Friday, November 25, 2005

At least two trips required...

PHOENIX.  Sunny and 80 degrees, we're on vacation with the kids. We're having a wonderful time...even better than expected.  The Pointe Hilton, while a little old, provides ample space in its two room suites for a family of 5 Sully's, easy access to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve for hiking, and a great pool with lazy river and waterslide.

GSully and I are disturbed by one thing.  We seem incapable of doing anything in a single trip.  It began yesterday in the airport when I left Tyler's car seat in the car in the parking lot a 20 minute bus ride again. It continued in Phoenix when I went to pick up the rental car and circled back for the kids and luggage.

Sometimes it's caused by one of the little Sully's wanting to bring something to amuse themselves. Others its caused by grownups who are capable of forgetting anything except their heads, which are attached.

I don't know when it will end, but I do know it continues.  GSully just came back to the car on her way to the dollar store for some kid sunglasses.  Seems you need cash to shop there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Speculation on Ken Rice's Fingernails

PITTSBURGH. One of the unfortunate things about being an anchor on the local news is that there has to be a newscast every night whether there is news or not. If you know Ken Rice personally, please let me know if he has fingernails or not, because there are some nights when I can feel him sitting behind the desk pulling them out one by one for amusement.

Let me paraphrase the 1st 10 minutes of the KDKA 10 PM news on UPN 19. Man stands in a parking lot in Cranberry talking about snow that didn't stick and the impact that this is having on our holiday travel (none last night). You might be surprised to know that people buy rock salt to melt things snow off the sidewalk (some as much as 80lbs! hopefully enough to last the winter -- after last night, they've still got 80lbs. I hope we'll check in on those people again soon.), and that cities and counties purchase a lot of salt in advance in case it snows (which it didn't last night, but if it had it might have been a genuine snow event they were covering, which it wasn't).
Since we're already in a gas station parking lot and there's no snow, why don't we report about the price of gas too! A riveting interview from a man passing through from Florida and proceeds to recall the price of gas in every state between here and there...In Florida it's $2.24, in Georgia it was $2.19, wow, in PA it's only $1.99."

Look...there goes Ken Rice's pinky nail...that had to hurt. Maybe I can buy it on e-bay.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

One key to a great vacation

PITTSBURGH. When you live in the Northeast (or Eastern Midwest or whatever you call Pittsburgh, but that's another topic), a crucial, critical ingredient of the quality of a vacation taken between November and April is the quality of the letter. I'm not talking about the weather in your destination. Sure, that's important, but anybody should be smart enough to find a warm sunny place to go. I'm talking about the weather at home. I find that my vacation is that much sweeter if I open the blinds to sun kissed skies, flip on CNN and find out that it' 25 degrees and snowing at home. It heightens the pleaseure as you compliment yourself on the foresight to vacation on the worst weather week of the year and think about the poor suckers stuck back home. The ultimate is if you happen to miss a blizzard (a great reason to always choose INDOOR airport parking).

Conversely, there's nothing worse than going on vacation and finding out you missed the week of winter with the unseasonably warm weather, the one where it is in the mid-60s, the sun actually comes out for 3 or 4 days in a row and causes college students to break out shorts.

That's why this morning I'm smugly happy, and cautiously happy to see the Pittsburgh/Phoenix forecasts:

Pittsburgh (hi/low, weather) Phoenix (hi/low, weather)
Thur 35/22 Snow Showers 80/53 PC
Fri 29/19 Chance of snow 77/52 PC
Sat 31/21 Chance of snow 75/50PC

Monday, November 21, 2005

First at Five

In case you were confused and were under the mistaken impression that Pittsburgh was an exceedingly worldly and sophisticated city, I bring you a dose of reality...

Tonight at 5 on WTAE, "The Pittsburgh Channel" stay tuned for the Top 10 Deer Hunting Spots in Western Pennsylvania.

While the closest Cabela's is in West Virginia (barely), most of our children will have next Monday off from school for the orange camouflage 5-point fashion show.

Pittsburgh is the kind of place where you can make moonshine the night before, hunt in the morning, and attend the symphony in your Steeler golf shirt (the classy one) at night.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Canada unplugged

MONTREAL.  I am in Montreal for a Client meeting today, and that leads to me being unplugged for the day.  For some reason I don't have cell phone service in Montreal.  This is very frustrating because I rely on that to keep me linked to home.  I'm also used to always having access to e-mail and when I come unplugged I almost go through detox, picking up my phone, looking at the screen, shaking it, turning it over and putting it away.

It's not necessarily a bad thing to be just takes some getting used to.

A couple of Canada notes...

Saw the first snow on the ground of winter this morning in Montreal.  Just a dust cover, but a cover just the same. Temperature this morning was -7 celsius.

