Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The First Time I . . . Tried Jillian Michaels BodyShred Class

As most of you know from that one other time when I mentioned exercise on here, I enjoy group fitness classes. This is for the following reasons:

1.) I am seemingly incapable of achieving a good workout by myself and prefer to be guided through every step of my workout. Left to my own devices, my personal workouts usually consist of the following, in no particular order:

  • 12-14 minutes on the treadmill in a brisk walk/slow jog. This is immediately followed by a sense of immense pride for really giving 'er this time.
  • 5 minutes of debate re: obligatory bicep curlsto do or not to do? before glancing into the weight room area and deciding it's just way too crowded today and it probably smells in there, anyway.
  • 10 minutes spent adjusting socks/re-tying shoes. (Note: this can be stretched to 12 minutes if necessary.)
  • 4 minutes of sit-ups/any assorted ab exercises that pop into mind (usually sit-ups)
  • 6 minutes spent drinking/refilling water bottle  
  • 30 minutes of stretching/people watching/lying on a gym mat. This is usually multitasked with some deep introspection (why are there so many advertisements for chocolate milk here-I wish I had some chocolate milk-when did everyone get those cool neon gym shoes and why are my shoes so extremely white-just what exactly am I going to do with my life I have no plan-I wonder what I'm going to eat after this . . . )
  • 3 minutes of cool down before calling it a day

All of these minutes of deep introspection have a way of making you take a cold, hard look at your life and be truly honest with yourself.

I mean, if I feel self-conscious wearing colored jeans, maybe I'm just not meant for neon gym shoes. I don't like it, it's hard to accept, but hey, that's just the way it is.

I hate it. 

2.) I like situations that throw all different kinds of people together who would never normally meet and giving them a common goal: finishing the workout. I like looking around the group fitness classroom and seeing teenagers, middle-aged moms and dads, the elderly, sometimes a few dogs, the fit, the unfit, the coordinated, the less-than-coordinatedeveryone's there and working towards the same thing: getting through cardio boot camp class without throwing up or falling down in front of people. I find the fear of public vomiting provides a real sense of community, you know? 

A real sense of community.

(While I've never actually thrown up in a fitness class, I am in a constant state of extreme worry that my pants will split at any moment. This has never happened to me before, my pants are made of a reasonably durable material, there is no logical reason for me to think this will happen, yet I know it will. And when it does, I will be ready with my gym towel sarong.) 

3.) I like feeling very connected to all of these different people in the class, or what I call, the "we're all in this together, guys!" vibe. The way you can give lots of knowing looks to everyone in the room because you know they feel the exact same way that you do. It's just understood. You can give a long, knowing stare to your fellow class participants for any number of thoughts, including:

"Hey manyou gonna pass out? Me, too!" 
"Your shoe is untied."
"If that instructor thinks I'm going to give her 20 more push-ups, she's got another thing coming, sister."
"It is too goddamn hot in here and I am very, very hungry."  

 . . . and it's just a given that they'll get it. Whenever I give a knowing look for something like this, I usually add an eyebrow raise and snap my fingers so my point really gets across. 

sassy conan photo sassyconan_zps76fe1b7a.gif

(source: kmarbon from Photobucket)

4.) Also, I like the idea that I can make friends with all of these different people based on our shared interest, even when I have only made two friends total in my ten years of taking fitness classes. Maybe this is because I am forever giving sassy looks and snapping my fingers at people I don't know and also shouting out, "We're all in this together, guys!" even when the instructor has asked me not to shout out things anymore.  

My fitness classes are mostly like this, except usually not outside and no one ever smiles at me.

Please be my friend.

I take these multitude of fitness classes at GoodLife Fitness and will often schedule my day around a class that I want to take. A few months ago, I noticed an excited buzz sweeping through the Group Exercise room. It didn't seem to be the usual excitement that comes the 2 times a year when a wet fruit platter is placed on a table at the back of the room, or the wild craze that occurs when a GoodLife employee comes into the class and tries to give away a t-shirt. No, it was something different . . . something big. As my many fitness pals and I bounced around on large exercise balls and took turns smiling at each other, they confirmed it for me: a new fitness class was coming our way.

And man, were my fitness friends and I happy.

(just kidding I actually found out from a poster in the locker room)

And as I am currently on a hiatus between consistent daytime engagements (this means pretty much unemployed) and spend the vast majority of my time watching Criminal Minds and talking to my cat about Criminal Minds, a new fitness class was big news. 

The new class was called the not-at-all-intimidating "BODYSHRED" and was designed by Jillian Michaels. 

And certainly, I was intrigued. What I knew of Jillian Michaels was mostly that she was a trainer on The Biggest Loser and is one of those people who always looks kind of angry even when she's smiling. What I knew of The Biggest Loser was that I saw an episode once where the weight loss contestants began their battle by spending an hour in a magical room full of every single delicious treat you could imagine for one final binge, a completely no-holds-barred gorge fest. I thought that room of temptation was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen.

If this BodyShred thing was anything like that majestic buffet room, I was pretty sure I'd like it.

