Im finally back in Melbourne after a few days of R and R in the country. Something I like to do after the craziness of the last month leading up to this competition. Juggling training, the physio / massage therapy and trying to get everything done at work tends to be really draining for me so I like to reward myself with a break from everything. It gives me a chance to catch up with friends I haven't seen for a while, indulge in a drink or two and treat myself to some yummy but not necessarily very healthy food, ie Chocolate!
This year at Nationals our club took only a small group of more experienced fighters, leaving the developing squad at home. As traveling to Nationals can be quite demanding financially, entrance fees into the competition, transport costs to and from and also while your their along with accommodation and food, I think it's a good idea. Without even trying I believe my budget was over $750 for three days in Canberra. Accommodation is usually the killer for me when I'm on my own so this time I looked into staying at the A.I.S.
Probably the best decision I've made and wish I had of known about it last year.
For $97 a night you get a simple single bed room, no problems for me as your only there to sleep. More importantly, included was access to the dining hall. Three meals a day, all you can eat and a huge variety of really clean, healthy and delicious food. The first night I walked in my eyes nearly fell out of my head, there was pasta and sauce, fish, vegetables, fruit, salad, desert and the list goes on. As I was carb loading before the competition I ate plenty of pasta and finished with a small plate of pudding for desert.
It was interesting looking around to notice two of the other clubs competing (Hills and Tans) were also staying there along with some of the referees. On top of that there was plenty of sponsored athletes, scholarship holders and sporting teams going about there business in a very orderly and professional manner.
The AIS had a good feel about it, the thought of staying there as a guest were Olympic medalists had trained and lived their dreams was awe inspiring.
It put me in a good mental state for the up coming competition which I was going to need.
After weighting in on Friday I looked at the draw to find surprisingly that I had a bye first round. On top of that I was going to compete against the winner between Marcus (last years overall winner) and Neil (who knocked out an extremely good competitor the year before). I had a number of mixed feeling and thoughts, firstly why would they give me a bye, I have done nothing to deserve it. It also posed the question of why were they not seeding us as had been previously mentioned because surely last years winner had earned the right to a bye for the first round.
In any case I quickly forgot about the why and began focusing on the how. How was I going to compete against these two extremely good athletes and survive? Anxiety, doubts and fear where flooding my mind.
All those negative thoughts trying to talk myself down, trying to talk myself out of the competition. Letting them run wild is never a good thing so I focused on changing the way I though about the situation. After all Taekwondo is as much a mental game as it is physical. I kept telling myself to believe in myself, that if I can find the strength I did for the Gold Coast Open that I can beat anyone. That I can defeat Marcus and regardless of the result it will be good to compete against him. If he is the bench mark for my division then it will be a great experience.
As the day neared 3pm, all the black belts began warming up. I've learnt that this time for me is critical. My preparation before a fight directly determines how I perform on the courts. Competitions where I haven't had a great warm up I believe I have underperformed the most recent being my last Vics. I'm still learning what works for me so am constantly trying different things out. On this day I elected to start my warm up with a 10 - 15 minute jog with a sprint at the end.
Shortly afterwards I was kicking the pads and practicing my foot work while doing so. My body felt really good and really sharp. With Tom giving me encouragement I felt I had a real opportunity to create an upset and maybe win a match or two. My confidence was growing.
By the time I was due to compete some 2 to 2.5 hours had passed since I'd started my warm up. The process of going through marshalling, getting fitted with the electronic chest guard and finding a court seems to take forever. I feel a mixture of being relaxed and anxious, a good combination as the nervous adrenalin keeps me sharp and relaxed muscles are fast muscles.
I've known Marcus for a while now, we have trained together and their is a friendly respect between us. Even so when stepping on the mat all that must get pushed aside as we both want to be victorious.
Starting the match cautious I believe the first round ends without score. Carlo instructs me to let it all go, it's clear that I'm holding back as I'm reluctant to over commit and make a mistake.
The next round goes by quickly, he scores, I finally get one back then he gets it back again.
By the third round we are both tiring though I don't think our match is filled with a flurry of kicks. As the clock ticks down and I'm behind on points I recall making two clear errors one of which could of swung the match in my favour.
As quickly as it starts it seems to end with Marcus winning 7 to 5. He is a talented player always having an answer for when I scored. I never really felt in control of the match and struggling for a bit of fitness towards the end, I wasn't able to step it up when I needed to.
Though I haven't watched the tape, I already know two things I need to work on. Fitness is one and that means putting into place a cradio program. I watched some of the other competitors and I'm awestruck by what they are capable of doing, doubles after doubles after doubles and seemingly not getting tired.
The good thing about this years competition was the black belts were competing on both days, with my division on the Saturday. I thought this was great as the competition finished at a reasonable hour (9pm) and it gave me a chance to socialize with my peers. Funnily enough I met up with most of the guys in my division and headed out for celebratory drinks and we all got to have a relaxing day on Sunday watching the rest of the black belt divisions.