Tuesday, November 08, 2011

World Club Beach Championships 2011: The tournament part III

And wake up to a changed world! So, the temperature had been dropping maybe one degree a day the entire week, there had not been a lick of wind to this point and the ocean had been 100% placid, maybe 2 feet of depth for at least 50-100 yards. Well, wake up Saturday morning, and 1) it is very overcast, 2) VERY windy, and 3) almost cool (well, not really, but at least no longer scorching). Our final isn't until 3 or 4PM (they were trying to push the game out to 4) so we take advantage to head out to the beach for a swim. Well, lo and behold, there is a HUGE surf, the water is now above our heads at times, and we actually body surf for close to an hour! Just an incredible weather change. And it was more than welcome! We ended up being the first of 3 finals starting at 4PM, followed by mixed then Open. The wind stayed around into our finals game, basically the first game all week where wind had any effect on the game. We were pretty excited as it was going to make the 'German' offense that much harder to execute by the Austrians.

An observation regarding the arena. Unlike the regular fields, the arena field actually had a hard surface under the sand, so the running surface was much harder than regular sand, which actually made for a much faster running surface. We had first noticed this during our Canada showcase game, but figured that it had been adrenaline that had made the difference before finding out after our final about this base surface. Regardless, we've got our blues on (like them much better than the whites for actual big games) and the Austrians are in white. Do our warm-ups, and win the flip for almost the first time all week. And we do the genius thing (which had been unthinkable all week) and take the downwind side while Austria obviously chooses to receive. Remember there is no halftime in these shortened games. One turnover later, we are up 1-0 on a Ryan Balch to Kelly Swiryn strike. They score downwind and then it is my turn to call my first O line.

One thing I have neglected to mention to this point is that in our 'leadership' discussions, we had settled on a starting offense of myself and Ricky Eikstadt from Surly as handlers, and Jim Parinella, with Trey and Billy Maroon from Southpaw as receivers. Naturally, all 5 of us are Grand Masters eligible which made it all the sweeter. So first O point, going downwind, I throw the goal to Jim Parinella. Quick aside, I figure that I have thrown more goals (much less passes!) to Jim than any other tandem in ultimate history (22 years on the same club team, probably 16 years on the same summer league team, almost always on the field at the same time, figure it out). So just add another one to the record books baby! Austria responds to tie it at 2-2. Another downwind O point and I end up throwing a long forehand to a wide open Ricky for another O goal (yes, it's true, a long forehand). Then the wheels come off for Austria. The D starts to dominate, running off 4 straight goals to bring the score to 7-2. Austria scores to make it 7-3, we are going downwind again, and I throw another goal to Jim. Austria scores to make it 8-4. O point downwind. Clearly I'm feeling my oats having thrown the first 3 O goals as I uncork a huge hammer into the endzone to Ricky who 'drops' it (well, he got a hand on it laying out, but clearly my turnover!). We get the turnover back then Jim steals my stat by throwing the goal to Trey.

Another game observation. Austria had been VERY successful in our first pool play game playing a poach D, making us go back and forth across the field by poaching off of the handlers into the lane. I had one of their main guys covering me at the beginning of the finals, and he was continuing to do the same thing. We took advantage this time, and after a few points, he started covering me like a glove. I joked with him about poaching some more but he was having none of it! We are up 9-4, D breaks a couple of more times before Austria answers and then the final O point for the game. On our first possession we turn it over. We get it back, and then Trey fires a forehand to Jim in the corner of the endzone for the gamewinner, only Jim isn't expecting it and it is a little off center and he misses it (I'll let him work it out with Trey whose turn it is). However, foul call and we get it back. This time Trey dumps it to me. A call or two later, they tap the disc in and I fire a quickie break forehand for the game-winner over the shoulder of Trey's defender. 12-5 world champions baby!

So, one week of beach ultimate in the books. 11-1 record, gold medal, and an interesting stat. If you'll note from the link below, I was ranked 58th in Masters in goals thrown and caught, and unfortunately Reggi Hansen from Currier Island stole my thunder by throwing 17 goals with no goals caught, but I threw 16 goals with zero goals caught! One of 3 people that had 3 or more goals thrown/caught that had zero goals caught. Apparently the plexiglass shield kept me out of the endzone again, although I remember being blown off on at least 3 separate occasions open for a goal, but it works out better this way anyway :) And now some pictures

Setting up the offense

Throwing the game-winner immediately after check-in.

Ran out of fingers in 2007. On the third toe now.
Or one hand if you just count Worlds which I think Jim is doing.

The team

GM starting offense

Lots of medals there.

Biggest fan

Yeah baby!

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

World Club Beach Championships 2011: The tournament part II

I believe I caught breakfast that day, but it is all becoming a blur in retrospect (thanks Luke for making me do this before I forget EVERYTHING!). Ah, right, there was a Canadian women's game at 11AM, so I'm sure I ate before that… The schedule for the week was basically play my games, eat, watch the Canuck chicks if they were playing, eat, party/dance/drink, sleep, repeat.

