Friday, September 26, 2014

Just One Crazy Year

It's pretty easy to watch time slip by and not take stock of what has actually happened in the last year. It's been incredible, frustrating, elating, torturous, joyful, painful, hilarious and no end of work.

I wanted to get down some of the things that stand out as the blog clocks in it's first year of existence (which overlaps nicely with my disc golf life's first year of existence).

I blame Mark Ellis for some stupidly cold mornings.
A year ago, I didn't even know what I didn't know. I was blissfully unaware of form, wind, hyzers or even how to putt. I didn't understand what the difference was between an understable and an overstable disc. I carried around my discs for a solid week before losing them in rivers and tall weeds.

But I was hooked. I loved the sport from the first minute. It was so tantalizing to see guys like my brother throwing 400', when I was barely squeeking out 200'. I wanted to join the club - I wanted to bend physics to my will.

My brother at Deer Mountain almost a year ago.
Youtube taught me how to start practicing: Mark Ellis told me to putt everyday, which I did through wind, snow and frozen hands. I spent the better part of that year starting my day, rain or shine at Paco Sanchez. Lunch was spent learning how to throw as far as my poor self-styled form would allow. Rounds after work or more fieldwork.

I became friends with my now good friend Kyle. I am still not sure why he hit me up over facebook to meet for a round, but I'm glad he did. I spent more time in the first 3 months of playing disc golf with my brother than I had for the entire year before. We shared many insane conversations about form and disc physics late into the night.
Kyle and my blurry bro.
I became friends with my now good friend Ryan. Once I got past his seemingly prickly demeanor, which probably comes mostly from being 6'3" and looking like a caveman, we became close friends and my kids enjoy trying to climb all over him. He taught me what real form can do for your game and completely annoys me by hitting at least one 60' putt per round. I tied him once and beat him once... but like they say, even a broke clock is right twice a day.

Ryan = my caveman buddy.  photo by Pete Kenny
I've made many friends, in fact. I just got off the phone with a guy who lives in Florida, that I've corresponded with for the last month. He just broke 400' with his backhand and I have no doubt he will be hitting 450' shortly.

The memories start to bleed into one long hike, strewn with drives and upshots. Lonely fields and discs that disappeared somehow.

Friendly faces, hand shakes, break through's and high five's.

Test driving a Renegade on lunch break.

OB strokes, hurried drives back to the course to find a forgotten putter as the sun's last vestiges dim into dusk.

Standing knee deep in a river, feet frozen, hands numb, desperately feeling for a favorite driver.

Hanging a blanket in my basement to throw into.

Stepping on snakes and screaming like a little boy.

Watching Central Coast Disc Golf's entire archive. Having no idea how somebody gets so good and feeling honest to goodness deflation when I realized what the best players in the world are capable of doing. It was another universe.

Cracking the door to that universe, just a little bit, enough to break 400' with my driver and on one crazy throw hitting 450' on flat ground. Hitting a clutch 40' putt in a tournament... learning that at least now... I know what I don't know.

You people - my friends - the people who email me - who comment on the blog - who I talk to on reddit and dgcr - who I talk to at tags matches and casual rounds - I thank you all for a year that was incredible.

The stoke I have for you guys and gals, who are as driven to clamber into that maybe not-so-distant-universe... that stoke is real and I appreciate it and I look forward to the next year.

Happy disc'n amigos.

Monday, September 22, 2014

By the Skin of our Teeth

Yours truly putting at Ghost Town. 
When my brother signed us up for a doubles tournament, I had no idea who Johnny Roberts was, other than a course was named after him in Arvada, Colorado. I didn't even know that he was a disc golfer, I just assumed the park was named after some a city official or something.

Turns out, he was one of the early disc golf players (PDGA #115) who brought a spirit of "the winner is the player having the most fun" to the game. We honored his memory over the weekend, by laughing, having a great time and of course howling at the sky before each round.

Any regular reader of HeavyDisc knows that I obsessively spent the better part of the summer trying to rebuild my form and going into the last couple weeks before the tournament I was still pretty nervous about where I stood in terms of putting the disc where I wanted. The last thing I wanted to do was to be the anchor that was dragging my brother down, and even 2-3 weeks ago I was having a hard time adjusting to a release point that was so much more out front of my shoulder.

My field work leading up to the tournament went down a path towards less is more. Less movement, less muscle, more leverage, more accuracy. I had some glimpses of consistency and when I had the stars align, I was getting very accurate.

We were signed up for the Advanced category which played at Bird's Nest, Ghost Town and the following day at Badlands. 

Bird's Nest I've played about 6-8 times. It's a fairly straight forward course that is wide open enough to take advantage of the fact that both my brother and I can typically get close to the basket inside of 400'.  Plus you can see the baskets from the teeboxes, which helps when you're not playing on a locked-down course. We got there a good bit early and played catch for about 20-30 minutes, starting at 30' and eventually stretching out to 200'. That warmed us up and then we played about 4 holes getting a into a good head space before putting for the remaining 20-30 minutes before the players meeting. 

