Thursday, January 18, 2024 (Court Day #623)

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Mike at Rec.us to substitute teach for Bob Hansen‘s Intermediate pickleball class at Brommer Park. I had agreed and today is that day. Bob’s two classes run from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and then 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I decided to take the morning off from work and head to Brommer to get in some play before I had to teach. I asked René if she was available because we have a tournament coming up in a month and she was able to arrange things so she could be there this morning.

Yesterday, my right knee was aching a little bit. First, it was on outside of my knee and then the inside of my knee. This morning, my right knee has mild pain on the outside. I took a couple of ibuprofen to stave off any inflammation and pain from playing this morning.

I left my house and got about half a mile before I realized that I had left my phone at home had to turn around and go back. That’s a rarity! I texted René that I’d be a few minutes later than discussed.

Brommer

It was a hazy morning and my car dashboard read 50°F when I pulled into the Brommer Park parking lot at 9:24 a.m. About a quarter of the parking lot was still empty.

At 9:25 a.m. with lots of long sleeves and pants going on!

René was sitting on the wall getting ready, and the first thing we did was move to an open court to warm up. Kim, the one who wears the cap with a star on it, asked if she could warm up with us, and we agreed. Kim was on one side of the net and René and I were on the other. Initially, René was on my left and I was on the right. We dinked for a bit and then we worked on drop shots with René and me back and Kim with the net. René and I were consistently dropping good shots and Kim commented on it. It’s nice that those are coming along in my game.

Games

We rolled right into actual games, with me spending most of my time with René as my partner, as planned. Overall, the games were good, with the exception of one. The games I typically enjoy the most are the ones where the skill levels of the players are equal or better to my own. One was not and make for a less interesting game.

Later, René and I were leading 8 -3 or maybe 8-5 in the game against Marcus and Francis. But momentum shifted and we ended up losing that one.

Unfortunately, I hit the white net tape in that three or four times over the 3 1/2 hours today. I’ve been much happier if that was zero. I also missed two or three serves into the net when trying to serve hard. That’s a bit unusual as my serves tend to be very reliable.

Bangers

René and I have an ongoing disagreement over bangers. René is contention is that regularly hitting the ball hard is not playing pickleball. My contention is, if you are hitting the ball hard regularly to your opponent and your opponent can’t handle it, then that’s what you use regardless of “the way the game should be played“.

In a game with René against Marcus and Francis, I remember one dropshot that was definitely too high on my part, and Marcus simply angled it off the court for a winner. Of course, I was disappointed with myself, but with retrospect, that’s a far better shot than having my drop shot land in the net and not even giving my opponents a chance to hit the ball. A minor solace for a non-professional player like me, I guess.

When you get into games that are good enough, you have all four players at the net get into a firefight, who can then reset the point and get back to dinking. That’s not something that you see in most intermediate and lower games. Those are fun to experience.

Teaching

I played all morning and then right up to 12:58 p.m. when my intermediate class was just about starting. I had warned by game-mates and, indeed, had to stop mid-game.

There were some people using one of the two rolling county Rec.us nets so, being a nice guy, I brought out my portable net from my car and used that for one of the two courts for the class.

Both groups of students paid attention and followed directions. The first class had a woman named Deb, who I met at Willowbrook a couple of months ago for my very first beginner Rec class. She had been playing with a group of friends there, including a woman going by “Debzo” who was also in the same class as Deb. The second class had a woman named Chris who I was familar with but to be reminded of her name. Also in the second class was Aud and my around-the-corner neighbor Shaye (whose husband is Mauricio). But I didn’t know the majority of the students.

There were only 7 students instead of 8 in each class which meant I had to be on a court to complete the two sets of doubles. I rotated through to get exposed to all the students.

Both my classes seemed very happy.

My text out to the two classes of students and some responses.

Friday, January 19, 2024 (No Play)

Back in October, barefoot Terry S. had come by my work and, with my knee surgery recovery coming up in our discussion, she mentioned a joint study at Stanford. I was intrigued and she texted me the link later. I connected up with the study and had originally set up a visit in December but I had thrown out my back and couldn’t go. We rescheduled it for today. It’s to do scans with a joint “under load”.

Stanford

After roughly an hour drive, I arrived at 2:35 p.m. at Stanford University in Palo Alto for their study, at their Lucas Center for Imaging. Two biomedical engineering young women grad students—one was Ananya, to whom I’d been talking and texting—were waiting for me in the parking lot even though it was lightly raining. I had texted them when I was three minutes away, but still, they were very much looking out for my well-being. They set me up with parking then led me into the foyer to fill out paperwork. One was there only as a mentor to the other, supervising.

The Lucas Center on a nicer day, courtesy Google Maps. I parked on the right.

Once done, they took me to the floor and area where I’d spend the most of the next three hours. I changed into their provided scrubs shirt and pants. The MRI tech, Dawn, who, it turns out, lives in Santa Cruz a few blocks from my house, put in two I.V.s.—one on my right arm and one on my left and drew some blood.

Dawn said the large medical device, an MRI-PET combination, was the first in the country but now there are three, including one at a children’s hospital. This one, she said, is for research only.

The Scan

When I was lying down and about to be fed feet first into the machine, Dawn injected some fast-decaying radioactive solution into my I.V. for the PET part of the scan. I’d had an MRI for my shoulder and my right knee a few years ago, so this wasn’t all new to me. The scan took 45 minutes to an hour and you just lay there in your own thoughts. The machine is quite loud, but they inserted foam earplugs then added hearing protection earmuffs. Even then, it’s far from a quiet experience.

The Load

Once the first scan was done, the primary grad student led me outside then down some stairs to a tent in an open-air atrium. There we connected up with the other student from the parking lot and a new third grad student, another young woman. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining, just an occasional drop now and then, but it was a touch chilly—it is winter after all! They recorded me with two mobile phones mounted on tripods. Up the stairs. Stop. Wait. Turn around. Down the stairs. Stop. Wait. Turn around. Up the stairs. We did this for ten cycles. The main student excitedly shared that they could estimate my skeletal movements, then she held up the laptop, turned the screen towards me, and showed a yellow simulation of my skeleton on a black background. So this was the “load” part. Scan, load, scan.

The Second Scan

Once done with the steps, we headed back to the machine for another 45 minutes to an hour scan. From there, maybe another blood draw then the I.V.s were removed and I was free to change and go. The grad student kindly led me back out through the maze of the building to the parking lot at about a quarter to 6 p.m. A little over three hours total.

Dinner

My son Nicholas had been recruited by my traveling sister-in-law Liz and her family—yes, the pickleball playing one—to watch their dog at their house in San Carlos. Nicholas and I arranged to meet at her house where we hung out for a little bit, had pizza from a shop downtown, then I left Nicholas to watch Lucky and I headed back to Santa Cruz.

It’s a Wrap!

I learned this study is multi-year, so they’ll probably want me to come back for more scans. For each visit, they give me $100 for gas and time. The benefit for me is if their radiologist finds anything needing attention—anything torn in my knee, for instance—then I’m to be notified and my doctor can order an MRI that isn’t proprietary and secret. Basically, I get a free “super checkup” on my lower extremities: hips, knees, ankles. I’ll take it.

Number of days on a court: 623
Number of total hours: 2,714
Number of paid coaching hours: 14

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