On the morning of September 1st, I woke up at 7:17 when my phone buzzed. Terri sent a text saying that she’d check the brackets to see if we needed to weigh in or not. “She’s way too nice to us,” I thought, and fell back asleep.
At 8:00, my alarm went off. Since I hadn’t heard back yet, I probably wouldn’t fight today. “I hope I get a fight tomorrow,” I thought, and fell back asleep. I should’ve gotten up and ready. Didn’t those early years in Girl Scouts teach me to “always be prepared?”
At 9:00, my phone buzzed again—Milana wanted to know if I’d heard any news. Nope. I decided to get up and check the scale. I was fixing to text Terri my weight, when my phone rang. Within about five seconds, Terri blurted out something like: “Hurry you’ve got a fight today you need to get to the train station right now I’m coming to get you!”
I dashed around the apartment like a madwoman. I snagged clothes from my floor and threw them on. I grabbed some fruit (including a banana—funny story about that later), water, boxing clothes, boxing shoes, headgear and mouthpiece and stuffed it all into my duffel bag. Amazingly, I didn’t forget anything.
I flat-out ran to the MARTA station. My heart sank when I arrived and saw a long line of people who didn’t know how to work the ticket machines. Some of them were dressed up in costumes, but I was too stressed out to think anything of it. With my Breeze card in one hand and my credit card in the other, I was about to plead with the crowd: “Can I please cut in line? I promise I’ll be fast!” Then I remembered that I just might have one trip left on my Breeze card. I ran to the gate, tapped my card and, voila, it opened for me. Yes!
Down on the platform, the sign said the next train was expected in 1 minute. Good! The train was packed. I squeezed on, accidentally knocking people with my duffel bag, and found a place to stand by a girl carrying a Storm Trooper helmet. Now that I didn’t have to run anymore, I wondered: What was going on, here? This wasn’t a typical Saturday morning on MARTA.
I started eavesdropping and learned that Dragon*Con was going on and a big costume parade was coming up. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a nerd. NerdFitness.com is one of my favorite sites. I grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek. I have a crush on a comic book character… But did these dressed-up people have to be crowding the train?
Besides, I bet they could smell me. Sweat was dripping down my face. I hadn’t brushed my teeth, and I hadn’t showered since Thursday night. I didn’t care. I texted back and forth with Terri, to keep her updated on where I was and to find out which station to exit. I finally got off the train, bounded down the stairs, saw Terri’s car by the curb, jumped over a low wall (parkour, here I come) and dumped myself into the passenger seat.
In the car, I told Terri how much I weighed and she said to drink and eat. I pulled out my banana, which was completely black and mushy—probably from the heat and being squished in my bag while I ran. I ate it anyway. The top of it was missing, though… where’d it go?
I don’t know how many traffic laws we broke. “Sorry, Kels, but we gotta get there.” I didn’t mind! Milana had already arrived at the weigh-in and asked them to wait for us. She said they were mad.
Terri dropped me off at the door and I busted into a room of USA Boxing officials, all out of breath: “Where is the weigh-in???” Not my best moment, and they weren’t impressed, either. “Are you Kelsey Smith?”
“Yes,” I answered. A lady took me to the scale and lectured me while I pulled off my shoes and stripped. “Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am. I’m sorry. I promise. Yes ma’am.” I was the last female to weigh in: 125 lbs.
(Next time, I’d rather play by their rules, even if it means not getting enough sleep. I’m sure it’s better not to aggravate the refs and judges!)
Fully dressed now, I met Terri and Milana in the hall. I could breathe a sigh of relief. We looked at the posted bout sheets to get more details about the day. There would be three rings, with fights running simultaneously. I was fighting a girl from South Carolina named Anna—bout #16 in ring 3. Milana was bout #17 in ring 1. We crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t overlap. The tournament would start at noon, so we estimated that we’d fight around 3 pm.
We left the hotel. Terri drove Milana and I to Midtown so that we could get a big, good ol’ breakfast while she taught her 11 o’clock fitness class at the gym. We ended up taking a bus to Pot n Pan Restaurant, which I loved. I had myself two eggs, two sausage patties, grits and a pancake covered with butter and syrup. The only thing that was missing from this picture was a biscuit to round it all off, but I couldn’t complain. (In case you can’t tell, I love breakfast food.)
We took our time eating and talking. It was almost 1 o’clock when we left the restaurant and took the bus back. We bought bananas and water at the store, and then walked to her house. Then we waited. And waited, and waited. And talked, and waited. I laid on the bed, wanting to sleep. Milana busied herself by lacing up her boxing shoes, changing clothes, checking Facebook, etc. I would’ve changed, but my duffel bag was in Terri’s backseat.
At 2:50, Milana texted Terri the time. We were both quite anxious. Shortly thereafter, we heard a car horn so we ran downstairs and out. We set off for Doraville for the third time. I felt much less anxious once we were on our way with Terri, because she didn’t seem worried.
