So...it has been two months, unbelievably, since I last updated this blog...perhaps the 'quickest' two months of my life. As expected time seems to speed up, it is now 2012, Olympic year, and life is certainly very busy. The World Cup season has started and we are nearing the end of the qualifying tournaments. This blog is going to take the form of a diary so that you can see what I've been up to in the run-in to February.
After returning from a good result in France it was back to training ahead of the UK National Championships. The Nationals, happening in December as opposed to their usual summer date were a well run event and the Finals Hall was particularly impressive. So too was my fencing in the poules as I came through what was a tricky group, recording several 5-0 victories as I had in St Jean, to be seeded #1 for the direct elimination stages. I was given a bye through the first round and then beat club-mate Joe Nickel 15-0 in the last 32. Unfortunately I started slowly in the next round and was edged out in the last 16, a great disappointment considering how well I had fenced previously. I believe that the staging of this event at this period in the calendar is much better for the elite athletes as it fits with our periodisation, rather than occuring in the summer off-season; however the attendance at the competition was a little disappointing presumably because of the festivities around Christmas.
There was no rest after the Nationals as later that week I was off to Grantham, back to the army barracks to eat army food in the cold for a five day preparation camp ahead of the new season. The camp went really well as I continued my good form and continued to develop some new things I have been working on. On returning home I did not rest until I had a couple of days away over New Year with friends, which was a short refreshing break before the jet-set began again in earnest.
During January I was lucky enough to spend a week and a half at INSEP, the French National Training Facility, training with their centralised and funded squad of c.15 athletes. It was a fantastic sparring opportunity and has really assisted my development. Coupled with the first week I spent there, I competed in Strasbourg, a joint French and German ranking competition, in which five members of the world's top 16 were competing. Again, I fenced well, losing two in the first round poules to Lopez (FRA) and Apithy (BEN) and continued this in the direct elimination fighting my way into the last 32. There I fenced Lamboley (FRA) a finalist in last year's Budapest Grand Prix and a quality opponent. Unfortunately for me, I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and when tired, got stuck and lost 14-15 from being in a winning position of 11-4. Although the loss was a shock, I was pleased with how I fenced overall and just needed to get over the line. Later in the month I returned to INSEP for half a week training with the German as well as French teams.
The month has started with the annual trip to Plovdiv, Bulgaria. In all honesty the competition passed me by. I think the stress of the occasion got to me slightly and I didn't perform. Certainly I did not fence to the levels I expect of myself and watching my performance back on video was like watching someone else. However, there were good lessons to learn, which I have done and I have now moved on and am looking forward to heading out to Padua, Italy tomorrow for the next World Cup. We are now away every other week so there is not much time to adapt and reflect, instead a constant switch of focus is required. Of course leaving Bulgaria is never easy (see my blog here) and again it was not this year as we were snowed in at Sofia Airport and had to stay an extra night. Also, whoever decided to schedule a World Cup competition on the outskirts of Venice on Valentine's weekend needs their brain checked, but these complications occur in life. What I need to do now is put the distractions aside, focus and get the job done. Here goes....