Fencing Tournament Report – Thrust Fall Div IA/Div II Regional Open Circuit Event (December 2018)

I have been writing race reports for triathlons, but never thought to write up a summary of any of my fencing competitions. I think that is partly because my experience at a tournament is more of a personal story involving my specific opponents and how I felt on that given day. That story will be different for each person in the event, and so it seems somehow less important to report on that.

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Venue for the Thrust ROC.

In comparison, triathlon is also an individual sport, but everyone in the race follows the same path. A race report still relates an individual’s experience on a given day, but I believe there is more value in hearing about how each athlete handled the course and other challenges of that day.

In thinking about this though, there are some aspects of a fencing tournament that can certainly be helpful to know about if you’re considering which events to enter for your season. So while I will write a brief section of my personal fencing in the event, my fencing tournament reports will focus on aspects such as location, venue, and how the tournament was run. So here is my first tournament report–I hope it is helpful!

Description of the Event

The Regional Open Circuit (ROC) events have been a relatively recent addition to the U.S. fencing world. As the sport has grown, it has been more important to have local events of higher levels, as well as to create a structure for qualification for national events that have become more popular and crowded. The ROC tournaments are offered throughout the country and are designated either Division IA or II.

Fencers who finish high enough in these events will qualify for Summer Nationals in either Div. IA or II, accordingly. Regional points can also be earned. If a tournament has been designated as a ROC, there is a greater chance for it to attract a large number of rated fencers, making it a tougher event with greater ratings awarded to the top finishers.

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Ready to fence.

In general, fencers have ratings of A through E, or U (unrated) in each weapon. A Div. IA ROC event is open to fencers of any rating, while a Div. II ROC is restricted to those with a C, D, E, or U rating. The Thrust ROC offered both Div. IA and Div. II events.

For more general information on fencing tournaments, ratings, and formats, you can look at my article here. It is a bit old, but I think the information still applies to a lot of today’s events.

Registration

The registration for ROC events was done through the USFA’s online system this year. I heard that a lot of people did not like this, but I haven’t have much trouble finding events and registering.

I received an informational email a few days prior to the event that contained important information. While askfred.net was not used for registration this year, the event was still listed there, which made it easy to find the necessary information.

I fenced both the Division IA and Division II Women’s Sabre events.

Location and Venue

The tournament was held at Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY. I chose to compete in this event because it was about an hour away from where I live, so it was relatively convenient to get to. The location was only a short distance off major highways and I had no trouble finding it. The parking lot was right outside the venue and was a gravel lot with plenty of room. That being said, my events were pretty early in the morning. I’m not sure if others had trouble finding places to park or not.

The venue was a large fieldhouse and offered plenty of space for the fencing strips, with room for warming up and bag storage as well. Bathrooms and water fountains were just down the hall. The flooring was a rubberized surface. It was a little slippery off the strips for warm-up purposes, but I also had no trouble finding an open strip for some practice footwork. For some reason, fencers all congregated under the bleachers.

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Fencers under the bleachers.

The fieldhouse did have concessions and I had a cup of coffee on both days. The food looked like what you’d expect – breakfasts of muffins, pastries, fruit, or breakfast sandwiches, and lunches of hot dogs and pizza. I saw Gatorade and soda as well.

Check-In

The event offered automatic check-in where you swipe your membership card. This worked fine. Weapons check went quickly, but I did see a line at other times for the larger events.

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Weapons check line on Sunday.

I was lucky that all my equipment passed. My All-Star lamé has really held up well, but I fear that its lifespan is almost over. My glove has needed replacement since the summer. I’m out of blades also and just haven’t had time to get more. I do have three intact weapons (you have to have a minimum of two), so I was okay for the day.

At the end of my Saturday event, I stopped by the Blue Gauntlet table and purchased a new sabre glove from PBT. This is the one I got here. I didn’t use it on Sunday because I need to break it in first. That will be something I work on this week.

Like most tournaments lately, the event used Fencing Time for real-time scoring. The page for this event can be found here.

Not everyone who had registered showed up. We had 7 of the 9 for Division IA and 16 of the 19 for Division II.

Format and Fencing

For the Division IA event, the organizers decided to have us fence two rounds of pools instead of one because we had so few people in the event. My main goal in competing in this event was to get a lot of fencing in before the NAC next weekend, so I like that we did the extra round of pools. More fencing meant more practice in a tournament format!

