Wrong track

We lost our last two games today. The third game of the day was our first loss. The team played scared, so I'm actually unsurprised we lost. Disappointed, sure. Surprised, no.

But the fourth game we had the potential to win. We started off flat footed, going down 2-8 at the half.

At which point, the whole WTF thing happened, and we started playing like the team we know we can be.

We brought the score back to 11-12, game to 13, time cap on.

We lost.

It was a crazy ride. One I'm happy to have taken, I just wish the end took the right track at the switch, instead of the left switch.

Time to declare

Morning of Regionals (full name: The Ultimate Player's Association Club Championships Series Mixed Division Northwest Regional Tournament), and my stomach is a fit of knots. I'm not prepared at all, and I hate to go to just about anything unprepared. Maybe a surprise birthday party, but the only one of those I've ever had wasn't exactly a surprise (I clued in a bit before the actual surprise when no one would go first in the apartment - it was a good try though).

If I had prepared properly for this tournament, I would thrown at least 200 throws a day for the last six weeks. I would have gone for three mile runs twice a week, sprint drills twice a week, plyometrics twice a week, practice twice a week, weight lifting three time a week, stretching every day, and abs every day but game days.

Didn't happen.

I think I would have been happy with just the running part of it all.


Here's what I'm keeping in mind, though, in spite of my stomach, my nerves, and my certainty:

No one, and I mean no one, goes into an athletic performance at 100%. No one.

There is always something. The top professional athletes have injuries, major and minor, but as paid entertainers, they have support to minimize the effects of the injuries.

The same is true for the weekend warrior, minus the full support crew, and the players today. Each and every one of them is not at 100%. Each and every one of them has some issue that will adversely affect her athletic performance today.

Even if everything is in place and rockin' physically, the mental game is another matter entirely, and the perfect place for exploitation on the field.

My opponent has no idea of my weaknesses, and I have no intention of showing them to her. One strong play, and I'll be in her head.

Nothing will stop me from being open all. day. long.

Time to declare.

Regionals are this weekend.

From Wes, who saw it as the signature of an email:

Bite, scratch, claw for every point, every throw.  Keep your head up on the field
and on the sideline.  Never give up, never take the foot off the throttle.  No 
mercy, no stopping, and no more excuses.


Fire. Me. Up.

How to Kick a Smith in the face

Last year, at an ultimate tournament I didn't go to, there was an incident wherein a woman was body slammed by an opponent and flipped out when the opponent landed on her. According to eye witnesses, the rugby tackling player had been playing the whole day aggressively and the squished, soon to be freaking out woman had been the recipient of the unsportsmanlike conduct for a while.

None-the-less, when the squishee was squished by the squishor, the squishee freaked out, stood up by pushing the squishor off of her and started flailing.

Most flailing involves throwing arms around wildly and kicking.

Ah, the kicking.

The squishee did indeed start kicking the squishor, and had started kicking her in the face. The squishor, according to the reports, curled into a fetal position and attempted to ward off the kicks and the blows, covering her face as best as possible.

While relating this story to my teammates at Sectionals yesterday, I heard Mark mutter, "Fetal position?"

I finished my story, and asked him what was up. We started talking about how, if you're caught unawares, you might not have the presense of mind to move away from the blows, and would instinctively cover your face for protection. But why not just spin away? Or grab the leg? Do something to stop the barrage of blows, instead of trying to absorb them.

"How bad could it be?" Mark wondered out loud.

Somehow, I have no idea how, Mark arranged to have Heidi, while wearing cleats, attempt to kick him in the face after Sectionals were over. Had the team heckled him into it? Had he decided that empirical evidence was necessary and Heidi was of similar size to the kicking squishee?

Unclear, but the experiment was going to happen.

Well, push comes to shove, and at the end of the last game of the day, when we're all getting ready to leave, packing up and such, Wes calls Mark out, "Hey, Mark, aren't you supposed to be kicked by Heidi? Heidi, do you still have your cleats on?"

Heidi had no desire to kick Mark in the face. What a scandal! Deliberately kick someone in the face? That's awful! No, can't do it.

I could.

