So, what does ½ a dream look like? It doesn’t look that bad at all. I headed over to Seattle Thursday night with Linda; fairly tired because I didn’t get to sleep in the afternoon, and the hydroplane boat was delayed two hours after boarding due to eight foot waves. It was still a exciting ride as several feet high waves would lift the back of the boat as we ran before them, making us feel like we were accelerating into a hole in the ocean. So, I slept 11 hours that night and didn’t make it outside and downtown until close to 1:00. While I was sleeping, Linda had already gone up to REI and returned with a bag full of biking supplies for her daily commute. Downtown, we looked in at Tall Girl, and a goth store where Linda bought me a “Fairy and skulls” T-shirt; I used it to fence in later that night (notice it in the early pictures).
Linda left me at Borders so she could do some shoe shopping. I find that with my heart not pumping enough oxygen, looking goth is becoming easier and easier; that is if pale, pasty and about to fall over is a sexy look? While there I picked up the kind of magazines I can’t get in my home town bookstore like some lesbian magazines as well as a copy of Gothic Beauty. Now, did I pick this up just because it showed articles heavily illustrated by gothic girls with tattoos. No, I did not; there was also an article about gothic catwalks in Berlin showing lesbian goths getting intimate. But then, I read an article in there about Girl Armour. Yes, a guy who makes unique breastplates, wrist and headgear tailored to each individual client. And to think I was wasting my money on things like food and medicine when I could have been striking terror into the hearts of all striding around town in my Gothic Epee Goddess armour. Bwahahaha!
Final stop was at Victoria Secret, or as one of my female friends calls it, “The Candy Store”. Bought some more sale items and had more discussions like, “No, these are not thong panties......oh, I stand corrected.” We headed home and I lay down for another three hours before getting ready for Friday Night Women’s Epee #2. Have to say, not the most impressive name. How about; “Boobs and Blades #2” or “Clash of the Sword Maidens?” What we had not been told was what we should have already guessed: with 17 women showing up to fight each other in an evening epee battle....and a potluck. No one told us about the potluck; as everyone was bringing food (and booze). But we really should have guessed under the “If ten women are going to be there it really would be rude not to bring a little something to eat in case someone gets hungry” rule. See guys, all you get at your tournaments are bruises. We get champagne, humus and pita, oranges and chocolate (lots of chocolate). Theresa Rose was there from Fleur De Lys Club of Washington; we usually warm up against each other before the bouts. She also has a braid of red hair down to her waist. So there is a little hair envy going on there (except for the 6-8 hours having it dry, I guess).
Marla Clem came straight from work. Marla is what I refer to as “a hoot” in that, like me, she tends to say things you might not expect her to say. The first time we met she said, “My goal today is to do better than everyone expects me to” (referring to short, stocky and non-traditional fencing appearance). When Linda overheard her complimented on her small feet she replied; “Well, nothing grows in the shade” (talking about her big breasts) and then when on to anecdote the summer she went from “flat to ‘a woman’” (bringing up a sore point with me as Victoria Secret had just told me they don’t carry 38-B anymore because the people who need them are just so rare.....sigh; is this what people really meant when they said I have a model like figure: FLAT). I told Marla a bit about the heart thing and how I was there to have a “last go” and if she would bout with me to warm up so other people couldn’t tell. She agreed and spent some of the night “looking out” for me, including finding a medical doctor/specialist nurse and telling Linda she had but to call and trained medical people would be there. The only other person who knew was Birgit, as I told her when I emailed her to come that this would be my last tournament in a while.
I still have a little debate inside that I should have told everyone and then asked if they were okay with it. Except that I am sure someone would have said "no" (So don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to). Also, for example, I knew Anna Telles was fencing with a injured shoulder and that Annette Hillesland had a very bad cold/flu (which did stop her ending up #1 out of the pools). So I figure we all made our choices and would fence as long as we were safely able.