After that, we went into a standard direct elimination tableau. The gold medal bout was fenced on the finals strip. This wasn’t an elevated strip but was set up in a roped off area in front of the bleachers with some nice banners.

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Div IA WS Gold Medal bout – Palmer, K. (left – gold) vs. Sathyanath, K. (right – silver).

For the Division II event, the 16 fencers were divided into two pools of 8, so again the bout committee was allowing us a lot of fencing. On both days, the pools were double-stripped so that everything ran faster. That meant that we didn’t get much of a break between bouts, but I didn’t mind this.

I thought that the officials for the event were consistent and overall very good. I only had a few calls that I questioned, and sometimes I do that because I’m curious about what they’re seeing me do (because I couldn’t feel what happened) rather than because I actually thought they were wrong.

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Awards for Div. II WS – left to right: Garibian, E. (gold), Koo, S. (silver), Turnof, K. (bronze), Lettieri, S. (bronze), Sathyanath, K (5th). Places 6 – 8 not present.

My Fencing

My goal in fencing this event was to practice fencing people that I didn’t know in a tournament environment. For that purpose, I think I was successful.

My fencing on the first day, in Division IA was okay, but not great in the first round of pools. In the second round of pools, I did better, with a record of 4-2. I was moving better, making some nice actions, and kept to my strategic plan. I lost my first DE bout, but this was Div. IA so that was okay.

On the second day, Division was tougher for me. I was sore from the previous day and tired from lack of sleep. I never felt like I was moving well and I had trouble making actions when I was on the retreat. My record was pretty good at 5-2, but I didn’t feel like I fenced as well. I lost my first DE bout again when my legs stopped listening to me. I would have plan, but then my body just didn’t execute it quite right. I was standing up too much on the retreat and not reacting in time.

Overall I liked this event. I’d go back next year if the dates worked with my schedule. Did you fence in this event? Have you fenced in other ROC’s this year? Let me know in the comments!

How to Write Book Reviews

Since I haven’t finished either of the two books that I’m currently reading, I thought I’d step back and put together my thoughts on how to go about writing book reviews.

The first part of this is deciding which books to review. I read mostly science fiction and fantasy, so that is what I feel most comfortable reviewing. I do read in other genres and review some of those books, but in many cases, I’m not the right audience for those types of stories. My reviews may be less helpful to potential readers than a review by someone who actively reads in the genre. So generally pick a genre that you like and are familiar with.

Finding Books for Review

Once you decide more generally what to review, you also need to have books to read. I purchase a lot of them myself, but as you get more experience doing reviews, you may be able to sign up for a site like Net Galley, or get on lists from publishers where you will be sent advance copies. I’ve picked up bags of books at conventions – mostly World Fantasy Con or New York Comic-Con. Sometimes a few minutes spent chatting with a vendor will result in books for you! I also receive email offers for books to review, as well as having friends who will ask me to review their books. I’m never out of books to read!

Books

All that being said, if you accept a book for review, you should really try to read it and review it. Net Galley tracks your percentage of books reviewed and shows it directly on your profile. This also relates to whether you choose to write negative reviews. Different book review sites will generally have a policy about this. If you’re reviewing on your own blog or web site, then you need to decide this for yourself. If you aren’t going to write negative reviews, then it’s okay not to post your comments on a book that you didn’t like.

A Bit on Negative Reviews

I will write negative reviews, but when I do, it’s important for me to explain why I didn’t like the book. It shouldn’t be an attack on the author, but a professional and well thought out critique. Instead of:

This author’s ideas about space travel are stupid and I thought the plot was boring.

A different way of writing this could be:

The explanation of the faster-than-light travel was unbelievable to me, and the plot lacked tension because I never believed that the characters cared about their goal.

An example from a review that I published:

The plot never went anywhere either, and this may be a personal tic of mine. I prefer a plot-driven story, or at least a character-driven one in which the plot has some motion. I kept waiting for the antagonist or some conflict to appear. There were some interesting revelations near the end of the book, but their impact was minimal to me because I had stopped caring by that point.

What to Include

I don’t think that there is only one way to write a book review. I’m just going to explain my process here. You can write longer or shorter reviews that I do. You can go into greater detail about the plot or delve into symbolism and themes. Here is what I try to include:

  • Set the scene: I list the title, author, and any relevant associations, such as whether this book is part of a series, has been made into a television series or movie, or my history with the author’s other books. If I listened to the book as an audiobook, I usually make note of that because I find that the experience can be a bit different.
  • Picture of the cover: I put a picture of the book cover somewhere near the top.
  • Plot summary: I give the basics as far as genre, main character, and the conflict. Try to avoid spoilers. For a later book in a series, this can be tough, so give a warning if this is the case. The length of my plot summary will vary based on the size of the book and the number of point-of-view characters.
  • Likes/dislikes: At the end of my review, I’ll put some of my personal thoughts about the book. What was my favorite aspect? What was I most excited about? Was there an aspect of the setting or the magic that I found particularly unique? You can compare the book you’re reviewing to other books in the same genre.