I immediately volunteered to help Mark in his fetal position, how hard could it be to defend the blows and spin away experiment. I had enough rough-housing with my brothers to swing a good kick without feeling (too) bad about it, and I had heard enough stories of Mark and his brothers (I could get a good kick in for Kyle and Kevin!) to have exactly zero bad feelings about landing one kick.

So, after the reasonable, "I take no responsibility for any damage I may cause you in this attempt. You agree not to hold me liable for any permanent injuries you may sustain." agreements with witnesses, Mark assumed the fetal position. I stood over him, and on the 3, 2, 1 countdown, kicked.

My first swing was with my right foot, which Mark blocked somewhat easily, and I missed his chin. So, I immediately stepped down with that foot, and swung forward with the left foot.

And clocked him right on the nose.

Full squish. Big cheer from the crowd! Contact!

He spun away faster than I could swing again with my right foot.

Upon standing and verifying he was okay, he explained he could defend the blows, but he had mis-estimated the amount of effort needed to stop the kicks. The first one was low on his elbows, the second one higher on his forearms, which is why it connected.

Spinning away as quickly as possible seems the best option.

But I can still say I kicked a Smith in the face.

Sectionals 2005, Day 2

What a ride!

Mischief finished second in the (full title here) Ultimate Players Association Club Championship Series Northern California Mixed Sectionals (whew!) in Santa Cruz this past weekend.

Second! Whoo!

Here's how Sunday went:

Since we had won our pool on Saturday, we were playing in the semis against Brass Monkey. We've played them four times before this season, always giving them a good game. In "first games of the day," as this one was, we were 2-0 against Brass Monkey. Overall, however, we were 2-2, I believe, for the season. We knew we had a shot in this first game, if we could catch them flat footed, before they woke up.

Kris and I were talking about the game, and we weren't quite sure how we wanted it to go. Of course, we wanted to win. Who wouldn't want to win. But we knew that the team puts high expectations on itself when we do well, which can lead to our downfall. We peaked at Sectionals in 2003, we don't want to peak too early again.

So, maybe, just maybe, it would be better to lose the first game to get us hungry for the next one.


But not like we did.

We came out hard, on fire, intense for the first half of the game. We traded points for a few, then went up big to take half 8-6, then the biggest lead at 10-6.

Did I mention Brass Monkey isn't a first game of the day team?

Yeah, well, they woke up.

And they woke up angry.

In a completely embarrassing, I can't believe I'm about to document this for myself when I read this in 10 years way, we stopped playing. We froze. We crumbled.

And they scored 9. Friggin'. Points. In. A. Row.

In. A. Row.

We lost 10-15.

And were devastated. Sure, we often let teams come back to make a game close when we're up big. But not 9 points in a row to win it. They woke up. They started playing zone. They started running harder. We didn't adjust. Fundamentally we didn't "fucking recognize!" the situation and couldn't stop the hemmorhaging. And lost.

The energy of the team at that point was the lowest we've been all season. Losing is one thing. Losing by a 9 point run by the other team is another.

To their credit, Brass Monkey came over and cheered us. When they first came over, we were thinking, "Come on, leave us alone. Can't you just let it go?" By the end, our spirits had lifted somewhat.

Earlier in the tournament, Feral Cows, the 8th place seed with hopes of going to Regionals, had lost to CTR, the 9th place seed and a former Nationals-level team. Instead of recognizing in 10 games, they'll lose half of them to CTR, but they can still beat the next team in their pool and make Regionals, they crumbled. They lost to the eventual 19th place team (out of 20) in the next round and hand to fight back to the 10th place overall.

We knew of Cows fate, and didn't want it to happen to us. Yes, we knew we were going to Regionals, our Saturday finish insured that, but we wanted more. We didn't want to go in 6th seed. Brass Monkey's cheer helped us out of the loss-funk to get us back in playing form.

We beat the next team, Wagon, in a snippy, physical, double-game point game 15-14. Oh, that was a fun game. Well, the part I was awake for. I slept through the second half of the game as the painkillers I was taking hit me full blast and I couldn't stay awake. Winning the game, which I woke up just in time to witness, put us into the 2-5 place bracket instead of the 4-7 bracket, and gave us our next opponent: Beer Run.

