Upcoming Events

Well first off, Merry Christmas to all! And if you aren’t the Christmas type, I hope you had a good day off from work!
The gyms were all closed yesterday, so I went to see the new Star Wars movie again with a team mate. Today it is back to the grind! BJJ gym is still closed today, but I am meeting up my regular drilling partner before heading off to my shift at work. Gotta get those reps in!
The current attack plan for the first few months of 2018 is:

January 15-22 – European Championships in Lisbon, Portugal.

I can only afford to be there for the days that I could possibly compete. Gotta get back to work by the 21st. At least jet lag doesn’t exist to me anymore for a Europe trip (after a few trips to Asia).

February 3 – Atlanta International Open

This is an easy day trip for my crew since it is only a 3ish hour drive from Nashville. I’ve kept my one day off from work as a Saturday – so I can make it easily to these day trip events without having to barter time off from work… I’ll be doing plenty of that already this year.

February 17 – Team Shawn Hammonds Team Training

One of the funnest events of the year! Last february we had over 30 black belts on the mat and so many people that it was just wonderful chaos! I was promoted to purple belt at the 2017 team training and I look forward to seeing all the promotions this next year!

February 24 – Mexico City International Open Gi and No Gi

Past experience has taught me that I need to arrive several days early in Mexico City – in order to adjust to the altitude. I haven’t worked out a flight yet, but it is on! Barring work putting their foot down (I have a pretty flexible job).

My concern here is whether there will be any purple belt ladies competing here or not. But I think it will work out! Plus it will be great to see friends again!

March 7-11 – Pan Championships in California

I’m waiting on the preliminary schedule to be released before I start thinking about booking a flight. Gotta go out there, smash, and then get back to work.

Since I am a part timer at work, I’m fairly flexible with time off. I just have to at least make an effort to find someone to cover my shift and I’m good to go. I’ll be making trips as short as possible though because I do need a cash flow to make all this happen. It’s a balancing act that I think I have finally gotten worked out!

I will hear from the Japanese Embassy in a few weeks about my application. But I’m not gonna just sit on my hands in the meanwhile! Gotta keep moving and trying to be a little bit better every day! (Except for yesterday… yesterday I ate half a pie)

New Routine

The past few months now I have finally gotten something I have wanted for years: a self-motivated drilling partner who is enthusiastic about getting up early for an hour or so of extra work on the mats before morning class!
So every morning, we get in at least an hour of work -focusing mainly on transitional movements. It has been paying off since he went from silver and bronze at a local event to gold at the IBJJF Cincinnati Open. I managed a bronze in the open and got an “attagirl” from coach. I don’t think coach has ever seen me work a passing game at an event before, but he said I looked really smooth. I even got compliments from other girls coaches for fluidity in transitions. So… gonna keep at the morning drills!

My current daily routine consists of a 6 am wake up, drilling starting at 8:30, sparring class at 10:30, and work from 1-5. I can fit an evening training session in periodically but I find with the early morning wake up (gotta take the bus from across town), I get pretty wore out by the time I’m off work. When I get closer to events I push through for several nights a week, but when I’m not feeling the pressure of a looming events I just go home and get some sleep. Yea, im getting old; ready for bed by 9 now.

I competed in the Asian Championships this year as a middle weight and brought home a silver medal. I felt really good and strong at that weight – without sacrificing speed. I am contemplating continuing the next competition season at middle. Plus is that I get to compete at a very natural weight for myself – where I’m usually training at. Down side: no abs… but aesthetics have never been a huge deal for me. I’d rather be strong and enjoying my Olympic lifts. Can’t do those and make light anymore!

There is the very real possibility that I might move to Japan for a couple years starting this summer. I received a very strong recommendation for an exchange program and will hear back from the embassy in a few weeks. The final decision if I am offered a spot on the program would depend on location in Japan – whether there is a good Jiu Jitsu academy nearby for me to train at. There are so many factors at play that I haven’t even shared much about this option publicly. All I can say is that I will be giving this next competition season everything I have. It’s scary, but it is good to have options! One thing that will never change is that through all of it I will eventually earn my black belt from my instructor Shawn Hammonds.

