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.


Jim Biancolo said...

Wow, this is great news, congrats! Sounds like quite a bit more than the few token points you were hoping for a few months ago, and WAY more than "I hope at least I can keep playing softball" (think you said something like that). Good luck getting your strength back, it really sounds like you've been ahead of the curve every step of the way, and I hope that continues.

Anonymous said...

"Alex underthrew me deep on the first O point" .... really, is that the way you remember it? What I saw was you under-run a deep huck, slowing down significantly in the middle trying to turn your head to read the disc in the air. I winced a bit watching because it was obvious you had limited mobility to turn your head and look up and back like that. Not sure whether the Old guys noticed it too, but they sure didn't bother wasting any of their better defenders after that on a limited deep threat.

parinella said...

Tomato, tomahto.

I am probably most limited still in turning my head while running. This might actually just be a habit now rather than an actual limitation, as I got used to turning my body instead of my neck to see things.

Another trick I've been using in recent years is to listen to the crowd or sidelines to learn that the huck is up. Usually the case is that the throw is too far rather than hanging. I guess I looked up later than optimal on this throw, had trouble finding it, and then didn't have the best position, though if truth be told, who knows whether I would have caught it even if I had had best position.

Thanks for the honesty check.

John Korber said...

Great to hear you're getting on the field, Jim. I'm happy that you've made it this far back and wish you the best continued recovery.