UCPC, my thoughts

So, other than being a bit nervous for my to-be-given-twice talk, I found today to be absolutely fantastic. In terms of a conference I wanted to attend, this one fit the bill, as it had more sessions that I wanted to attend than timeslots that allowed me to attend. Fortunately, several sessions were taped, and material is available for download, so I can still feel like I heard Jim Parinella talk (I didn't, darnit, nor did I introduce myself to him, as I wanted to), and learn more about mental toughness from Tiina (I hadn't, but only because the thought of learning marking techniques from Ben Wiggins overwhelmed all thoughts of mental toughnesses).

I started out the conference (not the day, as that started with a valiant but ultimately futile attempt to wake up early, shower, dress and dash out of the room without waking up Gwen and Miranda) wondering if the Keynote by Dr. Allan Goldberg was going to be as good as his book, Sports Slumpbusting.

It was better.

The keynote was, of course, a short distillation of his book: you can't put days, weeks, months of training into an hour talk to a general audience. However, with the foundation of the book, or any other type of mental toughness book, the talk was enjoyable, entertaining and informative. I took away both the opening anecdote's quote ("Training is 95% physical and 5% mental. Competing it's the opposite: 95% mental and 5% training."), as well as the thought, "Losing focus won't hurt you in competition. Not refocusing will."

Dr. Goldberg is a very dynamic speaker, able to capture and hold the audience's attention well, which made the talk fun. He had several demonstrations on focus, about how it can be difficult and how focusing on the wrong thing can have disastrous effects on one's performance quality. He hinted at mental chatter, but not extensively, and talked about how the thinking part of the brain (the fore-brain) is good for analyzing during practice, but needs to stfu and let the unconscious part of the brain (the hind-brain) just do its job during competition.

After Dr. Goldberg was done, I moved to the front of the auditorium for Ben Wiggin's talk on Marking Strategies. Ben arrived, as near as I could tell, moments before his talk was scheduled to begin, but started in as if nothing was amiss and he hadn't just spent the last 18 hours trying to make a simple cross country trip that should have taken all of 5 hours tops.

Ben had many good points, and encouraged everyone to ask questions during his talk, so that, in his words, he could feel comfortable like he's talking to his team and not uncomfortable like he's lecturing to us. Sound advice. His slides were full of pictures his mother had taken, which humoured me, as my presentation also had slides by his mother, but his were "used with permission." Detail there.

Ben talked about "back blocking" initially. I took this to be stepping, or moving the outstretched hand on the thrower's release side backwards (6"? 12"? he didn't say), instead of straight out. Doing so gives you more reaction time and reduces the chance of a foul.

Another interesting point Ben made is a staggered stance, not straddling over the marker's position, but with the marker's non-force side foot slightly back, and the force side foot slightly forward. This allows the marker to both move more quickly (presumably because of balance, though I'll have to follow up on that), and avoid thrower-drawn fouls. Ben aslo talkd about the transistion from defensive pursuit to marking, which, admittedly, is one of my least thought about transitions (and one ripe for improvement).

The second part of his talk was about different team defensive strategies, most of which were brilliant for the personnel on the respective teams who played them, but weren't necessarily applicable for any team I'm (currently) on.

The next session time slot was my first talk, so I, well, talked. This presentation went not so well, as my voice cracked, and I missed a lot of my examples. I blame my lack of presentation notes because of system issues (where system issues = bad user input = bah!). After this session, I wandered over for lunch, which I found tasty, and the Ultimate Expo. CMU had a table, so I purchased a Mr. Yuk disc for Kris so that he'll have one to throw, instead of hoarding his last one from college.

I had one more talk to go to, one in the third session. My personal choices were between Jim Parinella's decision making in ultimate talk and Dan Cogandrew and Bryan Doo's Ultimate fitness talk. Peter, whom I met last night at the train station, as George took Emily and me from the airport to the hotel via the train station to pick up Peter, suggested the training session, as he heard the handouts from Parinella's talk would cover much of the presentation topic. Since I'm always a big fan of training, that was all the nudge I needed.

I chose well with that nudge.

Bryan went over, with demonstrations, some stance adjustments in a marking stance that help with both power and quickness (hint: put weight on the balls of your feet), as well as some remarkably timely hamstring exercises (yes, the swiss ball curls I do are the best).

