Combine Two

As I’m coming off a week of triumph which culminated in the completion of my longest run ever (20 miles), I looked to keep the good times rolling this past week.  I completed two up-tempo 7 mile runs and also a few ultimate frisbee workouts with my friend, John.  We had been working out together for the past month to get ready for Philadelphia Phoenix’s second combine which took place today.  This ended up being a very good weekend for me in my athletic training.

Saturday morning, I ran 18 miles.  I took the lesson I learned last weekend and slowed my pace a bit.  Last weekend, I started my 20 miles at and 8:00/mi pace and found myself slowing significantly in the 15th mile.  I was burnt out after 17 miles and ended up slowing down much more than I wanted to.  I still made good time, but I knew that I would need to change my strategy to be able to finish the full 26.2.  When I ran yesterday, I decided to try an 8:30 pace.  It was a very different mentality for me to have during a run.  My brain took on much more a coaching role than it usually does.  On a short distance run I think my brain sort of just shuts off and I simply try to finish as fast as I can.  To maintain this slower 8:30 pace I had a little bit of a struggle in the early miles where my body wanted to push faster, but my mind kept telling me to slow down.  I had to keep reminding myself of how far I still had to go.  I had to keep reminding myself that I needed to keep enough energy “in the tank” to go the full distance.  My coaching mantra switch from “Come on. Let’s go!” to “Let’s just maintain this pace.  Don’t try to push it.  You don’t need to.”  In the end, I was able to keep that 8:30 pace for the entire 18 miles that I had set out to run.  I felt good about my effort.  I felt a lot less pain afterword this time compared to last week.  However, I still think I’ll need to slow down a little more to run a full marathon.  I’d like to be able to finish the full race within 4 hours.  This divides into an average pace of 9 minutes and 9 seconds per mile.  So, I still have some room to slow down while still accomplishing my time goal.  My competitive spirit may not like that, though.  We’ll just have to see what I come up with this upcoming weekend.

Today, was combine two with the Philadelphia Phoenix ultimate frisbee team.  I was glad to have been called back after the first combine, but I knew I wasn’t in the clear yet.  In fact, I’m still not anywhere near the clear yet.  This second combine was fairly similar to the first in the various drills we ran.  I’m glad I was able to train with John over the past month to get ready.  I think we really were able to help each other out to shake off winter rust and improve our skills as much as a month would allow.  I think another thing that helped me a lot this time around was that I knew what to expect after having participated in the first combine.  I know my skill set.  I know what I’m good at and where I need to improve.  I’m confident in my abilities on the ultimate field.  However, I realized that I put extra pressure on myself during the first combine to elevate my game to a higher level in the course of only a few hours.  That’s unrealistic for anyone to do, and I had no real reason to put that extra pressure on myself.  I think this time I was better able to calm down and keep my head.

The day started off with the classic break-mark drill.  When we ran this at the first combine, I felt that I tended to spend too much time on faking out the mark to get him off-balance.  My self-evaluation for that drill was that my  throws, in a real game scenario, would have been effective but not ideal.  When we ran this drill again today, I was much quicker to throw the disc after 0-2 fakes (as opposed to 4-6 fakes last month).  My throws we accurate and well-timed.  My marks were aggressive, resulting in several hand blocks.  Overall, I think I fared much better in this particular drill today in comparison to a month ago.  We ran another marking drill in which I continued the trend of the first drill.  After that,  we went outside to play 3 scrimmage games.

We weather conditions outside were everything but ideal for this sport.  Temperatures hovered around freezing.  There was a lot of wind.  There was even some snow fall!  In terms of just straight running, I wasn’t much affected by the weather.  The big difference for me was the simple fact that I needed to use my hand to play the game, so I could wear gloves like I do in my marathon training.  This wasn’t a huge problem for me early on in the games, but toward the end it became a major issue.  I dropped a few passes here and there that I think I would have normally caught if the weather were warmer.  Later in the afternoon, especially in the third scrimmage game, I noticed myself loosing feeling in my hands due to the cold.  That made it very difficult for me to catch and throw passes effectively.  I wanted to stay on the field, because I wasn’t tired.  However, my hands were numb and the wind was strong, so my handling skills were significantly affected.  We then cycled our groups to play an indoor scrimmage game on the basketball court.  I think I played very well in this drill, as well.  It was a 3v3 drill where the losers of each point cycled off the court to give another 3 a shot.   Most of the times I got scored on, I was covering the tallest guy in our group so I couldn’t do anything to stop him catching the disc if it was thrown high enough in the air.  At another time in the drill, I helped my team of three to score 10 points in a row.

We went back outside to finish the day with a hucking drill and some sprints.  The hucking drill was again affected by wind and cold.  Despite all that, I felt as though I performed much better in this drill today as opposed to combine one.  I’m definitely glad John and I took the time to work on throws over the past month.  In the sprinting drills I, again, was not the fastest player out there.  I didn’t expect to be.  What I expect of myself, in this aspect, is that I’ll be the guy who’s still running strong toward the end of the game when everyone else is tired.  The sprints this time were a but more catered to my endurance training though.  As the sprints progressed, everyone else was getting noticeably tired which I was still going strong.  By rights, I should have been the most fatigued guy out there today.  I ran 18 miles yesterday, yet after 4 hours of intense workout with the Phoenix I was still running just as strongly as I was when I first got there today.

Overall, I think I played very well today in spite of the dreadful weather conditions.  I had few bad drops and bad throws which I think were results of the cold and wind, but after taking the entire day in account, I’m happy with my performance.  Looking back now I think when I said I could have done better after the first combine, it was because I put so much extra pressure on myself to unreasonably raise my game.  Tryouts are all about drills where I can let those feelings fester, but I think I’ve shown time and again that once I set foot on the field (in the scrimmages we’ve played) none of that added pressure matters to me anymore.  I think that if I’m lucky enough to be called back for training camp, I’ll be able to take what I’ve learned to keep my head on straight and calm and continue to play to the best of my abilities.  I’ll find out later this week if I’ll be allowed to continue my journey toward pro status.  I’m hoping for the best.  I’m not ready to be done yet.

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