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Race Report – Big Forest Half Marathon 2017

 

I’ve neglected my poor blog for a while now, so I’m going to post some non-writing, non-fencing stuff here sometimes. This is a race report from my second ever half-marathon!

This past weekend, I participated in the Big Forest Half Marathon in Tuckerton, NJ. I had thought that this was the second time that this race had been held, but it seems like may actually have been the inaugural one.

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T-shirt design (front). The back has sponsors in white.

I wanted to run at least one half marathon before my first 70.3 triathlon (Eagleman), and I chose this race because it was being held on a Saturday so I wouldn’t need to take off work. It was easy to register for the event, and I received an email a few days before the race with updated course information.

I decided to drive down to south Jersey on the morning of the event because it didn’t start until 9 a.m., with packet pickup being held from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The race was held in Bass River State Forest, which was only a short distance from the Garden State Parkway. It turns out that the same race organizer puts on the Bassman Triathlon, which was being held on Sunday.

When I arrived at the park, it was pretty easy to tell where to go, and there was plenty of parking. I think there were about 120-130 people in the race, so this was a much smaller event than the other half marathon I’ve done. Check in was simple, but did take a little longer than I thought it should because everyone had to sign a waiver and show ID. I’m not sure what else would have slowed down the line, but after a bit, they started passing the waivers out in line so we would have them ready by the time we got to the front. It was a bit chilly standing in line because the wind came right across the lake to hit us there and I wish I had pulled my fleece on beforehand.

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The cold beach next to check-in.

There were a few free samples to grab and a t-shirt. I like the design – see my photo. After checking in, I focused on getting myself ready to run by donning my number, drinking a little more water, and stashing my blocks in my sleeves. The temperature was in the low 60’s with a little breeze. There were a few port-a-potties, but these were adequate. The race announcer even let everyone in line know that they wouldn’t start the race until everyone had made it through the line. The other half-marathon that I ran gave out clear bags for your personal effects to label with your name and leave in bins. This one did not do that, but the parking was so close that it was unnecessary. I’m used to carrying my phone and car keys in a running belt anyways.

Before the start, there were brief announcements, with particular attention given to the course. The original course had changed due to an obstruction, and I had only briefly looked at the new one online before arriving. The race was three loops – one 3.1 mile loop, and then two laps of a 5 mile loop. The announcer made some confusing comments about following the red arrows, but then also sometimes following the yellow ones. I hoped there would be volunteers to direct us (unlike a 5K I did last month where everyone got lost and I was waving runners back onto the course).

And then we were off! I started off slowly and found that it wasn’t hard at all to follow the course. If the volunteers hadn’t been there though, I definitely would have been lost. But they happily pointed out the way, and mile markers also reassured me that I was head the right direction. The 3.1 mile loop overlapped parts of the 5 mile one also, and it might have seemed repetitive for some people. I didn’t mind traversing the same bits of road though, as the forest was pretty. The road surface was pretty smooth to run on with only one particularly bad section of pavement where I had to watch my step more carefully. One stretch on the 5 mile loop also went off the road and through the forest, but despite my bad ankles and reluctance to even consider trail running, this was my favorite part of the course. The trail was very hard packed dirt covered with a tiny bit of pine needles and sand. The only parts of the course that had any more annoying amounts of sand were where I had to turn from the road onto the trail, and then at the finish line (on the beach). There was also a short stretch back at the beach house (where we checked in) between the loops with a little sand. The course was also mostly flat – just a small rolling hill here and there.

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Finish line – from pavement to a short stretch of sand.

I carried my own blocks for nutrition, but the race offered a selection of gels and banana pieces. The aid stations were plentiful, and I even had to skip then a few times to avoid feeling sloshy. They had water and Gatorade.

A few spectators watched at the beach house, but for the most part, it was a lonely race (fine by me). The state forest featured campgrounds, and a good number of them were occupied. Some of the campers cheered at first, but then I think they grew tired of seeing us. The roads were also open to traffic, but with only local campers out and about, there weren’t a lot of cars to worry about.