Well that’s it for my “sitting at the bus depot downtown” update. Maybe I’ll come up with something more eloquent later?​

Interview with Nichole Herold

It has been quite a whirlwind for me these past several months, but I have been wanting to introduce everyone to an awesome team mate of mine. She is the original Nichole at my gym and over the years has inspired me so much by her dedication and willingness to just grind and stick it out, despite having so many exceptional reasons and excuses to let herself just fade away from our training mats.

Life happens to everyone, and everyone’s journey is different. That is the beauty of it. All that is required for us is to do the best we can with what we have. I hope that Nichole’s story can help inspire you to persevere and chase what you love!

Quick stats: introduce yourself!
My name is Nichole K Herold. I am a Shawn Hammonds one stripe blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I am 28, married, and Mom to a beautiful little one year old boy with Cerebral Palsy.

What was your athletic background before Jiu Jitsu?
I did Taekwondo from the age of eight to nine years old. I played a lot of team sports such as; soccer, flag football, and basketball from elementary through my high school years.

How did you wind up starting Jiu Jitsu, and when?
I started Jiu Jitsu in 2010 as a result of my love for Martial Arts that stemmed from when I was in Taekwondo. I was looking for something with a little more realistic fighting style.

img_2136Can you remember how it felt starting out? If so, can you describe it?
Starting out was a nerve wracking, and exciting thing for me. I was embarking on a new adventure so I had no idea what to expect. I was kind of just figuring out how everything worked, so there was a little bit of confusion for me as well. It was a great feeling of relief when people helped me how to find my place in this grand adventure

When did you know you were hooked?
I was hooked when I took my first full class. I was so frustrated with everything from work and school, but once class was over I felt this overwhelming sense of peace, relief, and stillness. It was something I had been searching a long time for, and I hadn’t been that happy in all that time.

What struggles have you overcome and persevered through during these past years?
Over the years I have dealt with being an on and off college student. In 2012 I found out that I had Crohn’s Disease and that put a hiccup in my training as well as I had to figure out my new diet and medication balance.

Getting my body re acclimated to Jiu Jitsu training wasn’t easy. Some days I would have a Crohn’s attack during class and be forced to stop training. Other days I would have an attack before class and be forced to turn around and go home because it was so bad.

img_2135In 2013 my then fiancé (now husband) and I both lost our jobs, right after purchasing our own house. I was forced to drop out of school and take a job as a corrections officer (which I absolutely hated!), the hours of which kept me out of Jiu Jitsu for about a year. That job caused me to sink into a deep depression and drink a lot – my family was extremely concerned for my safety at that point in my life. There were nights that I would drink a 12 pack of beer or half a bottle of whiskey so that I could sleep without nightmares from working at the prison.

Christmas of 2014 my husband and I found out that I was pregnant with out little one. For the safety of our unborn child, I quit drinking and turned in my resignation at the prison and started the journey to find myself again.

On August 6, 2015, I was 8 months pregnant when I delivered my son, Henry. I had to have an early emergency c-section due to a lack of fetal movement. We went to his well appointments and he wasn’t meeting all physical milestones for his age. After numerous doctor visits and an MRI we learned that Henry had suffered a stroke during the last trimester of pregnancy. My family and I were devastated and I cried for days.

img_2137At this point Henry began physical, occupational, speech, and feeding therapy. He currently has therapy four times a week and I have to help him stretch five times a day. At this point I had not been able to train any Jiu Jitsu for almost two years. The few times I could make it to class, Henry would become bored and irritable because he could not amuse himself, so I would have to leave early. It was one of the few things that kept me sane however.

Winter of 2016 I had enough of trying and told myself that if I could not find someone to watch him, I would have to quit training until he could begin kindergarten. I talked to my coach, Shawn, as well as a gym affiliate owner. They said we would work something out, and then the affiliate owner, Jason, told me that he had someone who would watch Henry for me during classes. So I changed over to our affiliate gym and officially began regular training again in January 2017.