As mentioned every chance we get, it seems we always play Beer Run or Bender. This weekend, we managed both.

We didn't play well in the beginning, and by 5-10, most everyone had given up. Kris decided it was time to put in the second line and give our top line a rest. He started to call in the second string players.

But no one had told them we were done. No one had told them we had given up. No one told them we were looking to the next game.

They scored.

Kris left them in, and they scored again.

And again.

And again.

They kept scoring. They tied the game. Beer Run scored again. We answered with our own.

We played with heart. The heart we seemed to be missing when we were down. The heart that carried us in other close games.

We won on double game point, putting us in the backdoor 2-3 game against Red Fish Blue Fish who had lost in the finals against Brass Monkey.

And Heidi had caught the score to start our run.

Our fourth and final game was against Red Fish Blue Fish. We knew they would play zone on us. We knew that was the weakest part of our game. We knew they had recruited some amazing players this season.

We also knew we had better athleticism. We also knew we wanted this game more than they did.

The highest point of the game for me was cutting in from the back of the stack, shredding the switching defense and catching a bullet swing pass from Kris. Kris had zinged in it hard, and thought, "Yeah, babe!" when I caught it. I turned and swung the disc to Heidi who continued the pass, assisting on the assist for a score. When I left the field, I thought, "Huh. My hands hurt." Kris later explained he threw that pass very, very hard in order to avoid two men poachers in the area. Zing!

The lowest point of the game for me was during the receiving end of a run-through D on zone when I was caught flat-footed. As Kate says, if we had lost that game, that play would be in a continual loop in my head for the next four days.

Fortunately, that wasn't the case, and we won 13-11.

We finished 2nd in a pool of 20 teams. Shirley was an incredible rock star. I think she's our MVP of the weekend. She rocks!

We're heading to Regionals!

(Please let this not be the peak of our season. Please, oh, please!)

Sectionals 2005, Day 1

What a ride!

Mischief finished second in the (full title here) Ultimate Players Association Club Championship Series Northern California Mixed Sectionals (whew!) in Santa Cruz this past weekend.

Second! Whoo!

Here's how Saturday went:

We started off seeded fifth. Fifth, and lacking a whole lot of our usual Mischief love. I'd guess the problem was essentially high expectations (and the pressures associated with them) and accumulating injuries. Throw in a little personality conflicts, a bit of differing priorities, an overworked leadership structure, and you have a whole little love.

We started off rough on Saturday morning against Blammo. We had last played Blammo in Ashland, Oregon, at Cramp-Up in May, and had a rough time playing them then, too. Admittedly, we had our B roster at Cramp-Up. But, truly, that's just making up excuses. We started off very slowly against them on Saturday morning, dropping throws, throwing away discs, and miscommunicating everywhere. Sheer athleticism enabled us to win that game 10-6.

Our next game against BTP ultimate was much easier. We had warmed up and were ready to play. The score was around 13-3 -/+, us, when the game was over.

After our next round bye, we played the Naturals of San Diego. One of our teammates, Chucky, who attends UC San Diego recognized 3 of the players as ex-captains of the UCSD Air Squids, the open college ultimate team, so we weren't sure what to expect. The 13-4 win was good.

Our last game was against Bender. Bender. Bender, who we seem to play at every tournament. Either Bender or Beer Run, every tournament. It gets tiring playing the same team all the time. We were very, very amped for this game. Not only were we gunning for the top seed in our pool, hence the easier run on Sunday, but we were seeking redemption on their insistence on being the 4th seed at the tournament, bumping us down to 5th from 4th.

Kris correctly rationalized the two games - bye - two games format the 5th place team had on Saturday was much better for our team than the bye - four games format the 4th place team had, and didn't contest the switch of us to 5th place. 4th and 5th played each other in the final round of the day, so why not take the bye?

From the chatter on the sidelines, it was clear that Mischief was hungry, and Bender wasn't going to win this one.

We ended our 4-0 day with a 12-6 trouncing of Bender, and celebrated at 99 Bottles.

