FENCING IN 2006

 

December 23rd, 2006

Lesson

Today's fencing lesson can be summarized by the coach's parting comment: You're doing the right things at the wrong time.

He's right. My technique is improving but I have no strategy. I need to work on that.

The left knee is still swollen despite all my efforts but the biggest problem with my fencing is not in my left leg; it's in my brain.

December 17th, 2006

Lesson

I stayed late for a lesson Saturday and the disappointing part of this lesson is that I can NOT -- and I really mean physically cannot -- do a simultaneous attack where I go forward two steps, back two steps, and then forward and lunge. In fact, I cannot go forward and then back at all without staggering.

Yes, the knee is still swollen. I am taking acid reflux medication chased down with an Alleve pill and hoping for relief. I'm also icing the knee, working on Range of Motion exercises, ad infitium.

I miss having functional legs.

December 11th, 2006

Fencing at the NAC C in Richmond, VA

I had plans for the Richmond, VA NAC C. The first plan was to try to make it to the finals. The second plan was to fence defensively because the knee wasn't working yet. The third plan was to wear as much as my fencing gear as possible while flying out to Richmond in case my fencing bag didn't make it from the departing flight to the connecting flight. The fourth plan was to fence well.

Well... two out of four succeeded.

I packed smart. Everything I could fence without went into the fencing bag (plus sabres, since those couldn't be carried on the flight). I put one change of clothing per day into 2-gallon Ziplock bags and sealed them before putting them into the fencing bag (just in case the shampoo --also in Ziplock bags -- managed to leak through the bag). The only things that remained to be packed were a few odds and ends and I could do that in the morning. [Note the critical error I made here. Next time, I pack EVERYTHING in advance and put the bag into the car.]

I checked the flight time several times before going to bed to insure I'd be awake with sufficient time to take a relaxed approach to packing the remaining items in the morning I woke up the next morning and decided that since I had an hour and a half before needing to shower, I'd check my flight information again. Glancing over the details, one item caught my attention and sent me into near-panic. The time I'd recorded as the departure time was for the CONNECTING FLIGHT IN CLEVELAND.

I now needed to leave the house in half an hour to allow adequate travel time.

I showered and dressed quickly, ran around the house making various noises and turning on lights (much to Greg's discomfort) to insure I had everything in he car and left home. Traffic was light and there were no delays and I made it to the airport only 15 minutes later than I'd planned to arrive. Whew!

The luggage made it safely to Richmond after a flight change in snowy Cleveland and everything was going according to plan. When I picked up my fencing bag, a gentleman approached and asked if I was going to the wanted to share a taxi to the convention center. Thus, my trip to the hotel cost only $10.(after someone else joined us going the same way).

I went to the venue, had my gear checked and tagged, saw Coach and exchanged information, and went back to the hotel and check in and put my knee on ice for 20 minutes since it felt stiff and sore after the flight. Later that evening, I returned to the venue with my gear to test out a strip and see how my knee was working. Much to my surprise (and delight), I was able to lunge without difficulty and everything felt good.

I packed up my gear and found the vendors in the hallway and temptation grabbed my by the throat and dragged me over to the Absolute vendor. They had knickers that matched the jacket I'd bought from them earlier and I felt the desire to splurge. Naturally, Coach walked past as I turned to walk off with my prize.

New knickers?

Well, yes. The zipper's coming loose on this one.

And you don't know how to fix it?

Well... yes... but... Okay. You caught me. I just wanted to splurge.

Coach and I went out walking to find a place to eat nearby and found The Red Door (recommended by others) which was one of those typical downtown places that has limited seating and we talked fencing. He said he wasn't directing until later in the day so he would be there for part of the WSV50 competition. I went back to the room that night and (wisely, I think) iced down my knee off and on for more than an hour before I fell asleep.

The next morning, I was up about 0400 hours and unable to get back to sleep so I watched a little television, ate a protein bar, and iced down my knee a little before getting dressed and heading to the venue about 0600 hours. I used Biofreeze (tm) on my knee to help numb it and everything seemed to work. I could lunge. I could move normally. All plans went flying out the window during warm-up when I found that I could be an aggressive fencer again and as other Veteran fencers arrived and we started warming up, I felt an incredible sense of freedom from finally being able to really move again.

Although there were 17 fencers signed up, only 13 of us actually fenced. I note that all of us on the strip were experienced veteran fencers and thus while it was a small group, it was a good one. There would be no easy bouts.

I won the first two bouts with that tactic and then lost all the remaining bouts because I became stressed out and couldn't get my mind in the right place. I fenced badly. I was predictable and my timing was off. All the other fencers knew exactly what I would do and they set me up. Repeatedly. I finished 5th in the pool with a -10 indicator.

When the restuls were posted, I was #9 and would fence #8 in my DE.

This offered a brief moment of humor as Catherine Slaten and I had commented earlier upon how we'd kept fencing one another at Reno. Two DE's against one another (DIII and Vet). We'd also been in the same pool at Summer Nationals and while I had been the better fencer then, Catherine wasn't far behind and I knew she was up and coming.

Did I mention I was fencing badly and always being assertive?

Catherine took the first point and maybe the second. I was scared to death that I was going to lose and Coach was watching. Deep breath. Back to the engarde line. Focus. I don't remember the sequence of points after this. I do remember struggling, taking the lead, and hanging onto it like my life depended upon it. At the Summer Nationals, I had wanted the finals with a deep longing that is difficult to explain. At that time, my perception was that making the finals would prove I'd reached a level of competency. Now, I felt that if I lost the battle for 8th place, I would be slipping and I just couldn't bear the thought of dropping even by one place.

I won.

My next DE was against Delia, who had defeated me 5-0 in the pool. No, I did not achieve a miracle. I did my best, but my skill level is well below Delia's and it was a fairly quick defeat.

Coach commented on several things I was doing wrong and he was right. I was doing certain manuevers correctly during lessons but I wasn't taking that skill to the strip.

Veteran 50-59 Results

# of Entries: 13

Classification of Event: E1

Result Name Division Classification
1 Eyre, Jane E. S. Jersey B2006
2 Turner, Delia M. Philadelphia B2005
3T Pestotnik, Sharol A. Colorado B2005
3T Runyam, Heidi San Diego C2006
5 Nicolau D.D. (Doty) Alabama C2006
6 Cummins, Judith S. Metro NYC C2006
7 Bender, Jeannine M. Virginia C2006
8 Dunn, Linda J. Indiana E2006
9 Slaton, Catherine Western WA U
10 Beradi, Gladys B. New Jersey D2005
11 Brynildsen, Karen Metro NYC U
11 Niceley, Susan North CA U
11 Balot, Agota New Jersey E2005

After the award ceremony, I went back to my room, realized I hadn't packed my cell phone charger, and acquired ice. I spent the next three hours icing my knee off and on and it paid off well because the next morning, my knee was NOT swollen. YES!

Fencing for WSVET didn't start until later in the day so I checked out of the hotel and headed out about 9am. I stashed away my stuff and started watching Men's Division I sabre. My favorite comment heard on the strip was during a competition between someone who had fenced veteran men's sabre earlier and was now competing in Division I against a teenager. The veteran fencer retreated over the end zone and the director called, Halt! and awarded the point. The veteran fencer stared, looked back, and looked at the director before pointing to the teenage fencer and saying, The last time I did this, he wasn't born yet.

I checked in for WSVET and some of us wandered around until we found a strip where we could warm up. We traded the strip around until I felt sufficiently ready and we waited. And waited.

Finally, we were called.

I won the first two bouts and lost the third 5-4. By this time it was getting more difficult and I figured my only other chance for a win would be against Catherine, who I knew would be very determined to win.

I lost my bout against Catherine, mostly due to my own predictability, still, I WAS fencing better than I had the day before. I remembered to pull my arm back in (this gives up ROW, but it also deprives the opponent of a target). I scored some points later while retreating. I scored points against everyone except Delia Turner (who has completely figured me out and gave me a couple of pointers AFTER the pool was over).

At this time, Div I MS finals were beginning and coach asked if I could tape. I grabbed my camera and managed to tape most of the bout when WSVET was posted and I had to run, grab my gear, and move to another strip. The opponent and referee were waiting when I arrived and I suited up quickly. Coach was there a few moments later and yes, I was doing everything wrong again. My main problem was that I was going in for a step-step-lunge and was finishing too soon while my opponent moved in and took the point. Still, I managed to win the DE and held onto my 13th place finish. I took the bout sheet to the committee and learned I would fence Jane Eyre. That was the end of any hope I may have had of reaching the finals in that competition. I managed to score a single point against Jane -- the second touch of the bout -- and nothing I did afterwards mattered. I changed tactics several times and I never even came close to scoring a point again.

Of course, Coach didn't see any of this because he was busy elsewhere. Except... on the last point, I had my damn arm out there again and Jane hit it... right as the coach walked up.

Linda!

Cringe.

Veteran Results

# of Entries: 13

Classification of Event: E1

Result Name Division Classification
1 Klein-Braddock, Kimberly K. Oregon B2006
2 Eyre, Jane E. S. Jersey B2006
3T Pernice, Robin J. New England B2006
3T Nicolau D.D. (Doty) Alabama C2006
5 Turner, Delia M. Philadelphia B2005
6 Bender, Jeannine M. Virginia C2006
7 Jones Joyce D.N. Northeast C2003
8 Colon-Marrero, Laura E. Virginia E2006
9 Taylor, Julie A. S. Jersey D2006
10 Stopak, Deb M. Virginia C2003
11 FitzSimon, Denise Oregon C2006
12 Niceley, Susan North CA U
13 Dunn, Linda J. Indiana E2006
14 Cohan, Mattie C. Virginia U
15 King, Robin E. Western WA D2006
16 Randall, Cathleen C. New England E2006
17 Bowden Scheer Kathryn A. So. Texas E2006
18 Slaton, Catherine Western WA U
19 Gries, Tamara L. So. Texas U
20 Donohue, Carol A. Long Island D2003

Since Delia had an early flight, I asked if she was interested in sharing a cab. She'd rented a car so I rode back to the airport with her after her DEs finished. My hope was that I could switch to an earlier flight but I learned (1) there was no earlier flight and (2) my flight would be delayed almost an hour.

Argh!

So I waited. And waited.

The instant ice I'd purchased was defective and my knee hurt so I tried to elevate it as much as possible. Once we boarded the flight, I could almost feel it swelling and by the time we reached Cleveland, I was limping so badly exiting the plane that one of the attendants asked if I needed assistance.

No, just point me towards the gate for Indianapolis.

Fortunately, it was a relatively short limp away.

I presume everyone can guess what happened next. I made it to the connecting flight with plenty of time to spare but my luggage did not. I also have one heck of a swollen knee and I'm icing it.

Lessons learned: (1) Pack everything the night before. Another bottle of shampoo does NOT cost that much more. Buy a second cell phone charger. (2) Practice every lesson until the moves feel second nature. Practice using those moves at the club until it's second nature. (3) Attend more competitions and treat them as preparations for the veteran competitions. Take chances and don't lock into that simultaneous attack routine. (4) Having the RoW does you no good if you give your opponent an opportunity to take it away from you. While retreating, keep that blade the hell out of their way or position the blade so you invite a counter-attack so you can parry and riposte. (5) When counter-attacking, step BACK rather than continue forward. Yes, I can do it in practice. Repeat until it's a habit. (6) Coach is always right. He's seeing the action; I'm in it.

Best thing that happened on the trip? Fencing is fun again. Since surgery, it had become a must-do thing rather than a love-to-do thing and I had some fear fixations. I've overcome the fear and I think I can move forward now. Fencing is fun again. The whole point of competing is to be the best fencer I can possibly become and national competitions are where I'm going to have the opportunity to compete with other fencers my age.

