Today marked the end of the Anchorage Curling Club’s 2012-2013 season with the last day of the Spring Bonspiel, a 3-day mixed team tournament. I’ve blogged before about my curling experiences (see: Bucket List: How I Hurried, Hurried Hard & Magic Curls T-Line Weight as Lead at the Speil). There’s two reasons the club shuts down for the season, one of which is the club’s ice system is 41 years old (if you doing the math, that means it was put in the year I was born) and during the summer the system just can’t keep the ice in playing shape – so they let it thaw and replace it in he fall. The Spring Spiel also allows the players, me included, to have one last get together with your teammates and fellow players for some drinks, food, and competition level play – and then say good bye to them for a time when (from what I hear) is a period that it’s rare you actually talk to anyone else at the club.
There’s two sides of my feelings for the end of the season. The bittersweet side is that I found something to do during Alaskan winters that is not only fun, social, and a good workout – but is also something that I can be good at. Make no bones, I am still a rookie, the first time I touched a curling rock was in January and I didn’t do massive practice sessions – but by the waning league nights I was making a high rate of shots. More surprising, I was spending a bulk of my time as “skip” – which is basically the captain of the team, the one that is calling the shots for the others to make, and the one with the last rocks for your team that would make or break an end. I was skipping so much, that in the last two months, I played on average two games a week, and only played something other than skip 3 times, once was when we played a non-standard game where there was no skip.
I’ve met some great friends in the short time I’ve been playing too. It was actually a funny group of people leaving me with surprisingly good connections for stuff I like — like the parents of a past (and hopefully future) Olympian, a few folk that work at the Alaskan Railroad, and a family who owns a brewery (not just a micro-brew, they run the Denali Brewing Company). There’s folks that we are committed to getting together over the summer — mostly on my deck I guess (on our first get together, I am expecting to put out a sign to tell people the “Struggle Bus Stops at the Bear Den”). We make plans for next season too, trying to figure out what nights we will play and what teams we can put together.
The other side for my feelings for the end of the season is a bit of relief too. As fun as it’s been, and as good as I’ve played, I can tell I need a bit of a break. Most things we do when we start off, we can jump out to a big start but start to get frustrated as we move from being a “beginner” to “the next level” – and I hit that like a brick wall this weekend. I struggled, and the team I was on struggled – we hadn’t played as a team before this weekend but we didn’t win any of our three games. While one one team was eventually the spiel’s winner, another team took send in one of the tiers, the third was a junior team (of 13 year old boys) who won their first game against adults ever against us. With less margin of error in our game this weekend, I found I had some issues with my game in technique that led to big issues in my head with my play. I will need to work on my game next season, but rather let this one be more of a concept of the first year than the way it ended — the last shot of the year, what I leave it with, died before it got into play, hosing our chance to win the only game of the weekend.
But also, it ties into the other reason they shut down the club for the summer, and why people tend not to see each other. It’s because it’s the Alaskan summer. There is too much to see, too much to do, too much to experience in Alaska when it’s warm and when the sun is out for 20 hours a day — more things than worth sitting inside a 40°F building built in the 1960s sweeping ice. I enjoyed this little hobby, and look to enjoy it a lot more next year in my first full season — but for not, it’s time to enjoy a few other things too.