1989. 2006. Missed 1991, as we made some mistakes and lost out to Graffiti. This is my 17th Nationals, and about the 12th or 13th where I went in somewhat planning to win the title. And last. If you don't count Masters.
Last practice of the season was today, possibly ever. After, we hung around and made fun of ourselves and joked and had a good time. I couldn't run down one long pass because my hamstrings were sore from 58 sprints on Tuesday's workouts. "If I were 39," I said, but I could still have had it at 41, or not had it at 39, depending on how I felt. That's a problem not frequently mentioned with age, that every day is not the same. You hear old people talk about some days being better than others, but it's true. Some days I feel 39, or 35, or 30, or 25, or whatever, if only for the times I'm playing. Recovery is always a problem, but the doing, well, that goes well sometimes. Luckily, I know more than any of you about how to get open, and I'm lucky genetically that I haven't fallen off the cliff yet due to advancing years, although I can see the cliff just in front of me (actually, it's been a gradual downslope mostly, too subtle to recognize while you're on it but when you're at the end, you say, "Huh"). I still have to make adjustments in my head as to what I can handle over the course of a weekend, but let's hope I can do it.
Once more. 17 years ago, attending my first Nationals, I was really just happy to be there, and had no idea what to expect from future years. Since then, I've had some good years, and some disappointing years, and while you'd think I might know what to expect, still it's a surprise when it happens. Others speak more eloquently about it, but seeing the dew-laden fields first thing on Thursday is chilling. So much ahead of you, so much having happened over the past few months and years, you hate the guys you've been playing against and now they're your teammates again, and the RRIs and seedings and blog entries are no longer just fun hypotheticals but they're people in different colored shirts who just want to kick your ass (possibly a little extra because you called them out). I can still do it, I tell myself, and yes, sometimes I still do it. The disc doesn't care if you're 41 or 21, and neither do I.
I'll still kick your ass, kid.
And good luck.