Things I Learned at Frisbee Last Night

Last night was the first night of this season’s SBUL. While I pretty much failed at my goal of losing a substantial amount of weight for it, I have been pretty active since last season. However, I learned that:

  1. Bicycling doesn’t really improve your endurance for sprinting while playing ultimate, and
  2. Jogging doesn’t really improve your endurance for sprinting either.

Yes, it was another first-frisbee-night huffing and puffing after running back and forth down the field.

On the bright side, my forehand throw hasn’t deteriorated as much as it usually does between seasons. Also I completely shut down a couple of faster, taller players while I was on defense (although that’s what leads to the huffing and puffing).

I was surprisingly not very too stiff and sore this morning – except for my right heel, which hurt a lot when I put weight on it getting out of bed. It gets better as I use it during the day, but I think I need to get some cushioned insoles for my (new) cleats to try to mitigate this problem.

Man, this game sure was a lot easier when I was in my 20s.

The Veteran

Last night kicked off this year’s ultimate frisbee season. The theme for this year’s teams is 80s video games, with the usual “ultimatizing” of the names. So my team is Dumpy Kong (this is the second time I’ve been on a team with the word “Kong” in it; back in our “12 Monkeys” season I was on King Kong). Other teams are Clogger, Stack-Man and Hammeroids.

When our team got together the manager had us go around the circle and state our names, and how long we’d been playing ultimate and how long we’d been in SBUL. I knew this was going to make me uncomfortable, as we went around and people said they’d been playing ultimate for a year, or three years, or six or seven years. And then we got to me.

“I’m Michael, and I’ve been playing ultimate off-and-on since high school.

Which was twenty years ago.

This does not mean that I have 20 years worth of skills.

Oh, and this is my tenth year in SBUL.”

I feel like a fraud when I say it, because I’m maybe an average player in SBUL (which is not a “high skills” league), but I really was playing ultimate over lunch in high school back in 1985/86.

Afterwards I was throwing with two women on the team, and we had an exchange something like this:

Woman One: “When you said you’d been playing since high school, I thought, ‘Did they have ultimate back in the 80s?'”

Woman Two: “He probably invented it.”

Me: “You know, I have some co-workers who would probably lo-o-ove to hear this conversation. Really the only thing you get for playing ultimate for 20 years is you get to be forty.”

Anyway, I did show my MAD SKILLZ by catching the first score of the season, and by executing the first of a three-throw score later on (with a forehand, no less – my forehand is not exactly my best throw). I also learned that even though there are people on the team who are better than I am at both running and throwing, experience does count for something: Someone asked what a “poach” is. (Here’s a glossary if you really want to know.)

I got pretty sore by the end of the night, and remembered that I don’t really use my quads for bicycling, but I use them a lot for running. Fortunately I didn’t pull anything, but I’m pretty stiff this morning. (This is where Debbi says, “That’s because you never stretch afterwards!”) It was fun, though! Yay, another season of SBUL!

Weekend Wrap-Up

That’s another busy weekend in the books.

Saturday I suggested that we go play minigolf. We ended up making it a little date afternoon, having lunch at City Pub, then golf at Malibu. Then we drove up a little farther to Redwood Shores where we tried out the Milkshake Werks which was quite yummy, and recommended for anyone who’s not getting enough ice cream in their diet. I actually found this place because we recently got a card at work with which we can get discounts at many area restaurants and services, and they were listed at the card’s web site. I probably would never have found it otherwise! Good deal.

Sunday was the final tournament of this year’s ultimate frisbee season. It was cool, sunny, and quite windy, which made for some very long points and erratic throws. I didn’t play my best, but I had a good time anyway. Our team won a game by 4, lost a game by 4, and lost a game by 1, so we were pretty much the average team. I was wiped out by the end, but then I always am if I play the whole tournament. Debbi came with to watch me play, and we stayed for the post-game barbecue. At home we collapsed on the couch for a while; I ended up getting a little sunburned during the game, which probably wiped me out even more than just running around.

