First practice


I went to my first Mischief practice for the season today. It was at Baylands and, well, Baylands kept up its reputation by having just the best, gusty winds. I headed over late because, well, uh, can I just say some stupid game distracted me at an inopportune moment and leave it at that? Yeah, stupid game. I hate it.

So, when I arrived, and saw a big "Park Closed, Private Event" sign, along with a long line of cars out of the park entrance, I was simutaneously annoyed (the park is NEVER closed for a private event, you can reserve the picnic areas, but not the whole park; the sign was deliberately misleading to keep "undesirables" out), and worried (I was late, and needed to get to practice, and I was late, and Andy doesn't like when people are late, and did I mention I was late? Yeah). So, I pulled a yooey (sound it out), parked across the street and ran.

Now, the nice thing about running over is that you're warmed up when you arrive at the fields. I'm reaching here, to find SOME good benefit of being late. On my run over, I decided that, regardless of what happened at this practice, I would forgive myself any errors. Having spent all of these years criticizing myself for bad plays during ultimate, instead of immediately trying to figure out what I should have done instead, visualizing the correct action, and moving onto what I needed to do next offensively or defensively, I've decided that this season I'll be more proactive in what I think, instead of destructive. I figure, what I've been doing hasn't worked, why not try this?

Out of breath, and in a hurry, I dropped my stuff, pulled of my pantaloones and hoodie, exchanged shoes, and dashed out to warm up with the team. I noted the people who crossed the street in front of me, but didn't hussle over, had to do a warmup lap to get their legs going before jumping into the warmups. I admit to being pleased at my hussle-double-duty.

As has been the trend over the last 2-3 seasons, the practice was well organized, thought out and well run. We started with a series of warm-up cuts in a box, then progressed to a review (for returning players, and an introduction for new players) of our pull plays. We then ran them for a while.

Next up was 8 pull, where each team receives the disc and has one chance to score, the defense having one chance to score on a turn. I think the end score was like 2-4-10 or something for dark / light / and neither scoring.

At this point, I was tired. Not exhausted, but definitely feeling my lack of fitness. The next drill, however, focused on isolation cutting, and whoo-boy, did I not realize I how tired I was until after this drill.

The drill consisted of a receiver and defender in a 8 m x 8 m box, and a thrower about 3 m outside the box with a defender on him. The receiver can cut and move anywhere in the box he wants. The thrower needs to throw to the receiver by the end of a stall count starting on 5. The defender and marker are, of course, trying to prevent the completion.

When partnered up with Adam Leventhal as my thrower, crap, I could do no wrong in my cutting. With Adam as the defender and my marking, he could do no wrong. I had problems throwing to Adam, completing only 2 of my five throws. My iso defense wasn't as strong as I would have liked, blocking only 2 (might have been 3) of the throws. I really liked receiving from Adam, though he did zing one throw in hard enough to leave a nasty bruise. Need to up the vitamin K, I think.

I really liked the drill, as it gave me a chance to throw, throw, throw, granted in somewhat artificial circumstances, but it was still a lot of throwing in tight situations. I'm going to see if I can convince some teammates to continue this drill again some evening this week. Steffi expressed interest, so only 2-4 more people would be needed.

We then played a game to seven. Dark, my team, was up 3-1, before going down 5-3 to light. We brought the score back to 5-6, but eventually lost 5-7. The game was really interesting, though I was remarkably exhausted. I can't believe (well, okay, yes, I can) just how out of ultimate-shape I'm in. It's awful. The extra 20 pounds around my hips are definitely announcing themselves on my knees. I ate a fabulous breakfast this morning (vegetable scramble with cheese and a large odwalla citrus c), so now is a great time to keep up the good eating. Maybe I can get rid of those 20 in 10 weeks.

My hamstring, though announcing itself, wasn't too bad during the practice. A little bit of the topical aspirin, and I was running just fine.

The last part of practice was an elmination marking game. Essentially, two lines of players face each other, with the front of one line receiving, and the front of the other line throwing against a straight up mark. The receiver can't move (much) when receiving the disc from the thrower. Once a thrower throws, she runs to the front of the other line to mark, much like a three man marking drill.

