Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back on the horse

Last weekend saw my return to ultimate with the Grand Masters Nationals in Boulder. As you know, I had some tingling in my arms on occasion dating back to last year's GM tournament, then there was that little temporary paralysis thing after regular Nationals, and finally a four-level cervical laminoplasty to decompress the spinal cord on March 9. I had eased into things in the four months after surgery, going to Disney World, doing a tiny bit of exercise, a couple games of softball, a round of golf, snorkeling/diving, and a bunch of soccer in the yard with the boy, which can actually be a bit taxing. The most I ran was a set of about 10 20-30 yard striders, just enough to get to a full stride but nowhere near a full sprint.

So I went into the tournament unsure exactly what I could do. I promised my doctor's office that I wouldn't dive (not that I'm ever really flinging my body around). I ended up hitting the ground maybe three times, once catching a pass and twice after the pass aided by my defenders, but never too hard.

On Saturday, I definitely eased into things, playing maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the points (we had something like 18-20). Even more than usual, D was very hard. I never could sprint or accelerate very hard. At times it felt like I was running in water because my legs were so weak. I lost between 5 and 10 pounds over the last six months as my muscle mass pretty much disappeared. I saw a picture of myself from behind and was amazed by how slight I appeared. Offense wasn't nearly as bad, as I could pick when I wanted to run, and I figured out that I really didn't need to sprint so hard as often as I usually do. I even ran deep a few times.

We cruised through Saturday. The winds really picked up in our last game, and I had a couple throws that showed a lack of practice. I hadn't thrown very much this year either; I hurt my arm or shoulder throwing the softball a couple weeks prior and it had hurt to throw a forehand so I took it easy. This weekend, too, I took it easy, staying away from pulling and overheads, which figured to put a little too much stress on the neck/shoulders.

I really didn't even feel very tired after Saturday. When I woke on Sunday, my quads were sore, but not fatigued. The lack of real sprints makes it a lot easier on the body (I can see Alex and Dennis nodding as they read this, having been aware of this their entire careers).

Sunday was again hot. I noticed that today in Boulder it hit 103, close to an all-time high (though it appears that the records might only date back to 1990). Quarters were against Atlanta's Ball & Chain. Our O clicked, scoring nine times without a turnover, and we got enough breaks to win 15-8. We did notice that there D was putting more pressure on us in the second half. I was back to full-time O duty, playing all nine points as a receiver, though much less often as a primary in the play.

Semis were against the local Old and in the Way. Alex underthrew me deep on the first O point, thus removing the pressure of knowing we hadn't had a turnover all day. We still scored, then got a break a couple points later. We gave the break back at about 5-5, but then got it back on a misread and took half, 8-7, receiving to start the second half. OAITW's D was definitely better, forcing us to take more passes than in any other game, though we still managed to score on 6 of 7 points. I don't remember the specifics of the rest of the game, but we gave a break back at maybe 11-10, then two in a row at 12-12 before getting one last goal to make it 14-13. They then had an overthrow on the last point, but one of their other receivers was alert enough to track it down, and a couple passes later, we were eliminated. Overall, 2 breaks for in 13 chances, 4 breaks against in 15 chances.

The team played well enough on the weekend, though it's always disappointing to lose, especially when leading by 2 in the second half.

I was able to contribute a lot more than I expected to. Other than the wind game, my throws were sharper than I thought they'd be, and I was able to get open a lot more than I thought I would, though I found that certain cuts that relied on a good first step didn't work. It didn't feel like other first tournaments of the year, though, since I tend to feel exhausted and winded and sore in those, and in this one I was just weaker, as if I had aged five or ten years suddenly.

Well, it's good to be back and out there.