I can hardly wait for March and the competition in Atlanta.

I've got much work to do before then.

December 5, 2006

Fencing Lesson - and Hope

Tonight was another fencing lesson and the coach was trying to make me do things I was certain I could not do. Simultaneous attacks, for one thing. I'm too slow... I thought. But the leg is moving better than I thought it could. I'm unstable and have difficulty staying upright after lunging but I CAN lunge. I think.

I need a dozen more weeks of preparation but the NAC C is this Saturday.

I want to finish in the finals. I really, really want to finish in the finals.

December 2, 2006

Fencing Lesson

I was first up for lessons today and pleasantly surprised to find I wasn't as bad as I'd feared I was going to be after a week off for a business trip. No, I am not anywhere near where I want to be and fencing others afterwards drove that point home. However, I am making slow but steady progress and discovered that I can lunge when the coach tells me to lunge, although I still want to do a step or a step lunge because I just don't feel confident that the knee is going to function. Surprisingly, it worked just fine when I followed instructions.

The biggest challenge of this week was to simultaneously attack, feint, parry and riposte. The difficulty for me is in setting up the SA so it looks like I really and truly intend to attack. I'm terrible at this and only marginally better at parrying. Like always, I have a long, long way to go. On the plus side, I am apparently getting my left leg back. It doesn't work at home but at practice -- when I pushed -- it responded. Now I need to be nice to it and ice it so it doesn't swell before next Saturday's competition.

November 20, 2006

Fencing Lesson

Scheduling has been rather tight lately so I went to the Monday night fencing for a private lesson after their class. Andy instructed the new students and when I fenced with some of them, I realized just how far I had come since beginning. Of course, this was followed by a lesson which demonstrated just how far I yet neet to go. Think of hiking up a mountain trail and looking down and then looking up and seeing many times the same distance yet to go. I feel so inadequate.

November 3, 2006

Fencing Lesson

Saturday, the coach had me start putting movement back into the lessons. I'm having a great deal of difficulty moving properly and it's not just because the left knee decided to swell back to its old level. I've also forgotten how to move.

I need to practice footwork but I also need to get the swelling down so I can move.

Rock. Hard place. Between.

October 26, 2006

Fencing Lesson

Tonight's fencing lesson highlighted another flaw in my fencing: a tendency to use the flat of the blade when I should be cutting. On the plus side, I'm doing better on PIL.

I really, really hate doing PIL in competitions because I'm so awful at it and yet a PIL gives me the opportunity to slow down my opponent. Given that I've got 6 weeks to heal before Richmond, I'm going to need to be able to do PIL.

October 15, 2006

Fencing Sunday at the McNamara Barn

Sunday was a slightly chilly but still nice fencing competition at the McNamee Barn in Bargersville. The family-owned barn is not what one envisions when one thinks of a barn. It is a nice, pole barn with concrete floors with a small kitchen a bathroom at the front and a game room overhead that looks out on the main portion of the barn. [Note that safety netting was in place to protect the children.]

I fenced badly in the pool and the problem was mental, not physical. I won two bouts but didn't score a single point on my other three opponents. Yes, they were better than me but I defeated myself by movinig too slowly and trying a few tricks without proper set-up. I defeated myself.

My DE was against #4 and thus I managed to score about a half dozen touches against his 15.

I did not feel good about my fencing.

I also did not direct any bouts. Let the teenagers earn some spending money by directing the kids. Besides, they are better directors than me and I was still feeling badly about how poorly I direct.

I may never direct anywhere except in self-directed pools again. At least, not unless I can find the magic key to unlock the ability to clearly see beats and parries properly.

The Youth 14 and under competition was an excellent opportunity for many of our younger fencers. I was impressed with how some of the 8-10 year olds had progressed. In practice, they're often fooling around but out there on the strip, they were doing all the right things but moving a little slow in comparison to some of the 12-14 fencers.

October 14, 2006

Directing Fencing

I was greatly surprised to receive a request to direct at a recent competition. My first reaction to the e-mail was fairly similar to what you'd expect if I were to stumble across a rattlesnake. Horror! Fear! Get the hell out of here fast! Given that I've taken an oath never to not do something just because I'm afraid of it (exceptions will be made for poisonous snakes), I decided to accept. After all, they needed help since they had almost twice the number of pre-registered fencers as expected.

So I arrived and discovered that only half of the pre-registered fencers were actually there for epee. Since most of the fencers were fencing multiple weapons, this did not bode well for the rest of the event.

They put me to work directing an epee bout and I thought I was doing well until I noted it was time for the one-minute break.

Huh? Both of them stared at me like I'd grown a second head.

Oops. At sabre, you take a one-minute break when one fencer has 8 points. With epee, it's when you reach 3 minutes. And I'd stupidly failed to pick up a timer and time the bout.

The fencers kindly accommodated me and I got a timer and timed the rest of the bout. It was a good bout and close, but one advantage of epee is that there is no right of way and thus it's either clearly one point by the light or double points unless something bad happens.

Yes, something bad happened in the next bout I directed.

I did not recognize that a fencer's equipment was not registering properly. Worse, I did not hear him ask to check my weapon and he thought I was refusing when I didn't respond. [Pause to bang head against wall.] When it was finally apparent that the weapon had a problem (thanks to a spectator coming forward), I felt sooooooo awful.

Remember that, it's important.

Next, we start fencing sabre and I have the pool of 7. Guess who's in the pool. Yes, the person whose weapon didn't work earlier. Naturally, I'm a little concerned because I've already unintentionally done a bad thing to him once and don't want a repeat.

Remember this. There will be a pop quiz later.

I've been working hard on trying to improve my ability to direct and I'm pleased to report that I did move the bouts along quickly and that I did succeed in scoring all the bouts correctly, added the totals correctly, assigned the right values, etc. Unfortunately, I am still sorely lacking in the ability to properly call beats and parries.

For those who do not fence, let me explain the significance of a beat and/or a parry.

Sabre is a right-of-way weapon and if an attacker's sabre is parried, the right-of-way passes to the defender who then has a right to an immediate riposte. Thus, if there is a double light because a double touch occurred, it's the director's responsibility to determine who had right-of-way. If the attacker's weapon was initially parried and then he touched but the opponent riposted, it's the opponent's touch.

A beat occurs when the opponent sees the attacker's blade coming, beats it, and touches the attacker.

And as I typed this, I just realized that before leaving, I answered someone's question about parries and gave him an answer that was horrifically incorrect. How could I be so stupid?

Wait. Don't answer that. I know.

I've been reading blink by Malcolm Gladwell and find it a very good read. The main thrust of the book is that when people make fast decisions (in the blink of an eye) based upon prior experience, they're usually right. If they stop to think about it, they are far more likely to introduce errors. Additionally, if one is feeling rushed and pressured and the blood pressure and adrenaline levels are rising, one is far more likely to make an incorrect decision.

Thus, every time I felt myself getting caught up or upset because I thought I'd blown the last call, I took a moment to tell myself to relax, rely upon gut instinct a little more, and pay close attention. I think I did better when I called an action immediately, but it became more and more apparent that I was having trouble with the parries and beats.

A beat is a sharp contact with the opponent's blade to threaten or initiate an attack. In sabre, this means beat with the forte against the other fencer's foible [and this is the bad answer I gave -- in a moment of insanity, I said it didn't matter. AAAAAYYYYYEEEEEIIIII!!!]

You're also supposed to parry the foible. Argh! How could I say such a stupid thing?

Back to the competition recap. Besides mixing beats and parries, I made at least two calls that I questioned myself upon and came up wanting. I'd made the mistake of stopping to think before calling it and I froze like a deer in the headlights. Argh! I also once called a stop hit when I should not have called it because the stop hit occurred after the attacking fencer had begun the final action of his attack.

Bad calls happen. I don't know anyone who believes he never makes a mistake. The solution (or so I've been told) is to go on and try not to make another mistake and to call as consistently as possible so the fencers can see that X doesn't work right with your directing and they need to do Y instead.

But then we came to the last bout and I was feeling better because it wasn't a disaster and all the scores were lining up correctly and then....

Remember that epee fencer whose weapon malfunctioned? Well, he attacks and he misses and hits the opponent's blade and the opponent's blade flicks him. Point to the opponent. I was surprised because something didn't feel right about that but it's not uncommon for a flick to score.

And then it happened again. And we stopped and checked his weapon. When he hit the other person's guard, that fencer's light went off. IOW, every time his blade hit the other fencer's guard, the opponent scored.

By this time, we had a score of 2-2 with the last touch in doubt. I can only annul the last touch and I'm standing there thinking, I DID IT TO HIM AGAIN!!!! In fact, this is the same fencer to whom I gave the stupid answer. Ah, HELL!!!!

After some time, we manage to get the problem resolved. [Body cord, not weapon or box as initially suspected.] The bout resumes and I total the scores and present the sheet.

I asked for feedback and it hurt. The main comments heard were that I was missing the beats and parries.

I hate this because I know the main problem is that I cannot hear the beats and parries and there's darn little I can do to compensate for this. It's a deal-breaker and I really, really, really want to do this well.

The up side is that I have finally learned not to internalize it and not to kick myself (too much) for the mistakes made. I have things to work upon and I will work upon them and I will improve everything that it is physically possible to improve.

I gave it my best effort. That's all I can do.

I wish I were better at this.

September 16, 2006

Directing Fencing

Directing Friday Night Sabre Since I couldn't fence, I went to Alexander's Fencing Academy and volunteered to direct the sabre pool. I know I made mistakes but at this level, that's going to happen and I'd rather make mistakes here than at a place where the mistakes would have a greater impact. I've taken the seminar and I've passed the written exam and the only way to improve now is to direct and direct and direct until I reach a level of proficiency such that I feel ready to take a practical exam (where I'm rated based upon my ability to call the action).

I did get some feedback and the concensus seems to be that I made mistakes but they fell equally both ways so no one wants to strangle me. I am also calling simultaneous too frequently and need to work on calling those better.

September 15, 2006

Thursday Fencing

Thursday night's lesson went mostly well. As always, I hit a rough patch of things I couldn't do and need to work upon.

My parries are much, much better than they were before I injured my leg (but I do not recommend injuries as a training method). My ripostes are somewhat improved. I can't move worth a gosh-darn, but I am hopeful that this will improve as my knee slowly heals.

The first trouble area was Point-In-Line. I keep wanting to cirlce rather than dip the blade out of the way. I also haven't got the footwork right with this, but I'm working on it.

The false PIL is much, much more problematic. I keep using my wrist and/or my shoulder when I need to use my elbow. More time at the mirror is required.

September 9, 2006

Saturday Fencing

I was the first up for a lesson today and it went very, very badly. I couldn't remember that the blade should hit at the same time the foot lands. My timing was off. My legs didn't work right. After I couldn't cut to the wrist correctly for the upteenth time, the coach stopped and told me that he wasn't charging me enough because it wasn't going to cover his psychologist's fees. I was driving him nuts.

So we reached a point where he said we were done for now and I should go to the mirror and work on my cuts and then he showed the motion and worked my arm through it a few times. Arm goes out but does not lock. Level. Not up and twist hand down. He'd check me on this later.

So I worked on this and then drilled with another fencer who needed to work on her parries and then went back to working at the mirror on cuts and other things. When the coach checked again, I still had problems with the cut from fourth but the cut and riposte from the engarde position were working much better.

The coach sent me back to the mirror for a little more work and pointed out that my responses were good but my problem with parry five had been in my preparation and if I stood there and watched, I could clearly see what he meant.

I'm still not where I want to be, but I am making slow progress. Now if I can just reclaim my knee...

