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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