That’s about it! In general, think about why you’re writing a review. For myself, I’m trying to write something that will help prospective readers decide if this book is something they’d like.

Have you thought about writing book reviews? Do you run an active book blog? Tell me what and where you review in the comments!

My Top 10 Triathlon Accessories for 2018

It’s December and that means that it’s time to look back at 2018 and think about the high and low points of the season. Without any major races on my schedule until June, it’s time to start a new training plan and to focus on what worked last year, as well as what did not. I realize that I found a few pieces of equipment and clothing that I was really glad to have on hand this past year with all the time that I put in training for Ironman Lake Placid.

Here are my top ten triathlon accessories from my 2018 season:

10. Cycling Glasses

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Now we have matching glasses.

These glasses were a gift from my husband as we started doing more evening outdoor rides. I had regular cycling glasses from XX2i Optics that had served me well, but were pretty dark. My new pair of Oakley glasses has photochromic lenses that change from a darker tint to less tint as the daylight fades. I don’t know exactly which style I have since this was a gift.

9. Coeur Trishorts

I was looking to buy another pair of trishorts for the Rev 3 Quassy Half triathlon. While I’m not a fan of many of the color combinations in the Coeur lines, I did like these blue ones.

The chamois is seamless and soft and fleecy. The fit was as I expected and I didn’t experience any unexpected discomfort during the race. I’d definitely buy another pair if I can find a style that I like.

8. Cycling Vest

I decided before the same Quassy Half event that I also needed to find a vest for cycling in cooler weather because I am always cold.

This one from Garneau was on sale and fit my needs. It has two large pockets in back which turned out to be a perfect size to stow my jacket (see #6). The vest is very lightweight but does help to cut the wind. The fit is a bit slim.

7. Mizuno Running Shoes

I may have bought these Mizuno Wave Inspire 12 shoes at the end of 2017, but most of my use of them has occurred in 2018. The replaced my previous pair of Mizunos and have held up well. I didn’t have any major foot pain or problems while increasing my distance in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid. I’m a bit sad that they have so many miles on them now because I’ll have to replace them soon.

6. Pearl Izumi Running Jacket

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Pearl Izumi jacket.

This was another item that I think I picked up at the end of 2017, but I got more compliments on it than anything else! It saved my race in the rain and wind of Lake Placid, and I wore it for the entire bike course. I’m not overly fond of pink in my clothing, but the combination of fluorescent pink and yellow was certainly eye-catching. It is officially a running jacket, but it works on the bike just fine. It doesn’t have the standard pockets on the back, but one large one instead.

5. Swim Goggles

A few weeks before Ironman Lake Placid, I decided that I needed new swim goggles. The ones that I had been using in my training were starting to fog up more quickly, despite using Cat Crap defogger. I looked at polarized versus standard goggles and ended up buying three different styles and brands.

After all that, the pair that I used for Lake Placid (and still use in the pool) is the Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 series, which is what I had before all my shopping. The new pair that I used in my race was untinted because the day was overcast. They fit me better than the other goggles and as long as they’re not that old, they don’t fog up much.

4. Cycling gloves

My right hand goes numb while cycling on regular bars. I finally found a pair of gloves (Giro Strada Massa Gel) that seems to alleviate this to some extent. The numbness still occurs, but it takes longer to start up and it isn’t as bad.

I’ve gone back and bought several pairs of these gloves since discovering them. They’re available in several colors and have small pockets on the backs of two fingers to allow you to remove them easily when they’re sweaty. One problem that I did have with them – if they get wet on a ride, they smell really bad when they dry. I’ve had to wash them a few times.

3. Gu Campfire S’mores Flavor

I found this flavor of Gu while trying to figure out a nutrition strategy for Ironman Lake Placid. These really taste like s’mores. I usually eat Gu on long runs – I find them too messy for cycling. I learned that after 45 minutes of running, my energy levels would start to dip. Around 5 minutes after I ate one of these, I’d feel better. This flavor does not contain caffeine.

