Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Track 4, Jim 1: the Comeback begins

First good track workout of the year. I felt strong throughout, maintained consistent times, ran a little faster on my last ones, and feel a little tired and sore today. I won't bore you again with the times, but I feel better about myself. If this continues, perhaps I'll run with the team sometime this year just to let them know who the alpha male is.

Tips for a good workout:
  • Don't run too fast on the first couple reps. If you're already well-calibrated, go ahead, but many don't know xactly what they're capable of on a given day.
  • Maintain an even pace in a rep and over the course of a workout. As a rule of thumb, add 1-1.5 seconds per 100m per extra 100m of the rep. For example, if you run a 32 s 200m, that's 16 s/100m, so run a 300 at a 17-17.5 s/100m pace (51-52.5 s), and run a 400 at a 18-19 s pace (72-76).
  • Make 5-10 good, solid strides at the start of every 100m within a rep. At the start and end of every curve, make sure that you don't falter by concentrating on this.
  • Don't grimace, it only lets people know you're out of shape. As one of my son's books said, "Smile a lot."
  • Know what the markings of the track mean so that you can compare your times. If you're just starting out with these or if you don't have a watch, then it doesn't really matter if you run 200 or 210. But if you're charting your progress and rely on your times to help you figure out how hard you're working and whether you can push more, it's important.
  • But be aware of the precision of these times, especially on the 100s, especially when other people have the watch. Your 14.2 might easily be a 15.1 or a 15.6 even.

PS. Tomorrow is my last day at this job, I'll be in Santa Cruz for the weekend, and I'll be traveling somewhere in New England Monday-Friday, so I don't know when my next blog will be.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Not exactly topical, but something made me think of this the other day.

How could you not be in favor of killing this guy? Well, I suppose I could think of a few reasons:
1. Keep him alive to torture him.
2. Let the other prisoners have their way with him.
3. Perform experiments on him to understand the nature of evil.
4. Give him a chance to reform, to find peace, to watch TV in a comfortable cellblock, to let him think about why he's been a bad boy.

Ok, you probably guessed I don't believe that last one.

Some will argue for a version of #4, that it's actually a worse punishment to let him live his life in jail. If that's the case, then perhaps lesser killers should be executed because life in prison would be the cruel and unusual punishment reserved only for the worst of the worst of the worst.

Anyway, I know that he received 10 life sentences instead of death, but I wonder what the over/under is on when some other sadistic mf will give him his just sentence. And how much longer it would be before some wacko libertarian will bitch about the violation of his rights.

PS. I had to renounce my libertarian teachings because I think they're just too weak on national security and they're too isolationist. Plus even in my heyday, I always thought the ACLU was ridiculous (headline from the once-funny Onion: ACLU Fights for KKK's Right to Burn Down ACLU Headquarters) for arguing that psychotics have some right to be psychotic even when innocent (but random) people will be harmed or killed.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

summer league

Maybe I'm rare among club players, but I owe a lot of my career to summer league. It's where I started, I developed a lot of my skills there, and I've used it for conditioning and competition.

I've had several stages to my summer league career:

  1. 1983-1986, Pittsburgh. Every game is important, perhaps more important than club.
  2. 1990-1993, early GE teams in the Boston Club League (ne "Corporate"). Every game is important, but it's just Corporate.
  3. 1994-1999, later GE teams and early Tech. The tournament is important.
  4. 2000-present, later Tech and SwillMillGrill. Eh, who gives a shit, except I hate to lose to crappy teams.

Pittsburgh. Ah, to be a Throbber again. About half the team was guys my age, while the other half (the "old guys") were about 25 when we started, almost all of us graduates of Baldwin High School. The link was the Williams brothers, Lance and Todd, who both played with the Pittsburgh team (Steel City Slag) which split up for the summers to form the summer league. Games were intense, and we had big rivalries with the Mars Gnu Kidds, Squirrel Hill Swine, and the hated North Side Sliders. We all really cared about the team, and in 1986, I started my ultimate writing career doing news articles like this one about each of the games, complete with a stat page. It's recognizable as my writing, some aspects of it better even, some worse. Mostly what I got from this was a love for the game and the desire to play intense ultimate.

Early GE. The Jugs (short for Juggernaut) were one of the top teams in Corporate, winning a lot of close games and being a perennial semifinalist. The early teams were pretty much Alex, Dennis, and me dominating the playt (we'd often joke before an important point with Earth or DoG that we had better "corporate league" it to make sure we scored), with the actual corporate players filling in as best they could. Maybe one or two of them had ever played outside of this team, and we had some bad luck in losing players just as soon as they began to get decent. But all of them were GE employees or good friends with GE employees. We lost in semis in 1990 and the finals in 1991 before winning it all in 1992. 1993 marked the end of the phase, as Alex was on his trip of America and Dennis was nowhere to be found. But this marked an important part of my development, as I had to be the handler for the team instead of being the cutter. With Alex back for the tournament, we again made semis, or possibly just missed.

