ASICS Junior National Volleyball Championship 2010 Part 2

 JNVC 2nd PlaceI washed away my disappointment form this mornings race and headed down to Navy Pier for the final day of the tournament. After yesterdays stellar performance, Jenna’s team ended up in the gold pool in the top 5 teams of her age group, so even if they loose the first match and must go home, the worst they can do is 5th for the tournament. Not too bad.

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The first match was against Squadron a team from DeKalb, IL. Our girls played very well and took the first match in 3 games. The second match was against Ultimate a team from Frankfort, IL which we won in two straight games.

The final game of the night for the championship was against Rolling Thunder from Lake Zurich, IL. The girls hung in there but ended up losing the match in two close games. Overall they took 2nd in their age group and brought home some nice hardware for their efforts.

The team has two weeks of practice and no games to get ready for Volleyfest in Phoenix, which will be their last tournament of the season. Congratulations girls and good luck in Phoenix.

13.1 Chicago Half Marathon

Today I ran the 13.1 Chicago Half Marathon and had my first DNF. This will be a short post as I am embarrassed by my performance and the fact that my right knee gave out at mile 7 to cause my withdrawal. Up to that point I was running at a pretty good pace average of 9:10 per mile and felt very good after my usual two or three mile struggle to get comfortable. It usually takes me that long to get into a rhythm and forget about everything else, and just run.

I must comment on the race itself and say that it was very well organized and they made it very easy for participants when it came to packet pickup and transportation to/from the starting line. The only issue I had was parking to get my packet in Old Town, but that was my fault. I should not have waited until Saturday afternoon when the Old Town Art Festival, SOX/Cubs cross-town classic, Blues Fest and the ASICS Junior National Volleyball Championship were all going on at the same time. I had to drive around for almost 20 minutes right around the pick up location before I figured out I could park in the garage around the corner from Fleet Feet (they were hosting packet pickup) and get validated and not have to pay the $30 flat fee for the Art Festival parking. All I had to do was take my ticket into Fleet Feet with me and they scan it to turn it into a $2 ticket instead of a $30 ticket for the 15 minutes I was actually taking up a parking space.

I did not stick around for the post race pizza party sponsored by Kahru shoes, but instead headed home to shower away my disappointment and start planning my next race with more emphasis on listening to my quickly aging body. I have plenty of time to get to Navy Pier for the rest of the ASICS tournament and I am confident that the time there will help lift my spirits as I always enjoy watching my daughter play, whether her team wins or looses.

ASICS Junior National Volleyball Championship 2010


This weekend Navy Pier in Chicago is hosting the ASICS Junior National Volleyball Championship, June 11 – June 13. My daughter plays for Illinois Performance Volleyball and they are competing in the U17 (under 17 years old) division at the tournament.  Unfortunately, my trip to Columbus this week will caused me to miss the first day of the contest where they won two of their three matches, a good start to the weekend.

Today, Saturday was even better with IPV taking all three matches for the day with an overall record of 6-2 for game play (they lost one game in two of the matches to force a game three, which they won both times). This was the first time I can remember that they won all three matches in a single day, so the girls are pumped up and we hope that enthusiasm will help them in their games tomorrow.

Sunday will be single elimination so if you lose you go home. They are scheduled to play at 2PM, but must ref first, so we need to be at the Pier my 12:30 for team instructions. I have my half marathon tomorrow, the 13.1 Chicago, so that should give me plenty of time to run, get home, get cleaned up and get down for the matches.

Time to get some sleep for the race tomorrow.

Northern Lights Qualifier – Day 3

The girls less than optimal finish yesterday put them in the ‘B’ flight for today’s single elimination play, but their overall finish for the first two days was good enough to earn them a bye for the first round. Their first game did not start until 11am so the girls did not have to be in the lobby till 9am for breakfast and the walk over to the venue.


Today’s match did not fare much better although we took the Crossfire team to 3 games, but in the end could not pull off the win. Loosing one match sends you home so we were done by about 12:30 and were back at the hotel by 1 for the girls to do a quick change for the caravan back to Illinois. I had checked us out and packed the car before play started this morning so we really just needed to hop in, point the car south and hit the gas.

My mom is from Owatonna which is about an hour south of the twin cities straight dOwatonna Houseown 35W. She grew up it a beautiful white Victorian house on the corner of University and Cedar which is still owned by a relative of her sister. We we going thru Winona on the way home to look at St. Mary’s University (where my dad, uncle and brother went to school) so we decided to take a small detour and drive by  the house. The owner is unfortunately in the hospital so we were not able to go inside and show Victoria (Jenna’s team mate who stayed and rode with us) the old homestead. We did a quick drive by and made a stop at DQ for lunch, this being Jenna’s first time eating non ice cream at a DQ. Not a big deal but it is one of those things where you can look back when someone ask you if you ever had a burger at DQ and you can say ‘Yep, my first time was in Owatonna Minnesota.”

