Wednesday, February 13, 2013

King and Queen's Rapier Championship

So the weekend had the chances of being unforgettable for a few reasons.  With the snow coming in, we could have wound up sliding off the highway and into a ditch, never to be heard from until spring in the Adirondacks.  But we found Nemo and just kept swimming along until we arrived in Montreal.  But now for some of the back story...

In October, the idea was proposed of chartering a bus from NJ to Montreal for K&Q Rapier.  I looked into it and figured we'd need 36 people minimum to make it work.  40 would have been preferred.  We wound up with 35 people, but due to circumstances and real life, we ended up with only 27 on the bus.  The good thing was almost everyone had a row to themselves.  The bad news was, some of our friends would not be making it.


So the weather was looking dicey with a storm coming in from the west and a nor'easter developing and dropping snow on the area Friday morning.  But like the intrepid adventures we are, we arrived in South Plainfield, NJ at our pick up spot.  Many thanks to Sir Antonio and Elizabeth for the use of their driveway as a parking lot.  Everyone arrived by 9:30, but the bus was not there.  Finally the bus arrived about 9:45 or so, and we loaded up the luggage and started boarding.  The roads in NJ were not bad until we hit the northern most part of 287, just before the NY Thruway.  Once on the Thruway, the roads were pretty clear until we hit the Adirondacks.  But our driver, Paulo, was awesome.   We had some movies playing on the bus ride and people mixed and mingled.

At the border crossing, I had to get off the bus and speak with the Canadian Customs Officers.  They asked the basic questions, "What were we going to do while in Canada; how long were we staying; and where were we staying?"  They explained that they wanted to look under the bus and then would check passports.  After coming onto the bus, they asked about the crown they found.  This was the Princess of the East's crown who was travelling with us.  They also asked about the SCA.  One pointed out that he thought Alexander looked like he'd be pretty dangerous with an axe.  From there it was a little over an hour to the hotel.

We arrived in Montreal at the hotel and already a large contingent of fencers had beat us to the bar.  Check in was pretty smooth.  I had two reservations in my name, neither of which for a room I was staying in.   I wound up bunking with Antonio, while Kiena and Mable took one of my rooms, and our bus drivers were in the other room.  After dropping the bags, the group kind of broke up as people sought dinner.  I wound up heading into Chinatown with a bunch of people.  The recommended place looked at us strangely since we did not have a reservation, so we headed down the street and found a place to eat.  The food was tasty, especially after the bus ride.

Back at the hotel, we had the bar filled.  Over the course of the weekend, I was reminded of Birka, being in the hotel with good friends, hanging out for the long weekend.  At some point I headed up to the room and crashed.  I didn't sleep too well in the hotel bed.  I just could not get comfortable.

Saturday (morning and afternoon)

I woke up and headed down to the restaurant for breakfast.  Normally when I am going to fence, I can only have a light meal, so I think it was a Coke and a croissant.  Edmund staggered down about 9:05 thinking he had missed the bus.  Staggered is the right word as he was still drunk from the night before.  Back up to the room, I packed my gear for the day in my fencing case.  Getting back downstairs, we loaded up the bus and waited for Ian and Declan.  The bus ride to the event was pleasant.  We pulled up to the site, and I had to laugh as I heard a couple of people gawking in French about the fact that we had rented a bus, and why had they not thought of that.

I was still exhausted from the lack of sleep, so I chose not to warm up too much before the pool.  I did a little to get myself loose and just figure out the size of the lists (tiny).  I wound up in a pool with Ogedai, Thomas, Bruce, and some guy from Carolingia.  We were supposed to have one more person, but she never showed up, so I'd only get four fights in my pool.  I wound up undefeated and advancing out of the pool with Ogedai.  When people asked how I did, I said "OK."  I didn't feel great, but was feeling pretty good.

There was a conference call the royalty had to attend, so there was a lengthy delay between the end of the pool and the double elimination portion for those who advanced.  Even though I knew I advanced it was still somewhat shocking when my name was called.  I did a warm up with Malochio prior to the 16 being announced and then just before the bouts were announced with Pascual.  I had to borrow some defensive secondaries from Pascual as I had not brought any of mine.  I was not expecting to need them.

My first bout was with Don Alain Longship.  I don't recall much of how the bout went (which is odd), other than I won it in the third pass with a nice thrust to the throat.  I think we had agreed to match forms.  My next opponent was Don Griffith Davion.

I think this was the fourth straight year that I have faced Griff in the elimination portion of K&Q.  We agreed to match forms.  I managed to catch him with a beautiful thrust up the middle on the first pass.  I think that may have woken him up as I came no where near close to him on the next two passes.  I did however take cloak out as a defensive secondary during the second pass of the bout.  It was the first time in many years I had pulled out a cloak in a tournament.  I think I may have to fight more often with one.  The reason for the cloak was that when I saw him pull a buckler, all I could think was:  lefty vs righty and both with bucklers doesn't sound like much fun.  He hit me with a beautiful rising shot just inside my left arm over the cloak.  I had the line blocked on his initial shot, but he changed it and I was dead.  The last pass, I don't recall.