Currently, I am able to make it to three classes a week and am back in school again, studying for my bachelor degree in Management and Human Resources with a minor in Cyber Defense. I will be then going for my Masters degree in Cyber Defense and hope to get into the field of ethical hacking. I plan to graduate spring of next year.

What are your top three moments in your Jiu Jitsu career thus far?
I would say the top moments are:
I didn’t quit.
I won an IBJJF Open as a white belt.
I made it to the quarter finals at Pans despite so little training. I was a corrections officer during that time and was able to train so infrequently that it surprised my team mates how well I did.

What were the three toughest points in your Jiu Jitsu career?
I can’t say that I have three tough points. I would say I’ve had a tough time in general getting to train because of life.

What made you decide to keep coming back to train?
That feeling I had when I first started training. I missed that feeling and yearned to feel it again.

How has Jiu Jitsu changed you as a person?
It has made me more patient. I’ve never been one to wait much on anything. It took me a while but I have calmed down a lot in the long run.

Would you do it again?
If I knew what I know now, HELL YES!! Good things come in different packages and at different times. It is frustrating to see the people that started after me be ahead of me, but God made everyone’s life different. My path is different from everyone else’s. I am proud of that and I own it! My time will come for my black belt, and when it does, I know I will have earned it!

If you could time travel: what would you say to yourself just starting Jiu Jitsu, one year in, and third year in?
Beginning: CALM DOWN! This is not a death match.
1st Year: Focus on one thing at a time. Get better at the things you suck at.
3rd Year: Keep pushing. Keep doing better. This is you all day, every day. Doubt comes and goes but as long as you don’t feed or give into it, it will hold no power over you.

Parting Words?
Much of life is about growth, love, laughter, and getting back up when you are knocked down. Finding out who you are and being comfortable with what you find is a huge key. Jiu Jitsu has been that key for me these past few years.

Belt color shows how much hard work and time you have put in, but the reason you see people reach higher belt levels is because they didn’t give up and they didn’t focus on the journey of other people. They focused on their own journey.

If you keep looking at other peoples journey, you are going to miss the lessons you should have learned that would make you a better person and better at Jiu Jitsu.

Just focus on you and be the best version of you each and every day. Take what you learned yesterday and focus on how you can improve on it today.

Click Here to follow Nichole on Instagram!

Your First Competition

I just finished my last training session at home before I fly out to compete in the European Championships. I’ve had a lot of things processing in my mind in these months away from the competition circuit. I’m sure these things will trickle out in my next few posts, but right now I am going to cover a special request topic.
I have been working with a student lately who is very nervous at the idea of competing for the first time. So I promised a special post summarizing the process.

Do you want to do it?
Ignoring all the nerves, you need to ask yourself if it is something you want to do. I recommend pushing through fear and just doing it, but if you don’t have at least a glimmer of desire to try, then it’s a stupid thing to be doing really.

So let’s say that you do have an inkling of desire to compete. The next hurdle most people face is trying to decide when you are ready. The truth is, if you wait until you feel ready, you will never do it. If you know how to hip escape, know a sweep/takedown, and know a submission; then you know how to finish a complete match. All the instructors I know encourage anyone who has this basic level of skill to dive on it and give it a go.

Division Decisions:
I don’t recommend worrying too much about fitting yourself into a particular division when you are first starting out. There is no need to put more stress on yourself than what is necessary – so don’t worry about cutting 10 lbs to make the lower weight class. I’m not saying to eat junk the week leading up to your matches! Eat sensible, balanced meals that will help fuel you – and just compete at whatever weight you find most comfortable. I have competed in many different weight classes in the last several years, and used those experiences to determine where my sweet spot is. The first few competitions however, I think are all about getting the jitters out of the way so that you can then start making those kind of decisions.

The Actual Competition:
Each event will be slightly different depending on which organization runs it. They do all follow this general flow:

* Registration
* Weigh Ins
* Bracketing
* Matches
* Awards

Registration
Some competitions will allow you to register at the door, and some require you to pre-register online. I know of one organization that accepts mailed in registrations as well. Make sure you don’t miss the registration deadline! A lot of organizations offer discounts for early registrations as well.