2. Stroopwaffle

These are very similar to the Honey Stinger waffles that I had been eating, but with less crumby edges. I discovered this tasty snack on a flight when it was served during the food/snack service. Later, my husband found that we could order these by the case. I’ll typically eat one about an hour before cycling, running, or fencing, after fencing practice, or if I need a quick sugar boost.

1. Walk-On Alarm Clock

So this isn’t specifically a triathlon accessory, but it is one of my favorite items that I’ve found this year. I don’t like mornings and I have trouble getting out of bed and getting my day started. This alarm clock sits in the next room and looks like a small rug or scale. When it goes off, I have to get out of bed, stumble into another room, and then stand on the alarm clock for about 10 seconds before it stops.

If you have trouble getting up for your early morning triathlon workouts, it might help! It certainly helped me to get my day started so that I could make better use of my time to fit in those long training sessions.

That’s it for this year’s finds! Have you used any of these? Do you have any favorites pieces of clothing, fuel, or other accessories that have benefited your triathlon training this year? Let me know in the comments.

Book Review – Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness is Book 2 in the All Souls Trilogy and is one of the books that I recently picked up at New York Comic-Con about 2 months ago. I had read the first book, A Discovery of Witches, back in the beginning of 2015, but with the recent release of the television show based on this series, I wanted to get back to the books.

First of all, I read the opening pages and realized that I had no memory of how the first book ended. I found some plot summaries online and was quickly up to speed. With the way that this book begins, it’s going to be impossible to avoid spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the first book, read on at your own risk.

Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night is set in Elizabethan England (and other parts of Europe). At the end of A Discovery of Witches, Diana Bishop and her new husband and vampire Matthew Clairmont must flee the modern world. Diana needs time to find a teacher who can help unlock her powers of witchcraft, and their relationship is forbidden by powerful creatures who are trying to hunt them down.

One thing that Diana does know is that she is a Timespinner–a witch who can travel through time. She takes herself and Matthew into the past in an attempt to avoid their enemies, find herself a teacher, and to search for the mysterious alchemical book that started it all: Ashmole 782.

Once they arrive, Diana and Matthew meet with his friends from that time. This turns out to be a blend of historical figures and a few imagined characters. While they attempt to blend in at first, it is quickly apparent that they must divulge their secrets to this group. While it is safe for Matthew’s friends to know that version of the vampire is from the future, he must go on playing his established roles in Elizabethan society.

Diana’s relationship with Matthew meets several challenges as she learns about the secrets he has been hiding. In fact, much of this book’s secondary plot revolves around the growing relationship between the witch and the vampire. She must also deal with trying to figure out Elizabethan dress, manners, and etiquette. Danger also follows Diana, with historical witch trials taking place in nearby Scotland and a constant suspicion of anyone new or unusual.

The story takes them to other parts of Europe, and the details from this time period felt very accurate to me. That only makes sense, because the author is a historian who studies and teaches European history and the history of science at the University of Southern California. This book was a lot of fun to read, and has several sections that deal with different aspects of the story. The overarching plot to find a teacher for Diana and search for Ashmole 782 is often in the background, but I don’t think that the book suffered for this, as the other events were entertaining on their own.

I’m hoping to get to book 3 in another couple of weeks and then watch the television show. Have you seen any of that yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Find my other book reviews here


Race Report – CJTC Turkey Tri 2018

Just when I thought that my triathlon season was over, I found one more event to participate in! This was the Central Jersey Tri Club’s second annual Turkey Tri, a fun and laid back event taking place over Thanksgiving weekend.

While this was only open to club members, everyone brought a lot of enthusiasm to the event. The Turkey Tri is a virtual triathlon, where each participant completes all three disciplines on their own and reports their times via Strava, but also a Google form.

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Race packet for the Turkey Tri.

Race packets included a long-sleeved t-shirt, race bib, and medal. The event planners had prepared an Athlete Guide which detailed the format. Everyone had to swim, bike, and run in any order, all in one day, on any day from November 21 – 25. The events were timed, with each athlete reporting the distance that they were able to go in that time period.

Bike – 30 Minutes

I decided to start out on my bike because I’m just not a morning person, especially when it comes to cold water (yes, the pool is cold). I also needed to bike before I ran, because the running is the toughest on my legs.

My bike segment was completed indoors on my Tacx Neo trainer, while running Zwift. The map for Zwift was London, and I put myself on the flat Greater London Loop. I worked hard, with my heart rate over 180 bpm for a good portion of the ride. Thirty minutes went by and I had traveled 10.9 miles.

