The Day After

As I sit here with my ice packs AGAIN, I have some time to reflect on the last 24 hours.  First off, I won my match in a split decision.right before the fight Lindsay fought like a warrior, which came as a complete shock because 30 minutes prior to entering the ring we hugged in the hall and with tears in her eyes she asked me not to hurt her. Wow did I fall for that one!  Well played Lindsay, well played. Truth is we were both nervous so I’m sure that was a genuine request and then BAM! – literally BAM right to my ribs 10 seconds in. But before I get to that, let me give you a picture of the lead up.  This is going to be a long one so grab a coffee (or a beer).

I thankfully had a good sleep and woke up excited – bouncing off the walls, in fact.  Instead of fighting it, I cranked the tunes and did things that required a very short attention span.  I packed up my suitcase full of gear, snacks, warm-up clothes and wine (oh yes I did) and took in all the well wishes streaming in over email, facebook, twitter and good old fashion phone. It was amazing to see the love and encouragement from around the world, from people I hadn’t heard from in a while, and from my iDE ladies who were just as excited.

IMG-20131128-00041Finally around 3:15 we headed to the hotel to start the evening. There were two hotel suites booked as our locker rooms – one for Red boxers, one for Blue, each outfitted with gift bags, snacks, thank-you cards and of course, our robes.   Although the idea was to give space between opponents, in actual fact we bounced between rooms, had our hair braided, cranked up tunes (including “Eye of the Tiger”) and waited.

waitingAs Coach Patrick says, there is a lot of hurry up and wait on fight day.  We lined up to get weighed and then lined up again to get our medicals.

Finally around 6:30, the first boxers were called to warm-up. At that point things got very real.  I suited up, wrapped up, took some photos and started going through my game plan.

prepI knew with only one minute rounds that we would fight hard, no pacing really. I was planning double jab with a right as my opening, perhaps a little slide and counter next. Haha…in actual fact it just turned into a slugfest.  Sweet Lindsay came flying at me and landed that hard right hand they warned me about straight into my rib cage.  Survival instincts kicked in because I haven’t really developed boxing instincts. But again I’m ahead of myself.

ballroom

We headed to the warm-up rooms to skip and hit the pads.  It felt good to release some of the energy. I felt ready. I wasn’t nervous to be in front of the crowd although I was a bit concerned about the distractions – yelling, noise makers, big screen TV’s, equally large firemen.  It was all a bit overwhelming. I got the sweetest pep talk from Coach Mark that almost made me cry before I went out. He told me he was proud of how much I had improved. I was still under the impression he thought I was a gong show. Awesome timing on the nice guy routine Mark.

Blue Corner always heads out second so the crowd was already revved up on Lindsay’s entrance.  Then it was my turn:

Yes the entrance song is in fact “Why Can’t We Be Friends”.  Thanks to Kristina for suggesting the song, a tribute to Homer Simpson’s night in the ring. (video by Peter, announcing by the always fabulous Sheila Molloy)

I was calm and ready.  Bell goes and BAM! Lindsay was on me. Game plan totally out the window. All I could remember was to use my reach.  Too bad that message didn’t transfer to my feet because I felt firmly planted to the mat taking blows and trying to hit back to get her off of me. It never occurred to me to get out of the way.  That first hard blow freaked me out. It was the hardest I have ever been hit and I did not like it. All of the noise and the distraction fell away. Every once in a while I could hear “hands up” – mainly because Mark was always yelling that to me in practice.  Finally the bell rang. I headed back to the corner, sat down and said ‘&#% that hurt’.  To which Mark replied, stop talking and breathe.  As I sat there in shock all I absorbed was him telling me to throw multiple punches – 4, 5, 6. Back her up.  So when you watch round 2, that’s when “Mayhem” enters the ring. I knew I didn’t want her at my ribs again so I threw with everything I had.  At one point I landed a hard right to her face. I saw with perfect clarity her head go back and she looked at me in shock.   It registered that I hurt her and I knew this is when I was supposed to go in for more.  I tried. I threw a few more as she backed up and I looked into her now watering eyes (the body’s response to being hit in the nose) and said a silent apology.  You can see at the end of the round we are way apart from each other wanting nothing to do with getting hit again.  I didn’t know it then but Lindsay’s nose had started to bleed. Finally the bell rang. At that point I was very grateful we only had 1 minute rounds. I wasn’t physically tired but I was tired of being hit.

