Combine Time!

This past week was huge for me.  As I posted last week an injury to my right foot forced me to take the whole week off for recovery.  I then revisited my training plan for the upcoming marathon.  Thankfully, I’m really not off track at all in terms of being ready for March 16.  I’m just going to have to work a little bit harder.  Anyway, I attacked my workouts all this week with a renewed intensity, because I was excited for the upcoming Philadelphia Phoenix Combine.  I pushed myself hard through every workout trying to set a faster pace than usual and maintain that faster pace as long as possible.  I couldn’t be happier with the results I produced.  It was a good week for the regularly scheduled marathon workouts.

Then it came.  Yesterday was the big day: combine 1 with the Philadelphia Phoenix.  I had gone into the day very confident in my abilities and my chances of getting called back.  I felt that my marathon training was going to put me many strides (literally and figuratively) above the competition concerning pure conditioning and athleticism.  I’ve spent much of my ultimate career almost purely as a handler, so I was confident in my abilities there, too.  I was going to own this first combine.  I got to the field still very excited to perform.  I made sure to get ample warm-up time with throwing, catching, running, and stretching.  I was feeling very good about myself when the GM/(tentative) coach called us all in to start drills.  All of the drills we ran were pretty basic.  They wanted to see samples of everyone’s basic throwing abilities both with and without a mark, hucking abilities, deep cutting, basic agility, and what sort of throws we all had in our arsenal.  We also played a scrimmage game to show exactly just what everyone is capable of doing and comfortable doing on both sides of the disc.

We started the day with a throwing/marking drill we ran quite a bit at Shippensburg: the break mark drill.  I’d say my performance on the offensive side of this drill was mediocre.  I completed every pass.  I just felt like a number of times I got myself too caught up in faking out the defender.  By the time I actually ended up throwing the disc, it was no longer an ideal throw.  Sure, in a game, it would have sufficed reset the stall count and give us a new angle from which to attack the field.  I’m not saying my throws were poor.  I’m saying they could have been timed a little better to make myself look better within the objective of the drill.  Defensively, I thought I did very well, though.  I got several hand and foot blocks on a few different players, so at least I looked good there.  The hucking drill was next.  Here, I felt my deep throws were sub par overall.  I’ve never really been much of deep bomb kind of guy.  I’d rather make the short to mid-range throw and then quickly get the disc back to try to spread the field a bit.  So again, I felt I underachieved a little in this drill.  However, on the cutting side, I did feel good about my abilities to run deep, read the disc, and make catches.  That’s two drill so far that kind of went 50-50-ish for me.

Next was the scrimmage.  I felt good about this overall.  My defense was on par with some of the best defense I’ve ever played.  I had no problem executing the various things the coach asked us to do.  On offense I tried to make sure I did roughly equal amounts of handling and cutting so I could show my versatility as a player.  Unfortunately, any scrimmage teams we were broken into were generally light on guys who identified themselves as handlers, so that’s what I ended up doing more in the scrimmage.  No longer held by the confines of a drill (and it’s rules) I could now play my game.  I could throw any type of pass I wanted and then show my ability to quickly get the disc back again to open up the field.  Actually, this was the first time anyone ever described me as “squirrelly” which made me feel good about myself.  I also felt I showed that I’m confident as a cutter, too.  I know where to go to get open and I don’t try to do too much with the disc when I’m not a designated handler.  I felt this scrimmage was the highlight of my performance for the day, and I’m hoping it gets me into the mini-camp in a few weeks.  We ended the day with some basic sprinting and throwing drills on a basketball court inside.  I felt I did well with the sprints even though I wasn’t the fastest guy there.  I was also able to show off my large arsenal of throws.  I was expecting some conditioning type drills throughout the day, though.  Like I said before, I felt that was where I was really going to shine.  When coach said “Ok, we’re going to end the day with some easy throwing drills.  I want to see what your throws look like when you’re tired,” I thought to myself “I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Who’s tired?”

All in all, I felt I performed very well throughout the day.  I think there were areas where I could’ve done a little better.  I had a nagging feeling, too, that I just could’ve done more in general.  Looking back, I don’t there is anything that could have or would have done differently if I were to do it again.  I submit that I most likely would still feel like I didn’t do enough no matter what I did in that combine.  Right now I’m just hoping I gave them a good enough sampling of my skill set to get into the next stage of try-outs.  I’ll find out later this week.

Today, I got back into my marathon training with my longest run to date: 16 miles.  I decided to run north from my house today.  I almost always run south.  I just needed a change of scenery.  The scenery bit was a great idea!  Most of my run went through wooded areas, and I crossed two bridges over the Perkiomen Creek.  The major downside to this decision, though, came in the form of a very steep and monstrously large hill.  At 7.5 miles, I saw a sign on the trail that said “12% Grade Ahead, 1/4 mile.”  Basically, I rounded a bend and the Earth dropped away.  The whole way down this hill I just kept thinking, “Oh no.  This is going to suck.  Why am I still doing this?”  I went about a 1/4 mile further past the foot of the hill and had to turn around still dreading the impending uphill climb to start my journey home.  My legs were on fire by the time I reached the top and I still had 7.5 MILES LEFT TO GO!  The rest of the run was largely uneventful except that my legs got progressively more tired the farther I went and I ran the final four miles in the dark (I started late today and finished after sunset).

When I got back home, I immediately started stretching my legs out to try to reduce the pain.  After stretching I laid down and then my whole body tensed up.  I have never felt such total fatigue before in my life.  Even my lips were stuck in a constant pucker for 3-4 minutes because my face muscles were too beat to move.  I then started to shiver uncontrollably for a little while.  It was like having really bad sunburn where your body can’t regenerate heat as quickly as it’s giving it off.  Shivering is the body’s mechanism of rapidly puling muscle groups in an effort to generate heat, but my blood sugar was so low at that point, that my muscles couldn’t generate enough heat to return my body temperature to normal.  A hot shower was my only option.  After that, I felt a lot better.  My body heat was back to normal, my blood flow was back to normal to deliver oxygen to my muscles. The only thing left was to eat dinner to replenish my glycogen stores so my body could continue to regulate itself again.

All of this taught me some valuable lessons today.  First, Gatorade is not enough anymore to keep my body in good working condition at these distances.  I need to figure out a good food snack to carry with me to eat on the run.  Second, do not lay down so soon after finishing a hard workout like that.  These are things that I need to start implementing now, because there isn’t really a whole lot of time left between now and March.  The distances are only going to get longer from here on out.  If 16 miles felt this bad, then 26.2 will be dangerous unless I start being smart about this.

What is something you learned about yourself after pushing through something difficult?  How did you adjust to help make it a little easier on yourself?

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