The Summer Nationals

July 4th

I flew from Indianapolis to Atlanta on the 4th of July and found that the hotel was a much, much longer walk from the venue than I'd anticipated. Fortunately, the panhandlers I encountered are a little different from those I've encountered elsewhere. These try to be helpful to persuade you to part with your money. A rather nice guy noticed I was lugging a golf case uphill and looking lost and offered to direct me towards the venue. After three blocks of uphill casual conversation, he pointed me towards the promised land and asked if I could spare a little money for someone down on his luck. I had two $1 bills so I handed those over.

Once at the venue, I quickly found our coach, who asked me how the leg was doing. I asked him not to expect much from me, which was not what he wanted to hear. OTOH, having said this, I could relax and not feel pressure to do well at the July 5th competition. I found another club member and met up with a few veteran fencers but did not find the other veteran fencers who had gathered on a corner strip to get some much needed fencing action.

I found it was an easy walk to the train station but I had to change trains at Five Points and this was not fun.

July 5th

I arrived at the venue early to watch some of our club members fence Divison II Men's Sabre, hoping this would distract me from worrying about the upcoming women's veteran sabre competition. At 11am, I took the referee exam and practically flew through the answers (I'd literally spent several hours a week studying the rules and taking the practice exam to prepare for this). Afterwards, I watched some of our fencers in their DEs and then started preparing for the Women's Veteran sabre event. Val would not be there but our second coach, Sergi, was there as were some of the fencing family members.

I do not remember all the members in my pool but I do remember Delia Turner, Jeannie Bender, Betty Brown, and Pat Lawrence.

Once I was on the strip, I didn't feel the pain in my knee anymore and while I remember far too many things I did wrong, I must have done many things right because the results showed that I was 7th overall. I remember standing there, shocked, and certain that I'd lose the DE. I'd finished 8th out of the pool last time and had lost to Jeannie Bender in a rather lop-sided DE.

Words cannot express how much I wanted that DE. Words can also not express how much I was freaking out about being certain I was going to blow it again.

My opponent for the DE was Gina Knox out of Georgia and she quickly took the lead. Three to four points later, I had the lead and I was shocked when I scored a point and was told it was time for a one-minute break. Time? I'm ahead? I stood shock-still while Sergi talked to me about what I needed to do. I could win. I could feel victory within my reach and could almost visualize myself with that long-sought-after medal. YES! I could do this. I looked at the side and saw my teammates, all certain that I was going to win. Was I really good enough? Well... they seemed to think I could do it.

I remember very little from that bout other than focusing upon one point at a time, hearing my teammates yell each time I scored a point, and hearing Sergi's voice behind me. I focused on blotting out everything except the strip and my opponent when the director said fence and before I knew what had happened, it was over. I had won. I was a finalist. I was in shock.

I think my grin stretched from one ear to the other while I did all the right things, signed off on the scoresheet, took it to the bout committee, and was handed a form to complete because I was a finalist.

I still couldn't believe I had succeeded. My knee was bad. I didn't feel competent. Everyone there had fenced so well and yet... here I was, a national finalist.

My next DE was with Delia and she won easily. I just am not up to her level. Yet. Give me back a functional left leg and another couple of years of work and maybe I will be able to give her a tough bout. Not yet, unfortunately.

Everyone congratulated me and told me I'd fenced well. I tried to convince myself it was true and yet I kept half-expecting to see someone walk up and say, Ha! Got 'cha! April Fool!.

Shortly after losing, I saw something had happened on one of the strips where the WSV40s were fencing. I learned later that a very rare accident had occurred. A sabre had broken, slipped up under the fencer's bib, and penetrated the neck. Fortunately, one of the WSV40 fencers was also a doctor and they had EMT personnel at the competition in addition to other fencers with medical backgrounds. The wounded fencer was taken to the hospital and thus lost her match (but not her medal, as she was already a finalist) and recovered from the mishap.

My clubmates waited with me for the final bout and the epee team competition already on the finalist strip went on and on and on and on and... well... anyone who has ever watched an epee bout knows they can last a very long time. Finally, the veteran sabre DE began and was over in less time than it had taken the epee teams to change places on the strip... or so it seemed. Jane Eyre won.

We took our places near the corner, waiting for our names to be called. I was so shook that when I took my place after receiving the medal, I didn't think to go over and shake Gladys Berardi's hand. Fortunately, she recognized I was just confused and walked over to shake my hand and congratulate me. After that I snapped back to attention and was careful to shake hands and congratulate all the other finalists as they took their places above/next to me. The photographer took our pictures as a group and then the crowd took their photos. After the crowd finished, the photographer took individual photos of each of us wearing our medals. I was so glad I'd changed into my club sweats and taken my hair down. Yes, I am a little vain when it comes to photos.

I barely remember the end of that day but I do know it was about 8pm by the time I reached the hotel. For the first time in my life, I ordered room service. A hamburger. I then took the 2-gallon ziplock bags out of my backpack, walked down the hallway, and filled the bag with ice. I draped a towel on the bed, stripped down to my t-shirt and shorts, and sat on the ice. My left leg hurt.

July 6th

The Division IA competition was scheduled for first thing in the morning so I woke early, cleaned up, and headed for the train. I met Sergi and we found a strip where he could work with me prior to the morning's event. I also met up with Samatha's father (from Louisville) and we chatted briefly.

I was simply overpowered on the strip. I was not in their league and I couldn't keep up. I did, however, manage to land (once) a PIL that I'd been trying to land in practice for a long time. The opponent took the blade and I stepped back, twisted my wrist, caught her blade in a perfect parry and riposted. Point to me. It was my only good manuever that day but it truly made my day. I didn't care that I hadn't made the top 80% and thus had no DE. For me, it was enough just to have the opportunity to fence with fencers much better than me and to have an opportunity to learn.

Sergi and I walked over to the food court for lunch and returned to prepare for a club member's first national competition. He had not been fencing long, so he did not make the cut and I packed up my bag and returned to the hotel, where I dumped out my stuff and filled up another plastic bag of ice.

In the meantime, Dawn (Louisville) had arrived at my hotel and we made plans to meet in the morning and -- since she had driven down -- go to the venue together.

July 7th

Upon packing my bag, I realized my fencing shoes were missing. I searched under the bed, in the drawers, on the chairs, and even in the bathtub. No shoes. I must have somehow left them behind at the venue. As Dawn drove to the venue, my cell phone rang and my doctor's office informed me that the results of the MRI were in and I had some ligiment tears.

Ack! No wonder the left knee still hurt.

When Dawn and I reached the location, I checked in with Lost and Found and learned no shoes had been found. I searched the area where I had left my bag and there were no shoes so I went to my favorite vendor for shoes and learned they did not have them in my size. Since I didn't want to change shoe styles now, I looked for shoes identical to the ones I'd lost and purchased a pair. My reasoning was that when you replace an item, you find it and if you don't replace it, you never see it again. Shortly after buying new shoes, I found everyone on the strip for the men's Division III and when I told Sergi I'd bought a pair of shoes because I'd lost mine, he said he'd found a pair of shoes and they were in his bag. Yes, this proves my theory that you don't find a lost item until you replace it. Since I had wanted to buy a second, newer, pair of shoes, I kept the shoes but wore my old ones in the Division II competition.

Once again, I was in over my head in the Division II competition. I was also worried about fencing on a leg that I now knew was injured worst than I had thought. As my teammates watched, I made mistake after mistake on the strip. Finally, on the last bout, I faced what may have been the strongest fencer in the pool. It was about this point that I mentally said the heck with it, I was here to have fun, and I suddenly did all the things that I should have been doing all along and thus I won the bout. Unfortunately, this was too late and I did not make the cut for a DE. I finished 85th out of 97. Andria, however, did make the cut and I watched her win her first DE and lose the second one. She finished 58th.

That night, Dawn and I walked to the nearest restaurant, which was the Pacific Rim, and had a very good meal before returning to the hotel to prepare for our respective competitions the next day. Once again, I spent about two hours sitting on ice with an ice pack on my left knee.

July 8th

This was the day of the final event for me: The Division III fencing, where I would be fencing in a pool that included fencers at my level and Ds and Es. I recognized four fencers that I had fenced earlier, including Samatha (Louisville). Every time the two of us fence, it's always a tight competition and thus we usually joke that we try not to be in the same pool. We were not only in the same pool, ours was the first bout. Much to my surprise, I found myself doing everything that Sergi had told me to do during my earlier lesson. Small steps. Do not stop but do watch. Either go forward or retreat. Samatha went in for a simultaneous attack and I retreated and as she continued forward, I managed to drop my sabre low and flick up, catching her arm. Point to me.

I won that bout and half the bouts I fenced in that pool, finishing with a 0 (EVEN) indicator. This means there were as many touches scored against me as I had scored. Thus, I made the cut and would have a DE.

By this time, my leg was hurting again and I made the mistake of sitting down. The problem with sitting down is that the leg is really sore and stiff when I stand up again and it takes a little walking to shake it out again. Another complication for my DE was that I explained I had a hearing loss to a foreign-born director who did not begin the bout with En garde! Ready! Fence. Instead, I got Aller!.

The first time I heard this, I didn't move because I didn't recognize it as the signal to begin fencing. The director called halt and asked if I had heard (because it was obvious I hadn't recognized the signal to begin). I asked for a hand signal and got a hand signal with each Aller! after that. Unfortuantely, I was so used to Engarde, Ready? that it took me about three false starts to begin to become accustomed and by that time, my fencing style was established as retreat! The opponent was a good fencer who earned her victory; however, I found the director's directing and the opponent's banshee-like screams to be very distracting and I just couldn't shake myself out of the wrong mindset. I finished 50th out of 98 and stayed to see Andria's second DE and then our Under 16 fencers compete. Afterwards, I saw Dawn as I started to leave and she gave me a ride back to the hotel where I filled up a plastic bag with ice again and collapsed.

Overall, I had a fantastic time as the Nationals and I think our club did well for the number of competitors and our overall experience level. Hopefully, next year we will be able to send a fair number to the competition in Miami.

June 25, 2006

Unfortunately, I overdid it at the fencing camp and I've lost some of the gains achieved on my left knee. It's back to being almost unbendable and it also will not straighten. I have no power in that leg and since it's my rear leg, that means I've lost the ability to lunge effectively.

I do not expect to recover before the Nationals.

05:14 pm - Fencing Camp Day Four
My knee is so sore and stiff that it will no longer bend. I am not happy about this.

I took along my exercise mat so I could do safe exercises while everyone else participated in the leg-intensive exercises.

I could not do anything right today and I returned home to find Cody sleeping in a dark place and looking unhappy.

I don't think the cat is going to survive long enough to hear her diagnosis.

June 15th, 2006 01:31 am - Fencing Camp Day Three
Since today was the last day for our guest coach, we began the day by taking pictures of everyone gathered outside the school. I received another lesson from the guest coach in which I still could not lunge properly and literally fell over sideways once while trying to lunge properly and no, I don't know if it was my form or the continuing problem with the left leg. Presumably, one day the leg will heal and I'll figure it out then. Since I had the camcorder with me, I taped the next lesson, which was with Andy, and burned it to DVD upon returning home.

I definitely took it easy today and slapped a bag of frozen peas on the knee for the drive home. Unfortunately, it was a delayed event because I met Greg at the vet referral place, where our middle cat was getting a sonogram. She has a tumor and we do not expect her to live very long since she's staring longingly at the food bowl and not eating.

June 12th, 2006
09:11 pm - Fencing Camp Day 1

a.k.a. That which does not kill me makes the knee swell.