Later GE/early Tech. By 1994 or 1995, we had picked up some friends who were club players (Lance and Shelagh) and so had a stronger team, but it wasn't the same. We made it to the finals in 1994 despite a losing record in the regular season, then won it all in 1995. Later teammate Greg Levy dislocates my finger in the semis on an attempted point block and forever ruined any chance he had at making it big in Boston ultimate. In the finals, either Dennis or I (depending on who was keeping score) set a Fantasy League single game record with about a +15. But the team was on its last legs. We stretched it out for another two years, though. In 1997, Dennis tore his ACL getting outrun on one of my hucks, we went 2-4 (Alex pretty much destroyed our chances at squeaking into the semis by point differential by turning it over like a half dozen times against our hated enemies Spawning Alewifes), and I played every single point of the weekend, making the first cut virtually every time. The following year, we abandoned our old friends and joined up with (Lincoln) Tech. Maybe it's just me, but this year marked the end of Corporate league being good. We made it through the 5/2 division in the tournament unscathed, then got really drunk the next 2 hours while waiting for the 4/3 division champ for a Unification game. That team featured 7 or 8 players who had just competed at the real World championships the week before (let's see, Forch, Safdie, Cogan, Parham, Shana, Kate Leslie, must have been someone else, oh, how could I forget Doug, who watched me catch the final goal and prance), while we just had me, Alex, Jordan, Jackie, and a bunch of onetime club players (Goliath B vs Goliath, I guess). Parham wanted us to forfeit because we were drunk, but I coaxed her into playing for a half then we would call it off if they wanted. We went up 2-0, maintained the lead through much of the game, then scored an exciting final goal (Jim throws it away, Jim gets it back, Jim catches a huck from Jordan for the best victory ever). Then we drank some more. The following year, the competition in the 5/2 div was pathetic, as we won like 15-7 in the elimination games. We had a similar break but with not as much drinking, and we lost a heartbreaker to the universally-hated Gretzky (with like all of their players being active club players).

Later Tech/SMG. And that was it, pretty much, for my meaningful summer league stories. I stopped playing very many games during the regular season, I didn't attend the tournament every year (and around this time, DoG started having practices on tournament weekend), and it just doesn't matter to me much. I'll sub out a lot at the games, work on my individual defense instead of poaching, drink during halftime. But it still bothers me when we lose games we shouldn't. We blew a big lead against a college-plus team that had no business winning the game, then got completely blown out against a high school-plus team that hadn't won a game yet but somehow still had an attitude (we were pretty wiped out by that point, being old and all, and one of us having had practice beforehand). I didn't show up for the B division games on Sunday.

Next: opinions on summer league.

world games stats, analysis

Hartti Suomela has some analysis over on his blog. I've been laying low on this front.

Next up for me is a review of my history in summer league and some comments on the state of summer league.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cougars S-ball

The Cougars rebounded last night with an oddly uninspired and uninspiring 19-7 victory in Game 2 of the best of 3 finals of the Sudbury Men’s Modified Fast-Pitch Softball C Division. We had lost 5-2 in Game 1 last Friday, after sweeping the semifinals earlier in the week.

We had already earned promotion to the B Division by winning the regular season title with a 12-4 record. I was our late game SS for most of the season, manning the leftwardmost position on the defensive spectrum for our 8:15 games while another fellow played there for the 6:45 games (I generally don’t go to games before the boy goes to sleep, while the other fellow works late shift). I’ve got good range and a very strong arm, but had trouble getting comfortable fielding grounders this year, while the other fellow doesn’t make as many plays but is surer with the glove. Economically, it’s probably close to a wash, but perhaps there’s a greater psychological cost to an error than the psychological gain from an outstanding play. Or maybe it’s the other way around, but in any event, I was playing the outfield in the playoffs, where my arm and range should still be strengths while I didn’t have to worry about any bad hops.

The outlook wasn’t good for a while. We didn’t score in the first, while their leadoff hitter beat out a bunt, then hustled to second because no one was covering the base, where he scored on a hit. Again we were scoreless in the second (I hit a rope right at the LCF), and they pushed across another. Again no runs in the third (and we had averaged 14.5 runs per game in the regular season), while they got 2. At this point we had scored only 2 runs in 10 innings in the series.

