Monday, July 24, 2006

Epee Fencing: limits of heat and exhaustion

In summer, no one wants to fence, the numbers thin and when a heat wave hits, people just want to survive. That’s why I ran, in full kit, to the YMCA to fence on Friday. Then remembered I forgot my helmet, ran home and then ran back again. Even the birds were too hot and tired to do anything but sit and stare as I ran by.

There weren’t any other epeeists at the hall and it was hotter inside than outside. I put on my glove, enter the hall and practice lunges, lunges, lunges. I find that I am lunging almost 1 inch too short. This means I need less speed practice and more accuracy practice.

Amanda showed up but seeing it was just me, decided not to suit up. So I did more lunges for another 15 minutes. I find there are three types of athletes: Those who have a natural gift or aptitude or hand eye ability, those who accept their limitation and me. When I was in junior high school I really wanted to play basketball and so I practiced. And I was crap. But the coaches, who just looked at my 6’0” height thought, “She’ll get better with practice.” So I went to daily practice, then I went to school early 3-4 times a week to practice an extra hour. I did every drill the coaches wanted me to and for the year I made only 2 baskets: 4 points.

So much for a career in basketball. I was a bit too “nice” for all the under the basket fighting anyway. I don’t have natural athletic ability. So I took up running, because everyone though runners were masochistic idiots. I found more pride in being a masochistic idiot that I ever did in being a hopeless spaz.

Gerald arrived, slightly dazed with swollen lymph nodes. “Is Amanda fencing?” he asked. I shrugged. We started sparring. She suited up 20 minutes later.

Gerald also brought Pam, a woman 6’0” who was interested in epee so she suited up and gave it a try. She had great hand eye coordination and after a few bouts, she tagged me to win. “Time to introduce you to my motto” I told her.

“What’s that” she asked.

“Revenge!” We laughed, “Just ask Gerald.”

I pushed myself hard against Gerald and Amanda; my mind was clear and I knew what to do, but my body just couldn’t seem to get it together. “She’s going to attack my foot” I thought to myself, “be ready.” Amanda attacks my foot and hits it. “Hello brain? Didn’t we have a plan?” There is nothing worse that being mentally aware, knowing, anticipating and coming up with counter attack solutions but having them all end up just a little short, or a little to the left, or a little to slow. My solution, push my body harder and go to a rapid bounce stance. Rapid bounce is where you are in fencing position but making micro bounces several times a second, allowing you to sneak forward and back and giving several chances each SECOND to launch yourself into attacks. It is good for extremely aggressive attacks or fast defense with counterattacks but requires enormous amounts of energy. I have to admit I was starting to feel nauseous at this point which I thought, considering the heat and that I hadn’t really eaten or drunk that day, was probably an early sign of heat exhaustion.

I still had 20 minutes to go until 9:00, which would be two hours of fencing and when I told Linda I could come home and eat. I went and got a drink. “Ready to fence?” Amanda and I were pretty active. During one bout I hit her groin while her blade whipped around to give me a welt in the back of the head.

Gerald was lying down while refereeing the bouts. “Leave, go home!” I was urging him mentally. He’s older than me, and sick. I can’t stop fencing until he does. And no, I don’t have foolish pride issues.

We keep going until 9:10. For the last 15 minutes, I can only focus for seconds at a time and work hard at not throwing up. I find a corner of the hall to curl up in. Mr. Ho finds me. “Women should be strong!” He tells me. I look up at him and stagger to my feet. Last week a fencer was found stabbed to death a few blocks away. Mr. Ho’s opinion, “To be stabbed so much, he must not have been a good fencer.” What a motivator.

I am dizzy, I cannot walk in a straight line, I feel nauseous and I am pretty sure I have heat exhaustion. My body is begging me to lie down and maybe get naked and lie in a puddle of water. ‘Please, please, please,’ it asks me, ‘do not keep fencing.’ This, I decide, is a great training opportunity.

I weave back to the strip where Gerald is lying down and fumble to connect the electric cord. “The last thing I want to do right now is fence.” I told Amanda, “So it’s great training for fencing when totally exhausted. She looks confused. I put on my helmet. We fence. I do okay, I think I am wearing her down. “One more.” I ask Amanda, “You’re the toughest here, so let’s do it again!” Gerald is still staring off into space breathing heavily, and thinks NOT fencing for another five to ten minutes is a great idea. I am getting a heart episode of P.A.T. It feels like there is a ferret trapped in my chest clawing to get out. So I start smiling. “It can’t kill you.” I murmur to myself and put on the helmet.

I wish I could remember that last bout. I got points; I stayed upright. By the time I finished it was 9:35. I left the strip to see Linda marching across the hall. She was pissed. I did not come home; I did not eat dinner. “I don’t feel well.” I tell her as she drags me home. Oooh, not the right time for getting sympathy. Her opinion: Beth is an idiot, only an idiot would fence when feeling that bad and only an idiot would choose getting heat exhaustion over coming home to their partner for dinner. She may have something there. But I think I need to start running during this heat wave; it will push my body to the limits. I’ll do it in the morning, when she can’t see.

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GayProf said...

Why do you like pain?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Uh, I've love to say there was some sort of plan involved or that I even like pain - cause I don't. Linda says this is part of my inexplicable stupidity - that I do things, just to know that I can do them. Can I fence with heat exhaustion? Check! Good to know! Let's call it "training".

Yoga Korunta said...

Elizabeth, please try one of those electrolyte replacement drinks!

The Watcher said...

It seems that when you fence you're fighting yourself. Make it a a dance; your dance.

I'm anticipating reading more from 'Control Group' before you push yourself past return.

I suppose I should pick a 'cool, dark evening' before you succumb, eh? Take care.

Sober @ Sundown said...

Hey Grrl, take it easy up there. Over doing it in this heat won't kill you, but it sure will make you exhausted. And, it's no fun being exhausted.

I certainly can relate to the brain not listening. I say "Hello Brain" all the time. It just says "Hello" back. Nothing more goes on in there, especially in this heat.

I haven't fenced since I started working on the house. I miss it.

Anonymous said...

Will you hurt me if I agree with linda?

kathy wc

ps....and yes, I owe you an email.....sorry.

funchilde said...

i think you are either totally the most committed person ever or just plain crazy. the jury is still out.