Hello from Narnia… I mean Sarnia!

In the past couple weeks, whenever I would tell someone I was headed to Sarnia for a tournament, I’d almost always get a confused look in response. “Sarnia? ” they’d ask, and then make some reference to Narnia ( you know, the lion, the witch and the wardrobe).

Anyway, I made it to Sarnia, without much trouble. On Sunday morning I flew into Toronto, where Nikki picked me up and drove us both to Mayfair Lakeshore. She was competing in the final of the Ontario Closed championships at 3 pm, and once she won, watched the men’s final, and picked up a few snacks for the road, we were on our way! It took us a little over 3 hours to drive from Toronto to Sarnia, and by the time we arrived, it was dark and starting to snow. After meeting my billet, Ati, and another fellow competitor, Ali, I ate a bit of leftover pulled pork, and then called it a night.

Monday

My HRV was amber on Sunday, and after a full day of traveling and a few days of training without rest, I wasn’t at all surprised to wake up on Monday morning a little tired. Nevertheless, I had to get a practice in, as the tournament matches are all being held on an all-glass court. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very cool and feels very professional, but takes some getting used to. We use a white single-dot ball instead of a black double dot (dot refers to the bounciness level of the ball), which means although it is more lively, the contrast between the ball and the wall isn’t as great, making it harder to see and react to.

I felt slow and slippery on court, which was troublesome, since I’ve been having some issues with my right ankle. I’ve injured it a few times in the past couple of months by slipping when taking a hard lunge into the front court. It’s not serious right now (knock on wood), but I am extremely cautious when playing on a court which is a bit dusty. (I am happy to report though, that today the court felt much better!).

After hitting, Ali and I returned to our billet’s to have some lunch and rest. I worked on a client’s program online, while watching a very girly and mindless movie, The DUFF. It was very corny and predictable, so I’m not recommending it, but made for some good background noise. Around 4 pm we headed back to the courts to watch a few of the qualifying matches. I watched squash for about %50 of the time, and spent the rest catching up with people I met at this event last year. Everyone who is involved in the Simon Warder memorial tournament is so incredibly nice and generous, and I really enjoyed hearing news from the past year!

Tuesday

This morning, I had some Greek yogurt chia seed pudding for breakfast, along with about 4 cups of coffee (oops). I think that chia seeds are going to start making a regular appearance in my diet. They’re convenient to transport for tournaments, and give you a good amount of good fats, protein, and fibre. Chia seeds could be my new travel staple!

My first practice hit was from 10:20-11 am, which wasn’t great, but I felt a bit faster than yesterday. However, I was still having trouble seeing the ball off the front wall. Not good! I stuck around for a little bit afterwards, hoping someone would need a partner to hit with, so I could spend some more time practicing. One of the English girls, Jasmine, didn’t have anyone to hit with, so I was happy to jump on with her around 1 pm. Physically I felt a bit better, but my shots were pretty bad! Hopefully I’ll shape up a bit better tomorrow morning.

Alright, that’s the latest from me! I don’t usually have the opportunity to chill for a couple hours in the middle of the day, so I took advantage and thought I’d blog! I’m just hanging out for a bit longer at home before going back to the club to watch some more matches. There should be some close ones! If you’re interested in watching online, check out the Youtube live stream here.

 

 

Baking, NYC Marathon, and a Headband

This weekend went by very quickly. After a hard week of training, I was prepared to take the weekend off of training if necessary, and I did just that. However, I didn’t spend the entire weekend resting, as I spent Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday coaching. I’ve recently started loading up my Sundays with lessons and clinics, which I’ve started to enjoy as it gives me the flexibility to focus on training and work a bit less during the weekdays.

Despite a lack of training, there were some fun and exciting things that happened, so today’s post is going to be a little catch-up of my weekend!

Baking Muffins

Friday night I wasn’t in the mood to do much other than bake and chill out. I made two batches of grainless (almond flour) zucchini banana muffins.

With some chocolate chips, of course!