The home plate ump seemed bipolar this game, varying the strike zone depending on whether the hitter or the batting team was ahead or behind. We benefited from this in the top of the 4th, as our leadoff hitter took a 2 strike pitch that should have rung him up but was called a ball, then went on to draw a walk that started an 8 run rally (I had an E-5 or infield single in there). I came up again in the 6th with a runner on first and no outs, and hit my first homer of the season (and oddly only the third of the season for the team that went over the fence, while we were serving up at least 1 per game to our opponents), a fly ball down the line that just carried the fence. We added another run that inning, then scored another 8 runs in the last inning with 2 outs, making the final three outs as anti-climactic as they could be.

Unfortunately, the other team will not be able to field a team for the scheduled finale on Friday, and we can’t field a team next week, and our pitcher will be gone the week after, so we’ll probably just be declared co-champs or co-participants.

I had a disappointing year at the plate, hitting .421/.425/.684, creating about 11 runs per game. I was struggling with my mechanics in the middle of the season, as I think I was dropping my shoulder and hitting it into the air too much. (I attribute the start of the slump to being told to relax out there, as I generally just try to hit the ball very hard every time and so went to the plate with a glare.) I refuse to bunt, and every time I’ve tried to go to right field I’ve hit the ball feebly. Perhaps I’ll spend some time at the batting cage before next season to work on the latter. Oh, well. All in all, it’s better to win the C Division than to lose it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Just when you thought you've done it all

I worked at GE when I first moved to Boston, and they had a pretty sweet boondoggle they took part in. It was a Corporate Track Meet, and they would fly in their employees from all over the country to run relay races against other big corporations. I ran some 200s and 400s for them, and decided to run some track meets on my own.

For one of them, I ran a 400m at full speed (probably about a 53 then). A fast, all-out 400 can wreck you for the rest of the day, and no more than 10 minutes later, I had to run a trial in the 200m. I walked over on wobbly legs, started to get down into the blocks, then had to walk over to the side of the track and throw up. (I ran anyway and didn't qualify.)

Until today, that was the only athletic-related vomiting I'd experienced.

This week's scheduled workout: 2x200, 3x400, 6x200, 2x400, 2x200.
Played corporate on Tuesday, so I ran the workout this morning, a vacation day. (if you're not interested in a luke-type description of my day, skip ahead.) The boy got up a little early today and my wife had to leave for work early, so we hung out for a little bit. Wednesday's breakfast is cereal (also M+F; Tues is pancakes, Thurs is bagel+cc, Sat/Sun are usually pancakes or waffles fresh (Tues' pancakes are reheats)). He likes his cereal, so much that on the non-cereal days, if you try to eat cereal while he's downing a bagel, he'll stop eating the bagel and say "own bowl cereal". So, when feeding him on those days, I make my coffee, empty the dishwasher, pack my snacks, look through my mail, whatever. But today was cereal day, so none of that is important. But I still made my coffee, and finished my second cup along with a banana pretty close to 9 when the nanny started work. I then took off to the nearby Wayland track.

There was some future soccer mom pushing a stroller along with her friend walking laps, some girls field hockey team practicing on an adjacent field, and some tennis camp going on behind the stands, but otherwise I was alone. It's always tougher running alone. This time I did have the benefit of being confident about the distances I was running (although it was skimpily marked; I eventually figured out that what I thought was the 300 m mark was not). Jogged a couple laps, but which time the moms had taken off. Did the "active warmup" thing for 5 minutes, and started off. I told myself to run 33/34 for these 200s, and did. Next up were 3 400s. I paid attention to my 100m splits, and tried to make sure that I got 10 good strides in at the beginning of each 100m segment, a little mental trick that I've found to be helpful in maintaining pace. Uneventful, really, running 76-78-78, way off my peak workout times of 68-70, and even the 71-74 times of recent years, but a steady pace. After a break came the 6 200s, which I ran remarkably consistently, all of them between 34.0 and 35.0. My pulse was generally around 160 about 30 seconds after I finished a rep. I talked myself into keeping on target for the 400, and had a very nice set of splits en route to another 78, although I had to work extra to keep my stride going for that last 100. I panted hands on knees, and a few seconds later the coffee and the banana and the growing heat and the age and the early wakeup and everything made me nauseous, so I stumbled to the side of the track and had a little puke come up into my mouth. If I had already been at the edge of the track I would have puked full-blown, but I held it up out of courtesy and managed to avoid the full puke. Workout done. I've had track workouts in the past where I had worked so hard that it actually hurt me to open my eyes, but I had never thrown up. Sad.

