Tag Archives: Western Pennsylvania

EQT10-mile training – Week 7 10/6/15

Fall in Western Pennsylvania. It brings to mind images like this:

Colors flourish during the fall in the Keystone State. (Photo from visitpa.com.)

Colors flourish during the fall in the Keystone State. (Photo from visitpa.com.)

Sure, pictures of fall foliage are pretty to look at, but, let’s face it, Western Pennsylvania weather doesn’t usually permit much time to enjoy the view.

Instead, we’re usually treated to sites like these every fall:

Wind, rain and dropping temperatures are part of every fall in Western Pennsylvania. (Photo from edgarsnyder.com.)

Wind, rain and dropping temperatures are part of every fall in Western Pennsylvania. (Photo from edgarsnyder.com.)

Training for late-season races, like the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler, require logging miles in mucky, yucky, wet and windy conditions,which hit the region last week. Naturally, the bad weather coincided with the toughest week of training. Those following Fleet Feet Sports’ Train to Run program – like myself – faced a trio of 6-mile runs to go with a 9-mile jaunt. It created some interesting conditions in what had been an unusually warm and gentle weather cycle.

9/28  – A day after trekking up the sizable hill to my house, I opted for a course with a couple climbs, a mile or so on the Five Star Trail and finished 6.14 miles in 52:05.

9/30 – Made a left turn in a place I usually take a right and ended up running through Southwest Greensburg a bit. Ended up strolling along College Avenue,. eventually rolling though Academy Hill and St. Clair Park before heading home. The wind was strong and in my face for a long stretch of the run. It reminded me of running along Swan Beach at the Outer Banks during nor’easters. Not fun, but it makes a runner stronger. Did 6.06 miles in 51:45.

10/2 – The cooler temperatures were nice, but the wind wasn’t highly appreciated. So, on Friday, I sought a flatter run. I went through South Greensburg, went through Midway and caught Five Star Trail for a few miles before making a left at Sunset Cafe (great place to eat – the calamari is terrific) and returning home. Covered 6.56 miles in 55:02. Easily the best run of the week.

10/4 – The big day arrived. The longest run of the 10-week training program. After getting decent sleep, two mugs of coffee and some water, I went the same way as Friday’s run with a couple small variations to add distance. After taking Five Star Trail for about 3.5 miles, I hit Lynch Field. Now, during longer runs, I’ve noticed my brain stops complex functions. At some point, determination and stubborness  takes over, and it usually comes between miles 5 and 6. Keep in mind, this doesn’t happen for a 6-mile run, only when the run is 7 miles or longer. Not sure why. Anyway, the brain shut off before descending into Lynch Field, which is why – at Mile 8 – I opted to turn into Academy Hill. For the next sixth-tenths of a mile, I was running uphill. My pace slowed, my breathing intensified, but I made it. And I kept going. I covered 10.12 miles in 1:26.40. It took 9:35 to cover my ninth mile and 9:07 to cover the 10th.Other than that, my pace was great and, most importantly, my confidence for Oct. 25 is sky-high.

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EQT 10-mile training – Week 6 9/28/15

Not an Iron Maiden fan. Never have been, even with my musical roots firmly planted in the 1980s. But, when it comes to running in Greensburg – and most of Western Pennsylvania, hills are an unavoidable circumstance when piling miles on to a workout plan. That’s why my mind often thinks about “Run to the Hills.”

Now, this blogger has lived in tons of hilly neighborhoods – Dormont, South Park and Bethel Park among them. None of those communities seem to hold the number undulating roads as the City of Greensburg.

My home is located on Summit Drive, and it’s aptly named. If Summit Drive isn’t the highest point within the city limits, it’s awfully close.

Before left-calf injury No. 1, which happened in August of 2014, ascending Summit Drive to finish runs was a regular accomplishment. Over time, I found five different access points to scale the hill toward Summit Drive – each a different type of brutal.

Following left-calf injury No. 2 and a right-foot sprain and the subsequent decline in endurance and leg strength, climbing Mt. Summit became too much. During the first five week of following Fleet Feet Sports’ training program for the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler, I didn’t attempt a full run up the hill home.

That changed in Week 6.

9/21/15 – More than a week passed since a treadmill run, so the timing was appropriate to work on consistent pacing again. A five-mile run in under 41 minutes, never running slower than a 7.4 mph pace.

9/23/15 – Back to the street of Greensburg for a run with a steady incline between miles 2.0 and 4.5. Yep, poor planning on my part. Traversed 6.43 miles in 54:58. Later that day, did a 5:30 p.m. spin class with Erin at LA Fitness. Talked to the instructor, my boy Kevin, before class. I told him about my run, and he told me about his 9:15 a.m. class. We questioned our collective sanity in tackling a second test of endurance that day so, naturally, he made class tougher than usual. Glad I did it.

