Beach wrestling and weigh-ins
Started this post on the plane. Finished it just now.
Well, I guess I’ll just start writing. In my middle seat on the 11-hour flight from Frankfurt to LAX (~3 hours and one carb-laden, sauerkraut- and mustard-filled meal in). In my dog-eared notebook with my acting-up Ouano pen. We left at 1am local time in a bus from the hotel to catch a 5am flight to Istanbul. People slept, some in the aisle and some lolling in their seats with their mouths open. Felicia and I cracked incredibly stupid jokes that seemed hilarious because we were still hyped up from the competition and didn’t go to sleep.
We had to start saying our goodbyes before we even got on the bus. Midget stays till today. Sanchez is taking a week or so to Eurail around eastern Europe. Bahar Shahidi is in town till tomorrow. (I haven’t even gotten to talk about Bahar and how cool she is. She finished second behind Felicia at the trial in Las Vegas, and ended up finishing second behind her yesterday too. She trains with Malcolm in Colorado and assures me that grappling is her career and medical school simply a hobby.). Bill “The Grill” Cooper, so nicknamed for his endearingly snaggletoothed grin, stuck around too. (Bill is one of those kids you can’t help but like, even though at age 19 he has earned a brown belt from Franginha, not to mention a crazy competition record. He told me he became hooked on grappling after a girl tapped him out. How cool is that? Bill finished second behind Don at the trial in Vegas, and then again yesterday). Matt Horwich is traveling on his own, I believe. (Matt is a fighter in the International Fight League and finished second behind Malcolm in Turkey.)
We’re sleep deprived, and some of us are a little emotional and sick, and some of us are hungover. Add to that the fact that we drove around the Antalya airport in the dark for about a half hour looking for where to check in, have had some close calls making our connections, and, in Darren’s, Felicia’s and my case, don’t know whether our luggage made it onto the plane (the attendant checked it through to LAX but neglected to give us luggage tags), and you have a motley, frazzled group that already smelled like cigarettes and is now starting to smell hard-core European.
Can you tell I’m out of it? I’m babbling.
Okay, on to the good stuff. I think I wrote already that the day before the tournament, Saturday, we went to watch the beach wrestling and I had no idea about how the scores worked. But then we slowly figured it out. It’s kind of like sumo. Only with normal sized people instead of superchunks with topknots and bathing suits instead of diapers. You stand in a delineated circle on the sand. Two takedowns, two pushes out of bounds, or some combination of those, wins. If you put your knee on the ground for an extended period of time, you forfeit a point. I don’t know how long a match is supposed to go, but the longest one we saw was about 30 seconds. I’m not interested in watching much more beach wrestling, but it was fun to see it once. Plus, Bill the Grill and Jeff Monson competed, so it was cool to cheer them on. They both lost, but they both seemed to have fun with it.
In my opinion, the best part was when a couple Turks next to us started passing out hats and T-shirts that advertised their trucking company, I think. I got a T-shirt with a slogan on it in Turkish. I will probably wear it, even though I’m always wary of those kinds of things. I mean, I can’t understand the language on the shirt, so for all I know, it could say, “I am a stinky nosepicker.” I’ve heard stories of people going to tattoo parlors and getting tattooed with Sanskrit or kanji characters that they are told say things like “courage” or “warrior,” when they actually say things like “dumbass” or “bedwetter.” But I like the shirt, so I guess I’ll take my chances.
After beach wrestling, the grappling team met up to take a run on the beach; Jason and Bob were hoping it would give us some unity the day before the tourney. It was kind of ill-advised, though, because 1) it was really really hot; 2) the footing was treacherous, on uneven sand and rocks, and we were weaving among lots of beachgoers; 3) we never take long runs because grappling is more of an explosive thing; and 4) there was a completely naked dude lying (facedown, thank God) in our path, and it was clear from the utter lack of tan line that he spent a lot of time in that particular spot/position. (I could have lived a long, happy life without seeing that.)
But I mention it because I have to take any opportunity to poke fun at Darren, and this situation provided a good one. Darren was in the crappy position of having to cut weight before the weigh-in. At the time we took the run, he was probably about 4 pounds over, and the weigh-in was later that day. Darren was wearing a black shirt that day, and he has black hair. So he started to get really hot and really cranky REALLY fast. I was just worried about turning my ankle, so when he, Don, and a couple others decided to turn back early, I was with them. As we were running back—carefully—I got an earful from Darren. In particular, he talked about how it was a bad idea to do this run, because “We’re losing valuable glycogen!”
Based on the fact that Darren won his division, he clearly had enough glycogen and was able to make weight, so no harm no foul about the run. And the best part is that now I have another thing to poke fun at Darren for. And that’s a gift I can treasure forever.
Darren is also trying to get the nickname “V-Dub” to stick. It seems to be working, as evidenced by the fact that he, Tara, Midget, and others on the team keep hollering it, saying, “V-Dub! What what!” and flashing a V and a W with their fingers, kind of like a gang sign. I am totally gangsta, obviously, and that’s why it will stick. Pictures to follow, of course.