Followed it up with 18 holes of golf. I had a nice seven-hole stretch where I was even par, but hit a lot of truly bad shots (several bladed irons, two sand shots I couldn't put on the green, pitch shots chunked or overshot) and so stumbled to a 90. One of my playing partners took about five mulligans, gave himself 3-6 footers, improved a lie when he really shouldn't have, and may have even shaved a stroke or two off his score. I don't play by the strict Rules of Golf (I'll take practice shots sometimes, I'll take 1 footers occasionally, I'll treat in-bounds lost balls as lateral water hazards, if I nudge my ball during address I won't take a penalty, and if I'm frustrated I'll move my ball out of a fairway divot, but I view all those as practical common-sense non-tournament adjustments), but I didn't like this too much. But otoh, I wasn't playing against this guy, he just happened to be in my foursome, so what do I care? I guess I don't, except he almost "beat" me. I was almost hoping that one of his par-3 mulligans would go into the hole, so he would have squandered his once-in-a-lifetime hole-in-one.

Anyway, wanted to make a too-detailed, rambling post. Next up: an inning-by-inning recap of Monday night's men's modified fast pitch softball C division playoff game.
Summary: For a variety of reasons, I had a minor throw-up that ended today's track workout, but I'm ok.

Monday, August 15, 2005

more from Jim the D guy

Offensive players are such simple creatures of habit, and as a result their individual moves and team structures can be figured out simply by watching them for long enough. And they're selfish, too. And lazy. And they cry when they break a fingernail.

This is most obvious off a called play, especially one where each player's motions are choreographed. If your man isn't a featured cutter, there's an excellent chance that he won't be cutting hard (selfish and lazy). As soon as you see him sorta but not really cut, you know that a set play is going to the place just vacated. And the thrower is afraid of incurring the wrath of the play creator (who is probably the coach or captain who is in charge of subbing), so he's going to throw it because "it's the play". Poach block, give and go for the goal, boo-yah.

Even if there is just a four-man string called, if your guy is cowering on the sideline or just mingling with the other sheep, he's not in the play. If he is alert and separating himself from potential picks, well, at least he's not an idiot, but he's live, so get up there in his face. (Just a secret between us defenders: hack the shit out of him early and often. So what if he calls a foul because you grabbed his arm as he was running by you? It stops the flow, right?) And take note whether he lines up in one part of the stack when he's in the play and another when he's not.

But your savvy and attention to detail will really pay off during the flow. Some self-proclaimed smart guys will claim that they take what you give them, but they are so used to playing against stupid defenders that a smart defender will be able to set them up. (Well, it's not so much we're stupid as we're egotistical. "Ooh, I'm so fast, I'm just going to run by him." But simple physics shows that just a half second head start will usually be too much to overcome. Try this experiment during your next track workout. Take the 2nd fastest and 2nd slowest players and have them race. Give the slow guy a one yard head start, and let him start whenever he wants, with the fast guy reacting. The over/under on when the fast guy will catch him is 40 yards.) Make him think that he can just run straight after a token fake, but you will already be moving in that direction, with your excellent positioning preventing him from going the other direction.

But you don't have to "set up" the cutter in order to play good defense. Just know his habits. So-and-so always fakes for the dump and cuts up the line. Whats-his-name jukes at you and cuts in. blah-blah fakes in and sprints straight deep. It's not a fake if you know what he's doing.

And this applies to marking even more. Learn what he does to break the mark, or if one fake always leads to a particular throw.

No matter how good you are, you're still going to lose 4 out of 5 confrontations. Just try to minimize your losses in those 4 and make that occasional victory a big one.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Alternate universe: Jim as a D player

Over the next few weeks, I might try to explore some alternate timelines just for fun. What if I hadn't moved to Boston? What if I had joined up with Titanic in 1990 instead of waiting for 1992? What if Mooney had thrown a simple backhand instead of that hammer?

But those all have easy branching points, and it doesn't seem that hard to follow an alternate path. What if, instead, I had been a D player?

Oh, I know what you're saying. "Jim, would you really want to have half of your brain sucked out? And you've always seemed too honest to be willing to resort to thuggery."

So, I don't know whether to make this a not-so-subtle jab at D players or whether to write this honestly. Hmmm.

It would be easy to make a little list, like:
  1. O guys never have to layout, so they're pussies.
  2. O guys don't have to be in shape since they only play one point at a time, and if they are any good, they'll be off the field in 10 seconds.
  3. Did I mention O guys are pussies?
  4. Re #1 and #3, they call any little contact. "Ooh, excessive breathing, that's a foul!"
  5. The rules were clearly written by an O player who needs help to avoid being completely shut down everywhere on the field.
  6. Throwing is so overrated.
  7. Offenses should score every time, and no, not because we defenders suck.

