Thursday, February 28, 2008

NYT: Weight Training

Does Weight Lifting Make a Better Athlete

"There is no doubt that an appropriate weight-training program would improve efficiency in pretty much any athlete"

Now what did I do with that spare time? Had it around here somewhere...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mid South Grand Open - A review in verse

With apologies in advance

O! sweet predictability!
Wherein nerves render me
Hopeless for no less than
bouts three.

O! A victorious score
Twice, with losses four
Seed me low down but my pals
Had many more.

DE! Round of thirty-two
A rematch is overdue
With Mr. H, he's got more youth
than you-know-who

Fight! Fight Fight!
Red light, green light
And another red means you've made
The sixteen by a mite.

Now! You're in the clutch
And you want to win so very much
15-14 is so #%@!* close. You missed your
D08 by a single touch.

Seriously though, I want to acknowledge the Mid South club for a very efficiently run tournament, even in close quarters. And I did get a medal and other prizes for being the top-finishing woman. That's really a nice touch in a mixed event; so often when I'm reviewing tournament results (whether I was in the event or not) I notice there are no women in the top 25% of the results, but that doesn't mean that the women in the tournament aren't awesome in their own right. I did feel sort of odd accepting the award though since I didn't even fight any of the other women that were present. Just a bunch of young bucks with lots of strength and "go". But how many of them went home that night and roasted a chicken? Hmm?

A poem by someone else:
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
Antonio Machado

Friday, February 22, 2008

Turn the page

For the last couple months, I've kept a feed from BBC Sports in my RSS Reader just in case anything ever comes up about fencing. Nothing so far, but what I have found is that the British devote a disproportionate amount of reporting to the sport(?) of darts with almost daily articles covering competitions and athletes. I usually skim right past them but the title of one this week caught my attention.

Taylor reveals motivation issue

Basically it's a short little article about how the number two darter (dartist? d'artagnan?) in the world is beginning to look towards retirement as he gets older. This struck me because it's the exact opposite of how I see fencing going for me. I didn't start fencing until 2005; I turned 27 part way through my beginner class. For the math-averse in the audience I will make it easy on you: next week I turn 30.

I am certainly not looking to pare down my fencing or competition time. If anything, I fear events that will force me to do so (but that's another post). Fencers in my age group (25ish-35ish) seem to be in the minority; most of the women, and men for that matter, that I fence at tournaments are at least a decade older or younger than me. During last year's Div II at Summer Nationals, I was easily the oldest person in my pool. This can at times be unsettling, but it is also a motivator. I am focused on not being left behind by the younger guys at practice and intent upon keeping pace with the high school and college girls in tournaments.

And while I'm focused upon the present and bettering myself right now, I will share with you a secret thought I often have: I seriously want to pwn those Vet ladies at the 2018 Summer Nationals.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Junior Olympics Final Thoughts

Since there's not much more objective information I can give you about the JOs that you can't get more reliably somewhere else, I just wanted to record a few of my opinions about what went down at the Charlotte Convention Center over the weekend.

First is that fencing is a really exciting sport and I just love hanging out around it. I tried to impart this to every civilian who wandered too near. While I was blown off by some, others seemed to find humor in my earnestness - like the group of ladies who complained repeatedly that it didn't look anything like the movies and that the swords weren't being swung around near enough. I started to explain to them how that would open up far too much target, but decided instead to just say that sabre would be starting soon. Thankfully there were people who were genuinely interested and enthused by learning that fencing is actually a very popular sport. Most children, too, were pretty excited by the sight. So these few gems made my efforts worthwhile.

And speaking of children, at the Junior Olympics one is, of course, surrounded by them. Since every competitor is 20 or under, I cannot help but wonder at the level of single-mindedness of both the competitors and their parents. It would never even have occurred to me when I was under the age of 20 that I could take part in any kind of national sporting event. I was spread too thin, competing in a different sport every season until college. And even in college, when I went to the NCAA Cross Country Championships, it was only Division 3 of our conference, and not national. It seems that most of the kids recognized this event was a Big Deal™. Watching some Jr. Women's Epee, I felt awkward and out of place because the intensity level on the faces of these girls was startling. I love fencing and want to do well but the former always takes precedence over the latter. At a tournament you are likely to see me excited, giddy, sad, or frustrated, but it is much less likely I will be dispassionate and "in-the-zone". I wonder who these children will be later in life.