Make sure to double check with your instructor as to what team to list yourself under. This can make a difference as you will be earning points for yourself, as well as your team – and if you list the wrong team name then your contribution will not be counted.

Know if there is a cut off date for changing your registration details (rank, age, weight class, etc).

Weigh Ins:
Many competitions allow registered competitors to weigh in the evening before the competition begins. Some weigh you in five minutes before your match begins. The event website or flyer should have that information listed. It is important to note if you will need to weigh in with your Gi on, or if you can strip to your skivvies.

Most of the time when you are weighing in just before your match begins, you will be required to wear your uniform – so factor in the weight of your complete uniform when you are deciding which weight class to register for. Also note whether there is a weight allowance or not. One organization may subtract a pound from the scale reading to account for clothes or possible scale variations – another may not. Some competitions will move you to another division if you do not make weight, some will disqualify you from participating.

I remember when I competed in the European Championships last year and there was a girl who thought the provided “test” scale was the official weigh in scale. So she checked her weight, and then proceeded to sit down and drink a liter of water and eat her snacks. When the division was called she was in front of me at the official weigh in scale – on her knees begging and crying to be allowed to compete even though she had eaten and hydrated herself over the limit for the official weigh in. Unfortunately, she did not read the rules and suffered a disqualification for not making weight.

Moral of the story: do your homework and know the rules!

On That Note:
Know the rules for your event and division! There should be rules listed on the organization’s website, and I highly recommend reading the entire book before the event. Most of the time you will find restrictions on the types of submissions and moves you are allowed to do depending on your belt level.

For example: Most competitions do not allow heel hooks or knee reaps. Often the more advanced leg attacks are only allowed for upper level belts. For some children divisions, no submission attempts are allowed.

I remember one time I finished a submission on a girl and she got up, screaming at me and the referee that I wrist locked her. She did not know that it was a legal move in that division, and her lack of knowledge left her vulnerable to the attack.

So just make sure you know what are the allowable moves for your division at the event you are attending. In most cases, what you are taught in your normal classes is perfectly acceptable – but just be sure!

Additional Note:
Know the rules in regards to uniform requirements. Some events don’t care if you want to wear your fabulous tie dye Gi – others have strict requirements down to the color of the stitching in your collar. This information should be included in the rule book – but when in doubt, ask your instructor.

Bracketing:
If your event allows people to register the day of the event at the door, then division brackets will be made just before your matches. In some cases you may be called over if they need to combine divisions or move people around to allow everyone to have good match ups.

If your event is pre-registration only, in most cases finalized brackets will be published before the event begins. You will be able to view them and see who you will be fighting and how many matches you could potentially have.

Matches:
So once you know what time you will be beginning your matches, it’s time to get your game face on!

Number one thing to remember is to breathe! I don’t think I took a breath through my entire first match – my lips and fingers were blue when time was called (no, I didn’t get caught in a choke). This is the biggest hurdle you will find yourself running into – just trying to not let the adrenaline take over.

I recommend bringing along a friend or two to cheer you on and take photos/video for you. You are doing a tough thing and you need a cheer squad to support you! You will most likely have team mates at the same event, but if you are new the competition circuit, you may or may not have developed a tight bond with them yet (it will come! I promise!).

If your competition allows you to have a coach in your corner during your match, ask for one. Try to get an instructor or upper level belt with whom you are familiar. They will be able to help you by giving verbal instruction during your matches. You will have to focus to hear them – I guarantee it will be difficult with all the adrenaline and tunnel vision – but try to listen and trust them! If you don’t know where your coach is, ask the officials to call for a coach from your team. It is not an imposition for them to do so!