Run – 20 Minutes

For my run, I drove over to nearby Nomahegan Park where I have done a lot of my training. I usually run there from my house, but I wanted to avoid having to cross roads for this event. The weather was overcast and a chilly 41°F and the park was relatively deserted.

I had bundled up in layers – fleece-lined leggings, a base layer top, second layer running top, and my Central Jersey Tri Club tri top over it all. I brought out the winter hat and gloves as well. Oh – and here was my chance to wear my bib for the event!

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Sitting in the car at Nomahegan park before my run. I don’t want to go out there – it’s cold!

My run went well considering that I hadn’t done any running in 4 weeks. I didn’t have any weird aches or pains and pushed myself as hard as I thought I could manage. The path at Nomahegan is about 1.9 miles, and I made it 1.8 miles in 20 minutes.

Swim – 10 Minutes

After my run, I spent some time fueling myself in transition with a roast beef sandwich. I almost took a nap as the day’s efforts were starting to add up.

Finally, I took myself to the Robert Wood Johnson Fitness & Wellness Center in Scotch Plains, NJ for my pool swim. The pool always feels cold to me, so I was a bit reluctant to jump in, but I knew that I’d warm up quickly. This is a 25 yard saltwater pool, and there were plenty of lanes open.

I swam freestyle for the entire thing and started out hard. After 75 yards, I had to breathe more often and felt myself gasping. I backed off a little and knew that I should end up with between 400 and 500 yards. After 10 minutes, I had clocked 475 yards!

Results

I’m not sure how I placed in the event (not really the point of it), but I had a good time fitting all three disciplines into one day of activities again. I need to be more consistent with my swimming and running in general.

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Flat me!

I wish that I had been able to meet up with some other club members for this, but my meandering plan for the day didn’t seem to line up with anyone else’s schedule. It was a fun time and I’ll be sure to sign up next year!

See my other race reports here.

Book Review – Dragon’s Code

I discovered Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books sometime in the mid-1980s.* These were some of the first science fiction books that I had read after first becoming enthralled with the genre by Heinlein, Asimov, and Tolkien. I believe that I found the first few Pern novels on my parents’ bookshelves. I re-read my Dragonrider books (and The Lord of the Rings) because I wasn’t aware that there were other books with dragons and fantastical places out there. My library kept the science fiction and fantasy section in the adult area of the library, so I hadn’t discovered this on my own yet.

With every trip to a book store, I asked for the next Dragonrider book, gradually collecting the entire series. By the time that All the Weyrs of Pern was released in 1991, these were my favorite books, and Anne McCaffrey my favorite author.

I read through everything else that McCaffrey had written, with her Crystal Singer books and Planet Pirates series some of my other favorites. After reading All the Weyrs of Pern, I think I read maybe two more of the Dragonrider books. But after the way that Weyrs ended, the books were no longer the same to me. Weyrs had ended the series in a satisfying way as far as I was concerned.

I have been hesitant to delve back into any books set in Pern since then, but when I see a book offered on Net Galley, sometimes I can’t resist requesting it. Dragon’s Code is written by Anne McCaffrey’s daughter Gigi and is set in the same time period as the original six Dragonrider books.

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More specifically, this book is told from the point-of-view of journeyman harper Piemur, a favorite secondary character, and is set alongside the events in The White Dragon. As I read Dragon’s Code, many details of the books resurfaced in my memories. I think that this would not be the best entry point to the series, but anyone not familiar with Pern could still read it and follow most of the story.

Piemur has lost his childhood soprano voice, and with that, a portion of his identity and confidence. Harpers in Pern do more that provide music and entertainment, however, and Piemur is sent to the Southern Continent to spy on the exiled Oldtimers, a group of dragonriders who have clashed with the rest of their people. Piemur knows that a few of the Oldtimers are up to no good, but he can’t get close enough to figure it all out.

As Piemur reports his suspicions, we get to see some old favorites once more: Masterharper Robinton and Menolly, in particular. This book is more about Piemur’s journey to regain his self-worth than it is the details of the plot that unfolds in The White Dragon. Readers of the other books will know what has taken place, and in the scope of Dragon’s Code, that crisis is over fairly fast. The plot meanders, with some exciting action segments, obligatory Threadfall and dragons, and a sentimental conclusion that is appropriate for this type of story being told.