Eh, this'll have to do for now.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Okay, maybe not "suck"

We played way above/at/way below expectations this weekend in finishing 2nd at the Colorado Cup. Team highlights were a 15-7 spanking of Doublewide and yet another one point victory over Sub-Zero in the de facto semifinal, and lowlights were two losses to Bravo and a two-point win over Sack Lunch and a two-point loss to Kaos after we had clinched our finals berth.

It seems ludicrous and highly inconsistent to claim that we were short-handed by having only 18 or 19 players, but we were missing five guys who probably expect to play a bunch of O points, and as a result we had a very tight O rotation. (I believe that the D also had some sort of rotation, as I think I recognized a few of the guys going in and out at various times, but don't quote me on that.) I suspect that my team will always have either too many or too few players.

I had one of my 10* best Callahans this weekend, too. It was 10-10 in a game to 12 against Sub-Zero, we had just turned it over in their end zone, and I was covering some tall, skinny kid. After a few swing passes, they had it on their goal line on the backhand side, and my guy comes running in at a high count for the dump, but I uncharacteristically play good defense on him, and the turnover is pretty much a done deal by the time the pass is thrown, but I'm close to enough to slide/trip/dive to catch it for the goal.

After a turnover in the Doublewide game, they were in a spread stack and so my man and I were near the sideline. "He's three times your age," one of them quipped. I corrected him by holding up two fingers. To verify, I asked him his age, and he was indeed half of my 40 years. Kids. I'm much more fixated on ages this year than I was last year. It seems much more remarkable in ultimate than in other sports for a person to be able to say "I was playing before you were born." Heck, I was playing wiffeball when I was 5, but it would be really strange if I tried to invoke that if I was playing some 34 year old.

I commented while hobbling to the cars that it has been a long time since I felt satisfied with a second-place finish. This, despite the O never really having a great game and having some pretty crappy stretches, and the D having its own struggles. But we played well enough to make the finals, the endzone O looked nice a few times, no one got seriously hurt (ignoring the one pass in the Sub-Zero game that sent two of our guys off the field in unrelated incidents), and we had plenty of training opportunities. So, ok.

* - Positions 2-10 are currently blank, unless you count that one I had at practice that one time.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Why does everyone on rsd think we suck?

Theodore Hex authored a preview of the Colorado Cup on rsd.

He wouldn't be surprised if we lost to Sack Lunch, and thinks that Kaos "could beat" us. (Wags will note that Kaos had the disc twice on double-game point against us last year at Labor Day.) And without Moses and Zip (who has played one tournament for DoG in the last two years) this weekend, what are we to do?

Kick T. Hex's ass, that's what. Damn kids today got no respect.

grumble, grumble.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Lessons from an imperfect track workout.

Tried to run 2x200, 3x300, 4x400, 3x300, 2x200. Ran 2x200, 3x300, 2x400, 2x320, 2x200.

What happened?

1. Have goals.
2. Know what to do to meet those goals.
3. Eliminate unnecessary mental hurdles.
4. Listen to your body, but don't be a pussy.

I was trying to get the workout in quickly, so I didn't bother driving to a track (maybe 10 minutes away), and instead just run in my neighborhood, having used a google maps web app to get distances between streets in the hood. Fortunately, there are several "blocks" that are about either 200, 300, or 400 m. Unfortunately, the accuracy of my mouse click is probably no better than 5 or 10 m, so I was never sure if I was running 190 or 210. That by itself isn't a big deal, but I wasn't sure if the split time of 32 s was based on 190 or 210. I used to be very good at pacing, knowing my time within a second without needing to look at a watch. Now, I need to check my 200 split and even my 100 split to know whether I'm going too hard or if I'm just being a pussy for breathing hard.

So, I wasn't sure if that 31 in my first 200 was good or bad. It felt more like a 33. The first "300" was 51 (felt like a 54), followed by true-feeling 56 and 57. The first 400 was a 32/43 split 75, followed by a 33/45 split in the next 400. I improvised and gave myself additional rest as it was hot and I was hotter. The next leg was going to be the first of two more 400s, but I stopped after about 320 (67) as I was slowing down and not feeling very good. Another 68, finished up with 2 more 31-32 200s. Heart beat was still about 120 20 minutes later. I feel okay now, an hour later, after having eaten (one good thing about running in the neighborhood).