Baselga Di Pine

Awaking from the turbulent dream of international travel, the rough ministrations of an Altalia 747 spits me out, punch drunk, jet lagged, into a strange country where everyone is skinny and dresses very well.

Must be Italy.

One sleep in a hotel bed, wake, one cup of tremendous Italian coffee (taste, not size) and I look out the window, to see this—

(this is a panorama, click on it for the big version)

This is no dream. Vinyards, mountains, gorgeous outdoor ice. The facility that Enrico Fabris calls home. I am living a blessed life.

In a few hours, am skating with Dutch, Canadians, Australians, Easy laps & a few accels. My hotel is the building on the hill to the upper right.

Past the flags getting ready for the upcoming races. Feeling great, all those hours at the rink this year. It feels worth it right now.

I will race my heart out, and have an outside chance at the podium. But today, the skating was so perfect, I almost don’t care. It is that good.

Here is a YouTube… ugh… Jet lag sucks, I need sleep.

Planet Moab

The famous (and rather dangerous) slickrock bike trail is a great place for some R&R after the stress of trials.

Doesn’t it seem like the surface of a strange planet? Planet Moab.

This 14 mile trail is a series of dashes painted onto the rocks. I rode this trail many times in the early 90’s. And it was fun to be back. Not because these 200 million year old, fossilized & weathered sand dunes had changed much in 15 years, but I have.

I’m kind of weathered now too.

Moab is such a different planet. Mountain bikes, motorcycles, and 4×4’s ply their way through the alien landscape.

Click on the picture, and try to find the human beings in here, this gives you an idea of the stunning scale of slickrock.

Early spring and late fall are the perfect times to ride this trail. Unlike the madness of summer heat & crowds, it’s very quiet, and you can feel awfully alone.

It’s a good thing for athletes who train in groups to feel alone sometimes. To be just your breathing and pounding heart, to be the only sound in the desolation.

What did the movie Jurassic park say? “life will find a way”. This tiny pocket of water in the desert rock often has visible little shrimp swimming in it.

None on this day though. But there are there, waiting.

They repaint this trail several times a year, and in these final weeks of the season, it was quite faint in places. Waaaay out in the farthest reaches of the trail. I got stuck in one of the optional loops, and could not find the main trail spur again.

I wasted a good hour till I found it.

I had left the parking lot with plenty of time to ride the trail. But after my detour, it was some miles to the trailhead as the sun went down. I don’t want to sound too dramatic about this, but Slickrock can kill you multiple ways in broad daylight.

I walked the last few miles back to the trailhead, as it became too dark & dangerous to ride. I was deeply thankful for the full moon & the phone in my pocket.

I had this pagan desire to howl with thanks to the moon, when I arrived back to my car.

The lesson? One might be a very experienced mountain biker, or hiker, or whatever, but Mother Nature demands respect beyond just strong legs. We are so insulated in our lives from danger, we forget it’s out there.

Maybe that is why so many people love mountain biking, because the experience is often unpredictable, and very often teaching about ourselves when things go wrong.

Yes, I thought about RZ when I was out there in the dark, Jess too. We had been hiking earlier that day.


I can’t wait to go back to Moab this spring, with the whole family (and my riding buddy Evan, who has an excellent sense of direction) a little wiser to what mother nature can do to the unconcerned. I have not been that scared in a long time.

Olympic Trials Tomorrow!!!

Whirlwinds of travel, emotion, life.. Absolved of job & Dad duties for the moment, expect a blizzard of posts during the next few days. Gosh… I have time! What is time to write?

For some reason, I love taking pictures of the planes I am about to, or just have, flown on… The dude behind the wing is the captain, inspecting his plane. This made me happy, as he really carefully took his time.

The floor of the Milwaukee Airport, I like this, public art representing the diverse parts of my life.

Arriving in a blustery, dreary fall day, a new banner across the front of the Pettit. No pressure Trevor, really….

a quote from my long ago Zen 10 interview with Joey Cheek


I have found that I do the same few things technically incorrect over and over. The secret for me has been to drive in, day after day, the corrections to those problems. Then when I race to not try and go fast, but to simply let my body do what I have drilled over and over and over. Zen-like huh?

-Joey Cheek

So what have I been drilling into my head that I hope to apply tomorrow? Shorter arm swing, bringing the knees more together, feel the skating from the hips, flow through the turns

There will probably be no videos of my races, no streaming online feed, but last week I did pop off a very solid 500, 37.9, Don Nelson kindly supplied this video- (I’m in red, in the lane opposite me in grey is Junior Stud Lawrence Ducker, I got him by .09 at the line).

