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October 04, 2004

2004 Vancouver Island Open Squash Championships

October 1-3
Cedar Hill Squash Club

My first squash tournament and I won a match (3-0) but lost two (4-1, 3-2) in the Mens C Category. Winning was good, loosing to a twelve-year-old was almost inspiring, but man I should have won that last match. If you've played either sport, FYI: Mens C in squash is like Cat 4 in cycling. I am a mid-range Cat 4 squash player.

Since I joined a squash club two weeks ago I've developed a soar throat swallowing so much of that abundant sin I once had, pride. I am getting my behind handed to me in every match I play.

I mean, it's why I joined a real club rather than sand bagging at UVic: you learn fast when people kick your ass. But it's hard, you know, taking up a new sport. Not that I podiumed all the time in cycling, but at least when I got dropped from the break I got dropped by some of the top guys in the country. In many ways, you got it in your legs or you don't. And when your heart is over 200 and you've put 4 hours in the saddle, finishing at all is a relief. And so far the accelerated learning curve in squash has kept me enjoying it everyday. Like, I actually notice improvement every game, even between those of my first tournament. It's just that knowing--even as you do it--that you should have had better length on that last shot, shoulda lobbed it to the corner rather than delivering it to the T like some damn lap dog, that's what's kinda frustrating.

I mean, I've lamented missed moves in a race, but the pain in your legs and lungs usually bullies any such guilt to the back of your head. This past weekend I got to the ball over and over but hell if I could control--let alone remember--what to do when I got there.

In fact, I've compiled a table of my observations of the two sports, a sort of grossly stereotyped and off-the-cuff comparison of my six years and hundreds of bike races and my two-weeks of competitive squash.

Cycling Squash
Appearence Must shave legs and face, fit and defined leg muscles, usually white ankle socks, no cut-off jerseys (I've been to races where you can be penalized for breaking the sock and jersey rule), tight, colourful spandex with lots of sponsor logos, sponsor tents and signs, clean bike, cool sunglasses Mostly shaved faces, nice skirts (see Girls). Men in all sorts: beer guts, old short shorts or long Adidas soccer kind, socks of black or white, old t-shirts (even old white tank tops), pastel candy-swirled grips, maybe one racquet sponsor on shirt, a couple sponsor signs on court, cool big squash-specific gear bags for players, some cool shoes, very few safety glasses none of which looked great
Beer At Christmas Between games
Duration 2 days: 3-4 hr road race, 20-40 min individual time trial, 1 hr criterium; show up 1 hour before race for sign-on at 7:30am in the middle of some freezing mountains or parched farmer's fields 3-4 days, 3-6 matches, 30-60 min per match; show up 15 minutes before event, may have more matches scheduled for same day in a few hours, at a club in a city, bar and food on site, matches could be in morning / afternoon / evening
Etiquette Sorta, like congrats to winner, but often yell at people, or get yelled at, to do more work or bridge a gap or stay tight Fairly friendly: shake hands with ref after match (at least the juniors did), lots of "nice shot" and "good get" but get really pissed off and swear at yourself, get ticked off at the ref
Fitness Like, super important, always exhausting, medium to high heart rates with long painful and puke-inducing lengths of anaerobic attacks and breakaways, brutal hills, acid in legs, bonking, so exhausted that getting dropped or dropping out comes with little immediate guilt pretty important, fairly exhausting, more dependent on how long match goes, soar muscles, stretching important, exhausted but must keep playing
Food Yes, always eat during road race, lots of water and energy bars and drinks, etc. Yes, lots of water, but no food during match
Gear Pretty expensive: at least $1,000-$2,000 bike, spandex ($200), shoes ($100-200), helmet ($60-$100), racing license (over $100/year), race fees ($30-$70) and maybe get your entry fee back if you place top 5 A little expensive: playing at a club ($50/month), racquet ($60-$120), shoes ($60-$120), license ($30), tournament fee ($55) but you get t-shirt, two dinners, some prizes
Girls If spectating, then is girlfriend/wife of a racer; not many racing, don't look as great in spandex as you might think, minor fraternizing If spectating, then is girlfriend/wife of a player, quite a few playing and (bonus) they wear skirts, good deal of fraternizing
Injuries Road rash from crash, blood and scrapes, sore legs, blistered groin skin peeling off toes and arches, stiff and sore legs, ball in the eye, or a bruise
Refereeing Officials hired by race to watch you and penalize and tally times, etc. Sorta self-governed, each player must take turns refereeing other matches
Sights Pavement, the asses of other racers The ball and the walls
Smells Chain grease, air from rubber inner tubes, tiger balm and vaseline, fresh outdoors and car exhaust, post-race protein shakes Humid indoors, sweaty men, wood from pencil for marking score, beer breath from spectators and players
Sounds Metal scraping on pavement in a crash, crowd cheering every 1 hr lap, dogs barking, cars revving, wind in ears, racers swearing Loud whacking of balls on multiple courts, clang of racquets on wall, crowd chatting, refs yelling, players swearing
Spectators Sparse friends and family scattered on course, some more at finish line / larger events scattered public on course cheering Somewhat strong showing of friends and family in bleachers, minor clapping, occasional cheer, no general public
Sweat Yes when hot, lots dried off in wind, but esp. sweat on climbs, salt residue on face and helmet straps and bum of spandex shorts So much sweat, constant and embarrassing dripping on court, men with see-through shorts and shirts
Tactics Somewhat important, make sure you get in break away, good placement for sprint, get pissed off if miss the decisive move, skill on decents but not essential, but majority see Fitness Yes, lots, don't do stupid shots, trick opponent, set up shots inadvance, cool moves, so much regret for missed opportunities
Tactiles Smooth spandex, cork-tape handlebars, rubber brake hoods, sharp edges of power gel on the edges of your mouth, scrape off skin on pavement and get gravel in wounds from a crash, gravel and crap from road in your teeth, sun and rain and hail and snow, spit and snot and even urine from you and other racers Rubber of grip and dusty rubber of ball, wipe grease and sweat from hand on wall, push other player's squishy sweaty back out of the way, someone's sweat may get flung on you

Update: I just remembered a review I wrote six months ago on a different Victoria squash tournament. Maybe I'll come back every six months and see how ridiculous my impressions are.

Posted on October 4, 2004 04:24 PM | TrackBack

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