In the evening I managed to get up long enough to put together a bookcase we bought Saturday at Ikea to replace some plastic cubes we’d been using to store some stuff in the corner. It fit perfectly and gives us a little more space to store things. We’re definitely getting a little cramped in my house, and are thinking a little about looking for a new house, although not really doing anything about it yet. (The main deterrent for me is not getting a new house, but preparing the old house to be sold. I predict it’s going to be a pain in the ass.) Anyway, we keep doing little reorganizations and getting rid of stuff and it’s worked out so far. But it’s a temporary solution.

We both ended up coughing a bit in the evening, and today Debbi reports that she feels like she’s coming down with a cold, which is no fun. Hopefully it will blow over quickly.

I remembered to do some stretching last night, so I wasn’t as stiff this morning as I usually am. I could still use a walk to limber up the muscles, though.

For my next trick, I’ll start biking in to work again!

Kicked My Ass

Frisbee kicked my ass last night.

We always end up with fewer people at the end of the season for various reasons: People move away, or get busy, or whatever, and pretty soon we have only 7-9 people showing up (or less!) to field a team of 7. Which means lots of playing and not a lot of time subbing out to catch my aged breath.

Last night I realized pretty quickly that I was having a Bad Endurance Night, and I was dogging it on the field quite a bit. Moreover, I was also Mr. Butterfingers and dropped a bunch of astoundingly easy throws. (I also just missed catching a score which was just an inch out of my reach, which was no less frustrating.) Moreover, our opponents were executing some perfect throws to elude my defense; since my endurance is Teh Suck, I play a very positional game, and to some extent that relies on blocking the guy I’m covering out or standing in the line of the throw. But if they manage to throw it just over me – or more likely, curve it around me – then there’s not a lot I can do. And that was happening a lot last night. (On the other hand, the skill level of SBUL is such that my strategy is usually pretty effective.)

I took it all with fairly good grace, though; I just tried to play the best I could, even if it wasn’t very well.

It was kind of sad, since we’ve been short-handed the last two weeks and I’ve actually been playing really well. But sometimes you just have an off week, I guess.

Anyway, the net result of all of this is stiff legs and tight thigh muscles today. Sheesh.

Three Times in Six Days

I’m in the middle of a run of 3 sessions of ultimate frisbee in 6 days: Our regular games on this past Thursday night and next Tuesday night, and a tournament today.

It rained pretty steadily last night, so I was surprised that the tourney today was on, but the field drained really well and only had a few patches of mud. It was overcast with patches of sun, some wind, and a cool temperature, which is just about ideal for frisbee. So we drove over about 9:20 this morning, Debbi coming out to watch me play as she often does.

The league has 9 teams, but we usually condense down to 6 teams for the tournaments, so our team combined with another team for today. The league this year has a “Snow White and the 9 Dwarves” theme, and our teams were named Forcey (mine) and Heckle, and of course the most important part of a tournament is to come up with a team name. “Forkle” won out over “Feckle”, “Horsey” and “Horkle”, so we got that one nailed.

I had a pretty good game: The first point I correctly read the player I was covering as wanting to take off down the line for a medium-distance score, and managed to make two blocks in the point. I made a couple of other blocks during the day, which is unusual for me since I don’t usually position myself well for blocks. I caught a couple of scores and forced a couple of other turnovers. My endurance has been holding up surprisingly well this year – probably all the bicycling I’ve been doing in the late summer – so I was able to keep running for quite a while. I finally ran out of gas at the end of the second game and called it a day (I know I’m done when I tell my feet to run and they don’t do anything). Happily, it was a successful morning as Forkle won both games I played. Hopefully they managed to win the third one, too.

We have a really fun regular team this year, with a mix of skills and also a mix of heights (our team last year was a little frustrating since I was the tallest person on it, which meant I was almost always matched up against someone taller than me). We’ve generally been successful, too, and everyone has a good attitude. So it’s been a lot of fun.

