Archive for March, 2008

I definitely should not have skipped dinner…

Monday, March 24th, 2008

…but there was no way for me to know that in advance.

Weight Cutting

Turns out I was a bit flippant in my last post about how easy it would be to sweat off 5 lbs. I woke up at around 7:30 and by 8 AM I was suited up with my sauna suit, sweat pants, two sweatshirts and a pair of socks (to catch the sweat that rolls out the bottom of the sauna suit). I spent about 30 minutes riding a stationary bike, jumping rope, running up and down stairs. The exercise wasn’t too bad, but the heat is really oppressive and it drained my motivation very quickly. After 30 minutes I stripped down for a weight check – 176.8. That meant I still had 2 lbs to go, ugh!

I suited back up and decided that I was just going to go for another 30 minutes because I didn’t want to do another interim weight check only to have to re-suit up again. After 15 more minutes I had no more motivation to exercise. My mouth was insanely dry (obviously you can’t drink water while cutting water weight), and was a bit dizzy at times. So, to take a break from exercise but keep the sweat coming I decided to get in my car and turn the heat all the way up. I even cranked on the seat warmers (which are usually my least favorite feature in the car). I was afraid it would look weird if I was just sitting in the car port in the car wearing a hooded sweatshirt, so I drove around the neighborhood. I think I still looked weird – people are alarmed by a guy sweating profusely in a hooded sweatshirt driving around a residential neighborhood with a pained look on his face and a car with California plates. Kinda shady.

Anyway, I came back home, did another 15 minutes of very light exercise and tried again. Whoops – I overdid it this time – 174. Oh well, that just makes me extra safe in case their scale weighs heavier than mine. I showered (and resisted the urge to drink the shower water), gathered my stuff together and headed down to the tournament which was about 30 minutes away.

When I finally weighed in, I was 173.0 on their scale (even with my shirt on). Crap – I made that much harder on myself than I needed to. Still, I was relieved to get to dive into the water and Powerade that I had bought. I didn’t plan ahead for food all that well, so I went down to McDonalds and bought a couple Egg McMuffins. You have to eat and drink slowly after you’ve cut weight like that, so I nursed my beverages and slowly nibbled on one McMuffin. I couldn’t get the appetite for #2 until it was too cold to eat. And then I sat and waited… and waited… and waited…

I think I weighed in just before 10:30 AM, and they didn’t even start organizing for my first division until around 2:30 PM. I had brought a book, but it was a little too tense and distracting of an environment to read. So I just watched the kids and teens divisions go first.

Masters Division

Masters doesn’t refer to skill level, it is a fancy marketing term referring to age. Once you’re 30 in this sport, you’re old and you can compete in the Masters division. That’s why they have Masters Beginners, Masters Intermediate and Masters Advanced (even though the first seems a bit oxymoronic). My first match was in the Masters Advanced division, and I thought it would be at 160 – 174.9 lbs. Nope. They called my name and I walked up to the ring and saw a big dude standing in the center. One of his teammates said (referring to me) “he doesn’t look like he’s in your weight class.” Well, apparently when they don’t have a ton of participants in their pre-defined weight classes, they can decide to redefine the weight classes. In my case they decided everyone from 173 to 189 should compete. Lovely. Glad I did all that sweating.

Well they were nice enough to switch it so the two biggest guys went first and I went against the guy who was only 185. My first match went ok, but I lost on points 10 to 4. Boo. It was a good match – a little bit back and forth, but I guess more back for me than forth. But wait, there would be another match to determine 3rd place. Guess who my opponent was… that big dude. Long story short, I won that one. He got sloppy with a takedown and I caught him in a guillotine choke 🙂 That gives me a win and 3rd place in this division. I’m happy with that.

Here’s a crappy picture I took of the big dude in a later match (he’s the white guy):

Big dude

Maybe 30 minutes later I had the men’s Advanced division (young and old alike). Again they juggled the weight classes so this time it was 173 to 178. Not a ridiculously wide range, but the whole point of cutting weight is so that worst case you’re the same weight as your opponent (best case you’re heavier). Oh well. My opponent is a tall lean guy. Again it was a good match – some back and forth, but he caught me with an armlock and my elbow got pretty wrenched before I tapped. I later saw that guy competing in the brown belt gi division, so I didn’t feel so bad about losing to him.

Once again, there would be another match to determine 3rd place. This time I face off against a strong-looking wrestler. He wasted little time taking me down with a very nice single leg. He lands in my guard, and after a couple of failed sweeps I was able to catch him in a triangle choke. Once again that gives me 3rd place in this division. Hooray.

Overall I’m very happy with how things turned out. These were my first two wins competing in the Advanced division, and it’s nice to feel like I belong in that division. I came home with two medals, a boost of pride, a huge appetite (that McMuffin was all I ate all day) and a sore elbow.

