We don’t need no stink’n hockey

I have to say I do enjoy watching some football on Sunday afternoon, but I really don’t miss hockey at all. I use to watch it religiously for years with my Dad and all the way up to University, but since those days I have really only watched the occasional playoff game or gone to a game when free tickets present themselves. Now with both kids in hockey, I get to spend 6 months of the year tying skates, waking up early to truck them on those cold mornings to an even colder arena. I am amazed at how much they seem to enjoy it, but after having spent almost 10 years working in a rink, it really isn’t high on my list of places to “hang”!

Last year I was coaching my daughter and son at ball hockey and got a bit of the coaching bug back, but also got my competitive appetite going. Another coach had mentioned that London had an overages ball hockey league. But as usual that year I decided I was too busy. However this year, I sent the league director a note and he got me placed on one of the tier-4 teams for the summer league. As it turned out summer league is pretty intense, playing 23 games in 11 weeks, I learned quickly it is definitely a younger guy league, but there are a bunch of us old farts running around to make it look like I belong. However, being 290 and 20 years removed from competitive team play and combined that with never having played official ball hockey, I definitely stacked the cards against myself.

It turns out I had a fantastic time, my team was brutal but I got the chance to sweat my ass off for a couple of hours ever week with what turned out to be a very intense workout. I finished the ball hockey season around 260, and only had a few injuries to show for my efforts. Unfortunately the only thing that I got recognized for was a few elbowing penalties and a plus minus average that might have set a league record worse.

The bad news came in September, that my team no longer felt I could add value to the team and official cut me. Talk about a shot to the ego, the worse team in the league cut me – trust me that one hurt! So I sent a note again to ask for another spot if someone would have one of the worse team in the league cast offs, and since the season started the first week of October, I had pretty much given up hope for a chance to hit the floor again in the winter league.

To my stunned surprise, a few days before the season, the team that beat us in the playoff round in summer session, asked if I would like to play! Cha’ching! Within twenty minutes I was an official member of the Villa Crush tier-4 team. Unfortunately I was out of town because that week they had an exhibition game against my former team and dismissed them 13 to 1.

I showed up for regular season game #1 on Monday, and what a difference. These guys are organized, they have lines setup, they work their asses off on the floor, and they were competitive! Unfortunately, the wheels feel off the bus in the second half of the game, and we had a pretty rough first outing, but the first half was excellent. Tuesday night we go up against the top team from tier-4 during summer session, and the game is intense. Everybody is grinding and we even had a fight break out between some of the kids.

I was out on the floor killing a power play, when the refs called another strange penalty leaving us down two. In the summer league, this was a bad time for me to stay on the floor, because it usually resulted in 3 to 5 goals being scored on us in very quick succession. But, I stayed out, and managed to get a great clearing shot, and we attacked, soon the 2 man advantage was over and to my surprise the game was still scoreless. They managed a goal on a very good screen shot that beat our goalie up high, which no to my surprise I was on the floor for. With about two minutes to play in the game, I find myself on the floor in a power play, and it should be noted in summer league, I spent about 1 combined minute past the center line, do this is highly unusual territory for me. The guys are grinding down in the corners and to my horror they fire the ball back to the point, I manage to coral the ball, and find myself surprised further that I can fire the ball before I get attacked. So I giv’r the patented wrist shot and miss the net by a good 6 feet! However my teammate gladly took the shot and rifled it on net, and then gav’r another whack and the game was tied!

It took 25 games, but I have finally recorded my first ball hockey point! With the game tied, the game finished in a shot-out, and after 5 or 6 rounds or was it 7, I don’t remember, we managed to final score the winning goal! What a blast!

It might seem strange but being involved in team sports again even if it is just a bunch of hockey weekend warriors, is really a great motivator to keep getting involved and teaches you that you are never too old. You are only as old and out of shape as you want to be.

Master Yoda

This week started off with a lovely flight from London to Edmonton, relatively uneventful but not a lot of fun either. Nothing like getting up at 5 am just to sit like a praying mantis for 5 or 6 hours. I was really looking forward to get to the hotel – watch some football – and get some sleep, but for some strange reason I decided to go the master swim at the YMCA around the corner from the office.

Master swim instructor Alvin, who I will just call Yoda, had us jump and do a quick 200m warm up, and then says “let’s see your back stroke”, that should be easy, and off I go. I arrive back to a happy “you have much to learn young one” look.

Start off with the flutter board and kick your way down the pool. I am not much of a swimmer if I can’t use my arms, so as I slow make my way down the lane half drowning, half faking, and doing whatever it takes to move on to the next step, I struggle through a couple hundred more meters of this, and then Yoda has us do it while twisting side to side kicking as we go. “Core you need to use”, “use the core young one”, after another round of attempted drowning and fighting my way through probably 300m or so of this torture, we get to do it streamlined, then with just one arm over our head, then with one arm pulling with our fingers in a circle, and then when we final looked like we were all cooked he had us redo the backstroke using what we had just learned.