This is exactly what I hope to do tomorrow as I race in two 500m events.

I was so overwhelmed with emotion in the run up before trials in 2005, I could barely handle it.

This time, not so much, although many people I know are truly walking in a bubble of pressurized intensity right now.

Whoa, must stop blogging, must start warming up for an easy race prep workout.

My Teacher


Are you a role model for your kid? Absolutely. They mimic your expressions, tone, & communication styles constantly. If you smile while eating breakfast, it’s likely they will too. If you talk to them, and play on the beach, they will talk back, and maybe love the ocean like you do.

They are absolutely their own person/personality, but they are figuring it all out, based on what surrounds them.

This I expected.

But what I have been most surprised by, is how much my daughter is teaching me. RZ is teaching me about a whole range of emotions, levels of effort, “true strength” & selflessness that I did not know I had within myself. I am a better man because of her, and I think I grasp some things about this world better, because of her.

It’s a wild ride.

She wants to grab my keyboard right now, she is talking that baby talk string of vowels at me.. BaBaBaDoDeeDaDaDa. I can’t write. Jess is sleeping and the baby is wriggling.

Oh, I am in Puerto Rico right now, my brother is getting married this sunday to an amazing lady who has a lot of family on the island. Like Puerto Rico itself, Esther is American, but then with some other amazing identity entirely her own blended in, it’s a fascinating place.

Ocean, family, good times. RZ, lets keep teaching each other through all the swells & waves, Ok?

I thought I would do some dryland this week, just easy stuff… the Utah oval opens in two weeks, but it’s just not happening.

Oh well, hand me another cerveza to wash down my mofongo..

RZ, can you teach me to be ok with that too?

Great Grandfather’s Day

My first father’s day was not about me at all. I am visiting my grandfather, Colonel Edson Snow.

He is 94, and was very happy to meet his Great-Granddaughter, Arzelia Jane Love.

To understand my grandfather, I show you a few things I noticed this afternoon, on a shelf in his room.

gpa1.jpg

What you have here is a can of WD-40, next to a morse code sender. Right behind his morse code sender, is a spool of DVD-RW for his laptop.

I find this collections of stuff amazing, and very telling about my Grandfather, as he has always been an early adapter of technology.

Grandpa was certified for Morse code when he graduated high school in 1932, and passed the exam proving he could send at 20 wpm. He is a lifelong ham radio operator, and has spoken to people in 150 different countries (he keeps track), he now loves email and video Skypes with his family.

Jess and I have spent much of the past two days with him. We have heard so many stories of his life & family, of my mom & uncle, and people I never met, but who look like me & RZ.

This is a blog about skating, so one story he likes to tell about his childhood is that there used to be a company that owned numerous vacant lots in NYC. In the winters they would flood them, and turn them into ice skating rinks.

To show the ice was ready, they would fly a white flag with a red dot on it (looked just like Japan’s flag actually). If you saw that flag, it meant “ice skating open today.” And all the boys wanted “long blade skates” in those days too!

Grandpa owned his own plane, and his stories of service in Italy during WWII would fill journals. Today I found myself reading V-mail he sent to my grandmother in 1944. That was HARD to read, and so tiny.

Here he is with Arzelia. They are already best friends.

gpa2.jpg

Morse code to ham radio, V-mail to eMail, and now technology like Skype makes distance seem like nothing. Happy great-Grandfather’s day, Colonel Ed!!

What will RZ see in her life? Will the changes be that great?

There is always a sadness leaving close family who are very old. He is so clear, and so strong for 94. But as he shuffled away, I felt my heart tear a bit, and hoped I would see him again.

gpa3.jpg

(that is too sad a note to end a usually optimistic blog on… so I will toss in a gratuitous baby image, RZ is really starting to have some serious brainpower starting up. It’s thrilling to watch)

gpa4.jpg

Retiring

Let me be clear, Shani Davis is NOT RETIRING!

However after his success at US nationals this year, he is retiring his beloved Marchese custom boots that have seen him through 8 & 1/2 seasons. They are simply worn out.

These skates have won Olympic gold & silver, two world allaround championships, broken world records 5 times, taken 4 single distance world championships & 23 world cup wins. Add into that the astounding amount of hard work an elite athlete like Shani puts in; the endless laps, accels, starts, etc.