I have nearly perfected my recipe now, which is turning into a bad thing, since it means I can easily put away 6 muffins in one sitting and feel absolutely fine. Granted, they’re lighter than normal muffins and healthy (no sugar/syrup), but still… it’s Monday and one batch is already entirely gone. I’m obsessed!

NYC Marathon

Yesterday, some of my friends and I went to Clinton Hill (Brooklyn), to watch some of the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. Apparently, it’s the largest marathon in the world, attracting ~50 000 participants!

Todd held a little “marathon party” at his place starting around 9:30 am, where we made signs to cheer on our (few) marathon-ing friends. It was so fun to get together and track the athletes online, while thinking of punny sayings for our posters.

Around 11:15 am we headed out to cheer on the runners. Although I’ve now lived through 3 NYC marathons, this is the first one I’ve ever witnessed. Part of me wished I was running it, and the rest of me wished I could travel to different spots in the city and watch it all day long! My friends and I had a blast cheering on friends and also random people. Tip: if you ever run a marathon, write your name on your shirt so that strangers on the sidelines can cheer for you by name!

Halo Headbands

For the past year, I’ve been struggling with my hair up-do for squash. I’ve got a lot of hair which I need to keep out of my face, and the simple ponytail doesn’t quite work anymore. My hair is too long, and a ponytail will whip me in the face if I turn suddenly (which happens a lot in squash!).

After a lot of experimenting, I’ve finally found a way to secure my hair in a bun, which doesn’t annoy me or fall out mid-match. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to tame the little fly-away pieces of hair around the fringe of my face. Previously, cloth headbands/sweatbands have never, ever stayed on my head (I have a weird shaped head, it seems), so bobby pins, barrettes, and plastic headbands litter my bags and pockets.

White, Blue, and Black Halo Tie-headbands

Lately, the bobby pins haven’t been cutting it. My fly-away situation has gotten out of control, so I decided to try out a couple of cloth headbands I’d received for free as a sample. They worked out pretty well, so I expanded my horizons.  I stumbled upon Halo Headbands on Amazon, and after doing some research online and talking to a friend who is a loyal Halo user, I was sold! I bought a couple on sale on Amazon, and tried it out in practice this morning. Practice didn’t go so well, but I was relieved that the headband stayed put, and I had no issues with it.

Monaco…!?

As I was about to book my flight home from London for the beginning of next month, I logged on to the PSA website to look up some of the tournaments. Last time I’d checked, I was a reserve for the 25k in Monte Carlo, Monaco, immediately following the London tournament. Looks like some people pulled out, because when I looked at the entry list, I had magically been bumped up to #5 in Qualifying! I’m pretty excited, as not only do I get to go visit Monte Carlo, but now I will be traveling to Europe for two tournaments, not solely the London event.

That’s it for now! Time to go coach, before heading home for the evening.

Carol Weymuller + Granite Open 2017

Happy Friday! Coming in a couple weeks late here, but better late than never for a tournament recap! Since the US Open, I’ve had two tournaments: a 50k close to home in Brooklyn, and a 15k in Toronto. In between the tournaments I had a chance to rest, and also get some solid training in.

Does watching squash while I cook count as training?

Although my in-season training schedule is always in flux, I’m doing a better job of staying consistent with on-court practices, off-court training, and rest. Last year I found myself overtired/overtrained all too often, but at the same time felt I wasn’t fit enough. So far, this season has started off much better in that respect, as I feel more confident in my game, and in my base level of fitness.

Carol Weymuller : Match vs Mayar Hany (EGY)

I went into my match vs Mayar pretty positive and optimistic. Since the US Open, I’d been practicing a dominant style of play, and felt confident that I could implement it.

What went wrong? Simply put, she implemented my game plan better. Mayar took the ball very early and crushed the ball, putting me under consistent pressure. I found it very difficult to retrieve both her hard drives and short shots with the fast front wall and 17 inch tin. I popped up a lot of loose shots in the middle (perhaps due to nerves), which she had no trouble taking advantage of. This frantic style of play kept me from gaining much confidence and settling in.

