Fencing Tournament Report – Cincinnati NAC (December 2018)

I had hoped to write this up earlier, but have been delayed by illness and holidays. This event was about 2 weeks ago and is one of several North American Cups (NAC) held every year by the US Fencing Association.

Description of the Event

What is a NAC? This is basically a series of national-level events that is run by US Fencing, with one held about once a month (October, November, December, January, March, April) during the main part of the fencing season. Each event encompasses different levels and age groups for the competition. The specific NACs for this season can be found here.

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Facing down the strip.

The location for these events rotates through different cities across the U.S. (and at least once in Canada that I remember). Ohio seems to be a favorite state this year, with events in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. The December NAC this year was open for Division I, Division II, Vet Open, Vet Age, and Senior Team events.

I went to fence in both the Vet Open and Vet Age Group events, although technically I could have also fenced in Division I and II. Division I is for fencers who are rated as A, B, or C, and those who finish high enough earn points which count toward a national ranking. Division II is for fencers who are rated C and below.

Registration

The NAC registrations are done through the USFA’s site. The deadline for entry for a NAC is more than a month ahead of the event. The site also lists who is registered, so you can agonize about your competitors for weeks ahead of time.

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A general view of the venue.

I have a C rating and am usually comfortable in Division II, but my event for Div II was on the first day of competition and the Vet events were more important for me this year so I decided to sit out Div II and stay fresh for the other events. I have fenced dozens of Division I events in the past, but decided against the extra expense of this entry for what would probably be five 5-touch bouts.

Each NAC event features an Athlete Packet which gives all the details for the venue, tournament format, and other rules.

Location and Venue

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View of the ice rink from the Westin.

Airfare for this event ended up being fairly inexpensive, so I booked a flight. My travel was uneventful and I made it to Cincinnati in the evening on Friday. The airport for the Cincinnati area is actually in northern Kentucky. I booked a shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and back.

A NAC is typically held in a convention center, where there is plenty of room for dozens of fencing strips, a finals strip, vendors, and the bout committee. The December NAC was held at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. As far as I could tell, it was a pretty standard convention center. I didn’t see that any other events shared the venue with us that weekend.

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Bruschetta with honey and goat cheese.

Cincinnati offered several large hotels within walking distance to the venue. I stayed with friends at the Westin and we scored a suite after some confusion and phone calls.

I was pleasantly surprised by downtown Cincinnati. We found plenty of places to eat (although most require reservations to get in), and there was a cute downtown square with a Christmas tree and small ice rink.

Check-In and Ticketing

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Downtown Cincinnati

US Fencing has instituted a new ticketing system for attendance at national events for this season. This was my first chance to see how it worked. Anyone with a valid USFA membership just has to show their membership card. Others pay a small fee of $5 per day or $15 for the whole event.

The typical check-in booth was located outside the event hall. I swiped my membership card when I arrived, and a staff member gave me one of those stick on wrist bands. She didn’t even put it on my wrist and just handed it to me. I ended up wearing it on my wrist, but could easily have handed it off to someone else and then gone back for another one.

I did see the person at the door ask to see the wrist bands so the ticketing was at least enforced. We were also told that we could put the band on a bag. But again, what’s to stop someone from obtaining one band, placing it on a throwaway bag, and then proceeding to hand that off to anyone who wants to enter later on that weekend?

Format and Fencing

The format for the veteran events is a round of pools followed by reseeding into a direct elimination (DE) tableau. No one is eliminated until you lose a DE bout. There is no fence-off for third place. Top 8 make the podium and receive medals. Points are awarded as well and these contribute to a fencer’s national ranking.

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The raised finals strip.

Pools are fenced to 5 touches and DE bouts are fenced to 10 (15 for non-veteran events). Video replay is allowed at a certain point in the event. I believe in my events it started in the semi-finals. The gold medal bout is fenced on the raised finals strip.

My events took place on Saturday (Vet Open WS) and Sunday (Vet 40 WS). I also purchased new blades since I had broken my last one in practice shortly before this event.

My Fencing

I started out pretty jittery in the first few bouts of the Vet Open event. I decided to do an experiment by drinking coffee and eating a bigger breakfast than I usually would have. My stomach felt uncomfortably full during my warm-up, and I’m not sure if the jitters were from the coffee or just nerves.

After the first three bouts in my pool, I settled down and began to fence better. I ended up with a 4-2 record and an indicator of +9. That ended up putting me 12th of 41 for the DE round. I fenced progressively better as the day went on and soon found myself in the gold medal bout. I ended up losing a close match to a friend and took 2nd place.