Okay, so after the running misadventure, Felicia and I did a little shopping in the stores around the hotel. She was a little concerned about the political climate and how we might be treated, especially in light of the fact that there had been some terrorist activity involving the Frankfurt airport and a suspect from Antalya, but everyone was extremely friendly. In fact, we spent some time and money in one particular store and when we walked back the same way after shopping elsewhere, the guys who worked there invited us to sit with them and have some tea. (BTW, the technique seems to be that you hold a sugar cube in your teeth and then drink the tea around the sugar.) They serenaded us with a drum, challenged me to an arm wrestling contest when they found out we were in town for a grappling tournament (I won by cheating), and kept calling us “Hollywood” because we told them we were from Los Angeles.
There were tchotchkes galore: T-shirts, chess sets, flavored tobaccos (apple, mango, etc) and hookah pipes, Turkish delight (a chewy sugary/starchy candy—bad for the Zone diet!), and all kinds of evil eye souvenirs. As near as I can tell, the Turkish evil eye is actually supposed to protect you from evil, rather than being evil itself. So you keep one pinned to your clothing, and then when it cracks, that means it has stopped evil from getting to you and you need to replace it. Evil eyes are mostly blue. I will post pics eventually. (I know, promises, promises.)
At the apothecary in the area, there was also over-the-counter Paxil. And according to Gamze, there is sometimes also over-the-counter Xanax and Vicodin, depending on whether the person behind the counter is feeling generous and/or confident that you are not a police officer. So depending on your luck, you can have a good time in Turkey, or you can have a friggin’ sweet time in Turkey. (And no, Mom and Dad, I don’t take Paxil, Xanax, OR Vicodin, so don’t worry. I can’t even remember the last time I had a drink. Probably the last time I saw you. )
Felicia is a really good haggler, btw. I know you’re supposed to do that, and it’s part of the shopping experience, but I just can’t make myself do it. I also can’t seem to remember how to say “thank you” in Turkish. I have asked no fewer than three Turks, and I seem to have gotten three different answers. But I don’t know for sure.
Some of the team trained one last time on Saturday afternoon before the weigh-in. It kind of sucked for them because they went out to the venue—an hour and a half drive—trained for a bit, and then had to come back to the hotel because we were told after the fact that we had to weigh in in our USA uniforms. And that sucked because the weigh-ins were at the Champion hotel, which is close to the venue and is where most of the other teams from the other countries were staying. So they had to come all the way back to the hotel and then turn around and go pretty much all the way back to the venue. And not only that, but the bus left without Midget, Crystina, Tara, Lisa, and Bahar. We noticed that they weren’t on the bus, but had been told there was another one. Apparently there wasn’t one. So they were understandably pissed.
But they were able to get a cab and made it in time, so it all worked out okay. The Champion hotel was pretty cool. It was a campus of sorts, with lots of different buildings and tree-lined paths. It kind of looked like what I’d imagine an Olympic village would resemble, and since they seemed to be going for that vibe, it’s not surprising. In some ways it was great that we didn’t have to see the other countries’ competitors because we could just relax and focus on preparing, but in other ways, as Jason mentioned, it would have been kind of cool for us to see what the energy was like.
The first step in the weigh-in was the medical check. They had us stand with our arms held out to the sides (wingspan) and checked our fingernails, etc. The checker tried to get me to take off my rash guard. I kind of shook my head, so he peeked underneath and I stayed decent. Lisa was about a tenth of a kilo overweight at that point (and keep in mind that she’s a teeny girl to begin with and she dropped from 116 to 105). For those last couple ounces she had to lose, she did the spitting thing, where you chew gum to make yourself salivate and spit it into a bottle or a cup. Not fun. Not even a little. She had spent a lot of time in the sauna too.
After the medical check, they had us sit around a little and then we actually weighed in. As usual, I could have brought a few kettlebells onto the scale with me and still been fine, although I was closer than normal because we didn’t train as hard this week (to give ourselves a rest before the tournament) and the buffet at the hotel featured at least 3 types of baklava every lunch and dinner—after the tournament it is back to a Zone-ier lifestyle for Val.
Back at the hotel, we dug into some of that baklava—and Gamze found me! Gamze is awesome. I can’t remember how much I wrote about her before, so I’m going to gush some now. She is a ridiculously good judoka and was voted the captain of the Turkish women’s judo team at age FIFTEEN. She came to support me at the tournament even though coming from her town 30 minutes outside of Istanbul to Antalya is like coming to Chicago from California. She was totally cool with my erratic behavior, which is typical of me before a competition. She understands the whole competition dealie far better than I do, so that was helpful. I chatted with her a little bit after dinner, and then Felicia and I did a little technique before bed. I think I wrote about this already too, but I always freak out before a tournament that I will forget everything I have ever learned when I step onto the mat. So drilling, even just a little, is helpful to remind me that I know something about grappling.
I basically didn’t sleep that night. Part of it was the fact that the time difference was finally catching up with me, part of it was that there was all kinds of ambient noise from the next hotel (next time you see Bill the Grill, ask him what a “foam party” is. He didn’t go to any the night before the tournament, but he did check out a few before and after. And he seemed to think I should know exactly what a foam party was. I didn’t. Still don’t.), and of course, part of it was that I was thinking about the next day and resolving to hide under the bed rather than go and compete.
Next installment: the actual tournament! And then pics. For now, here are some websites you can look at for details:
The write-ups and pictures from themat.com
A very sweet congratulations from the people at Petranek Fitness