I survived. Without injury. My calves feel like giant bruises and I feel an all-over aching and sluggishness, but Extreme Day is done. Starting with a 3-mile run at 1:30 Saturday, I ran a minute slower than last week--it was wicked cold with a biting wind that hammered at us along one long stretch both laps. Running into that wind took SO much energy and effort--my run felt like a walk while pushing my body into the gusts.
We weren't released until 6:00. I haven't pushed through that many hours in a row since I gave birth to Mr. B almost 7 years ago. We ran, did push-ups, pounded mitts, kicked pads. We had self defense rounds and were tested on combinations and forms. My stomach roiled and churned with dread as the hour of Combat Sparring approached. Finally we put on our gear and sat along the back wall while the black belts selected 6 candidates at a time for sparring rounds.
I watched as people got punched, shoved and kicked to the floor. I observed how certain candidates were handled more roughly than others--with some kids it was a sheer effort to get them to fight back--punch their opponent and not cringe in a corner. In those cases, their black belt only batted at them with light punches, yelling at them to fight back. With others it was a full-out vicious brawl. I waited through 3 rounds until finally Mr. V asked "Is there anyone who hasn't gone yet?" I looked around and tentatively raised my hand. My luck had run out.
But Mr. V was kind--or I capably fended him off. I did NOT end up on the ground in a grappling position. Feeling like jell-o, I forced my punches at him, heaved up a few kicks to get him away. I stayed close to him the entire round, reasoning that if he got a bit of distance on me, he'd have more power in his punches and kicks. After our round was done, he hugged me, breathed "Good round, ma'am" in my ear.
Then I sat through more rounds where nobody called on me to spar. Many black belts made eye contact with me as I sat against the wall, but none of them called my name to invite me out to the floor. (I had flashbacks of square dancing in gym class in 5th grade--remember waiting to be asked by a boy to partner off?) Maybe they were scared off by rumors of Wednesday night's "incident" with Mr. K? (He was a little embarrassed, but pleased by my gift of cookies, by the way.) Finally Mr. V came around again and called me out for a second round. Another grueling but injury-free 3 minutes that kept me on both feet the entire time. I took some hard punches to both head and chest, but it wasn't the worst I've experienced (things can get pretty ugly in the adult class when we spar).
Then we were told to take off helmets, gloves and foot protectors. Time to run sprints. Was this a break in the combat sparring? I ran my sprints and after I finally got called off the floor, Mr. O asked me if I sparred. "Yes--Mr. V, twice." "Oh darn, I was looking forward to sparring you today!" Panting, I replied, "I still have my gear, sir, if you want to go." He laughed and I realized that that was it. The Combat Sparring that I've been dreading for weeks was over and I made it through only having to go TWO rounds with Mr. V. Mr. V with whom I have trust and confidence sparring, and who treated me rather kindly I thought.
And then? After a little more work? We were told to go home. We'd passed the hardest part of Black Belt qualification--Extreme Day was done. Next up: Qualification Test this Saturday. Until then, I'm soaking in another hot tub and swallowing more ibuprofen.