On the way to the fields

We play GB on the regular showcase field and crush them 13-1. Now we knew why the French had beaten them that badly. Not too much to say except that this was the first game that we had to wear our sand socks. The sand was BRUTALLY hot in the midday sun. Sort of inconvenient wearing them, but you couldn't play without them. I threw two more goals this game, handler goals to Ricky and Scott Hills. The O turned it over twice this game but got it back both times. By this time the US men's team had lost a game and I believe US mixed might have also. Our next game is at 7PM against Austria who is 5-1, having lost to France on double game point. I'm sure this contributed to a little bit of cockiness coming into the game, and they played on fire. They played a very poachy defense which was all the more embarrassing considering the lack of wind (NO wind at all any day to this point). And they were playing the German offense which was the usual throw THEN cut. And without wind, very hard to stop. Up to this point, the O line had turned it over 22 times in all of its game but had only been scored on once, against the Germans (in 5 tries). The Austrians scored on the O twice (the score reporter is not showing stats correctly) and we scored on them twice. Not only did I end up positive statless on this game, I had my first two turnovers of the tournament. We broke them twice also, but they held on to grit out the 10-9 victory. This probably ended up being the best thing that could have happened to us. If we had scored on D to win 10-9, we would have seen it more as a blip and 'we can play better', but this ended up giving us the focus we needed the rest of the week, as I'm sure it did to all of the US losers in the other divisions (only mixed didn't lose a game all week). After dinner, we headed down to the main arena to watch the US women play against Japan. They recovered from a DGP loss to Great Britain in the morning game to dominate, beating Japan 13-3. We checked out the tourney party afterwards at the bar next door. It was an open sided/covered bar, and instead of a DJ, they had a VJ, which was interesting. Danced for a bit, then headed back down to the beach party before heading home for an earlier night after the previous night's debauchery. Another favorable schedule for Thursday, Day 4, games at 12 and 4.

4th straight hot day with no wind. Even though I don't play until noon, up early to eat breakfast and then watch the Canadian women play Japan and stay undefeated, beating them 13-7. They are crushing their seed at this point (initially seeded 6th), setting up a huge match against the US during the afternoon for first in the pool. Oh yeah, and we played. Our warm-ups continue to get shorter, especially in the mid-day sun. We are playing Switzerland, who is 3-4 at this point. We dispatch them easily, winning 13-4 and I stay largely off the stat board, only throwing a goal to Trey to make it 7-1. I only call an O line 4 times so pretty mishmash and don't play a lot of points, which is fine with me for the midday heat. Get out of the sun and eat lunch, then hang out until our 4PM game against Spain. At this point, Spain is 7-1 with only a loss to Austria in the first round. After our loss to Austria yesterday, we take this seriously and give them the business, crushing them 13-6. Yet another game where I am statless (unlike Statler and Waldorf) but at least turnover free. To this point, I still have only the two turnovers on the week against Austria although granted that was in the one game we lost. The quick victory allows me to go catch the showdown between US and Canada women. While well fought, the US pulls away little by little, only getting broken once at 9-5 before winning 10-6. If everything holds after this 3-way tie, Canada will be playing Great Britain in the semifinals (who Canada beat 9-7 on day 1). Oh, and the Grandmasters team suffers their first loss in the late game against Austria, also losing on double game point. So only mixed is undefeated at this point.

Tonight was trading night, and unlike 2008, I had brought nothing from my stock, but walked around looking at all the loot, didn't buy anything, partied some more, then early night. Cuz I know I'm partying late the following night (um…).

So Friday is our first and only day with a 9AM game. Early wake up (sort of). It is against the Czech Republic who has not done much to this point with a 3-6 record. We obviously take that to heart, as we play the entire roster and do not feel any sort of sense of urgency, winning 11-8. We don't even reach 13 points. Although we do go down 3-1, tied at 4-4, even 9-8 before scoring the last two. I only have one goal thrown to make it 9-7. And still no turnovers. Losing the game would not have affected semifinal matchups, but still, not a good lead-in to the semifinals. Spain is now 8-2 with only their losses to us and the Austrians. We play them at 6PM (nice and cool). But prior to this I watch the Canadian women play Great Britain in the semis in a thrilling game! No one gets more than a 2 point lead, although GB, up 3-2, promptly gives up 3 in a row to go down 3-5. Then the teams trade out until the endgame, where GB breaks back to tie the game at 8, double-game point. Canada turns it over on a high backhand that drops too fast, then GB sails a long pass out of bounds before my girl throws the game winner, a long forehand to Kate Jardine for the victory. Very exciting, and they are going to playing the US, who smokes Germany in the other semi 12-5.

But now it is our turn to play. 6PM game on the 'showcase' field against Spain. Now it is time for true colors to shine through. Of what do I speak? Stats clearly! No turnovers, 3 goals thrown. I start off the scoring with a goal to Trey, then after the D gets 3, throw a goal to Ricky after Spain finally scores, then throw a final goal in garbage time to Tony to make it 12-6. One final break and we punch our ticket to the finals 13-6. More importantly, Austria takes care of business in the other semifinal beating France 11-7 to set up the rematch.

Now it's finals time, even if it isn't ours. Unfortunately we don't have time to shower and eat and watch the GM finals that they win handily, avenging their loss to Austria, but we get there right around the time the start of the mixed masters final, pitting the US against Great Britain. They look out of sorts from the beginning. It doesn't get any better as Great Britain wins the game 11-7. And it doesn't even seem that close. Disappointing loss, especially considering that in pool play, the US had beaten GB twice, 11-9 and 13-9. Whether it was adjustments by one, or a fold by the other, a disappointing loss overall. The final round of the evening is the women's division, US v. Canada. So of course I'm experiencing some emotional conflict. I finally settle on cheering great individual performances from the Canadian women, one in particular, with an overall victory from the US team. So this game was definitely the game of the tournament. Incredibly exciting at all levels. The lead was never more than 2 points, and the teams were tied at 1, 2, 6, 7, and 9. However, Canada never actually had the lead. This culminated in a double game point with the US receiving going downwind (whatever wind there was). A few passes in and they turn it over no more than 20 yards out of their endzone. Canada immediately turns it right back over on a missed dump pass, US moves it down field, then turnover in the Canada endzone. Canada is stuck in the corner, high backhand that can't be corralled, then Rohre Titcomb calls foul on a long inside out crossfield forehand that we still can't tell whether it is real (waiting for the video), then they finally punch it in. 10-9 US. INCREDIBLY exciting game! Time to go support the Canadian women who are actually not that devastated considering the expectations coming into the tournament. 6th seed overall, a team from all over Canada that for the most part had never practiced together as a full time except for a brief afternoon on Lido at the beginning of the week, and even that was missing a few players. I provided a shoulder to cry on nonetheless, cuz that is the kind of guy that I am. And now...