If these skates could talk, what would they say?

Elite skaters will often kill a pair of blades per year, so boots are the true & lasting connection to the ice. Shani now has a new, dark purple pair of Marcheses in hand. He and Paul Marchese were lacing them up & mounting blades on them for the first time after Nationals ended. (update, he broke them in a week, so back to his old skates!)

I don’t think I have ever read an accurate depiction of the Shani I have gotten to know over the years. He is a complex fellow, who has been through a lot in his life & stellar career.

You cannot describe him in a sentence, or a sound bite, or even a brief interview. It’s one reason I have never tried.

But I will say something I have never seen written about him; Shani is a true master of this extremely complex sport. If there is a speedskating PHD, he has it.

There are many athletes who could never manage their own equipment, training schedules, psychological preparation, discipline, and ways to be at peace with the challenges speedskating throws at you.

Shani knows the pieces of the speedskating puzzle thoroughly, and his understanding of technique, both his own & others, is very deep. It is one of the reasons he has been so successful for so long, no matter where he is living & training.

I ran into him & Apolo at an ice cream shop last summer (Hatch family chocolates, for you Salt Lake Locals); and the conversation turned to certain aspects of elite technique, and very quickly they were speaking at a level light years beyond my own understanding.

I might have felt “the force” a few times, but these two are Jedi.

Natz stuff soon

I am finally home, and trying to organize the vast amount of material I have from nationals.

I finished the video from the sprint completion very early this morning, and will be processing/posting it later today. It rocks like an avalanche, so keep your eyes open for a steady stream of good stuff–

Thanks to Sarah Beetham, Charlie Mahoney’s fianceé, for this image of me zipping along during a 500m. It’s like I am headed right at the camera at a weird angle to the track, but I do have proper nose-knee-toe alignment.

That skinsuit makes me look fat. I am pushing 205 right now, & that is a lot of Love to accelerate from a standing start, but I digress…

Did I have goals at nationals this year? How could I have a goal? I work full time, I have a lovely daughter, and between her amazing birth and a back injury that sidelined me at a critical training period, it’s been a challenge.

That said, I am intensely competitive, and have learned the hard way that to go really fast on skates requires an intricate blend of factors; it’s a physical and psychological puzzle, and this year I am missing most of the pieces. I do remember where the pieces go, but that only counts for so much.

But I would not be happy without goals, so I did have two:

I wanted to enjoy the experience of racing nationals like I did the very first time I qualified in December of 2003. That year I was like a creative kid during his first visit to LegoLand. It was a huge emotional high.

In 2004, 2005 & 2006 I had sacrificed & trained freakishly hard, and had expectations of results. I did race well, but did not have what I would call an “enjoyable” time, even though in 06 I did earn cat I. Last year nationals in 07 was more fun, but I was in a lot of pain from a chronic injury, and was still stressing out of habit.

So fun was goal #1 this year, but also I wanted to be faster than I was back in 2003. That first year I skated 38.8 & 39.0 in the 500, and 1:20-ish 1000m races.

I did accomplish both of my goals.

For the body I am wearing right now, I got about 95% of what it was capable of. My 500’s were 38.31 & 38.41, and my 1000’s were both in the mid 1:19’s.

All these times were light years slower than my sea-level PB’s from 2006 (37.1 & a low 1:16), but this year’s races felt “good” to skate.

I made connections with so many people who matter deeply to me; I had so many conversations that reminded me of the unique, warm people who are drawn to this sport, and so I am at peace, goal accomplished.

Day 1 US Nationals

I don’t have reliable Internet access, so this will be an incredibly quick entry, on a few moments of the many amazing races today.

So many stories in every event. Here is Lawrence Ducker leading Ryan Bedford entering the final turn of a 500m. I am pretty amazed at what Lawrence is doing here, as his left skate push is cleanly threading the tiny space between two blocks as he is traveling 33mph.

Shani & Chad showing some extended glide-time during extended pain-time; 3 laps to go in the 5k. They were paired together for both 500m and 5k, and it was incredible to watch these world champions/Olympic medalists go at it.

Whereas Chad & Shani were pushing each other, Trevor Marsicano was 3rd in the 5k by a whisker, a fantastic race, just himself vs the track. Here he is in the last few meters of pain, again, in a glide moment.

