(Except for some fitness stuff at the end, you can safely skip this post if you [a] don't care about Ultimate, or [b] don't care how my team did at Masters Easterns.)
Whenever it rains at my first tournament of the season I wonder, "hmm, will this be the year where it rains at all of them?" Easterns this past weekend makes it two for two, and if you count The Biblical Regionals Deluge of '05, I've gotten pretty thoroughly soaked at three of my last four tournaments. It's not nearly as troublesome since I started wearing one-day disposable contacts for tourneys (a move I highly recommend for any glasses-wearers still holding out), but still annoying as my wet flick is relatively sucky. But enough about me and the relentless rain...
Masters Easterns, five teams, by seed: Above & Beyond (NY), Big Ego (Boston), ICU (PA), Chop Shop (largely VT, Western MA), Grotesque (other Boston). Format: Four rounds on Saturday, final pool play round at 8:30 (!) Sunday, then a 4-5 play-in game, then semis and finals. The Chop Shop perspective...
Round 1, ICU (three seed): If everything else goes to seed, this is the must-win game for both teams to stay out of the 4-5 play-in round on Sunday. They have a much more organized warm-up than us, which I have to admit is always a little worrisome. Happily, we catch them sleeping and go up something like 11-4 before they wake up. Game ends with momentum in their favor, but we take it 15-10. The big shift comes when they start playing underneath to an almost absurd degree, and our deep game never develops in response.
Round 2, Grotesque (five seed): It feels like we're asleep, but I think actually they play pretty well. They put up a lot of big throws and come down with a good number of them. We were never threatened, but they hang around (and hung around with at least ICU as well - not sure about their other games). I think we won 15-8 or so.
Funny aside: I got into this very minor argument with this guy (no stoppage of play, so we're just sniping at each other as we run), he catches it near the goal line, he pivots to break at the same time as I'm stepping to stop the break and I bump his shoulder with my chest as he's throwing. I shout "foul" as the throw is released, and it's caught for an easy score. My guy turns on me outraged until I clarify I was calling it on myself. That is not the first time that has happened to me. I really gotta remember to immediately say "on me".
Round 3, Big Ego (two seed): Ex-DoG. Probably the closest any team I've ever been on has played these guys. Y'know the old saying that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water he'll jump right out, but if you throw him in cold water and gradually apply heat he'll swim around unaware until he dies? Well, that's kinda how I feel about their defense in this game. They start off very loose and poachy and wait for us to make mistakes. We immediately go down a couple breaks (sigh), but otherwise hang, losing half 8-6. Imperceptibly, the water has gotten hotter, but we (or at least I) keep thinking the D is just as loose and poachy as it was to start. It's still poachy, but not as loose. Before we know it we're down 11-6. We then show nice resolve to claw back to 13s, but they finish us off 15-13. Nonetheless, a strong showing for us, I thought.
Oh, another funny aside: I'm covering Alex d. and I hand-check him 1.5 times. The first time there's a light touch, but I really gain nothing. The second time it's also a light hand-check, but I definitely get a little bit of help. He says "watch the hand" and I apologize. A few points later he pushes me off with what felt like the exact same amount of force and gets open by an extra yard or two. I think I said (good-naturedly, as it appealed to my sense of justice), "hey, that time it was you - we'll call it even." I like to think it was intentional, and illustrative of the big difference the tiniest push can make. You probably had to be there.
(In my defense, I really try to NOT hand-check. I keep my hands pretty close by my sides, but when the first step comes so close to me that we're shoulder-to-shoulder and my hand is just there my instinct is to provide resistance, not to jerk my hand out of the way (and if we're shoulder-to-shoulder I'd literally have to swing my arm behind my back to get it out of the way). That's the way I rationalize these occurrances anyway. Of course, it's possible I'm subconsciously cheating. How would I know? It happens very rarely though, so it seems more likely it's my hand being run into rather than my hand actively seeking out a hip to push off against.)
Round 4, Bye: Thank goodness, as the hardest rain of the day happens during this round.
Round 5, Above & Beyond (1 seed): We hang for a half, but they take it 8-6. We feel pretty good going into the second half, quickly trading points to 9-7, but then the wheels come off. I can't decide if we melted down or if they made us melt down. Probably a little of both. I'm not sure if we scored again. I personally collapsed as well, which pisses me off...
(TO on a long-ish curving flick to an in cut on one point, then like three TOs in the next point (thankfully I didn't spread them out), then on another point a ridiculous inside-out backhand huck on the flick side that didn't go inside out at all, so you can imagine where it landed (I think I made that exact same throw against these guys at Regionals last year - what goes through my head?!))