Back on the road we drove through Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic where my grandfather was a surgeon and my grandmother was a nurse. I had neglected to share this info with Jenna and was cracked up when she saw the sign advertising the clinic and asked if the did Mayonnaise research there. I answered that it was in fact founded by Dr. William Worrall Mayo, a frontier doctor, and his two sons , Dr. William J. Mayo and Dr. Charles Mayo, and that her great grandparents were helpful in saving many lives there.

Winona is only about 55 minutes from Rochester (2.5 hours from Minneapolis) just off the Mississippi river, and St. Mary’s itself is nestled against a small set of mountains in just outside the downtown area. Last time I was at the University I was 10 or 11 years old and we were there for one of my dad’s reunions. Back then it was still called St. Mary’s College and The College of St. Teresa also in Winona was still open. St. Teresa was the all girls school that my mom went to and St. Mary was all boys when they attended.


There were quite a few new buildings including a very impressive athletic facility and some new administration buildings. Most of the original buildings that I remember were still there and seeing them brought back some good memories of my visit there in the early 70’s. Jen has been to Purdue many times with us and St. Mary’s is quite a contrast in size (only about 5000 students compared to Purdue’s 40,000 students). Her high school graduating class size will be over 1200 which is just a little less than the undergrad size at St. Mary’s.

This is one of the first schools we have visited for her and it was a good initial step towards college. She likes the volleyball program they have and the small class sizes (12-1 ratio) and the majors she is interested in. It worked out well that we could make the trip on our way back from the tournament.


All in all it was a nice weekend. I don’t usually get to do these tournaments alone with her so I enjoyed spending the time in the car and with family while we were there. I will have to see if I can convince the wife to skip the next tournament as well.

Northern Lights Qualifier – Day 2

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Pool play started at 8am but due to a miscommunication I arrived for a 9am start, so I missed the first match which they unfortunately lost to a local team from Minnesota. The first match was against the third seed in the whole tournament so the girls knew it would be a tough match. According to the other parents our team played very well and hung in with the bigger girls but could not pull it out in the end.

Since we lost the first one, the girls are were off for an hour then had to ref for an hour and did not get back to play until 11am. They then had to play back to back matches against a team from Texas and a team from California. Although they played hard, they lost both matches and were done with their day by 1pm.



Dinner tonight was scheduled for the Rainforest Cafe in the Mall of America so Jenna and I took advantage of the early finish and went over to see her great uncle Steve who lives with his wife Vicky near Minnetonka. Vicky is the author of books like 500 Things to Do With Baking Soda. You can find some of her books over at Bookpeddlers.

We were able to spend a relaxing 90 minutes with them which allowed Jenna to catch up as she had not seen them both since their wedding more than a year ago. Steve has been a wonderful influence on both my kids and I try and make sure we got to see them whenever we are in town. I have been back there a few times on business since their wedding, but this has been Jenna’s first chance. I will be back up there in July so my son can spend a little bonding time with Steve at a Sox/Twins game.

I had suggested that the girls take the light rail from downtown to the Mall of America as not many parents volunteered to drive the girls to dinner. Since Jen and I were doing family things we could not offer to drive. The two moms who went along took my advice and got the girls to the train and to the Mall an hour before dinner so they could do some shopping or for those who had never been here, just walk around and see it all.

I guess I am a little jaded as I have been here many times and I am just not that much of a shopper. We have Woodfield Mall which is about 35 minutes from my house and it has just as much shopping square footage as MoA but no amusement park, so if I get a hankering to spend, I can just go there. Some of the girls were looking for prom dresses which tells me either they like to leave things till the last minute and they have probably not thought about having to return the dress to Minnesota if their is a problem, unless they buy it from a store that has a presence in Illinois. Only one girl ended up buying a dress; all the other girls just enjoyed looking and commenting.

So it ended up being me and two moms at the bar with 12 girls at their own table. It had been a long time, probably 10 years since I had been to a Rainforest Cafe and I believe it was the one in Woodfield Mall. The kids were small then and that is just one of those places you take the kids for the things that go on around you during dinner. As I recall the food was ok and not really the reason you go there. Tonight though I was pleasantly surprised by the the items I ordered. I chose the soup/salad combo which paired a nice tomato basil soup and cranberry walnut salad. The soup was nice an hot with just the right acidity and a not at all overpowering taste of basil throughout. I can immediately tell if there is too much salt in something, as it starts to make me cough. Needless to say this was perfectly seasoned and I did not cough but did get the hiccups as I consumed the delicious starter way too fast.