Party time! Head back to the rooms, shower up, and then grab the shuttle to the party which is at the Kursaal dance club quite a distance in the other direction from the Getur complex. Complete with pool, large hot tub, and ridiculously expensive drinks. After partying with the Canadians for some time, after we found out what it was going to cost to actually get a drink, we found out from some people that the thing to do was cross the street to this one bar. We leave the club, head across the street and the bar is packed with ultimate players. I buy a pitcher and we end up closing the bar. Back to the dance club, and then I realized that I am exhausted, it is probably 4 in the morning and I take one of the shuttles back to the dorm. Although I'm about to get back out of the shuttle since there is only one spot going back and she forces me back into the shuttle to go home. Thank god!

Dancing at the Kursaal

You should be dancing too!


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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

World Club Beach Championships 2011: The tournament part I

So the schedule on our first day, Monday, ended up being very favorable to us, although this didn't become clear until a little later in the week. We had 2 games at 10AM and 6PM, against Hungary then Slovakia.

The prior night Jim, Trey, Ricky, JohnJohn and myself had met to discuss what was coming up for the week. It was decided that I would call the offensive subs and Ricky would call the defensive lines even though he was an O starter. You know how it is with the D guys. If you give them anything to think of other than getting the disc, it all falls apart… :) Also on the docket was the return of Alex de Frondeville's Hat. I had actually gotten the hat back just prior to GM nationals and was planning on the appropriate unveiling there, but our early exit in the quarterfinals preempted that. But there was no screwing around this time and I unveiled the hat for our first round game. I have to admit, it did feel good wearing it, like a nice broken in pair of leather shoes. Although JohnJohn and Ricky did have one of the cleverer moves of the pre-tournament, giving me a potential substitute hat, not knowing that I had retrieved my baby. Despite the sporty USA logo, I had to go with old hat...

During the warmup before our first game, we get there pretty early and also realize that this won't sustain itself during the week. Troy Revell put us through an active warmup, then we drilled a little, then ended up with a scrimmage to work on some plays and get the blood flowing (clearly didn't need to get warm with the heat). At one my team switched to D and while chasing Rob Johnson I kicked his foot pretty hard with my left foot. Heard and felt ALL sorts of cracking sounds from my 2nd pinky toe but it looked OK, even though it was pretty sore. While we started the game using D and O lines, we quickly started mixing it up once it was clear Hungary was not going to pose a challenge. I got my first score on the board, throwing a goal to JohnJohn to make it 4-0 (D point of course). Hungary finally scored a point to make it 9-1 and I was able to call an actual O line. I ended throwing a goal to Tony "The Duke" Leonardo and we finished off the game 13-1.

After lunch back at the dorms (typical dorm grub, using tickets we had been handed out at check-in), pasta dish, some sort of mystery meat, vegetable, bread roll, then a bowl of salad with a random dessert. Best meals were when they gave you an extra ticket to get a gelato. Yum! After lunch, I headed back to catch the Canadian women play the Germans. This was one of the games they needed to win to comfortably make the semis. While the play was not the cleanest on either side, they ended up winning double game point 9-8. Caught a lot of their second game against Great Britain at 5PM, who was also seeded above them. They ended up winning that game 9-7.

About mid-afternoon I looked down at my toe only to find that it was now a hideous shade of dark purple. I had to go to a few different spots to hunt down the right first aid people to see. Finally get to the red cross tent and doofus and mcgroofus are sitting there. I show them my discolored toe and ask if they have any tape I can use to buddy tape it to the healthy toe. They say no, and say I should go to the hospital. To which I promptly respond (as we are communicating in their broken English) that this would serve no purpose since the toe is not visibly askew, you can't cast it, so I just need to tape it to another toe so I can get back to the game. They send me somewhere else, who ends up being the massage guy who sends me back to the first aid tent. Finally extract some tape from them and tape up for our next game, this time against France who had destroyed Great Britain 13-1 in their 3PM game. Since GB was the second seed overall in masters, this was some cause of concern. We had shortened our warmup by this time (which was to get shorter and shorter during the week) and started the game on D. We broke to start, then France settled in and traded to 3-3. So I was actually calling O lines during this game, at least at the start. We went from 3-3 to 7-3 and finally closed them out 13-5.

Quick refresher for those who don't know. Beach ultimate is 5 on 5, shorter field, stall 10. The main difference on beach is that it is very difficult to make up ground on someone who is open. So you can throw to someone you would never throw to on grass. We really played up the under game after cutting deep. As we will find out, there was only one team that caused us problems all week.

Dorm dinner, then beach party, reasonably late night, then bed. Oh, and I had played finger for the first time at Paga this year. Well, we broke it out at the beach tent this night and played it in rousing fashion for a few hours, eventually using one of the candle holder boxes because of the number of players! Back at the 'bedroom' this time we had the one fan that made noise not move, but I still slept like crap, so the rest of the week I used an Ambien each night. Kicked myself for not thinking of it earlier, but at least I finally slept well although the room was still brutally hot. We had pretty much the worst room in the entire facility. Faced on the dining area (noise), had sun exposure almost the entire day (heat), and ground floor (noise). Pretty much had nothing going for it. Just walking into teammates room on the other side of the hall was a breath of fresh air. Annoying.