Except for hockey players, Canadians in American professional sports get star coverage.  Jason Bay, from Trail, British Columbia was given prominent mention on the local sports report for his new 4 year contract with the Pirates, almost as if he were from around the corner and not across the country.

Finally, at Starbuck's the "tall" size on US menus is replaced by "mezzo," giving the menu 3 Italian sizes and 0 english or french ones to translate - the 3rd language solution.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Incontrovertible Proof

...that I completed the Harrisburg Marathon. (Search for bid# "Heinz" 57 or Sullivan). 31 of 34 in my age group...ouch!

Right Place, Right Time

PHILADELPHIA. I'm in Philadelphia waiting for my flight to Montreal to take off. This will be my tenth flight segment of the month - with 4 more to go. (Thankfully next week the Sully family will be traveling to Phoenix for pleasure, not business.)

Tonight while eating dinner, I sat next to 2 brothers from Boston who had been in 2 separate cities on business and randomly bumped into each other to literally connect in Philly. They were able to share a meal together and catch up before heading home.

It's the second serendipitous moment like that I've seen in the last month. Last month Jeff a sales exec in my company joined me in Houston for a meeting. The meeting had been scheduled 2 weeks prior, but was moved due to a change in the project schedule. The decision to move the meeting just happened to put Jeff, a life long Chicago White Sox fan in the right place at the right time to be there in person to witness their first World Series victory in like 88 years.

There’s no substitute for the luck of being in the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Then came the hard part (marathon part 2)...

PITTSBURGH. Crossing the river back into Harrisburg was a transition point in the race. The adrenaline of the start and early miles was punctuated by seeing the finish lines and spectacle on City Island.

The course proceeded north along the river before moving inland toward what seemed to me to be the real test in this race, miles 12-20. On mile 12 you made a right turn onto industrial road and climbed a bridge that brought you literally across the tracks.

As you came down the other side, you entered into the loneliest and most difficult part of the course. Running through an industrial park alongside 18 wheel trucks. It is here where we passed the halfway part at 2:01. Continuing through Harrisburg Community College, and ultimately through a nature preserve, this was the part of the course where you most needed to reaffirm your commitment to complete the challenge. Miles 17-19 in the nature preserve also featured the course's most significant hills -- several little roller coasters, steep up and downs.

When I passed back over the railroad tracks and down the hill toward mile marker 20, I felt a definite rush of adrenaline that was bolstered when I bumped into my cheering section again who got me geared up for the last 6.

The only near mishap occurred around mile 25 when my left leg seemed ready to seize up. Some deep breathing and relaxing thoughts and the threat passed. If you've seen the pictures of the race, you know I had some issues that caused my shirt to be a little bit bloody (perhaps and understatement). This actually worked to my advantage a little. People saw me coming assumed that I must be in pain and applauded my grit and determination. It gave me a little energy boost and helped keep me going.

Crossing the bridge back onto City Island, I saw my fans, again there to provide me with encouragement as I ran the last 0.7 around the northern end of City Island and back to the finish. Crossing the line was an emotional experience, when months of preparation came to a moment of success.

After a hurried trip back to the hotel to make our check out time, we all went over for a big meal at the Appalachian Brewing Company to raise a glass and celebrate. One of the best parts about the marathon is that you get to test yourself at the same distance that truly elite runners test themselves. I learned that not even the marathon is an individual sport. While personal determination is a key ingredient, it would not have been possible or as rewarding without the support of family and friends. I'm not sure if I will be back on a course of this distance again, but part of me will be on the course every day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

So what was it really like? Part 1

PITTSBURGH. I want to share a little more detail about my run at the Harrisburg Marathon on Sunday. The first thing that I want to mention is that I had great support. GSully and the little Sully's came along with my sisters and my brother-in-law.

For the pre-race spaghetti dinner, we found a great hole in the wall Italian restaurant in downtown Harrisburg -- Palumbo's on 2nd street -- that had great pizza and pasta. Unfortunately, I did not get a good night's sleep the night before. It was not the anticipation that got me, it was our 18 month old who has not spent a lot of time away from home. She played until 3 AM and then passed out, leaving about 2-3 hours of peaceful rest before the alarm went off.

The nice thing about running a smaller race is the convenience. The start, in front of Pennsylvania's State Capital building was 3 blocks from our hotel, and there was no need to head to the starting line before a half hour before the race.

The first mile was a lap around the capital complex, and as I ran the 1st mile in 8:45, I could not believe how fast other runners had burned through the 1st mile. As I came back around in front of the capital, my cheering squad was chanting "go Daddy go."