Back in the Blue corner I am now completely stunned. The first hit to the ribs was really starting to hurt and the only advice that continues to register is to throw multiple hits. Straight jabs followed by a right, repeat. I know this is it. Last round. Time to win it. Again the slugfest starts but about halfway through we were both done. I didn’t want to get close enough to hit or be hit.  And Lindsay looked like she wished she could be anywhere else but there. We were hurting. That’s one thing about us bigger girls – we have some weight behind those gloves.

So here it is, “Rockin’ the Ring” with Mayhem McRae and The Knock Out Lecker:

Video credits to Derick Young (http://aroundthistown.ca/):

The funny thing when I watch the video – I don’t remember the noise, the screens or even the firemen. I didn’t see any of that. I heard Mark (and possibly Gil who you hear on the clip) and I saw Lindsay. That was it.  It was 3 minutes of the most focussed, physically demanding sport I have ever engaged in.

People ask if I would do it again.  It is perhaps too soon to tell mainly because I can’t hiccup without wanting to pass out my ribs hurt so much.  I loved the physical challenge.  There’s a lot going on and it is hard work. I would have to get a better grip on the mental part. I have a very well developed fight/survival response (much different than a boxing response) but it is difficult to inflict pain like that. Maybe that gets better with experience. Maybe.

Our group accomplished a lot. We did what we promised to do – learned to box, raised money, showed up in the ring.  We had fantastic coaching, we made new friends and we helped raise over $100,000 for sanitation projects in Africa and SE Asia. I am grateful for the experience and glad I pushed myself to do this.

A big thanks to everyone who followed along.  Being able to share this allows me to sit back and digest the experience.  And the support kept me going to the final round. I may have one more post coming with professional pictures from the evening.

Now get out there and try something that scares you! You will be surprised what you can accomplish!  XO

winner

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‘Twas the Night Before Fight Night (abridged)

‘Twas the night before Fight Night and all through the house,
Every creature was sleeping (except me), even the mouse
The wraps were all hung on the door with great care,
In hope that the wrinkles wouldn’t create more despair,

With Lindsay “The Knock Out” all snug in her bed,
As visions of jabs and hooks run through her head,
And me with my Advil and several ice packs,
Could not settle down while flat on my back.

My minds was racing and all such a clatter,
I jumped out of the bed as mad as a hatter,
Off to the office I flew in a roar,
While my hubby just turned and continued to snore

The laptop was glowing and beckoning in,
It didn’t take long before I had to give in
And what to my burning eyes should appear
Our pictures on facebook all dressed in our gear,

With kidney protectors that make us look thick,
And mouth guards so large it made some girls sick,
Our shorts pulled up high so our point zone is small,
It will be a wonder if family will know us at all.

There’s Susan and Lydie, and of course the two Heathers,
Juanita and Danielle who are light as two feathers,
On Paige and Tanya, your fight will be epic
After Lisa and Andrea, Czarina and Robbie (meh – it can’t all rhyme)

We’ve worked really hard and have muscle to show,
And now those big muscles will head right for your nose,
We’re nervous, excited, wonder what we’ll forget,
But we’ll give it our best, there are no regrets.

With our mouthguards firmly clenched in our teeth,
And our headgear on, like a big, puffy wreath.
This Clean Fight just started, but must come to an end,
Once bruises settle we will all be best friends.

This poem’s too long so I’ll head for my bed,
Reviewing my game plan I’ll settle my head;
But my last thoughts remain, as I shut my eyes tight,
Thank-you ITC coaches, we’ll have a good fight!

Thank-you!!

Thank-you hardly seems adequate for the gratitude I have for all the people who have participated in The Clean Fight journey.

LindsayIt has been an intense 12 weeks. This Thursday I will face Lindsay “The Knock Out” Lecker  in a memorable  “Rockin’ the Ring” match.  We will start our epic battle with her french braiding my hair – as so many bouts start I’m sure. No joke – she’s an award-winning hairdresser at Uppercuts Hair Studio. She’s a tough girl and a hard worker so it should be a great match.