Well, holy crap! I can rotate in the water, and I can actually use my legs effectively. This almost feels unnatural and holy crap I am making really good time back and forth. I am completely amazed. I am just completely wiped at this point but I decide to do 50m free using this rotating technic, and to my stunned surprised I cruise in at exactly a minute. Now that my not seem impressive, but typically I run 1:10 to 1:15 per 50m while working hard at it. I am beat tired and shaved a cool 15 seconds off that. H-crap!

I barely make it back to the hotel as I am so tired, but what a day!

Tuesday I hit the gym for a little Yoga, and yep, I bend myself like I have never bent before, and I think I am getting better, but trust me, Yoga is not for the faint of heart!

Wednesday I head back for another Yoda session, of course I am running late, so I did a sprint to the YMCA from the hotel and make it before the warm up is over. Yoda decides that we are going to continue working on back stroke. Through the paces we go again. “Use the core young one”, he is starting to sound like John Luc – engage, 1/4 warp, 1/2 impulse, engage, engage, engage.

This time I feel like I actually did something kinda right, and finish the night cruising along with the rest if not a little faster then the rest. Trust me that never happens when I swim. So I finish up with a quick 50m free, and cruise in at 53 seconds.

Yoda is on his game! The young Jedi is learning!

Lakeside Tri 2012

Well after a quick sleep, I awake to a cold morning. I decide to do a quick google search on secrets to doing triathlon in cold weather.

I decide it is a go, I grab warm clothes, extra towels, hot tea, gloves, hot shot glove warmers, and even my cleveland browns toque. I am seriously concerned about the swim, because at this point I still don’t know what the temperature will be, but I am guessing cold cold cold.

The drive up to lakeside goes really good, and the morning is just plain gorgeous. The sun is screaming bright and the dew is lifting as I drive, and I convince myself there is nothing about this triathlon that is going to stop me. I get to the site and park and grab all my gear and follow the crowd over to the transition area. The mood is quiet but hopeful.

I get all my gear setup but I am not changing my clothes until it is much closer to race time. Seriously it is still very cool out at about 11 degrees, but it is clear it is warming up. I run into a few friends and get to catch up with them taking my mind off the cold water that is to come. The have a racer meeting and tell us all the things we need to know, including the water temperature of 22, which given how much warmer it is over the air temperature it is going to be just fine to swim!

So it is nearing ten o’clock and I get ready and head over to the water and run into my friends again and they wish me well, and I head out into the water. Unbelievable how warm the water is. I make my way out to the first turn and it goes pretty good. But like last time the second wave is starting to swim over me, but I hit a good stroke and seem to be moving well, and I round the second turn and head to home, only to get run over by wave three, but it feels like it is going well. I exit the water and damn the air is cool, but not too bad, as it has warmed up considerably since 6 am. I don’t actually see my time, but it turns out I was out at 19:06 which is almost two minutes faster then my best s’n’d swim time, and almost 10 minutes after then muskoka.

Out on the bike I go, and I decide I am going to try to be impressive but actually show everybody I am clumsy at best as I try to jump on my bike and manage to loose my water bottle in all the commotion. That’s going to make the ride fun! I head north down the road and really enjoy the ride except for all fast moving cyclists that seem to be flying by my every other second. It is pretty clear I am not a fast biker, but I am in great spirits and cheer everybody on passing me and the others already heading back on the out and back. I am feeling pretty good the last hill is a little nasty, but I head back into transition and I see the clock at 1:16, which in my head means I am flying by my standards. Turns out I did the bike in 52:23 which is almost 10 minutes better then muskoka as well.

Okay so here we go into the run, and my butt is complaining bitterly. I am extremely tight from the biking and I can’t get the forward gear going. By far the worst bike to run transition feeling I have had yet. But I push through it, I am really close to hitting my goal of being in under 2 hours. The first km is tough, a lot of walk/run but I run all of km 2, and I run most of km 3, km 4 is tough but I fight through it, and then I run almost all of the last km, and managed to cross the finish line running. I am moving faster at the finish because I have a bad feeling I am close to being over 2 hours, and I can’t see the clock because it is behind the finishing line box. But then it starts to come into view: I see 1, and I am pleased but then I get worried that it might be at 59 minutes, and then I see :5 and I try to go faster then I see 4! I am so pleased I have finished the race almost 6 minutes faster then I had set the goal for! Final time: 1:54:15

Not bad consider the week of debating weather I would even run it. You just can’t let that stupid voice in your head dictate what you can and can’t do. Because the truth is you can do anything you set your mind to, you just need to be willing to do it!