The Jungle Chop Salad (cute name) was equally perfect with fresh greens, black olives, cucumbers, carrots, red cabbage, pecans, Blue cheese crumbles, dried cranberries and grilled chicken tossed in a raspberry vinaigrette. there was just enough dressing to lightly coat the lettuce leaves and the portion was enough to be filling in combination with the soup. Paired with a nice glass of wine it was a pleasant finish to a memorable day with my daughter. Although I was not at the table with her I could see her enjoying herself with the other girls just a few yards away.

A few of the other parents showed up after dinner so some of the girls took the train back to the city and the others hitched a ride with their parents. We offered to take some of the girls back to the hotel with us in the car but the ones who did not have a parent along decided to take the train back downtown.

Play does not start until 11 tomorrow (we have a bye for the first round) so getting back to the hotel at ten was acceptable. Off to bed.

Northern Lights Qualifier – Day 1

The girls don’t start pool play till 3PM today so Jen and I started off with a nice walk around Minneapolis. The weather was a beautiful 58 and sunny just perfect for a nice stroll around the city. I get up here quite a bit on business so I was able to navigate around and show Jen some of the buildings and sites that I am familiar with. Matt and I are coming up here in July for the Twins Sox game so I wanted to take a walk over to the new Target field a check it out. Wow. Even from the outside it was a very impressive structure. We were able to stop in the gift shop and pick up an opening day shirt for Matt but that was all we could really see. Can’t wait for July. We made a quick Target stop for supplies and then went back to the hotel to meet the team for lunch ($5 foot longs for everyone).


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The first match was against STC Xplosion a  team from St. Charles, Missouri. Both teams were pretty evenly matched as far as skill and size but in the end they out hustled us and we lost the match in two games. The next match went better against High voltage, a team from Texas. We won that one in three games. The final match of the day against Legacy Lightening from Michigan also ended in a victory for our girls. The girls took it to three games but outlasted the opponents and came away with the win.

Northern Lights 063Northern Lights 027The coach was in a foul mood today and she made the girls do pushups in the final match during the timeouts and after the game she made them run lines on the court and a full lap around the complex. It was funny hearing the comments from some of the other teams parents asking why the girls were running when they thought we had won the match. We did. Good thing they didn’t loose.

We all went back to the hotel and got cleaned up before the planned dinner. Tonight we had a reservation at ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ on 9th just off of Nicollet. Hell’s Kitchen reminded me of a cross between the House of Blues and Dick’s Last Resort. You enter off street level then take an elevator or stairs down (going into ‘Hell’) to the actual entrance. Once inside you are greeted with a funky combination of eclectic art, cabaret style seating in front of the stage (they have live music) and  cozy table in the main room and two ‘anti’ rooms.


The girls all sat at one table with the coach in the main room near the stage and the parents were ushered into the fireplace room away from the girls. We did not see them all night until a few of them showed up at our table asking for cash to pay their bill, which was the plan.

The food here was excellent. I thought Ted’s Montana Grill had the best Bison burger but this place has taken over as my choice for the best non beef burger. I ordered mine medium rare, with Blue Cheese and a side of Sweet Potato fries. They got the doneness just right which is not easy to do. At first look, the meat was brown all the way through but when you bit into the burger you then see just a tough of pink so it was perfect. If you have ever cooked bison, it can bPeanutButtere tough to get the temperature or doneness correct. Since bison is so lean there is not much fat to make the burger moist. When we cook them we usually put a saucepan top over the meat when it is on the grill or griddle. This helps retain the moisture and makes for a nice burger. Other people will cut up sun dried tomatoes or other types of vegetables and mix them in with the meat to give the patty extra moisture.

Everyone at the table was complimentary towards the food and the wait staff. Highly recommended.

They also have awesome homemade peanut butter which I am getting all over the keyboard as I type this.

We got back to the hotel at about 11 so the girls had a quick team meeting to talk about tomorrow then we were all off to bed as they were pretty wiped out from the first day of play.

Tomorrow …pool play day two.

Northern Lights Qualifier

This weekend my daughter is participating in the 2010 Northern Lights volleyball qualifier in Minneapolis. We decided that instead of doing the normal flying thing, we would make a road trip out of it. Flying is of course more expensive but not only that, it is too quick. To quick you say? Yes too quick. When your kids get in high school and sometimes even in grade school, they have so many things going on that it is easy to loose track of them and what they are doing and becoming. Taking a nice long ride, 6 hours in this case, gives you a chance to find out what is going on in their lives and maybe do just a few silly things. Of course if you have a communication issue with your teen, then a 45 minute plane ride might be more attractive to you. If that is the case I still suggest you bite the bullet and make an effort to reconnect.