We came home and ran a few errands and then collapsed on the couch to watch football until I have to leave for my book discussion group, which is later this evening. I’m gonna be stiff and sore tomorrow morning, but the real question is whether I’ll be able to play frisbee again on Tuesday after only one day off!

Competitive Success

The last two nights have been competitive ones. For those who don’t want all the cory details, suffice to say that Thuesday night we had out first ultimate frisbee game of the season, and it went really well! And then last night Subrata and I went to Superstars for Friday Night Magic, which also went surprisingly well for me.

For those who do want the gory details, read on…

Frisbee was one of the better first-nights-of-the-season I can recall having. Although I was not in top condition, I was not nearly as exhausted by the end of it as I’d expected, and I was still playing decent points as things were winding down. In the last game I even had a three-point run where I made a hard cut to catch a score, and two points later icked up a turnover and hucked it into the end zone for a score – very rare for me since my arm is mediocre and so I don’t huck much. Subrata and I also hooked up for a score in the first game, when I caught a turnover and saw him break in the end zone – he made a nice catch to grab it as it flew past the guy covering him.

I think we were lucky that the rain held off ’til Friday; it was actually a terrific night for frisbee. Next week is our team’s bye week, and then we’ll play every non-holiday week until the end of the year. (The spring half of the season’s schedule will be up around New Year’s, I assume.)

Magic featured a 10-person booster draft, and Subrata and I were in the same draft for a change. This was our first time drafting the new Lorwyn set, which has a tribal theme, which means in addition to the color divisions there are also “tribes” of creatures (goblins, merfolk, faerie, treefolk, elves, etc.) who span colors. So you can get additional synergy among your cards by having many cards from the same tribe, or from tribes which interact with one another. I’d done many single-player practice drafts of Lorwyn and felt ready to try the real thing.

Unfortunately, coming out of the draft I felt like I’d blown it completely: I ended up with a mix of blue/white/red with very little tribal interaction. I felt like the colors coming my way changed every 8 picks or so, and I had extended stretches towards the end where I was getting few-if-any cards in any of my three colors! So I worked to cobble together a deck, deciding to punt on white and going blue/red, mainly because that’s where most of my tricks and creature removal lay.

Things didn’t look much brighter after my first match, where I quickly lost the first two games (in best-of-three), and aso lost the consolation game, although I put up a good fight there.

For the second match I was up against Subrata, and to my surprise my deck suddenly came together, and I beat him 2 out of 3 games. The final match was against a regular at the store whom I’d played before, and again to my surprise I won two out of three, and the loss was by the slimmest of margins. So despite what I thought was a mishmash of a draft, I ended up with my best showing at a draft at this store to date!

I think I enjoy draft the best when learning a new set, since finding the emergent properties of some of the cards is a heck of a lot of fun. I’d reasoned out some of them in my practice drafts, but nothing beats actually playing with the cards. I think my deck’s best bit of interaction went like this:

  1. Played Flamekin Harbinger and searched my deck for my Changeling Berserker (which, being a Changeling, is also an Elemental).
  2. Championed the Flamekin Harbinger with the Changeling Berserker, removing the former from play.
  3. Played my Mistbound Clique, championing the Berserker (which counts as a Faerie since it’s a Changeling). This brings the Flamekin Harbinger back into play, so I get to search my library again, this time for Consuming Bonfire – an Elemental sorcery.
  4. Kill Subrata’s Changeling Hero with the Bonfire, since he’d just searched for it with his own Harbinger so I knew he was going to play it. He knew I had a way to kill it, but he had little choice at that point in the game, since I had a 4/4 flyer on the board.

(n.b.: Any game in which my opponent says “Damn you!” is a good game, regardless of whether I win or lose.)

Between our decks, Subrata and I both learned the value of Harbingers and Champions in Lorwyn. Green has two terrific harbingers: Elvish Harbinger also produces multicolored mana, and Treefolk Harbinger lets you search for Forests as well as some killer Treefolk, such as the Dauntless Dourbark that Subrata had, not to mention the Changeling Titan. (Happily, Changelings are also Treefolk, so Consuming Bonfire can take down the Titan easily enough.)