As I sit here with my heating packs recovering from my last sparring session with Coach Steve, I have some time to think about everything that has happened over the past 3 months.  There are a lot of people who made this happen so here goes an Oscar worthy thank-you speech (minus the wrap-up music).

To my donors: Thank-you so much for believing I would be ready for my match and helping me get there with your contribution.  You helped me raise $6,665 for iDE Canada to undertake great work around the world – not by giving hand-outs, but by teaching people a more efficient, effective way to farm in their area. They listen to what people need and react by helping with region appropriate business opportunities. Since people can’t work if they are sick , iDE is working to improve sanitation. Here is an older article but it demonstrates how your donation will improve so many lives.

http://www.ide-canada.org/index.php/news/ide-in-the-news/ides-sanitation-marketing-project-reaches-10000-latrines-mark2

To ITC Boxing Fitness: I really don’t even know where to start. You volunteered to take on a daunting project; getting fourteen boxing newbies safely to the ring.  The hours you put in far exceeded ours, the number of hits the coaches took paled in comparison to what we received,  your enthusiasm and determination was inspirational. You are awesome people and I’m so happy I’ve had this opportunity to experience the sport you love through your eyes. Plus thanks to you I have new muscles, which is super cool, I’m 13 lbs lighter, and I have an appreciation for the sport of boxing.  Thank-you for that and for an unforgettable experience.

And Mark – once this is over I will gladly have my butt kicked in the ring by you. I’m sure that is the least I can do to repay the countless hours you’ve spent with us.  Steve – I never want to be on the receiving end of one of your hits again.  Sarah – I love watching you box. I could also do without receiving another hit from you, especially to the gut.  Both of you were fabulous sparring partners. Patrick – you and that pool noodle finally got me to stop tripping over my own feet. You are a fantastic teacher. Thank-you for answering my endless questions.  Sheila – you just rock. I don’t even have enough words to describe your awesomeness and hard work.

Anyone who wants to try a workout worthy of stepping out into a blustery Manitoba winter, get your bodies down to http://www.inthiscorner.ca.  Maureen will introduce you to muscles you didn’t even know existed. And you will thank her for it…eventually.

To my Cheering Section: Thank-you for listening to my journey and tolerating the non-stop commentary about the experience and requests for donations.  You’ve encouraged me along the journey, made me laugh, and kept me going.  With so many eyes watching there was NO WAY I was going to give up.

To Bill Pratt, Exec, Director, iDE Canada:  Thanks for coming up with this wild idea and for being one of our biggest fans. You have introduced us to the wonderful things iDE Canada and iDE International is undertaking throughout the world.  We wouldn’t have had this experience without your initiative.  I’m looking forward to hearing more about the great work your organization accomplishes in the future.

To my Team Mates:  What an amazing group of women!  You have juggled jobs, families, illnesses, injuries, and countless other activities throughout this journey.  We’ve cheered each other on in the ring, fist bumped when we survived a round in the ring, and commiserated at many tough spots – especially the knocks to the head.  Boxing may be a solo sport but we work as a great team.  I’m sure we will cheer each other on even if we are swinging at each other.  I can’t wait to see everyone in the ring. You ladies look amazing.

To my fabulous husband Peter: Thank-you for your support and encouragement. I know you were anxious about me getting hit and still have your doubts, but you have supported me 100% in this journey. You’ve picked me up when I thought I couldn’t face another push-up, you supported my alcohol abstinence (most of the time), and you’ve carried the home front while I was training. Thank-you for being in my corner – now and always. You are the best! XO

Stay tuned. Fight night is in 4 days.  I will post the results, pictures and videos as soon as I can type again (just joking…sort of).

clean fight  web copy

Ready to Rumble

Fight day is less than a week away.  We’re in the home stretch with one more sparring session on Saturday and some last minute prep and likely weigh-in on Tuesday (you have to know how much I love that part).
My shoulder and elbow have been hanging in there.  A steady diet of Advil and daily ice packs seem to be working so looks like I’ll be headed to the ring in this stunning outfit.