Next day (Day 2/Tuesday) was one of our two 3-game days with rounds at 10AM, 2PM, and then a showcase game on the arena field at 9PM against Canada. First game against Germany and they score out of the chute on O. I throw a handler to handler goal to Ricky to tie it up at 1, we break, trade, then they break to go back up 3-2, then the wheels come off. We go on two straight 4 goal runs, followed by a 3 goal run to end the game 13-5. I have another goal thrown to JohnJohn to make it 3-3. Get out of the heat, lunch, then 2PM game against the Currier Island pickup team. We crush them 13-3, with 3 sets of 4 goal runs. I get my one and only point throwing a goal to Trey at 10-3. Trey was huge for us on O all week. Or at least he amassed a bunch of stats :) But seriously the O played great the entire week, rarely getting broken (until Wednesday).

Now we had to figure out what to do with ourselves until the late game. Much of the rest of the US teams were going to make the trek out to watch us. We got their early although they had problems with the lights for QUITE some time, so for a bit it was unclear that the game was actually going to be played. It was also supposed to be simulcast on the web, but that fell through also. I think we finally got the game going around 10-10:15. By this time, Canada had lost a game against Spain (eventual quarterfinalist) to stand at 3-1, but that didn't matter. We were totally pumped for the game, and although the eventual score didn't reflect the actual intensity of the game for both sides (13-5), it was pretty clear after the first few points that we were not going to lose, breaking them 3 times out of the gate for 3-0. Although on the first or second point Canada had a chance to score 'upwind' but they dropped the disc in the endzone. We never looked back. There is NOTHING like playing in front of a crowded arena! Even if I didn't get any 'stats' in this game... As is typical, we were 5 games in to the tournament and I still had not caught a goal but had thrown for 5 or so. Other than the following Saturday, this was my latest night of the tournament. On the way back to the hotel, a bunch of us stopped at a restaurant for a drink, but once people started ordering food, we headed out to go back to the party (it was probaby 11:30 at this point). Our first game wasn't until 1PM against GB on the showcase field and I took full advantage, staying out until somewhere between 4 and 5AM.

One side observation. Ostensibly the tournament dorms had wifi in them, and they had provided us a code to use, but I'm not sure I have EVER been that frustrated trying to use the internet. You would open your browser, it would connect to the login page, you would enter the user and password, it would connect, you would try something, and the connect page refreshed every 30 seconds or so, and then you would be disconnected. This could literally go on for 30 minutes or more. Then at one point, you would finally connect and stay connected. There was no rhyme or reason to it, and it made things VERY frustrating all week!

One other side observation. For most of the week whenever I was at the fields, whatever team jersey I was not wearing would typically get worn under my hat to protect my neck. Looked sort of goofy, but we were in bright hot sun for a week!

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Monday, October 03, 2011

World Club Beach Championships 2011: The leadup

So I haven't blogged since November 2009. Looking through my blogger profile, I have about 4 drafts from stuff over the last couple of years but I just couldn't finish them off. Luke Smith was on me to blog about beach worlds, so as a birthday present to him (yesterday), here it is. A blog entry in 3 parts...

This all started on a lark I think back in the late fall. I can't remember when USA Ultimate put out the request for applications, but I received an email about the online application process. If I hadn't gone to Paganello for the last two years (with plans for going in 2011 also) I would probably never have thought of doing it, but having had some recent success over there (one finals loss, two open victories), I emailed with Jim and we applied. However, who am I kidding? When I filled out the application, I had close to zero intentions of attending. But 1) the application was free, and 2) it would feel good to be selected if it got to that point. I applied for both the masters and grand masters division. I didn't bother with Open although I have been playing Open at Paganello. The application was actually sort of onerous, probably 5 or 6 pages of fill-ins, paragraphs asking the same question 5 different ways. At one point, I wanted to answer one of the questions "You know who I am" but I didn't take that plunge, although I found out later that Jim had actually answered one of the questions that way. Meh.

I didn't think about it anymore after that until mid-March when I got an email from John Sandahl from Surly (JohnJohn) asking where he could reach me. I give him my number and he gives me a buzz. Apparently he and Ricky Eikstadt were doing the selection for the Masters team and he wanted to know what my thoughts were on playing with the masters team. My first thought was mostly, ugh, really? There aren't a bunch of studly 33 yr olds that are want to rock the team? After that initial frisson, I said sure, although in the back of my mind I was still thinking about my exit plan but at least I could say I was selected. Talked to Jim, and he had gotten the same call and was feeling the same way. However, after a couple of more days, I changed my mind. I have been fortunate enough in my career to attend a number of World Championships, especially the WUGC versions where each division had a single representative from each attending country ('96, '98, '00, '08 Masters), and each time it was a tremendous feeling playing for the US, cheering various U-S-A cheers, knowing that you were THE representive for your country. Didn't really take much more thought after that and I followed up my yes vote with actual plans to buy tickets. A couple of weeks later, after JohnJohn and Ricky had rounded up commitments from all the players (and the other divisions), USAU put out a press release, linked below


First step was to actually clear the decks for the trip. With the potential Verizon strike looming, I had to get VP approval to make any vacation plans in August (I think this is the third time I have had a worlds in August that I have needed to get approval for to attend because of strike preparations). That took a little work writing it up appropriately (it was nice having the USAU press release to provide the web link for). Always a little funky trying to explain to the corporate world about Frisbee tournaments, regardless of whether it is a world championships. While ultimate is getting much better known, in a large company like Verizon, not quite so. However, there was no pushback and I got my approval.

