It was the first hit of the the first bout of the evening. I was against an experienced fencer whose hits usually land so lightly I don't feel them. The first thing I know is the electric alert telling me he's caught me on the arm or wrist again.
I've been trying to improve my guard. I'd like to think that's why he didn't get an arm hit. Instead his epée came just inside my upper arm and caught me hard - which would have mattered less if his blade hadn't slid inside my breast protector.
Breast protectors are unglamorous items. They look like white plastic saucers and slip into pockets in women's fencing jackets. There are more sophisticated protectors which cover most of the chest but I've never felt able to justify such an expense. This is the first time I've regretted the economy.
The second time was the second hit of the evening, which caught me in the same place. By then I was trying not to cry from the pain and very glad to be wearing a mask. I continued, shakily and not well, hoping my opponent hadn't noticed.
Most of my fencing for the rest of the evening was incompetent, though I managed a couple of decent hits, including one to the wrist. But I took some more hits that hurt more than usual, perhaps because the pain persisted. I was annoyed to be caught on the inside of my elbow which I seem to reveal as a target whenever I'm tiring. So much for my plans to try out a ceding parry or vary my style - I could feel myself repeating the same, failing moves.
There was one delight, however. Since the Spaniard returned home I've been the only woman regularly fencing epée. But this night there was a visitor - a woman epéeist who'd travelled some distance with her husband for an evening of fencing. She was an older woman too - obviously a better fencer and more experienced than me but, she reckoned, a bit out of practice. It was fun to fence someone I hadn't fenced before and I think we both enjoyed it. Unusually I had a slight advantage of height and reach so I didn't do too badly. When we stopped, we were both out of breath and smiling.
But the pain continued - and it still does, even though I can't see a bruise. I've been taking things easily. I can't fence next week but I'm determined to recover for the week that follows. I'm definitely not getting enough chances to stab people.