Saturday, 16 March 2013

Adventures in Chicagoland for the IBJJF Chicago Winter Open 2013

This past weekend (March 9th and 10th 2013) was the IBJJF Chicago Winter International Open. Say that 10X fast. Tournament names are getting kind of long these days eh? I suppose it has to be so long, so you know exactly what you're attending. I wouldn't want to get the summer and winter event mixed up, and International in the title makes it sound so much more prestigious. I'll give them one point, "Open" is much shorter than "Championship" or "Tournament" so they've got that going for them at least. Anyway... the naming convention the IBJJF uses is not actually the point of this blog post. Though, I could go on a pretty good rant about it if you let me.

We left home, well, actually we left work, around 4pm on Thursday, wanting to have an extra day in Chicago to train, and see some sites. The drive was actually pretty reasonable. Jon Guzzled a sugar free Rockstar as soon as we hit the highway, so we ended up having to stop for a pee break before we even got to the border. We crossed the border in Sarnia, after about 15 minute wait, we had to answer the standard questions, no getting out of the car to open the trunk this time.

We stopped again in DeWitt for some gas and food. The subway there was weird. They don't have "Sub sauce" in the states apparently. They also have different bread and cheese options which all sounded pretty tasty. I got steak and cheese sub, turned salad, with extra meat. She put 3 containers on, instead of the normal 2, and didn't even charge me extra. They also don't do combos like we have here, but the cookies and drinks are cheaper, so it worked out in the end.

Carrying on, we found a few decent radio stations along the way. 101.5 the banana based out of Flint, MI was probably my favorite. It was a weird mix of 97.7 102.1 and 107.9, with a dash of 107.1, plus heavier stuff that no station in Ontario will play, like the new David Draiman side project, and Five Finger Death Punch, and other cool bands. We also listened to 106.1 and 107.1, but they didn't last long. Closer to the city, we had a lot of trouble finding a decent radio station, we spent more time channel surfing than actually listening to a station for more than 1/2 a song.

As we got off the highway and neared our hotel, we were a bit worried we had chosen poorly, It was dark, and it seemed like we were driving in a pretty sketchy neighborhood. There was a lot of factories and such. Turns out it's the end of a bit of an industrial area, but it's mostly bakeries and whatnot, not steel plants or chemical shit. On the other side of the hotel (that we didn't drive up from) there is 2 nice looking neighborhoods, and a pretty big shopping center- not a mall, but a Walmart, Payless, and a few other shops and restaurants.

The hotel itself was surprisingly decent, considering it was rated 2.5 stars on It's a good thing I look more at the user ratings than the hotels stars. The outside was bright orange and freshly painted and well maintained. The lobby was nice, and clean and also well maintained. Our room was clean, comfy, but a bit cozy with the 2 queen beds in it. The bathroom was more soundproof than some other ones we've had in the past, but not as sound proof as you would like to have. The room itself was decently soundproof too, but we could hear people in the halls on Saturday night.

Breakfast was powdered eggs in scrambled or patty form, sausage or sausage patties, some cereal, bread, and fresh waffles. They had the usual juice machine, and coffee and tea as well. Decent for being included, but by Sunday morning we wanted some non-powdered eggs. They did have pretty sweet flavored coffee creamers, which would have been good, if I drank dairy or coffee when I am not at home. (I do drink coffee at home, but only with coconut oil and a bit of coconut milk).

The free WiFi at the hotel was pretty nice, we didn't need a code or anything, which is less of a pain than some, but I suppose a little less secure. Oh well, if someone wanted to steal my identity, they would have by now. I haven't really made it that difficult. The hotel also had pretty cool vending machines that had cold drinks and food, together in one! They also had a pain killer vending machine, full of Tylenol, Advil, Excedrin, and who knows what else. A bit weird I thought, but handy if you get a headache!

So, from leaving work, with two breaks, to getting into our hotel room, it was about 8 hours. Not bad at all. Definitely worth the drive for a big competition. Not something I want to have to do every other weekend or anything, but I'd consider doing it a few times a year.

On Friday, we were planning on heading to Brazil 021 to train, but when I woke up I wasn't feeling the greatest and didn't want to end up tiring myself out and then getting sicker. I almost always get sick when I go in an airplane, so I was a bit paranoid. I also thought it would be pretty rude to show up to someone else's gym unwell and get them all sick, and be a bad partner for whoever I worked with.