The team set up an email group and we started to talk. Plans were made to try and go to two beach tournaments. Unfortunately there were only coed divisions at these tournaments, and the timing was also such that I was not going to be able to attend either one. A good chunk of the team was able to attend one or both tournaments, playing with fellow US women. Chicago Sandblast in early July during the GM nationals (which I was already attending with DoG), and then Wildwood beginning August, which is still on my bucket list. I may have to add Sandblast to the list also now that I'm apparently beach ultimate guy. They had good success in both tournaments, placing in the top 4 or 8 at each one. Clearly it was a function of the awesome women they had picked up since I wasn't there…

Back in May, I had been watching fares for quite some time. I was going to be flying out of NY since I would be at my parents in Rye (who would be cover the kids in my absence). Non-stop fares were sitting at $1300 and ugly one-stop fares were at $1150 through Moscow. The fares were slowly inching up, and then leapt up for a week and didn't move back down. I finally swallowed my gorge and bought a non-stop ticket in late May for $1411 (painful!). Naturally, a few weeks later, all of a sudden fares dropped to $900 round-trip. After poking around for awhile, I was able to rebook my flight there through Paris, and get the same non-stop flight back for a little over $900, with a $250 change fee, and ended up with a $240 credit on Delta (which I have since used for tickets to nationals, which I will attend even if we fail to qualify {had to put that qualifier in there just in case…} ). Annoying, and I guess still proof that the best fares are usually 6-7 weeks before your travel date, even for summer travel.

In the meantime, I went with DoG to the Grand Master national championships in Cincinnati the 2nd weekend of July. We had a few last minute drops from the roster, and ended up losing in the quarterfinals after dropping a pool play game against the eventual winner Scrapple. With our missing players, it is definitely a different tournament, but I imagine it is the same for other teams. Oh well. However, Saturday night at the party I ran into someone that I had hung out with a few years prior at a nationals in Sarasota. We hang out at the party that night, and upon returning home, we conspire to get her added as a last minute addition to the Canadian women's team at Beach worlds. This will provide some context in the subsequent blog posts about why I spent so much time watching the Canadian women's games.

Finally the time had come. The Verizon union did end up going on strike, so I was busy working right up until the moment of departure. I was leaving Friday night, arriving Saturday morning Paris, and then to Venice airport at 2PMish. I had made plans to boat directly to Lido where the masters team was going to meet for a last minute practice early evening. Well, on the ride to JFK airport, as we were going down the 95 towards the Hutch from Rye, on the right we saw pitch black clouds coming. Just as we hit the Hutch, the skies opened up and we were treated to a TREMENDOUS rain and lightning show for the rest of the trip to the airport. I mean truly incredible lightning. My flight was departing at 9:30, and I did my usual thing in preparation. Grabbed a shot of rum at the bar next to the gate prior to boarding, then once I was seated in my window seat (always window seat on the overnights, don't want to get woken up by some clown who needs to go to the bathroom), popped two Ambien (one no longer works unfortunately). Next thing I know, it is the middle of the night and I don't have watch on. Finally I catch a glimpse of someone's TV screen and see a time of 11AM local time (Paris) with an arrival time of another 1.5 hours. Considering my next flight was at 12:30PM I was screwed! I guess I had missed the delayed takeoff in my passed out status. Get off the plane, waste a lot of time in a rebooking line, finally get to an agent who says that I was automatically rebooked on a 6:30PM departure. However, once I confirmed that I had not checked a bag, she was able to get me on the 3:30 departure (which is explanation #2 of why never to check bags if you can avoid it on flights that are not direct). Get into Venice around 5PM, sprint to the boat, catch the direct to Lido, then promptly get wildly lost trying to find the hotel. And carrying two heavy bags. So I punt and go to the far side of the island where the beach is and start walking down the beach trying to find the men's team to see if they are still there. Pass by the Canadian women's team that is running some drills and they say that they had seen the men's team asking about me about 20 minutes ago further down the beach. I continue walking in that direction, and I'm about to give up at the next turnoff as I'm craning to see if I can see any Frisbees further down the beach. Unfortunately 30 seconds later I espy some discs in the distance, so I continue walking down the beach and 15 minutes later I recognize JohnJohn and catch up with the team. Drop my stuff, shirt off, introductions (I know 2 names of the people there), and straight into play walkthroughs. First time running on a beach since Paganello.

Oh, I forgot to mention that during GMs on Saturday in two separate games I had landed straight-legged on my right foot, jamming my inside ankle and requiring subs each time. Well, 4 visits to my massage guy had not completely resolved it so I was a little nervous to see how it was going to respond. It had also impacted my training (or lack thereof as a result) regimen. I had just started doing some intervals on the track a couple of weeks before to exercise the ankle, and had had middling results (pushing off to the left was the worst). Fortunately the ankle held up. Quick swim after the drills, and then I was off to try and find my hotel again. Success this time! Shower and then dinner with the canuck women in downtown bustling Lido. Next morning, catch the boat shuttle back to the airport where we mill around for about an hour prior to getting on our (expensive) tournament bus/shuttle to the Getur sports complex. 1.5 hours later, we are dropped off at the sports facility. Apparently our rooms aren't going to be ready until 2PM but we have a chance to look around anyway.

I remember Worlds in Vancouver in 2008. We were on campus, and everybody had their own bedroom, with a shared common space, maybe 4-6 people to a room. For some strange reason I was expecting this kind of setup. Oh boy was I wrong! We were six to a room, and it was 3 beds on a side, no air conditioning, and it was STEAMY! Someone in our room had had the foresight to buy 2 fans prior to getting there. Well, one of the fans that night kept making sounds at one end of its swing, and I do not handle disturbance well, so was not feeling fresh at all on Monday morning.

In the meantime, we had to gather in our podium shirts for the 'walk of nations' as we were going to do a procession by team, alphabetically, from the sports complex all the way to the finals beach arena, which ended up being about a mile+ walk. Very colorful, teams doing local cheers, we're getting stares from the locals who I'm sure are wondering what the *#$&)(* is going on. Get to the stadium, opening ceremonies/speeches, then a showcase game that counts between Italy and the Phillipines. Very exciting game that Italy ends up winning. Then back to the dorms, dinner, party at the beach facility that night, then to sleep (sort of).