In the early part of the race, I settled in to a group of girls trying to maintain a 9:30 pace. I think 1 ultimately finished ahead of me and 1 behind. They watched their watches like hawks and burned some of the extra time by walking. The weather was beautiful, and a we headed north along the Susquehanna toward City Island through Harrisburg's Shipoke neighborhood, I was surprised at how beautiful it was.

Crossing over to City Island at mile 6, I spotted my cheering squad again, and got to rehearse the finish. Literally, part of the course was to run the last 0.7 miles through the finish line -- and across the Walnut Street Bridge back into Harrisburg. More later...

Monday, November 14, 2005


I finished the Harrisburg Marathon yesterday in 4 hours, 12 minutes and 17 seconds. A more complete account to follow.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

24 Hours And Counting: Off to Harrisburg

Pittsburgh. The mini-van is loaded, the gear is packed. It's time to head for Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania -- it's time to actually run the marathon.

Today we'll be doing packet pick-up, hotel check-in, scouting the course, a tour of the chocolate factory and a big pasta dinner.

I've done just about all the preparation I can, it's almost time to run.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Flip It!

Pittsburgh. Rolled in about 11PM from Palm Springs. On take off the weather was bright, sunny and 75, on landing, pitch dark and 37.

One of the oddest things about Palm Springs were the casinos. Casino's in California do not allow dice games. To play craps, they use cards. During the week we visited 2 different casinos and found 2 different approaches to playing craps with cards.

At Fantasy Springs, they have a "flipper" who manages a red and blue deck of 6 cards each. He manually shuffles the 6 decks like a shell game or 3-card monty. Then the cards are laid out in 2 rows of 6 and the "roller" calls out the 2 card positions to be flipped over. For example, if "1-4" were called the dealer would flip the first and 4th cards to reveal the roll.

At the Agua Caliente, multiple 6 card decks were fed into 2 separate automatic shuffle shoots. The flipper draws the first card from each and flips them over to reveal the roll, then removes the remaining 5 cards from each "roll" before moving on to the next draw.

Your preference for the 2 approaches probably depends on what you like. The Fantasy Spring version was SLOW, but you got the experience of passing the call around the table -- so you maintained that feeling of the hot roller or cheering for someone. In the second, you go the speed, but everyone is focused on the dealer.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rennaisance Esmerelda

Palm Springs.  I'm attending a company meeting this week at the Rennaisance Esmerelda along the Indian Wells Golf Resort in Palm Springs.  The hotel is very nice, typical of the 'desert oasis' type of hotels you find in Phoenix or "non-strip" Las Vegas. Big pool, big rooms, restaurant, spa, tennis, golf, landscaped grounds, mountains surrounding. More grass, no cactuses than Arizona.

There is one thing that has already irked me about the resort.  When I asked the concierge to recommend a running route.  She sent me out on a 4 mile rectangular route through a subdivision across the street.  This morning I went out, the weather was beautiful. Mountains were always in view.  I even saw a hot air baloon rising against the mountains in the distance.

My gripe is this...I'm at a resort with miles of beautifully landscaped golf cart paths and they send runners out on the pavement along the highway.  Is it too much to ask to have a running route through the grounds?  I (don't think less of me) don't golf (gasp!) that is an extremely large part of the resort that provides no value to me.  Now if I could run on the beautiful landscaped grounds...

Monday, November 07, 2005

The end of a long run, 1 week to go...

From seat 12B, at 30,000 feet between Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

As I set out on a long journey this morning for a conference in Palm Springs, CA, the long journey to November 13 and the Harrisburg Marathon is nearing its close.

When the idea hatched in the winter, it was a little bit of a lark, something you say to yourself that you might do but usually don't. The first step toward commitment was entry into the lottery for the New York Marathon, which took place yesterday.

As winter turned into spring, I reasoned that I should be at least in shape to train should I happen to get in. I can remember those early weeks at 10 to 12 miles when getting to the 20 mile per week base seemed as if it would be a challenge.

Tracking progress strengthened commitment. I was in for the long haul. The NY drawing came and went - I needed a backup. I could have switched to another "mega marathon" but this was a challenge for me, not a way to run in a huge crowd with tons of spectators.

As I got into the rhythym of the running I felt better and better physically. I lost weight rapidly, despite eating in restaurants on the road with an increased appetite.

It felt a little lonely and a little selfish, and that's how the Stride Against Stroke campaign was born. Tapping into the people and things that I cared about, I learned about stroke and the lives of people I know. Together, we've raised thousands of dollars for stroke care programs at Gaylord Hospital, the rehabillitation hospital in Connecticut that treated my grandfather following his stroke.

