Friday, June 13, 2014

Rusty Cage

Today is the first submission from Lenny Siegel, who I met during a warm up round. We hit it off immediately and then he noticed my "Not a Roller" Destroyer that was signed by JohnE McCray. He figured I had to be "HeavyDisc" and then mentioned potentially writing something - to which I quickly said, "Have it on my desk by Monday." - Jason
Many of us ended up here because we live for recreation and the weather and season become determinants for where you can find many of us on a given day. We ski and ride with fervor in the early winter, getting up early to beat the tourists and those less gnar than ourselves to the steepest most socked-in terrain. We brag of building back-country booters and grabbing first chair on a bluebird day.

Lenny in his natural habitat.
But it’s when the days grow shortest that we start to take the turn. Maybe you've argued with one too many Brazilian travel agents. You got stiffed by a 10-top that sat down 30 minutes before close. Perhaps your mind started to wander after explaining ad nausea that ski boots aren't supposed to be comfortable.

Lenny and his Helix's riding the Vail gondola to the land of deep snow.
We start to take the turn. After too many sweaty post-shred bus rides and being let down by Ullr (Norse god of snow), the steep and deep terrain which brought us here seem about as inviting as retrieving an errant disc from an open cesspool. Instead of booters and bluebird, our minds drift to baskets and birdies. To the days spent squinting out the windows at work, trying to read the wind, trying to beat the afternoon storm. Those are the days that keep you here.

Shake hands! I said SHAKE!
Another layer? A glove for my non-throwing hand? The thermometer in my car reads 38. Surely I’ll be ok right? Feldberg said not to practice in the winter. Something about muscle memory or tendon bounce. I say bully to that. Should I take advice from a man who doesn't practice? Not bloody likely. This is the winter of chains for me.

Disc golf drove me to obsession, but it was a meandering route. To improve at this game it would take practice, repetition, some personal discipline. And I was going to start now. What do I need for this?
Somewhere with light and warmth. Maybe a place to set my discs. That’s what I needed. The streetlamps turn off at about 11 at the school down the street. Putting in the dark is dreadful.

The things we do.
Parking garages take on a new significance when the snow is falling. Originally built to keep the cars (mostly rentals and out of state plates) from getting chilly, lest a tourist be forced to scrape and sweep his windshield like a commoner, these subterranean sanctuaries of recreation take on a new meaning for the disc'ing residents of Vail, CO during late winter.

What’s the garage code? There’s a closure on I-70 but I’m still gonna make my way to East Vail. Meet you down there in 15? The state trooper didn't see a permit in my windshield, but he let me through anyway. I must look local.

Making concrete basket anchors.
HORSE? No, DISC is better. How about 21? I think whatever makes us re-set and take the putt each time will be best, just like in a round. We struggle to get good practice in. The ceiling of this garage is low, which favors Petrie’s putting style. He uses more spin than I do, which allows him to get good distance and speed on his putts without relying on lobbing the disc high above the target to travel chain-ward. I noticed this because I experienced what can be a golfer’s nightmare on the course; a full-speed putt into a ceiling. These putts are only slightly less humiliating than what getting posterized must feel like. Usually a ceiling formed by pine or cedars is found on the disc golf courses of Colorado, but in our parking garage/putting dojo its cold hard concrete. I’m forced to change my putt to a more direct, low-flying style, what Dunipace calls the ‘snake-bite’ putt. It won’t stick around past this session though. Too unwieldy. I’ll be soaring past baskets and hunkering down into sage brush for butt-puckering comebacks all summer. But I guess it will work for tonight.
Finding treats in the mushroom kingdom.
So where does it take us? All the time spent recreating “serious” golf with putting practice? I no longer have to hunt down practice space as the long warm season is graciously upon us. Leagues are up and running and the huckers of Vail once again have their stoke. Had I gotten any better?

On many nights I still find myself counting the steps to distances which have become familiar. One, two, three; from here I will only miss when it matters and I will be shocked. Four, Five, Six; this will be my comfort zone, from wherein I will miss and be shocked. Seven, eight, even nine steps out? Even the best miss from here and they are shocked. Best not to waste time practicing throws from here and out. That is where I am now, comfortable to 6 steps out.

But one’s putting range cannot be a true measure of disc golf success. The fact is that we all measure success in different ways. In this game you can’t simply save the princess and live happily after in, oh let’s say mushroom kingdom. There is no endgame here.

The disc golf endgame.
While the notion that practice = improvement = happiness is a tempting one, the truth is the little experiences that this game takes you through need to be appreciated just as much as the process of improving your game.


  1. You should keep him Heavy Disc! He perfectly described the anticipation of a new season and the unwillingness to let it arrive naturally. Very fun to read.

    1. I couldn't agree more! I'm sure Lenny and a few more guest writers will be showing up more often.