Although I lost rather quickly, there were some key takeaways from the match.

  1. I should really take advantage of practicing on the courts before. I only had one hit and didn’t feel very good on there. Since I live so close to the facility, I should have made more of an effort prior to the tournament to practice.
  2. I need to realize and accept that opportunities are going to be harder to produce when playing a higher ranked player. This is obvious, but is hard to accept when you’re in the match!
  3. Keep trying to play the right way, even if you make some “good errors”. In the end, this was a learning experience!
  4. Improve my game at the back of the court. If you’re losing the back-court game, it’s going to be difficult to produce opportunities and a dominant position.

Thank you to the sponsors for putting on a great tournament! It is amazing to have such high quality squash come to New York, and these events are not possible without the time and support of countless volunteers.

Granite Open : Match vs Amanda Landers-Murphy (NZL)

I arrived in Toronto on Friday in plenty of time for my match. I was originally supposed to play Sunday, but my match got pushed back to Tuesday due to a couple of withdrawals. I wasn’t too upset by this, as I used the time to rest, train, and acquaint myself with the courts at the Granite club.

 

Spent a good amount of time in the awesome gym at the Granite!

Danielle, Mary, Colette, and I also spent some time cooking at our billet’s house, which was a fun way to pass some of our down time. (I also watched several episodes of Narcos and the Mindy Project…).

Greek yogurt, cinnamon maple roasted butternut squash and apples, almonds, and more cinnamon

My practice hit on Tuesday morning was rough, to say the least. I felt slow and lethargic, which was concerning as I knew there would be no path to victory if I played like that in the evening. I tried not to focus on it that day, and made sure I got a good warmup in before the match.

I started off the match against Amanda pretty slowly, managed to work my way into it. Unfortunately, by the time I had found a groove, it was already the third game and I was down 2-0. Amanda did a much better job of taking advantage of any opportunities I gave her, and neutralizing some of my attacks. If I had started the first game the way I started the third, the 3-0 scoreline might have been different. However, once I started to feel comfortable with my racquet and footwork on court, I was cautious not to get too carried away. One of the habits I’ve been trying to break is attacking soon and at the wrong time. Against Amanda, I worked myself into the match, making sure I didn’t open up the court too early. In retrospect, I could have attacked a bit more to the front, perhaps not to win the rally on that shot, but to produce an opening.

All in all, I learned a lot from the match, and was relieved to finally feel like myself on court and feel comfortable. I wish it could have been a best of 7 match, as opposed to a best of 5!

I’d like to thank all of the sponsors and billets that helped out with this tournament. There is a lot of work behind the scenes that the players and spectators never see, but it is crucial to the success of the event. Thank you, Granite Club and Slaight Music, and everyone else who helped make the tournament possible.

What’s Next?

I’ve been back in NYC for a week or so now, and have another 10 days before I head up to Sarnia, Ontario for a 5k. Following Sarnia, I have a week to gear up for my last PSA tournament of 2017, the London Open! I’ve never been to London (Heathrow airport doesn’t count), so I’m looking forward to not only playing squash, but also checking out popular sights of the city.

Alright that’s all from me for now! Have a great weekend.

 

 

US Open 2017

Happy Monday!

I took most of the weekend off of training, and feel much more energized today. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I was pretty shot mentally and physically (especially Friday and Saturday), so recovery was certainly in order. Although I was a little fatigued on Thursday, I pulled it together, because I got a last minute spot in the US Open!

I woke up Thursday morning to find an email from the PSA office offering me (and the rest of the reserve list) two last minute entries into the US Open qualifying draw in Philadelphia. Given that Philly is only a bus/train ride away, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I taught my lessons and clinics in the morning, and then caught a mid-afternoon Megabus.

Match vs Misaki Kobayashi

I arrived around 5 pm, in good time for my 7 pm match against the Japanese #1, Misaki Kobayashi. Although I’ve never competed against Misaki, I’ve seen her play several times, and had a rough game plan in mind. From what I remembered of previous tournaments, Misaki had a deadly boast, and does well with angles. Going in, I planned to attack to the back of the court with straight length, to try to limit Misaki’s options.