9/25/15 – For the second consecutive week, Erin was working in Pittsburgh on Sunday, so that meant I had to get Anna to Sunday School. That eliminated Sunday as a long run day. I set out Friday morning for an 8-miler, and it was a strong run. Mile 7 was at a 7:47 pace, and I finished 8.44 miles in 1:11.00, including a 78-second stop for traffic at Huff Ave.

9/27/15 – The legs were slightly weak from Friday’s run, but, on Sunday while  Anna was in Sunday school, I put in 4.79 miles in 39:57. Miles 1-4 were strong, with paces ranging from 7:50 to 8:08. After Mile 4, it was time to climb Mt. Summit. The next .79 miles weren’t fast – it was a 9:50 pace – but I made it from the bottom of the hill to my front door. A huge barrier knocked down.

Deuce Skurcenski: A Western Pennsylvania legend

One word of advice I offer to young sports writers – the guys who graduate college and believe they should immediately be covering the Steelers instead of high school girls soccer – is this, “You haven’t made it as a sports writer in Western Pennsylvania if you don’t know Deuce Skurcenski.”

Deuce became part of my work life sometime during the 1997-98 school year. I was an aspiring sports writer, working at the Beaver County Times and being mentored by John Perrotto, who I still consider the best sports reporter in Western Pennsylvania, and Bill Utterback, a top-notch writer whose abilities supercede those of newsprint.

Once you get to know Deuce, you have stories to last decades. He’s a statistics-keeping force of nature that can only happen in Western Pennsylvania.

Two of these Deuce cards hand at my desk. They weren't the only Deuce baseball cards.

Two of these Deuce cards hand at my desk. They weren’t the only Deuce baseball cards.

I can’t forget sitting beside Deuce at Three Rivers Stadium during the 1998 WPIAL football championships. I was there, with Utterback, Jim Equals, Bill Allmann and crew, covering the Class A tilt – as Deuce would say – between Rochester and Monaca, and the triple-A fray – another Deuceism – between Blackhawk and Moon (if memory serves correct).

While writing during the Class AA game between Shady Side Academy and Wash High, Deuce continually asked …

“Was that Ruggerio or Alexander on the carry?”

“Do you have eight or nine yards on that carry?”

Well, I didn’t have Ruggerio or Alexander for eight or nine yards.I wasn’t covering the game, something I told Deuce repeatedly. He never stopped asking.

A year later, I was working at the Observer-Reporter and covering the Class AA championship game between Waynesburg and Wash High.

The Raiders were rolling when, at halftime, I went to the restroom. Deuce was at the urinal beside me, and he kept looking over with that look – the one that indicated he had something important to say.

“What’s up Deuce?” I asked, a slight regret in my voice..

Deuce zipped up, stepped back and dropped into a two-point stance, “Awwwwww, Miiiike Kovakkkk, Lanfer Simpson, ooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh.” As Deuce aptly described the Raiders’ dominating fullback/linebacker, his hands flew in the air and he shook them rapidly. Think spirit fingers from “Bring It On.”

There was the time Deuce was supposed to drive to Uniontown with me for a big-time hoops game between Peters Township and the Red Raiders – two of the top Quad-A teams in the state at the time – but he backed out at the last minute. If you know his history with Uniontown, you understand why.

For all the funny stories and sayings Deuce provided sports writers, coaches and athletes, he always greeted you with a smile and a handshake. He always called you by name. He always identified where you worked. He always told you to tell co-workers that, “Deuce Skurcenski says hello.” One thing I always admired about Deuce, to him, it didn’t matter if you worked at a weekly, a low-watt radio station, a suburban daily with a dwindling subscription base or one of the big metros, he treated you the same. And that’s to say he treated you well.

Deuce was also a tremendous self-promoter. He carried Deuce baseball cards. He autographed them and personalized them. He told you how many football and basketball games he attended, whether it was for the Post-Gazette, Woodland Hills High School or himself.

Many of those cards still hang at my desk.

Living on the South Side Flats for years, I often bumped into Deuce while walking my dog during the day or late at night, walking home with friends after a night on Carson Street. Those friends always asked who I was talking to outside Paparazzi restaurant. I always said, “He’s too hard to explain.”

Thank goodness his essence was captured in an entertaining 2008 documentary, a film Chris Dugan and I made sure to attend during a special screening at a South Side theater. Still remember a wide-smiling Deuce asking us what we thought about the flick afterward.

Lawrence “Deuce” Skurcenski died Tuesday night. He was 73. Old friend Mike White of the Post-Gazette knew Deuce as well as anyone in the region, and he wrote this obituary.

High school and small-college sports in Western Pennsylvania won’t be the same.

Rest easy, Deuce.