The odds are pretty good that there is not a banjo in my knee, but there is something in there, and it hurts.  The pain manifested at roughly mile 6 of an 8 mile run on Sunday.  My training program to push my long run to 12 miles is on hold for now.  A few days of ice, rest, and summer olympics viewing should get me back on track.  Oh, and stretching.  My more flexible half has convinced me that working a handful of tried and true limbering up exercises would go a long way towards preventing future injuries.  I was stretching some, but apparently not enough.  As I work more distance into my runs, the potential for injury grows with every extra step.  You know the phrase; not a question of if, but when.  Time to get with the program.

What about horseshoes?  The clay (and sometimes sand) pit action has been pretty steady this summer.  In my last sanctioned tournament, which was the Mass Open in Shrewsbury, I ended up in a tie for second place (in terms of wins and losses) which turned into a statistical dead heat for fourth place (using ringer percentage as a tie break).

I also competed in an informal, luck-of-the-draw partners tournament in Sherman, ME a few weekends back.  I had a bit of a slow start, a solid middle, followed by a strong finish, but it was a little too late.  I finished in a tie for third place, and a playoff for third left me in fourth.  I’m sensing a bit of a pattern here.

Club play in Hamilton has been going well.  I didn’t quite make the cut at the mid point of the season to earn a bid into the season ending playoffs.  I still have a chance to earn one of four spots in the second half.  My club average has hovered pretty close to 25%, while my tournament average is consistently just under 30%.  I like to think that this can be attributed to my ability to step it up under pressure, but there could very well be another explanation.

In other news, Lavender and I climbed Mt. Katahdin.

Photo courtesy of Lavender.

 

Katahdin deserves its’ own post, so I’ll follow with that in coming days.  We’re going to try to hit it again before the summer is out.  It’s a great climb, and renews my spirit every time.

“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration.
Light out after it with a club.”  – Jack London

Monday league play is back at the Hamilton Horseshoe Club!  April 30th was actually the first night of play, although the wins, losses, and other stats did not start piling up until this past Monday, May 7th.  My ringer percentage was about 25% and change on both nights, with some hot and cold streaks here and there.  I shot 40% for one game this past week, which I’m pretty sure is my best game to date.  I won two games and lost one.  I’m pretty happy with my start to the season.  It feels great to see the gang and get back into the regular routine of weekly play.  It doesn’t hurt that the resurgence of horseshoe play is also seemingly coinciding with the advent of warmer weather.

The three tournaments I played over the winter in Connecticut went a long way towards keeping my pitching steady, if not sharp, now that Spring has rolled around.  I signed up for my first tournament, which is the Hamilton Open, scheduled for Saturday, May 19th.  I’m going to have to get creative when it comes time to make the trek up to Hamilton, due to the fact that my more stylish half will be in the Granite State for the weekend.  If we get a good turnout for the contest, maybe I’ll hitch with a pitcher heading north past Slummerville.

Cheers.

That shadowy figure in the shot below, pitching a horseshoe (trust me, he’s pitching a horseshoe), that’s yours truly.

grainy men on a granular planet

 

Things did not begin so swimmingly yesterday at the Central Connecticut Horseshoe Club for me.  I had about 30 minutes to warm up before my class began shooting at 11:00.  After a few horrid pitches, I got back into the swing of things and felt satisfied enough to relax for a few minutes before match play began.  When the official play started, however, I had a bit of a rough time.  It was a very slow start, but the ringers started coming.  Fortunately they started coming before my opponent had built an insurmountable lead, and I won the first contest by a score of 35 to 17.

My second game turned out to be the toughest, at least on paper, though any of them could have had very different outcomes if not for a ringer (or a single point) at the right moment.  I shot 31.25% to my opponent’s 27.1%, and won by a score of 36 – 28.

The score card does not lie.  Here it is:

Opponents' names redacted by the self censorship bureau.

All told, I finished in first place in Class G, with a 5-0 record and a 32.24% ringer percentage for the day.  It was my best day of pitching to date.  I’m looking forward to returning to weekly club play at the Hamilton Horseshoe Club.  If spring is here to stay, we should be off and running soon.

Cheers.