Subrata also noted (indirectly) that my deck had some nifty acceleration in it. The Inner-Flame Acolyte can target itself when it comes into play, meaning you get a 4/2 creature with Haste for 3 mana, making it highly desirable to make trades in the first two turns so the board is clear for it to thwack your opponent on turn 3. (I had two Acolytes, which was awesome.) And the Blades of Velis Vel can give two creatures +2/+0, which can work really well in trading small creatures for large creatures, or thwacking your opponent hard if he chooses not to block.

The other new mechanic in Lorwyn that I like is Clash. There are several good creatures in Lorwyn who are reasonably priced for their basic stats: I had two of them, an Adder-Staff Boggart which is 1R for a 2/1, and a Paperfin Rascal, which is 2U for a 2/2 – both perfectly reasonable. But when you play them, you Clash, which means the following occurs:

  1. You reveal the top card of your library, and have the choice of leaving it on top or putting it on the bottom. This is like doing a Scry 1, except that your opponent knows what the card was.
  2. Your opponent gets to do the same thing, which obviously isn’t good for you, but isn’t the worst thing.
  3. If you win the Clash, then your creature gets +1/+1, permanently. This means the creatures I had would be a 3/2 or a 3/3 respectively, for the same cost.

I was very lucky in winning my Clashes, I probably won 2/3ds of them, which helped make my desk faster. Clash is even niftier if you have what I think of as “Clash enhancers”, like Sylvan Echoes or Entangling Trap. Subrata had some of these enhancers, but fortunately they didn’t get into play early enough to hose me. Also fortunately, I didn’t play against someone with Hunter of Eyeblights, which would be death to such creatures.

(There’s some interesting stuff about the background of Clash here.)

I’m less impressed with the other major Lorwyn mechanic, Evoke. It’s sort of a “consolation prize” for a creature card if you don’t have the mana to play the creature, which is better than nothing at all, but it’s not usually a reason to draft a card. I don’t think I played a card with Evoke once during the night. It would be more useful if playing a card for its Evoke cost allowed you to play it as an Instant, but that’s not the case. Bummer. Contrast with the Champion mechanic where the “additional cost” of removing a creature to play the champion can actually be a useful bit of trickery rather than a penalty.

As for the other two Lorwyn mechanics, I think Hideaway is a neat idea, but the cards using it are of questionable value. Future cards might use it more effectively. On the other hand, the new Planeswalker card type is undoubtedly cool, as are all five of the Lorwyn Planeswalkers. Subrata drafted Jace Beleren, but fortunately I never saw him. (You can read pretty much everything you need to know about Planeswalkers here.)

So from first experience Lorwyn gets a big “thumbs up” from me. I still think I could have drafted better than I did, but I’m very happy that I fielded a competitive deck, even if I did sort of stumble into it. Next time maybe I’ll actually come out of the draft feeling like I have the building blocks of a solid deck. I still feel like I have some sort of mental block when drafting quality cards that work well together. If I ever figure out how to get past that, then I’ll be in a happy place.

At the End of an Insane Month

My insane month of March is now over. Thank goodness. Even though it was mostly a lot of fun, it was so packed that I didn’t have a lot of wiggle room in what I had to do or much time to relax.

As I said, I spent most of last week preparing for my fantasy baseball draft. But before that, Subrata and I spent most of Saturday playing the final ultimate tournament of the season. It was warm and sunny (and windy, as the day wore on), and there was enough turnout for 2 games with enough subs to keep me reasonably rested. Only five people from our team turned out, so we merged with another team, and our team won 2 games out of 3!

I had a pretty good afternoon personally, making a couple of blocks and a few good throws. My game got more erratic as the day went on and I got more and more tired, but at least I was still running and not exhausted on the sideline by the end of the day! Then the league had a barbecue to finish off the season, and we all got our league disks for the year, as well as some other goodies (I got a bag for my cleats and a lanyard).