There were 17 women in a B1 event; pretty amazing for a Friday night tournament. Linda’s goal was to win a bout and mine was to finish the pools and if possible at least one DE. We met Jill Chwojko-Frank, who was coming back the first time after having kids. She wasn’t with any club yet, just coming to get back into it; which was cool. There were three pools and I was I in the “small” pool of five (also known as Hell Pool) while the others had six each. If you think I am joking about being in Hell Pools – let me point out that in the women’s tournaments in Seattle, including this one, the number 1 and number 2 finishers have ALL come from the pool I was in. This pool had Birgit (yeah!), Kundry, Theresa Rose (of the long red hair) and Carola.
Linda, in another pool, had as her first bout, the same woman who beat her in her Battle of Seattle DE and the nemesis of the McClung clan: Hannah Sutton. Linda had been working on her body movement, attacks and lunges and immediately scored a lunging attack against Sutton. The battle was on. In the end, Sutton, a D rank, won 5-3. But, particularly as a first bout, Linda had really sharpened up her game. Eugenio Salas, Birgit’s husband was coaching Rorberg; Linda’s next opponent and her second lefty in a row. He coached Rorberg to win against Linda (Boo!). However, Linda had already sized up Jenner as the person she might be able to win against. During the bout with Jenner, she took her time and tested Jenner out, finding out that Jenner didn’t want to attack and was what we call a “mimic” (Someone who reacts by doing what you are doing – you lunge...they lunge). Linda waited and set up her attacks. I arrived to see the final lunge; a double point. I couldn’t tell from her face if Linda won or lost. She unhooked and came over. Well? “I won!” She said. Her first tournament victory: 5-3.
In my pool, I faced off against Theresa Rose. Because I was in such a small pool and because I had Birgit (who, I was HOPING, but not expecting to win against) as well as the B ranked Kundry, I planned on winning by as large a margin as possible. With Theresa I had already picked out my spot on her upper arm and as soon as she twitched or moved her blade or extended her arm just a little, I flicked in for the touch (as you can see on the video). I was confident I could stay just out of hitting distance as I had practiced bouts in training by holding my blade down, where I would only raise it AFTER the person had lunged (I was following the style of the boxer Jack Johnson, who felt the best way to not get hit was to not be there when the punch arrived). I won 5-0.
Carola was my next opponent and I went at it exactly the same. Everytime anyone tried to bind or touch my blade, I moved the tip away, anytime an opening occurred, I went for the arm (which at my angle is the surest hit). During the bout, I used my feet constantly to keep distance. Here, on the video is the final point in our bout, where Carola is starting to guard her upper arm but is leaning slightly forward so I go straight to her head, hitting her nect before she has a chance to straighten out her arm. Bout 5-0. After the bout I fell to my knees for a while, breathing hard. It seemed too hard to get back up. A ref came over to see if I am okay and I managed to stand up again and make it back to my chair to rest.
Understand that I don’t like being a person who makes other people feel bad. It is just that I don’t train for doubles and I only look for single sure hits. So when I fence, my goal is to win 5-0. I was also noticing a problem in that, when a person attacked me, once their blade was blocked aside, I would leap into their space with my blade, so they couldn’t counter. Back at the club, with the guys, when they see me coming, they always move. These women didn’t and TWICE, I ended up stepping on someone’s foot (little overlunging there): both Theresa and Birgit (and boy did Birgit not let me forget it; she can wring out a limp as good as any professional Brazilian soccer player). My next bout was with Kundry who I thought had a rank but wasn’t sure. I got a quick lunge and then as she counter lunged I got some shoulder touches on her (as you can see in the video) and was soon up 3-1 (The video also shows a big fencing flaw – I am lunging BEFORE I straighten my arm, and sometimes I don’t straighten my arm completely, giving away my advantage – something Birgit picked up on and used to spank me).
Kundry does a quick bind and lunge and I barely get my blade back in time for a double, but I am up 4-2. This worries me. Kundry has closed my access to her shoulder and is starting her own attacks. So I look at her face. Many times I can tell how confidant a fencer is feeling by their face. When I was up 3-1 last tournament on Ellery Tucker-Williams she looked like she was in complete control of the bout. I started to believe she was; forced some attacks and in the end she WAS in complete control of the match. Kundry looked uncertain. And I was feeling pretty punk (not so great) so I decided to go for a big lunge rather than let her get another point and her confidence back. I lunge, she counters, we get double points. And I have won 5-3 against a B ranked fencer (woo hoo!) I am sucking air pretty hard (Linda said she heard me on the other side of the salle) and after shaking hands I go and face the back wall, blinking hard and trying not to burst into tears. I don’t know why this wave of near-tears comes over me. Linda says it is because I am in pain. Later I see this short video of me taking off my mask to shake Kundry’s hand.