Monday was the start of fencing camp and I was up at about 0330 hours because I was afraid that if I went back to bed, I'd oversleep. I'd not driven to the Internation School in Indianapolis during rush hour traffic before and thus I wanted to leave about 0600 hours.

This proved to be a mistake as I arrived at 0700 hours and sat in the car, reading the Referee Practice Exam until Sergi (the second coach) arrived. We have a guest coach for three days: Vadim Gutsait can be here only three days because he will be going to Las Vegas to referee at the women's sabre World Cup. He is an Olympic Champion (team) in men's sabre in Barcelona, 1992. It was a combined team from former USSR.

As Val Kizik (our #1 coach) explained what would be happening at camp, my cell phone rang. How embarrassing. I stepped out into the hallway to learn that my therapist was sick and thus my planned Monday afternoon physical therapy was canceled. Thus, I decided to stay all day.

My left knee may never forgive me for this decision.

There were 5-6 fencers in the beginners group that Andria Hine was instructing, leaving 17 in the intermediate and advanced class. Guess who is the oldest? Yes, even older than any of the coaches.

Ann is the only fencer close to my age and she's still way younger than me. Thus, I hobbled out behind everyone else to the track and spent most of the time watching them run relay races before joining them in footwork exercises. I noted that my hamstring was not bothering me at all and I could do lunges. However, the knee was still just a little stiff.

Back inside, I had a lesson with Sergi and we did drill before taking a break then hiking (I drove) over to the gym where we had use of the gym after one volleyball camp finished for the day and before the afternoon volleyball camp arrived. There, we had electric fencing and lessons for those who had not yet had lessons and went back to the other building for our bagged lunches, followed by an afternoon of fencing drills and fencing.

I was standing around watching the better fencers fence the coaches and experiencing my usual why-am-I-here moment when Gutsait asked me if I wanted to fence him. I warned him that I am a terrible fencer and we fenced to 5. I note that he lowered his fencing level considerably to allow me to score a few touches.

I went home, changed clothes, and went to the gym to use the swimming pool and the hot tub. Upon returning home, I iced my left knee and the hamstring.

The therapist had warned me to take it easy and I had NOT taken it easy.

Thus ended the first day of camp.

June 4th, 2006
04:38 pm - Cue Rocky Theme

The movie, not the animated Rocky and Bullwinkle show.

I hope.

My left leg will now fully extend without pain and I can bend the knee beyond the 90 degree mark. This means I can now remove my shoe with far less difficulty.

I still cannot lunge or jump without pain, but I can advance and retreat. Slowly.

June 3rd, 2006
04:46 pm - Fencing on 1 1/2 legs

Today we had a club-only fencing pool (as a practice) and I decided to see how I could do with the injured leg without doing anything risky.


I am far, far too slow. I can do a short lunge if I do it slowly. I cannot advance fast. Retreating is no problem at all. Jumping is painful.

Today's lesson was on PIL and false PIL. I need to master these skills if I have any hope at all of not finishing last in every event at the nationals.

One of the mistakes I've been making in PIL is to circle the opponent's blade. Up and down in a straight line is better and what's even better than that is to stop cut.

The false PIL had me doing a LOT of practice at the mirror post-lesson. The trick is to make it look to the opponent like a PIL so he comes in close enough to take the blade. When he does this, my arm shoots forward and then I step back out of the way.

Think of it like having a spring in my arm. When it's fully extended for a PIL, I cannot move my arm forward without moving the rest of the body with it. With a false PIL, there's a loaded spring in my arm. When the opponent steps into range, SPOING!

Timing is everything.

I need to work on this.

May 31st, 2006
07:02 am - Fencing

The hamstring/knee problem is healing far too slowly, but at least it is healing.

My parries are improving with the same glacial speed as my leg (think of a snail furiously trying to move forward on a surface covered with newly poured Aunt Jemina pancake syrup).

I have one more scheduled therapy session and then... I don't know what. I guess I'll find out Friday.

May 25th, 2006
11:20 pm - Fencing lesson

Tonight's fencing lesson was focused on bladework but also included a step back. I can do a step forward and back without pain so that's acceptable.

The first problem I encountered was with a touch to the wrist. I kept pulling my arm up and pushing the blade down, which leaves my under arm area wide open. The proper way to do this is to extend and push down with the thumb.

Once I got past this mountain and was able to parry-riposte, the next trick was a fake counter-attack and boy, did that one take me forever and I still do not have it.

X moves back half a step while Y advances with blade extending. X extended the blade and threatens to hit the guard. Y will either stop (unlikely) or close the attack. If Y closed the attack, then the blade goes down, out slightly, turns to the correct angle and X parries Y's blade to the right and whacks Y's mask. While doing this, X freezes in place because if X steps back, then X is too far away.

The hardest part for me was trusting to let the distance close.

My bladework sucks. Like a black hole. And I have to learn to trust my bladework.

May 24th, 2006
06:09 am - Don't orbit the blade!

Since I have a hamstring injury and bursitis (probably caused by the hamstring injury), last night's lesson was strictly bladework. It ended... as it always seems to do... with one move that I just can't seem to get.

( It's a false parry, derobe, beat, riposte. )

Tonight, I'm to try to find people willing to run at me in a simultaneous attack while I stand there and get hit. After I time it for a while, I try parrying. Next, I try retreat, parry, riposte.

I'm going to need that move at the Nationals. My left leg is useless and I'm signed up for 4 events. The Veterans competition is first and the one I care most about.

In looking back through my archive, I realize that I injured my hamstring at the gym while working out on equipment, was too stupid to realize it, and it healed on its own. I reinjured it just before Easter and cannot point to a single source for that injury. Re-injuries are common. This time, I'm not coming back from it.

Physical therapy is helpful and the therapist has given me stretch exercises to perform.

May 23rd, 2006
08:08 am - Hamstring

Today, I went in for physical therapy before going to work.

Guess what they found?

It's not just bursitis. I have a hamstring injury.

I am actually relieved to hear this because that means the hamstring injury could have caused the bursitis. More, I can point to a day at the gym when I was using a machine, got off feeling a little odd, started to stretch and realized I'd done something bad to myself.

I thought it had healed on its own.

Yes, I am sometime an idiot.

Next time, I pay more attention to what my body is trying to tell me.

The poor little bursia at the end of the tendon on the back of my knee is not a happy bursia. The tendon is also taunt and unable to relax.

I doubt I'm back to normal before the nationals but at least now I know exactly what I'm up against.

Hamstring.
Knee.
Digestive system.

09:34 am - Food
I can eat food again.

Last night, I managed to choke down some baked chicken (less than a cup), yogart, and a boiled potato, carefully mashed. This morning, I ate 1 1/2 pancakes with syrup.

The chest still feels uncomfortable but I am definitely on the mend.

I need to continue with the medicine and I'm calling the doctor's office today to schedule a follow-up visit regarding the knee. I want a referral to a physical therapist.

Years ago, I went to a sports therapy center after an auto accident and they did wonderful things for restoring functionality in my shoulders. I figure this is my last and best shot to heal that left knee.

May 20th, 2006 09:33 am - Thursday's Fencing Lesson
Tonight's lesson was all about blade work and boy, oh boy, is my bladework sucky.

One of the biggest problems is that when I parry, I do not TAKE the blade, I go after it. This is the difference between standing on a basketball and catching the ball and diving for it.

Why does it matter?

Many reasons. For one thing, it looks like a counter-attack if you go after the blade and thus this increases the likelihood that the official will call it as such and you'll lose the point. For another, it wastes motions and puts you in a less favorable position for the riposte.

I'm trying to rest the knees and somehow in the process of resting my left knee, I managed to injure the right one. There's a bruise and no, I haven't any idea how this happened. What worries me is that I detect the same symptoms that occurred when the LEFT knee began going bad.

Argh!

More frozen peas!

2:26 pm - Still No Food
Day Eleven of no solid food and the really scary thing is that I'm not hungry and I don't crave food. I have a bad feeling that I could probably live like this for a fairly long time. OTOH, maybe it would just feel like a long time.

And my left knee is still swollen and now the back of the right knee doesn't feel right.

I hereby appeal to whatever deity is in control of my physical well-being to please let me be healthy again. I've decided to opt for quality over quantity. Just tell me how long I'd live miserably into my golden years and I'll gladly give up those miserable years in a nursing home in return for having whatever years remain be healthy ones.

Hmmm... Maybe I should be careful about this. Wishing was what got me into this mess in the first place. I wanted to lose a few pounds to fit into my knickers better and wished I could stand to go on a liquid diet for a few days to lose the needed weight.

Would you believe I've lost NO weight since the original weight loss? I don't care what logic dictates, I SWEAR you can take in half the calories your body needs and STILL not lose weight. Ask any dieting woman and they'll tell you it's true.

May 13th, 2006 03:47 pm - Losing another E opportunity
I woke up this morning fully aware that I couldn't possibly fence both events. I closed my eyes and willed myself to feel better with the thirty extra minutes of rest I could offer.

Alas, this was an insufficient sacrifice and I finally struggled out of bed, got dressed, fixed a can of chicken noddle soup, put it into a container, and headed out.

I did NOT fence mixed sabre. I arrived so tired and dehydrated that I knew I wouldn't do well and there would be nothing left for women's sabre two hours later. When women's sabre started, I fenced poorly and quickly realized that there was nothing there to work with. S beat me 5-1 and I think she realized then that I was more or less down for the count.

So I had to fence smarter, not harder. I opened with a PIL, even though I've not yet mastered this maneuver. One point for me and eventually, the bout. Everything I did was based on conserving energy and having people come to me.

My first DE was with the same fencer I mentioned in the last paragraph and while she is a very good fencer, younger, and faster; I had the benefit of fencing in a club filled with C and D fencers. And two lessons a week.

IOW, old age and treachery against youth and skill.

I won.

Once I got past that, I got it fixed in my head that I was going to beat this thing, damn it, regardless of how I felt.

Once in competitive mode, I seem to reach into myself for depths of energy that I really, really should not have had left today. Somewhere in there, I found enough to go up against *I*, who beat me the last two times we fenced at the club. I won.

Okay... I admit I did some sneaky little tricks. *I* is younger and faster than me and I simply hadn't the energy for a simultaneous attack. Thus, I timed it and LUNGED, meaning that I was already out there with blade fully extended when she was still extending and THIS gave me an attack into preparation.

Of course, *I* is a bright fencer and after seeing me gain a few points this way, she stopped attacking full-out. Thus, I had to change my strategy and it became harder and more energy-taxing to earn points. The gap narrowed, but I barely squeaked by and won.

And then the final. S and I met again, as we had at Indianapolis, at Louisville, at Reno, and at Richmond. Her coach jokingly called me a sandbagger, as I was doing much better now than I had in the pool but the truth of the matter is that there was an E in front of me and I wanted it badly.

We traded leads back and forth and I was ahead by one at the half. S got a quick advantage of three points and then I gained it back the slow and hard way until we were 14-14.

S won. She earned her E.

I'd say it was a heartbreaker but I've been feeling like I'm having a heart attack for the past week so I can't say I noticed any additional pain.

I gave it my best shot and I feel that I let many people down... most of all me. I shall now give my body what it most needs -- a rest -- and focus on being better prepared next time I have a chance to earn an E.

May 14th, 2006
07:51 am - And still hungry

I am still furiously hungry and desperate for real food. Ensure does not taste wonderful.

I thought I'd be able to eat by today but no such luck. I did try to eat some toast yesterday after removing the edges and while I got it down, I had to use a heating pad on my chest/stomach area for about an hour afterwards. Thus, I'm afraid to try again today.

Later, I will go to the store and buy bananas. If I cannot eat them, I'll put them into the blender and have banana mash.

Yeah, I'm that desperate.