Now, the trick of the game is, if the thrower overthrows, turfs, or is handblocked, she has to prevent a completed throw when she marks next. If she doesn't, she's out. If she does, then she continues to the back of the line. There are no penalties for the marker for a completed throw if she had a completed throw when she threw just before.

I managed to overthrow on my first throw, we were throwing upwind, which was the difficult direction. I then handblocked the woman I was marking, forcing her to block the next woman. Eventually, the chain ended and someone else was the first woman out (we split into men and women lines). I did well in the game, making it to the final 4 (I think, might have been 5), before throwing a crappy upwind throw that just went over my receiver. Liz Gannes won it all, having turfed her very first throw in the game. I really enjoyed this game, too, which should indicate how much I enjoyed practice today.

Though, I'm going to be really, really, really tired tonight. I'm happy.

DUI 2008


Mischief's season officially started today. The team headed to Davis for the 2008 Davis Ultimate Invitational to start the season with a tournament of tryout players. Last week, when Kris, Andy and I were walking back from the Whiskey Expo, Andy told me to "bring my cleats!" in such an ethusiastic way that I knew I'd get some good playing time.

Since last weekend, I've been worried about my fitness level for tournaments. When the first step of the first point hurts, and the last step of the first point hurts, and every step in between is hard, one has to question how much the sprint workouts have been helping. Sure, they help, but gah, this is supposed to become easier.

So, I've been doing my "I shouldn't be this out of shape" regimen this past week, which revolves around an improved diet and dietary supplements. In particular, liquid iron supplements.

The warm up this morning was easy, and not the chore it was last week. Yay! I probably spent more time than I should have taking pictures, but not enough to actually prevent me from warming up properly. Including that hammie.

When the team started an endzone drill, my usual hesitation from past seasons was gone. I was excited to run this endzone drill, catch a disc and throw it smoothly to the next teammate. Very excited.

During one of my cut, catch, throw, clear series, I heard from behind me Steffi's voice, calling encouragements and compliments. I couldn't help but think of how much I've missed this comraderie in the off-season. There's something about the encouragement of a teammate to help you play better.

Our first game was against Mad Dog 20/20. The team was fairly inexperienced, with some players who clearly could play. Unfortunately (for them), we had enough experienced players, including some spectacular stars, and they didn't really stand a chance for victory.

I had a good time, running down hard on the first pull to disrupt the easy pass, causing a turn over on the second choice. Unsurprisingly to anyone who knows our team, a Crystal (fabulous thrower) to Adam (fabulous receiver) goal started the season on the right step.

I'm more pleased with how I played the second game, which was against Gin and Tonic. The team had a significantly higher skill and fitness level, with their scoring the first score of the game, and keeping it close to 6-4. I had a snippy point where an opponent woman caught the disc on the line, and refused to either accept the turnover or return the disc to the previous thrower for a do-over. Karma reared its head as the same woman caught her team's goal out the back of th endzone, causing a turnover back to us (even if we didn't capitalize on the turn).

On another point, I was fairly aggressive in pushing downfield, running hard to be near the endzone as the disc moved to it. Unfortunately, we turned the disc and they started moving the disc downt eh field My main thgouth at hte moment was darn it, all I managed to do is bring my woman down into the play, especially after she caught the swing and turned to throw. As she released the disc, however, Andy came swooping in for an easy catch. Just as she had thrown the disc, I had turned to run downfield (as every thrower and marker should do: once the throw is up, go go go!), but turned back to the endzone when I saw Andy catch the turn. He saw me and put up a throw that at first I was nervous about being able to catch. Fortunately, in true Andy Style™, he had merely placed it absolutely perfectly: at the very edge of my reach after running hard to it, thereby guarateeing my defender zero chance at the disc. Never ceases to amaze me with his play.

I had a couple other good points during this game, which I enjoyed much more than the first game. I was called handler a few times, which both surprised me and pleased me. I did just fine, with the dumps, swings and downfield cuts. I had a good time.

I'm thinking this cessessation of self-defeat and internal pressure to be perfect is a good thing.

Mischief EYE


Tonight was Mischief's End of Year Extravaganza, also known as the Michief EYE.

The EYE is a good time to review the season, congratulate ourselves on a season well done, see people we haven't seen for a while (say, since the season ended, which is strange because these people are so part of our lifes, so close to us during the season, that the abruptness of their disappearance from our lives is startling - or that could be just me).