(Also, when I spent 40 minutes on Google trying to figure out if that magical treat room had an official name [Gluttonous Galaxy? Galaxy of Gorge? I feel like it should have the word galaxy in it?], I found the synopsis for The Biggest Loser Season 1 which had intriguing highlights as this:

-The Blue Team wins the first challenge and receives five pounds of lard to use against the losing team at the weigh in.
-The Red Team wins the challenge by building the tallest food pyramid. They win $5,000 of computer equipment and video messages from home. The prize for the weekly challenge is a $7,000 treadmill. There is no immunity. The contestants had to stand on bales of hay holding a bouquet of balloons. Ryan wins the treadmill.
-Everyone at the ranch resists the temptation to eat a cinnamon bun to get a telephone call. As a reward, they all win a 5 minute phone call.
-Dave gives in to the temptation to eat a cupcake and have dinner with a loved one.

Seriously, what have I been doing wasting my time on Criminal Minds? I NEED to start watching The Biggest Loser.)


(I'm just kidding Hotch I will never leave you ever.)

So I started asking around town what the hell BodyShred was all about.

"It's pretty hard," warned my friend Christina (you remember Christina, don't you?)

"It's like a boot camp, but not," said my other one friend from fitness class.

"What in the world is a body shred? And did you find a job yet?" answered my mother over Skype.

Feeling somewhat dissatisfied with what my research had dug up, I realized I had to go right to the source. JILLIAN MICHAELS HERSELF.


"It's state of the art training . . . it is a high intensity & endurance based 30 minute workout utilizing Jillian's 3-2-1 interval approach," says Jillian Michaels' BodyShred website. ". . . modalities used by top athletes worldwide for accelerated conditioning and premium performance."

Ah, yes. I see. The ol' 3-2-1 interval approach, eh? Modalities and accelerated conditioning for the top athletes in the world and also myself? Well, that certainly clears things right up.

There was also a picture on her site of a man doing this:

Would I be doing this in BodyShred? Could this be achieved in 30 minutes? And where did his clothes go? I began to suspect that Jillian Michaels may have unconventional ways in her training . . .

. . . unconventional/terrifying ways.

After another hour or so of reading about The Biggest Loser, I decided enough of this nonsense. The top athletes in the world like myself don't waste their time on the internet. They get into that class and they GO TO THE GYM and also MAYBE DO A HANDSTAND.

So off I went to shred my body. Upon walking into the Group Exercise room, I did a quick scan and noted that the room was full of participants of varying ages and fitness abilities. This is always an encouraging sign. Often I find you can gauge how hardcore the participants of a class are going to be by the amount of people doing ab work on their own before the class has started. When I arrive early, I usually sit in a corner and read my book while wondering things like, "why oh why did I eat two bowls of expired Great Grains and a cookie for breakfast?"

(yes, it's true; I am still working on finishing my free year's supply of Great Grains. The love affair is still going strong but sometimes it's harder than I thought to finish 24 boxes of cereal in a year.)

My room scan also revealed that there was no extremely large food buffet for participants to binge themselves on pre-workout. I took this as a very bad sign.

The instructor gave us a quick run-down on how the class would work: she would demonstrate a move for us, which we would then do for the next 30 seconds. With 10 seconds left, she would preview the next move we would do. A bell would ring to signal that it was time to begin the next move. We would do 3 minutes of strength training, 2 minutes of cardio and 1 minute of abs (so THAT'S the ol' 3-2-1 interval approach Jillian's always yabbering on about!). And then we'd do it all over again. And again. And again, until the 30 minute class was complete.

I nodded, unfazed. Thirty minutes is nothing, I thought. Not even a full episode of Criminal Minds. They'd barely even have found the unsub in thirty minutes. 

Except for Reid who finds the unsub in 10.  

And my love for fan-art just keeps growing (source). 

And so began the BodyShred warm-up. Some vigorous marching in place, a few jumping jacks. I felt good. No longer concerned about the amount of possibly rancid cereal I'd consumed pre-class. Not quite fancy-free, but certainly jaunty enough. Wildly swinging arm circles for 30 seconds? Bring it on, man.

I could totally win The Biggest Loser, I thought.

And just as if the instructor could sense my growing confidence, the warm-up was over. The Shred had begun.

The instructor dropped to the ground to preview our first move. It was some kind of squat-lunge-plank combo. I don't know. I have no clue what it was, only that we were all expected to do it in rapid succession in a matter of seconds. A bell rang. Chaos began. I knelt and began to try to arrange my body in a similar way to the instructor's, which was hard because she was moving so fast. The room was a sea of flailing limbs, people heaving their bodies to and fro while trying to stay on some sort of beat with the blasting techno music. As soon as I felt like I was beginning to get the hang of this squat-lunge-plank combo thing, the instructor was previewing the next move. Which I also had no clue how to do.

An alarm bell went off in my head. Or maybe it was the actual bell; I'm not sure. Things were getting real weird here, and FAST. To paraphrase Taylor Swift, who I'm fairly sure was singing about BodyShred here: "I knew you were trouble when I walked in . . ."

"Especially when there was no food buffet . . . "

As each interval went by, the moves became more and more complex and also increasingly bizarrely named. We went from push-ups to burpees to mountain climbers to something called the Dancing Bear. Then the Inchworm. Then the Walking Crab.  I began to suspect that the instructor was just calling out random words at us. "Shrieking Housecat coming up in 10 seconds, guys!" "Eyes up for the Tortured Emu, everyone!"

the office gifs photo: ryanwtfgif ryanwtf.gif

Each one baffled me more than the next.

