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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3:00 AM, October 04, 2011  

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