 

I’m about to hit the highway.  Destination:  East Hartford, CT.  Occasion?  Spring Thaw Horseshoe Tournament.  The action starts at 11:00 a.m.  Why am I posting about this before the event?  Brace yourselves…  You can watch the fast, probably not furious action from the comfort of your own living room!  Yes, all you need is A.) an internet connection, and B) nothing better to do, and you can watch me play horseshoes today.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but horseshoes is not much of a spectator sport.  You’ve been warned.  If you’re still curious, wander on over to Central Connecticut Horseshoe Club’s home on the web.  The link for the live video feed is in the upper left hand corner of the home screen.  It will require downloading a small plug in.  And the plug in does not work with Firefox, but should function fine with Safari or Internet Explorer.

This has nothing to do with the price of tea in China, or horseshoes, but it’s a nice way to start the day.  Cheers.

I had a slight revelation about my horseshoe play last Saturday at the Stan Butkus Memorial Tournament, held in East Hartford, CT at the Central Connecticut Horseshoe Club

My class was scheduled to play at 3:00 p.m., and I showed up about an hour early.  Fortunately the previous group finished up just after 2:00, and 3 courts opened up so that I could warm up before competition began.  Even though it’s been a mild winter here in Massachusetts, I hadn’t been able to get any pitching in since the last time I made it to the CCTHC, which was back in November.

After hitting the chain link fence on my back swing, I remembered that I needed to adjust my position in the box forward a bit.  I threw probably 40-50 shoes, trying to finish my warm-ups with a few ringers in order to end on a high note.  In my first match-up I started slow, and ended up with a loss that I definitely deserved.  I shot 16.67% in my first game.  I won my next three games, averaging 26.87%.  By the time my bye came, in round 6, I was 3-2.  I lost my last match, to a very tough opponent, by a score of 36-22.  So I finished 3-3 for the day, with an average of 26.87%.

I’m actually pretty happy with the way I shot, especially considering that I hadn’t thrown for so long.  The competition was very tough, as I’m learning is the norm for this venue.  Oh, and there was the revelation, which was thanks to two fellow horseshoe players at the tournament, one of whom was my opponent, and the other a scorekeeper.

As with lots of leisure activities, sports, music, etc… horseshoe players sometimes enter the fabled “zone”.  Everything comes together.  The ringers are effortless.  I was in the zone more than once last Saturday, and I eventually found my way out.  During two games, I started off throwing very well, and built up a comfortable lead.  I then promptly cooled off, letting my opponents back into the game.

What I found out, through the kind advice of my fellow players, is that I started hurrying my pitches.  My arm speed increased.  I wasn’t aware in the least that I was doing this.  Inevitably I start wondering what exactly I’m doing differently when I start to fall apart and lose momentum.  Increasing my arm speed is one of those things, and now I know I need to make an effort to prevent this from happening.  I’m not sure that it will drastically improve my pitching, but being aware of this tendency is definitely a step forward.

Here are the results, for the statistically minded.

Yesterday I made the trek down to East Hartford, CT for the Norm Rioux Open horseshoe tournament. The event was held at the Central Connecticut Horseshoe Club facility, which is quite a unique establishment. The CCTHC is an indoor pitching venue tucked away in an industrial nook of East Hartford. To say the place is unassuming would be an understatement, but it is a haven for serious horseshoe pitchers who want to stay active through the winter. The club hosts league play five nights a week from October through May. In fact, according to the club’s website, the courts are open seven days a week from 10.1 through 5.1. This level of participation is quite impressive, and is part of the reason I didn’t mind driving for a few hours to play there.

Norm Rioux Open action.

Neither the club, nor the players disappointed yesterday. The competition, as I expected, was tough. My group, Class H, was scheduled to start at 12:00 noon, and I arrived a few hours early. This allowed me to meet a few of the club members, including Tournament Director, Don Maine. I grabbed a sandwich across the street at the Greatful Deli. As luck would have it, I had a bye on my fourth game, which provided an excellent opportunity for a lunch break.

The previous group finished up a little bit early, which gave me an opportunity to throw some shoes and get used to the indoor courts. One adjustment I found that I had to make was stepping up a bit further in the box to throw. You’ll see in the photo above that there is a section of fence directly behind each pit. The fence is necessary because of the space constraints in the building and the fact that players need a protected place to stand between pitches. Normally I stand behind the stake a bit on the left hand side. I was confounded to find that my shoe was hitting the chain link fence on my backswing. This was corrected easily by stepping up about a foot closer. It was nice to have a chance to work this kink out before the competition started.

A view from the scorer's perch.