We played a pretty solid round of alternate shot, making some clutch putts to save par and we put a few birdies on the card to offset a couple 4's that came from some longer holes that were setup for the day. 

A couple highlights: my brother hitting a 60' putt when I over-drove a blind shot at the basket for a birdie. Huge putt! I drove our last hole of the day for a bird, throwing a hyzer flip uphill and getting us close enough for an easy bird. Our round put us into a tie for 2nd place going into the 2nd round and only 2 strokes off the leaders.

Second round was promising to be tough as it played at a relatively short (and stunning) 18 hole course called Ghost Town, that is strewn with OB on every hole. I'd never played the course before and my brother had played it once. We were in for a battle and quite often we didn't know where the basket was located until somebody pointed it out.

My buddy Ryan parking his drive at Deer Mnt. (mixed dubs) photo by Pete Kenny 
We held on to a respectable score managing to limit our OB shots and making some pretty big putts to save par. And honestly there was some blind luck - I threw one shot thinking I knew where the basket was and watched in dismay as my TeeBird faded more than I wanted - and then I realized it landed right by the basket. We were tired by the end though, and our game started to reflect it... making some poor choices that cost us a few easy strokes, but over all we finished feeling pretty good and we sat tied for 2nd place with one of the groups on our card - while the guys who were leading pulled ahead by a few more strokes.

Was starting to look like it was a battle for 2nd place, but at Badlands anything can happen - so we went into day 2 with the idea that we'd just shoot to play a bogie free round and take whatever birdies we could scrape together.

Well, we stayed bogie free for a long time, but couldn't seem to putt strong enough to put many birds on the card. Eventually my brother parked a 413' downhill shot and then we started getting into the more birdable holes and carded some more 2's.

Best shot of the tournament though: our last hole of the tournament. My brother is standing in a big pile of weeds looking at a 100' upshot with a big leafy tree protecting the basket from an air shot. My anhyzer forehand attempt had snagged the tree and left us with an obstructed 40' putt... and I notice he's holding a Monster.

"What are you doing with that?! You can't annie a Monster!" I'm convinced he's lost his mind and I wasn't going to bite my tongue.

"Forehand roller. I got this."

"Okay." I mutter, the dude's clearly insane.

Mike lays down a roller that is utter perfection, angles over breaking left under the trees - rolling to 10' from the basket. We saved 4 on what had to be the gnarliest 800-900' hole I've ever seen.

And with that, we managed to squeeze into second place by one stroke.

We made some great friends on all our cards and had a wonderful tournament. I can't thank the tournament staff and John Bird enough for getting the tournament and courses put together in such a great way.

Final Results

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Elbow extension

So after the last post, I started getting emails and private messages on DGCR and reddit. People had questions and wanted to get specific answers to fixing their form and I was more than happy to dig into their videos and try to find some culprits.

One such fella was Ed. He was struggling with elbow extension something fierce. I know this battle, because I had to overcome it myself. I watched and analyzed every video I could find and saw over and over that the extension (to varying degrees) is lead by the elbow getting out front of your shoulder. Let's take a quick look at a couple examples.

Avery Jenkins

Dan Beato

Paul McBeast

No question, these guys are driving the elbow out front. It took some long hours in the field for me to make this adjustment. I would record video, throw a bunch trying to drive the elbow out front, guiding the disc to my right pec, review the footage and groan in disappointment as I saw that I would be getting almost no extension. I was opening from my LEFT pec, not my right.

Eventually I got there, but it was hard and slow work... when Ed sent me an email, I knew what he was going to have to go through and here's our correspondence (editted a bit for brevity) and he's a lefty but for this to make more sense, I'm going to use right hand explanations.

First, I'm a 889 rated player. I'm 44 years old. Started at beginning of 2011 but really didn't get into it until I moved to FL in October of that year. So, let's say I've been honestly playing 3 years. I can throw about 370ft. with a 170g Champion Wraith and I can throw 180g DX Cobras over 300ft. without a lot of trouble. I'm a lefty as you will see and can't throw forehand hardly at all--it really bothers my elbow.

But I'm finding more and more that guys who've been playing less time than I have are now beating me at tournaments. So, it's not that I'm not improving, it's that I'm improving at a slower pace than other players I know. 

If I could get to the point where I could finished in the top third in Intermediate consistently, with once in a while vying for the lead, that would be a great accomplishment. Right now, though, I'm so up and down and all around I can't see any goals at all. 

So, here's a link on YouTube to me throwing. 
I'd like to get another pair of eyeballs on what I'm doing, especially since you've been working hard on breaking backhand throws down.

My response:

So let's start with the form. Based on the videos I watched of yours from 8 months back to 2 months back, you've made a huge leap in technical improvement. The Hershizer drill looks like it's done the job perfectly, and you're driving the hip forward into a perfectly closed stance. 

From there, I would suggest looking at trying to get to the right pec, elbow leading a bit more out in front of your shoulder. In the screen cap I attached, you can see that you're starting to open the forearm at that point. That's the point where your leverage is starting, and it's hard to tell from the video, but it appears that you're already moving the hand forward of the 9:00 position.