Driving through the outer reaches of Wisconsin there is not much choice in the way of radio stations. You either have country or strangely enough 70’s and 80’s music, with the later getting the thumbs up from me. Normally Jen will bring her own device full of music, but in my vehicle I only have an iPod connector that I installed about 2 years ago when I bought the car. We are both moving away from the Apple ecosystem (being a techy I don’t like being told what I can and cannot do to or put on my device, but I will leave that for another post) so Jen had her Zune HD and I had my soon to be replaced by the HTC Incredible, iPhone with mostly podcasts on it. We were soon into a game of guess that artist/tune on the ‘Classic’ rock station (if that is classic music then I guess I am considered a classic too but I will have to confirm that with my wife). I have made some effort over the years to introduce my kids to the ‘good’ music of the 60’s thru the 80’s, minus most of the hair bands. Jen is already a fan of AC/DC, The Who, Springsteen, The Beatles etc so she did very well in guessing most of the artists and only fell short when dipping back into the early 70’s for Badfinger, T-Rex and late 70’s for Rupert Holmes (who doesn’t like Pina Colada’s).

My Facebook friends are familiar with a game I like to play called ‘Where In The World Am I?’, that involves me posting a picture and having people guess the location. I play this game to remind people that there is so much to see in our everyday lives and travels. We are in such a hurry that we miss many interesting things along the way and I was very guilty of this before I started the game.


Pigeon Plaque

On this road trip we stopped just outside Black River Falls, WI for a bio break so I thought I would look for an item to post as a clue for the game. As luck would have it there were a few items to choose from and I finally decided to use the the Passenger Pigeon marker as kind of a tribute to earth day. The marker explains that all the passenger pigeons have become extinct and infers that we should take a step back and look at what we are doing to the earth and the creatures that live on it.


Black River Falls Fire


One of my other choices for a clue was a sign that commemorated the Black River Falls Forest Fire that happened in 1977. This one was a bit ironic as we came upon a huge fire later that evening near Menomonie, WI. I only had my point and shoot with me so I was unable to get a good close up shot but the some and orange glow was visible for miles.

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I wanted to get out of the car and take some better shots with the DSLR but I-94 was pretty busy with truck traffic and there was not much of a shoulder to stop the car on. Oh well, still exciting.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and we pulled into the hotel at about 10:30. We stayed at this DoubleTree 3 years ago when we were here for the same tournament. Nice enough property for the price, right on Nicollet and 11th so only a few blocks from the volleyball venue and the light rail to the airport and Mall of America (we are with teenage girls who want to shop).

Tomorrow we start play. Good luck IPV.

Volleyball Is Back In Session

After taking a few weeks off from tournament play, the girls are back doing pool play this weekend. Unfortunately, their lack of tournament play or at least playing together as a team is showing. They have been accustomed to always finishing the day as one of the top three teams but yesterday they finished 7th which dropped them down a bracket for today’s play. They lost the first match in 2 games and they seemed very uptight which I attribute to lack of real game time. They have been practicing as usual for the past few weeks but nothing can replace the experience of  real game pressure.

Jen’s team did end up winning their next two matches in two games straight each so I am a little more hopeful but it still looks like they have a long road back to get to where they were before the break. I have read many times that if you stop running for a month you can loose up to 70% of you capacity. There must be a similar statistic for staying away from real game play but that one I am sure is harder to quantify.

At any rate, I will continue to be a supportive parent despite my competitive urge to yell and scream at the matches (I have not done that since I was coaching soccer). They need to gel by the first week in March otherwise the Denver qualifier will be a painful experience.

Volleyball…Lots and Lots of Volleyball

The club season is in full swing already and pretty much every Saturday brings with it pool play. In Jenna’s case they call it Power League. Sounds bad ass like they should have their own hall of justice and secret decoder rings to unite their bump, set and spike powers.

In reality it is a huge thriving business in this down economy. Even when layoffs and unemployment are on the rise families shell out big bucks every week, every month and return year after year to the traveling volleyball scene. In addition to the thousands of dollars they spend on club fees every year, each weekend involves some sort of travel. Today for us it was only a 45 minute drive each way so not too much fuel cost. But that is just transportation for one day. You also have an entrance fee at each of the venues per person per day and food cost. You are not allowed to bring in your own food or drinks so you need to eat before you come, buy something from the concessions or go out between games.  The space is usually just a converted industrial warehouse with anywhere from 4 to 8 courts running continuous games throughout the day.

Today all six courts are running so that is about 24 teams with 8-12 girls per team and a few hundred parents, friends etc. I am seeing more and more of these facilities in different states as we travel around to watch her play. Instead of building and selling widgets to pay for the space and keep the lights on, they are selling competition and in America who doesn’t like competition. As a bonus, there a quite a few college scouts walking around here today. A college scholarship would make for a nice ROI.