Despite my reservations about returning to Pern, I truly enjoyed this book. I don’t think that it will be for everyone, but I feel that Gigi McCaffrey has done her mother’s legacy proud with this one.

* I remember having Dragonsdawn in hardcover, which was published in 1988, so I must have read Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon, and the Harper Hall Trilogy  (and probably Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern) all before that time.


New Releases – Collector’s Editions for the Fantasy Book Lover 2018

I love going into bookstores so much that I’m really no longer allowed to. It has always been hard to leave without a purchase, especially when I can pet all the pretty books. It’s easier to resist unneeded purchases if I simply browse online. E-books are more tempting because I don’t have to find them a place on a shelf, at least, but holding an e-reader still isn’t the same as clutching that physical book.

I’ve never been into collectibles, but I do appreciate special editions of some of my favorites books. I was thinking about that the other day, one thing led to another, and I found myself browsing Amazon endlessly, looking for pretty books. Anyway, I thought I’d share some of my finds here since many people are starting to shop for holiday gifts.

Book of DustIn no particular order, here are some of my most intriguing finds:

La Belle Sauvage is the first volume of the Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. Set in the same world as His Dark Materials trilogy, this book delves deeper into that universe. This collector’s edition contains illustrations and an interview with the author.

Also by Philip Pullman, I found this gorgeous 20th Anniversary Edition of The Golden Compass, the first book in His Dark Materials series. This new edition features a discussion on fantasy literature between Pullman and Lev Grossman (author of The Magicians), and a letter from the author to his fans.Golden Compass

As far as Lev Grossman goes, I also found a boxed set of his Magicians series. While this isn’t exactly a new release, and I was not a fan of his books, it is still pretty. The series is still growing in popularity with the success of the television show on SyFy.

MagiciansOn my adventures through New York Comic-Con last month, I listened in on a panel that was promoting a collection of artwork from the long-running role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. This illustrated history by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer, with a foreword by Joe Manganiello was released in October, but I was not aware of this Special Edition.D&DArt

This special set of Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana includes additional full-color prints, an unpublished version of an adventure module from creator Gary Gygax himself, and other ephemera.

AlphabetteryWhile Anne Rice’s books are more horror than science fiction and fantasy, there is always some overlap in these genres, particularly with more recent crossovers featuring both supernatural and fantastical elements. For fans of her Vampire Chronicles, I found the Alphabettery, a encyclopedic collection that details the many connections between her characters and settings. Read up on the lore and gaze at the illustrations in this book by Becket.

EarthseaNow going back for a few more classic fantasy picks, I discovered this huge volume (1008 pages!) of The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition.

This well-loved series by Ursula K. Leguin is illustrated by Charles Vess and includes: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, The Other Wind, The Rule of Names, The Word of Unbinding, The Daughter of Odren, and Earthsea Revisioned: A Lecture at Oxford University. Of all the books on this list, I think this is the one that I need the most!RedLotR

Lastly, one of my most cherished books on my shelves is the red leather bound version of The Lord of the Rings.

While this is hardly a new item (and I don’t think you can even get this edition any more), I did find a new boxed set of The Great Tales of Middle-Earth: Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin.

Great TalesThis collection brings together the most recent short novels published by the Tolkien estate and also features maps and color plates by famous Middle-Earth illustrator Alan Lee.

Are you aware of any neat collector’s editions for your favorites series or authors? Let me know in the comments!

Triathlon Training Ahead

I’m in a bit of a training slump for triathlon for the past few months. I had thought that signing up for Eagleman would help to get me back on track, but so far it has still been tough to find consistent motivation. I thought this would be a good time to step back and look at how I plan out my triathlon training.

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Swim exit at Eagleman

This Is Not Normal

So first of all, I don’t work a standard Monday through Friday job during normal hours. I work an average of three 13-hour overnight shifts each week. Right now they are grouped so that I work four shifts on one week and then two shifts the next. This might sound like I have a lot of free days to train, but it takes another day to recover from those night shifts, as well as some napping before heading in for the first night shift.

All of the triathlon training plans that I have seen so far assume that you have something close to a traditional schedule. The long workouts fall on Saturdays and Sundays, with a rest day on Monday in most cases. The workouts in the plan are structured in such a way that you’re rotating through sessions of varying intensity in the different disciplines in a way that makes sense. If you stick to the plan, it scatters the swims, bike sessions, and runs in an order that (probably) won’t overwhelm your legs all at once.

Add Some Swords

fencingpodium

Summer Nationals Veteran Women’s Sabre Team event – 3rd place.