Kris played a song on his electric guitar for Lori, after partaking in some PARS. He was making up his lack of psych-up-buddiness during the season to Lori, since he had done a particularly poor job (which even he admits he didn't do so well). He had grand plans, they just took a while to actually complete.

After the song, team awards were handed out. I received the Most Statistically Significant award, by making all the other statistics possible. I lurve the award.

After the awards, we had the captains' gifts and then the white elephant gift exchange. The exchange was quite entertaining, more-so since I didn't actually bring a gift, and could watch everyone else's gift exchange many hands.

That, and play with Mirabelle and Meter. That's the best part of the evening.

Mischief + VS


Although we go to Velocity Sports on a regular basis, and have managed to directly or indirectly sign up another four people with the facility, the team hasn't actually partaken of the facilty. Wes arranged for a group training event today, so a group of us went.

That group consisted of Kris, Wes, Paul, Doyle, Shirley, Lori, Adam Brown and me.

We started out with the usual dynamic warmup of jumping jacks, split jumps, jogs, walking stretches, accelerations and the like. I was surprised to realize how much of the warmup process is learned by watching others and following the more experienced people. Kris and I were the only two people at the training day who had been at the facility and done the warmups before. We were both in the front line of two lines during the warmups, which was a little unfortunate.

Unfortunate in that, instead of waiting for the instructor to vocally start the second line, the second line started when the first line started. This meant Lori, who moves more quickly than I do, was running on my heels (quite literally), by the end of the turf, making up the five yard starting difference quickly.

After the third time of having to break form in order to keep ahead of Lori, when the instructor said, "Go!" I immediately yelled, "Stop!" to the second line, before going myself. They stopped, surprised, and waited for the instructor to start the second line. We all had a good chuckle, and the rest of the warmup went more smoothly.

We did a lot of form work in the training sessions. We practiced techniques for running backward (need to lift my toes more before picking up my foot to reach backward), changing direction, and running sideways. I can't say I agreed with all of the training techniques (some would lead to foot injuries if taken to an extreme), but the workout was hard and fun.

At one point, a couple of the group had to step away from the workout to catch their breath. It was kinda nice to know the regular workouts I've been doing have helped me in the off-season somewhat.

I doubt the team will continue with the training sessions. It would be nice if they did, but I won't hold my breath on that one.



Lori is staying with us tonight. I picked her up from the airport tonight. We were like this -> <- with our timing, synchronizing her exiting baggage claim with my slow down drive-by-then-stop arrival at the curb. I think she might have waited one second.

On the way home from the airport, we were talking about life, catching up with the ins and outs of life, work, and, of course, ultimate. She's visiting this weekend to visit friends, but also to par-tay at tomorrow's End of Year Extravaganza, because, well, Mischief is so cool.

At one point, I asked her if she was going to Kaimana next February. I had been invited to play with the same group of women Lori is going to play with (said group being a fantastic group of women), but wanted to stop playing ultimate for a while to heal, build strength, and develop better generic athletic skills. That, and I'm probably going to have shoulder surgery for the shoulder I jammed on that (wonderful, glorious) layout.

Lori said she was going to go, and asked if I was going to go. When I said no, she said, "Oh, yeah, you're one of the quitters."

I laughed, and said, no, I was RETIRING, expecting to drop down to lower level of play in order to keep playing, but I wasn't expecting to stop playing ultimate completely.

The conversation moved on, but her words stuck with me, maybe more than they should have. Her words weren't meant in any mean way, but they still hurt a bit.

Quitting has such negative connotations. "I'm not a quitter!" and "Winners never quit!" and other platitudes about quitting. Why would I want to quit playing ultimate, some still in the passions of the sport might ask. I've certainly been in that state where I couldn't understand why anyone would want to retire, stop playing. Those people must have been insane, I'd think.

Yet, trying to rationalize why leaving elite utlimate is a good thing is hard in some respects, yet easy in other respects. I stopped developing as a player when Mischief started doing well. I've been injured for the last three years, barely playing at Nationals went I've gone. What fun can it be to take stats for Regionals and Nationals? What fun can it be to watch and never play? It's fun for a while, but it becomes less interesting the more you realize what you used to be able to do and can no longer do.