I know, right? Dead sexy.  Clearly boxing is still a very male dominated sport.  We’ve been trying out our uniforms during sparring because there is a lot to get used to. First there is the shirt, a  heavy reversible little number (red or blue) which doesn’t fit around the hips, because of course men don’t have hips, and is equivalent to wearing a sleeveless parka.  Then the shorts with their girdle like waist that rides up during the match.   This riding phenomenon is fabulous for reducing the points area (above the belt) but leave us with a Steve Urkle-esque look that only a mother could love. The rest of the crowd will just laugh – and take pictures that will no doubt live in social media forever. Once you add the skull cap and mouth guard we magically transform into lumpy boys with mascara.  Oh and I can’t forget the “Jill” to protect our lower bits.

jill

jill 2

Again, strong enough for a woman, but made for a man. The bigger one protects the kidneys – and on some women, their ribs cage AND chest. Some of the women could wear a barrel and have more mobility.

So for any of you that envision women’s boxing to look like this,

female boxer

it actually looks like this: woman boxer

Please adjust your expectations accordingly 🙂

A View From The Corner

We are in the home stretch of this boxing adventure. In some ways it feels like we just started, but in other ways is has been a very long haul – and not just for the boxers.  The coaches and staff at ITC Boxing Fitness have been working flat out along with us.  They have been so awesome that I’m going to save a whole post just to thank them.  I asked friend and co-owner of ITC, Sheila Molloy, if she would talk a bit about their experience through all of this.  Sheila was the person who conned coaxed invited me to join and I’m truly thankful to be a part of this amazing experience.  This is how The Clean Fight journey looked through their eyes.

***********

Written by Sheila Molloy itc
Co-owner, ITC Boxing Fitness and Boxer

As coaches and owners of a boxing facility, it goes without saying that we love boxing.  It is one of the most challenging sports, requiring an extraordinary blend of speed, strength and endurance. To withstand the inevitable pain, injury, and fatigue, a boxer must also possess a mind that is as tough as their body.

So when we were asked to take 14 women, who have never boxed, from ground zero to their first bout in just 86 days, our answer, after a very, very long pause was, “uh…ok…but they are going to have to work very hard”.

And work hard they have.

They have trained 5 to 6 days each week. They have endured huge learning curves and countless obstacles. They have re-arranged their lives, and have dealt with injuries, mental setbacks, work-life issues, colds, flus and in one case, pneumonia.

In 86 days, no, actually in 74 days, no, let’s take it down to brass tacks – the coaches and manager have had less than 100 hours to teach 14 women how to box, help them overcome mental and physical challenges, teach them rules and etiquette, and ensure their medicals, applications, passbooks, and all their gear is ‘comfortable’ and in order.   This is our first time doing this and our learning curve has been formidable.

And these women are not average people.

They all come with about 28.3% more “gung-ho” and “perfectionism” genes.  So they have a lot of questions and want to break things down for a complete understanding.  Communication needs to be early and thorough, and coaching needs to be very organized and specific.  They are intelligent, driven, eager and all of them are very successful in their chosen careers.

And that’s not intimidating at all.

The team at ITC has worked hard.  Our coaches have been their sparring partners, each going up to 21 rounds, 3 days a week.  Coaches Mark Riggs and Patrick Molloy both put in extra time teaching, giving feedback and working individually with each boxer to get them physically, technically, and mentally prepared. We communicate, inform, inspire and organize to allow the boxers to focus on their training and fundraising.

And so we are tired, sore and overwhelmed with the sheer pace of everything.

We started our side of this journey focussed on getting these women to a place where they could box safely and well enough to feel pride in their accomplishment – to show off their new skills. In the mean time, we have gotten to know 14 incredible women who are managing through an extremely difficult mental and physical journey so people they don’t even know can live cleaner and better lives.  They have energized us as coaches and have inspired us as individuals.

And we are proud of every one of them.

We have just 9 days before all our work comes to its intended conclusion.  We know that once the extra hours of coaching and organizing is done, there will be a significant amount of free time again, but an equally large gap in our lives.

