Triple Play Day

Hey, do you want to do anything fun this evening? Bike riding? Pickleball? There are only so many summer evenings.

Jim texted back. What say you pedal down to Sherwood Park and we’ll toss the frisbee around for a while? That’ll give you one of those triathlon days you like.

That sounded fun. And Jim was right; that would be two more exercise opportunities for the day on top of the hiking I had done early in the morning.

The triathlon idea started with day trips to Glenwood Springs, where I would choose a hike or a run, ride my bike down the canyon, and then swim laps and relax at the world-famous Glenwood Hot Springs. This was an individual event, made up entirely by me, and done at my happy pace, which included having lunch between legs and reclining in a chaise lounge with a good book between laps. The whole point was not to go my fastest and get the event over as quickly as possible, but to fully embrace and enjoy each aspect of it, making it last all day and taking pictures along the way.


So I met Jim at the park that evening and we tossed the frisbee back and forth in the low, late evening sunshine. To add some oomph to the workout, we did what we always do with a frisbee or a ball, we counted how many times we could get it back and forth to each other without dropping it. This extra challenge of throwing more accurately and running to catch throws that were slightly off got our heart rates up. At first, we did 18 in a row. Then 19. Then 26. And our record for the evening was 56. Fifty-six tosses back and forth with the frisbee never hitting the ground.

After, we sat in the cool grass. “Good idea, Jim! I forget how fun it is to throw a frisbee.”

“Good exercise, too,” he said. “I’m going to feel this tomorrow. All the bending over and reaching and sudden bursts of running.”

“You know how in your text you called this a triathlon day? I was thinking we should come up with a different name. Triathlon implies swimming and biking and running. But, really, any exercise counts. Even the work you do all day long at your job.”

“But the three different things is what’s important,” he said. “I think it’s a good goal to shoot for every day. It doesn’t have to be three big things, like your all-day Glenwood Springs triathlons. It could be walking down to the farmers’ market, paddling around the lake. Anything.

I pondered my locale and exercise tastes and all the options, especially in the summer months. “Yeah, Jim, there are so many fun things to do around here–hiking, trail running, walking, mountain biking, road biking, pickleball, racquetball, swimming laps, open water swimming, kayaking…”

“Frisbee,” Jim added.

“Yes, frisbee. And this would remind us to play more often. Plus, things like strength training, push ups, stretching.”

“Yeah, just stretching at some point in the day. It wouldn’t be that hard to get three things in.”

“And most of this stuff is fun. I’m thinking triple play, make it sound fun, like a triple play day.”

“Triple Play Day.” Jim tested out the sound of it. “I like it. Because most exercise is fun. Or it should be. People should try to find exercising options they enjoy, that make it seem like they’re playing.”

“It’d be really good for me,” I thought out loud, “to try to do triple play days as often as possible, especially when winter rolls around. I always slip into this horrible thinking that I need to be home and safe and locked in my house once it’s dark. And in the winter, that means 4:30. And that’s not good. It’d be great if I had a reason to go and do one more type of exercising. Go to the gym. Walk around the block on a snowy evening. Whatever. It would just help me change my mindset.”

“Yeah, we should keep it in mind. Think about it every day. See what happens.”

“There’s also housework and yard work. They’re not exactly fun…”

“For some people, they are,” Jim interrupted.

“Agree. And, even if they’re not fun, they’re rewarding, once you’re done, and that makes them fun in a different sort of way. So they’d be included. Included in this idea of ‘playing.'”

“What about long runs or climbing a 14er or something like that?” Jim asked. “Would that count as three things?”

“It should.”

Jim thought for a minute. “I’m thinking it shouldn’t. I mean, the whole point is to get in the habit of doing three things each day. To ask your body to do three different types of activity. And even if you do a biggie, you can still come home and stretch or vacuum or pull a few weeds in your yard.”

“I agree. Plus, it’d be too easy to start counting more intense exercise as two or three things for the day and then the whole triple play concept would be lost.”

I went on a week-long road trip right after I had this conversation with Jim. It was a good opportunity to test whether back-to-back, ongoing triple play days were a possibility. Some days were easy, like the day I went for a short run around the lake where we camped and then later that day played hard in the ocean and then took a long walk down the beach. Triple Play. Other days, the ones with seven hours of driving, were more difficult. But I could always get in some walking, some stretching, some isometric exercises while sitting in the driver’s seat. It was on my mind, a new challenge, so I made sure I did it. And I liked it.