May 14th, 200610:37 am - Putting a Positive Spin on a Loss
I lost another E and now that I've started to get past the disappointment, I'm looking for that silver lining and I think I've found it.

I have learned a valuable lesson in fencing: How to fence when I cannot rely upon my body to respond the way I'm used to it responding. I had to learn what I could and could not do and I did that in the pool. I then had to fence my way through the DEs with a body that had no energy, no speed, and no power in my back leg. I had to think and plan everything I was going to do in the time it took me to recover from the last touch and walk back to the en garde position.

I do not yet have the ability to do this well, but it was all I had and I used what little I had to the best of my ability. I slowed down the action. I used PIL, even when I knew there was a good chance I'd lose that point, solely to slow down the opponent and hopefully mess with their minds. I used timing and distance more than ever before (and I thank Andy for reminding me of that when I still had it stuck in my head that winning was hopeless). I am more experienced than these girls I was fencing and I had developed a good eye for distance. For this, I didn't need to be well.

The first fencer from Ft. Wayne in the DE had many advantages over me but I had the advantage of two years at IndySabre and had been taking two lessons a week since Sergay joined us as a second coach.

Fencer I would have defeated me if I hadn't racked up a few quick points by using timing and distance against her simultaneous attacks. I got caught up in the attacks later, and fell into some old routines that nearly lost me the match, but I survived that.

With S, my biggest mistake was in falling into old habits after the half. We'd fenced in competition four times within the last three months and we'd gotten to know each other's styles pretty well. Unfortunately, I momentarily forgot that my body wasn't there for me that day and that is primarily what did me in after the half. That, and S is a smart girl and had her coach with her and thus she didn't fall into some of the same traps that caught her earlier.


The bottom line is that I am an improving fencer and I will eventually earn that E. Instead of being depressed over my loss, I'm going to focus upon the positive lessons that I've learned and build upon them. Someday, I will no doubt need to call upon those lessons again. In fact, why wait until I'm sick? Why not fence more with my head than my body all the time. Isn't that why it's called Physical Chess? Because the sport requires tactical expertise?

May 13th, 2006
12:31 am - Back from the ER
Okay. Go ahead. Say "I told you so."

Yes, the family convinced me to go. Rather than an IV, they gave me something that allows me to swallow a little more than I could before. The chest still hurts.

I've got a prescription being filled at the pharmacy. They expect me to be able to eat within a couple of days.

Optomists.

Yes, I'm still hoping to fence. The plan is to wake up, dress, and go. If I'm not up to fencing then I will try to be helpful.

May 12th, 2006
07:30 am - And I still feel like I have a hole in my chest
Another morning, another hole in my chest.
I am weak. My hands shake. My chest aches.

Whine. Whine. Whine.

Time. I need more time. If I had just one free week with nothing to do but recuperate...

The spousal unit has jokingly suggested an IV.

I did manage to get down a few ounces of gatorade, a cup of chicken broth, some watermelon (I figured it would get some water into my system and see how much my stomach could accept in the say of so-called solid food).

The knee is better. It should be. I had it on ice about 10 hours yesterday.

I am obviously not going to be in competitve shape by tomorrow. I don't know if I'll even be human by tomorrow.

I think the body is in fast or starvation mode. The shaking is scary. I plan to go to the gym this morning for the pool and the hot tub and hope that will help . A warm cat against the chest helps, but the cat rejected that after about 10 seconds.

09:27 am - Small Successes
I managed to drink an entire bottle of Ensure! Woo Ha!

The knee has more flexibility this morning but I've not yet put it on ice. I'm simply way, way too exhausted. I need to up the energy level.

May 11th, 2006
08:25 am - I Am Still Hungry

I've stopped taking all medication and I'm dropping weight fast. All I've "eaten" the last three days has been one container of EAS protein shake. This is 100 calories.

I am hungry, irritable, and still in pain. The doctor said I could double the over-the-counter medication I'm taking and I'm on day 3 of taking medication which promises no relief before at least four days.

And I have a fencing competition on Saturday. I'm thinking of pulling out of the mixed competition and fencing only the woman's competition. I want an E. My chance are better in the women's competition. [Although I note they're still damn slim.]

May 10th, 2006
12:00 pm - Hungry

Apparently the antiboditics I was taking for my dental problem did not mix well with the anti-inflamatory medicine for the bum knee. The result? A feeling that Buffy was driving a 6-inch diameter STEEL rod through my chest and an inability to tolerate solid food.

I've been drinking EAS French Vanilla shakes since Monday afternoon and I only had one all of yesterday.

It's impossible to gain weight this way but I have this odd feeling that my body will surprise me with a weight gain. It likes to do things like that to me.

April 30rd, 2006
06:54 am - Great Lakes Sectional and Referee Seminar
Bottom line: I attended the referee seminar, took a practical test and didn't fare well but didn't destroy anything; and failed the written exam. I have one year to pass the exam or I have to attend another seminar before trying again. Think of this as the equivalent of a Microsoft Certification Examination.

More bottom line: I placed second in the women's sabre event and finished first in sectional points. I qualify to fence in Division IA.

The referee seminar began Friday night so I left work early to pick up Mother and take her on some medical-related errands and then returned her by eleven so I could head south to Richmond, Kentucky.

There are not enough words in the human language to express the types of rainfall that I drove through to reach Richmond. I don't know how many Inuit words for snow actually exist (as opposed to the hoax about there being 400 words for snow), but I would need at least 15 words to describe the type of rain that attacked my car on the way down.

About halfway there, I decided that it would be better to risk a migraine than to continue driving while half-asleep in bad weather conditions and thus I bought a Diet Coke and finished it before reaching Richmond. The hotel room wasn't quite ready yet so I drove to the nearby campus to insure I could find my way to the proper building for that evening's session. After driving around the camp for almost 30 minutes, I finally realized I'd driven past it three times, parked the car, checked out the room, and returned to the hotel. I had just enough time to stop at a Taco Bell before returning for the seminar.

Derek cotton was the instructor for the seminar and I note that this is someone who absolutely knew his stuff and how to communicate that information to others. I knew going in that I was probably jumping the gun a little on attending the seminar but I found that just about everyone around me had been directing for much longer than me, knew what the heck they were doing, and basically needed to be bought up to speed on how to direct more effectively and in compliance with USFA rules and procedures.

I also learned I'd been doing hand signals wrong and that when I do them properly -- one hand at a time -- it's much easier to make the signals at the same time you're vocalizing the words. Another lesson was that I'd been looking at rules from the fencing viewpoint and the directing viewpoint was slightly different. It was interesting -- to me at least -- to learn WHY some things that sounded stupid (to me) were rules.

For example: Why do we give someone a card for falling on the strip? If you slip and fall, you get a yellow card and that -- to me -- didn't make sense. Mr. Cotton explained that some fencers became rather good at falling when they were about to be hit. Thus, they gained an unfair advantage.

Falling once on the strip is a yellow card which is a warning. There is no penalty until you fall a second time and the likelihood of falling twice -- unless something is wrong with the strip, your shoes, or your sense of balance -- is unlikely. For a second fall, you receive a red card nd a point is awarded to your opponent.

The next morning, I went to the Weaver gymnasium dressed to direct, just in case an opportunity arose. I wasn't prepared for this but if I messed up badly, they could replace me. I spent most of the day watching others direct and then I had my chance in late afternoon: Women's sabre under 19.

Mr. Cotton had warned us that we would feel his eyes in the back of our heads and be nervous. Nervous doesn't begin to describe it. I had that horrific oh-my-gawd-what-am-I-doing-feeling that I got the first time I realized I was in over my head and up against someone who would roll over me on the strip. Think of turning a corner in a dark alley and encountering a 6-foot-five guy named Vinnie the Enforcer, to whom you owed a gambling debt. And Vinnie is carrying metal.

I'd been through pools many times so I felt confident about the check-in process. I could call everyone by numbers assigned and not have to worry about my tongue fumbling over names. I could do this. Take a deep breath.

On weapons check, one person asked me what I meant about inspection checks. No, she hadn't checked her mask at the desk. No inspection stamp.

Sigh! My first check-in and I have to impose a penalty. Was it a yellow card or a red card? Yellow. I record it on the scoresheet and hesitate a moment before checking with Mr. Cotton. No, it is a RED card.

Um... what do I do about that? Red normally means a point to the opponent.

He explained that this meant that her first bout began with a score of 0-1 with her opponent having one point.

I then had to explain this to the fencers. I felt SO incompetent! Where before I was nervous about paying Vinnie the Enforcer before he hurt me, I now realized there was a hole in my pocket and I could not pay Vinnie the Enforcer. I was going to die.

Most of what followed is a blur.

I will add to this later. Time to go to work.

Updated later: I directed probably half the pool and felt I was doing badly and the more I felt this, the worse I felt I was doing. By the time someone replaced me, I felt I'd failed. No, I wasn't doing badly but I was losing track of the score. When I direct in the future, I need have someone else keep score or carry a piece of paper in my hand and record it there. Also, I wasn't keeping order on the strip. Why was I allowing fencers to pull off their masks and question me? Keep a yellow card in my pocket and reach for it. Make it clear that my calls will stand. [Personally, I think that if I'd been a little more confident, the girls wouldn't have been questioning my calls.] Also, I had one problem that I needed to figure out how to fix. I missed a beat attack and there was a clear ping. I have a hearing loss. I didn't hear the ping.

I spent the rest of the day sitting near strips with my hearing aids turned up as low as I could stand and listening for pings. I can hear them but there were so many distractions around me that I couldn't figure out WHERE the pings were originating.

Solving this problem is going to take some research. Mr. Cotton told me to remind him and he would forward my e-mail to a director he knew with a fencing problem. I might be able to get some input from him about how to best work around this problem. Another problem developed at the end of the pool where one of the fencers noted that she was missing a victory. This was my fault because I'd flipped two sets of scores and the other fencers hadn't noticed. Explicitly, when I was facing the fencers, I noted who was on my left and who was on my right. I then went to record the score and turned to look back, which means I reversed the order. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.

I pause here to note that my purpose in learning to direct is to insure that our fencers -- and especially younger fencers -- have good directors on the strip. Indiana has a low number of rated sabre directors. At the moment, I am a very bad director and would not want to inflict myself upon others. I am, however, learning, and I am betting on my ability to overcome my deficiencies and reach a level of proficiency where I can be useful. And there I was, standing there on the strip after having messed up the scores, which means that people would have been seeded improperly for direct elimination. I felt like the most incompetent person in the world as we called everyone back to the strip and had everyone re-check their scoresheet to insure it was correct.

I did not cry. I apologized to the fencers. I mentally kicked myself over and over and over again and took the sheet to the bout committee, explained my mistake, and said a prayer while they crunched the numbers. If the results did not equal zero, then I'd made some additional mistake and I should simply fall upon my sabre and end it all right there.

Fortunately, the result was zero but I still felt that I was the most irresponsible and bad director in the world.

I took the written exam later, thinking I would fail but this would serve as a good benchmark and help me identify the areas where I was experiencing the most difficulty. Boy did I fail! My biggest problem areas are in penalties, equipment, and what to do when one goes off the strip. I also hadn't paid any attention to team rules. Back to the books.

The seminar continued that night and Mr. Cotton provided more words of enlightenment and asked for our observations about what problems we experienced/noted. None of us were singled out for criticism, but problems were noted and addressed and common problems he'd seen here and elsewhere were discussed.

