at the list of who played that day and rattle off the top of my head where they are now (I left the ones I didn't recognize out).

ADENHART, Nick, P - Angels pitcher who had great promise but was
unfortunately killed in a car accident by a drunk driver after a his season debut in the major leagues in 2009.
BAILEY, Homer, P - Up and down with the Reds
BRAUN, Ryan, 3B - MVP Candidate with the hated Brewers
BUTLER, Billy, LF - Key bat for the young Royals team
CARRASCO, Carlos, P - Young pitcher for the Indians
DREW, Stephen, SS - Starting SS for the Diamondbacks
GALLARDO, Yovani, P - Top starting pitcher for the Brewers
GARCIA, Jaime, P - one of the top rookies last year (on the Cardinals)
GONZALEZ, Carlos, OF - amazing 2010, among MVP candidates
GONZALEZ, Gio, P - starting pitcher for the A's
GORDON, Alex, 3B - another starting bat for the Royals
HUGHES, Philip, P - one of the Yankees young pitchers (injured some this year)
KENDRICK, Howie, 2B - speedy player for the Angels
LINDSTROM, Matt, P - reliable relief pitcher
MAYBIN, Cameron, CF - speedy outfielder with lots of promise that has bounced around in several different organizations
PENCE, Hunter, RF - the Astro's All-Star who would look great in right field at PNC Park for the Buccos
REIMOLD, Nolan, RF - up with the Orioles the last few years
SANDOVAL, Pablo, 1B/C - the Panda had a down 2010, but a great 2009 and 2011 SHARPLESS, Josh, P -a token hometown Bucco selection from Freedom, PA. He was out of the Pirates system (and maybe now out of baseball) in just a few years. Never panned out.
SUZUKI, Kurt, C - Catcher with the A's
TABATA, Jose, CF - disgruntled Yankees prospect back then who has now (hopefully) turned into a cornerstone of the Buccos for the next few years
TULOWITZKI, Troy, SS - only one of the best offensive shortstops in the game
VOTTO, Joey, INF - 2010 NL MVP with the reds
WALKER, Neil, C - Another token local Pittsburgh guy selection (although this one's turned out a little better!) He's an RBI machine!

Setup for the concert

Setup for the softball game with the shorter fence.

I remember Franco Harris played and also that Fred Lynn and somebody else had a home run derby to break a tie at the end.

It's pretty exciting to see the Pirates have three All-Star representatives this year, even if two of the three were replacements. What's more exciting is that they are 4 games over .500 and only 1 game out of first place. They've got 3 against Houston coming out of the break, but then division foes Cincinnati and St. Louis. I think that will go a long way towards determining whether they are legit contenders this year (I can't believe I just legitimately wrote that!!!)

Lots of people are wanting the Pirates to make trades. The guys they have coming off the DL over the next month (Beimel, Cedeno, Doumit, Pearce, Alvarez, Ohlendorf, Meek) may do the trick. However, I wouldn't be against making a trade as long as it makes sense. The bullpen could always use a fresh arm with how much they have pitched in the first half. A corner IF or OF bat would be nice, too, but at the right price. The names thrown around are Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Mark Reynolds, and Hunter Pence. I figure let's see how things play out over the next few weeks before worrying too much about trades.

Enjoy the All-Star festivities and let's go Bucs! It is so fun to have the phrase "first time since 1992" thrown around so much!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fun 4th of July Weekend

So, the week leading up to the weekend was a bit interesting. But all turned out very well in the end.

Rewind back to Monday. Actually, rewind back to March while we're at it....

(Note, if you don't want to be bored with my dental issues, skip ahead 5 or so paragraphs)

At my dentist appointment, the dentist noticed an issue on an upper molar in the back on both sides. Next step, a root canal for each of those because it was apparently too deep for just a filling. So, on to a specialist who does root canals. Visit #1 for a consultation. Visit #2 for first root canal. Visit #3 supposed to be for the other root canal. However, this guy felt the issue was too close to another tooth and wanted a second opinion (really?).

In the mean time, a crown was then to be put on after each root canal. I go in for crown #1 (from root canal #1), but the dentist can't complete it because he feels there's not enough tooth left. So, I need a crown lengthening on that before a crown can be put in. So, a temporary crown was glued on in the meantime (which popped out when I ate the scrumptious rice krispy treat from Noodles down at Columbia and had to get glued back in...oops).

Next on to another specialist for the crown lengthening. Visit #1 for the consultation at the end of the schoolyear and visit #2 for the actual crown lengthening on both sides (confirmed what root canal guy said). Lots of annoying half days needing to be taken during track season. Thank goodness school is out and I don't have to use any more sick days.