As my eyes grew wide and I began to pant heavier with each dinging bell, I had a moment of realization: there would be no breaks. Not a single one. This is a nonstop workout and I will never stop moving. I stared at my full water bottle in the corner, lying on a clean towel/emergency sarong along with my unused food buffet fork. It had been at least seven minutes since I had water. It looked so delicious, so refreshing. 

I can't remember what water tastes like anymore, I realized. I bet it was good.

Can't I have but one water break, Ms. Michaels?


Though there were technically no breaks in the class, I did end up taking a few. They weren't planned. They were more spur-of-the-moment, casual-type things, whereupon my left leg would suddenly decide that it didn't want to do wandering side planks anymore and down to the mat I would go. Or the multiple times I would catch myself standing dazed, red-faced and mouth agape trying to remember a time when "30 more seconds of Squatting Cow!" wasn't a feasible command in my life. I tried to holler out my usual, "We're all in this together, guys!" but quickly realized I needed to preserve my oxygen. 

At one point I felt like I had travelled outside of my body and watched the chaos of the class. It seemed like I had entered a strange room of contortions and madness. Gone were the (nonexistent) days of bouncing around on my blue exercise ball with my fitness friends, laughing gaily and high-fiving one another. This was BodyShred. This was real. This was sweat running down my face. This was truly hoping I would not vomit in class. I braced myself for the instructor to call out, "One-handed handstand!" at any moment. 

This was how people lost 400 pounds in 2 weeks on The Biggest Loser, I realized. It was also at that exact moment when I realized that I would never have what it takes to win The Biggest Loser

(I do, however, think I would be EXCELLENT at Supermarket Sweep.)

Amidst the seventh circle of hell, I must admit that I did have a few nice moments, including the special moment that I cherish most in group exercise classes. It came at a time when the rest of the class seemed to be in a synchronized jam of Crying Monkeys while I stood in a wide-legged stance gulping air, having long conceded that I was no longer in control of the limbs attached to my body. It came at the moment when I started to really think about things, bad things, things like, "If I can't even manage four Distended Ducks, how the hell will I manage a career?" (It's a valid question.)

Just when I was about to really lose it, I caught a glimpse of someone struggling just as much as I was. And I gazed at my new scarlet-faced friend and looked deeply into her perplexed eyes. And I sent a message to her, a message right to her rapidly beating heart. And it said, "Can you believe this shit?! What exactly in the hell is going on right now?" And in return, she gently wiped the sheet of sweat from her brow and replied sweetly, "I know, man. I know." This is what her glassy eyes said in return, I mean. Or I'm pretty sure they seemed to say, at least. 

I had a new forever fitness friend. 

For most people, that one moment is special enough, just the tiniest reminder of basic human things like humility, empathy, the power of perseverance. These are very special and very real things. But, as is my problem with Criminal Minds and anything in the cookie family, when I find something I like, I tend to ruin it by taking it to the absolute limit. I lose all restraint. 

If I let them, these could easily ruin my life. 

And so as quickly as I had made a new forever fitness friend, I had lost my forever fitness friend. I used every possible moment to send more knowing glances her way, shaking my head in a wry fashion, sassy snapping fingers abound. I watched in dismay as her glances turned from enthusiastic to wary to pretending not to see me anymore. I learned an important lesson in BodyShredone can only send a limited number of knowing glances to a stranger, especially in a group fitness, spandex-clad setting. You can send like three, maybe four, at well-timed moments. And if you actually do speak to this person, you shouldn't refer to them as your new special fitness friend. "Hey special fitness friend, we both sure suck, huh?!" "We're all in this together, RIGHT GUYS?!? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

But alas, BodyShred waits for no budding friendship or someone dry heaving in the corner. The bells keep dinging and the planks keep planking. I began to get the hang of the rhythm about halfway through, but man, it's hard to keep up. It feels next to impossible to check out the instructor previewing the next move when you're still struggling just to keep your balance on the current one. My class was 30 minutes, but the internet informs me that other BodyShred classes are 45, which includes a 15 minute preview of every move that you'll encounter in the class so that you have some idea of what you're heading into. I'd definitely recommend this, at least for the first few Shreds you attend.

We did a few moves with light hand weights and then ended with a quick cool-down. And suddenly, the whirlwind was done. I staggered to the locker room and left drenched in sweat, with my face so red that I prayed I wouldn't run into anyone I knew on the subway ride home. 

"Oh, you did the 26 mile marathon downtown! Good for you! How was it?!" 
"Nope . . . just squeezed in a workout . . . for a good, solid 30 minutes . . . "

It's 30 minutes, yes, but also one of the most intense workouts I'd had in a long time. After this, I have major, major respect for anyone who can teach BodyShred. It's fast-paced, nonstop and makes you sweat like you have a problem. 

Many people (/no one) have asked me if I'd do BodyShred again. It's strange. I know it's a great workout. It's fast and easy to fit into your schedule. I was sore for days afterwards. It kicked my ass, which I usually really like in a workout, and like all things, I know it would become easier with time. But I have a strong urge that I could also never do BodyShred again in my life and be okay with it, unlike all of my other classes that I look forward to attending. On the plus side, I HAVE been seriously considering checking out some seasons of The Biggest Loser

And I think that means that Jillian Michaels has done her job.