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Vet Open WS Podium (photo by Kate Sierra)

About an hour after the Vet Open concluded, I started to feel progressively more congested and soon decided that I was coming down with a cold. I stayed at the venue to watch the MS event, had a nice dinner with another club’s fencers and coaches, and then went to sleep.

Day 2 of my fencing found me well-rested but definitely sick. I didn’t feel too bad if I moved slowly, so I worked on some writing in my hotel room before the afternoon Vet 40 event. I stuck with the same nutrition plan – good breakfast plus coffee.

My warm-up was very minimal because I felt like I had a very tiny amount of energy to use for the day. The Vet 40 event was significant smaller than the Vet Open, with only eleven fencers. I tried to fence without moving much, because whenever I exerted myself, my heart rate skyrocketed and I was winded in just seconds.

Given my illness, I didn’t do half badly, ending up with a 3-2 record and an indicator of +6. That put me into 4th place going into the DE round. I managed to put myself into the semi-finals where I lost to a strong fencer 10-7, ultimately finishing in 3rd place. The day ended with a trip to a brewery for a burger and beer, and then bed.

Results for the entire NAC can be found here.

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One silver, one bronze!

I’m happy with my fencing on this trip, although I wish I hadn’t been sick for the second day. Now I’m taking a short break and then it’s back to practice. Coming up – several smaller events in January and February and then another NAC in April!

Did you fence this December in Cincinnati? How was your event? Would you return to another NAC in Cincinnati? Do you travel nationally for fencing or just locally? Let me know in the comments!

See my other fencing articles and event reports here.

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!

See my other fencing articles and reports here.

Upcoming Events (Nov 2018 – 2019)

Well I’m out of races to write about because the triathlon season here in New Jersey is essentially over. I don’t want to swim outside unless the water is at least 70 degrees, so any time from mid-September through May is out for me. That means that it’s time to look ahead at what events I’m competing in for this season in fencing, as well as triathlon in 2019.

CJTC Turkey Tri

Well, I guess I do have a triathlon to race in November. This one is put on by my local tri club and is a self-guided indoor (or partially outdoor) triathlon. Competitors will pick one day between November 21 and 25th and will complete a swim, bike, and run all on the same day. They don’t need to be back-to-back, but I’m not sure if they need to be in the traditional triathlon order or not. I’ll have to pick up my athlete packet to find out, I guess.

Everyone tracks their workouts and reports in on their times. I think there are age group awards, but this is my first year participating in this event, so I’m not really sure. But in any case, it’s a good excuse to get some workouts in over a weekend where everyone is typically focused on eating.

US Fencing North American Cup (December NAC)

This is the first of three national-level events that I will be competing in this year and is being held in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have entered the Vet-40 and Veteran Open events in Women’s Sabre, and chose to forego the Division II and Division I events this time. I could technically fence on all four days (one event per day), but the entry fees and travel expenses make it tougher to commit to that.

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This is what a NAC looks like.

Division II isn’t an unreasonable event for me (I think I finished top 16 in the last one where I had a decent day), but Division I is tough. If I remember right, I believe that my last Division I event had me facing Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis in my first bout (I did get one point on her).

Thrust Fall ROC

This is a regional fencing event in December which features both Division I-A and Division II options. I’m going to fencing both days/events, and I’m hoping that it will be a good warm-up for the NAC that takes place on the following weekend. If I fence well, I can qualify for Summer Nationals.

Tri-State Veteran Cup Events

This is a series of fencing competitions held in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area, and is limited to athletes in the Veteran age groups (40+) and is only held for sabre.

I finished second in the first event of the year, and there are at least four more this season. I probably won’t make it to all of them, but I’m planning on at least two more, depending on my work schedule.

Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon

This will be my first time participating in the Lifetime Fitness series of triathlons. This chain of fitness centers runs this event in January all over the country. I’ll be competing in Florham Park, NJ on January 20th. I don’t have any particular goals for this race (yet) because I’m not really sure what to expect with the indoor format.

New Jersey Half-Marathon

This is a race that I’m undecided about for now. I feel like I need to have an event on the horizon in order to motivate me to run. Otherwise I tend to focus on just fencing and cycling (which is fine, but not if I want to do triathlons). The half-marathon distance is a good stretch on the distance for me, but is also something that I know I can finish (and hopefully improve my time).

What Else, Isn’t That Enough?

I’m sure I’ll find more fencing events as the season progresses, and then there are those other two national-level events ahead also. But it’s too far away to plan and think about those for now. I’m considering a 70.3-distance triathlon, but haven’t decided on which one. Oh, and maybe I’ll do another cycling time trial? I have plenty to keep me busy!


Upcoming Events and Races

So the triathlon season has come to an end for 2017, fencing has started up again for 2017-2018, and I’ve been planning the upcoming year for both.