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Awards presentation finishing up.

I finished in 2:22:36.0, so a PR for me! However, my Garmin only registered it as 12.82 miles. I don’t know who was right. I received an email with my result, but the link to the full race results took me to a different event. The full results can be found here. Awards (plaques) were handed out to the top 3 overall male and female finishers, as well as top 3 in all age groups. All finishers received a medal with glittery trees.

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Glittery trees!

Post-race food included fruit – apples and bananas, I believe – as well as bagels and cream cheese. I grabbed a half a bagel, devoured it, and then headed home.

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Fan Movie Fun – The Hunt for Gollum

I caught the end of a television show about fan films a few nights ago. I did not realize that this was such a phenomenon, but apparently it is! The show discussed several films quickly, but I wanted to find out more. I’m a huge fan of the LotR books and films. I almost ran off to New Zealand when they were being filmed. So of course I had to check out this fan film: The Hunt of Gollum.

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The production value in this movie is amazing, especially when compared to the official films. While the plot may be confusing to anyone not familiar with LotR, the actors are well cast to look like those from Peter Jackson’s version. The voices are spot-on, especially Gollum. Even the music manages to echo that of the trilogy without quite copying its themes. At only 40 minutes in length, it’s worth a look for any fan of Tolkien and the film versions of LotR.

Check out the trailer and then the short film over at youtube.

 

Book Review – The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I picked this book up about a month ago when I was looking for something fun and easy to read. Set in a fantasy land, The Lies of Locke Lamora follows a group of thieves on their adventures in a complicated city.

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For the first third of the book, they caper about plotting a grand heist, with nothing more at risk than what would be expected from such thievery. The novel is structured as a series of alternating timelines as well, detailing the current day events beside those of protagonist Locke Lamora’s childhood and training.

The characters tended to blend together at the outset and were all too nice to feel like real thieves – with an ethical code of stealing from the rich, avoiding killing anyone, and then keeping the treasure locked away in a vault, seemingly in the business more for the thrill than for pure greed. While it took a while for the greater story to be set up, once the true antagonist of the plot arrived, things became much more interesting and the stakes were worthy of an epic fantasy tale.

I’m glad that I stuck with this book, because the characters felt more real as they were thrust into mortal danger. People die and nothing goes as planned. Locke is devious, but his scheming nearly becomes his downfall as he has to improvise around his own lies and deceptions. When facing adversity, even his more brutal actions become understandable, and I found myself truly rooting for him in all ways by the end. The plot is satisfyingly resolved and the novel can be read as a complete story, even though I know there is a sequel available. If you can work through the slower opening, the main story is a solid and entertaining read. I’ll be looking to pick up the next installment soon.

New Wonder Woman Trailer

I just wanted to put this here because I think it’s exciting:

I grew up watching the Lynda Carter television series as a kid. While I haven’t had enough time to keep up with the other DC movies, I definitely plan to see this one next year. The film is going to be in theaters in June 2017.

If you can’t wait to see more Wonder Woman, check out this Art of Wonder Woman page for some great pieces from featured artists and fans.

A Brief Review – Star Trek: Beyond

I missed seeing Star Trek: Beyond in the theater, but was able to watch the latest installation of the franchise a week ago. While I’ve never been a dedicated Trek fan, I do appreciate the themes in Gene Roddenberry’s creation and I make an effort to keep up with the latest releases. (One day I’ll go back to watch all of the original series and that Next Generation thingy).

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I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about this film because I hadn’t really enjoyed the previous one – Into Darkness. To me, you can’t remake (reboot?) The Wrath of Khan. I also think that I’m one of the few people who doesn’t fawn over Benedict Cumberbatch in everything that he appears. I don’t think he’s terrible, just overrated, so seeing him as Khan was odd.