You go, girl.

Let's talk BodyShred: has anyone out there done it? Did you like it? Were you as lost as I was? What did you like better, the Lamenting Goose or the Prancing Hobbit? Can you do a one-handed handstand? Has anyone's pants actually split at the gym? But seriously, the only question I really want to ask is what treats would you want to have in your buffet room of temptation? Hit me back, just to chat.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Hobbit Heartache, Chapter 14

It's a valid question.
So the Hobbit Heartache blog-posting train was temporarily derailed, it seems. This was due to several obstructions on track level. But now we're back in business, baby. I'm not going to say that we've left the station, because that seems awfully lofty, but the passengers are on board and most appear to have their tickets. 

Clearly this metaphor has gotten way out of hand. What the hell is a hobbit train? you wonder. Who are these passengers? Are tickets expensive? Do they travel to the east end? Will there be legal repercussions for those ticket-less travelers?

I don't know, okay? I wish I did. There should always be legal repercussions for wrongdoings. All I truly know is that there is a new chapter of Hobbit Heartache, the Sweet Valley High/Lord of the Rings erotic crossover parody for you to read.

I know, gurl! I'm excited, too.

. . . and this chapter is a doozy.

You know what Gandalf I don't think I've ever once seen you smile even though you are a  freakin' WIZARD, so don't start with me.

Okayso you know what's going on, right? Shall we dive right in? What's that? You forget everything because I haven't posted a chapter in two (2) months? And you also burned your copy of the book that you purchased legally (NOT FROM A SCALPER, RIGHT?!?) in a personal BOYCOTT of Hobbit Heartache? And not only that, but you've been congregating on my front yard each morning in an angry anti-Hobbit Heartache mob?!

Well, yes; I had noticed that part.

I can't keep waking up to this, guys. It has to stop. It just has to. Our neighbors are still mad about those foam parties we keep having (they're just so much fun, you know?). 

Just so much fun for everyone.  

But anyway. I get it. I get the anger, the mob, the rotted cabbage and flaming Great Grains boxes left on my porch, everything. Passion for a Sweet Valley High/Lord of the Rings erotic fanfic will often lead you down strange and wild paths.

To beg forgiveness: a recap that is as succinct as I can possibly make it (HAHAHA). Here goes nothing (HAHAHA):

Sweet Valley High's sexy Spring Break takes a terrifying turn when the gang finds themselves lost in the forests of Middle-earth with nary a make-out point or mall to be found. Jessica and Elizabeth's uncanny luck and fragrant pheromones soon cause the group to be discovered by a gaggle of handsome hobbits. Bilbo, Frodo, Merry, Samwise & Pippin take the Sweet Valley students under their hair-covered wings and the newly-formed group embarks on a wild journey to destroy a powerful and evil ring. 

As with any Spring Break, sexual hijinks and erotic escapades occur in alarming proportion. Jessica is taken with the mysteriously quiet Frodo, but wonders why he massages Bilbo's feet thrice daily. Elizabeth has fallen hard for Gandalf, who perversely seems to be playing an extreme game of hard-to-get. Winston has caught Merry's hirsute eye, Bruce has a fling with Lady Arwen, Pippin does a cartwheel, all while Samwise falls deeper and deeper into the throes of brandywine addiction. Captain Georg von Trapp stumbles upon the seductively mismatched group and instantly finds himself torn between his desire to woo Lila and his instincts to murder the blonde and Pacific Ocean blue-green eyed Jessica and Elizabeth, certain that they are undercover Nazis. Skinny dipping, hobbit sacrifices, a sexually unsatisfying night in Dwarventhis Spring Break has it all. 

. . .  And despite the twins' heightened and tanned senses, no one has yet to notice Largo, the evil doppelganger who has travelled all the way from Antarctica to kill and take over Lila's life . . . but is all of that about to change?


Chapter links below. It's one of those easy-breezy, intensely erotic summer reads but also one that is timeless so you can read it during any season, even fall and Daylight Saving Time. 

Chapter 1              Chapter 8
Chapter 2              Chapter 9
Chapter 3              Chapter 10
Chapter 4              Chapter 11
Chapter 5              Chapter 12
Chapter 6              Chapter 13

Slight warning: Possibly NSFW art below. It really depends upon where you work, I guess. Great Grains factory worker? Probably NSFW. Dog breeder? Go for it!

Should you wish to have the above image screenprinted on a t-shirt/nightgown or enlarged for full fishnet glory, please contact the talented and oh-so-versatile Zak. Bathing Bilbos and dueling doppelgangers—the man has got you covered.

Chapter 14

Lila strolled along the forest edge, enjoying the feel of the gentle Middle-earth breeze upon her silky skin. The shade of the tall pine trees blocked out the late afternoon sun and kept her cool. She walked on, savoring the quiet moment by herself.

Lila came suddenly to a halt. Goose bumps had risen all over her once-smooth skin and an all-too-familiar scent began to waft through the air. Lila whimpered.

It’s happening again, she thought in panic, her urbane heart quickening. She tried to cover her opulent face but it was far too late.