No elbow extension.
Even if you're at 9:00 there, the elbow is not out front. I liken it to trying to swing that disc like a hammer, to drive a nail into a board that's a full 3' out in front of your shoulder. You have to extend your arm forward more to get out there, where the hammering action is going to take place. 

To extend your arm forward more, you have drive your elbow forward more.

When you're extending the elbow forward, you have to focus on keeping the hand on the outside.

I 100% agree with what Dan Beto says in his video, that going out front with the arm - adds 60-100' to most people's drives. The disc will eject out there with more force. 

I honestly don't throw much further in my typical rounds than you, but I throw with less effort and I almost never turn discs over by dropping my shoulder and getting the ill effects of strong arming. Rarely do I try to throw longer than 400'. I have to throw higher anhyzers, that need room to work to get out that far and it's not a very accurate shot. A mostly flat 350' drive is more than enough for most rounds.

Other than that, your form looks good. I'd like to see if you have it, some shots of your typical in-round x-step.

(Pulled out a very long screed about practice so this post doesn't go on forever!)

FROM ED: You said you'd like to some of my x-steps--well, here they are.

This was done this morning. And you're right: I have virutally no elbow chop or extension. I'm good up until the point my elbow reaches the front side of my body. Then, and wrongly, that's when the forearm starts to come around--WAY too early. I compared our videos side by side--at no point does my elbow extend in front of my body as far as yours does, it's really not even close. When I see that I now understand why I'm wild at times and why I can't get the power and distance I want--I'm totally killing it by the disc coming around so early.

The bad part? When I throw it actually "feels" like I am extending that elbow out there. Somehow I need to know what my arm is doing without having to look at a video.  

The good part? I can throw 370ft. and be about a 900 rated player with terrible form. So, when I get this right (and I will), my accuarcy, distance, and scores should improve quickly. By the way, those were mostly 175g DX Aviars I was throwing with a couple Psychos mixed in. I'm throwing them about 250ft. avg.
If you could explain something: As I'm practicing this new motion, it feels like the disc is going to go WAY off to the right when it releases. Is that just something in my head or is that a reality that I'm going to have adjust to? i.e. taking a more staggered plant step, keeping the front shoulder down more than I have, etc. 

You're absolutely right, you're going to start closing your stance down as you adjust to extending the arm out more forward. It's easier to just aim to the left of what your target is as you learn the new "straight"... basically you've been slipping out before the hit for so long that you'd learned your release point as the slip. As you start actually hitting out front, you're going to be amazed at how discs fly different, further, with less effort.

This was my first attempt this morning--not even close.

You can see me practicing the elbow chop before I throw and then it doesn't happen. Is it merely that my forearm is opening up too early? Is it the swoopy backswing that makes it tougher for me to keep the disc close to my chest? Is my body moving too fast for my arm?

I guess I'm having a hard time figuring out what is the exact part of my body that is messing up. Because, like in that video, it doesn't physically seem like I can hold onto that disc for a millisecond more even though it's nowhere close to being extended out in front of my body--and neither is the forearm and wrist. Bad habits are tough to break. 
Yeah, they are hard to undo... I wish I would have started earlier in my dg-life with better technique and I left the field many days in a row utterly deflated trying to fix my form. It is hard to undo muscle memory, but you can do it. 

I like to put the disc out front right before I throw to remind my arm where it needs to go. You will not be able to hold the disc to the extended point out front until you delay the extension to the right pec. 

Right pec or not, the disc is ejecting - so the main focus becomes slowing down ALOT. 

If you are only throwing 150', that's fine - so long as you're letting the disc guide into your right pec, elbow out front... and honestly, where the disc goes - forget about it. So much changes after you adjust this - that the one thing to focus on in that extension.

FROM ED: Threw some this morning. Videotaped it. Not gonna bore you with it--terrible. Not even close.
We've all been there!

Was out this morning. I had done about a half hour of very simple standstill stuff before I shot this--wanted to see if the basic stuff is having any effect. The elbow is still not getting forward as much as yours does. And thus my hand is starting to come around from that 9:00 position. What I do like is I'm getting some nice extension and the disc isn't leaving my hand until it's way out there in front of my foot. Plus, the throw "looks" a lot better. I'm throwing DX Cobras, by the way. They were going about 230 to 250 ft. Nice long hyzers. Pretty accurate.

So this is only about a quarter of the emails, but you get the idea... we are verbose dudes (luckily I'm a speedy typist). I had a few other requests for a better explanation of learning the elbow driving so I put together a short video to really show how I forced myself to get some elbow extension:

FROM ED:  There's a new club that started last Wednesday here--we throw at baskets in the Phillies Double A baseball park in Clearwater. So, tonight was the second time and we are up in the upper levels and throwing down at the baskets--lots of fun. But just within a week of working on that snap and extension and getting my elbow out there, I bet I increased my distance by like 30 or 40ft. And it all felt very controlled. It didn't feel like I was using all my energy to get the disc out there. Very small run-up and just concentrating on the last split second.