The alarm clock wakes me up; its 4:30 a.m. I load the car and pickup my team. on the road by 5:30 a.m. and while I drive the next 3 hours, my teammates get their beauty rest. To say the least I was worried about endurance. The cold sucks the energy out of your body, and cold was vey much in the forecast.
 
I was confident (not cocky) about our skills. We’d practiced hard and often. We worked drills, discussed strategies, practiced on various playing surfaces and various game situations - I knew we would bring a strong game to Lake Calhoun.
 
Through the midafternoon anyway.
 
This would be the earliest we’d have ever gotten started on tournament day. Spending 12 hours on a frozen lake in single digit temps can take it out of you. Waking up early and spending 4 hours in the car beforehand can make that even worse. The last time I played a tourney low on sleep was Nationals ’10, and I’ll never forget how my game imploded when I hit a wall around 2:30. I have to admit that experience was looming large in my mind as we made the decision to come up the morning of and stay Saturday night. Would our energy be waning as the competition got tougher? Luckily for us, adrenaline and competitive spirit (coupled with moderate amounts of sweet liqueurs) kept our intensity high, and we delivered on our promise to each other to bring our best possible effort when it was needed the most.
 
I’m grateful to my teammates for inviting me to play with them, as I was able to be a part of some really special games of Kubb.
 
I got to see how far the Kubbchucks have come in a year—amazing! They are for real now, and you look past them at your own risk. Garrick's "Far Side" drill works, especially in the snow. Word to the wise; don’t make any jokes about their flag. You might get stabbed with it. In your nethers. Trust me, just… just leave it alone.


The Three Kubbateers and the flag of pain Photo courtesy of Thingelstad.com

McLovin! The last team from our group was a really nice couple playing for the FIRST TIME, and they played deep into the bracket. I think they made the quarterfinals? You never know where the next powerhouse is going to come from.

Championship Hill continues to deliver the goods. The Three Kubbateers were having a great time and hitting a lot of kubbs. You could tell they had been practicing...maybe more than the boys of Hogeboom. Either way, they are good, and getting better. I want to see a Chicks with Sticks vs. the three Kubbateers game at Nationals with Sunday on the line. That would be good kubbing right there.


Lunch break and a first round bye after the round robin. Burning hot mounds of mouth watering brisket in a pile of nacho cheese, tortilla chips, guacamole and all the fixings. The food truck made good eats. It was amazing for two bites. It was freezing cold after the third bite. 


Elims begin now, and who do we have to play? Another championship hill team: the fusillade of the big EAU. Team Kubboom! can we talk about Sam from Kubboom? He’s good. I don’t mean ‘He’s good for a kid’ good, or ‘He sure has a lot of potential’ good, I mean ‘He was in the top third of players on that lake’ good, and he’s only getting better. Two tournaments in a row now he’s faced off with Dobbie in an Inkasting duel, and both times he gave as good as he got without backing down an inch. The future of U.S. Kubb? Shut down that noise – the kid is the PRESENT. Get used to it.

 
Final 16 teams and we meet Kubby Doo. Man, I wish I could play against these guys every week. Genuinely nice guys, and the fiercest competitors I’ve ever lined up against. They bring a level of intensity that demands the best of you. I mentioned adrenaline before? That pitch was drowning in it. It could have been 20 below and I’d still have been sweating. 28 kubbs in play over three games? We left our only advantage line of the day against them, and in return they served us our only game loss. We managed to edge them out in the third game, but barely. True mutual admiration and respect when we shook hands over the king. I said that matches like that are why I get in the car, and there were five other heads bobbing in agreement.


Now the sun is down, the temp drops, and the snow begins. Fires burning, spectators huddled around heaters, sticking around in spite of the ice beards and frozen feet. Look up Winter Kubb in the dictionary and this is the definition. The Surly tent on the deck above us, muddled voices asking what this game is, and those that know explaining rules. Epic.

 
Sukface is a team name I’d seen in the brackets at other tournaments, but I don’t think I’d ever met them, and they for sure weren't on my radar for the semis. Holy crap but these guys can play. In the final four with The Ringers, Kubb Snipers, and the Knockerheads, and they belonged there, believe it. Absolute monsters at 8 meters, and I don’t think there was a miss on their side of the pitch until late in game two. They didn’t adapt to drilling on the new packed snow on the finals pitches as quickly as Dobbie did, or it would likely have been the end of our run. I’m glad they were a pleasure to play, because I’m sure we will be seeing them late the day at other tournaments as well. (We got some insights into their team name...it's not as dirty as you would think.)
 
Championship match against The Ringers. Did I say I was worried we’d be tired? Ha! Dave and Aaron across the pitch will get me fired up anytime. Rockford ’11 they sent Dob & me (RUN DMK) packing; Loppet ’12 Grant & I returned the favor. Rockford a year later & they ended the 10-0 run I was mounting with the 7-headed-monster Kubbacca. Met Dave as part of Sweden’s Sons in September in Des Moines and they edged us out on time, then a few weeks later I gave them the same treatment in Dallas (Sweden’s Amateur Ringers v. Six Pack, match called due to time, advantage us.) The way I figured it I was minus one in my series with them, and they always took everything I could bring.

 
Fired. UP.

 
The match was everything I’ve come to expect in a Ringers match. Intense, consistent play at the highest level, and the first to blink will be swallowed up. They won the opening toss and all I could think about was that we would have to ‘break serve’ at least once, and how good their 8m had been in the semis against the Kubb Snipers. Luckily for us they started slow (only 1 in the open) and over the course of the game my teammates combined for 15 hits and ONE miss. In fact, Grant missed exactly one throw in the entire MATCH! (DISCOUNT DOUBLE CHECK!) I only shot 50% in game one, but it was enough to not cost my team the game. I made up for it in game two by shooting 180% -- 3/3 at 8m, and 2/2 in the field (both triples – thanks for the set up Dob!) Grant of course played perfectly and Knockerheads put the first win of 2013 in the books.
 
After all the handshakes, backslapping, & awards we met with the Chaska guys and the Kubb Snipers at the Herkimer for burgers & beer. We toasted each other on the day (and took a vicious schooling in the fine art of shuffleboard), and surprisingly talked a lot about NON-Kubb things! I could tell that after seeing these guys so much we aren’t just acquaintances with a shared interest anymore – we’re friends that just enjoy hanging out together, and I realized that while I hadn’t really lied to Mark, Luke, & Zach, it was only part of the truth.
 
Sharing a few beers with my friends is why I get in the car too. Thanks for the day Kubbnation – see you in May!


52 Teams participated in the 2013 Winter Loppet Photo courtesy of Thingelstad.com