The stench of rotten fish quickly became overwhelming. It filled her every orifice, including her clenched, bleached anus. Overcome with nausea, Lila bent down on the ground to vomit. She could taste the unmistakable tang of forgotten crab meat in her mouth. It reminded her of the time that Eva, Fowler Crest’s maid, accidentally served her expired seafood hors d’oeuvres during a Sunday luncheon celebrating the wealthy.

But this time was much, much worse.

Still kneeling to vomit, Lila failed to hear the sounds of someone approaching. The person pounced on her, pinning Lila to the ground. Lila thrashed about wildly, catching only fleeting glimpses of her attacker. Long, wild brown hair, ruby-red lips that mirrored her own, a flash of non-twenty-four karat gold, a whiff of . . . was that salted cod? It didn’t matter. Lila knew she was going to die.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The First Time I . . . Played in the Dodgeball World Championship in Las Vegas

Part of being a competitive dodgeball player means that you get asked the same questions, again and again.

"Dodgeball? Like from recess? Oh my god, people still play that?" Yup. And no, it's not like you remember it.

"Dodgeball? Like the movie? Hey, if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball, right?" This is usually met with a weak smile and thoughts of murder. Yes, a head injury for sure, but just HOW is the question . . . 

"Is your volleyball team doing well this season?" This one is usually answered by, "Yes, Mom. Volleyball is great." Sigh . . . 

You quickly get used to all of these things. It's part of playing dodgeball. It comes with the territory, like having fifty t-shirts from all of the teams you've played on and a shoulder/ankle/miscellaneous body part that constantly hurts.

But there's more than all of that to being a serious dodgeball player. There are two (2) things that a dodgeball player will usually accumulate during his or her dodging career:

1.) a trading card

(done and done, thank you graphic designer roommate Heather)

2.) a trip to Las Vegas to play in the National Dodgeball League's Dodgeball World Championship.

This event is the one time when you can actually reply, "Yes, pretty much just like the movie." Teams from all over the world flock to Vegas to compete in three (3) days of extremely intense dodgeball. It is fierce and it is frightening and for some, it is costumed.

This year, quite a few teams from Toronto decided it was time for us to compete in Vegas. With a group of twenty, including most of the members of my competitive team, the Devil Bats, we booked our flights, packed our new jerseys, quit our jobs and said goodbye to our friends and family forever and headed to Las Vegas on August 8th, 2012.

(Once I realized that not everyone else quit their jobs and said goodbye to their friends and families forever and I had indeed misinterpreted the purpose of the trip, a few awkward phone calls had to be made. That's Vegas, baby.)

One middle-seat plane ride later, we have officially landed on Vegas soil. Even the Vegas airports are more excitingtheir baggage carousels move!

The Toronto teams were there for one purpose and one purpose only: to make our country proud. To bring glory to our vast and barren land. Toronto would not be shamed with a blood doping scandal, NO SIR, NOT THIS TIME.  Therefore, our teams stuck to a strict regiment of early morning jogs/sprinting intervals, prolonged bouts of meditative breathing and enforced bedtimes of 8:00 p.m. Daily urine samples were to be collected and placed outside the hotel door of our fiercest competitor, Jeff Snow.

Pardon me, I meant Jeff "Thumbs Up" Snow.

And so, despite the temptation of booze, debauchery and so many hookers, our strict regiment began.

Team Toronto: Determination, Strength, Aspirin & Gatorade

(And again, why was I the only one who complied with the daily urine samples? COME ON, guys. Have you no respect for standard protocol?)

Okay, so it turned out that we all had slightly different goals. Several people were in it to win it. Trained for months beforehand, researched the unfamiliar rules, developed complex strategies. Others were in it to gamble away their hard-earned money and consume record-breaking amounts of alcohol. My personal goals were to a.) not embarrass myself on an international level in the dodgeball world, b.) not re-injure my recently sprained foot, c.) not be kidnapped and placed into a human trafficking ring (I've seen the movies; don't tell me it doesn't happen!) and d.) perhaps see the Grand Canyon.

The tournament began with the women's portion, with the Women's Foam Ball and Rubber Ball divisions both taking place on August 9th. 

Ladies lined up from all over the world to register (well, mostly 8 or so teams from the States and our 2 teams from Toronto, but from such exotic lands as Chicago and Los Angeles as well). 

The foam ball division was first. Dodgeball is played primarily with either foam balls (think this) or with rubber balls (like what you probably played with in grade school). In Toronto, we use almost exclusively foam balls. In much of the States and other parts of the world, rubber is more widely used. In foam ball competitions, I can hold my own. When using rubber balls, I'm the one that people on the sidelines point to and say, "Oh, that poor dear . . . well, good for her for trying."  

She's running around in circles again; somebody better get the prod. 

So yes, the Toronto gals, the Little Giants and the Femme-Bots, were pleased to start with foam. My team, the Little Giants, received a fun surprise minutes before our first game when we learned that one of our players wasn't actually registered and therefore would not be playing with us. Such surprises are wonderful tests of character and provide precious opportunities to see what people are truly made of. 

The Little Giants mostly stared at each other while saying, "Well, shit . . . " repeatedly. We were lucky enough to pick up a last minute sub, a lovely gal from Memphis named Cindy. When we asked Cindy if she had ever played with foam dodgeballs before, she replied, "Um, maybe once or twice?" 