Triple Play Day.

Triple Play Day copy


It’s Addicting

It was the first warm Saturday in February. We’d been waiting. We’d been hitting a wiffle ball around in the racquetball court, trying to get a feel for the pickleball paddles and the ball. We didn’t have a pickleball, but they’re similar enough to wiffle balls. We were anxious to try it out on an actual pickleball court with a net.

When we showed up though, on that first warm Saturday afternoon in February, the courts were full. Doubles were being played on all four courts at Lincoln Park. And several other players – twenty, perhaps – were standing on the sidelines waiting to play.

I immediately sensed a party atmosphere. I felt we should enter the gates, stride on in, and introduce ourselves.

But we didn’t. Jim and I leaned on the fence, fine with just watching to see how the game worked. After a few minutes, a tall, long-legged woman, wearing jeans and a long sleeve cotton t-shirt came over. Long, thick hair, blonde, oozed out from beneath the navy blue cap on her head.

She was, hmm, I’d guess about 60.

“You see that guy there?” She nodded toward an older guy on the court closest to us. “He’s 80.”

I watched him play for a few seconds. He was agile, smiling, obviously having a wonderful time.

“And his partner?” she continued, giving us time to notice him. “He’s 87.” When I glanced at him, he was running into the kitchen – the area closest to the net – trying to get a dink. He got it.

She asked us if we played and we explained that we were just starting, just learning.

“Careful,” she warned, “it’s addicting.”

A game ended on one of the courts and all four players went over to the group of bystanders and asked who wanted to play next. Everywhere I looked it seemed like everyone was having a great time, whether playing or just watching and waiting for a court to open.

The blonde woman came back over and said, “You know, I’ve seen beginners use those kid-size tennis courts over there, when the courts are full. You could do that, if you’re just wanting to hit the ball around.”

Were we ever just wanting to hit the ball around!

We spent a good hour hitting the ball back and forth to each other, making up some rules since we only knew the basics. It was glorious being outside enjoying a beautiful late February day.

We returned about a week later, this time on a Monday after I got done teaching. The courts were empty except for a friendly player named Larry. He seemed to be waiting, hoping that someone would show up. He gladly taught us the rules. We played our first real games. He was probably close to 70 and, yes, he beat us, the both of us against just him. He had to leave around 6:00. Jim and I stayed, excited to play singles now that we knew most of the rules.

We played till past dark, melancholy when we could no longer see. I noticed the big lights above the courts and wondered when the park would start turning them on and how late they’d leave them on.

The next day I got an email from the pickleball group (I’m on their mailing list) and I replied with a question: Does anyone know when the city will start turning the lights on at the court?

The reply: You turn them on yourself. There is a small box on the southeast corner of the court.

What? Wow! That meant we could play anytime. And that was going to be important with how popular pickleball is getting.

We were back again two days later, this time a bit later in the evening. Now that we knew about the lights, I didn’t feel like I had to rush over there the minute I was done teaching.

The last time we played we had to quit when the sun went down. This time, we just kept playing, and playing, and playing. Like the blonde woman said, “It’s addicting.”

This past Sunday, we went to the courts at 1:00. It was a beautiful day and the same scene – about 30 people there, all interacting, all willing to play with whomever and, likewise, all willing to sit out for a bit to let someone else play.

Jim and I looked at each other with the same thought. It’s time to jump in, time to figure out how to join games, time to figure out the rules and where we were going to fit in.

We played several different doubles games, including a few that were competitive. The reason I call them competitive is because a guy called out to us, “Hey, do you two want to play competitive?” It was getting late in the afternoon, you see, and most of the other players had gone home. These two guys were serving it hard and spiking it over the net.

We did alright.

Two hours later, I was done. Tired. And behind on my list of everything else I needed to get done that afternoon.

Like she said, it’s addicting.


Pickleball. Have you heard of it?

Makes me think of charades. Two words. First word. Sounds like tickle. Pickle. Second word. Sounds like wall. Ball. Pickle, ball. Pickleball.