Mr. Cotton pointed out there were few women directors and I will NOT pause here to go off on a feminist rant. Instead, I will note that most bars would prefer to hire tall, tough-looking guys versus a short martial arts expert because the sight of the tall, tough-looking guy will stop most troublemakers from making trouble. I could apply a similar yardstick to a high school class with a new substitute teacher. If a Hulk Hogan type walks into the room in a nicely tailored business suit and looks around the room with an intimidating look, walks with confidence, and speaks clearly and precisely, the teenagers aren't going to be as likely to try to mess with him. If a 5 foot tall woman walks in and she speaks in an intimating voice, cannot make eye contact, and looks lost, then she's going to lose control of the classroom.

You've got to appear to be confident and the best way to accomplish that is to know what you're doing and feel confident. I need to practice directing over and over and over again -- and use hand signals -- until I can clearly see these calls.


We had a pool of seven fencers going into the competition with only one having an E. My first bout was with S1 and she out fenced me. This was not a good beginning and then we had a gap before I fenced again. Despite having two strips and referees working to complete the pool quickly, it felt like the afternoon was dragging on forever. At the end, I had 4 victories and placed second, below S1. I checked the scoresheet carefully and asked question not so much because I doubted the results, but because I obviously needed to understand this better before I took the next written exam. A few minutes later, the bout committee had crunched the numbers and we had out DE chart. S1 had a bye. {This means she didn't have to fence the first round of direct eliminations. We had seven fencers so it made sense for the top fencer to sit out the first round). As second, I was up against the person who finished last and while this might sound easy, it never is. She wanted to move up and I wanted to hold my place. She was an E04 fencer, which I found a little intimidating but I'd found that if I went in hard and fast on a DE, she would usually pull back her hand and that gave me the point. Give her an opportunity to parry riposte or find your blade and she had a good chance of winning the point. Naturally, I stuck with what I thought/knew would work.

Next up, I had to fence S2. This was a problem as every time we'd been up against one another, I had won and every time it grew more difficult and every time it was obviously more frustrating for S2. More, S2 had family, friends, and team members there and I was alone. There is much to be said for the intimidation of the fan base.

I grabbed the first point. S2 literally punched the second. I'm not entirely certain what happened, but I saw and felt a blow to my faceplate with the guard. I have a vague memory of walking on the strip saying, I've been punched in the face by the guard. The director apparently thought I wanted her carded and said, "I didn't see it." What was actually going on was that it was the first time I'd taken a hit in the Lexan mask. The blow wasn't that hard but it had stunned me and what I really needed was a chance to walk around for a moment. Fortunately, by the time the director said this, my head was coming back around again and reflexes had taken over. I'm fairly certain S2 got the next point but we traded leads back and forth until I had a lead at the one-minute break at the 8th point.

At this time, one of S2's teammates came over to talk to her and give her some advice. Being on my own, I had to just think about what needed to happen next. My guess was that he was going to suggest she come out hard and fast and thus I decided to do a PIL. At least, that's what I remembered thinking at some point -- that I needed to throw off her game plan, whatever it might be.

We traded the lead back and forth until we were tied at 13. I don't remember much beyond taking the next point and then the next.

Victory should feel better than that. I was now in second place and S2 would fence someone else for third place. According to the rules, they had to offer me a ten minute break but we were the last group to be fencing and it had been a long day. Too, I felt that a ten minute break would just throw me off so I said I would prefer a five-minute break.

I refilled my water bottle and thought about how I would fence S1. The bottom line is that she is a better fencer than me and I immediately eliminated any thought of using PIL because she could take that. Thus, I defaulted to simultaneous attacks and looked for a chance to fake a simultaneous attack, fall back, and counter. By the half I was down by two points and her teammate walked over to talk to her. After the half, I don't think there were any real simultaneous attacks. I was winning points on simultaneous attacks so she'd eliminated those. Instead, she let me advance, advance, advance, and then score.

One of my bad habits is a tendency to twirl the blade while advancing. This indicates a SEARCH for the other person's blade and whether I'm searching or not, it looks to the director like I am searching and thus I'm forfeiting my right of way.

I probably would have lost even if I'd realized this and had corrected it in time but my failure to correct this allowed her to blow me away in the second half.

Overall, it was a good tournament. I've got a few pictures here


After the awards ceremony, I drove home and this is a cautionary tale of cell phone usage.

I called Greg to tell him that I was leaving and that it was raining and the road conditions were not good. I called him 2-3 times later to update him and then put the phone aside to concentrate on driving while tired and dealing with bad weather conditions. About a mile from the exit, the phone rang. I couldn't find it. I stupidly looked around on the seat and then felt the car hitting those bumps that are on the berm of the road to warn drivers they've drifted off the road.

I managed to regain control of the car, but I completely missed the exit... and the phone call. Still shaking, I kept driving without realizing I'd missed the exit until I saw that I was in Marion County. At that point, I got off on Post road, refueled the car, and called Greg to let him know where I was and what had happened.

Yes, it was my fault. I'm the brain dead person who searched for the phone. But he knew I was tired and driving in bad weather conditions. Why did you call me?????

Because he was going to leave voice mail that I could pick up later.

Are you certain you weren't trying to collect my death benefit?

I am now turning off all communication devices upon getting into the car and if I turn on the cell phone or the Blackberry to place a call, I will immediately turn them off after the call is completed to insure that I never again do something so stupid.

April 30, 2006 - 2nd out of 13 at Summit City's Spring Fling E and Under Competition

I finished second out of 13 sabre fencers at the Summit City E and Under competition.

I won 4 out of 6 bouts and lost the other two 5-3 each. I lost to D and I lost to L (a VERY big fencer). Thus, I was seeded sixth out of the pool for the DEs. I won against the 11th place finisher and my next DE was against D, who had defeated me in the pool. I had no expectations of surviving the bout and yet... I survived. We traded points back and forth and he was ahead at the half. What saved me, imho, was distance. Every time he thought he had retreated out of distance at just the right range to be able to respond to my failed attack, I was just BARELY within striking range and I nailed him. Whew! I escaped 15-13 and felt really good about tying for third place. I did not expect to defeat the G, who'd finished third and had a bye. I will note that what saved me on that DE is a maneuver that I hadn't been able to do before in practice and may never be able to accomplish again. Half the time he parried and riposted, I had remised and moved my wrist just the right about for the guard to slow his riposte from arriving. Single light. The first time, we thought it was a fluke. The third time, he checked to insure touches were registering. By the fifth time, I realized that I was unconsciously doing something that I'd learned and hadn't been able to implement before. Woo Hoo! Go me! We were tied 14-14 when I scored the winning touch. I stood shock still for a moment before muttering, "I didn't lose." I was thrilled. And surprised.

I knew I didn't have a chance against L. While he is primarily an epee fencer, his blade work is excellent, he parries very well, and he is twelve feet tall. Okay, I lied. A little. He's only ten-and-a-half feet tall. Would you believe somewhere between six and seven feet tall? Suffice to say the only point I scored that was NOT a defensive maneuver was one badly executed flunge to his chest. I just could not get past his reach. Trickery will only take you so far and the bottom line is that he was a superior fencer.

My main purpose in going was to see how well I could implement some of the things I'd been working on the last few weeks and how well I compared against fencers outside my club now that I'd been working out both harder and smarter. I note that I still have a problem with strip fear at the beginning but I usually loosen up after a couple of bouts and that I'm doing better on fencing with my brain as well as my body. Unfortunately, my movements still become far too large on the strip and I lose the small, slow steps technique that I've been learning. On the plus side, my parries have improved more than I realized.

I have a long, long way to go, but at least I can see progress.

April 22, 2006 - It's All About Deception

It's a beautiful Spring day and attendance was down dramatically at the fencing site. The coach looked around and asked, "Did I not receive the invitation to the funeral? Obviously, someone has died because so many people are missing."

I am becoming increasingly convinced that fencing is all about issuing your opponent an invitation and then trying to kill him if he accepts.

Today's lesson included a brief segment on step-step with blade going out, back, and then out like I was planning a hit. Pause. Do the same thing again. Pause.

So I asked what it was all about. When I pause, I give up the right of way.

Yes, and if your opponent moves forward, what do you do? You move back. If he doesn't move forward, you're getting closer within range. You look for an opportunity and then that last step becomes an advance-lunge.

I'm probably not describing it accurately.

Another problem is body language. I look like I'm ready to strike. I'm supposed to be loose and look (as nearly as I can tell) like I'm just skipping fencing-style across the strip without a thought in my head... and then nail the opponent.

So I'll be working on this in the driveway tomorrow if it doesn't rain.

April 27, 2006 - Fence with a flick

Last night's lesson hit a brick wall when the coach tried to show me a particular move. I'm going to need to work on this one. Essentially, with the back of the hand up and sabre out at just the right angle, I am waiting for the opponent to move his sabre forward and then I push my sabre down to hit the back of their hand while bringing my own arm up (hand is now angling down). It looks a look like cracking a whip if you were watching the demonstration of whip cracking played in reverse. The second move that is also giving me problems is one of beat/parry.

My parries have improved but they are still terrible. For this particular move, I am to have my blade out again, retreating, and when I see an opportunity, use my WRIST to move the blade left to beat the opponent's blade and then use the wrist again to immediate riposte to the neck. If there is no blade there, then it means I need to get my blade into parry three fast. When the coach does this, the moves are precise. When I do this, I look like a windshield wiper. More, I look like a windshield wiper not properly connected. The blade is EVERYWHERE!

This will require some practice.

April 15, 2006 - Fencing Lesson

Today's lesson was partially about beat attacks and partially about control and simultaneous attacks. As I've learned that simultaneous attacks are my best ticket for scoring well in a pool locally, I need to learn every trick I can for working a simultaneous attack.

I did get a backhanded compliment when the coach had one of the students and I share a lesson at the beginning. He told the other girl that she needed to work more on control because her movement was wide and my parries were precise.

My jaw nearly dropped on the floor.

Me?

In practice, he said, they are precise. In competition is something else but we will work on that.

Wow! I'm doing something right!

So we went to work on a few basics and then when the other coach was free, we split and I was working on simultaneous attacks. There are many different ways of doing this: slow, small steps. Fast. Lunge. Lately, we've been concentrating on small steps and stepping in place so that the opponent sees you are moving and misjudges the distance. At that point, the trick is to parry and riposte.

So now the tricky part of this lesson -- for me -- was learning to parry five and THEN riposte under the arm with the flat of the blade.

Say what again?

I did not do well on this. After the lesson, I went over to the dummy and tried this a few times. My main problem was moving the entire arm and what was required was essentially a dismissive wave (without releasing the blade, of course.)

Fencing! The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know and how much there is to learn.

April 8, 2006 - Double Stripping

I'd planned to fence two events at today's fencing competiton: women's sabre and mixed sabre, but our first epee event had ona few no-shows and they were trying to meet the minimum of six fencers to make this an E-1 event so.... I also fenced epee.

No, I'm not an epee fencer. Epee fencers have shown me how to hold the weapon (I accidently fenced one bout holding it upside down) and I've fenced this weapon maybe five times.

Thus, I began with mixed sabre, took off my lame, borrowed a body cord and epee weapon from Darrin, fenced in the epee pool, switched back for women's sabre, switched back for the epee DEs, switched back for the women's DEs, etc.

I had five solid hours of almost constant fencing with very, very little rest. I was tired, but it was the good kind of tired that left me feeling mentally alert and energetic.

I finished third out of six in epee. Wow! I certainly didn't expect that. I even finished higher than Darrin, who'd persuaded me to fence just so they'd have six in the pool.

I finished third out of six in women's sabre.

I have two bronze medals and a small poster of the event. I need to have the poster framed and Greg wants me to have the back of the medallions engraved so I know where I earned the medals.