Emma Stone Thumbs Up Pictures, Images and Photos


Bolstered by Cindy's confidence, the Little Giants began our first game. Which we narrowly tied. And then we played our next game, which also ended in an almost-losing tie. We tied each of our four round-robin games. 

"Hey, we haven't lost any games yet, right?" we reassured each other. Nope, but we sure hadn't won any. 

So we decided enough of this tying business. It was time to get real for the playoffs. It was time to step it up. TO THE STREETS.

(This is when "The Final Countdown" began playing inside my head on a non-stop loop. It remains there until this day.)

Oh, we're heading for Venus
But still we stand tall
blah blah blah blah blah
something something something
...with so many light years to go 
And things to be found (to be found)
blah blah blah blah blah something blah



(very becoming action shots courtesy of the NDL and Victor Bernard Photography)

And slowly we began to win. We fought our way through the rest of playoffs, where, wouldn't you know, we found out we would be facing our dear friends the Femme-Bots for first place. This was bittersweet news to us.

You know, a lot of people truly enjoy playing against their friends in competitions. They like to laugh with familiar faces during games and have some inside knowledge of playing styles and strategies. That makes sense. Howeverthat ain't me. Playing against my friends in fun charity tournaments, sure, okay, yes; intense Dodgeball World Championship, no, please, no. When it counts, give me strangers any day. I'm not your Braveheart, your Steve Nash, your Bates Battaglia, your Kobe competitive what-have-you. I don't want to get my friends out. I don't want them to get me out. I'm too sensitive. I see an overweight dog on the street and feel like my heart is breaking. 

 oh god I can't.

(Fat cats, however, are a completely different story. Bring it on.)

. . . What were we talking about? Cat costumes? Oh right. Reluctantly facing your friends in the final game to win a gold medal in Vegas. 

So the Little Giants squared off against the Femme-Bots to duke it out for gold and silver. It was tough. It wasn't fun. Competitive sides emerge and sometimes they're not pretty. Things get personal. In fact, it's pretty hard not to get personal when you're heaving balls at each other's bodies as hard as you can. The final game came down to a one-on-one match, with both teams holding their breath to see what would happen. And guess who won it for us? Freakin' Cindy "Played Foam Once or Twice, Maybe" from Memphis. Funny how things turn out sometimes.  

And that is how the Little Giants became Dodgeball World Champions. 

Little Giants: Velvet, Shauna, Michelle, me and Heather

We can certainly understand how the Fantastic Five feel now.

Not pictured: the elusive Cindy. We actually got no pictures with Cindy, leading me to believe she was never really there at all . . . 

But we had nary a moment to savor our gold, for the Women's Rubber Ball competition began right away. The Little Giants, feeling high and reckless after our win, played like never before. We ran around the court like flea-infested felines. We laughed maniacally and without reason. The maniacal laughter would often lead to tears. Many of them. We pranced, we reminisced, we dodged on occasion. All of this is to say that we played quite poorly and were eliminated as fast as a team could be. 

But they can never take away our gold(ish) medals. NEVER. Can they? They actually might be able to. Not sure. Should look into this.


From my cold, iron-deficient hands, Sir Dodgeball Commissioner . . . 

To make up for our embarrassing display, the glorious Femme-Bots rubber-balled their way to win their second silver medal for Toronto.

Femme-Bots: Pauline, Chelsey, Beth, Sabrina, Rowena and Jen

All in all, it was a pretty great day for Toronto women's dodgeball. 

After the ladies' portion was done, we returned to the Flamingo Hotel as new people. We had a spring in our step and a soundtrack of jangling medals and a creepily hummed version of "The Final Countdown." Had the hotel staff known us before, they surely would have made a comment like, "Oh my! Who are these new, sexy women and why are they sweating so much?" But no one knew us. So all they said was, "You lost your room keys already? Both of them?" To which we replied, "Yes, but medals."


StarTrek Birthday Dance Pictures, Images and Photos

(My knowledge of Vegas was very limited prior to this trip.)

It was sometime after donning our party hats and belly chains that we discovered a tragic flaw in the whole Vegas-dodgeball plan. You see, after playing dodgeball all day long, you're covered in sweat, blood, manure. You're tired and sore. Your bones ache. Mentally, you're partying, physically, you're toast, man. Sore, soggy toast. 

Or at least we were. I think other teams went out to party. I wonder what it's like to not be an old biddy? Frightening, I would imagine. 

So instead of partying, we hung out in our hotel room and took pictures with the medals. 

We did this for roughly three (3) hours and then I think we all ate dinner from the hotel lobby and went to bed. 

That's Vegas, baby. Is it not?

It was a good thing that we got those twelve (12) hours of sleep, because the next day was big. HUGE. We were onto the major part of the tournament, the coed team competitions. It was time for the Devil Bats to soar. And for all of our other Toronto teams to soar, too, but mostly the Devil Bats.


We were psyched. Ready to strut in our brand new jerseys (cotton-poly blend!). We said things like "Let's do this!" and "Devil Bats Unite!" and "I forgot my left shoe" repeatedly.  And so, with those inspiring words, the tournament began . . . 

"Omg," you say. "HOW DID IT GO?" And to be honest, I'm a little hazy on the details. All I remember is the profound disappointment. For you see, the Devil Bats were slaughtered. We were sent (back?) to hell. I've never seen us destroyed so fast and so hard and so many times in a row.  

