So Long, and Thanks for All the Bouts

Something died in me this weekend.  It was the spring Veterans' NAC.  All the usual suspects, plus a few new faces.  I fenced brilliantly in both my pools: 4-1 on Friday in Veteran Women 40-49 foil, 5-1 yesterday in Veteran Women Combined foil.  On Friday I placed 4th out of the pools overall; on Sunday I tied for 6th.  And then I blew it.  TWICE.  I lost my first DE on Friday 8-10, thus losing my place in the medal round (top 8).  And I lost my second DE yesterday, again 8-10, again losing my place in the medal round--the first time ever in Vet Combined that I even had a place to lose after the pools.  And that basically broke my heart.

One of my friends was watching the Veteran Women Foil Team finals with me on Saturday, and he said something about fencing being a fickle sport.  Fickle is exactly the word--and its god is Loki.  No matter what kind of offerings you bring to the god, he will cheat and trick and lie to you.  Nothing that you do can appease him if he is in the mood to destroy you.  Not practice for a decade.  Not spend years in therapy trying to work through all your childhood issues about being good enough.  Not surrender yourself to the knowledge that you are going to have to fence your hardest because she is too.  Not jam your big toe again in proof of the fact that you were fencing your hardest.

Nothing.  Because there will be something that he tells you about her that destroys any possible victory you could have even in losing.  For example, that she hasn't fenced in decades and is just getting back in shape.  Or that she only started fencing four years ago and made it into the medal round through you, when you have never cracked that round in this event even after eleven years.  And then he does even worse and pulls everything out from under you: your sportsmanship, your discipline of staying to see how the event plays out because you know that that is the way to learn.  And you are left raging and weeping in the flood of adrenaline that now you can do nothing about except suffer through.

What is possibly worth this much anguish--for a sport?  My husband has been wondering this as long as I have been fencing.  "Why do you put yourself through all of this when it isn't even any fun?"  Well, probably because I'm an idiot and love pounding my head against walls.   Some people simply never learn.  There is nothing fun in this feeling.  Nothing.  Only the gleefully mocking laughter of the Fencing God, delighted at his trick of making you think just for a moment that you might have a chance at being something other than a poor loser.  Again.

Well, stuff this.  I quit.


  1. Hi FB! I found your blog because of Milo - and as an aside before talking about fencing - I think that you are doing a brave and wonderful thing writing out about the truth and against the bigotry in society that Milo is railing against.

    With regards fencing - and I know that this post is old, but it resonates with me. I am a fencer. I have fenced for 20yrs - although I took 7yrs out in the middle because of a non fencing related injury. I've fenced for England at the veteran's Commonwealth games (finishing in the top 20), I've finished in the top 8 GBR fencers, I've got a stack of medals and trophies. And bruises. And scars. I love fencing. I love the fitness and strength it gives to my body, and I love winning. I do not, however, enjoy competing. I put myself under too much stress. When you (ok, I) have other issues going on in my life I found the stress of competing just one step too far with regards what my psyche could cope with. This post of yours is the first I have seen that comes close to understanding why I have stepped away from competing. My coach (I still train 3x a week - it is a great stress reliever for me in the evenings and I have 4 clubs within 15miles) doesn't understand. Other members, and visiting members don't understand - they tell me I'm fencing better than ever and I would be winning competitions. Sometimes though, you have to stop doing things that are making your life worse. Hopefully things will change for me in the future (as they seem to have for you) and I will feel able to compete again, but until then - en-guard!
    And God bless.


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