On top of swimming, biking, and running, I have been fencing for over twenty years and practice for 1 to 2 hours twice a week. This adds another leg-heavy workout to my training, but I’m actually much better at fencing than at triathlon. Old injuries and just practical scheduling keep me from training more than that in a high-impact sport with a lot of repetitive hand and arm motions.

So how do I work around all of my scheduling weirdness? I pretty much make it up as I go. For some people, a triathlon coach may be helpful, but I don’t envision myself hiring one anytime soon. I also squeeze in at least an hour of weight training once a week with a personal trainer and that helps to keep me free from new injuries. I’d love to make it into the gym for that twice a week, but that rarely happens.

What Have I Used?

I started out my triathlon training by keeping it very simple. I already had some cycling experience but I had to learn to run and swim. I bought some real running shoes and started running only a mile at a time until I could tell if my ankles would tolerate it at all. Once that was going well, I signed up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA.

When it was time to do my first race, I had bought a Garmin 920 and used one of the sprint triathlon training plans on the Garmin connect training log. This was pretty simple and the workouts were all short, so I just squeezed them into my schedule where I could.

Garmin Connect

Garmin Connect features sprint and Olympic distance triathlon training plans. Access this by buying a Garmin device.

By the time I was ready for Eagleman training for my first 70.3 distance race in 2017, I needed something more. My husband pointed me toward Trainer Road, which is primarily a cycling platform that integrates with an indoor trainer. We had just purchased an indoor trainer because I was going to need to start my plan over the winter. Trainer Road has triathlon plans also, and while they don’t integrate into any specific device, I could read the workout listed there and then just go do it (for swims and runs). For the swim workouts, I’d jot down the sets on a small Post-It note and then tape it to my water bottle.

HalfBuild

Example of a triathlon training plan on Trainer Road. The bike workouts are used on a power-based indoor trainer. The swim and run workouts are text descriptions.

The plans on Trainer Road got me through Eagleman in 2017, and the Rev3 Quassy Half and Ironman Lake Placid in 2018. The site has options for sprint, Olympic, half, and full distance triathlons. Pick from three options of level and time commitment for each distance. The plans are built in blocks, starting with base fitness, then a build phase, and if you have time for it, a specialty phase. Look around at the plans and then count backward from your race date to see when to start each section. I had built in several extra weeks because I knew I’d have to take a break for certain travel weeks, fencing competitions, and a snowboarding vacation.

Going Forward

Now that I’ve signed up for Eagleman for 2019, I needed to think about how I planned to train again. I looked over plans on Trainer Road and found that it now offers a calendar option. This lets you pick a plan, decide which day of the week you prefer to start on, and then import it into those dates. From there, you can click and drag workouts to different days if you need to. The swim and run workouts also show up!

Trainingplan

This is an example of how a training plan looks after you import it into Trainer Road’s new calendar feature.

If you click on a swim or run workout in the calendar view, you can see more details. I think I’m sticking with Trainer Road for my training for Eagleman again. As the weather turns in the spring, I will do more of the rides outdoors, but the application even lets you import your outdoor rides into the calendar so it’s all visible in one place.

RunWorkoutTR

Close up view of a run workout as seen through the calendar view in Trainer Road.

So that’s my plan for this upcoming triathlon season. What other platforms have you used and found helpful for your training? Do you have an abnormal schedule that makes it more challenging to train? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review – A Plague of Giants

I’m nearly caught up with my backlog of reviews, but I’ve noticed that I seem to be developing a bad habit where I read the first book in a series and then move on to a different author and series before finishing the one I had just started. In the next few months, I’m going to make an effort to go back to finish some series that I’ve started so you’ll see a lot of book 2 and book 3’s here. But first… another new series:

I recently read the first book in a new series by Kevin Hearne that I had received as an advance copy at New York Comic-Con in 2017. Yep, 2017, that’s how far behind I am in the to-be-read pile.

Plague of Giants Cover

A Plague of Giants is Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series and takes us to a fantastic realm filled with humanoid races, each having an associated kenning, or magical affinity to something in the natural world – fire, water, air, earth, or plants. At the opening of the novel, only five kennings are known, and I think that the search for other kennings will be part of the ongoing story.

This book is several tales woven into one, and is told as a story within a story. The bard Fintan uses his kenning to take the form of each important character in the development of a recent war and tells their story to the city of Pelemyn. While the people there know how their own city has managed in the war, Fintan entertains them with details from other parts of the world. At the same time, he instigates some political drama, with all of this part of the book being told by a historian sent to record the bard’s tale.

