Foundations

It’s fascinating to watch kids learn by imitating their parents, and watching RZ trying to pick up bowling balls was hilarious. The only thing funnier was that Jess & I are such terrible bowlers, the only thing worth imitating was laughter.

But on a serious note, I think a lot about what kind of “foundational” sports I will introduce her to, before she is old enough to pick her own favorites, and before she really knows if she is “crazy competitive” like her parents.

I am thinking about hockey, dance, or the martial arts. Weight bearing sports with lateral strength components, + bonuses like hockey gets you the team stuff, dance gets you art-athlete intersections, and martial arts are really important for young people in so many ways.

Yes, she will have inlines as well. In fact, thanks to my dear friend Kate, she already has a pair waiting.

any advice? Thoughts from experienced parents? Any “sports-parent traps” I need to be careful to avoid?

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Deeply tired < dog tired < dumb tired < dead tired < deliriously tired <<<<<< dad tired!

Trials is absolutely exhausting + long travel days + adding baby 4am interruptions upon arrival… ohmigawd, am shattered “dad tired”.

I’m wrecked… need to post notes on day 4, need to catch up at work, need to work on video, need to get training again, but this little girl who has grown several new teeth in my absence, has priority on my time—

As it should be.

More soon..

A word with Crash Mahoney

Other than family and friends, not many people pay attention to those of us who finish in the bottom half of the field at Olympic trials. But the struggles and sacrificess just to qualify are immense, so the trials beceome very meaningful to us.

I met Charlie “crash” Mahoney several years ago in the blizzards of Lake Placid. He is as good of a guy as they come.

Olympic trials are often a terrifying experience. I love how Charlie meets the stress of this head on, with humor and the good nature that is vintage “Crash”. Video was shot during the final race-rep skate the day before trials began.

Of the 85 athletes who are here. Charlie is one of the handful of people like myself, who have a real full-time job. Elite-level speedskating is such a stunningly complex sport, and there are so many “pieces” of an athlete to train, it’s really difficult to do it without throwing yourself “all-in”.

It can be done, as several people here have proven, but it’s really, really, hard.

Good luck Crash!

1:16.66

Tried as hard as I could, had a good race-

dove headfirst into the pain cave till my legs locked up completely (and my knee bend was much less than this) and was still .58 too slow for the Olympic Trials qualifying 1000m time.

Full results are here.

Oddly enough, I am ok right now. My “brother-by-another-mother” Kirk last week gently reminded me how blessed my life is. I have an amazing kid, a great wife, I love my job, see the sunrise over the mountains driving to work. Etc, etc.

Yeah, speedskating matters, but other things matter more. My glass is 99% full, and not just with coffee or wine.

Will I feel a pang watching the 1000’s at Olympic trials instead of racing them? Of course I will. But I will miss being around RZ more during my stay in Wisconsin. My daughter is figuring out walking now. Such a determined little girl.

Chad Hedrick’s little one started crawling this week too.. Babies are everywhere!

So many awesome athletes, people who train their friggin brains out & live for speedskating, missed qualifying for Trials by tiny amounts. I started writing a list, but it was too long.

I understand why one should have qualifying times for a prestigious competition, but is the current list of times performing it’s job, or are these times making an already small sport, even smaller?

The Thinker

My buddy Brian Boudreau, between flying 200m reps, working from his laptop. He is a programmer in an exotic computer language, MUMPS to be exact.

I love the echo here of Rodin’s “The Thinker“. The New York Times had an article today about how exercise is now proven to be good for your brain. But not just easy rambling workouts, it’s gotta be hard.

The rats who were the original focus of the study did forced wheel running, and according to the NYT-

Allow a laboratory mouse to run as much as it likes, and its brainpower improves. Force it to run harder than it otherwise might, and its thinking improves even more.


Sounds like skating hard, chasing your buddies, or with a coach urging you onward with the weighty judgment of the incorruptible stopwatch.

So thanks Brian, my brain feels better after that workout we did. And I always thought skating in circles was brain crushing. How wrong I was.

Cyclists & Speedskaters

I want to take a moment to recognize a few Speedskaters who have done awesome things on the bike this year. But first, here are some opinions of mine. Speedskaters tend to make fantastic cyclists– Why?