Before I get into the play by play, I should also point out an unusual feature of the CCTHC, which is the scoring. They tout the club as the “home of computerized scoring”. There is a scorer’s perch accessed by stairs and situated one level above the pits. Two scorers, each equipped with computers, receive the scores from the players after each inning. Practically speaking, this means that each scorer is keeping track of up to three games at once. The system works quite well, but it means that each player has to follow the correct protocol when reporting to the scorekeeper. As an example, if I were playing a game and got a ringer plus a point, I would make eye contact with the scorekeeper and report “ringer 4″. There is a monitor at the end of each court that is updated in real time with the players’ names, scores, and ringer percentages. It is a great feature, as long as you keep focused on pitching shoes and don’t get sidetracked by your ringer percentage.

Tale of the 'sheet.

Despite my warm up, I started off very slow. I think it was the sixth or seventh frame before I got a ringer. This allowed my opponent to build up a pretty comfortable lead. I did rebound and pitch a pretty good game, but my comeback wasn’t strong enough, as I dropped the first game 35 to 25. The game format was such that games went to 35 points or 50 shoes, whichever came first. I won my second game, although I was a bit off my average. My opponent had an off game as well, otherwise it probably would have ended differently. I had my best game in the fifth match, where I pitched 44%, which is a personal best for me. I almost finished at .500, but I lost my last game on the very last shoe, when my opponent threw a ringer to squeak out a win, 29 to 28. I knew I needed a ringer with my last two shoes, and I just missed high on my last shoe. So it goes. I finished with a record of 2 wins and 4 losses.

I ended up shooting 29.58% for the day, which is roughly 2 points above my average. I really liked playing indoors, after a fashion. It has a distinctly different feel. I found that even the acoustics came into play, with a very satisfying ‘clink’ when a shoe is buried on the stake just right. I plan on returning to the CCTHC a few more times over the winter.

What does Knoxville, TN have to do with it? Not much, except I found out from a fellow player yesterday that the 2012 World Horseshoe Tournament will be held there. I would love to attend, but we’ll see what happens. The New England Championship, held in Keene, NH, will be celebrating its’ 75th anniversary next year, so that’s something to think about as well.

As I alluded to in my last post, my next tournament is going to be an indoor affair in East Hartford, CT. It’s coming up next weekend, and I’m pretty excited about it. The host club, Central Connecticut Horseshoe Club, holds tournaments through the winter, complete with computerized scoring, to satisfy the cravings of hardcore pitchers who couldn’t possibly wait until the snow thaws and the temperatures rise again in April. I expect the competition to be fierce, and I’m hoping I’m not any worse for not practicing in the last 6 weeks or so.  The lineups haven’t been announced yet -They should be posted on newenglandhorseshoes.com by Wednesday.

In other news, the little lady and I have undertaken the daunting, but not quite herculean task of revamping my Grandparents’ former residence in Silver Ridge, Maine. The house has sat vacant for more than eight years now, and is a little rough around the edges. Actually it’s a little rough everywhere. With some help from Mom and Dad, we got a good deal of it cleaned up last weekend. In just a few days it went from looking like it was going back to nature to looking semi-livable again. We’re both pretty excited about the prospects for the house. Just being in the place brings back a lot of great memories from my childhood. That old yellow house was a fantastic place to gather and share a meal and a few laughs in good company. With a little sprucing up, and a lot of sweat equity, I think we can keep that tradition alive. The next step will be hooking up the water again in the spring to do some further cleaning. After that? Remodeling!

Running, another of my leisure activities, has taken a back seat recently to more pressing things. I did manage to get out today, with my faithful companion Mushka, for a 10k jaunt in the golden afternoon of a late Autumn day in New England. It was a little rough for me during the first mile or two. It wasn’t painful or anything, no cramps, but let’s just say that if a comfortable looking couch would have presented itself on the sidewalk, I would have happily sat down for a breather. It wasn’t until the last mile or so that I really got into the groove. Running, at its’ best, feels as natural as breathing. No effort, no strain. Just one foot in front of the other. With any luck, the snow and frigid temperatures will hold off for another month or so and I can continue jogging in the out of doors. Running in place in our living room just doesn’t cut it.

Aside from the occasional trip to the constitution state for some indoor pitching, horseshoes will get damn near impossible once the snow starts flying.  In the interest of keeping things, well…interesting, I’ll be filling this space with ramblings about other topics.  Running may get knocked out of contention by mother nature as well.  But then there are always musings about the nature of the cosmos, which I am lately very fascinated with, though I confess that I have never set foot in a Physics classroom.  Go figure.

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