If the competition you are at does not have a designated area for your coach, this does not mean that you are not allowed one. They may just have to stand behind a barricade and yell a bit louder – and the officials will most likely not call them for you if you can’t find them. (make sure to have your coach’s number so you can text them if needed)

General flow of match:
* Escorted/called to table at the edge of the mat where you will be competing
* You will be instructed as to which side of the table or mat you are to enter from.
* Do not step onto the mat until the referee motions you to do so!
* Sometimes you will be required to wear a different colored belt or band for scoring purposes – if they hand it to you, just put it on.
* Referee will motion you onto the mat. Most people develop an entrance ritual – some elaborate, some not so much. You will find yours. Try to not make your opponent or the referee wait five minutes for an elaborate ritual though – it’s a bit rude to hold up the match.
* Shake the referees hand. They will usually motion you to shake hands with your opponent as well – although most people automatically go to shake hands without the encouragement.
* The referee will ask if you are ready (a quick nod is an acceptable response), and then give the signal to begin the match.
* During the match, focus on breathing. Listen to your coach. Listen to the referee.
* If at any point the referee give the signal to stop, freeze right where you are. It could be that you have drifted (or flown) out-of-bounds and you need to move back into the center of your mat space. However, you do not want to lose a good position – so make sure you freeze so that the referee can reset you in the same position you were in. (bonus tip: when walking back to the center during a reset, this is a good time to make eye contact with your coach so they can give you some instruction when you are not in the heat of the moment)
* When the match has ended – be it a submission or time running out – be gracious regardless of the outcome. Straighten your uniform and return to your starting position as quickly as your wobbly legs and shaky hands can get you there (adrenaline, gotta love it). The referee will raise the hand of the winner and then usually motion for you to once again shake hands. Make sure to shake the hand of the referee again before you turn to exit the mat space. If they had you wear an extra belt or band for scoring purposes, make sure to return it.
* Check with the table worker to see if you have any more matches.

Congratulations! You made it through your first competition match! You will likely find that you feel much more exhausted than you usually do after sparring a round in class. This is normal – the adrenaline kicks up the intensity and makes you use a lot more energy than you usually would.

Random Tips:

* If you think you’ve brought enough water, bring more.
* Pack warm layers. Events are usually held in gymnasiums or arenas where you can’t count on it being a set temperature. I have to pack a couple of sweaters when I compete in Las Vegas – 110 degrees outside, but my fingers are going numb inside.
* Bring snacks. Most venues do have food available, but it is usually ball park type (hot dogs, popcorn, etc) and not really the type of food you want to be putting into your stressed out system. I recommend various fruits, trail mix, granola bars, and peanut butter.
* Honey is super useful to bring in case you are prone to blood sugar crashes under stress like I am. Also, make sure you are stocked with electrolytes as well.
* Bring an extra Gi. If your Gi rips or does not pass inspection, you will be required to quickly change or be disqualified. In a pinch you can usually purchase a new Gi at an event or find someone to borrow one from, but why take that risk?
* If you need to ask the table worker official a question, try to wait until they are not occupied with keeping score of an ongoing match.
* Headphones. I consider this to be an absolute necessity. Listen to whatever puts you in a calm, focused frame of mind. As a person who ranges from Gospel to Kpop – you’ll get no judgement from me.
* Make sure someone films your matches! I’ll just prop my phone or GoPro up on the table if no one is around to film for me. You will be thankful later! I’m still sad that I don’t have any video from my first competition.

In Conclusion:
This was a huge information dump! If anyone has any other input, or questions, please comment!

Tokyo – Shrines, Crepes, Pandas, and More

This trip has been so long in the making! I am trying to slow time down and enjoy myself – a strategy that seems to be working so far. I know that when I get back home it will seem to have just been a blink, and all I will have are memories. So I’m making sure they are memorable memories! This post is going to be a long one since I am playing catch up for a few days… I am making up for the length by including awesome photos!
I usually do formatting on the computer at home… so please forgive me if the layout isn’t on par with my norm!

Day 1: The Transit

   
Transit day was loooooooong and rough. I woke up at 6 am in Los Angeles, walked 1.5 miles to the bus stop, waited about 30 minutes past the scheduled bus arrival (expected in LA), and got to the airport a little after 8 am. 
I was unable to check in for my flight online or at the kiosk because apparently they had added my dog, Dante, to my reservation. That requires a check in at the special services counter. That line is usually slower than the regular check in line. Thankfully there was a staff member at the head of the line who got me taken care of so I was able to get checked in and to my gate on time.
My flight left at 10:30 am, was scheduled for 11 hrs, landing at 2:20 pm the same day. Gotta love time zone jumps! I had a window seat next to a couple who spoke about as much English as I speak Japanese (not much). I could pick out general words and slowly got better over the course of the trip. They believe I am a Judoka and I choked on the words to explain Jiu Jitsu… So we settled on Judo. I have some basic knowledge… Very basic knowledge…
  