  1. Raw anaerobic power & crank cracking strength are very important in most American bike races. These are the qualities that speedskaters train every time they step on the ice, and can train more easily than a cyclist. Just being IN the skating position is an anaerobic power based activity
  2. Due to the static-explode-static-explode nature of the skating motion, it puts the muscles under terrific stress, much more than the constant circle of a cycling stroke.
  3. For the same perceived effort, a speedskating effort will generate 3 times the wattage of a cycling effort. It might only be a split second of that extreme pressure, but it’s there. This is also why speedskaters excel at Track cycling, where maximal power counts.

Cyclists tend not to do so well at Speedskating, Why?

  1. Those little stabilizer muscles for balancing on one leg take years to develop.
  2. Ice is brutally unforgiving of anything but perfection.
  3. Being crazy strong on the bike still might not be crazy strong in a weight bearing sport. A bike race involves a huge number of sub-max revolutions while the bike supports your body. This is why if you are moving your house, you need Speedskaters to pick up & move the furniture.
  4. Speedskaters are athletes who must have phenomenal Proprioceptive ability. Often cyclists don’t. Speedskaters won’t drop the couch when walking backwards.


Make no mistake, I love my bike(s), cycling is a phenomenally interesting sport, with the greatest “variety” of training scenery imaginable. Road, Mountain, Track, Cyclocross, it’s never “hamster wheel” stuff.

But I often feel like skating helps my cycling more than the other way around. After regular ice time, I feel like I can tear the cranks right off the bike. The reverse is not true, just riding a bike is not skating preparation.

I want to send a few shout outs to some skaters I know, who have been excelling on the bike this year.

Melissa Dahlmann has been part of the skate tribe for years, here she is racing in Calgary.

and in one of those pre-race moments before stepping on the ice in Salt lake. This is the only photo in this post that is my work-

She has turned her prodigious gifts towards cycling, and has worked extremely hard. Her facebook updates are a litany of scary long rides.

Here is how her year has been, in her own words:

Speedskating this past winter was very difficult, as the times when I could get out to train were mostly late-night, below zero. Didn’t get to race the weekend time trials after GMSA said non-members couldn’t participate, and Heidi did not have the time/I did not have the money to join. But I did manage to come within a few seconds of my Utah nationals PB in the 3k, at the Pettit one weekend, so that was rather cool! I would love to race more this year. I’ll have to optimize my ice time and train hard off the ice…

Cycling was a looonnnggg season this year, I started racing in April already to try to get ready for the Nature Valley Grand Prix. I needed to upgrade from a cat 4 from last season and get to be a cat 2 if I was to be included, so I had a prolific career as a cat 3: in one race! With a lot of rallying and support from my team (Flanders/Minneapolis Bicycle Racing Club) I was able to get the upgrade approved. Whew!! This was the first time I ever belonged to a team before, so the whole summer was a great big learning experience. Really. On the track, I was more laid back this summer than last, since more of my focus was on the road. having been “Track Rider of the Year” last season at the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine, MN, I was more than happy to help my sister Heidi achieve that spot this year and take second, myself. :D

Melissa did not even mention, she had a huge triumph in winning one of the pro 1-2-3 women’s races at Superweek. I love this photo. That crazy amazing moment, of “win”!

Another Speedskater who has been rocking, is Colton Barrett, shown here on the left, racing national team Skater Paul Dyrud in Minnesota (thanks to his family for the photos).

The strength that Colton built skating in Roseville (mental and physical) came in handy at track nationals this year, as he won the junior national cycling championship in the match sprint. Go Colton!!!

This is the “glow” stage after a win-

It’s just amazing, so many cyclists out there, so few speedskaters, and we do pretty dang well!

(I’ve been looking for some of the newspaper articles I know were written about Colton, and can’t find them, anyone have a link?)

Kids & Skates

(Rz has not been sleeping well at night, so forgive the lack of posts.. I am…. tired …..a lot)

My wife and I, early in our relationship, used to joke about the “projector”. We discovered that when you really LOVE someone, it’s very hard to stop yourself from “projecting” what you want or enjoy onto them, no matter what they themselves want or need.

Part of what I needed learned between 20’s to my 30’s, was how to recognize when my “projector” was running, and to turn it off.

