I didn't fence in Stratford (it was a rwrylsin-only ... errr, sabre-only event), but did both Bristol (Bristol Open) and Inverness (the Highland Open).
These were two very different tournaments - Bristol had around 215 entries in the men's epee, and 201 of them turned up on the day.
The Highland had 41 entries. Bristol was held in a former aircraft hangar, and the Highland in a standard sports centre hall.
My results were rather different too - 74th at Bristol, equal 3rd at the Highland.
Equipment : 10/10. Can't remember any problems - I'd rewired a couple of bodywire plugs the week before to get rid of some dodgy bits of wire. Weapons worked fine.
Fitness : 8/10. Have been injury and illness-free for a while now (touch wood!) and getting to the gym semi-regularly (not as often as I should, perhaps, but we keep doing silly things like WorldCon and Berlin and Stratford and Bristol and such).
Hydration : 9/10. Day didn't really last long enough for it to be a problem.
Food : 7/10. I seem to get through the day at a comp. best by eating shortbread and chocolate. I forgot to take shortbread to Bristol, but, as above, the day wasn't long enough for it to be a problem (the only food available at the venue was amazingly greasy; even I avoided it after having some chips on the first day (when I was watching rwrylsin fence).
Mental state : 8/10.
Sleep : 9/10. Probably the best night of sleep I've had before a comp., at least in recent times.
Fencing : (ooh, a new category) : As always, troubled by fencers with strong prise-de-fer attacks. Need more lessons ... if only we trained more than once a week.
Equipment : 8/10. One epee failed a gauge test - I should have checked them beforehand, but most comps around here don't check weights and gauges until well into the finals. Otherwise everything was fine - for my equipment, at least. There does seem to be a problem with the Allstar boxes that they were using - on many of the pistes, every now and then one fencer would get a hit registering on the box which was clearly on the guard (and nothing else) of the other fencer. Testing on the guard invariably failed to reproduce the hit.
Fitness : 8/10. As above.
Hydration : 9/10. Long day, running a little low on water near the end, but had enough.
Food : 8/10. Shortbread and chocolate - fencing fuel (for me, at least).
Mental state : 9/10. Fencing generally well
Sleep : 6/10. About 6 hours, spent a little too long hanging around with the GWEFC crowd (but it was fun).
Fencing : I only lost to two people - and one of those I beat later on, in the DE. The other ... defensive. Very strongly defensive. I have lost to him a few times over the last year, and still haven't figured out how to consistently get through. Also, he's one of these fencers who seems to have no target area to actually hit - skinny arms and legs, nothing to his torso - I certainly missed him a number of times in the semi-final bout.
And the actual story of the days :
Bristol : Started in a pool of 6 fencers, none of whom I'd ever fenced before. First bout was a 5-3 win to me, and it felt like everything was working well - I was in control all bout. Second bout was 5-1 to me, and third was 5-0 (against a fencer currently in the top 10 of the UK rankings). By then I figured I was having a good day, and another 5-1 win confirmed it. Last bout was against Quentin Berriman - one of the top UK fencers from about 10 years ago, and he's a tall right-handed pommeling French-grip wielder - just like me. Unfortunately, he's at a higher level of it than me, and won 5-1. Still, 4 wins/1 loss is my best pool result at a big comp in ... ages. It was enough to give me a bye in the (incomplete) round of 256, in 33rd place, and to then fence the 96th ranked fencer in the round of 128. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, his style was awkward for me, and while I was 11-8 up at one point, he gained some momentum after a break and ended up winning 15-14 (I ran out of ideas and answers, and he didn't). And that was my day - 74th out of 201. Sounds quite good, but I felt that I'd wasted the good pool result.
Highland : Two rounds of pools here. First round was another 4-1 result for me, with the other bouts won easily (5-2, 5-1, 5-1 and 5-0). Second round was also good, apart from the first bout - I quickly went 2-0 up, then apparently went to sleep while my opponent got 5 hits in a row. After that, it was all plain sailing, though, with more 5-1 and 5-0 wins. I ended up seeded 3rd into the DE, as only two people had managed to win all of their pool bouts and rank above me. The first bout was comfortably won, 15-5. The next bout was against the person I'd lost to in the second round. This time around I made sure I got ahead and stayed ahead - although I did have a couple of lapses in concentration to let him get within 2 hits, I always managed to consolidated and get further ahead again at those points, winning 15-12 in the end. The third bout (round of 8, now) was similar - stayed ahead, had a few lapses, but won 15-12 again.
And then the semi-final ... I was quickly 0-5 down, and despite catching back up to 3-5, was never really in the bout after that start. Against his defensive style I needed to get a lead, and then hang back more - instead I was pushing forward looking for attacking opportunities, and every mistake or near miss ended in a hit for him. Finished losing 7-15, and in 3rd place. Overall quite happy with the day - at least I equalled last year's placing.
Overall conclusion - I'm finally getting on top of the various bits of organisation and preparation required for competitions. What I really need now is more coaching (can be arranged), and more training against a wider range of people (harder to arrange, although two more epeeists turned up at GWEFC training last week, one of whom met Seamus when he was on various training camps over in Canada !).
Whew, that got a bit long. I'll be impressed if anyone reads it all.
Coming up next, competitions in Leicester (well, Kettering, actually, but it's still called the Leicester Open), Cardiff (Welsh Open), and London (Miller-Hallett Open, and maybe a team epee event), taking us to the end of November, and then it'll be time for a well-earned break in December.