April 3, 2006 - Great Lakes Sectional and Referee Seminar

Bottom line: I attended the referee seminar, took a practical test and didn't fare well but didn't destroy anything; and failed the written exam. I have one year to pass the exam or I have to attend another seminar before trying again. Think of this as the equivalent of a Microsoft Certification Examination.

More bottom line: I placed second in the women's sabre event and finished first in sectional points. I qualify to fence in Division IA.

The referee seminar began Friday night so I left work early to pick up Mother and take her on some medical-related errands and then returned her by eleven so I could head south to Richmond, Kentucky.

There are not enough words in the human language to express the types of rainfall that I drove through to reach Richmond. I don't know how many Inuit words for snow actually exist (as opposed to the hoax about there being 400 words for snow), but I would need at least 15 words to describe the type of rain that attacked my car on the way down.

About halfway there, I decided that it would be better to risk a migraine than to continue driving while half-asleep in bad weather conditions and thus I bought a Diet Coke and finished it before reaching Richmond. The hotel room wasn't quite ready yet so I drove to the nearby campus to insure I could find my way to the proper building for that evening's session. After driving around the camp for almost 30 minutes, I finally realized I'd driven past it three times, parked the car, checked out the room, and returned to the hotel. I had just enough time to stop at a Taco Bell before returning for the seminar.

Derek Cotton was the instructor for the seminar and I note that this is someone who absolutely knew his stuff and how to communicate that information to others. I knew going in that I was probably jumping the gun a little on attending the seminar but I found that just about everyone around me had been directing for much longer than me, knew what the heck they were doing, and basically needed to be bought up to speed on how to direct more effectively and in compliance with USFA rules and procedures.

I also learned I'd been doing hand signals wrong and that when I do them properly -- one hand at a time -- it's much easier to make the signals at the same time you're vocalizing the words. Another lesson was that I'd been looking at rules from the fencing viewpoint and the directing viewpoint was slightly different. It was interesting -- to me at least -- to learn WHY some things that sounded stupid (to me) were rules.

For example: Why do we give someone a card for falling on the strip? If you slip and fall, you get a yellow card and that -- to me -- didn't make sense. Mr. Cotton explained that some fencers became rather good at falling when they were about to be hit. Thus, they gained an unfair advantage.

Falling once on the strip is a yellow card which is a warning. There is no penalty until you fall a second time and the likelihood of falling twice -- unless something is wrong with the strip, your shoes, or your sense of balance -- is unlikely. For a second fall, you receive a red card nd a point is awarded to your opponent.

The next morning, I went to the Weaver gymnasium dressed to direct, just in case an opportunity arose. I wasn't prepared for this but if I messed up badly, they could replace me. I spent most of the day watching others direct and then I had my chance in late afternoon: Women's sabre under 19.

Mr. Cotton had warned us that we would feel his eyes in the back of our heads and be nervous. Nervous doesn't begin to describe it. I had that horrific oh-my-gawd-what-am-I-doing-feeling that I got the first time I realized I was in over my head and up against someone who would roll over me on the strip. Think of turning a corner in a dark alley and encountering a 6-foot-five guy named Vinnie the Enforcer, to whom you owed a gambling debt. And Vinnie is carrying metal.

I'd been through pools many times so I felt confident about the check-in process. I could call everyone by numbers assigned and not have to worry about my tongue fumbling over names. I could do this. Take a deep breath.

On weapons check, one person asked me what I meant about inspection checks. No, she hadn't checked her mask at the desk. No inspection stamp.

Sigh! My first check-in and I have to impose a penalty. Was it a yellow card or a red card? Yellow. I record it on the scoresheet and hesitate a moment before checking with Mr. Cotton. No, it is a RED card.

Um... what do I do about that? Red normally means a point to the opponent.

He explained that this meant that her first bout began with a score of 0-1 with her opponent having one point.

I then had to explain this to the fencers. I felt SO incompetent! Where before I was nervous about paying Vinnie the Enforcer before he hurt me, I now realized there was a hole in my pocket and I could not pay Vinnie the Enforcer. I was going to die.

Most of what followed is a blur.

I will add to this later. Time to go to work.

Updated later: I directed probably half the pool and felt I was doing badly and the more I felt this, the worse I felt I was doing. By the time someone replaced me, I felt I'd failed. No, I wasn't doing badly but I was losing track of the score. When I direct in the future, I need have someone else keep score or carry a piece of paper in my hand and record it there. Also, I wasn't keeping order on the strip. Why was I allowing fencers to pull off their masks and question me? Keep a yellow card in my pocket and reach for it. Make it clear that my calls will stand. [Personally, I think that if I'd been a little more confident, the girls wouldn't have been questioning my calls.] Also, I had one problem that I needed to figure out how to fix. I missed a beat attack and there was a clear ping. I have a hearing loss. I didn't hear the ping.

I spent the rest of the day sitting near strips with my hearing aids turned up as low as I could stand and listening for pings. I can hear them but there were so many distractions around me that I couldn't figure out WHERE the pings were originating.

Solving this problem is going to take some research. Mr. Cotton told me to remind him and he would forward my e-mail to a director he knew with a fencing problem. I might be able to get some input from him about how to best work around this problem. Another problem developed at the end of the pool where one of the fencers noted that she was missing a victory. This was my fault because I'd flipped two sets of scores and the other fencers hadn't noticed. Explicitly, when I was facing the fencers, I noted who was on my left and who was on my right. I then went to record the score and turned to look back, which means I reversed the order. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.

I pause here to note that my purpose in learning to direct is to insure that our fencers -- and especially younger fencers -- have good directors on the strip. Indiana has a low number of rated sabre directors. At the moment, I am a very bad director and would not want to inflict myself upon others. I am, however, learning, and I am betting on my ability to overcome my deficiencies and reach a level of proficiency where I can be useful. And there I was, standing there on the strip after having messed up the scores, which means that people would have been seeded improperly for direct elimination. I felt like the most incompetent person in the world as we called everyone back to the strip and had everyone re-check their scoresheet to insure it was correct.

I did not cry. I apologized to the fencers. I mentally kicked myself over and over and over again and took the sheet to the bout committee, explained my mistake, and said a prayer while they crunched the numbers. If the results did not equal zero, then I'd made some additional mistake and I should simply fall upon my sabre and end it all right there.

Fortunately, the result was zero but I still felt that I was the most irresponsible and bad director in the world.

I took the written exam later, thinking I would fail but this would serve as a good benchmark and help me identify the areas where I was experiencing the most difficulty. Boy did I fail! My biggest problem areas are in penalties, equipment, and what to do when one goes off the strip. I also hadn't paid any attention to team rules. Back to the books.

The seminar continued that night and Mr. Cotton provided more words of enlightenment and asked for our observations about what problems we experienced/noted. None of us were singled out for criticism, but problems were noted and addressed and common problems he'd seen here and elsewhere were discussed.

Mr. Cotton pointed out there were few women directors and I will NOT pause here to go off on a feminist rant. Instead, I will note that most bars would prefer to hire tall, tough-looking guys versus a short martial arts expert because the sight of the tall, tough-looking guy will stop most troublemakers from making trouble. I could apply a similar yardstick to a high school class with a new substitute teacher. If a Hulk Hogan type walks into the room in a nicely tailored business suit and looks around the room with an intimidating look, walks with confidence, and speaks clearly and precisely, the teenagers aren't going to be as likely to try to mess with him. If a 5 foot tall woman walks in and she speaks in an intimating voice, cannot make eye contact, and looks lost, then she's going to lose control of the classroom.

You've got to appear to be confident and the best way to accomplish that is to know what you're doing and feel confident. I need to practice directing over and over and over again -- and use hand signals -- until I can clearly see these calls.

We had a pool of seven fencers going into the competition with only one having an E. My first bout was with S1 and she out fenced me. This was not a good beginning and then we had a gap before I fenced again. Despite having two strips and referees working to complete the pool quickly, it felt like the afternoon was dragging on forever. At the end, I had 4 victories and placed second, below S1. I checked the scoresheet carefully and asked question not so much because I doubted the results, but because I obviously needed to understand this better before I took the next written exam. A few minutes later, the bout committee had crunched the numbers and we had out DE chart. S1 had a bye. {This means she didn't have to fence the first round of direct eliminations. We had seven fencers so it made sense for the top fencer to sit out the first round). As second, I was up against the person who finished last and while this might sound easy, it never is. She wanted to move up and I wanted to hold my place. She was an E04 fencer, which I found a little intimidating but I'd found that if I went in hard and fast on a DE, she would usually pull back her hand and that gave me the point. Give her an opportunity to parry riposte or find your blade and she had a good chance of winning the point. Naturally, I stuck with what I thought/knew would work.

Next up, I had to fence S2. This was a problem as every time we'd been up against one another, I had won and every time it grew more difficult and every time it was obviously more frustrating for S2. More, S2 had family, friends, and team members there and I was alone. There is much to be said for the intimidation of the fan base.

I grabbed the first point. S2 literally punched the second. I'm not entirely certain what happened, but I saw and felt a blow to my faceplate with the guard. I have a vague memory of walking on the strip saying, I've been punched in the face by the guard. The director apparently thought I wanted her carded and said, "I didn't see it." What was actually going on was that it was the first time I'd taken a hit in the Lexan mask. The blow wasn't that hard but it had stunned me and what I really needed was a chance to walk around for a moment. Fortunately, by the time the director said this, my head was coming back around again and reflexes had taken over. I'm fairly certain S2 got the next point but we traded leads back and forth until I had a lead at the one-minute break at the 8th point.

At this time, one of S2's teammates came over to talk to her and give her some advice. Being on my own, I had to just think about what needed to happen next. My guess was that he was going to suggest she come out hard and fast and thus I decided to do a PIL. At least, that's what I remembered thinking at some point -- that I needed to throw off her game plan, whatever it might be.

We traded the lead back and forth until we were tied at 13. I don't remember much beyond taking the next point and then the next.

Victory should feel better than that. I was now in second place and S2 would fence someone else for third place. According to the rules, they had to offer me a ten minute break but we were the last group to be fencing and it had been a long day. Too, I felt that a ten minute break would just throw me off so I said I would prefer a five-minute break.

I refilled my water bottle and thought about how I would fence S1. The bottom line is that she is a better fencer than me and I immediately eliminated any thought of using PIL because she could take that. Thus, I defaulted to simultaneous attacks and looked for a chance to fake a simultaneous attack, fall back, and counter. By the half I was down by two points and her teammate walked over to talk to her. After the half, I don't think there were any real simultaneous attacks. I was winning points on simultaneous attacks so she'd eliminated those. Instead, she let me advance, advance, advance, and then score.

One of my bad habits is a tendency to twirl the blade while advancing. This indicates a SEARCH for the other person's blade and whether I'm searching or not, it looks to the director like I am searching and thus I'm forfeiting my right of way.

I probably would have lost even if I'd realized this and had corrected it in time but my failure to correct this allowed her to blow me away in the second half.

Overall, it was a good tournament. I've got a few pictures here

After the awards ceremony, I drove home and this is a cautionary tale of cell phone usage.

I called Greg to tell him that I was leaving and that it was raining and the road conditions were not good. I called him 2-3 times later to update him and then put the phone aside to concentrate on driving while tired and dealing with bad weather conditions. About a mile from the exit, the phone rang. I couldn't find it. I stupidly looked around on the seat and then felt the car hitting those bumps that are on the berm of the road to warn drivers they've drifted off the road.

I managed to regain control of the car, but I completely missed the exit... and the phone call. Still shaking, I kept driving without realizing I'd missed the exit until I saw that I was in Marion County. At that point, I got off on Post road, refueled the car, and called Greg to let him know where I was and what had happened.

Yes, it was my fault. I'm the brain dead person who searched for the phone. But he knew I was tired and driving in bad weather conditions. Why did you call me?????