So, back to Monday (apologies for the multi-paragraph tooth malady summary). The dentist warned me going in I wouldn't be able to use my back teeth much for nearly a week. I figured that was conservative and I'd be eating pizza the next day (like after root canal #1).

Not so much. Monday night I was in BIG TIME pain. I used the pain-killer meds, put ice on both sides of my face and didn't each much for the rest of the night. This probably led to headaches probably from both the pain and also the hunger. Tuesday wasn't much better. Went to the summer program Tuesday morning but it wasn't too fun. Tuesday night, Beth's mom was in town so we went to the Olive Garden and it took me almost an hour to slurp up a plate of some fettuccine noodles. Wednesday I took a good 45 minutes to put down my two slices of pizza (usually only takes me 10-15 min).

After more soup, jello, pudding, and applesauce for most of the rest of the week I get to Friday. They needed me to fill in for the softball team (for a doubleheader, no less) and I figured I was game for it. I took a gel beforehand because I knew I was calorie deficient and it was hot out. I was slurping down liquids the whole way there and during the first game. However in spite of this I still cramped up while sprinting on the basepaths at the beginning of game 2. Not the hammy this time, but the left quad. Not good. I told the guys I lost 5th gear but could still jog (probably lost 4th gear too).

I finish out the games, but come home pretty bummed because it was pretty apparent the quad wasn't in good shape. However (and I'm not sure why) but it just "felt" like a cramp/knot and not a strain/pull, so I still had hope it may go away. I go to work on the quad at home that night trying to get the cramp out but pretty worried about running the 5k on July 4th.

Saturday morning I go out and try to run on it. I go on flat ground and jog over to the high school track. It was "tugging" at me a little if I tried to go too fast. 8-minute pace was all I could muster for that 25-minute run (with some stretching in there). I try it again on Sunday and this time I was able to pick it up and run a timed 7:15 mile on the track (not quite what I would hope for in the race). Then I tried three 200's and was able to get down to 45 seconds (6:00 pace) but I had to labor a little to do that and it was only a 200. I was pretty wary of how things would turn out because the quad was still tugging a little bit.

Enough of the leadup, on to race morning at the Hampton 5k. I warm up and it feels okay, but I'm still a little nervous. My strategy was to go out conservative and see how it feels.
'Racer X' was there and I figured I'd just settle back in behind him to start the race. The gun goes off and I can tell within the first few strides the quad was going to least to start. I tuck in behind Racer X and follow him on the flat first mile around the school.

We split mile 1 in 5:25 and I'm in 6th or so place. I guess the quad is feeling okay. However, mile #2 goes up a pretty steep, long hill. I figured this will be the true test for the quad and if it would seize up. I start motoring up the hill and all feels well. In fact, the leaders start coming back to me. By the top of the hill, I pull even with the front two and then I'm in the lead.

A wrap then around the middle school and back down the hill. I snuck a peak at the middle school turnaround and noticed nobody really came with me (I thought the two behind me would concede the hill but then put in a surge and catch back up to me on the flat).

Okay, this will be the true test for the quad to go back down the hill. All is well and I split 5:45 at the beginning of the return down the hill. I get back toward the high school with about 3/4 of a mile to go and Beth tells me I have about a 10 second lead (as can be seen in her stellar picture--what a spectathlete, getting splits and taking pictures!).

I'm starting to hurt at this point (the good hurt not the quad hurt) and I'm running scared back around the high school. I hope they don't catch me!! I'm peaking with each 90-degree turn around the high school, but can't see anybody. Beth updates me with less than 1/4 of a mile and says I have about a 15-second lead. I do my best to just finish strong and cross the line at 17:35 with that 15-second margin still in tact. (6:25 for the last 3.1).

So, in spite of the tooth procedure, the liquid/soft diet for most of the week, the quad "knot" two days before the race, and the general doubt of the unknown factoring all that in, a VERY satisfying time and a great finishing award!

The one disclaimer on career victory #2 is that this was most certainly the "JV" 4th of July race around Pittsburgh. All of the big boys were down at the Brentwood 5k (with the winning time of 14:57 and 14 runners sub-17).

A trip to the Hampton Community Pool while we are there and an easy 1650 while Beth gets a little workout in (and a cannonball off the diving board and a trip down the slide).

Very soothing on the legs. In fact, I credit trips to the YMCA pool with Beth on both Saturday and Sunday for easy swim workouts to help loosen up the cramp in the quad and allowing me to even race on Monday.

Throw in a BBQ at
Ben's house on Saturday, some fireworks, and the Buccos inching their way more over .500 and closer to first place, it was a great weekend!