The newest movie picks up a few years after the events of Into Darkness, with the Enterprise returning to its roots, exploring distant space. The crew earns a break from the monotony of their duties, with a trip to the new Starbase Yorktown. An escape pod arrives at the Starbase, bringing a strange alien with a tale of distress. Kalara relates how she fled when her ship was captured in a nearby planetary system in a region of an unexplored nebula. The Enterprise is sent to investigate, but of course this doesn’t go well, and they fly into a pretty obvious trap.

The rest of the movie was entertaining and fun, and I enjoyed the new characters. I may even have to cosplay Jaylah if I can figure out the prosthetic makeup. A few plot holes existed, but none of those bothered me too much. The film included a brief reference to Leonard Nimoy’s passing, which blended tastefully into the story.

What did YOU think of the movie? I have to say that when the alien ship/conglomerate first appeared, I was reminded of the Shadows from Babylon 5. Did anyone else have that reaction?

Star Trek: Beyond releases on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 1.

Resuming a Blog

Well, I’ve been away from the world of writing, reviewing, and blogging for some time, and I’m hoping to be able to return to that now. I had been spending most of my time over the last 2 years completing a process to become board certified as a Canine/Feline specialist. I took my exams this past week in San Antonio and I’ll find out whether I passed in about 45 days.

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My last post here mentioned my application to NASA’s astronaut program. While I did make it as far as the highly-qualified group, I don’t know that I’m going to get an interview. It looks like the last few weeks of interviews are filling up, and no one from the astronaut office has called me (yet).

I have started participating in triathlons just in time to improve my cardio for my first year fencing in the Veteran’s age category. I have been looking forward to the Veteran’s age group for a long time, and my first national-level competition will be in Richmond in December, although I’m hoping to sneak in a local tournament before that. I plan to do more triathlons also, but not until the spring. Despite the rumors, I have no immediate plans to do anything near Ironman length!

As far as my fiction goes, the greatest problem I have right now is figuring out which project to pick up first. Should I revise the two short stories that I absolutely love, but no one has yet wanted to publish? Perhaps I should pick up an old rough draft and finish that (there is one in particular that keeps calling to me). Or do I plunge right back into a novel? And which one – space opera, epic fantasy, or alternate history?


Random updates:

Reading now: Contact by Carl Sagan

Writing now: just blog posts

Workout focus: running – I have a 10 mile race in 2 weeks

Eating: unhealthy as I’m traveling this week

A Quick Update

I’ve been rather inactive on updating this page, but I’ve had a lot going on lately. I should have a little more time now to catch up and to get back to posting here. In no particular order, here is what I’m going to be working on:

I should be back to posting some reviews for books, comics, and television shows.

I’m getting back to writing some fiction, so I may have an occasional update on that.

I’ll be back at fencing practice next week, preparing for competitions as the spring nears. I’m also training for my first triathlon, which will be easier when the weather warms up.

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Mars – Photo courtesy of NASA

Lastly, my main focus for the next few weeks is to work on submitting my application to NASA for the upcoming astronaut selection. The requirements to apply are straightforward, but the odds are very long. I may post an update on that process here if I hear anything more than the standard “thank you for applying, but no” postcard.

Thoughts on The Bastard Executioner

The Bastard Executioner is a new television show on FX, and I had a chance to watch the two-hour pilot last night. While it isn’t billed as fantasy, but rather historical fiction, there are certainly some mystical elements at play.

The Bastard Executioner -- Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle.  Cr: Ollie Upton/FX

The Bastard Executioner — Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle.
Cr: Ollie Upton/FX

FX provides this description:

The Bastard Executioner is a blood-soaked, medieval epic that tells the story of Wilkin Brattle, a 14th century warrior, whose life is forever changed when a divine messenger beseeches him to lay down his sword and lead the life of another man: a journeyman executioner. Set in northern Wales during a time rife with rebellion and political upheaval, Wilkin must walk a tight rope between protecting his true identity while also serving a mysterious destiny.

