Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hurry Hard and Get Me Some Ibuprofen

Weeks ago I decided that in preparation for an annual curling event I would do some daily stretches and lunges to prepare myself. You see, contrary to popular opinion curling can be taxing physically, especially if you're out of shape and on the other side of forty - which is the exact situation I'm in. Of course, I did my stretches exactly zero times and after going sledding with my kids on Friday and noticing that I was tired and sore, I realized that I was going be in for a world of hurt the next day at the bonspiel and even more on Sunday.

Ready to play the roaring game! Chess on ice! 

A brief explanation of Curling:

Curling is played on a flat sheet of ice between two teams comprised of four players each filling a particular role. The Lead is the first player to throw rocks. The Second is the second player to go, the Third or Vice goes second to last, and the Skip typically throws last rocks. Each player gets to throw two rocks per end - the teams alternate - and games are typically eight ends for club games and ten ends for professionals and other elite events.

The skip calls the game from the opposite end of the ice and the players not throwing rocks sweep it as it travels down the sheet (this helps the rock travel farther and also affects how much it curls). When it's the Skip's turn to throw, the Vice will go down to the other end of the ice. As such, the Lead and Second end up sweeping for three turns out of four in addition to throwing their own rocks.

Points are awarded to the team with a rock closest to the center of the concentric circles called the "house". A team will score a point for each rock in the house that's closer than the opponent's closest rock to the center (so if you have three rocks closest to the center and the opposing team has the fourth closest rock you will score three).

An end typically takes 15 minutes to play with two hours being a typical eight-end club league match. It is considered good sportsmanship to concede a match before all the ends are played if you feel your team has no chance of winning (the Skip on the team who is behind gets to make that decision, usually with consultation with the rest of the team). It is also customary for the winning team to buy the first round of drinks for the losing team.

Wikipedia has a great explanation of the history and rules of curling. If you're at all interested, I'd recommend reading it.

The Bonspiel:

This was the second year that I played on a team that entered The Elmira Striploin Classic, a one-day, adult men's, three game tournament involving eight teams. All the prizes are meat, with the top two teams winning a six-pack of beer and four striploin steaks. Places three through eight get their choice of an assortment of meats as their prize (the eighth place team usually is left with a package of bacon).

I don't have a regular curling team but we cobbled together four guys that went to university together and spent some time hanging out at the on-campus pub The Bombshelter (affectionately known to students and alumni as "The Bomber"). Our Skip and Vice (Sean and Tony) were provincial junior mixed champions back in the day, our Second (Mike) curls regularly, and I was the Lead as the least experienced player (curled for four years in Ottawa from 2006-2009 then took some time off and curled for one year in 2013). You have to represent a curling club when you register and since we were cobbled together we said we were from the Bombshelter Curling Club.



Playing three games of curling in one day is a bit of a challenge but we were ready in spite of our pre-game team selfie indicating otherwise:

Left to Right:
Andrew "Confused" Butters - Lead
Tony "Smily" Rowlandson - Skip
Mike "Surly" Venhuis - Second
Sean "Skeptical" Follis - Vice 
I decided I would wear my Samsung Gear smartwatch and use the pedometer feature as well as the wrist camera to get a few photos. The day started out playing against a team skipped by a gentleman named Franco and the first end finished with a couple rocks near the button (the center of the house) that needed a measurement! In the end, we were up 1-0 after one.

Vice Sean measures at the completion of the first end

We held our own against Franco's much more experienced team but after a few ends our team suffered a bad break with our Skip's last rock picking (that's where the rock picks up a bit of debris or dirt on the ice and deviates drastically off course as a result). What would have been our team scoring two resulted in Franco's team scoring two. With a few ends to go, we were down by four points instead of being tied and things were looking pretty grim. We had even got to throw what I called the "Happy Little Rock", but it was to no avail and we shook hands after seven ends. The good news is I managed over 4,000 steps and was over 5,000 for the day!

Robert "Bob" Ross donated the money for the handle on this rock

Of course, curling advertising is always a fun distraction when you're at the rink. This gentleman was sporting a t-shirt from a curling broom head company.

It reads: A good head is hard to find (yes, there's a wee little
letter "a" at the top there)
After a couple drinks and a hearty lunch of sandwiches and homemade soup (creamy potato with bacon) we hit the ice again, this time against a group of non-curlers who we also happened to know from our university days. Team Sindall has a short, but storied, history at this tournament of bringing home the bacon. Since we knew the other team and were just there to have a good time we decided that the Leads would Skip this game! The upside was I got to skip and didn't have to sweep and the downside was I had no clue what I was doing and I was going to get a lot fewer steps. It was a lot of fun, and in the end, teams that actually curl (or have curled) regularly tend to win over teams that curl only once a year, regardless of who their Skip is. When it was all said and done, I ended up winning (keeping my undefeated streak as Skip alive at three wins) as Team Sindall shook hands after seven ends.

How to read the scoreboard. We were playing blue rocks, the other team yellow:
In the first end, we got one.
In the second end, they got one.
In the third end we got one (total of two).
In the fourth and fifth ends we got three and two respectively (totalling 5 and then 7).
In the sixth end, they got two (total of three).
In the seventh end, we got three (total of ten).
At the end of the game as I was getting my camera out I fell. Thankfully I didn't hit my head on the ice (as someone with a long history of concussions this would have been really bad). I did, however, manage to wrench my back. As such, I decided to stay away from alcohol for the rest of the night (I was also DD so I needed to be responsible anyway). It was also an opportunity for me to brush up on one of the first rules to remember when curling: never walk backwards on the ice! With the hack and all the rocks and other people around holding brooms, there are myriad opportunities to trip and fall.

We ate dinner (steak, potatoes, salad, pie and ice cream) and I noticed that I was starting to get sore. Not just from the tumble but sore all over from curling. So many aches and pains and still another game to play. Ibuprofen to the rescue. I had the forethought to pack a bottle in my bag and started popping those suckers like candy.

The End Result:

The third game was a close back-and-forth affair for a few ends and then our relative youth seemed to take over and we pulled ahead. After six ends we had amassed a five-point lead and with only two ends remaining the other team decided to shake hands. We finished the day with two wins and one loss (in the first game) and improved our standing in the tournament by one spot by finishing fourth. Our prize, a five pack of pork chops.

Pork, the one you love.

After all the games ended and celebratory drinks were consumed I looked down and checked the ol' pedometer. I had a preset goal of 10,000 steps and my little reward medal was proudly displayed on the front of my watch:


Would have cracked 15k if I didn't skip that one game.

My reward for a good long day's activity (aside from free pork)? Everything hurts. I mean everything. My toes on my right foot hurt from pushing out of the hack. My left ankle hurts from sliding. My left leg, hip, and butt cheek hurt from the lunge position while sliding. My shoulders, neck, and arms hurt from sweeping like a crazy person; and my ribs hurt (though that's a product of my poor form sweeping as my broom kept rubbed against them).

Was it worth it? Yes.

Will I do it again next year? Yes.

Will I prepare better for next year? Sure, let's just say that will happen.

For those of you who may not have seen curling before here are two of the best shots I've ever seen. Man, when the planets align and "Plan A" works out the way you want it, it's a beautiful thing:






~ Andrew

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