I look as if I am about to fall over any second. “I did not look that bad did I?” I ask Linda. Yes, she assures me, most of the night, I did.
By this time I am thankful I am in the SMALL pool as I only have Birgit left. I have been mentally preparing for her usual: pushing opponents before her with her German inclined guard, deflecting their attacks before countering. They say “Ready – Fence!” I step forward and lunge, and she just manages to deflect me. ARG! We fight back and forth and at one point we become tangled, detangle and because no one called halt start at it again. Birgit gets two points on me because I keep moving my body before threatening with my tip. Bad Beth. Finally I get a point in a series of jab-retreat-counter-retreat (as seen on the video). I am on the board at 2-1. I then get a lunge hit to her neck. Birgit is sure she got my thigh first so there is an equipment check. Her cord is dodgy; sometimes it records a hit, sometimes not. The ref announces my last point will not count. SUCK! We go back to position and I calm down, sight her forearm and slide up her blade for the touch just as she does the exact same to me: double points. It is now 3-2 and I am thinking, “Well, that isn’t going to win me a bout.” I wait and then fleche her, which she must have been waiting for as she flicks my tip aside before flicking back to hit me on the chest. The last point is something strange and messy with infighting which I lose. Bout to Birgit 2-5.
The final bout is between Theresa and Carola and I am refereeing with help from Birgit. It is a close one as first Theresa gets a point then Carola does. Theresa, then Carola: 2-2, 2-3, 3-3, 3-4, 4-4. It is obvious they both want it pretty bad and are well matched. They test each other out and then attack, both miss and it resolves to a jabbing match. Theresa gets her blade around and aimed first and point. Theresa win 5-4.
I have only lost one bout and end up 6th out of the pools. This is a B1 tournament and while I sit drinking my third bottle of water I am thinking how if I can just get through and win one DE; getting into the top eight, then even if I have to withdrawl, I might finish in 6th place, and in a B1 tournament, 6th place would give me my D ranking. Now, as I am probably out of fencing for the rest of 2007, this shouldn’t matter right? But all I can see in my head is a nice shiny D with an epee through it rotating under spotlights inside my head. That is until I find out who my DE is with (“God, please don’t let it be Sutton” I pray): Monica Morrison. I find out she is a lefty. I ask someone how to fence her, they say she is “brainy” and you can’t ever make the same move twice. I am panicking; I feel doomed. I realize that I have never won a full 15 point DE as yet (though a ref this time tells me that my last DE in the Battle of Seattle should have been stopped for medical anyway). Plus, when I meet Monica, she is talking about when this happened at the NAC and when that happened at the NAC. I am thinking, “Oh, you go to the North American Cup.....don’t panic, don’t panic....too late!”
Linda had her last pool bout with Helen Thouless, the one A ranked fencer at the tourney. She and Linda have very similar styles and Linda is giving her a hard time, they come down the strip, with lunge and counter lunge, attack on the arm and counter attack blocks then go all the way back the strip doing it again. Several times Linda touches on Helen’s shoulder but not hard enough for the tip to depress and the point to count. Helen finally works her way in. At the third point I see Helen putting her tip right at the edge of Linda’s guard; making sure Linda won’t counter before she comes in for the attack to the shoulder. I want to shout out; “extend your guard!” but figure that would throw Linda as much as help her so when she looks to me, I make the motion on my own body. She fights back and it is a long bout but she loses 5-0. Afterward I tell Linda that Helen was taking her distance before attacking and Linda needed to move the guard out to give herself more time to counter when Helen would come in. Also, EXTEND the arm! Now, I bet you think I am a meanie? Except, in tournament humor, guess who Linda had for her DE? Yup, Helen again.