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Saturday, November 14, 2009


I signed up for Groupon this spring, which is a daily email with some sort of special in the greater Boston area, whether 70% off at a restaurant, or spa treatments, or something of the ilk. I signed up for one of them, 3 classes of ultimate bootcamp for the price of one ($20) to be used by the end of the year. Basically, it is a 1.5 hour Saturday morning workout at various sites around Boston.

I had done the first two classes during the frisbee season, the Bootcamp Basic class, once in Cambridge and once in Framingham. For both of those classes I was probably the best overall conditioned person there (I know, pretty scary). There were a bunch of people that really were not athletic at all but by the same token it was good to see them actually signed up and out there trying to do stuff. So for my last class I signed up for the Bootcamp Blast in Charlestown, which is an advanced class. The class took place this morning. All week we have had gorgeous weather in Boston, mid-50's or better and sunny. The weather had been looking pretty sketchy for today, and when I rolled out of bed at 8AM this morning and went outside to get the newspaper, it was POURING, with rivers of water cascading down the street. Fortunately it was already just above 50 degrees, but I was NOT thrilled to do the class at all. And I had just finished a 10 day fast (another blog entry) a day early yesterday, eating my first food at lunch on Friday trying to get some energy for the workout.

Quick breakfast of half a buttered pita with shredded cheddar, a banana and a cup of coffee for the drive over. I get to the Paul Revere Park in Charlestown at 9:20, with a GORGEOUS view maybe 100 yards from the Leonard P. Zakim bridge. I am the only car there until some poor sap shows up to walk her dog (it is POURING). Finally a truck shows up and then a guy gets out and walks over to the field carrying a mesh bag filled with fitness goodies. We are ON! I get out of the car sporting all my Patagucci gear (capilene 1 bottoms, Patagonia shorts, cap 1 top, rain shadow jacket). There are two guys there. I get there, introduce myself, and both of the guys are trainers for the class. 24 people are signed up for that morning's class, and I end up being the ONLY person there. So two trainers all for me. We decide that the class will only be an hour instead of an hour and half because it is going to be much more intense with just me.

I'm writing this two hours after the class, and I can still barely lift my arms and I'm still a little nauseous. They KICKED MY ASS! Four laps to warm up, then an active warmup, then lower body work, upper body work, interspersed sprints, pushups, exercise band work. It is incredible how little upper body strength I have. The extra bonus is that they were going to talk to the organizer to get me a bonus class because of what happened, which I don't completely understand, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth.

More importantly, they also have something called the ultimate bootcamp which is a 4-week program that meets 4 times a week in the morning and is a far more specific yet varied program. With my childcare schedule of every other week I would have to try and get a modified schedule but I am definitely interested in exploring doing more.

A couple of times I almost felt like making it live up to the name of 'boot' camp, but I was able to make it through. Highly recommended though. I think I'm going to buy a set of the resistance bands so I can work on some stuff on my own time.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tough year - Nationals 2009

My 26th year of competitive ultimate is now in the books. When I think back on the season, I realize that while I didn't actually miss any of the tournaments the team went to, this is probably the least 'work' that I have ever done.

Not that I am proud of it. It started with a serious broken throwing hand at the end of May which largely sidelined me for 6 weeks despite actually playing at Boston Masters Invite and the Boston Invite in June. Then got the cast off early to play at and win Grand Masters mid-July. Then, trying to get ready for the fall with a scrimmage while I was in NY, I get a nasty 4 inch scar on my right shin which takes me out for another month although I'm back just in time for Sectionals, if desultorily. Clambake gets mostly rained out resulting in only 3 games all weekend. Regionals is the wakeup call showing us that aren't the top DoG anymore in the Northeast. With our tails between our legs, we shuttle off to Nationals.

Hot, hot, hot. What else can I say? I believe that the TV news was saying that Thursday had set local temperature records in Sarasota. It sure felt like it. You would think that after having dealt with dehydration/calf issues since 2003 that I would have had the routine down by now. But it is always a different surprise every year. First game against GLUM on Thursday I played the whole game on offense and had a good game. But on the very last point of the game we turn it over, they throw a junky/floaty throw to my guy in the endzone, and I go up to try and get the D. I jump off of my left leg and yet it is the right cramp that seizes on the way up. Good times.

The next game against Surly is a write off as we are working on stuff pretty early in that game. I am out the entire first half without really explaining why to the team (I ran subs all weekend for both O and D). In the second half we are going to work on some zone defense so I put myself in on wing. By this time I am hydrating like a mofo and peeing pretty much all the time. Not enough though as my calves start barking some more. I play a few points of D wing then shut it down.

In the final most important game against Boneyard I think I was in for one point of O, we turned it over, got it back, and I actually took myself out on O AFTER we got it back. It just wasn't going to happen today. Of course, this also made it VERY frustrating to watch as we almost got beaten by Boneyard, having to come back and win 17-15 after being down 15-14. This would have effectively eliminated us from contention. Little did I know what was to come...

So off to the beer garden after the game. Too crowded, too long to get a beer, I get and finish one beer, don't feel too hot, and basically pour out most of my second beer. On the way back we stop by the burrito place which has its usual long line of Ironsides players plus some others, although this was the fastest I ever received my food. Back to the hotel and proceeded to beach like a whale for the next few hours watching the Yankees lose to the Phillies in game 1 and drinking water and eating lots of salt. Table salt unfortunately but you go with what you have. I finally pee normally a few times right before an early bedtime, and then the deluge. I must have gotten up at LEAST 10 times during the night to pee. Never seen anything like it.