So I got knocked down to the one loss list.  Next loss and I'd be out of the tournament.  My next opponent was Don John Radburne.  In the first bout, he took a stick, and I took a buckler.  I landed a thrust in his right armpit, over his sword.  So I'm up 1-0 in a best of three.  John grabbed case, so I grab single.  He then puts down his secondary, and I pick up my dagger.  We go back and forth like this for about a minute.  Finally we start the pass, he with single, me with rapier and dagger.  Knowing I can't fight him from range I made the plan to close and close hard.  After posturing and positioning, he wound up close to the corner of the list.  I parried one of his attacks and closed hard, taking his right arm with the point of my sword.  I continued closing and got the kill with the dagger, winning the bout.

My next bout would be my last for the day, but I faced off against Lord Guthfrith Yrlingsson.  I've had the pleasure of fencing him at Birka a few years back and was looking forward to facing him again.  We agreed to match forms.  In the first bout, we both had single.  I legged him, but then stepped in a little to close and he landed a nice touch on my belly.  Down 0-1, we then took defensive secondaries.  I took the buckler, he had a stick I think.  At one point, I went for a short lunge, and he tagged me in the chest on the way in, with my foot up in the air.  I brought my foot down early, trying to stop my momentum, and landed ok, until the lower leg shifted forward slightly, scraping bone on bone in my ankle.
(For those of you who don't know, I have no cartilage in my right ankle, having destroyed the joint back in 2002.  Fencing was part of my rehab program after my physical therapy benefits expired.)  
The pain I felt can only be described as intense.  Its not the first time this has happened, it won't be the last time either.  Thankfully, while VERY intense, it is also short lived.  It usually lasts about 5-10 minutes and then fades pretty quickly.  Some nice people carried me out of the list.  One got me two bags of snow to keep it from swelling more than normal.  So I was dead and out of the tournament prior to the pain.

All in all, it was a good day for me in the tournament.  I finished in the top eight and had fun.  I was more relaxed than I have been in a long time.  I'm still not sure if I am fencing better than I was prior to injuring my shoulder a few years ago, but I come out of this tournament content, knowing I gave it my best.

I go into K&Q with the goal each year of wanting to be considered for Queen's Champion.  I want to finish high enough, but fight clean enough that I would be in consideration.  I think that goal was accomplished this year.

After the finals, it was time to wait around for court.  We had originally scheduled with the bus company to have pickups from the event at 4:00, 6:00, and 9:00.  Fencing had not concluded at 4:00.  By 6:00, court was in mid-swing with many of us waiting to see Frasier get inducted into the Order of the Silver Crescent.  They way court was running, most of us packed up and got our stuff on the bus before the conclusion of court.  Once court finished, we got everyone other than Davius and Kiena back on the bus and headed back to the hotel around 7:00.  They would stay for feast, but this meant the bus only had to make one trip back.

Saturday (evening)

So back at the hotel, Antonio didn't want to brave the cold Montreal night in search of food, so we decided to order pizzas in.  Along with Alexander and crew, and Pat, we had about 10 people in with us.  As we waited for the pizzas, I was starving, having barely eaten anything all day, so I had a beer and poutine.  The pizza came and we all piled into Raff and Pascual's room.  Then more and more people started hanging out, and by the end of the evening, I think every Scadian who was staying in the hotel had been in their room at some point.  I was exhausted and I think i may have been the first to head to bed.  


Breakfast was had, check out was performed, and onto the bus we went.  The ride was uneventful, finally stopping south of Albany for some lunch and a break.  We arrived back at Antonio and Elizabeth's home to find our cars cleared off.  Goodbyes were said, flat tire was fixed and everyone was on their way home.  I went out to dinner with Jennie, Antonio, Elizabeth, and the kids.  Coming home I crashed hard.

Lessons Learned

In planning for this adventure, working with the hotel and bus company to make all the travel arrangements was a lot of stress.  I think I was more stressed about this trip than my first real attempt at running an event, which was Mudthaw.  Part of this was I didn't want to let my friends down.  Another part was taking money from friends.  I'm someone who likes to spoil those close to me.  Having to chase down money from people is not something I enjoy doing and would rather not do.  Thankfully, Raff is pretty damn good about it so having her help with the financial stuff was key.  Having to do all the arrangements via phone and email is tough as I like to be able to see the person I am working with.  I had not seen the hotel prior to checking in.  Thankfully, things worked out better than I expected.  

I was stressed on Thursday leading up to getting on the bus due to weather.  Jokingly, I said the alternate plan would be to stop at Great Wolf Lodge in Lake George if the roads were impassible.  Honestly, I was worried about everyone's safety and enjoyment and I felt responsible as such.  

The good thing is that now we have the institutional knowledge to pull a trip like this off again.  Hanging out at the hotel to me was the best part of the weekend.  Just seeing friends from all over gather in one place and enjoying each others company, I think that is what I love most about the SCA and fencing in the SCA in particular.  TOADs, Tadcaster, Sharc, whatever, I think we all had a great time.  So what if it was Montreal in a blizzard, I want to do it again (only this time with Jennie there with me, because I missed her terribly).