Lastly, the scene Monday night was so great. We had a huge group of Charlotte fencers and parents to help with tear down and I think we must have set some kind of record because we disassembled all 48 strips in less than three hours. What a cool bunch of people.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Junior Olympics Media Wrapup

For better or worse, here's a wrap up of the local media coverage on the event.

CBS features two Touché members:
("Oh! It's a girl!"...Oh brother...)


ABC: No luck...anyone seen anything?

FOX: A special segment on the local "Fox Got Game" show. Currently on my DVR, trying to find an online copy.

The Charlotte Observer:
There was also a small picture on the last page of the sports section on Saturday which I haven't found online.

Feel free to submit your own findings.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lady's Blade, Part 3: The Scareder Sex

My life has been much defined by fear. Whether it's fear of not being accepted in a new group, the fear that dinner won't come out just right, or just plain old fear of fire, it seems as if the feeling is always hanging out in the back of my brain. My husband constantly chides me for this, telling me there's no reason to be so afraid of everything that comes along. But the truth is, this fear was largely trained into me. You see, all through Jr. High and High School, the girls were constantly being separated from the boys and taken to watch some video or hear some speaker telling us all about the dangers that we would face, as girls, in this world. And because you can never have too much fear mongering, my parents made me read every article in the local newspaper about abduction and rape "just so I'd know what could happen".

The message was always the same: Keep your keys between your knuckles, use your elbows and the heel of your palm when attacked. But the most important message was AVOID questionable situations and failing that, RUN. This is the message that I couldn't help but to carry with me.

Of course, I let go a little bit in college. I went for midnight runs and took chances on new friends and boyfriends. I had a few adventures, but fear is a sticky thing. And even though you think you may have scrubbed the last bit off your hands there's going to be a little bit stuck under your fingernails, just waiting. So it is that I find myself still tethered to it today. There are people that I would like to reach out to and become close to. There are new adventures I'd like to have.

Lest you think me totally paralyzed, I will get to the point of this post. If you guessed fencing, you guessed right. In the interest of honesty I will tell you that it took me a long time to work up the courage to begin fencing. I learned of my first club at least two years before I finally ventured to take a lesson. It was mostly a fear of failure, I think, that was responsible for my hesitancy. And of course I still encounter fear when I am fencing, but it is the only venue where facing my Fear head on is as easy as stepping on the strip. I find I am protected and armed against it on the strip. I am powerful, I have leverage, I am impenetrable. And I will only ever become stronger in facing my fear on the strip. And the seemingly simple realization that fear CAN be overcome has given me courage in other parts of my life; and that feeling too, can only become stronger.

Writing this now, I wonder if the reason I still fear the dark alley is because I've never had reason to face it.

Til every river runs dry
Until the sun, honey's, torn from the sky
'Til every fear you've felt burst free
And gone tumblin' down into the sea

Saturday, February 16, 2008

JOs - Day Two

Your intrepid reporter spent about three hours at the JOs today. There wasn't much need for manual labor so, at the suggestion of a friend, I spent most of the time exercising my self-appointed title of Fencing Liaison. Because of the setup of the convention center, we got a lot of foot traffic from attendees of other events within the building. I waited for folks to come up to the big picture window looking down on the fencing floor and then invited them to go down and watch or I answered questions about what was going on. Anyone who knows me even a little bit will know how uncharacteristic it is for me to go up and talk to people I don't know really well. But there's something about talking about fencing that is easier for me. I had one gentleman tell me I was an excellent "Ambassador". Go me.

I won't be able to make it to the event tomorrow, but look for a final report on the event after Monday.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Parry4 News is on the Scene!