I Probably Should Have Skipped Dinner

Friday, March 21st, 2008

I’m nervous. Two minutes ago I weighed myself. 180 lbs. So why am I nervous? By BMI standards that means I’m very slightly overweight, but BMI is a very primitive and crude measurement. I’m not overweight – to the contrary I’m arguably in the best shape of my life. So why am I nervous?

I’m nervous because tomorrow morning I need to weight 174.9 or less, and that’s only the half of it. Why? Because I decided that I want to compete in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament taking place tomorrow. I think this would make me nervous under any circumstances, but this occasion has a couple of special considerations. For starters, I haven’t done any Jiu Jitsu in two months. I have, however, been working on strength and conditioning at a CrossFit gym here in Atlanta. Many people say that conditioning is the most important factor in competition. Still, two months is plenty of time to get rusty on my skills.

I’m also competing in the advanced division. It’s the right division for me, but it’s intimidating to know that you’re in the division with the best guys. The other circumstance is cutting the weight. I’ve done it before – in 2006 I competed at 168 lbs, but I had a little longer to get there and I was a little smarter about it. With things the way they are now, I’m going to have to wake up and put on a sauna suit for 30-60 minutes while working out.

sauna suit

If you’re not familiar, a sauna suit (pictured above) is made of plastic and promotes sweating. It’s actually not that traumatic for a person my size to sweat 5 lbs, but it is not pleasant either. As soon as I make weight I can go weigh in as early as 8 in the morning and then have a few hours to eat and rehydrate and prepare for the tournament.

I don’t have much in the way of expectations for the tournament. I’ve competed before and I have experienced winning and losing. Regardless of the outcome I know I will feel good for having done it and I will learn. So that’s all I’m hoping for tomorrow. It will be a nice bonus, of course, if I can win a match or two. Time will tell, for now… I’m nervous.

Regina Spektor live at the Tabernacle Feb 29, 2008

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

I arrived at the Tabernacle after the opener had finished and before Regina had started. I think it had been at least 4 years since I had been to that venue, and I couldn’t remember what to expect. The general admission area on the floor was slightly smaller than I remembered, but it was absolutely packed. The show was sold out and Ms. Spektor had rescheduled this show twice due to sickness. The crowd was very enthusiastic, and it was so full it was hard to find a great place to stand. I wound up near the back on the left side (the right side would have put us on the wrong side of the piano).

Regina takes the stage, and honestly she had a bit of a goofy gait and a goofy grin. You coud tell she was genuinely flattered by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd, but the way she carried herself you would never expect that this is a person with much prowess in any skill set. How wrong that initial impression would be.

On the stage was just a piano, a mic, and a guitar. I had heard some of her live recordings and knew that she doesn’t usually play with a band. Her opening number was just her and the microphone. She started tapping a basic rhythm on the mic and singing an otherwise unaccompanied melody, and it was captivating. It immediately made you realize that when she’s singing there isn’t a need for much accompaniment.

After that opening number (which I didn’t recognize) she went right into “on the radio,” which drew loud roars of approval from the largely female crowd. The show proceeded and was almost exclusively just piano + vocals. There were a few exceptions – she played two songs on guitar: “that time” & “bobbing for apples.” On a later song, she played a chair with a drumstick in her right hand while playing the piano with the left hand. At the same time she was singing and stomping a beat with her foot – a very impressive one woman band effect. The audience did so much singing along that at times it sounded like there was a weird echo or reverb on a lot of the songs.

Her main set was pretty short, clocking in at just a hair over one hour. She left and came back to do several songs for the encore. She also spent some time talking to the audience about how grateful she was for their enthusiasm, how she had visited the aquarium and thought it was “so fucking cool,” and how “she felt like she was in a dream.” She said she had opened for The Strokes years ago at the same venue (which seems like a strange pairing to me), and would have never believed at the time that she would someday be headlining here.

One of the most impressive moments was during her encores she performed “Hotel song,” and invited someone out on stage with her (presumably from the opening band) to do beatbox for that song and sing harmonies. It was a fantastic effect and maybe the highlight of the performance. She closed the show with “Sampson.”

Overall it was a great performance, and it really left me with the impression of how talented she is. You get the impression that music is her one natural element in the world and you really get to see her personality come through when she’s behind the piano. The one problem with the show was that the volume was a little low. It sounded like the piano was not mic’ed and they still didn’t turn the vocal mic quite loud enough for the piano. This is an artist who relies heavily on her lyrics as part of the entertainment, and it’s frustrating when it’s not quite loud enough to understand all the lyrics. I knew going in that I would rather see her in a smaller venue, and I left the show feeling that sentiment stronger than ever.  Still, if you have the chance to see her – go!  Just get close to the stage.