So many stories: Justin Stelly has spent most of this season recovering from injury. He is certainly not skating near his potential, and that is a psychological battle that he needs to go through to get back to the top of his game. He fights with heart here in the last 200m of his 5k…

and pays for it after the finish. As a pure sprinter, I totally respect the effort & toughness of the true allarounders.

Ashlee Barnett & her clipped, powerful style, is shooting through the final turn in the 500m, earning a highly respectable 2rd place finish. I think this is her first senior long track nationals medal. Go A-Barn! (Note & correction: she has several she earned as a junior, but this is the first in some time, and one she quite happy with.)

3 happy women on the podium after the 3k. Maria Lamb, Nancy Swider-Peltz, and Catherine Raney-Norman.

Ok, must run, my brief moment of internet connectivity is fading fast, more tomorrow if I can.

Xmas

A picture can be worth a thousand words, or sometimes, one word can begin a thousand pictures, or even one vowel from a baby trying to coo & sing in infant-speak can launch novels in the heart.

My Father’s camera caught this moment that became our XMAS card for this year.

It becomes easier & harder to use words like “blessed” & “miracle” when I look at my daughter. What is that spark that is so definitively RZ from the moment she was born? What is this thing that has lit up our lives, and the faces of the grandparents?

A rationalist/reflectionist view of the world does not contain proper language for this.

It poured rain on Xmas eve, Xmas day was cold, and then sunset spilled its colors across quite skateable New Jersey lake ice

Although I walked on it, I did not venture out on blades. Small patches of open water betrayed uneven solidity, signifying the natural springs spelling danger for all but the thickest winter ice.

Being a father, my own yardstick of risk must change. Besides, “one look” from Jessica vetoed any skating.

For a brief instant, looking out at the lake, I wish national championships were contested on lake ice, with fixed blades, in single layer wool suits with foofy hats. Someday this race should happen (maybe in Petoskey?).

My dad snapped the moment as this was swirling in my mind.

I leave for Milwaukee & US national champs tomorrow, and knowing that Jess & RZ will be surrounded by family in this stupendously beautiful, very peaceful place, allows me to leave without overwhelming waves of guilt.

Thanks for the pics dad (and for a lot of other things too, If I am half the Father you have been to me, I will still end up a great Dad).

Garden State Style

What is the heart & soul of speedskating? What is the essential bedrock of this sport?

It’s a hypothetical question with many right answers. But I found some of the best answers I’ve ever seen during a low-key practice I just skated with the Garden State Speedskating club;

Here are the skates of East Penn Speedskating coach Hence Bollinger and one of the organizers of the Middle Atlantic Skating Association, Al Harding, relaxing after a solid practice.

Without committed grass roots volunteers like Hence & Al, speedskating dies.

Without good folks like Bill Jamin & Glenn Hukins who welcomed me warmly (as they welcome all) to practice with the Garden State Club, speedskating is in serious trouble.

Although our national team members, and the folks who win World Cups & Olympic medals deserve lots of love, so do the grass roots. Like these two young skaters, flying past duct-tape scarred pads.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful project to try and skate with every short track club in America during a season? My best count from the US speedskating website is that there are 64 of them. A doable number if that goal was your overwhelming goal. I remember over 100 clubs when I started 8 years ago.. hmmm….

I would link to the US speedskating club finder, but that website does not support incoming links, or the back button, or… (the list goes on & on)….

It’s really easy to look at the national caliber programs in Salt Lake city, and anoint this group as the be all & end all. Indeed, that is where US Speedskating’s 1.3 million dollar a year budget goes. The Elite do need support, no question about that, it’s the only way they can be competitve.

But they are only the tip of the pyramid, and the height of that tip is greatly dependent on the width & health of its base. That base is right here in all these volunteer run clubs full of good people, scattered across the USA.

After this one practice, in the locker room, it seems as if the East Penn club had their cookie exchange the week before, and there were still reams of cookies flying around from East Penn skaters up to skate in Jersey. I ended up with a good-sized stack, these 2 immediately fueling my post workout bliss.

Dustin, what did you put in your gooey butter cookies? A half-ton of butter dusted with cocaine?? wow… Hence, did you say those were hand ground almonds? omigosh I could not stop eating them….

But seriously; let me say an overdue public thank you to Joel Boyd & the Binghamton short track club. I don’t think they exist anymore; but in my first 2 seasons of skating, they had a huge impact in getting me started, and helping me fall in love with this sport.

Thanks Joel, and thanks to all the volunteers who make this sport possible.