These teams that we faced . . . good lord. They were very different from what we were used to. The Devil Bats are a strategic, ball-controlling team. You might call us slow-paced. It was like we were Russian chess players and they threw us onto a court with UFC fighters and hollered, "3, 2, 1, Dodgeball!" And the UFC fighters had been taking uppers. For six months. Games were incredibly fast-paced and scarily aggressive. The strategic and analytical Devil Bats didn't stand a chance. 

It seemed like this was the average player that we faced:

. . . and this was us:

"I shall counter-attack and aim low and at precisely the right moment, I'll . . . pardon? I've been out for an entire minute? I see. Thank you for your time."

"Hey girls, let's throw together on the count of 3, okay? 1, 2 . . . oh, we're all out again? And the game's over? Makes sense."

(source for above 7 action shots: Victor Bernard Photography)

Most, if not all, of our coed games were played in a best 2 out of 3 format. In one game, I think I was on the court for a total of three seconds before getting out. On my way to the bench, I noticed that half of my teammates were already sitting there. Before I could double-check to make sure that had indeed just happened, the game was over and we had lost. Repeat that by 20 and you have our big day. 

Was it inspiring and motivating to face such talented teams? Yes. In a way. In many other more immediate ways, it was depressing and a bit rage-inducing. 

Look at us soar! That bench never saw us coming. 

All of our Toronto coed teams fared pretty much the same: disappointment, heartbreak, headshots, sorrow. 

Sure, our hearts are filled with sadness, but check out those sick jerseys! Cotton-poly blend!

I believe the Femme-Bots coed version did the best out of all of the Toronto coed teams, making all of us female dodgeballers proud.

Team Schwwwing . . . whatever that means. 

And here's the whole lot of us from Toronto:


But before I move away from the subject of dodgeball, I'd like to share with you something that I'm very proud of. Even after being swiftly and summarily eliminated, I knew I would want to remember these moments forever. With my trusty camera, (the ol' Hazemaster 3000), I set out to diligently capture the action on the courts. Behold, my personal gallery of the 2012 Dodgeball World Championship:

I only ask that if you wish to use one of my personal shots, please give me proper credit. Appreciate it, guys.

After losing so, so badly at oh, all of our games, the bad news was that we had no self-esteem to speak of. The good news was that we were finally free to enjoy the sights and sounds of the fabulous Las Vegas. Yay!

The sights . . .

The sounds . . .

(Vegas clubs are wild, man; they're everything you imagine and more!)

. . .  And yes, the smells. 

I realize that it may appear that the trip has taken a turn for the dismal, what with all the slaughtering and the self-esteem shrinking. But it's not so! There were many highlights. Oh yes, so many highlights. Where does a girl even begin? WHERE, JULIE, WHERE?

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start . . .

-Well, we got gussied up to attend a banquet for all of the dodgeball participants. I have mixed emotions about this, actually, because I had prepared a lovely, 45 minute speech/monologue that I was informed "there was no time or need for." Still not sure what they meant by that. It was so freakin' poignant I would have had 'em all weeping. But there was some free food, at least. 

(Note: no, that is not a bizarrely large necklace; Velvet is indeed wearing her medal out in public. Yes, she was the only one who did this. The rest of us just wore them in the hotel room like normal people. Another note for all you medal-wearing folk out there, don't wear your medals in the shower. The gold will come off.)

-We got to eat a very large cake. 

I love cake and all of the occasions that call for it, so this, this post-dodgeball-humiliation-lick-your-wounds-with-marzipan-cake . . . this was something special. Definitely a highlight. 

-We did actually manage to leave our hotel rooms once or twice for various excursions and (certainly non-drinking related) activities. 

Now, I know what you're saying. That's great that you had a swell time and all, and some of your friends look kind of drunk, but WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THIS EXPERIENCE? 

Yes, yes. Calm yourself. I know you all are an intelligent crowd and come here seeking knowledge and enlightenment. As such:


-Watching other people gamble is not as much fun as you think it will be. 

I pictured our gang crowded around a long, green fabric table. An excited buzz palpable in the smoky air. The dice are tossed. They land on some kind of number or square and we all erupt in cheers. Arms thrown high into the air in sheer glee. Someone kisses a stranger. Then we all sing a happy song together, hopefully one having multiple rounds because those are more fun. Then my friends give me all of their winnings to hold for safekeeping, because I give off a very responsible vibe. I tell my friends I'm going to the washroom. I take the money. All of it. I leave the country. First I see the Grand Canyon, but then I get right out of there. I book it to Salzburg. Make a home for myself. Do the whole nun-turned-governess-turned-wife routine and end up very happy and also a great singer.

Well. You know how they say that your dreams come true? The thing is that THEY DON'T. 

Not this: 

But this:

How do you talk to someone you love about a gambling problem? Don't ask me. The non-gamblers all thought about it and then promptly fell asleep at the slots waiting for our crap-happy friends to finish. 

My gambling friends did end up being very successful at the tables, which is great for them, I guess.  I don't know. Gambling is serious business, it seems. It changes people. Why, I can still hear the sounds of "you're bad luck, I lose every time you come around, you smell terrible, why are you still wearing your dodgeball clothes from yesterday, stop giving me your urine samples, who keeps humming "The Final Countdown," blah blah blah . . . " like they were just yesterday. But yeah. Truly happy for their good fortune. 

