We woke up fairly early that morning, and I was particularly tired from having not rested much the day before and having to stay up late while I waited for Keda and Bruce to arrive in San Diego by car. I'd flown down from Sacramento earlier in the day, and met up with Alan at the airport, and he offered to drive me to my hotel and wait with me until Keda and Bruce arrived. Surprisingly, Keda was the first one up but I got up a few minutes later, and within about a half an hour, Alan came back and we left to find a Denny's for breakfast.
It seemed like we drove for a long time, but Alan said he saw one the day before, and eventually we got there and ordered our breakfasts. I got my "usual" (aka: what I ordered the last time I went to a Denny's), the Fruit and Yogurt Slam. Even though it was one of the smallest orders on the menu, I still couldn't finish it all. I finished as much of my much-needed coffee as I could, and then went back on the road to find the gym where the meet was. We managed somehow to pass the gym by almost half a mile -- the blocks didn't quite correspond with the division of street numbers -- but we still got there about half an hour early.
The people at the gym were setting up when we got there, but they were nice enough to let us start warming up early and even to grab some food from the snack table (but we were too full). We took our time warming up, which was difficult because of the early hour.
A little before 10:00am, we registered for the events we would be competing on. I knew I was going to compete vault, bars, and beam, but floor and tumbling were uncertain. I hadn't practiced a floor routine fully at all the previous few weeks, and just a few days before I was thinking of doing the 1992-1996 Level 7 floor routine, but I couldn't get a hold of the music early enough. So I figured I would compete in the tumbling event at least, even though I hadn't had much luck tumbling in practice. I was hoping adrenaline would kick in and help with make up for those problems. We entered individually, and also entered as a team, which would count the top three scores from each team to calculate a total.
After that, we continued warming up, did a little bit of basic tumbling, then went on to a little bit of cross tumbling which I found difficult as well because the floor was a lot stiffer than what I was used to. I had a hard time generating the power I needed to tumble well.
After a few passes, I decided to move to beam before I wore myself out trying, unsuccessfully, to pull a layout. My best attempt was what Jess had once termed an "open ugly" -- a layout attempt with the back arched, legs bent, and slightly straddled. Not a pretty sight. I did my usual warm-ups on beam and warmed up the cartwheels and side handstands I had in my routine. At first they were no problem, so I went on to practice two full routines with little trouble. Then I wanted to practice a few more scale-to-side-handstands because I was having trouble with them earlier in the week, and lo and behold, the problems came back. I kept falling over backwards as soon as I hit the handstand, and after five or six tries, I was starting to really get frustrated. People tried to calm me down a little, and I tried again, this time hitting the skill.
I moved on to vault before I did any more damage to my confidence on beam, and set the vault to my settings. I did one practice sprint down the runway, then went for a handspring vault. I landed flat on my butt, just as I had during practice on Wednesday. It was not a good sign, but I went back down the runway to try again. When I turned around, I saw Alan sitting on the pommel horse just in front of the landing mats for vault and urged me to vault again. I did, and much to my surprise, I landed on my feet. Alan was sure that it was because he was sitting there, and joked that he would sit there during the meet. I don't know what it was, but I tried four or five more vaults, and on all of them, I landed on my feet.
With 45 minutes or so left for warm-ups, I went to get my grips and tape and taped up for bars. I started off with a series of cast away kips, and noticed right away that the bar was a little shaky. The high bar was the same, but it wasn't too bad. I'd been on bars far worse. Warm-ups continued slowly, and I found myself having trouble putting together my entire routine, which was the old Level 7 routine. I could do the first half by itself just fine, and the same went for the second half (I even managed to cast almost to handstand), but when I tried to put them together, I found my arms feeling like they were going to buckle under me by the time I got to the high bar and I couldn't connect the long hang kip to my cast. I tried several times, and managed to connect only one full routine, and I'm sure it looked awful with no attention paid to form.