Here’s what’s on my plate for anyone who’s interested:

December NAC: I will be fencing the Veteran Open and Vet-40 events in womens’ sabre in Portland, OR.

April NAC: I will be fencing in Richmond, VA. I’m sure I’ll enter the Veteran Open and Vet-40 women’s sabre events, but could also do the Division II event. I haven’t decided yet.

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May: I’m riding in the New York Gran Fondo. This is a 100-mile ride/race that starts on the George Washington Bridge. The route has a ton of climbing and I expect will be my first century ride.

July: This month is a doozy. I should be fencing in Summer Nationals in St. Louis, MO for whatever events I qualify for. Then later in the month, I have Ironman Lake Placid. This will be my first full distance triathlon, and I hope that the NY Gran Fondo will help to prepare me for the climbing on the Lake Placid course.

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St. Louis arch.

That’s it for now, although I expect to add some other local and regional fencing events when my schedule allows it (not easy right now). I’m debating whether I want to sign up for a 70.3 distance triathlon or a half marathon as training for Lake Placid, but I haven’t made a decision yet on these.

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.

Want to avoid fencing injuries? Don’t be lax about the safety rules. Here are some true stories of what can happen.

Link

Fencing Shoes!!

I just stumbled upon this article on fencing shoes today. It is a little bit outdated, written in 2011, but most of these models of shoes are still available. It also provides a nice overview of what fencing shoes are designed to do.

The Comprehensive Guide to Fencing Shoes

If you’re prone to foot problems, be sure to find a pair of shoes that is suited to your weapon’s style, your individual practice needs, and any previous fencing injuries.

Hitting the Reset Button and Moving Forward After Summer Nationals

Check out this article by Damien Lehfeldt over on fencing.net.

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Rest and Recovery in Sports

One aspect of sports training that is often overlooked is the importance of rest and recovery time. In a discipline such as fencing, when the season has stretched so much that an athlete can find a competition at any time of year, it is doubly important for our bodies to find some down time. Rest allows the body to heal and reset. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, studies have shown that performance can increase after a period of mental and physical recovery.

Photo by Esther Simpson, shared under Creative Commons license.

Photo by Esther Simpson, shared under Creative Commons license.

Fencing parents take note – the young athlete is at particular risk of overtraining and overuse injuries. The bones in children and teens have not finished growing and are not as strong as those of adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics has put out a nice set of guidelines on this subject here.

A period of rest can also allow more longstanding injuries to heal. This is one of my main reasons for taking a short break from training at this part of the year. Aging athletes take longer to recover than younger ones also. As I creep closer to the Veteran categories for fencing, this also becomes a consideration for me. For a nice summary of tips to help improve recovery in athletes over 35, look at this article.

There is also a mental aspect to overtraining syndrome. Symptoms can include depression, irritability, headaches, insomnia, and a decrease in enthusiasm for the sport. Some athletes may think that they will feel better if they can just train harder, when it is the opposite approach that is needed.

Go get some rest! Photo by Paul Dunleavy, shared under Creative Commons license.

Go get some rest! Photo by Paul Dunleavy, shared under Creative Commons license.

With Summer Nationals over, there is a natural break in the fencing schedule for me. With no particular exercise in the last 4 days, my leg muscles already feel much better. I plan to take at least two weeks off from fencing practice, but will start some light exercise later today. I plan to limit this to easy cardio, light weight training, and yoga and stretching. Next week I hope to get on my bicycle for some cycling in the warm summer weather. Cross training in sports and activities other than your primary discipline can help with recovery.

What do you do for your recovery? Do you schedule it ahead of time or wait until you feel that you need it?

 

Summer Nationals – Day 3

I’ve actually arrived back at home by now, but I didn’t want to let more time go by before I finished up my posts on the 2014 Summer Nationals.

This final day of competition for me saw me in Division I-A. This was a tough event, and my opponents were at a level that I’m not usually used to fencing. 100MEDIA$IMAG1365

Unfortunately my legs had had enough of all the lunging and jumping back and forth and my fencing prowess went rapidly downhill from my first bout. The ideas were there, but I couldn’t execute them. At least I didn’t finish last.

I wanted to go back now to show some photos and video of the event. Here is a general view of the convention center from where I’m standing at the side of one of the instant replay strips.

If anyone would like to see the full results for any event in the tournament, you can look at this link on the US Fencing Association’s page.100MEDIA$IMAG1368

This next photo shows one of the equipment vendors. They have everything from blades to shoes.

The USFA also posts videos of the finals on their youtube account. These are great to watch to see some nice fencing, but also are useful to learn from.

Lastly, here is a video that I made with one of the club’s men’s sabre fencers (on the left) in a first round bout in Division I.

 

 

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