The Junior Olympics got started today at the Charlotte Convention Center. By this reporter's estimation: So far, so good. Having been there till the bitter end of the setup last night - hanging the last scoring boxes even as the convention center staff was shoving us out the doors - it's great to see everything in action. I was only there for about an hour today, on my lunch break, but the place was bursting at the seams.

Compared to Atlanta and Miami, the Hall that is hosting the JOs in Charlotte seems a bit cramped; many of the vendors are within advance-lunge distance of the strips. But I didn't hear any complaints as I walked around and I don't think it'll keep me from returning tomorrow to shop at said vendors.

As an aside: One thing I really got a kick out of was walking through "uptown" Charlotte and seeing people carrying fencing bags. I admit I get a little tired of the reactions of people when I tell them I am a fencer. It's akin to what I imagine would be their reaction if I told them I took part in competitive hedgehog herding. Now, with all these knicker-clad people walking around I can say, "Look, there are lots of us."

From a personal perspective, the other organizers and volunteers that were around last night were all so nice and it's really heartening to be acquainted with a community like this one. Everyone has been really excited and hardworking for this event and I am really glad, for everyone's sake, that it is going so well.

Keep tuned to Parry4 News for more breaking news on Winter-JO-Blast 08!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Resistance Training

There's always a lot of talk in the forums about weight training, so I thought I would share part of my home training regimen. To add strength and quickness to my retreats, I often practice with resistance. With my right hand, I hold a rope to which I have attached a 72 pound weight as I retreat. See below for an illustrative picture of how I set this up:

Friday, February 08, 2008

Pop culture

A visual representation of my inner dialogue while fencing. Previously I had thought it rather Gollum-esque, but Madonna is prettier than Gollum, so I'm gonna go with this.

"Maybe we should fleche now."

"Now? No, I'm not ready yet."

"But we're close enough."

"But he's just going to counterattack."

"How will we know if we never try?"

"Well just let me do this other thing firs...." *HIT*

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Further On Down the Road

A couple things today

1st This week marks three years of fencing for me. Three years since I took the 8 week Beginning Fencing class at Metro Tacoma FC/Blue Steel. I've since been a member of two other clubs in two other states. The clubs have been very different and important in their own ways but I think Tacoma was the best place I could've started. There were no elite athletes, but the people that taught me how to fence there were very in love with their sport and wanted only to make other people love it too. Time was not only spent on foot and bladework but also on the history of the sport, the importance of all the little formalities, writings by pioneers of the sport, and other things that coaches I've met since would think passé. But for me, this was of the greatest importance because these are the things that drew me to fencing in the first place. I think I would not have stayed in the sport this long (and - I think - for the rest of my able days) had it not been for this foundation. So, thanks.

2nd Building a little on what I wrote a couple weeks ago about teams
, the New York Times this morning had an article this morning about working out in groups, and the positive and negative effects it can have. It just reinforces a lot of the things I was already thinking: that exercising with other people ignites our competitive spirit, makes the time go by faster and can lead to better results. One thing this article doesn't mention is the importance of the person leading the exercise, but I think this is at least important as the people around us. Our current coach, I think, has some background in psychology and he always seems to know exactly the right thing to say to me to make me give up every last ounce of oomph I have. So, again, thanks.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

If you can't say something nice...

Last night at practice, I chose to (mostly) heed the advice of a wise sage:

If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

After a long set of drills and conditioning exercises I just felt like I had no bouting in me at all. It was the walking lunges in particular that did me in. This is where we do lunges all the way down the piste, with alternating legs, and then back. A couple times. My right leg of course, is fine with this. I can lunge on my right leg all day long. But apparently my left leg is woefully out of shape. Once we got done with these drills it felt weak and jello-y. So it said to the rest of my body Y'all can go on 'bout yer business, but I'm done all for the night just as it was time to start bouting exercises.

I wanted to gnash my teeth and bemoan my outcast state, but instead, I tried not to say anything at all. I slipped a few times, but not in front of coach, thankfully. I did, however, get my butt handed to me all night, in every bout.

What this means is more lunges. Lots more lunges.

And then I'll start working on the other advice imparted by the aforementioned sage:

Eating greens is a special treat.
It grows long ears and great big feet!