I changed into my sports bra, jersey, trunks and shoes in the backseat—all without flashing anyone. (That takes talent.) As I pulled these things out of my duffel bag, I found the missing tip of my banana from earlier—smeared into my boxing trunks, shoelaces and headgear. Ew! Milana and I had a good laugh about it. I poured some water on my trunks and tried to wipe most of the banana out. Eh, no one would notice.
Ronda arrived at the venue before us to find out which fights were going on, so that we’d know how much time we had. When we walked in, a guy from our gym was fighting bout #13 in my ring, which meant that there were two fights left before my turn.
Terri snatched a chair, sat me down and started wrapping my hands like a fiend. She told me to relax, because I kept tensing up. As she finished wrapping the right hand, a little too tightly but too late to change it now, she started on the left. There was an announcement that all the judges and refs would take a 15-minute break. Hallelujah!
Two other girls from the gym, Val and Lisa, showed up to cheer us on. It was cool to see them there!
After my hands were all wrapped up, Ronda wrapped Milana’s hands while Terri took me to a corner to warm up. I jumped around, threw some punches. (“Snap ’em!” Apparently, teaching me to snap my punches is like teaching a dog to ride a bicycle. But I’ll get there! And so will Fido.) After that, she started working defense with me on the pads, telling me to slip/block/catch/duck/roll/move. I responded well. I felt fast, alert, focused and confident. In short, I felt good.
Remember the girl that I saw while waiting for the doctor, who looked to be my weight? I saw her with her headgear on and I was 100% sure that she was Anna from South Carolina. (She was.)
Another bout went by in my ring, and they called my name to go to the glove table. Ronda went with me with the tape—we’d forgotten to tape down my shoelaces and some tape on my wraps needed to be secured. (Note: If both amateur boxing events I’ve fought in required the taping of shoelaces, then how come several Olympic boxing bouts were interrupted by untied shoelaces? Why weren’t theirs taped, too?) A dude at the glove table inspected my wraps and wrote “ok” on them. They handed me a pair of red gloves and Ronda opened them up for me to stick my hands in. She grimaced at how sweaty they were. Yuck!
I continued warming up with Terri, but something had changed. My focus was gone. She started up with more defense, but she kept smacking me because I wasn’t reacting. I knew that I had to get back whatever it was that I’d had only a few minutes ago… Terri noticed this, too: “Focus!”
The bout before mine ended, so we moved to the red corner so that I’d be ready to step into the ring. Ronda and Milana came with us; Val and Lisa sat at the top of the bleachers near the ring. I watched the ref, and climbed into the ring when she gestured toward me. Terri told me to go around the judges, so I sort of nodded to each one. (When I got back to my corner, she said, “Okay, a little better than that next time.” When I saw Milana bow to all the judges before her fight later, I understood. Next time!)
Back in my corner, I got some more water and last words of advice: “Just don’t rush straight in at the very beginning, but move left.”
First Round: The bell rang; the official told us to box. From the beginning, I felt exhausted. I remembered that feeling from my first fight. According to the people there with me, I started the first round well enough (didn’t rush straight in, went left), but then I let her take over with her wild, incessant punching. She was doggone determined and didn’t stop no matter how many times I caught her. I heard Terri yelling my name over and over and I could tell that she was giving me instructions, but I couldn’t make them out. Every now and then I heard a lower voice yell—that was Ronda. The only words of the instructions that I understood were “PUNCH!” I knew I needed to punch more.
After the first round, my trainer pointed out where my opponent was open, saying that I just needed to throw more punches, moving in and out. That anytime I saw her even move to punch, I should go ahead and throw my own. “Do you want to win?” I said, “Yes!”
Second Round: Again, I started off following my instructions. I even remembered to do the jab-duck-jab move that I had practiced with Ronda on Tuesday, and pulled it off. (I’m pretty sure I heard Ronda yell something excitedly at that point.) My corner got pretty noisy during the second round. Meanwhile, I still felt like the walking dead.
After the second round, Terri said that I’d probably made the fight even again and that all I needed to do was to keep throwing punches, to stay busy. “Do you want to win this fight?” I said “Yes,” but I don’t know that I believed it. I was tired.
Third Round: I don’t know. I think it boils down to: I didn’t punch enough and she did. Already during the fight, I could feel my face hurting.
When the bout was over, we hugged and I went back to my corner where Terri took off my headgear and bandana and pulled out my mouthpiece while Ronda pulled off my gloves. “Don’t look disappointed,” Terri said, “you might’ve won.” I wanted to think so, but I didn’t. The main feeling I felt, however, was that of being devastatingly tired. My face hurt all over, so much worse than during or after my first fight. (Now that I think about it, I don’t remember throwing a single body shot during the whole fight. Neither did my opponent. It was all jabs and right hands.)
