September 17, 2016-Cloverdale/New Westminster BC
So, You Want To Play In A Cashspiel Do You?-Day 1
It’s 9am on a rainy Saturday morning in my skips apartment in New Westminster. Stephen is still asleep in his room while I have already been up for an hour. I took a 6 block walk in the rain to a local coffee shop, picked up 2 to go (Stephen doesn’t drink coffee or have a machine and I always need more than one) and returned to his place to start typing
It’s day 2 of our first cashspiel and I have hours to kill before our first game of the day. Time to bring you up to speed on what happened on Day 1.
Playing in a cashspiel is usually a 3-4 day experience. As such your whole focus shifts away from the reality of the world to 2 things: first, obviously, the games you play, second-what to do in the stretches between the games. Because all cashspiels, big or small, are like little bubbles that remove you and your team from normal space time. You’re effectively in limbo until you’re either eliminated or win the damn thing and then it’s back to reality. Try it sometime, you’ll get what I mean.
This event actually began. for me. on Thursday morning, two days ago, with a 4.5 hour drive from Vernon to the Lower Mainland. I took the Coquihalla Highway and no matter how the media likes to portray that road, it’s not a highway from hell. It’s a great freeway through a mountainous area that is well maintained, breathtakingly scenic and safe. It’s only unsafe, like any street anywhere, if you drive like a fucking idiot.
My goal was to reach the Cloverdale Curling Club in Surrey by about 330pm, throw my first rocks of the year without injuring myself and pick up a World Curling Federation approved head cover for my sweeping broom. Broomgate is the cause of that last passage and I’ll go into that disaster in future blogs. Because it takes up a lot of space that’s necessary if you are to truly understand what’s going on.
I managed to accomplish everything without mishap. But to say I was ready for full on competition after throwing my first 32 rocks of the season would be a big fat lie. No one should even try playing a game, let alone a tour event, without at least 4-5 practice sessions on the ice. But ice wasn’t available for me at home and no amount of dry land workouts, stretching and simulated delivery positions can equal a real slide on good, old, slippery ice. Particularly when you’re 55.
Actually, especially when you’re 55. Because the one thing you do at my age is pay very close attention to the knee of your sliding leg. Doesn’t matter how good your physical condition is. Any little crack, twinge or wince from that single joint instantly causes the thought, “What the fuck was that!???” to panic flash through your brain. Like a shoulder or elbow for a pitcher, if that knee decides to pack it in then that’s likely it for your time in the game.
All things considered, everything held up well. Most important, I didn’t fall on my ass like I did the previous year. Back then I wasn’t able to get down here a day ahead and stepped out for game one without a practice. My first throw was a takeout against Sean Geall. I made it out of the hack, but that was about it. Good chuckles all around at the old fart falling on his face.
Mission accomplished I headed to Stephen’s place, about 30 minutes from the curling club. It’s in an older, well maintained concrete high rise on the upper part of New West. Being a one bedroom unit meant I’d be bunking on the couch or floor but that was just fine. I’d be saving bucks on a hotel room and I can sleep just about anywhere. Our first game was at 9am Friday against the Chinese National team so our second, Shawn Ecklund, joined us after work (he doesn’t own a car) so we could head out together nice and early the next morning. Some Chinese food and KFC later we all bedded down about 11pm. Stephen-Mr. Lightsleeper extraordinaire-in his room, Shawn on the enormous couch and me on the blowup mattress. According to Stephen, we’re a pair of regular buzzsaws.
I’d like to say Game One went well but it didn’t. Yet neither was it a fiasco. Even though we lost 9-1 it was a typical first game of the season where we were shaking off the summer rust. For example our lead, Brant Amos, had just returned from a family visit in the Maritimes and this was his first rocks of the season (ironically he probably played the best of all of us). So how much stock do you put in a game where all four of you are barely ready?
The Chinese, however, had arrived weeks ago in Canada and had been practicing like mad, wherever there was ice available. They’re also not distracted with everyday life. National Curling Team is their full-time job and they’re paid to train and play, nothing else. They showed up with a coach and a weight trainer who doubled as their massage therapist. They were the equivalent of twenty games ahead of us and that advantage showed. But they’re not a remarkably better team. Come a month from now in Kamloops-if they’re in the spiel-we’ll be on equal footing and capable of beating them. I hope we get the opportunity, payback is a bitch and fun.
Drubbing completed, Stephen said our goal was accomplished since no one fell or hurt themselves in our first game. And honestly, true to curling’s nature, we were just on the wrong side of the inch on a bunch of shots or the score and outcome would have been very different. That’s the game. You win, or lose, because someone misses.