Unfortunately, a game plan is only as good as its execution. I wasn’t quite able to find my range until the third game, where I managed to get the lead and even a game ball, but was unable to close it out. The entire game I felt as though my spacing was off, and never got my full confidence in order to attack short or take the ball early. Most of my shots to the back were slightly defensive, which allowed Misaki to step in and put pressure on me. Although I came close in the third, I ended up going down 3-0.

I think the outcome of the match was partly mental, and partly physical. Physically, I didn’t feel confident hitting the ball, which certainly affected my tactics. Furthermore, Misaki did a very good job of taking the ball in short on the backhand side, and with the 17″ tin, those shots can be virtually un-gettable.

Despite the fact that this was a last minute match, I was stoked to be given the opportunity to play in such a big tournament. Although geographically close, it is a different atmosphere competing at these World Series events, and gaining that kind of experience is invaluable.

Next Up: Carol Weymuller in Brooklyn, NY

My next tournament is a 50k in Brooklyn next week. The qualification draw will be released a day or two before the tournament, so I don’t know who I play yet, but I do know that it will be tough. Until then, I’ve got about a week to train up, rest up, and get ready!

 

Nash Cup 2017

My 2017-2018 squash season has officially commenced!

Held in mid-September, the Nash Cup is usually one of the first tournaments of the fall, and is always one that the pros look forward to. Not only is there great competition (both 15k purses for men and women), the members are extremely excited and involved.

Pre-Tournament Prep in Windsor

A few days before the tournament, I flew up to Windsor, Ontario, to train with the Canadian women’s national coach, Graeme. About a month ago, he held an optional training camp, which proved to be one of the best training stints I’ve participated in in a while. Five full days of ~4-6 hours of on court training a day with top players- it doesn’t get much more motivating or intense than that! At the end of the camp, Graeme invited us to come up to hit and sharpen up prior to the Nash Cup, and I decided to take him up on his offer.

I ended up being the only one in Windsor for the pre-tournament prep, but that didn’t mean that there was a lack of squash! In between or after training sessions, I hit with some members, and also helped coach clinics and lessons. During my sessions with Graeme, we focused mostly on deep shots (drives and some cross courts), and taking the ball early.

A big thank you to the Windsor squash club, my host family (Moceris!), and Graeme for being so welcoming and supportive.

Match vs Millie

I knew roughly a month prior to the tournament that I would be pitted against the #1 seed, and world ranked #22, Millie Tomlinson. I had only played the Englishwoman once before, in Chicago this past spring. Although the game scores were respectable, Millie won that encounter in a reasonably decisive 3 games.

Drawing upon that experience and my current game, I began to formulate an idea of how the upcoming match might play out. Millie has a very consistent game, and prefers to hit most of her shots to the back with pace. She is very quick and reads the game well, so short shots can seem ineffective against her when played poorly or at the wrong time.

I went into the match half-expecting to be stuck behind Millie for the majority of the rallies, but surprised myself by stepping up on the T, and volleying. As my coach, John would say, I was going “toe to toe with her in the back court”. Compared to many of the higher ranked players, I have usually found my length game to be less consistent and less accurate, so this was a welcomed surprise.

Unfortunately, I found that although I was creating opportunities from the back, I reverted to “amateur squash”, when trying to attack and finish a rally.

In terms of attacking, I think I went wrong in 2 ways:

  1. I went short often at the wrong time, when I wasn’t quite in position
  2. I got nervous and doubted myself when it was time to play an attacking shot

Although I lost 3-0, I wasn’t overly disappointed with the match, as it pointed out several things that I need to work on, and also gave me the opportunity to test myself against a top player.

What’s Next?

I’ve got a couple of weeks now until my  next tournament, Carol Weyemuller, which is here in Brooklyn, NY! Time to train up on and off court, and see if I can play better in this tournament.