The first half of the flight was uneventful beyond that. The second half however… Not so good since I managed to develop a terrible migraine. My newly adopted Japanese Auntie was concerned and I had to keep reassuring her “daijōbu desu”. She wasn’t convinced, especially when I had to zoom to the bathroom to puke. Mercifully I fell asleep and was woken up by an airline staff member to receive my breakfast meal. I couldn’t stomach any of it except the crackers and some sprite. Auntie of course noticed and kept offering me her food options (I had ordered a low sodium meal). It was nice to have someone taking care of me!
Upon departure, I thanked her profusely for her help, and then made my way through customs, picked up my mobile wifi unit, and then headed for my airbnb location in Tokyo. My head was most unpleasant and I had to lie down and try to sleep as soon as I arrived around 6 pm.

Day 2: The Great Explore
First order of business: coffee. My head was feeling much better after a solid 12 hours of shut eye.

  I climbed up a small hill near the train station to wait out morning rush hour. I thought it was a park, but it ended up being a neighborhood cemetary. I snapped a quick photo from the edge so as not to disturb anyone visiting.

  I consulted with my brother and determined to first visit the Meiji Shrine, followed by a crepe in Harajuku.

  

Thankfully the shrine wasn’t too busy, although I think I got there before the bulk of the tour groups. The main entrance gate was closed for what looked like some restoration work, but everything else was just as I had remembered it!  

Afterwards, I walked the length of Takeshita Dori to my favorite crepe shop, hidden in a corner on the outskirts of Harajuku.  

Fresh made crepe, macha (green tea) ice cream, a slice of macha cheesecake, whipped cream, white chocolate shavings, macha powder… yea, it was as good as it looks! 

After my crepe, I strolled down to Shibuya. It was relatively non-crowded at the crossing as I made my way to the Starbucks. I had my mind set on a macha frappe (notice a theme here?) but was distracted by their mango passionfruit offering and I just HAD to try it. it was fabulous!

My plan was to go to Akihabara next, but plans change! I made my way back up to Ueno Park and visited the zoo. They have two giant Pandas there and apparently it was feeding time because they were just sitting in their feeding rooms, chewing on bamboo sticks like bosses.

So ended my first full day in Tokyo. I rocked the mad hatter hairdo all day like a boss!

Day 2: Competition Venue

I spent most of the day at the competition venue. Had to get the lay of the land and watch the black belt ladies represent!

In Japan, everyone takes their shoes off at the entrance to the venue. Handy bathroom slippers are provided for use in the restroom – and you be nasty if you try to skip using them!


I have craved this treat since my visit last year! Coffee jelly (jello) in an espresso cream sauce! Oishii!


I like carbs on my carbs. It looks weird, but it is fresh and fabulous!


After leaving the venue, I thought a nice stroll in the Imperial Palace Gardens would be nice. unfortunately, it was closed when I arrived. So I settled for a walk around part of the perimeter before I decided to head back to get some rest for competing the next day.

Day 3: Competition Day!
Stay tuned! Follow my Instagram for my results as they happen! 5 hours from publishing this I will be warmed up and ready to rumble!

The Countdown is On

 

I have been pacing a lot today.

My packing and planning skills have left me with nothing to do today since everything is packed, everything is planned and printed off, I’m checked in for my flight tomorrow morning… So now I am making up things to do.

Currently I am letting a fresh batch of henna soak into my hair. It was just done a week ago, but I’ll take all the extra shininess I can get right now! Dante has been bathed and I am waiting for him to get picked up by the family watching him while I am gone. Hopefully after he gets picked up I will be heading over to a team mates house for a funky hairdo special just for this trip – I have no idea how it will look, but she has skills so I am going to trust her!

Tomorrow is going to be quite full! Flying to L.A., stopping by a shop to hopefully find a specific Gi, then heading over to train at New Breed Academy before checking into my airbnb place for the night. Flying to Tokyo Wednesday morning!