Bryan also had some incredibly impressive foot work drills that he demonstrated on stage. He placed two flat circles on the stage, spaced a handwidth apart. He then moved, balanced, sideways, putting his leading foot into the far hoop, his trailing foot into the close hoop, then his leading foot past the two hoops, his trailing foot following. Bryan then reversed the direction and went back in the same pattern. After amazing us with his ability to move sideways at lightning speeds, he then described how to perform this move correctly (as in balanced).

After watching his demonstration, I realized how much I miss Gino as a trainer. Gino didn't play ultimate, but he understood better than any of my current trainers about balance and quickness and agility. Well, perhaps he doesn't understand it better, more so he emphasized it more, and taught it specifically, which helped me become a better athlete. I miss that. So, I did the next best thing.

I risked being late to the next session, you know, the one where I gave my second talk, and went to the UCPC expo to purchase Dan and Bryan's DVD. If only for the scene of Bryan traversing those hoops, the DVD will be worth it. I can't wait to show it to Kris.

The Future of Ultimate panel was next, lead by Kyle Weisbrod. I'm always happy to see Kyle, but our schedules didn't match up, so I wasn't able to say much more than, "Hi!" I'm glad he's on the board of the UPA. The board really, really, really needed a staff member's (or in Kyle's case, ex-staff member's) perspective to understand where to move, and I'm glad that such a move worked out well for Kyle.

Many of the presenters went out to Ted Munter's place for dinner. Ted was the Team USA coach two years ago. Based on some of the stories I heard about his behaviour as coach of Team USA, I couldn't in clear conscious partake of his hospitality, and so declined an invitation to join the group of speakers. Many of the group knew each other very well, had a good history together, which also contributed a bit to my decision not to go, as I'm not part of that history, and feel awkward standing outside that group looking in.

The decision turned out great, because it meant that Peter and I were able to head out to dinner and talk about the conference, about ultimate, about how strangely rude people in Boston were, and his research. All very interesting topics. As Gwen and Miranda didn't stumble into the room until 4:30 am, a migraine-inducing time for me, I was quite happy again with my choice to have dinner locally.

A grand day. Well planned. Well executed. And well worth the stress of putting together my presentation. I'm honored that I was selected to present, that 45 people came to listen to me, and that I was able to, in some small way perhaps, help their games.

 Done!

I'd like to thank my husband for his support during the last two trying months as I prepared for the talk. And George and Tiina for organizing the conference and selecting me to speak in the first place. And I want to thank my fans, I never would have made it here without you. Okay, end of my acceptance speech.

I am now done with my talks here at the UCPC. The second one went much, much better than the last one. Not only did I have the previous presentation under my belt, with the squeaky voice and all, but I also had my presentation notes, as the display was working properly. User error, I'm afraid. I had the "Mirror Displays" option checked in my system prefs. Sigh. One of those moments (happily fixed on the second talk).

I'm actually surprised at how much better the second talk went. The first talk had a lot of questions. My talk took 45 minutes the first time, and about 47 minutes the second time. The first talk had a lot of questions, the second talk had significantly fewer. So, either I integrated the questions and their answers in the second talk, or the participants cared less, or they simply didn't have any questions.

I'll be posting my talk on my latest ultimate-related project, recsportdisc.com. Who knows, based on my past record with these projects, just how well this site is going to grow, but I've wanted to build the site to be a rec.sport.disc newsgroup portal, article posting, blog syndication, and other entertaining ultimate related information. We'll see how it goes.

Right now, I'm unbelievably relieved at being done with the talk. I'm not 100% sure how my talks were received. I had three people walk out of the second talk, though none in the first. After both talks, however, I had someone come up to me and thank me for the talk, very enthusiastically thank me. Those two people made all the stress and all the time and effort I put into my talk well worth it.

The next two days, I'm a tourist. I'm excited about this. Heaven forbid, a moment of relaxation.

 Gah, I hate flying

Why, oh, why do I continue to fly? Why not just stop travelling, or stick with driving. Ignoring the fact I'm more likely to die driving than flying, or even riding a bike to work, I can't stand flying and am tired of being stressed out by the experience.

Let's start with the lines. There are hundreds of people in these lines. Each of them doesn't want to be in this line. Each of them is trying to get through the line as fast as possible.

So, what do I do in the line? Two hours of sleep where I woke up every 15 minutes meant I was the one who held up the line. I'm the one who took three times longer than the five people behind me. I'm the one who didn't have my ID out when I needed to. I'm the one who didn't plan ahead. Not enough sleep makes me completely inefficient. To all of the people who also showed up at the airport with only five minutes before the baggage cutoff happened, yeah, yeah, it's my fault: show up to the airport earlier next time.