Boy, I sure was stiff afterwards, though. Even with doing some stretching!

And then Sunday I got up and Subrata and I headed over to our fantasy baseball draft. Our league has 16 owners, 6 of whom showed up locally, and everyone else drafted remotely over Internet chat. (Most of the others are on the east coast, especially around Boston.) We started promptly at 11 am Pacific, and made good time for the first 3 hours, and then bogged down considerably, and finally finished up around 9 pm. Yes, it was a long slog. But then, the second half usually is. I did my best to not be the guy slowing down the draft, and did better than in past years, I think.

I’ll likely post an entry about the team I drafted, but suffice to say that I think I executed my plan much better this year than I did last year. Things could still go wrong, but I think I have the potential to finish near the top of the league this year.

Finally, today I took my car in for its 75k service. It was also time to have my timing belt changed, which turns out to be a fairly pricy proposition for my 2000 Civic. But the car should be good for a number of years yet. Now I just need to get some new tires, which hopefully won’t be hard. I need to do that soon, so I can have everything in shape for when my Mom visits me later this month!

But for now, I’m just happy to have some unstructured time.

Because unstructured time is time I can spend watching baseball!

Frozen Frisbee

My lesson from playing frisbee last night is that laying out when it’s about 40 degrees out is a good way to find out exactly how really goddamn cold the ground is. Gyaah!

Other than that it was a really good session. I accidentally stumbled into a way to improve the mechanics on my forehand throw, which led to much greater consistency, including being able to break the mark with it a couple of times. Very cool! We’ll see if my muscle memory can retain that improvement after the new year. Consistency in sports is mostly about mechanics: Being able to make the same motion in a repeatable manner. Ultimate throws in the wrench that you often need to repeat those mechanics while your body is in different positions, which really sucks for someone whose forehand mechanics are otherwise all screwed up, like mine are. (I have a very pretty follow-through, which is really just an indication of how unbalanced I am when I throw. But unless you know what to look for you probably wouldn’t notice. 🙂

This cold snap is amazing. It’s been below freezing each of the last three days when I come downstairs in the morning. I expect to see snow on the ground any day now, which might actually kill a few native Californians from simple horror-induced heart attacks.

Debbi seems to have caught the cold I had last week, and it’s taking longer for her to get over it. Unfortunately she hasn’t been able to take a day off from work, but she has been going home a little early. Hopefully another day or two and she’ll be over it. We’ve also got a bout of strep throat going around at work (or else it’s two independent events, since correlation doesn’t indicate causation and all that), but I think I’ve dodged it.

I’m just about ready for Christmas. And I’m definitely ready for a few extra days off.

Cold Front

Brrr… damn it’s cold! Apparently the Bay Area has had an Alaskan cold front sitting over it for the last week, which has meant overnight lows around freezing, conditions we usually don’t see except for a few days in late January. It’s totally killed my enthusiasm for going on morning bike rides, after five consecutive days of exercise in relatively balmy weather during my time off last week.

Despite this, Subrata and I decided to go play ultimate frisbee last night, even though it’s our team’s bye week. Turnout was better than I’d expected given the conditions – usually we field 4 teams a night, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if we had fewer than the 28 people necessary for that. But we 35-40 people showed up during the night.

We joined another team scheduled to play that night, but more people from our regular team kept trickling in, either to play pickup, or because they didn’t realize it was our bye week and figure since we didn’t play Tuesday we must play Thursday! Eventually we had 6 of our regular team show up, and I think we outnumbered the team we joined!

One good thing about the cold weather is that my endurance – always pretty crappy – is much better when the temperature goes below about 55. I can run longer, and I recover faster. So that made the evening more enjoyable. I managed to score a couple of points, and get involved in a few other good points. We ended up staying for the whole session – we’d thought beforehand that we’d probably only stay for half of it – and had a lot of fun.

I wouldn’t mind it being a little warmer for the next few weeks, though.