If you have not given yet, please do now.  There are still a few women who have not made their $5000 and all of them deserve to be in the ring on November 28th.

http://www.thecleanfight.ca

Warm-up

Heavy bag practice

corner blog 4

Good night - See you tomorrow

Psychology of Boxing

I’ve been in the ring four times now for sparring practice.  No longer do we get the pleasure of pounding on our coaches without fear of retaliation.  The gloves are on and they are hitting back.  Not as hard or as fast as they could, but we are taking some rather surprising blows to the head.

My first time in the ring was with Coach Steve. Nothing like a 200 lb, 6ft+ target to get you started.  I can’t say my first reaction to getting hit was a great one.  I fought back like I was personally assaulted rather than participating in a sport where we mutually agreed to hit each other.  I flew into a rage, gloves swinging for my life. tasmanian devilThat lasted about a minute and 20 seconds until I was gasping for air like a 2 year old after a temper tantrum.  I had nothing left for the other two rounds.  That is when I realized I had to get my head around this sport.  I am not in mortal danger and I have volunteered to participate in a combative sport so someone will be trying to hit me in the head and chest – and that is ok.  All points are scored with contact above the belt after all.

So I’m learning about pacing and the mental aspects of the sport.   The first part is to know I don’t have to be hitting at all times.  I am to look for my opportunities or make my opportunities (much easier said than done).  I will get hit (easy to do) and it doesn’t hurt (that much) so I will survive.  But it is incredibly frustrating to be hit repeatedly making it really tough to think or stay calm.  Practice helps.  Lately I’ve been a little calmer but I can’t imagine how it is going to feel in front of 300 people.

The other mental skill required is a laser sharp attention span. squirrelHmmm… we’ll see how that goes. {squirrel}  Fortunately one way to get my attention is to hit me in the head so hopefully I’ll learn quickly. If not, it may be a short match.

One week of sparring to go. Hopefully my arm will stay together long enough to get more practice time in before the big day otherwise who knows what that day will bring.

Toilets + Entrepreneur + iDE = Success

Since I’ve been spending a little quiet time with my ice packs on the couch I’ve been able to catch up on some reading.  I love this story.  It demonstrates the brilliance of the iDE approach to poverty.

http://makingsanitationeasy.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/latrine-business-owner-bun-phors-succeeding-against-the-odds/

This a fantastic example of  “teaching a man or woman to fish” as a way to tackle a global problem.   Nearly 3 billion people (3 BILLION) live on $2 a day. Using simple, smart, affordable technologies and teaching some basic business skills can turn struggling families into successful entrepreneurial ventures.  What’s not to love about that?

The founder, Paul Polak, introduced the idea of using business to alleviate poverty.  He has a new book coming out soon called The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers.  I’ll be putting that on my Christmas list in prep for my trip back to Vietnam in March where I’ll be teaching entrepreneurship in Ban Phuc.

http://www.paulpolak.com/the-business-solution-to-poverty/

Less than two weeks to go. I stopped by the gym last night to try on my uniform. Wow – any ideas that we’ll look like fit, strong women in these things have gone straight out the window. We will be shapeless, androgynous, boxers with ponytails (possibly with great manicures).  Hoping to be back in the ring on Saturday.  Now off to physio…

the setback

It had to happen. Every great story has to have a setback before the glorious triumph in the end. Where would the suspense be if “The Karate Kid” didn’t have a smashed up knee before the big fight?  Not that I was looking to turn this into a great story but I have been dealt a setback two weeks before the big day.  It seems I have developed “tennis elbow” or in reality, Boxer Elbow.

injury

You would think with that relaxing week off in Mexico I would have healed up and been ready for the final stretch. Instead I’ve been benched and you can imagine how well that is going over.  Only two and a half sessions of sparring and I am now cooling my joints on ice packs with a side of anti-inflammatories.  Last night’s round was the brick wall that broke me.  Coach Steve is usually an immovable object at the best of times but connecting with all 200 lbs of solid boxer was too much for my irritated joint.  Jab after jab met with the wall of Steve until I couldn’t take it anymore and bailed halfway through the second round.  I knew going into the ring that I was hurting and thought I could just limp through, but once the pain hit my shoulder I knew I was in trouble. So off to the doctor I went today. Thankfully the shoulder is just a muscle strain but my elbow is inflamed despite 2x a week physio on it.