...Can't tell if my meltdowns drive the team meltdowns or if the team meltdowns drive my meltdowns - I don't even like to contemplate it, really, as the former ascribes more importance to my role than is realistic, while the latter smacks of blaming my teammates for my sucky play. It's probably just a smidgen of both that plays into a massive feedback loop. The more we play together the less frequently these meltdowns occur, but we haven't flushed them all from the system yet. Anyway, good first half. Also fun to play EO and Keebler again, as the last time was all those Albany summer league games many years ago when we had just graduated from our respective schools (Arnold and Adam too, but I've played them a bunch in the intervening years).
Meanwhile, in the other round 5 game, ICU beats Big Ego in a nail biter! Pretty big surprise there. I did note the lack of Barrett, Bickford, de Frondeville, and Mooney in that game (and Seeger, who didn't show until semis), but nonetheless, those guys aren't easy to beat under any circumstances so kudos to the ICU guys for a nice win. This makes us, Big Ego, and ICU all 2-2, so the seeding comes to points. I believe it worked out us, Big Ego, then ICU, so ICU had to play the 4-5 play-in game. We get dry in a Dunkin' Donuts during that game, as we wait for the semis.
Semis, Big Ego: I wonder if those guys draw straws to see who gets to sleep in until semis? Some changes from Saturday: No Bickford, Cooper, or Mooney, but Barrett and de Frondeville are back, and as noted they've added Seeger (I've never played him before - man, he's good, but aren't they all?). No surprise, but they are a different team on Sunday. Their D is similar, but of course they throw us by coming out in a straight man rather than junk, and like yesterday get a break right off the bat. Their offense is much crisper, however, and they don't give us nearly as many opportunities as they did on Saturday. Like yesterday, they take half 8-6. Like yesterday, they grab the first few points of the second half. We then trade it out and end up losing 15-11.
Finals, Above & Beyond vs. Big Ego:
Sorry I can't report on this; I had to run some friends to the airport. Anybody know how this turned out? Thank you to "samth" from the comments for pointing out that George Cooke reports Big Ego beating A&B in the finals. Quick check shows Jim's write-up is in as is Alex's.
Alas. Still, a very good tournament for us, and I continue to feel like we play better in each and every outing. Our victory gaps are widening, our loss gaps are narrowing. Also, the tournament was very cleanly played. The calls were rare, and even during those few that drew heckles it all felt fairly good-natured. Had a blast, despite the weather.
This is a fitness blog though, so I'm contractually obligated to talk conditioning at least a little... All in all, I was pretty pleased with the way I felt. I'm no longer exclusively an O player, which feels good, and I played a lot of points in the A&B and both Big Ego games. Ran just as hard in the semis as in game 1, so that's good, and even played downfield a fair amount in the semis, probably the first time I've done so in like 13 years. I think the training strategies I've adopted continue to pay dividends. Except for height, I consider myself to have pretty sub-par genetics, athletically. In high school I was woefully uncoordinated and was only allowed to play basketball because I was the tallest kid in the school and I could block shots. I was hopeless at everything else. Without lots of training I'm pretty damn slow, and even with lots of training I'm not particularly explosive. Chronic ankle, shin, and knee problems. But with all this stuff, I think I've managed to work my way into the middle of the pack, athletically. I usually work out around four days a week, but the only running I do is during pickup, along with a set of Tabata sprints once or twice a week (sometimes I'll sub in Tabata jump rope or burpees, depending on how my legs feel). It's probably obvious by now, but I'm finding my training strategy boils down to this:
- Tabatas are huge. You still want a well-rounded regime, but if you aren't doing these already, work in a set or two a week and tell me it doesn't make a difference. Remember, each 20-second work period is all out. As Ross Enamait says, "run each one like my pit bull is chasing you." What this means, of course, is that your last 20 seconds will be much slower than your first 20. But that's okay, as long as you're going as hard as you can for each and every interval. Totally, totally sucks. Since your last few sets will be so slow, might be worth doing some speed work on a different day once in awhile (especially if you're like me and you aren't naturally speedy).
- Speaking of Enamait and a well-rounded routine... Absolutely essential reading for any athlete (except marathoners and the like). I don't know how to convince you of this if I haven't already through my other posts.
Results come pretty quickly at the prescribed intensity. Six weeks 'til Log Jam, three months 'till Sectionals. That's enough time to get into pretty killer shape. Get started! Unless you are a potential opponent. In that case I encourage you to watch as much TV as possible, ideally while eating something. Potato chips are an excellent choice.