At that point, I decided to be finished with warm-ups because I didn't want to wear myself out. I took off my grips and got some food and my Gatorade to refuel my body. I knew that by the time competition rolled around, I would be low on fuel. By this time, most of the competitors had trickled in and was warming up on their events. A little past noon, the meet coordinator figured everyone who was going to compete was already there, so she got started. The turnout was about half what I expected, but it would provide for a cozy meet. We stood for the national anthem, were introduced to each other, to the judges (which included hall of fame member Frank Endo), and then we got started with the meet. At that time, they thought no one wanted to do the rope climb, so they started with the tumbling event, for which I was the only competitor. A little surprised and caught off-guard, I scrambled to tape up my wrist (which had been hurting for several weeks now) and saluted the judge. It was at that moment that I realized I hadn't really warmed up my tumbling very well, and in fact, hadn't really planned all three passes I would do. I was going to have to decide on the fly.
My first pass, at least, was somewhat planned. I knew my first pass was going to be a round-off flip-flop layout, so I ran hard, stayed tight, and threw for the layout as hard as I could. Surprisingly, it felt like I was in layout position most of the way around. One down, two to go. The next pass was one that I was planning to put into my next floor routine: round-off flip-flop flip-flop tuck back. Without having warmed this one up, I was a little nervous. The last time that I did this pass, maybe two years ago, I ended up forgetting to punch with my feet in back and I arched way too much in my set. But it was good this time, except that I rotated slow and landed a bit short on my tuck back. I had to take a step forward. Then, as I puased for my last pass, I realized I didn't really think about what pass I would do last, and quickly decided to do a front handspring stepout round-off flip-flop tuck back. I only started doing this pass on Wednesday for the first time since I left Windmill three years ago. I was a little sluggish on the round-off flip-flop part and didn't have enough power to get a good set and rotation and ended up landing on my hands and almost my knees. At least, this time I sensed it rather than the times in Level 7 where I had no clue how much I'd rotated and just stuck my hands out at random to sense for the ground.
Overall, I could have done better if I'd planned ahead. I wasn't really that tired so I probably could have made that last pass all the way around if I'd practiced it more. Being the only competitor entering the tumbling event, I didn't have someone to feel inferior to, but at the same time, I didn't have that sense of competitiveness that might have driven me to do better. I ended up getting a 7.50. It was a bit of a surprise that it was so low, but it did give me a sense of how the women's judge was going to be scoring the rest of the meet: very differently from the judges at Camarillo who were more subjective and loose. This judge here had been a Master's judge for over 20 years, and was fairly traditional in her scoring and was fairly conservative.
The next event for the women was beam, while the men started on pommel horse. First up on beam was a girl in my age group but she was fairly beginner. Her hardest acrobatic skill was a cartwheel but she had some beautiful dance elements and very sharp movements. She ended up falling three times, but I think only because she was treating the beam rather conservatively. I went next, but before I could salute, the judge asked me to have someone move the board after I've mounted for safety, so I asked Bruce to do that.
Right from the beginning, I was a little shaky. But I hung on to my cartwheel, even though it didn't quite go "over the top" through the handstand, and got through the dance elements up to the side handstand. It was a scale, going directly into the side handstand, and I fell on the first try. I climbed back up to make another attempt ... and I fell again! I couldn't believe it! Both times, I wasn't kicking up hard enough, I guess leftover "compensation" during warm-ups when I kept going over backwards. At this point, I debated just going on with my routine, skipping the handstand, but it was such an important element in my routine. I got up a third time and thankfully hit the handstand, but just barely. I straddled, turned my legs to a right split, bent them into a double stag, then came down to a one-knee kneel. I got some applause for that, and I was thankful I managed to do it. It bugged me though -- I had them perfect during workout on Friday. Grr ... I did fine for the rest of the routine, although I had to fight to avoid any more wobbles. I did my barani dismount, and was practically groaning to myself for the next five minutes.