Linda and I had been practicing keeping distance, retreating, extending the arm, putting the guard out further and our new one; changing tactics. I told Linda, when you get to the three minutes; take the time and come up with a new tactic (since we had our DE’s at the same time and I wasn't there to help). Helen started out dominant, going up 7-0 against Linda. At this point, the ref (who is a friend of Helen’s) encourages Linda by telling her, “You can do it, get a point on her!”. She does, and she is on the board. She retreats; she extends her arm all the way and twice gets counter touches on Helen’s attack. Did she come up with a tactic over the break? Well, as her break started, she looked over to see me finish a fleche on Monica and then collapse heavily forward onto my knees crying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” So she was very distracted. Nor could she find anyone who knew if I was winning the bout or not. Still she went back to her bout and through Helen won, Linda got 6 points against Helen’s final 8 points to finish 6-15. Very respectable.
How was I doing? Well there are two stories there. I was mentally up and took a quick lead of 2-1. Monica, like many lefties, exposes her shoulder when she starts an attack (of course, you may need to be over six feet tall to see this). She came back with some bind counter-attacks, which I managed to adjust to in order to gain another two points 5-2. I didn’t want her to keep attacking me to try and catch up in points because of a particular terror I have of left handed fencers. With right handed fencers I have done so many hundreds of hours there is no move that I shouldn’t be able to figure out and counter in a few points. But if I let a left handed fencer keep doing different moves; what if they go past the six moves I usually see them do? What if they have a seventh and an eighth move that baffles me and I stand there in bewilderment as they come back? This is my terror, so I do my classic lefty attack: lunge to the outside of their hand, swing the tip under the hand and continue on to the shoulder to finish 7-3. My blade is bent and I ask the ref if I can rebend it. However, my hand and arm are shaking so badly I can’t hold the blade steady to rebend it with the weight of my foot. Plus, as I try to bend over, my entire body starts shaking. This is, in people with heart problems slang, “a bad sign.” I ask the ref if he can rebend my blade and he does. We fence on and she gets a point, I counter with a fleche, and watch as her arms falls to her side as she retreats. I am not letting this one get away. I give the last push for the touch then realize I don’t have enough strength left to stop and fall through the air before landing and sliding on my knees (this is what Linda sees on her break). Can I get up? I do, one limb at a time, using my forearms on my thigh to force my body upright. Time? I ask. Five seconds the ref says. Thank God!
I sit on my chair and drink the rest of my water during break and in what seems a few seconds I am being called back to the line. We start again. Marla is on a bench with the other SAS fencers cheering Monica on. Hey, who’s on my bench? I get points on Monica as she comes in, using speed and distance to keep away from her blade and then counter with lunges to her shoulder to make sure she keeps back and doesn't try to creep in closer (where she is more likely to hit me before I can react). By this time I am sucking air very hard. The ref asks me if I want a “medical” (a medical delay). I tell him that if I will take one if I can’t come to the line with my guard up when he calls. I am thinking at this point that if I take a medical and they ask why and I say, “Oh, I have a heart condition that puts my heart beats over 240 beats per minute and is still undiagnosed” that my chances of them letting me BACK on the strip are pretty slim. Monica is hanging tough but in the weird way that sometimes happens, I can’t miss. Yet for some reason, I am just on the verge of crying. I’m winning and almost sobbing. On point 13 she flips my blade clear away before lunging to attack, but I somehow turn my wrist and just graze her leg. As the ref calls halt we both stare at my single light and we both are probably thinking the same thing “How exactly did that happen?” It is 13-5 and I ask for the time. There is over 1:40 to go. No help there. I am breathing so fast and hard that it would be hyperventilation....except you can’t hyperventilate if you aren’t getting enough oxygen. She tries for another lunge and I pick off her shoulder. As soon as the ref calls "Fence" I immediately follow with a lunge to her neck. Bout Elizabeth 15-5. My first full DE victory (including multiple changes of tactics!).