Sadly this isn’t the only injury.  Right from the start I was nursing a sore ankle from slow-pitch.  Last game of the season I get hit on the ankle by a pitch. Yes I know – what dolt can’t get out of the way of a slow-pitch?  This one it seems. In my defence, I had NO IDEA how much it would hurt if the ball hit directly on the bone. Lesson learned – move no matter how slow the ball is coming at you.  So I haven’t been skipping for about a month because of that irritation.  It is so frustrating because I want to train hard but my body says no thanks.  And age has nothing to do with it. This has happened every time I’ve trained to play competitively.

Basketball = screwed up knees and shin splints

Rowing = back and hip pain (still hurts to this day)

Boxing  = elbow/arm pain

So my gloves are shelved until Saturday.  glovesThe only thing I can do is jog, follow doc and coach’s orders and watch an obscene amount of boxing videos with my spare time.

To those who have donated or paid to see me fight, I will be in the ring. I will do what it takes to get there so unless I am disqualified for health or safety reasons, I will fight.  Because Daniel beats his guy in the end, on one leg, in an awkwardly memorable moment. I may not win, but I’ll be there for all three rounds.  Promise.

Girls Night Out

This past week our merry group of boxers got a night off, put on our fancy clothes and went out to an iDE Canada fundraiser dinner at the Convention Centre.  It was nice opportunity to talk without getting in trouble from the coaches.  We can get a little chatty during workouts.  It was also interesting to meet some of the people who have been involved with iDE from inception.

International Development Enterprises (iDE) Canada was incorporated in 1983. The Canadian connection goes back to iDE’s founder Paul Polak who grew up in Millgrove, Ontario and graduated from University of Western Ontario. His unique ideas about using business to create opportunities for people living in poverty in the late ‘70s found traction with a group of Mennonite business people, including Art DeFehr. Art was named the UN High Commissioner for refugees for the Horn of Africa and invited Paul to come to Somalia to try out his, at the time, left-field approach to development.  In their first project they formed an enterprise that built donkey carts from scrap and sold them to enterprising refugees, who then made money transporting water and other goods in the camps.

This group of business people became the core of support for the fledgling organization. Several of them, including Art, his brother Frank and Bill Fast, who has been a pillar of the organization through its history, remain on the Canadian and international boards.

We got a chance to meet Bill and thank him for helping create an organization that is making such an impact on poverty. Real changes, not just temporary hand-outs.

IMG_1291

We also heard from iDE International CEO, Timothy Prewitt, who showed us some amazing figures on the impact the organization is having on agricultural communities in Africa, Bangladesh and Vietnam using simple technology like foot treadle water pumps and drip irrigation.  One unforgettable story was of a woman in Zambia who was selling a few tomatoes a year as income for her family, but by adding a water pump to her farm and working with iDE farm business advisors to manage the type and timing of high value crops, her family now has a house, food, and her children are going to school.  She is now teaching other women in her community how to do the same thing.

You can watch Veronica’s story here:

It was a great night out and a fun way to learn more about the organization we are boxing for.  I believe even more than when I started, that this organization does some great things around the world.  Thank-you for supporting me.  And if you wanted to donate but saw that I’ve hit my goal, then please consider supporting one of the other boxers who hasn’t.  We are all working very hard for a great cause.  Each person has to raise $5000 to participate in fight night.

http://www.thecleanfight.ca to support any boxer or to come out and see the action.

Only 18 more days to go!

Boxer Below

imagesLong before I knew I would be in The Clean Fight, I booked a trip to head back to Cozumel for a week under water.  I LOVE diving.  Under water is truly a magical place.  Peaceful, beautiful, strange and relaxing –  very relaxing.  I didn’t anticipate missing a week of training with a month left before the fight so I’m a little worried.

I figured I could set aside some time to train before or after diving but due to nitrogen absorption from breathing compressed air my strenuous training had to be limited. No burpees or skipping for me.  So I was left with trying to heal my sore ankle and get some rest before the final push to November 28th.  I managed to squeeze some swimming and push-ups in but truthfully I was exhausted after a couple morning dives. It may not seem like work but chasing after these beauties can be a bit of a work-out.

It was an amazing adventure but now it is time to get back to boxing. I hope I haven’t lost too much ground.