Sunday, June 19, 2011

Barely Breathing

Fort Collins, CO

I'm glad I made the side trip to Colorado. I wasn't planning on it originally, as my original plan had me staying pretty far north of Colorado when heading out west.  Then again, my original map was optimized for (a) shorter distances, and (b) fewer "destinations" while still getting the general idea, since Google Maps only lets you do 25 destinations.

But since I was going to be in Casper, and it's not too far from there to get to the Denver area, I decided to make a side trip.  And it has definitely been worth it.

I stayed with my friend Andy in Denver on Friday night.  I've known Andy since before I can remember knowing him - we grew up across the street from each other.  We both ended up in Ultimate through our own separate ways, so when he said he was going to a tournament and playing on a pickup team on Saturday, I jumped at the opportunity to maybe play a little.

So I followed him up to Fort Collins (the Fort, as he affectionately refers to it) for the tournament Saturday morning.  The fields were set up on CSU's intramural fields, and when we got there the grass was still damp with dew - which meant that playing barefoot was not working so well for me.  I knew that I was only going to get to play a few points that day, for two reasons: there were way more guys than they needed on the team, and I'm out of shape and not used to playing at high elevation.  I figured if I'm only going to play a few points, I want them to be worth it - so I ran to a sports store nearby and picked up a pair of cleats and athletic socks from the clearance rack and hurried back.

Because they had so many guys, and I was just some random dude who showed up (and fell down during warmups due to slipping on wet grass), the captain of the team asked that I didn't play the first game, to give the other guys a chance to play, which was fine with me.  By the second game, people were starting to get a little tired, and since I had gone and bought cleats, he said I could go ahead and play a point or two.  I played as a cutter, which means a lot of running, and since we had so many subs, I ran as hard as I could for the whole point, knowing I'd go out as soon as the point was over.

I also worked really well with some of the handlers, and was timing my cuts to get open for give and go plays with them, which our team hadn't done very many of before that.  Give and go's require either some level of coordination developed through playing together for a long time, or two people who have done enough of them with other people that you know generally how they go - and along with a few of the handlers, we seemed to have the latter enough that we could pull them off.  It also helps to have cleats so you can actually cut, so I was immediately glad that I had gone and gotten some.

After we scored that first point, the captain and some of the other plays congratulated me on my timing and effort for the point - but I was absolutely exhausted.  I'm not sure how much was being out of shape and how much was the lower oxygen levels at this elevation, but I was out of breath and my muscles were burning after just a short point.

I played one more point that game, and did basically the same thing - played as a cutter, and ran my butt off for one point and then sat out.  In the huddle after the game, one of the leaders on the team actually called me out as an example of what our team should be doing as cutters, which was pretty sweet - I came out expecting to play a few points and hoping to not screw up the team too much, but ended up being an asset for the team on the few points I could play.

I played a few more points throughout the day, but by that point I was so tired that if the points went long at all (and a few did), I couldn't keep up on defense after about halfway through the point.  I think I only played about six points on the day, but it was awesome to be able to sit in with this team and get to play a little bit of competitive ultimate again.

It was also cool to play with this particular group of guys and girls - someone described them as a team that works to build up talent and help new players with potential become players who can play on some of the top competitive teams in the area.  It reminded me a lot of the Peoria Parrots, the team I played with back in Illinois.  Not a great team, but fun to play with, good camaraderie, and a focus on helping people learn and improve.  So it was a little bit of home for me.

I've been finding a lot more of those kinds of things than I thought I would on this trip - bits and pieces of (what used to be) home, that remind me enough of things past to make me feel comfortable while still being new enough to be exciting and allow me to meet new people.  Hanging out in Kansas City with a group of people who are similar to my friends, seeing friends in Minneapolis, playing pickup ultimate in Minneapolis, hanging out with couchsurfers and adventuring around the Black Hills for a day, playing in a tournament with a fun pickup team... Those things, for me, have been the best parts of this trip.  In a way, it makes me feel optimistic about moving when I finish this trip, because I know no matter where I end up, it will be a place that I can call home as much as any other place I've lived.

Casper, WY team "Crude" giving us some of their personal stash of Crude after the game

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