I will share the outcome tomorrow evening of all these pending events. For now, here is an applicable awesome song!

Vegas Recap – Moving On

Well I am finally getting settled back home after being gone for the Master World Championships in Las Vegas… Granted I will be heading out again in just a few days for Japan – so I shall enjoy my own bed while I can!

The trip was long and drawn out. I expected and planned it that way, so no room complaints. It’s all just part of the adventure!

IMG_3298I arrived in Los Angeles on schedule and then made my way to Union Station by way of the flyaway bus service. You pay upon arrival and I didn’t know ahead of time that they required a card payment. Thankfully a nice gentleman offered to pay for my ticket and I gave him cash. I shall remember that detail for next time!It was a little over a 6 hour bus ride to Vegas and I wasn’t able to sleep as well as I normally do on a bus, so I arrived at 5:00 am and was pretty beat. I needed to be at the venue at 7:45 and got the brilliant idea that I would walk from the bus depot to the venue at the opposite end of the strip (close to seven miles) in that time frame. After about two hours of walking, I realized that I was not going to make it in time, so I jumped on a bus and got to the staff check in desk right at 7:45.

IMG_3341Day 1:

I started out working as a ring coordinator. It was chaos in the beginning with my mat being held up for 30 minutes because of people not showing up for their matches. I had to finally DQ three people (out of my first 5 matches), and then I had things running smoothly (and on schedule) until my feet gave out around 1:00 pm. I requested a break and upon return was granted a table assignment since my feet were blistering from all the extra foot work for the day. I checked into my hotel around 9:30 pm and just collapsed, barely able to convince myself that I needed to shower before sleep since I was gross from travel and work.

Day 2:

Today I worked as scorekeeper/table staff until I had to leave to get ready to compete. Thankfully we had a great crew between myself, my friend Liz, and an amazing camera operator. We went through several different ring coordinators and the computer systems kept freezing up, but we finally got a system pulled together that minimized the mat down time.

I left with an hour to spare before my division started and it ended up being a much longer wait since the other mats were having problems with the system freezing as well. So it was a bit behind. My first match was a fun one! I got a sweep, pass, then back control before finishing a bow/arrow choke. My second match was textbook until I got into an awkward leg position and had to tap to a calf crusher. Coach told me afterwards “I saw it, and it looked like it hurt, but you face was calm so I figured you were okay. Then it looked worse. Then it looked like hell.” I told him it hurt from the get go.

IMG_3432

After the medics confirming it was just soft tissue injury, I decided to continue the match from the same position. I was unable to make a come back unfortunately, and coach says I lost by an advantage point. Went off to have my leg iced and wrapped, then hobbled back to work at my table.

Day 3:

Just working the table once again. I checked out of my hotel early that morning and brought my gear with me (one backpack worth). It was a shorter day and we were done at 7:30 but had to wait for them to print checks (money! yay!) so I got out close to 9 pm. I don’t find gambling or alcohol particularly enticing… so I opted for karaoke with friends. I left them at around 11 pm to make my way back toward the bus station to catch my 1:30 am bus to Los Angeles.

The bus broke a couple of hours outside of Vegas. People were cranky, but in the four hours it took for another bus to come pick up everyone, I was able to finally get some sleep! So I was content! This meant I didn’t have time to go visit the beach in L.A. before having to catch my flight back to Nashville, but at that point sleep was more important to me.

My flight landed in Nashville at 10:25 pm, made it to the gate at 10:30, and then I got off the plane at 10:38. I was precise on those times because the last bus of the night leaves the airport at 10:48. I just barely made it! I then had to walk a couple miles home from the central bus station since no other buses were running at that time. So… long story short, I got to sleep around midnight.

 

Next order of business is to recover and enjoy my own bed before I leave for Japan in just a few days. In light of the healing calf injury, I am opting to skip climbing Mt Fuji (weather forecast is thunderstorms anyhow), and go watch some sumo instead. I’m contemplating coming back for another competition next year when the weather would be slightly more predictable and I could do a Mt Fuji climb then.