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How Do I Decide Which Fencing Tournaments to Enter?

I have a bit of a break between fencing tournaments, triathlons, and running events for the next few weeks. Instead of a write-up on any particular event, I thought that it might be helpful to figure out why I enter certain tournaments and not others. This post was inspired by two things:

  1. I had to sit down and decide on which fencing tournaments to enter for the next few months.
  2. A discussion on a Veteran Fencing group last week about how everyone decides which tournaments to attend.

For most fencers in the group discussion, it seemed to come down to factors like distance, costs involved, and how many other fencers were going to attend.

December and April NACs

Obviously, I would enter the Veteran NAC events. But some of these tournaments also feature other levels, like Div I, Div II, or Div III. And would I enter both the Vet-40 age group and the Open Vet event? I decided that I’d do both the Vet-40 and Open Vet events at all the NACs. I almost entered Div I in the December NAC, but then decided against it. I didn’t feel like I was physically up to that level. It turned out that I was sick for part of the December NAC, so I would not have had a good day in Div I if I had entered.

I just registered for the upcoming April NAC, and this time I decided to enter both the Vet events and the Div II. I can have a good day in Div II at times. Even though the Div II event didn’t fit in with my initial goals for the season, I found that I’m already looking ahead to next year. I’d like to fence that Div I event next December, so fencing more non-Vet events like the Div II NAC should help me prepare.

Local and Regional Events

As far as local and regional (ROC) events go, I have been entering these when they fit in my schedule. I weigh the distance of the event with the costs of entry, hotel, and travel, and then look at how many fencers have entered. I fenced in a local ROC that had low attendance and a non-ROC event that was nearly as populous as a NAC. Both situations were helpful to me, I think.

I also find that I’ve been more goal-oriented in my training this year. Every day before practice I think about what my goals are for that session. The specific goals are based on how I’m feeling and how soon the next tournament is. Some of my more common goals lately have been:

  • Move well, using small footwork, patience, and don’t lean.
  • Work on the specific actions from a lesson.
  • Fence like it’s a tournament in terms of strategy and actions.
  • Work on my distance when retreating and draw the attack on my terms.

How do you decide which tournaments to enter? Do you have goals for your fencing? Let me know in the comments.

For more fencing articles, look here.

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Fencing Tournament Report – Cincinnati NAC (December 2018)

I had hoped to write this up earlier, but have been delayed by illness and holidays. This event was about 2 weeks ago and is one of several North American Cups (NAC) held every year by the US Fencing Association.

Description of the Event

What is a NAC? This is basically a series of national-level events that is run by US Fencing, with one held about once a month (October, November, December, January, March, April) during the main part of the fencing season. Each event encompasses different levels and age groups for the competition. The specific NACs for this season can be found here.

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Facing down the strip.

The location for these events rotates through different cities across the U.S. (and at least once in Canada that I remember). Ohio seems to be a favorite state this year, with events in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. The December NAC this year was open for Division I, Division II, Vet Open, Vet Age, and Senior Team events.

I went to fence in both the Vet Open and Vet Age Group events, although technically I could have also fenced in Division I and II. Division I is for fencers who are rated as A, B, or C, and those who finish high enough earn points which count toward a national ranking. Division II is for fencers who are rated C and below.

Registration

The NAC registrations are done through the USFA’s site. The deadline for entry for a NAC is more than a month ahead of the event. The site also lists who is registered, so you can agonize about your competitors for weeks ahead of time.

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A general view of the venue.

I have a C rating and am usually comfortable in Division II, but my event for Div II was on the first day of competition and the Vet events were more important for me this year so I decided to sit out Div II and stay fresh for the other events. I have fenced dozens of Division I events in the past, but decided against the extra expense of this entry for what would probably be five 5-touch bouts.

Each NAC event features an Athlete Packet which gives all the details for the venue, tournament format, and other rules.

Location and Venue

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View of the ice rink from the Westin.

Airfare for this event ended up being fairly inexpensive, so I booked a flight. My travel was uneventful and I made it to Cincinnati in the evening on Friday. The airport for the Cincinnati area is actually in northern Kentucky. I booked a shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and back.