So instead we looked up some outlet malls and headed out to the Chicago Premiere Outlets. There are a lot of outlet malls in the Chicago area, but we chose this one because it had a store that each of us wanted to go to. The trip there was a bit of an adventure, we took a few different highways and almost all of them had tolls. I think there and back cost us almost 20 bucks! Would have been nice to know that before we got on the highway. We ended up actually not paying a toll getting onto the highway on the way back, because it only took IPass and coins. Seriously, who has all this change all the time? Not us! We put in like 3 bucks Canadian, but it didn't seem to like that. Whatever, we are going to invest in an IPass before our next road trip because they are good for the bridge tolls into New York, and toll highways all over the north east/ and middle of the states.

The outlet mall was pretty sweet; it was like an outdoor mall, with semi-covered walkways and such. It would be really nice in the early summer and late fall. It's probably kind of hot in the middle of summer, and probably pretty cold in the winter. It was nice enough for us with jackets on. There were about 120 stores, but we only went into maybe 5 or 10.

First stop was the Coach outlet. You may be surprised, but I love purses. I've got probably 10 of them. Which, for a typical girl is probably not that many, but most people think I'm 100% tomboy and don't care about girly things like purses and shoes. We spent probably an hour there, it was glorious. So many beautiful bags, purses, wallets, wristlets. Did you know Coach makes jackets? Me neither, but they do. They were ok looking. They had 65% off their already discounted prices so I could actually afford to buy something. For those men out there who don't know, a nice size, good looking Coach purses can easily cost $300 or more. I spend all my money on Jiu Jitsu, so there is no budget for $300+ purses.

 Anyway, I picked up a purse, wallet, wristlet and a present for my sister, who still thinks I bought her a pair of crocs hahahah. I'm so cruel; I've been teasing her about it since I bought it. She loves Coach and purses and things more than me, but is far more responsible with her money, so would never actually buy something for herself. Jon was actually amazingly patient, and helpful in the store! After about 45 min he was starting to wear out, but I was very impressed. He even helped pick out a color and while not all of his suggestions were quite on par with what I like/want he did good. I think partially because he knew if I spent that kind of money on a frivolous thing for me, he could to!

Next stop was the Bose store. Bose make the legendary Quite Comfort Noise Cancelling Headphones. Think Beats by Dr. Dre, but higher quality and less douche. Jon has been looking into headphones and thinking about buying a pair for a few months, so the opportunity to get them for about $75 (after the price and tax difference) less was too impossible to pass up. We are all responsible like, looking at them, trying them, then leaving to think about it and coming back later. I don't think sales people expect anyone to ever come back, but we did! We also went to the Lindt outlet, which was not very outlet like at all. Sure, they had lots of everything, but some of the prices were actually MORE than at a regular grocery store or Walmart. I was VERY disappointed.

The Underarmour store was a bit disappointing as well, not cheap, and lacking in selection of compression wear on the girl’s side. I did get 2 new pairs of knee high socks though. Reebok was more of the same. Some of my favorite under-gi shorts are reebok, but they don't even seem to make the kind I usually buy anymore :( I got 4 more pairs of socks (for the same price as the 2 pairs at the Underarmour store doh!). But that's about it.

We headed back to our hotel, with a stop at Walmart for some drinks and candy (for Jon, of course) and also Payless shoes, where they had almost an entire row of size 13 and 12 women's shoes!! It was glorious! Of course, I can't really walk in in the 6 inch heels or other ridiculousness that was there, but just having the selection was amazing. I bought a pair of WOMEN'S airwalk skate shoes for $15. Amazing.

Next stop was Applebees for dinner, there didn't seem to be much else around, so we settled. Applebees has a new appetizer that is blue cheese and beer dip with pretzel sticks. It was actually pretty good, and I don't like blue cheese, or beer. They also have amazing mozzarella sticks, and not like 4 that you get hear, a serving was 9 or 10. Seems like there is a reason America is fatter than Canada. That being said, all of North America could take a hint from Europe on appropriate serving sizes. I had a steak, which was way too salty, and some veggies. It was alright, but nothing compares to the Keg.

So, back to the hotel, and guess what's on TV. Storage Wars, a marathon! I don't know why I love this show so much, but whenever we are on the road, it seems to be on TV and we watch it. I find it hilarious and entertaining. I also like Auction Hunters, but that one doesn't seem to be on as much.

 Anyway, on to the tournament. It was a typical IBJJF tournament, the venue was pretty nice. A little cozy on the floor, but it was kind of like a mini arena with seating above in 2 tiers. Great viewing angles for everything. It ran rather smoothly, but there were plenty of times that there was only one or two of the eight mats running. This happened in Boston as well. It seems like they weigh in area is the hold up, and the hesitation to use the microphone to call people when you need them. Maybe I've been spoiled and the tournaments in Ontario are getting better, but it seems like what we have going on here is just as good, if not better run these days.