We had three and half hours to kill before our next game. Not enough time to return to the apartment but plenty to get out of the club and partially take the loss out of our heads (no athlete ever successfully removes a loss completely from their brain. It’s always there, lurking, ready to pop up when you get too fucking cocky). So the four us piled into Stephens tiny Kia and looked for a place to have a late breakfast, settling on the local IHOP in nearby Langley when we found nothing appealing in Cloverdale. One greasy, industrial breakfast later we’d caught up on everyone’s summer-mostly- and headed back to the club to get ready for Game Two.
Which, as luck would have it, was almost the identical score (8-1) but in our favor against Jeff Guignard-who was short a man due to strep throat. We were in much better form than game one. Stephen also quite enjoyed himself. Jeff was his 3rd two seasons ago and departed the team-opening up a spot for yours truly. Let’s just say that Stephen enjoyed handing Jeff’s head to him on a platter. You never want to lose to a former teammate. It’s a pride thing.
We now had 24 hours to kill before our next game, today at 2pm, against Andrew Bilesky. Some teams hit the bar, some teams sit at a table and perform mental exercises (glorified over-analyzing navel gazing). Us? We just headed out. Brant ran Shawn back to his place in downtown Vancouver, Stephen and I returned to his place for a rest, some food and then we went back to the club for the 830pm draw. The games we wanted to watch were done by 11 so we were home and tucked in by just after midnight. Oh yeah, we are huge party animals.
Some might think the last thing you’d want to do is watch more curling after your day is done. But I’ve found it helps keep my head in the event and focused. Lying semi-comatose on a hotel bed flipping channels does nothing for me. Plus, there’s nothing stressful about watching someone else play and lose. I can always pick up a few useful scouting tips and there’s the social aspect as well. I’m reasonably well known in the BC curling circle so there’s always folks at every club that I know and can get reacquainted with. And did I mention this is a double cash event? With a men’s and women’s side? That means there’s a few attractive women out there in tight, stretchy pants. Maybe that sounds a bit pervy to you, but I’m not apologizing for being human. Besides, it’s not like I’m staring and drooling. Well, not much anyways..
1045am and his highness, Sir Stephen, has made his first appearance. Somewhat groggy and bedraggled, he wanders into the bathroom, completes his mission and shambles back to bed for a little more sack time. It also means time for me to have my morning pre-game ritual; a shower-under a paint stripping faucet head-shave and my three step knee maintenance.
First, a liberal dosing of Myoflex cream starting on my shin just below my left knee, over the joint, up the entire quad and the left hip. I’ve tried a lot of muscle creams over the years and this stuff, far and away, is the best. It doesn’t stink or sting and it works.
Second is an Aleve tablet. Now this is dynamite. A single, small, blue pill is good for 12 hours. It’s a naproxen anti-inflammatory that’s legal for competition. There’s little in the way of side effects-unless you have existing heart issues-it’s a counter item and man, does it ever work as a pain and inflammation reliever. It’s even inexpensive. One of those, 2 hours before the first game, and I’m good for the day. Not that I’m shilling for these guys, but seriously, if you have those issues you need to at least try this stuff once.
Third, I wear a Neoprene knee brace that keeps everything tight, compressed and warm. It goes on last, just before game time, after I’ve done my pre-game stretching (which, I guess, could be considered part of step three as well).
All this, of course, is on top of the work I do almost every day in the gym-which is heavily focused on the legs. Strong quads equal happy knees as they take the stress of the weight and motion instead of the joint. As much as the gym bores me, without flat squats and stretching I’d have given up the game 20 years ago in my mid 30’s. I’d like to say I also have a six pack with rippling biceps and a perfect ‘V’ torso, but that’d be lying. I like my food so it’s a slightly better than average dad-bod with love handles for me.
So that takes us through Day One of your typical cashspiel experience. Day two and 2 very crucial games await us. First up is former BC champ Andrew Bilesky at 2pm followed by Sean Geall at 830pm. This is a round robin qualifying event so as we sit at 1-1, both wins are absolutely crucial for us to advance to the money round. Bilesky just lost, surprisingly, 5-2 to Guignard so he sits at 0-3. He’ s effectively out of the running but we still have to play him. Teams out of contention are very dangerous. They’re loose and have nothing to lose as they now assume the role of potential spoilers to teams like us. We must be on our best for this one.
While we play Bilesky, Sean Geall goes up against Team China. Both teams sit at 2-0 and we’re rooting for the Chinese. Because no matter the outcome against Bilesky, if the Chinese beat Geall it means tonight’s game is for the second money round spot out of our group.
So stay tuned dear reader. Things get interesting from here on.