Fintan’s story follows several point-of-view characters through a time when two separate catastrophes strike. The action begins when Tallynd du Böll, a tidal mariner from Pelemyn, defends the city from an approaching fleet of strange ships. Her kenning gives her the ability to breathe underwater, swim at incredible speeds, and manipulate water. Tallynd detects an invading army of bizarre giants approaching the city, and they are clearly aggressive.

The tidal mariner surges into action to defend the city, using water to swamp the ships and drown the giants. She manages to single-handedly defeat most of the enemy, but at a cost. When a kenning is used to perform great feats, it ages the user relative to the power exerted.

The invasion of the Bone giants is half of the book’s focus, alternating with a second group of troublesome giants, the Hathrim.

The giants of the Hathrim clan live on the slopes of an active volcano and have long known that their days of safety are going to come to an end. Their part of the story opens when the volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate. The Hathrim had prepared for this eventuality and managed to get many of their people and supplies loaded on their famous glass boats in time to escape.

However, instead of seeking refuge with another clan of giants, their leader, Gorin Mogen, dares to lay claim to a piece of land along the southern edge of Ghurana Nent. The Nentians see through the giants’ claims that they are only there temporarily, but since the Nentians lack a kenning, they are forced to use political and unaugmented military strength against the fire-wielding Hathrim.

As the plot unfolds, Fintan relates the stories of numerous point-of-view characters, and there is truly no singular protagonist in the book.

The plot came to a more satisfying conclusion that I would normally expect from the first book in a series. One main plot thread is concluded while hinting at further problems from that quarter. However, many lesser political intrigues are just emerging, so I expect that aspect to play a greater role in upcoming volumes.

I had fun reading this book and the world and magic was easy to understand. I read an advance-copy which did not include the map, but I found one on the author’s website to reference. I like to have a visual reference for where different nations are located in regard to each other. Looking at maps also helps me to remember place names at the outset of a book.

I’m not sure when the next book in the Seven Kennings series will be out, but I’ll be sure to pick it up.


Coming Soon – Eagleman 2019

Funny story…

I raced in Eagleman in 2017 for my first Ironman-branded event, as well as my first 70.3-mile (half distance) triathlon. Prior to that, I had only completed sprint distance triathlons and two half marathons. I had never swam that far in open water, and had only ridden that distance once before on my bike. I had spent a good amount of my time training up to the running distance, since that is a weak point for me.

The day of Eagleman came, and I raced. I felt great during the swim, despite getting a little lost on one turn and being swum over by another age group. I started out strong on my bike and felt fast until I was about two-thirds of the way through the course.

Swag

From there on, my stomach complained and I became dizzy with more exertion. In hindsight, I believe I was dehydrated, but at the time I didn’t know that that was how my body would react. I started the run barely being able to walk, but finally found a jog-walk strategy that helped me keep moving. By the last 3 miles of the race, I really couldn’t run at all, but I kept moving and made my way to the finish.

I had been hoping for a better time, but with the heat and dehydration, I just couldn’t move any faster. This past season, my races were all hilly, so it has been tough for me to compare times between any races so far.

Since I now have a couple more races under my belt, I have been thinking ahead about goals for next triathlon season. I don’t do too badly in the shorter events, but I’d like to get faster overall. I signed up to race in the New Jersey State Triathlon in July, for both the sprint and the Olympic distances.

I had been thinking that I would do another 70.3, but it was a toss up between Ironman Connecticut 70.3 (formerly Rev3 Quassy Half), Eagleman, Ironman Atlantic City 70.3, or something a little further afield. My thoughts kept going back to Eagleman and that flat, hot course.

Last week I received an email announcing that all of the Tier 3 entries for Eagleman had sold out. That means that the race was down to the last tier of entries and would likely sell out completely. If I wanted to race Eagleman next season, I needed to decide soon. This race has also been designated as the tri club championship for 2019, which has probably added to the entries.

When I raced Eagleman in 2017, my brother also did the race, and my cousin, sister-in-law, and a friend completed a relay. My husband had considered doing the bike portion of the relay with them, but ultimately decided against it. I know that he’s said a few times that he wished he had ridden in it.

I brought it up to him and mentioned that the race was likely to sell out soon. By the end of the night, we had both signed up. He’s in for a relay and I’m racing the whole thing. Now I just have to figure out how to hydrate and go faster. I guess I’m starting a training plan again in December!

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