Guided by Annora, a mystical healer whose seeming omniscience keeps Wilkin under her sway; manipulated by Milus Corbett, a devious Chamberlain with grand political aspirations; and driven by a deepening connection with the Baroness Lady Love, Wilkin struggles to navigate political, emotional and supernal pitfalls in his quest to understand his greater purpose.

The Bastard Executioner starts with a series of dreams that give the viewer a vague idea that the main character, Wilkin, was once a soldier who was badly injured in battle. Now retired from whatever cause or lord he fought for, he is dwelling in an idyllic village in Wales. His days are spent teasing his pregnant wife, teasing another peasant about his sheep, carrying water, and riding his horse around the countryside with the other men of the village.

** SPOILERS TO FOLLOW **

THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER - "Pilot" Episode 101/102 Pictured: (front) Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle. CR: Ollie Upton/FX

The Bastard Executioner – “Pilot” Episode 101/102 Pictured: (front) Lee Jones as Wilkin Brattle. CR: Ollie Upton/FX

All of this is very nice (and the CGI shots of the village were some of the nicer ones), but the story drags until a conflict arrives in the form of a greedy baron who needs to collect more taxes.

Clearly, Wilkin’s happy pastoral life could not continue, so the first hour of The Bastard Executioner culminated in a predictable gory village burning and peasant stabbing reminiscent of Braveheart.

Now that Wilkin and his friends found motivation to do something more exciting, the show became more fun. The greedy Baron is pitched against the rebellious peasants. Swords clash in battle in some fight choreography that I didn’t completely hate. Like most battle scenes nowadays, there were plenty close-up shots (this is the part that I hate) where you can only see a blurry arm fly by or a bloody spurt. I get it – it’s easier to choreograph and easier to film – but I want to watch the larger view of the swordplay. The Bastard Executioner did pan out for a few nicer glimpses of this.

Although The Bastard Executioner brings some interesting ideas and the richness of a historical setting to it’s production, it tries too hard to emulate both Game of Thrones and Braveheart by throwing in random nudity and sex, a white-blond girl followed closely by a vision of a demon (looks a bit like a dragon), a witch who makes mysterious prophecies, a baroness (who I predict will fall suddenly in love with our bastard executioner in upcoming episodes), and a unique dagger (let’s guess where the blame where by placed).

I’m not sure that I like Lee Jones’ (Wilkin) emotional portrayal in the second half of the pilot. For a lot of it, his facial expression doesn’t change and he simply appears confused. Many of the characters were a little over-the-top and no one really surprised me in terms of breaking expectations. I hope that the Baroness redeems herself in this respect now that she’s a widow, and I’m interested to discover what will happen politically and whether she will be able to maintain power.

The plot had some holes as the show progressed, but they didn’t completely take away from my enjoyment of the second half. I’ll keep watching for at least a few more episodes.

Did you watch The Bastard Executioner? What did you think?

Ash vs Evil Dead

I found this the other day and thought it may be worth watching this fall:

Ash vs Evil DeadHere is a description:

“Ash vs Evil Dead” is the long-awaited follow-up to the classic horror films The Evil Dead.  The 10-episode half-hour series is executive produced by Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell, the original filmmakers, and Craig DiGregorio who serves as executive producer and showrunner.

Campbell reprises his role as Ash, the stock boy, aging lothario, and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead.  When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons –personal and literal.  Destiny, it turns out, has no plans to release the unlikely hero from its “Evil” grip.

And here is a link to the trailer!

“Ash vs Evil Dead” premieres Saturday, October 31st at 9:00pm ET/PT exclusively on STARZ with a 10-episode season.

I have some random links for everyone today!

 

Here is an article on tor.com discussing the recent 2015 Eisner awards and how comics are becoming more diverse in many ways.

I have several book reviews that went up over on Book Spot Central in the last few months. In case you missed them over there, they are:

Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress

ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times (graphic novel) by Andrew MacLean

Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Link

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