Another important thing to note is that people like to tell you that you drink for free in casinos. This is partially true. If you are actively gambling and spending money, you will drink for free. You do not drink for free if you are hovering awkwardly behind your friends as they spend money and gamble. In fact, you do not even exist to servers if you are a gambling table tag-along. 

Even if you are wearing a gold medal.  

Even if you remind them that you are wearing a gold medal. 

I've said it before: do not come to Vegas to improve your self-esteem. Lesson learned.

-If you enjoy anything, anything at all, there is a slot machine that is made especially for you. 

If you'd give it all up for just one more Maltese:

(This is a large portion of you, I suspect.)

If you unapologetically want your cats and god dammit, you want your glitter, too:



And for everyone else, there is Whale Song:

(Note: despite the aforementioned plethora of slot options, I did not find a Sweet Valley High-themed slot machine. Therefore, my gambling strike continues.)

-Everything is insane in Vegas.

Chips Ahoy plus Reese's? Peanut butter Oreos? TRIPLE DOUBLE OREOS? What does that even mean? I'm still in the phase where I'm excited by Golden Oreos, so this was just . . . incomprehensible. Distressing, almost.

They also have like pizzas and burgers and stuff. This place is nuts. I clearly cannot handle Las Vegas. We had to get out of this strange place where if you can dream it, it already exists in cookie form. 

We left Las Vegas with our medals, sweat-soaked jerseys and I think without being abducted into a human trafficking ring, although I haven't seen Velvet in awhile. Some of us left thinking of all the wonderful friends we had made.  

I left wishing I had bought those Triple Double Oreos. U.S. friends, can someone mail me some, please? AND THESE.

Please please it's very important. Will pay for shipping!


Would I return to the World Dodgeball Championship? I'm actually not sure. While I had fun, there were many things I wish were different. The National Dodgeball League is a heated topic amongst hardcore dodgeballers for many reasons, most of which I don't really care about. However, I feel like there are a few seemingly simple things that could be changed to improve the event.

-More variety in game scheduling

For the majority of our coed games, the Devil Bats were in a bracket with the same 3 teams. That meant we played the same teams, over and over again. It was frustratingwe were in a tournament with teams from all over the world and only got a chance to face the same few. I very much wanted the chance to play against some new faces, even just for fun. Faces like:

Team First Blood (from possibly B.C.? Not sure, probably somewhere cool and fancy-free. Maybe Newark. Just look at them!)

(team photo source)

These guys from Australiasuch energy and pizazz and other fun words, too!

-Greater consistency with the reffing 

The rules seemed to change not only from court to court, but from game to game. Large amounts of time were spent arguing over calls or the rules, which ultimately just led to frustrated players. In one of our women's rubber games, a player was blatantly hit by a deflection off a teammate and didn't walk off. When we asked the ref why, he helpfully explained, "Oh, she didn't know that rule" and the game continued on. The back line refs also chatted with us throughout the majority of the games, asking such important, time-sensitive and relevant questions as, "So, what hotel are you staying at?" "You guys gonna be at that pool party thing later on?" All of this DURING the games. Good lord.

And do you even need to ask, HELL YEAH we're going to that pool party thing later. Just look at us.

-Location change from the whole Las Vegas thing

Vegas is a strange place. It's a place where one (1) visit can probably hold you for the rest of your life. Yes, it's a place of excess, of the unnecessary, of a carpe diem this next spin will be the big one mindset. It's a place where men hand you escort cards with half-naked ladies on them as you walk outside to breakfast. It's bachelorette parties and drinking on the streets and blackjack at 3:00 a.m. But it's also a bit depressing. Everyone looks kind of sad and sallow in that early-morning casino glow. Or maybe that was just me because I didn''t gamble and I prefer my cage dancers to look whimsical and like they're there by choice, instead of weary and blasé. 

So here is what I propose: move the World Dodgeball Championship to Italy. Or Greece. Or Maine. I've always wanted to go to Maine. 

Can you even imagine?! Lighthouse tours, lobster fishing, the scent of salt water, a little coed foam ball competitions, perhaps held in the great outdoors . . . just promise me you'll think about it before saying no. 

See? Easy solutions to complex problems. I've got this whole thing figured out. I'm now an Olympic gold medalist, after all, according to my resume. 

*Note to photographers: in need of updated headshots/business cards with new medal. Contact me to schedule session. Will give copy of book or one (1) box of Great Grains as payment. 

Medal-less headshot, no longer relevant. 

And that, my friends and immediate family, is the first time I ever played in the NDL's Dodgeball World Championship in Las Vegas. Now, have any of you ever been to Vegas? Did you love it or list it? Would you return? Dodgeballers, do you hope to play in the Dodgeball World Championship one day? WILL ANYONE GO TO THE GRAND CANYON WITH ME? (I'm so sad that I didn't make it there.) Most importantly, what's the status on those Oreos, hmm? Is there a tracking number? 

As always, I'd love to hear from all (/any) of you. 

But do hurry. Because IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN. 

(Thanks to Pauline, the NDL/Victor Bernard Photography and the Ol' Hazemaster 3000 for many of these pictures.)