It’s a game. Sort of a cross between badminton, tennis, and ping-pong. It is played on a badminton-sized court, which is about one-third the size of a tennis court, with paddles and a ball that is similar to a wiffle ball. The net is two inches lower than a net on a tennis court. The ball moves about one-third the speed of a tennis ball. It is supposedly easy to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced game for experienced players.

I’ve been hearing about pickleball here and there. When the improvements were done at Lincoln Park last year, pickleball courts were built, complete with lights for playing at night.

I read that indoor pickleball happens at the Lincoln Park Barn during the winter months.

I also know that it’s a quickly growing sport, especially among the retiree set. Easy to learn. Fast-paced. Can be played out-of-doors, free-of-cost. Can be played at night under the lights. Can be played indoors during the winter. Is doable as singles or doubles.

I think I want to try this game.

I dabbled in tennis, as a kid, and then again in my twenties. I liked it, but it was obvious that I would never be that good at it because I’m not very fast on my feet and there is a lot of area to cover on a tennis court. Consequently, I got into racquetball, which is similar but has a smaller court. I do alright in racquetball, even without being a fast mover. I play racquetball three times a week, usually with my friend Jim.

Lucky Jim. I’m going to get him to try pickleball with me.

We’re not looking to replace our racquetball time with another sport. And we’re not of retiree age (yet). But I can totally see us riding our bikes to the courts on late summer evenings to play a little pickleball under the lights.

And maybe we’ll win the Pickleball National Championship 60+ age group if we start playing now.

Jim’s birthday is today. Lucky Jim. He’s getting a pickleball paddle and some wiffle balls for a gift. I got a little gift for myself, too–a pickleball paddle.

I did some quick research on paddles before buying them. Fortunately, Sports Authority had a few in stock. An employee there said they’ve been selling like crazy. They were out of official pickleball balls, but they are similar enough to wiffle balls so I bought a bag of three wiffle balls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I know about the paddles is that they come in wood or composite (graphite) material. I believe the composite paddle is slightly heavier, thereby requiring less strength to hit the ball as hard or as far as you might with a wooden paddle. There is only one size of paddle, but the handle size can vary. Larger hands do better with a wider handle. At Sports Authority, there were three different paddles to choose from. They all looked about the same to me. The one major difference was that one was “rimmed.” It had a raised edge. The others were rimless, “for increased maneuverability and faster play.”  I hadn’t read anything about that online, so I decided to get one of each type.

And here’s what else I know about pickleball paddles: they’re not cheap. I couldn’t believe that they cost more–two or three times more–than a basic racquetball racquet.

I guess that means that we WILL like this sport. It’s mandatory, now that I’ve invested in two paddles.

I looked through my Parks and Rec Activity Guide and was surprised to learn that there were no pickleball classes being offered. There was, however, a number listed for Grand Junction Pickleball. Grand Junction Pickleball? There’s a club? Now I know for sure the sport is taking off. I gave the number a try and talked with a nice man named Ken. He explained that Parks and Rec does not offer classes in the winter because there is not enough indoor playing space. I will look again in the next Activity Guide that comes out in the spring.

Until then, Jim and I will try to hit the wiffle ball back and forth. We can use the outdoor courts on nice weekend days or the basketball or racquetball courts at Gold’s Gym.

Tonight, while we were out to dinner, Jim opened his gift and we hit the ball back and forth a few times right there in the middle of the restaurant.

Oh, and about that name Pickleball. Legend has it that the creator of the game had a dog named Pickles. Every time the ball, which belonged to the dog, was mishit, Pickles would grab it and run and hide in the bushes. They named the game for their dog’s ball, Pickle’s Ball, which became Pickleball. That’s how the story goes.

The truth, however, according to Joan Pritchard, wife of the inventor of the game, Joel Pritchard, is that the game reminded her of the Pickle Boat in crew, where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. (Wikipedia)

Leftovers–a little tennis, a little badminton, a dog’s old wiffle ball, some make-shift paddles.

And some more truth: the Pritchards didn’t get their dog until a few years after they invented the sport. So, the dog was named after the sport.

I’ll let you know, as the months go on, if Pickleball is any fun. In the meantime, you might want to check out this short video.