It’s hard to do. Still hard.

Add your own flesh & blood child into the mix, and the projector becomes so difficult to recognize. People ask me frequently if RZ will be a speedskater. Honestly, I don’t care. It’s up to her.

I do care that she has a physical life, and if she has a competitive personality like her parents, it’s great to find a focus. It’s important for competitive types to learn the lessons of losing, of failure, and occasional winning through hard work, that sports can teach.

But what sport? That is more about her than me.

What lessons? Things like what Ashley’s shirt talks about (Ashley has the best race shirts, this is from the John Rose classic in Minnesota)

Right now my inlines are just fascinating toys for RZ because they have spinny things (ice blades are off limits, for obvious reasons).

However it’s still hard for a driven person to not dream of passing on their hard earned knowledge & experience onward to their kids.

How many things do my own Mother & Father know, and deeply care about, that I have never truly asked about

However, it’s not just me, not just my projector. As my very active daughter grows, and begins to show her own physical gifts & determination (and she is VERY detail & determination oriented) the world will react to her partially because of the life her parents have lived.

I can’t tell you the number of times people have looked at her, grabbed her pudgy thighs, and said “Look! Speedskater legs!”

Even though legs of all sizes and shapes have the capacity to go scary fast, and true Tyrannosaurus Rex legs are rare, this makes me smile, and at the same time, hyper-aware of my own projector.

A tiny comment by my father one day, spiraled me off into 20 happy years of joyously painful bicycle racing. But even though he was an accomplished rider, he is not temperamentally a racer.

But he knew I was that kind of hyper-competitive person. He made the comment out of love & recognition of ME, not from his own projector.

That is why my dad rocks, and gave me the kind of thoughtful guidance and love I will try to provide for my little RZ.

Qualified!

all photos here from the amazing Tom DiNardo…

For many speedskaters, qualifying for Olympic trials is a HUGE moment. It’s that moment where you KNOW, that all that suffering has paid off. Certainly there are higher goals, world cups, O-games, medals, media immortality, etc, but for the vast majority of the athletes. QUALIFYING is the goal, and a moment that they remember forever.

The first time you do it, it’s a lightning strike that sets your heart on fire.

For short track, like long track, you need to skate a qualifying time to make the Olympic trials meet. This past weekend at the ST Desert Classic, quite a few qualifying times were skated on the fast Utah ice. .

Here is one story, my friend Liz Looby.

This alumnus of the Rochester speedskating team, who moved to Utah in pursuit of this goal, described her experience like this–


I can’t recall any other time in my life where I’ve cried out of happiness. After seeing the time, I got off the ice as fast as I could, ran to my coach and gave him a huge hug.

Everyone probably thought I was a crazy person, running crying and yelling, but I didn’t care because it was my moment, the moment I’ve suffered, sacrificed, and slaved to experience and it was worth every drop of blood and sweat I’ve shed.

I would gladly go through years of more long days at the oval doing double ice sessions and 4 hour dryland sessions till I drop if there’s even a possibility that I could have this kind of experience again.

I have this card with all my long term goals on it that I made a few years ago, there are 7 goals on it, and until Saturday, I’ve never been able to cross one out, or even come close. So even though all I did was make the qualifying time it marks a giant step in my skating career.


I think her smile says it all:

Many other skaters also qualified for the trials, I don’t have enough words in this keyboard to even scratch the surface of this. But here are a few images from Tom’s massive archives.

Liz had a great meet in addition to her qualifying time. Her chin is where her center of gravity is, and shows how lean generates speed, as in this moment she has just planted her left foot.

Anthony Barthell also qualified, and although Anthony now has his sights set higher (top 16 at the trials themselves) I hope he takes some moments to appreciate & celebrate this accomplishment he has worked so hard for, after moving here from Florida.

Riddle me this— Why do we do this sport?

I think this is a Zach Fuller, out here from California, passing a Russian. I don’t know him, but I know something about what he has experienced to get here.

The definition of qualified is this

Main Entry: qual·i·fied
Pronunciation: \ˈkwä-lə-ˌfīd\
Function: adjective
Date: 1558
1 a : fitted (as by training or experience) for a given purpose : competent b : having complied with the specific requirements or precedent conditions (as for an office or employment) : eligible

I’d like to add to this definition, by taking Liz’s experience, Anthony’s, all the short trackers who have worked so hard for the 2009 Trials, pour it into a pot, digitally boil & distill for 4 years, then splash it onto TV screens worldwide, just before an Olympic short track gold medal final.