Because he was going to leave voice mail that I could pick up later.

Are you certain you weren't trying to collect my death benefit?

I am now turning off all communication devices upon getting into the car and if I turn on the cell phone or the Blackberry to place a call, I will immediately turn them off after the call is completed to insure that I never again do something so stupid.

March 30th - Parrying the unpronounceable

More lessons about parries tonight.

The three types I'm trying to learn are:

1. Direct parry. Parry-riposte with a one-two beat.

2. Delayed. Parry - pause - riposte.

3. Parry feint riposte.

I've made progress on the first and while I have a bad habit of sticking my elbow out to the side and doing weird things with my parry five (but apparently only when stepping backwards), my parry 4 is better and the three is usually working. I can parry 3, 4, and 5 mostly correctly and riposte.

I cannot delay a parry to save my life. Literally. The coach asked if I was familiar with a --something unpronounceable-- I can't spell it, either. It's a device music teachers use to keep the beat. Yes, I was familiar with that. So the objective is to see if Greg's got an electronic one and practice parries. 1 = parry, 2 = riposte. 1-2, 1-2. Now parry with a pause parry-beat-riposte.

Another lesson that I couldn't get for the longest time and have finally grabbed the basic premise of is to do a point in line with the arm not fully extended, step back, then push forward, go under the opponent's blade to parry five and then riposte.

I couldn't do it stepping backwards. The coach left me to work in front of the mirror while he did something else and when he came back, we did this going forward. I didn't nail it, but I did fumble my way through it and actually get it right.

I need to work on this.

March 29th - Parries

Tonight's lesson was primarily about parries.

There are three basic types of parries.

The first is easy and simple: parry-riposte. You parry, you riposte.

The second is driving me nuts and I couldn't get it for the life of me because it's all about tempo. The first is one-two. The second is one...two. It's a half beat off and the hand action is immediate while the riposte itself is slower.

Say what?

Let me try that again. The purpose is to intentionally delay, but not delay such that you lose the right to riposte. Your hand is moving while your eyes are taking a .5 beat to decide where and even if to riposte.

The third type?

Damn! I forgot already.

My mind is a sieve.

March 24th - Fencing Lessons

I am still light years behind everyone else but something is beginning to occasionally click in my mind and last night's lesson went mostly well until the end. The circular parry, riposte is eluding me even though the coach broke it into pieces and had me learn one small piece at a time before trying to put it together.

This is another move that I suspect I'll need to do a thousand times before it feels right.

March 15th - Fencing in Reno

Because it's late and I'm tired, I'm putting a pointer to a web page that contains some quick scribbling about the competition in Reno. I'll update later when I have time to be gramatically correct. For now, check here

March 7th - lesson

Tonight's fencing lesson was longer than usual and I don't know who was more frustrated... me or the coach.

I could finally get one of the actions that I could not get last time and we're moving forward into things that make me think of Calculus. [Help! I'm in over my head!]

Retreat and throw the arm out if there's an opportunity to impale your opponent (a little trickier than it looks). Retreat and look for an opportunity to beat attack. Parry riposte. Okay... I'm getting these. And then we moved to simultaneous attack with feint. It boggles my mind that to plan a parry three, you position the blade in a way that looke entirely illogical to me, go forward, and then when their blade comes out, parry-riposte. And insure the director and SEE that hit.

What's the most frustating is that I'm actually kind of, sort of, almost getting it but not enough to be able to pull it off in a real bout. Not yet. I'm close...

On a related note, I have been working on building up my ability to squat-lunge and while I can't do it yet, I CAN drop to the strip and recover. Thus, I was fooling around a bit tonight and when D advanced, I retreated, retreated, and then I dropped to the floor with one hand keeping me steady when he attacked and reached up to land a hit on his sleeve.

One light.

I need to do that about a hundred times more in practice before I could ever pull it off in competition. Still... not bad for a 50+, right?

I do so want to fence well. There are too many people hoping I fence well and I feel I'll be letting them down if I don't do well in Reno.

March 3rd - Thursday night lesson

Last night, my coach suggested I take up drinking.

I don't think he was serious.

My very first fencing action was stupid, jerky,and tense. Coach stopped, stepped forward, and asked if I drank. I said, "Water." He pulled off his mask and said I was too hyper. I'm supposed to be that way by the end of the lesson, not the beginning. I need to get a big bottle and drink until I'm not so tense.

So I told him that I would do something stupid and once I gave myself permission to do something stupid, then I could relax.

I don't know what he thought of that, but the next few actions went much, much better.

I am still a bad fencer. I am still jerky AND tense. But I note that I AM progressing. It's just going to take time and lots and lots and lots of practice.

I couldn't get the counter attack for anything. It's a fairly simple move where I go forward and attack and fail, the coach returns the attack and I am supposed to retreat with the sabre pointed at him, retreat, and then step a half step forward at exactly the right moment so he impales himself upon my sabre.

We must have done this a dozen times and every time, I stepped BACK while putting my weapon arm forward. This gives the opponent time to stop and avoid the hit.

I just could NOT get it.

Fencing tomorrow in Louisville. Leaving in a few minutes to drive down and stay the night. I decided that I'm just NOT up to another early morning drive. Fencing starts at 930am.

March 2nd - Fencing in Louisville

Since the majority of the fencing club members and both coaches are going to Columbus for the Arnold tournament, I'm going to fence at a small tournament in Louisville. I consider this a warm-up for Reno and don't care how I place. [She said with fingers crossed behind her back, hoping that not caring about the outcome and focusing upon skill will lessen the blow of a poor showing.]

February 28h - Twice Weekly Fencing Lessons

Now that we have two coaches, I've been able to sign up for two fencing lessons a week. I'm still pushing the coach to frustration with my inability to perform some simple things, but I'm hoping that a few weeks of double lessons will lessen both our frustrations.

Tonight, I didn't do too badly in the beginning portion of the lesson except I'm still pushing my arm out there for the parry four and overshooting. Thus, the coach had me stand against the wall after the lesson and practice the same move over and over. Actually, he had me standing near the doorway and practicing the same move over and over again. Parry left to the doorframe, cut to the head.

Each time I parried left, I hit the doorframe at the point where I should STOP on a parry four. I think it did this about 300 times before it started to feel almost natural.

Parry four is the number one basic problem on my hit list. I need to learn to take the parry rather than throw my arm left. It's in the fingers and the wrist, NOT the shoulder.

February 23rd - Too many reservations

I now have 5 reservations and no, I do not intend to use all those hotel reservations.

I also have a rental car reserved and I've sent a request to cancel two of those reservations. The hotels claim I have to go through the agent who made the reservations to cancel the reservations. I am staying on top of this to insure I really and truly do not finish with multiple reservations.

Oddly enough, I can get a rate $20 cheaper by NOT going through the contracted agent for the overflow hotel. With the savings, I rent a car so if I have trouble getting from the hotel to the event, I've got a backup methodology. This will also allow me to visit the sights on the one day that I have free between competitions.

But I hate driving in unfamiliar places. I could wind up in Mexico. Or Canada. Anyone who thinks otherwise has never seen me try to navigate the highways.

February 21th - Booking Reno

I have a room reservation confirmed for ONE night only and it's iffy whether or not I can get the additional nights needed. Thus, I have booked a backup room that's about a mile away and accessible only by highway. A rental car may be required. The hotel's reviews were not favorable and it appears I may need to pack a sleeping bag to stay warm. A quick course in self-defense might also be a good idea as the area is allegedly seedy. One reviewer complained about a bum sleeping next to the hotel elevator and unsecured areas that looked unsafe.

Hmmm... would I look threatening in my whites? I doubt it.

The room has the advantage of being cheap. I'd rather be safe.

I'm checking in every other day with the hotel to see if the block is released yet and if I made it onto the list for a room for the full event.

I have got a listing of who will be fencing and I'm a little worried about this. Actually, I'm a lot worried.

If this were finals, I'd be cramming and drinking caffeine.

February 19th 2006 - Friday Night Fencing

Friday night, I went fencing at a local event where there were 11 sabre fencers. Once again, I tried to really fence versus charging out like a knight without a horse at a joisting tournament and once again, I was shut out in the pools until I got so frustrated that I returned to simultaneous attacks. My DE was against someone with much more experience than me and he quickly figured out that I couldn't respond properly/in time to a PIL. When I was down 4-12, I figured that if I was going to lose, I might as well make it a learning experience and thus I started trying a few different things. All the points I scored on him were either SA or PIL and pull out, parry, and attack.

Oops. It had looked like fencer A had been in time but I have problems distinguishing counter-attack from attack into preparation. Usually, I rely upon the lights. If it's a double light, then the fencer was not in time.And as someone told me later... there are always bad calls and questionable calls.

 

February 15nd 2006 - Fear of Failure

Reviewing recent tournaments, I did well in ones where I didn't expect to do well and where I didn't have expectations. I was okay with failing. I do poorly in ones where I tell myself I have to justify my participationg. This worries me because Reno is expensive and I know I've got the same mindset. I must justify spending X amount of money to go fence.

And I just learned that one of our club members -- who won the tournament Sunday -- also won a C ranking.

February 12th - I am so ashamed

The women's event wasn't good but wasn't terrible. I blew one bout 0-5 but won one and lost the other 4-5. As there were only 8 of us fencing in two pools, this put me in the bottom and my DE was against the top seed teenage girl who whipped me 5-15.

Wipeout. I got a total of 4 or 5 points for the entire pool.

On the positive side... if I can FIND a positive side, I did not stick with simultaneous attacks (in retrospect, that would have worked better). I took some risks and tried to do different things. Unfortunately, I hadn't learned how to do these things well enough yet. I either was too slow or hesitated.

I have GOT toimprove before the NAC E.

February 2nd 2006

(1) Circle, take, and riposte. Make a tight circle around the blade, parry, and riposte to the head.

(3) I don't know what the call this one and I'm working on the footwork portion of it now before adding the parry-riposte (in three or four, not five because it is very seldom going to be five). In the simultaneous attack, you're going forward and THEN, you put your foot down in the same place and push yourself back. This is trickier than it sounds. I probably spent ten minutes trying to get it right. When it's done right, you upper body does NOT move with the step in place. I have been keeping my foot at a ninety degree angle, which slows the move back. When properly done, the foot comes out from the knee, the body does not move forward (or lean forward), and it comes down in the same place while you put your trailing leg back and the front foot pushes you backwards quickly. Once I learn to do this efficiently, then I can fake a simultaneous attack, retreat FAST one step while the opponent is lunging into empty space, and parry riposte.

January 11th - No Way In Hell

There are now 11 fencers pre-registered for this event and one of them is D-rated. No way in hell do I have a chance to win an E rating. I still want to go BUT....

It's a long drive. I'm exhausted from yesterday..

My sister and I spent hours at Mother's house yesterday. We pulled an incredible accumulation of stuff out of a pantry that was filled with mouse droppings. We met with a property management person and then an auctioneer. We signed paperwork to dispose of everything in Mother's house and committed ourselves to days/hours of work to handle Mother's place. .

I will go to the JCC to fence and then I will stop to visit Mother and talk to her about this new (for her) development. I want to help her work her way through this. I do not want to leave her alone, stewing over this news, for the weekend..

There will be other fencing competitions.

This is so frustrating.

I hate this. I really, really hate this.

January 5th - Fencing in Louisville

There are now 6 fencers pre-registered for the sabre event in Louisville, which makes it an E-1 event.All 6 of us are unrated, so one of us is taking home an E06 rating.Dare I hope?

Wednesday fencing went as usual but tonight, one of the teenagers wiped the floor with me and reminded me just how badly I fence compared to the average teenager in our club.