Calves felt good in the morning. Lots of stretching and running and continued drinking and salt, and I ended up being able to play the entire day. First game against Ball & Chain to 'guarantee' a quarterfinal berth. They hadn't won a game yet, and it showed. We were able to move to a convincing and not stressful victory, setting up our final pool play game against Trouble Past. As Jim mentioned in his blog, we were pretty psyched for this game. The D got us two upwind breaks in the first half and after Troubled scored the next upwinder each time, they came down in zone and I promptly threw away a hammer each time, one to each sideline, to give back the break. STILL pissed at myself. TP ended up going up big on us towards the end of the game. Since the O had been playing a lot (and getting scored on) I put the D in for a few O points. The D ended up going on a run from 13-8 or so to 14-12 before losing. Meanwhile, Jim had observed the potential disaster going on the next field over where GLUM was playing Boneyard. If GLUM won, or Boneyard won by anything OTHER than 2 points, we were guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals. If GLUM lost by 2, there would be a 3-way tie for 3rd with all 3 teams at 0 in the plus minus, moving onto the next tiebreaker which no one knew. Sure enough, GLUM chokes it away and loses 15-13. We run over to the HQ and are quickly adding up scores tot find out that we are tied with GLUM at -2 and Boneyard is -9 or something. GLUM gets the head-to-head so we are 4th in the pool playing Beyondors in the quarters, which we are assuming will be the simulcast game. 20 minutes later, word comes down that we are actually 3rd in the pool ahead of GLUM and are playing Old Sag in the quarters, fortunately still in the showcase game. Jim had screwed up his addition.

Now THIS is what we had been waiting for the entire tournament. A good game. This is what happens when you have close to your entire roster for one tournament before Nationals. The first two days are effectively full-day practices. 5 games under our belt and into the quarterfinals against a familiar opponent. The offense finally hit its stride, turning it over 2 times the entire game, both in the second half, and only getting broken once. Unfortunately the D didn't come along for the ride and only got two breaks, making the game MUCH closer than it should have been with that kind of offensive officiency as we won 15-13 in a nail-biter. I had a very good game getting the disc a bunch and no turnovers, with a highlight reel throw at 13-12. I had the disc on the far left sideline outside the endzone being forced forehand. About 4 seconds into the stall I see Jim staring at me being forced away. He immediately cuts straight upfield and away for the hammer. There are no poachers so I immediately uncork a high 'blade' that hits him in stride with no chance for the defense to make it 14-12. Robin Stewart from Bodhi apparently was on the sideline with a teammate watching the play and he told his friend something along the lines of 'I couldn't imagine ever thinking of throwing that'. I'm sure that thought was mostly because of the situation, tight game at end of nationals quarters because he definitely throws stuff I would NEVER think of throwing. Regardless, caught, SAG scores again, 14-13, and then we close out the game 15-13. On to the (unexpected at the beginning of the tournament) semis against Surly.

For probably the last 12 years going into Nationals I have pretty much always remarked to Jim that I thought DoG had the tougher pool. It started to get amusing after a while, but at least for 2007 and 2009 I know I'm right. In 2007 all 4 teams from our pool made the semifinals and this year 3 out of 4 made the semis and 2 made the finals. We were looking forward to a different game with Surly. The first game had not been close as we were still getting our sea legs under us. And we had a burst of confidence coming of our quarterfinal win and a whole night to revel in it. I had admonished the team to be at the fields MUCH earlier than last years 10AM debacle against Mileage, and while better, the team STILL showed up later than they did for POOL play games the first two days that were an hour earlier. WTF!?!?!? Oh well. DoG had started on D almost all of the pool play games (by design) but I lost the flip for both shirts AND pull, so we received going downwind to start. Two quick breaks later we are down by two. Those were the last breaks that the O gave up until the very last point of the game. This was another difficult game to watch as the D was getting numerous turnovers/opportunities to get these breaks back but didn't finally convert one until late in the second half. Surly was now going to have to work it upwind. Our sideline had been psyched and into the game the whole time but now ramped it up a notch. Unfortunately Surly was able to work it upwind for the score to make it 14-12 (or 13-11). Now the O going upwind, and we finally turn it over for the first time since early in the first half. Surly scores to end our Cinderella run.

After doing the requisite handshake thing we went over to watch the Troubled Past/Beyondors game to learn to our shock that Troubled was up 11-9. Despite Beyondors best efforts, Troubled Past held on to get the other finals bid, making the originally heralded DoG/Beyondors quarterfinal now the betty bowl to get the 3rd worlds bid. By this time, both teams were sucking fumes. Beyondors had had a bunch of people drop because of the heat. We were mostly at full strength but exhausted. The game was close throughout although Beyondors took a slight lead early and maintained that lead for most of the game before finally running it out to get the 'bronze' medal (which they don't have at natties). You could stick a fork in me by the end of this game. Talk about a long weekend in the blistering heat. And thus began the 'celebrating'.

First stop was to catch the end of Ironsides/Chain. It was 9-6 when I got there and Ironsides had their chances. I think they got the disc on D almost every time from there through the end of the game and yet were unable to convert enough chances to come back. It was very frustrating to watch. I still feel like there has to be a middle ground between the grip it and rip it school and the conservative school. Neither team played that game here. Then I watched much of the masters final in the blazing sun while quaffing warm cans of something or another. Surly also had their chances but just had too many turnovers to overcome their troubled past... And San Francisco men win a division for the first time in a long time for the 2nd straight year. Who knew?