Without taking off my cord I head to the bench on the wall. I haven’t had the strength and dexterity to pull off my body cord since my second match in the pools, but there is no one here to help me. I am heading to the bench and I think that if I can just sit down maybe I can recover and pour water on my head or something and then I might be able to do the next DE? I get close when one leg buckles and I go down on one knee. I can’t get enough air, and it feels like I am drowning. My body crumples and though I am breathing as fast as I can, I am trying to curl up into a fetal position. Some part of my brain tells me that I used to feel pretty good in that position a long time ago and since I feel REALLY shitty right now, maybe if I could just get back to that position, I would feel good again. Meanwhile, someone, I think a couple someone’s are moving me around. It turns out that Monica (my DE opponent) is the nurse specialist that teaches rounds at a hospital. It is hard to tell what is happening to my body as everything seems so far away. Somewhere near Finland my feet are propped up and down in Brazil my head is propped up on something. Monica is trying to find my pulse and saying heart conditions to me so I can nod. “beats” ....... “over” ......... “200” I tell her and try between my breaths to say, “Oxygen.”
As Linda’s bout finishes, Birgit unhooks her and tells her, “Your girl needs you.” Linda says when she arrived my face was panicked as I tried to breath (I like to believe my face was “focused”). “I can’t get a pulse” Monica says, meaning that my heart is racing too fast for her to discern individual beats. Monica looks down at me and wants to know if I can hold my breath. “V” ......... “maneuver” I ask referring to the Valsalva Maneuver where you hold your nose, keep your mouth closed while you try and blow as well as pushing as if you were taking a dump. So I do it, but tell her, sometimes doesn’t work. This maneuver allows contraction of the vessels and then the blood backed up behind the heart can refill the heart and stabilize. Linda meanwhile had gotten a wet cloth for my face to try and convince my body that I am drowning (because if you do the heart starts to slow down to conserve oxygen). Monica says, “I can get a pulse.” We aren’t sure if she later said, “120” or “180” after that but it was in the “you’re going to live” range (later she said in a conversation, “You can’t live with 32 all the time” meaning 32 beats per 10 seconds or 180+).
I am suppose to lie there for a while. Theresa Rose and Marla are sitting on the bench that has appeared to hold up my feet. Monica and Linda are there as is Birgit off and on. Marla wants to know that I am going to withdraw, right? I sort of agree but then say that I have to fence Helen as revenge for her beating Linda. I get into the ‘bargaining with death’ mode. “How about I just fence a few points and then withdrawl?”
“You can’t do that.” A ref appears above me, “You can’t fence a few points and then withdrawl.”
“What if I fence sitting in chair?”
Monica says, “I am the medical representative here and I am going to withdraw you.”
“In that case,” I tell Linda trying to be mature, “I think I will withdraw.” Though I then go on and point out that if I had JUST made it to the bench, no one would have noticed anything. Several people tell me this isn’t exactly true, including the ref who said that he was tempted to withdraw me during my DE. He said people going to ER isn’t good for the other fencers; a bit too much drama. Hmmmm.....it seems that no one believes that I ALMOST had the whole situation under control.
So, it’s over and this time, I do cry, just a little because while I felt bad this time, it wasn't as bad as last tournament. And that doesn't seem fair. Especially as I was sitting down all the time off strip. And I was ready to pull out when I couldn’t come to the line. Only I didn’t get to show everyone how sensible I could be. Stupid body. And either way, it's over. My last DE....for a while.
Marla starts chewing me out, in a nice way, since her boyfriend had been told he was going to have to get open heart surgery on a valve and only the day before the doctor had told them the valve had stabilized; that it was an aftereffect of an infected appendix. “You have to think about how the person who cares about you feels too” she tells me, restraining herself from giving me a kick. Yeah. Guess all my arguments about my sensitivity aren’t too convincing while still propped into the “recovery” position.
So, I recover, Helen advances unopposed; Kundry has already ruined several people’s day starting with Marla (who got her best results; leaving the pools at #8) only to meet Kundry – Marla finishes 9th; just one place away from that E rating she deserves. Kundry knocks out Annette with the cold, the number 1 from the pools, then takes out the B ranked lefty Anna Telles to meet Birgit in the finals (Remember, both in my pool). Still I am consoling myself that I will FINALLY earn my D ranking (which I get for 6th place) while being flat on my back. That is until Annette explains that because Kundry was #9 out of pools, everyone is knocked down one place. That means I will be 7th, one away from the D ranking. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Say to self; “It doesn’t matter; that’s not why I came down to fence.” Keep repeating it until I start to believe it.