Next up after baggage claim? The security line. The security line where people with no power in life, having never earned the right to that power nor the respect necessary to receive that power, are in a position to dominate the people who come through the security checkpoint. If a person talks back, or, heaven forbids, asks a legitimate questions (like, who do they work for and what right do they have to ask for my identification?), they'll be detained, possibly missing their flight, all on the whim of the idiot security checkpoint personnel.

Fact, you don't have to show your identification to fly, and, even if you did, you would show it to a TSA employee and NOT a random person who asks for it. Check their badges - if it doesn't state TSA and you ask to see his identification, you will guaranteed be searched and detained and harassed. Try it some time. You can make it through to the flight without showing any identification.

Another reason to hate the security lines is because the identification check is a joke. Next time you check in online, save the ticket as a PDF or image. Then, next time you need to go to the gate, edit the ticket, putting in today's date, print, and off you go.

And the no liquids or gels over three ounces rule? Don't declare them before you go through the x-ray machine. 75% of the time, they'll make it through fine. If they don't, declare ignorance and throw them away.

Yeah, annoying, worthless actions called "security" piss me off.

So, after checking my one bag, then making it through the security line, I went to the gate counter to see if there were other seats available. Flying across the county in the middle seat, with little sleep, is not a fun thought, so it was a reasonable request. As I approached the counter, two people rushed in front of me.

Fortunately, I was tired, and didn't immediately pushed them back. They were both receiving new boarding passes, presumably to sit in first class. I waited until they were done, and explained I was in the middle seat, were there any window or aisle seats available? In full liar mode, she immediately looked down at her screen, played with her hair and, in sharp contrast to the bellowing words she used moments before with the previous customers, spoke very softly, saying there were no seats available at all, I would have to stay in the seat I was in.

I was too tired, and at this point completely angry, to answer, including the two boarding passes you JUST ripped up, did you bother to frackin' look at them?

So, I spent the five hour flight sitting in the middle seat. Fortunately, I spent the first three hours drifting in and out of sleep, and the last two buried in the slides for my talk. Turns out, after I looked up from my slides, one of the two fellow passengers asked me about them. We chatted about computers, work, websites, ultimate, exercise in general and other topics. The conversation was quite enjoyable, broken only by another pleasant conversation with the other fellow passenger sitting to my other side.

The two of them nearly, close but not quite, made up for the horrible start of the day. I managed to secure a business card from one guy. The other one, all I know about him is that he lives in Maryland and works for N.I.S.T, which we joked meant National Institute of Something Technical.

I'll be glad when this day is over, as it'll mean I'll be in Boston, will have met Emily and had an opportunity to chat with George.

Oh, and go to bed. I am so tired.

 Boston, here I come!

Time for bed, for two whole hours, two and a half, if I'm lucky. It's 3:30 am, my flight is at 7:20 am, and I'm tired. I've downloaded a list of flickr ultimate photos, which, if I can stay awake on the flights and be motivated, I'll stick in my talk.

Why do I always do this? Why am I always up until some ridiculous hour the night before an early flight?

More importantly, why do I schedule these early morning flights?

In four hours, I'll be off to Boston for my UCPC talk on Saturday.

No, I'm not stressed.

Okay, yes I am.

 UCPC practice talk

My initial plan for my UCPC talk was to practice every day from the beginning of December until the end of January. My propensity to overplan, however, has crushed that plan to hell. Kris told me to plant a stake in the ground and schedule a practice talk.

So, I did just that.

Tonight was that talk, and, yes, once again, Kris is brilliant in applying his knowledge of my personality quirks.

I have 45 minutes for my talk, plus 15 minutes for questions. I'm 100% sure I'll speak very quickly when I give the talk for real, so I'll need to practice a lot before then to keep my presentation well paced and not frantic.

Well, that, and put in a bunch of "Slow Down!" in the presentors notes.

At some point, I'm going to render my slides into a nice book format and publish it in a nice 7" x 7" book. At around $6 each, they'll be nice gifts for people I know and love.

Crap, I forgot about the website. I've been meaning to put that up at recsportdisc.com (a domain I cannot believe wasn't already taken).

The presentation went fairly well, with everyone both paying attention and providing amazing feedback.

I have the best friends ever.

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