Posted by: gbake783 | June 7, 2011

South Carolina Baseball, Fed, and my iliotibial band

My Gamecocks advanced to host a Super Regional series this weekend! One step from Omaha and the College World Series. I was also relieved not to have to play Clemson in said Super Regional. Several Gamecock fans were excited when a potential match-up with Clemson was announced. I, for one, was not thrilled. Not that I was scared of Clemson. It was selfish. No doubt. I simply wanted a sporting event without the Clemson overtones. In the fall, the perfect weekend is a Gamecock win and Clemson loss. Last year’s National Championship was particularly sweet because we took out Clemson on the way there. But this year . . . I was just a little Clemson weary. Sometimes the rivalry overshadows the actual event. Yes, the scene in Columbia would have been awesome . . . the Palmetto State Champion advances to the College World Series. That’s kind of what happened last year. We had to take out Coastal Carolina (Charleston, SC) and then Clemson to advance to the championship round (btw – Coastal was the best team we played). So, I finally get to enjoy a sporting event without the Clemson factor. It’ll be nice.

I was thrilled this last weekend to watch my main man Roger Federer advance to the French Open Final at Roland-Garros. Yeah, he lost to Rafa Nadal. But that’s hardly a let down. It’s hard to contextualize just how good Rafael Nadal is on clay. He’s lost precisely one career match at Roland-Garros (and he was injured in that loss). In 7 French Opens, he’s lost a mere 18 sets: 5 to Fed, 3 in his lone loss (when injured) to Soderling, and two this year to Isner in the opening round. That’s 10 of the 18 right there. It’s hard to find easy-to-understand stats, but it looks like Nadal wins well over 95% of his matches on clay. Amazing.

Regardless, Fed’s my single favorite sports personality right now. And has been for about 5 years. I feel like we have a connection. I began watching tennis in the winter of 2007. I’d been struggling the previous fall with my dissertation progress. I simply hadn’t set up my life well enough to succeed. So, over Christmas break, my wife and I charted a plan to help me succeed better with my writing, which involved getting up at 5:00 am on the dot. I’d wake up, shower while my coffee percolated, and enjoy 15 minutes of Sportscenter while eating some toast and getting ready to write. Then, one morning in late January, I turned on ESPN not to find Sportscenter, but live tennis: the Australian Open. Well, watching live sports (no matter the sport) is better than highlights. So, I’d watch 15 minutes of that. And I started liking it. There was one dude who was so much better than everyone else: Roger Federer. I remember waking up at 3:00 am to watch him take on an American, Andy Roddick, in the semi-final round. Federer was simply unbelievable. Roddick hit serves that against anyone else in the world would have been an easy point. Fed would take a full swing and smash it back at Roddick – Roddick was stunned. It wasn’t even a contest. Fed so calmly destroyed the competition – my sports alter ego. 

Perhaps incoincidentally, my 5:00 am wake-up call started working. Pages appeared in bunches. They formed into chapters. Approved chapters, even! I started rolling. The next time I watched the Aussie Open, I was done with my entire rough draft and working toward the defense. In those early mornings, that formative two weeks when I still deciding whether to adopt my new schedule, Fed gave me something for which I could roll out of bed. Something more than a computer and a stack of books. After two weeks of getting up at 5:00 am, it became easier. I started waking at 4:58. Eyes wide open. My wife thinks this sounds a little silly, but at a really awkward time in my life, Roger Federer’s tennis helped. So, I watched him this weekend and was so thrilled to see him playing better. I’ll be watching closely as he goes to Wimbledon. And if my Gamecocks make the College World Series, it’ll be really cool to have both those events at the same time. My DVR might explode.

I was really hoping late this summer to tackle a half-ironman (1.5 swim, 55 bike, 13.1 run). But my iliotibial band started acting up on me again. I didn’t damage as badly as I did last summer (when I put myself out of commission for 8 weeks). I think it’s my biking shoes and pedals. The only problem is, to find out whether it is, indeed, the problem, I’ll have invest a little money. Not sure I want to do that. A buddy from back in KC whose a podiatrist is going to hook me up with some custom-made orthotics (thanks again, Joel!!!). Hopefully that will help. But I’ve also wondered if it could be the way I run. I’ve been told I kick my heels a little too high – it’s not much, but maybe enough to cause some pain. Not sure. We’ll see how those orthotics do before investing too much in shoes and pedals. Wish me luck!

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