Maybe then the “normal world” will understand us a little bit better.

Salt Lake City Summer Speedskating

My camera has been along with me this summer, and here and there, I’ve shot video of what a summer of Sspeedskating in Salt Lake is like. My wife was kind of bugged about the fact that I mix images of serious ice training with fun goofy inline stuff. But ya’know, that is how I experience the summer. Serious at times, goofy fun at others. It’s all skating.

Members of Kip Carpenters Swift Speedskating team were at the oval for two weeks, so they are all over the video.

Enjoy!

The thing I cannot communicate via YouTube, is the feeling one gets after skating on ice in a 40-45 degree building, becoming thoroughly chilled, then stepping outside into a 100+ degree day… Oh… My…. Oh… Wow… It is such a wild shock to the body. Even pleasant in a sick way.

Video Shotlist

Exterior of the Utah Oval
103 degrees!
Brent Aussprung, accelerating up to 33mph (27 sec lap)
Short trackers training
My “Floydship” skates + lipstick graffiti written into the ice, probably by a figure skater.
Alex Mark, Kreg Greer, Matt Shanahan, accelerating to 32mph (28 sec lap)
Johnathan Gorman, well Hydrated, Kreg Greer, thumbs up!
US National team Short track ladies, ripping it up
109 degrees! Ouch!, at least it’s a dry heat.
Katherine Reutter, outside pass.
Brent & Kreg lead Dan Beck, Tyler Goff, and Erika Hawke.
Erik Kraan, smooth on Legacy Parkway
My shadow
Kirk Fogdall, Alejandra Maldonado Mates, Eric Kraan
2 shots of RZ in her baby jogger. Happy feet! Smiling baby.
Eric Kraan, Kim Kraan, & Jessica.
Robert Johnson Moonwalking.
Alejandra Maldonado Mates & others goofing on quads
Myself, showing how NOT to slideboard
Connor Silvocka leads Jill Rookard
Matt Shanahan, Alex Mark, and Kreg Greer, still thumbs up!
Connor Silvocka
The sun from the highway, driving to the oval.

Questions with the Master

I spent years low-walking up the mountainside, following the path grooved by thousands of speedskaters before me…. Then one day I found the Master, in a 400m oval mountaintop monastery wreathed in Inzell-worthy mist tasting faintly of sweat.

He was meditating calmly in his wool suit, battered Vikings gleaming through the fog as he skated effortless turns with eyes closed. The ice was milk-perfect & he was smooth as black cat, ageless power in every stride….

His wind-burned face turned to me, and as his eyes opened…… I gasped in shock…

They were the color of medals earned far, far above gold.

I don’t know what nationality he was- Grizzled Norwegian? Japanese? 1900’s Hudson River speed demon? a Dutch veteran of a hundred Elfstendentochts?

Time was as short as my low-walk ravaged breathing…. My sweat-soaked weight vest fell to the ground along with my pride. Dizzy & about to collapse, humble as the rawest beginner, I asked questions that have been on my mind for years:


Q: Master, how do I skate faster?

A: To know how to skate, you must first know how to skate.

Q: Why do I have to do dryland?

A: Doing what you dislike with determination & focus helps you find grace doing what you love.

Q: I need to skate fast 25 or 26 second laps this year to achieve my goals, what if I can’t?

A: Ten thousand things happen inside your body every moment when skating, the clock is not one of them.

Q: Master, should I skate more inline? Short track??

A: Always drive from stable hips.

Q: Master, how do I find sponsors? This sport is so hard, so expensive..

A: If a sleeping bear cannot feel the wind through his fur, is it still blowing?

Q: Master, what is the sound of one skate clapping?

A: The skater’s lifetime…

Then he was gone, the rink was gone, the mountain disappeared like a hypoxic hallucination…..

I had not dropped my weight vest after all, it still burned my shoulders & quads like 1500m last lap painful ambition.

But I felt light.. it was light… Pain was clarity, and I started my 3rd set of dryland jumps, lower, and more powerful than I have ever been…