I'll never be free from this stupid curse. It has afflicted me my entire gymnastics "career." Back when I was competing for Windmill, in the three years that I was competing, I had well over twenty-five to thirty meets. And in all that time, I think I only stuck two beam routines. Pathetic. For some reason, no matter how well I can do the routines in practice, I become so nervous in competition that I just can't stay on the beam. A lot of the time, I end up falling on the easiest tricks -- such as turns, hitchkicks, and ... I'm afraid to say it ... scales! Arggggghhh!
Okay, sorry for that tangent. Back to the meet. I wondered how the judge was going to treat my falls. I knew that if I was competing USAG JO levels, that would have counted as two separate falls. I watched eagerly as she flashed the score -- an 8.30. So, she only counted it once. An improvement from the meet in Camarillo where I fell twice. Once on that side handstand, and another on a simple kick turn.
The rest of the beamers went and most of them got higher scores that me. But I was fairly satisfied. Then we moved over to vault. It would have helped if we knew the start order, because we were standing around wondering, "When am I going? Do I have time to warm up?" It turned out I was third or something like that, so I did a few handstand pops and jumps to warm up. I was a little nervous, hoping the good vaults I had during warm ups didn't escape me. I went for both vaults as hard as I could, and I could feel that I got better distance that I did on Wednesday, even though I probably had poor form. I knew my legs weren't together and my feet weren't pointed. But I managed to stick both vaults, and the judge gave me an 8.70. Not bad.
I watched the rest of the vaulters, and was impressed with someone going for a tucked Tsukahara into the pit. She got a pretty good score -- in the nine's, I think. Next we moved to bars, and again, I felt on edge because I didn't know the start order. On top of that, I worried about how poor of a warm-up I had. I was sure to get myself a board, knowing that would help me get through the first half of my routine a little better. I could feel that my free-hip was not very high at all, but managed to keep everything continuous. I even managed to cast pretty high out of the long hang kip, but like in warm-ups and at practice the Friday before, I wasn't strong enough in my arms or shoulders to be able to push all the way up to handstand. I tapped hard into my flyaway, and ended up overrotating just a bit. I had to take a step back, but overall, it wasn't a bad routine. I got an 8.60.
After bars, I was done because I opted not to do a floor routine (and did tumbling instead). I watched the other competitors though, and they all had great routines. I only hoped I would be able to choreograph my next routine half as well! The guys finished their events, then they had the rope climb contest because another one of the guys in addition to Keda decided to go for it. Keda won, by two or three seconds!
Then, we had the handstand contest. At first, they weren't going to divide the contest by gender, but Keda made a special request for it, in fear that I would "run away with the competition," as he put it. (I have to admit, hoping to avoid sounding like I'm bragging, that handstands are my specialty. I am known in the club for being one of the people who do good handstands and can hold them for a long time.) Enough ladies decided to join the handstand contest for Keda to get his wish (three others joined me). The rules were "any leg positions" and "walking allowed." Ready, set, start! I kicked up solidly, and stayed there for the first twenty seconds or so. Then I lost my balance a little, but compensated by walking around a bit on my hands for the next 15 seconds. At that point, it was just me and Masako left still in handstands. I eventually found my balance again and was able to stand still. I couldn't see her, but after about 55 seconds, she finally fell, declaring me the winner (I think I was up for 57 seconds). I was happy, because it was my one sure victory of the day.
My wrist, which was hurting a bit at that point because I didn't tape up, probably shouldn't have been subjected to the handstand race, so I sat that one out. I watched with eagerness since both Bruce and Keda joined the race. But a guy from All-Stars was extremely quick on his hands and made it across the floor in just a few seconds (I forget exactly how many).