Painkiller aftermath

Ah, the aftermath of an ultimate tournament.

Especially a high level one, like this weekend's tournament.

I slept 10 hours last night. The first night I've sleep more than 6 hours since the night before BarCamp. I think my body needed the time to figure out exactly what the heck I just did to it, as I woke up sore.

Sore for the first time in the longest time.

The anti-inflammatories I take daily mean regular exercise won't faze my muscles at all. That muscle soreness and stiffness that sets in 1-2 days after exercising? The feeling that tells you, hell yeah, you've just done something great for your body? That feeling that I like so much, but most women think is icky?

Yeah, haven't felt that soreness since February. (Hmmm... I thought I had written about it, but I can't find it anywhere, so I must have been mistaken. So, how about now?)

I take anti-inflammatories daily. I have been since February, after a series of migraines late last year caused some subtle, but annoying, vision problems for me, and a doctor prescribed blood thinners that were causing me to bleed for hours with the smallest cut. I switched away from the blood thinners and onto the anti-inflammatories, and have been fine since.

Except I'm never sore after working out.

Which is unfortunate, because I like that feeling of soreness from a hard workout.

Taking a lot of painkillers in order to play ultimate is a double edged sword. On the one side, I'm able to play. I can run, jump, throw, pivot, fake, catch, fall, the works because I can move without pain. With enough ibuprofen, and the weakness in my left leg disappears, the pain in my hamstring lessens, and I can have fun again.

And, on the other side, I don't notice when I injure something more. I don't notice that maybe my achilles don't like this sprinting full tilt from our endzone to the opponents' endzone and back on the turn. I don't notice that, whoops, there goes that other toenail, didn't need that one either.

Though, at one point, I did realize that if I can feel where my marker's cleat stomped on my ankle when I pivoted to the forehand, and that I felt it through six Advil and half a Vicodin, that maybe, just maybe, an injury sub would be good to see just how much damage that cleat caused.

Not much yesterday, but I'm feeling it today.

That, and the delicious muscle soreness.


"How do you get so open?"

Emily, Kyle's girlfriend/fiance, gave me the best compliment today. As I was walking off the field during the Beer Run game at Labor Day, she asked me, "Kitt, how are you always so wide open?"

I was thinking, "Wow! Am I really always open? Hot damn!"

But her question was sincere, so I responded, "I watch my defender. When she turns away to find the disc, I start cutting."

Usually in the opposite direction, or behind her, but definitely when she's not looking.

But then I realized that wasn't quite all that I do to get open on the field. So, I continued, "Oh, and I'm always running. I'll cut in, then back deep, then back in. Most players are behind me after the second cut."

"Oh, and sharp, sharp, sharp cuts. I don't banana curl my cuts. I stop, plant and go back the other way."

I talked to Kris about it afterward. I think the messages I write to myself on my arm really help my game. My current mantra?

Run hard.


If I'm running hard every time I'm in, I'll be open every time.

Every. Time.

Enough painkillers, and anyone can play.

Today was the first day of the Santa Cruz Labor Day 2005 Ultimate tournament. As I've been battling a bizarre hamstring injury, I was a little nervous about playing. However, since there are at most four, at minimum two, tournaments left in the club season, I figured I'd better load up on painkillers, taking four ibu to start, and get my ass on the field.

Our first game was against Red Fish Blue Fish. Kris was calling subs, and called me in third point on defense. He obviously recalled I need to be in early to get the burst of hurried activity to burn off the extra andrenaline and nervousness, in order to calm down and play my game.

Not that I particularly managed to find that groove today. Not on a night of alcohol-induced, disaffected sleep (cursed Drupal meet-ups and their alcohol happy people!).

Switching verb tenses here. Which I hate doing, but, it works better this way.

So, the pull lands out of bounds and the Fish line up with Archer with the disc, and Rebecca deep.

Yeah, we know where this one is going.

One step fake in, and Rebecca cuts deep. I have no idea what the mark on Archer was like, but it must have been good, because three hard steps downfield later, I hear the up calls, and find the disc over my left shoulder in a ridiculously high r-squared arc.