Now with 6 days to go, most of the miles on this project are past, 640 of them to be exact. I've run in Pittsburgh, Ohio, MD, along the mall in DC, an industrial park in Houston, Las Vegas, Montreal and CA. In about 40 miles (including 26.2 on Sunday), I'll be done.

I have a lot of people to watch for more posts. In the mean time, I wish there was something I could do about being crammed into this middle seat.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Happy Birthday GSully

Pittsburgh. This is the end of fall birthday season in our house. RSully turned 5 on September 21. SSully turned 3 on October 30 and the birthday without which the others would not be possible, GSully's is today. So...Happy Birthday GSully!

Now coming on November 5, GSully's birthday seems to be prone to grey skies and pouring rain, but today is warm and sunny, practically a summer day, a very rare treat.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

One Day In Canada

Montreal. This morning I scraped myself out of bed, downed a cup of coffee pulled on my running shoes and ran...up. Up the hill through McGill University to Parc Royal (an Olmstead park, I think). The ascent continued with tremendous views of downtown and the Saint Lawrence River, framed by trees full of autumn color. The best part of running up hill of course is turning around and running down. What was a 25 minute run up was abut a 20 minute decent.

I forgot my dark socks, so I had to endure an entire day of meetings distracted by my bright white socks.

My Clients in Montreal are very good people with whom I share a lot in a lot I mean they have kids that are roughly the same age. One even has daughters aged 3 and 18 months that dressed as fairy princesses for Haloween.

After a full day of work and an $80 cab ride through Montreal's rush hour traffic, I'm tapping this out at "Le Bar Sportif" in the newly opened Trudeau terminal. The big game tonight is thw Lightning vs. Ottawa Senators.

By the time this gets posted I will be in Philadelphia, where I will be able to get e-mail for the 1st time today and call gsully. By the time I hit the door in Pittsburgh tonight it will be 1AM. - the kids get up at 6.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

One more Canada thing...

From the Omni Hotel in Montreal.

SportsCenter in Canada is remarkably similar to the U.S. version. Similar graphics, similar attitude, different editorial perspective. The top-10 appearances by an athlete on a talk show were all appearances on American talk shows, but included an appearance by Wayne Gretzky (hockey), Steve Nash (basketball), and Pittsburgh's latest adopted Canadian transplant, Sidney Crosby.

I have to admit the Crosby was classic. They showed a picture of his mom's clothes dryer, dented and marked by pucks being shot at it, followed by Sidney Crosby shooting slapshot after slapshot into a clothes dryer.

I'm hoping to get up and do about 4 miles of exploring on the street in the morning, so I better get to bed.

Bonsoir Montreal

From the Omni Hotel in Montreal.

Sometimes you get the pleasure of working all day, only to spend another half day traveling. This afternoon I began a 30 hr. odyssey to Montreal, passing through Philadelphia, the east coast's very own mini O'Hare both ways. It is my 2nd 1-day visit to Montreal in the past 7 days.

Like in the US, Canada has local elections coming up. Unlike US yard signs that feature some sort of stylized text, often in a combination of red, white and blue and accompanied by stars and swooshes, the Canadian signs feature glossy head shots of the candidates.

Montreal, and the Province of Quebec are peculiar. Because of laws designed to protect their French-speaking heritage, you see brand names translated that are not translated anywhere else. Kentucky Fried Chicken goes from KFC to PFK, Poulet Frites de Kentucky.

I'm bunked down tonight at the Omni on Sherbrooke in a room on the 26th floor overlooking McGill University and the Mont that gives Montreal it's name. A far cry from the Sun Suites Studio on the side of the highway where I slept in Houston last week.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


From aboard the EBA in Pittsburgh, PA.

I spent the better part of last night with a frog, 2 princesses, Picachu
and a Ninja Turtle. Last night was trick-or-treat night in Regent

Haloween is one of our neighborhoods highlights on the social calendar
and the area where Macon and Trevanian meet is the epicenter. At times
the sidewalks are packed with ghosts and goblins shoulder to shoulder.
Many neighbors offer treats for adults and kids alike.

The most noticable costumes last night were the sea of Roethlisbergers
and Wards. A safe and boring choice. To dress as a Cleveland Brown that
would have taken real guts.

Here's a secret...GSully was the mother of a neat thing in our
neighborhood. A couple of weeks ago she quietly taped a ghost on 3
neighbor's doors with some treats and a note to pass it on to 2 more
neighbors. The last semi-official count was 130 "ghosted" neighbors.

Speaking of the Steelers, I think some of the trick-or-treaters were
actually on the field last night. I think I heard Al Michaels say,
"They're not Boo!ing...they're boooooooooing." That was truly scary and
has GSully and me bleary eyed this morning. Judging by the number of
people on the EBA this morning, a lot of other people stayed up too.