I competed in the heavy weight division for this one, because that was where there was actually a person to fight. I came in 1lb under the limit, which actually surprised me, because before I left for Chicago w/o my gi I weighed 156. So I guess that extra salty steak had me retaining a lot of water, because I should have weighed in at 159 or so, not 162.5. Oh well, no matter. Marla was only like 165 so it wasn't really an issue. I wish I could say I got beat by a girl way bigger than me, but she wasn't lol. She was way stronger, and was technically solid as well. I admit I underestimated her; it’s not that often I fight girls that have a serious strength advantage on me, but this was one of those times. That combined with good jiujitsu led to me being on the defense almost the entire match and losing on points.

The absolute went a bit better; I fought Marla's teammate Teresa (I think that was her name, now I feel bad for not remembering 100%). She was in light, or maybe feather, pretty small either way. But also insanely strong, again, underestimated how strong she could be and barely squeaked by on points. The match ended with me being omaplata’d, I wasn't in a lot of danger, but I was pretty stuck.

I fought Marla again in the final of the absolute. I was ready for her this time, but the match still did not go my way. I had a better game plan, but made a mistake when I was passing her half guard that led to a scramble and then the fight spiraling wildly out of my control. She armbarred me about 3 or 4 minutes in I think. Not my best performance by far. I've been working on the pass all week, and next time I fight I won't fuck it up. Even though I did win a match, I was not as happy with how the fights went in Chicago compared to Boston. I feel like I created more opportunities for myself in Boston whereas in Chicago I didn't have a good game plan going in. I'm going to be working on that the next few weeks and I will put it to good use in New York.

I've got to mention and applaud my friend Gringo (Fernando Zulick). He won the fight in his division with absolute domination and then in the absolute beat a guy who weight close to 300lbs. The absolute fight was not the most exciting fight, but when the other guy can crush you like a worm, you've got to play a different kind of game. Gringo also won his nogi absolute, beating another big guy.

We went out for Chicago deep dish pizza at this place called Gino's East. It took like an hour to get there because of the insane down town Chicago traffic. It was brutal. We lost the Gringomobile on the way, but after a bunch of waiting and wondering what to do we ended up finding them back. Gino's East lets you write on all the walls (except for some doors, and the bathroom and other key places). The service was decent, the pizza was AMAZING and the company was alright to. Gringo and Nihad even wrote Pura BJJ with the Gringo Jiu Jitsus that they wrote all over the walls.

We went to this Egyptian Place for breakfast in the morning; it was tucked away in the corner of the Walmart plaza. It was called Mena's Grill and Omelet or something so we figured omelets are good. We didn't even know it was an Egyptian place until we got inside. We both got a "skillet" mine was Mediterranean and Jon's was vegetarian. Mine had chicken, beef, veggies and potato with some scrambled eggs on top. Jon's had veggies, potato, and cheese, and some eggs on top. They were huge, and tasty, and very reasonably priced. I would recommend the place to anyone.
On the way home, I was pretty sore and kept seeing billboards for this place called "The Chocolate Garden". I was intrigued, and used the excuse that I needed a rest and a stretch to stop by there. Man, was it ever worth it. I had this Chocolate Mocha latte thing that was more like melted chocolate with a splash of coffee, so tasty and rich, but a little sweeter than I would have liked. I think a little less white chocolate would have been ideal. I also bought 2 two packs of truffles (1 chocolate mint, and one white chocolate lemon) and a 16 pack of truffles. All together it was over $60!!! Insane I know, but seriously, they were the best chocolates I have ever had. So rich, silky and delicious.

I'm sure I am forgetting some interesting things that we came across but this blog is long enough, and I would like to get something up before the next tournament. Speaking of the next tournaments:
Niagara Open is coming up on the 23rd. This should be a good event, it’s being put on by the OJA and registration closes in a couple days.

The next Toronto Grappling event is scheduled for April 13th. They are giving away 3 trips to Rome for the IBJJF European tournaments that are coming up. None for the girls, but purple/brown guys get all the fun.

The next event I will be competing at is the IBJJF New York Open on April 20th. A bunch of us from Pura are making the road trip down so that should be a lot of fun. Hopefully there are a few girls for me to fight there.

Also coming up on the horizon is the Ontario Open. This is THE biggest and best tournament in Ontario every year. Fernando has been building this tournament up over the years and it is better every year. They are giving away 10 trips to worlds. 10! That is insane. Four of them are going to the ladies which is more than fair, considering the attendance differences.

That's all for now! See you on the mats!

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