Then off to catch the final sunset, swim in the water, have the blisters on the bottom of my feet get sand and salt in them and cause me great pain the rest of the night, watch some of my teammates play Koob on the beach (a little different with the sand), off to Siesta Key to the Daiquiri Deck, close the Deck, off to the beach to watch the moon and water and sit around the bonfire with some Canadians, then get back to the room in time to switch with the early morning crew that has just woken up to catch an early airport flight. Up at 9:30, clean up, then off to the Orlando Airport for a 2PM flight home. Missed the DoG alumni winning a national championship, ie., Rob Barrett and Josh Ziperstein.

We exceeded expectations, especially given how we got smoked by GLUM in the finals at Regionals and again couldn't put it together against them in the first game of nationals. We definitely grew as a team during the tournament though. I know OLD SAG was bummed they had to play us as the 3rd seed out of our pool. I don't think I have ever lost to those guys. For whatever reason, we always play well (enough) against them. Quarters 2 years ago was also an epic battle. And once we made the semis, we had our chances. Running O and D subs for an entire tournament is not the preferred job. I lose my voice by the end of the first day trying to get people to hear me call them in. I need a town cryer next to me to parrot my calls. I'll have to invest next year.

Oh, and more excitement after John Bar tackled Jimmy P. at the beach early Sunday morning. But Jim tells us all about it over at his blog entry. Hopefully he will be OK post surgery and able to get back out on the field.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Goin' back, goin' back, goin' back to na-tio-nals...

VERY few people will get the reference, but that is an adaptation of one of the Princeton songs I learned as an undergraduate. It is actually Nassau Hall instead of nationals, but I digress...

Competed in my 22nd consecutive regional championship recently, all in the northeast region. I am 20 for 22 in advancing to nationals, I guess 23 for 26 if you include college, missing out in 1988 with Wild Veal from NYC and 1991 with Earth Atomizer (and senior year at Princeton), the little engine that couldn't that year...
This was an interesting season. Above & Beyond had folded after last years failure to make nationals for the first time in MANY years. GLUM was gearing up again, but we had zero tournament results to assess their game. Adam Zagoria was putting together a new NY team which was reputed to be a younger team than before, which is always a dangerous recipe in masters.
We had the crappy 6 team/2 bid tournament schedule, which pits the 1st seed against the 3rd seed then the 2nd seed in the first two games of the day. Considering the necessity of coming in top two to have the best chance of advancing, it is a brutal schedule. But according to Jim, it is done this way so that the 'critical' 4-5 game can come at the right time, somewhere towards the end of the first day. Whatever...

We were able to eliminate the 4th round bye because there were available fields so we had 4 straight on Saturday. I knew in advance that I was going to have my kids at the fields all day so I was relieved, after initially gloomy weather predictions for saturday that the weather was going to hold for the weekend. For those of use who were around LAST weekend in the cold and the rain, thank GOD regionals wasn't that weekend, both for the actual play and what I would have had to do regarding my children.

We started against the new A&B, titled Westchester Summer League All-Stars. They were a little slim and ended up not putting up a huge challenge, losing to us 15-9. That made me feel a little better for the overall chances to advance, but regionals has been weird in the northeast the last few years. We then geared up for a big game against GLUM, who we had been informed had rebuilt for the series, getting a lot of younger players, some old GOAT players including DJ (sp?). We were definitely up for this game. We got to 12-9 before the wheels fell off the offense. We ended up getting capped and receiving at 14-14 next point wins. Another turn by the O and DoG lost its first game at Regionals since 1995.

The rest of the day was not particularly stressful as we handled Mt. Crushmore and Hexember in reasonably straightfoward fashion 15-7/15-5. And based on our game with GLUM, pretty clear that they were going to beat the NY team setting up the rematch in the 1-2 game. My kids had been really good all day so we rushed from the fields and blah blah blah...

Next morning was going to be MUCH colder, and I had already woken them up veryearly just for this. So I punted most of the first game, had a leisurely breakfast and got to the fields around 9:15 and I'm not sure the other team had scored yet. This preparation may not have helped for the GLUM game, but so be it. We got ready for the final and ended up receiving to start the game. At this point the wind was gusting in all directions and pretty strongly. It definitely made for an interesting game. We got broken on the first point, had a chance to bring it to 6-5 and ended up down at the half 8-4, which for you scoring this at home is a whole bunch of breaks. Pretty much nothing we did appeared to work on offense AND defense. At half we decided to open up the rotation to save ourselves for the inevitable 2-3 game against NY. Apparently the previous 3 years the loser of the 1-2 game went on to lose to the winner of the 3-4 game and get eliminated from nationals. It didn't get any better in the second half as GLUM raced out to a 15-7 victory.

Not to go out of order or give away the end, but we'll have the rematch against GLUM first thing Thursday morning at natties. I would rather not have regionals rematches and figure it would have been pretty easy to rejigger to separate the two teams, but oh well.

Back to Regionals, NY had also beaten Mt. Crushmore handily, setting up the NY-Boston betty bowl. I hadn't been in a betty bowl since 1991 with Earth Atomizer against Graffiti. Nothing fun about a single elimination loser missses nationals. Now THIS game had the energy we were missing against GLUM. We jumped out to a 6-0 lead against NY and had it to go 7-0. Half was eventually 8-1 receiving the second half. Well, it is hard to keep up that kind of intensity with a score like that. While they didn't make it a game per se, we ended up winning 15-8 and it was a little closer than that at one point during the half.

So I remember having this exercise every year with Jim that when the pools were posted for nationals, I thought we had the tougher pool (at least back in the day of two pools, 12 or 14 teams). It didn't always end up true, but I think this year we have the tougher pool again, at least in terms of depth. Talking to O'Dowd, looks like a lot of teams have gotten younger and reloaded for the bid to Worlds. I will neither confirm nor deny whether we did also, but it is almost a pleasure going into the tournament with such a low seed. For once the other teams will have the bullseye and we can play with a chip on our shoulder. Looking forward to it.

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