I get a few minutes with Monica after I am up and around again and she explains what is likely going on. That when my heart beats fast (like when I exercise, or walk uphill too much), it beats too fast to pass on all the blood it should so I am getting starved for oxygen. This is why I have been getting headaches (not enough oxygen to the brain) as well as pain in my heart at the end of the day (because the heart is a muscle too, so if it doesn’t get enough oxygen, it hurts too). Also, she said the fatigue, fainting, sleeping so much and being able to do less and less are all compatible with a heart that has an electrical problem and is consistently beating too fast (as for solutions, she said, “It’s not McDonalds; heart diagnosis and treatment takes time”). So we talked about when it is an indicator of needing to move to the hospital and whether I should have oxygen at home (“That’s a good question, you should ask your doctor on Monday”). Her “matter of fact” conversation was both comforting (as I understand what is happening is consistent with a body exhausted from an untreated heart condition) and alarming, particularly in the way she boldly stated things I had been trying not to think about (“So, get registered, get a disabled sticker for your car....”) and how I need to live a life with "a heart beat where you can live: nothing over 150" (She doesn't need to explain what happens to people who have heart beats over 150 for long periods of time, not the way she emphasised the word "live").
Birgit went on to carve up Kundry; Kundry was making a really solid go of it but Birgit always kept the lead and advantage (I know how that feels with Birgit...a lot!). And Birgit FINALLY gets her B ranking. So congrats to her and I was glad I could be there to see it happen. I ended up with my E renewed for 2007 (Hey, I’ll trade you two E’s for a D? Anyone....anyone?) in 7th and Linda fulfilled all her goals by winning a bout and finishing 14th, definitely NOT in last place. The fencer returning after several years, Jill, had to fence against Carola from my pool to decide who got into the 16. In a very close match, Jill won 15-14; only to face the number 1, Annette (and got a respectable 8 points on her). Helen and Anna ended up sharing third.
So, we ate, we drank, Marla gave me an orange and Kundra gave us a ride back to the hotel. Anna Telles came up and told me that I had really improved from when she had fenced me from six months ago; she had been watching my bout with Monica (both lefties). Then suggested we go to an all women’s Korean spa for messages and hot pools. Sadly, we weren’t driving back (as it was in Lynnwood) – but it was obvious that she and some of the other women around us knew ALL about the Olympus Spa’s.
This was why I came down. I got one more tournament with Linda: watching her get her last point on her first tournament win. I had a good pool results; set up my plans. My point was hot and except for the “Birgit Factor” I owned the strip. Yes, I literally stepped on two toes but in our bout Monica ended up jumping on mine (and then getting the point) – so fair is fair. It was fun and it was a community (though as Linda said, one which probably isn’t letting me back without a doctor’s note). And yes, I am still physically paying for it. But unlike yesterday I don’t need help standing up or walking today – woo hoo!
And as I promised, that part of my life is over for now (Linda can still practice if she wants) – I tried to tell Mr. Ho I had a heart condition and wouldn’t be coming for training, he told me I probably just had a cold (with the implied, “work through it”). For me: no fencing, no jogging, no aerobics, no hikes, no biking, no swimming and we have to wait and see about the walking. So right now I am a little frustrated and a little angry. I know that doctors will find the problem and fix it.......sometime. But right now I have to live in today, in this body. And unless someone can give a date like April 13th or May 5th when things will turn around, I need to start coming up with some new dreams and goals. My life is not going to revolve around doctor visits and medical tests. That’s because my life isn’t on hold. There is nothing I can DO, like exercise or drink bee pollen that will make things better; so I need to find something beyond the pain and the humiliation and the helplessness that stamps “This is MY life” all over my days. I am starting to think about that Girl Armour. I dunno, do you think Warrior Wheelchair Goth Babe could work for me?
6 hours ago