Though, I'm clearly not completely comfortable with the thought, though, as I refer to my decision as "leaving elite ultimate" instead of "quitting elite ultimate."

Eh, maybe I'm reading too much into this. It's only December. If I can heal over the winter and develop the skills I feel I'm lacking (think: 45 yard forehands, consistent backhand and forehand breakmarks, better form on my forehands, stronger hamstrings, and quicker feet on marking), then I'll probably continue playing at higher levels.

However, it'll be on a team where I actually play. And more than just practices.

Amazing teammates


Question: How amazingly cool are the Mischief folk?

Answer: Incredibly so.

Brynne had Pickett as her psych-up buddy. He made her a special batch of beer for her as a psych-up gift. The name of the beer?

Big Booty Ale.

Well, phooey


We lost our first game, quarters, dropping us to the bottom half of the top bracket, playing for 5th. We lost to Slow White, whom we had beaten last year in the finals to win the Championship. We had beaten them earlier this year, and, well, they had their revenge today.

Since we were out in the finals, we played two more games for fifth place. We won both of them and finished the tournament in 5th place. Not bad, but not 1st. I played a lot more points in the last two games, managing to actually lay out in a bid for a low disc coming in. I missed, but the visualizations I've been doing for the last month paid off: I didn't think about getting low, I didn't think about reaching, I just did it.

Next time, I'll actually catch the disc.

Tonight will be a night of debauchery, given we're done with the tournament. Not the reason we wanted to celebrate, even Kris dashed off for beer as soon as the game was over and psych-up buddies were revealed, but, well, sometimes parties don't need reasons.

Today went much better


Today was better than yesterday. We played Brass Monkey in the first game. We have their number, though it was close, close, close, and won 15-13. I wasn't at the field to see the end of the game, as I took Steffi's friend Janie to the airport (thankfully close!), leaving as the score was 12-12.

The second game of the day was against AMP. We took half 8-5. Shirley let me know when we were up by four points, I should sub in. I asked if I should go in, or if I should wait for her to call me in, and she said just go. Three points later, and we were up 10-6. On the line, Kyle told the women to front their women. After the pull, I ran down, and was fronting my woman, but the sideline started screaming at me to back my woman. I did, and tragically she caught the disc three times going in on the way to their scoring the next point. Sigh.

Winning two games, however, meant we don't have to play a third today. The other games finished such that we have probably our best possible path to the finals. One game, one point, one cut, one catch at a time, not looking past the next game.

However, if I had to request a path, given yesterday's results, it would look like this:



Andy, DanO, Kris and I went off for lunch to a local Italian place. When the drinks arrived, DanO picked up his straw, removed the wrapper, plunked it into his drink, and started drinking.

"Given how environmentally conscious you are, I'm surprised you use straws. Is there a particular reason for doing so?" I commented and asked.

Kris looked over at me surprised at my directness. Andy looked over at me unsurprised, but reached for his drink.

DanO hemmed and hawwed for a few moments, trying to come up with some reason for using a straw, as I continued, "You know, those take decades to decompose. They're made of plastic."

Kris sat silent. Andy looked down, busy with something in his hands.

DanO continued to wave his hands and say little, until he finally stopped, and stated, "I like drinking from straws."

"That's fine," I responded, "As long as there's a reason, and not just a mindless use of them. Liking them and deliberately using them, say, to keep the liquids from staining your teeth, is reasonable."

We looked over at the relief on Kris' face.

And Andy's answer to my straw accusation:

It exploded five seconds after the picture.

Regionals, day 2, with a low


Patrick Hard used to play for a top Open team, Ring of Fire, which played in the finals of the 2002 Club Championships. Watching the various videos of him and his team, many people would say something to the effect of Patrick's being one of the, if not the, top players on the team. I recall phrases like "carried the team to..." in reference to Patrick and the team. Not only is he that good of an ultimate player, but he's that good regardless. One of the good people I like in my life, if only at the edges.

Patrick plays Mixed ultimate these days. When asked why he switched, he said, "because I don't like the person I become when I play Open." I think he was 22 when I first heard him say that, and was impressed with the wisdom and maturity of the statement. Had I known Patrick, I wouldn't have been surprised (see above reference to "good people").