I'm still five yards behind Rebecca at this point, and I need to catch up now. Full dig, I can get there, the disc is floating. Run hard run hard run hard. I catch up as the disc looks like it's going to float right. I lose Rebecca as she drifts right for the disc.

Back out of present tense.

Somehow (somehow!), I, who rarely read a floater disc well, managed to find the exact spot where the disc was arriving eight feet off the ground and went to it, successfully batting the disc away (missing the catch I was actually attempting, but the end result was the same).

We scored the point from my D.

Later in the game, on a turned disc when we were on offense, I was running a continue cut for Emily, secretly praying she wouldn't put up a huck, while still, admittedlym running deep anyway for her, when she put it up forehand.

Now, normally, I would have been able to see the forehand come over my right shoulder and run it down easily, as my defender was on my left (and wouldn't you know, it was Rebecca again). In this case, however, the throw was wildly shanking left, and dropping fast near the sideline.

Rebecca had found the disc in the air and went to where it was dropping, one step behind me. Because of the angle of fall, however, her attempted swipe at it as it dropped down over her head was a trailing edge attempt (trailing edge is the false god!), and she missed it by mere inches.

I didn't. Less than six inches from the ground, I plucked the disc from the air, in a brilliant trailing edge grab.

As we were deepest, I had no one to throw to immediately. Kris was ready as my dump when his defender ran past him to poach on my throw, so I dumped the disc to him.

We eventually scored that one, too.

My moments of brilliance.

Not that it helped much. We lost that game, and the next, and the next. We played vert tentative. We were afraid to cut, we were afraid to throw the easy throws to the open cutter. We played scared.

My only other memorable play of the day was in the Monkey game, when we turned over the disc on our goal line, and when I looked downfield to find the deepest threat, I saw some tall guy running deep, looking over his shoulder, arm raised calling for the huck. Deepest threat, go go go.

I sprinted two thirds of the field length at full tilt to catch up to the guy, running by two of my teammates, and arriving at the player, just as the sideline he was nearest to opened up for a huck to him. My presence thwarted the huck and all other throws to him long enough for my teammate (and this guy's true defender) to catch up. I was pleased with my defense, but the play wasted my legs for the rest of the game.

So, as a team, we played poorly. We lost all our games today. We haven't had that happen before.

Welcome to Northern California ultimate.

I wonder what tomorrow is going to be like when the painkillers wear off.

Aye, aye, Capt'n!

So, Mischief is having "Captain Feedback" time. An email is going out to every player to help each of them know where they are on the team. Positions and roles will be defined at this point, until the of the season.

In other words, we're being pigeon-holed, so we better like it.

My favorite part of my email:

Your mental game is the most important factor on whether you will have a good game or a bad game. When you make one play, that gives you the confidence to make another, which gives you the confidence to make another, and so on. Don't be surprised that you can make plays, or that you can shut someone down. You've done it before. Once you display a skill, you own that skill, so we know that you can make plays. I want you to really focus on your mental game at Labor Day and Sectionals, trying to keep a positive attitude the entire time. Think of some of the good sayings from "The Mental Game of Baseball" that really keep you focused, because a focused Kitt is a star player.

I laughed when I read that.

Last season, at Regionals, in a game against CTR, I was marked up against their top woman. The tournament was my first tournament in several weeks, having missed Sectionals with four broken ribs, and I was still having problems breathing deeply.

After some stoppage of play, probably a time out, CTR was at the goal line, setting up an isolation play for the score, with my woman as the iso.

Mano y mano.

And she was their best woman.

Giving her the whole endzone to work with, her teammates moved to the four corners. She went to the middle.

Facing my hips the same directions as hers, fronting her one step, looking back to see both her and the thrower in my peripheral, I let the marker know I was ready, and the disc was tapped in.

I remember hearing Rick Buellesbach's voice. I remember she made four, maybe five cuts. I remember being in front of her the whole way, thinking I might have to layout for this one.

I remember Rick yelling at me to stay with her, she's cutting back to the middle, and scrambling hard back away from the sideline.

And I remember seeing Mark Smith streak in with the poach and catch the disc for the turnover.

We scored that point.

We won the game.

And I had shut down their top woman player.