I went over to her corner to thank her for the fight and shake hands with her coach. She told me that I was “good, really good, it was a good fight.”
We stood in the middle of the ring and waited for the decision to be announced.
She won. I dropped my head and the tears welled up immediately. I hugged my opponent again and she put a medal on me. (There were three girls in our weightclass, so I got third place.) I headed for my corner, trying to keep it together at least until I was out of the ring. I had to see the doctor, so I tried to focus on that. It took me about three attempts to ask someone where the doctor was, without letting my voice shake too much.
“Are you okay?” the doctor asked. I nodded while she felt my stomach and signed off on my passbook. I looked at it when she handed it to me—another “loss” box checked. Then I was covered in hugs from Terri, Milana and Ronda, who were telling me not to be upset and that I had fought really hard and it had been really close. I started sobbing pretty openly. We moved away from the ring; they went to ring 1 to get ready for Milana’s fight, while I hurried to my duffel bag.
Val came and hugged me several times, telling me encouraging things. Then Lisa came and hugged me, saying how hard I’d fought. When they left, I ate a banana to try to “interrupt” my crying. I stood there for several minutes, looking over towards ring 1 every so often. I didn’t want to miss Milana’s fight.
I tried to take deep breaths and then rejoined my friends, where they all told me encouraging things again. It was overwhelming because I felt completely heartbroken (worse than after my first loss), but I loved them so much for being so supportive. They really helped, even if it didn’t show.
I couldn’t feel my right ring finger anymore, so I got Terri to cut off my wraps. Much better!
I didn’t want to give Milana any bad vibes before her fight, so I moved away. Several people came by and told me I’d fought hard and that it had been a good, even fight to watch. They’d pat my back, or shake my hand, etc. I felt embarrassed, crying in front of all these people.
Remember the guy I thought I recognized at the fake weigh-in the night before? He walked by me and said something like “good fight,” but then he saw my face and decided to hug me. (Yes, I was that pitiful.) He fought directly after me in the same ring. Unfortunately, he didn’t win his match, either. It turns out that he’s from South Carolina, so I probably didn’t really recognize him at all.
Milana’s fight started. I tried to cheer, but I only yelled a couple of times because I knew how darn unsteady my voice was. Milana stopped her girl in the first round! I watched her and Terri high five and saw how excited Milana was (and how mad the other gal was). I was extremely happy for Milana, while still crying for myself.
Milana, Terri and Ronda joined Lisa, Val and I: commence hugging. Milana hugged me extra, telling me she was proud of me. It was really hard. I love these girls, and I’m so glad I wasn’t there alone. Repeatedly, Terri told me to be proud of myself.
Milana would go on to fight the next day and Ronda was supposed to have a bout, too. Terri asked if I’d come to see them. My first thought was “NO WAY,” but I told her that I wasn’t sure. She sent me to the bathroom to change, saying that Lisa would take me home. (I was grateful that they’d already arranged this for me.) Milana changed in the stall next to mine, so I’m sure she could hear me sobbing.
I went to the sink to wash my hands after changing. I let the warm water run over my hands for a while because I wasn’t ready to leave the bathroom. I wanted to wait for Milana to be done, too. While I was waiting, a girl asked me if I’d fought. “Yes,” I said. “Did you win?” Wasn’t it obvious? “No…” When Milana finished, we went out and stood around while the various members of our group gathered back together.
Terri, who was happy and up-beat, wanted to get pictures with us in front of the trophy case. She put her sunglasses on me to cover up my puffy, red eyes and we took two pictures. It was hard to smile, but I did have to laugh at the thought of me in Terri’s sunglasses. They’re not my style. (I don’t even own a pair of sunglasses.)
Before leaving, I got my cell phone and tennis shoes out of Terri’s car, where I’d forgotten them in the rush to get inside. I sent my mom the results of the fight, and then my roommate and my cousin.
On the drive home, Lisa and I talked about the fight and she told me how it looked from outside the ring. I kept up a trickle of tears, but she was great about it. We didn’t only talk about boxing, either, which was good. She offered to buy me ice cream. No thank you. She asked if I wanted to grab something to eat. No thank you. Did I need to go to the store while we were out? :-) She’s a sweetie! I appreciated her offers, but the only thing I needed was to go home, and that’s where she took me.
I hurried into the apartment, dropped my stuff and cried like nobody’s business. (Did someone just die?) Between the stress of the day, the boxing and the crying, I was plain exhausted. Pretty soon, I was too tired to cry and could finally stop. My head was throbbing, my nose was stuffed and tender, my lips hurt and my cheekbones felt bruised.
I decided that I needed a shower. It would also be nice to brush my teeth. After taking care of that, a much cleaner and better-smelling me checked Facebook and saw people’s encouraging comments. I also got a sweet text from Milana. I love the camaraderie.
When I went to bed, I fell asleep before I closed my eyes.