The awards ceremony was next, which was done by age group from oldest group to the youngest, which I was in with one other gymnast. I was the only competitor in tumbling, so I, of course, got first place. In the other three events I was in, I was competing with that other gymnast. I got first in vault, and silver on bars and beam and all-around. Then, they did an all-around across all age groups, and of the four people counted in that, I came in third. Eh ... not bad, I guess. Then they gave out awards for the team competition, which Bruce, Keda, and I decided to enter together, and Team UCD came in second, and we got a nice little trophy.
In retrospect, I'm actually pretty happy about how I did, individually -- with the exception of tumbling, which was luckily the score that they dropped since all-around included the top three scores. I'm going to have a lot to work on before the next meet in LA at the end of September.
After the meet, Alan drove us around UC San Diego -- Keda and I thought would be a good idea to have a look at the campus. I was considering it for grad school, and I asked Alan a lot of questions about what he knew about it. I liked it a lot, and will definitely keep it in consideration. Then we drove over to Alan's house where we just hung out and chatted until it was time for me to go to the airport. Bruce and Keda left for the drive back to Davis then, too.
I must have been arriving at peak flying time because the unloading area in front of the terminal was insanely packed. People were double and triple parked, and it looked as if Alan wasn't going to be able to snag a spot to let me off. So, very quickly, we triple parked and I grabbed my stuff out of his car, thanked him, and made a beeline for the terminal. I was flying Southwest to Reno, and luckily with my electronic ticket, I didn't have to check in until I got up to the gate. And it was a madhouse up there. The gate I was going to be departing at was boarding a delayed flight, and there was a line of people already there and I thought it was people checking into that boarding flight. Actually, they were on my flight, and I didn't realize it until about 10 minutes later. The line was fairly long by then, and it seemed like we were waiting forever before they started actually checking people in. Behind me was a couple speaking in French, and though I didn't intend to be eavesdropping on the conversation, I was intrigued with trying find out how much I could understand. Then they got into a conversation in English with another woman behind them, which I participated in for a few moments. I would have conversed with them a little longer -- they were all pretty interesting people -- but I was too tired to think at that point and just listened and nodded. By the time I got up to the counter, I was given a boarding pass for the second boarding group, missing the first boarding group by 3 people. I was just eager to be in the first group because I needed to get a window seat, in case, for some reason, motion sickness decided to strike. Oh well, I would just have to be close to the front when they start boarding the second group.
I sat down, and started writing notes for this entry I'm doing now in my notebook. Over the next hour, we learned that our flight, which was coming from Pheonix, was going to be delayed half an hour. My flight into San Diego the day before was amazingly perfectly on-time, and I was probably kidding myself thinking the flight back would be on time as well. (As I learned later that week, the delay was not the airline's fault -- it was raining cats and dogs in Pheonix that day.)
I managed to snag a window seat when my group was boarding, and made myself comfy. This was going to be a very full flight, and I was glad I was in the second group because the overhead bins eventually became too full to accommodate everyone's carry-ons. We took off and headed to San Jose, which was where the one stop in my flight to Reno was. I fell asleep most of the way to San Jose, waking up only for a while to munch on one of the two bags of peanuts they gave us and sip the Diet Coke I'd asked for. I fell asleep again, but woke up while the plane landed and unloaded in San Jose. I moved to the seats in front of me for a better window view, and settled into reading the book I'd begun on the flight down to San Diego, Snow Falling on Cedars. I was really getting into it, and it made the hour flight to Reno pass by very quickly.
When we landed in Reno, I patiently waited for the people in a hurry to get off first, then deplaned myself. I saw both my parents and my little brother at the gate. My dad insisted on taking my heavy bags, but I told him that on the way down, my bags were a LOT heavier because I had three water bottles full of Gatorade and quite a bit of food with me then that were now gone. They waited for me while I went to the bathroom and got a small frozen yogurt at the TCBY stand that was there at the airport. It was yummy, especially since I was craving it since I stepped foot in the airport in Sacramento (but couldn't have any until now because I was afraid of upsetting my stomach in case the flights made me airsick). We left the airport and drove the hour to Lake Tahoe where we vacationed until Friday.
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