A NAC is typically held in a convention center, where there is plenty of room for dozens of fencing strips, a finals strip, vendors, and the bout committee. The December NAC was held at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. As far as I could tell, it was a pretty standard convention center. I didn’t see that any other events shared the venue with us that weekend.

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Bruschetta with honey and goat cheese.

Cincinnati offered several large hotels within walking distance to the venue. I stayed with friends at the Westin and we scored a suite after some confusion and phone calls.

I was pleasantly surprised by downtown Cincinnati. We found plenty of places to eat (although most require reservations to get in), and there was a cute downtown square with a Christmas tree and small ice rink.

Check-In and Ticketing

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Downtown Cincinnati

US Fencing has instituted a new ticketing system for attendance at national events for this season. This was my first chance to see how it worked. Anyone with a valid USFA membership just has to show their membership card. Others pay a small fee of $5 per day or $15 for the whole event.

The typical check-in booth was located outside the event hall. I swiped my membership card when I arrived, and a staff member gave me one of those stick on wrist bands. She didn’t even put it on my wrist and just handed it to me. I ended up wearing it on my wrist, but could easily have handed it off to someone else and then gone back for another one.

I did see the person at the door ask to see the wrist bands so the ticketing was at least enforced. We were also told that we could put the band on a bag. But again, what’s to stop someone from obtaining one band, placing it on a throwaway bag, and then proceeding to hand that off to anyone who wants to enter later on that weekend?

Format and Fencing

The format for the veteran events is a round of pools followed by reseeding into a direct elimination (DE) tableau. No one is eliminated until you lose a DE bout. There is no fence-off for third place. Top 8 make the podium and receive medals. Points are awarded as well and these contribute to a fencer’s national ranking.

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The raised finals strip.

Pools are fenced to 5 touches and DE bouts are fenced to 10 (15 for non-veteran events). Video replay is allowed at a certain point in the event. I believe in my events it started in the semi-finals. The gold medal bout is fenced on the raised finals strip.

My events took place on Saturday (Vet Open WS) and Sunday (Vet 40 WS). I also purchased new blades since I had broken my last one in practice shortly before this event.

My Fencing

I started out pretty jittery in the first few bouts of the Vet Open event. I decided to do an experiment by drinking coffee and eating a bigger breakfast than I usually would have. My stomach felt uncomfortably full during my warm-up, and I’m not sure if the jitters were from the coffee or just nerves.

After the first three bouts in my pool, I settled down and began to fence better. I ended up with a 4-2 record and an indicator of +9. That ended up putting me 12th of 41 for the DE round. I fenced progressively better as the day went on and soon found myself in the gold medal bout. I ended up losing a close match to a friend and took 2nd place.

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Vet Open WS Podium (photo by Kate Sierra)

About an hour after the Vet Open concluded, I started to feel progressively more congested and soon decided that I was coming down with a cold. I stayed at the venue to watch the MS event, had a nice dinner with another club’s fencers and coaches, and then went to sleep.

Day 2 of my fencing found me well-rested but definitely sick. I didn’t feel too bad if I moved slowly, so I worked on some writing in my hotel room before the afternoon Vet 40 event. I stuck with the same nutrition plan – good breakfast plus coffee.

My warm-up was very minimal because I felt like I had a very tiny amount of energy to use for the day. The Vet 40 event was significant smaller than the Vet Open, with only eleven fencers. I tried to fence without moving much, because whenever I exerted myself, my heart rate skyrocketed and I was winded in just seconds.

Given my illness, I didn’t do half badly, ending up with a 3-2 record and an indicator of +6. That put me into 4th place going into the DE round. I managed to put myself into the semi-finals where I lost to a strong fencer 10-7, ultimately finishing in 3rd place. The day ended with a trip to a brewery for a burger and beer, and then bed.

Results for the entire NAC can be found here.

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One silver, one bronze!

I’m happy with my fencing on this trip, although I wish I hadn’t been sick for the second day. Now I’m taking a short break and then it’s back to practice. Coming up – several smaller events in January and February and then another NAC in April!

Did you fence this December in Cincinnati? How was your event? Would you return to another NAC in Cincinnati? Do you travel nationally for fencing or just locally? Let me know in the comments!

See my other fencing articles and event reports here.

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