How I Did It

That is, come in third in C&Under Women's Foil at the Illinois Divisional Championships today, thus qualifying for both Div II and Div III at Summer Nationals this year!

Some of the things that may have helped me fence as well as I did

1. Walking home yesterday from campus with my puppy and my husband, and meeting one of the other Cardis who live in our neighborhood in the park. (You try watching two Cardis at play and not end up with a smile on your face!)

2. Checking my weapons properly last night, including cleaning and retaping several blades as well as weight-testing all of my foils.

3. Watching The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) with my family while I was cleaning my tips.

4. Waking up at 6am to take my puppy out for her morning toilet, spending some time listening to the birds and reflecting on what a beautiful day it looked like it was going to be (and was!).

5. Leaving home early enough to have time to get lost on the way to the venue, listening to Jethro Tull on the way north, and not having to stop for the toll booths because I had bought an I-Pass in order to drive to and from my puppy's breeder's home last month.

6. Getting lost on the way to the venue, but figuring out how to get there anyway thanks to the MapQuest map I had printed out. FYI: This was an important exercise in loving what is; I really hate getting lost.

7. Feeling okay at the thought that I might not qualify today, even though I very much wanted to. I'm not entirely sure how I did this, but somehow I did.

8. Warming up by doing 300 "picks" at the pad on the wall: 50 extensions, 50 disengage-left, 50 disengage-right, 50 parry 4-riposte, 50 parry 6-riposte, 50 lunges. It probably also helped that I've been doing this exercise at every practice for the past several weeks. (And, yes, Bakhyt--that's my coach--I noticed the difference in the way in which my attacks landed today!)

9. Watching my opponents during their other bouts to see if I could discern any of their habits without convincing myself that that therefore meant I could just get on strip and beat them.

10. Losing my first pool bout 5-1 to a clubmate whom I almost always beat in practice, but accepting that she tends to fence better on average in tournaments than she does in practice.

10. Telling myself more than once, "'To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did." And then letting myself try new attacks.

11. Watching my opponents during our bouts to see where they tended to parry without convincing myself that the thing to do was simply attack because I "knew" what they were going to do. Plus being patient enough to see the openings while at the same time not going passive and simply letting them attack.

12. Recognizing that it was likely that I might not qualify because there were so many strong fencers in our event, any of whom might be strong enough today to win. This helped me stay calmer because it meant that I actually felt respect for all of my opponents.

13. Asking my friends for advice about how they would fence certain fencers--and listening to them!

14. Fencing in this event every year for the past four years. Coming 9th out of 20 in 2008 (and therefore not qualifying for Nationals); and 5th out of 15 in 2009 (thus qualifying for Div III but not Div II thanks to the fact that we had one C-rated fencer in the event). I don't remember what place I got in 2007, but I didn't qualify, which hurt because only a month or so before that I had earned my first D and I thought I really should ("should") do better.

15. Watching out for my two most debilitating personal demons: 1) thinking that my opponents don't respect me because they find me too easy to beat; and 2) getting frustrated when I think that I have figured out how to deal with a certain kind of fencer and/or attack and (horror of horrors!), "It doesn't work!"

16. Doing something I still really can't find the words for, but which feels like what I think my coaches and friends mean when they say things like, "You have to have confidence in your attacks!" and "Move on the strip!" I need to write more about this, maybe tomorrow.

What I did to celebrate

1. Call my family at home to let them know how well I did.

2. Say "Thank you!" to my coach.

3. Say "Thank you!" to my opponent in my final bout (which I won 15-13) for fencing so well.

4. Go shopping on the way home for new rain boots and sundry other treats, including sparkly sandals, Martha Stewart's Cupcake Cookbook, a Moleskin notebook for keeping notes about my fencing, and a zipper bag for holding my glasses cases, iPod case, athletic tape and so forth in my fencing bag so that I don't have to spend time digging around in it looking for things.

5. Watch my puppy bout with the neighbor's cat in the backyard when I got home.

6. Eat brownies.

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