Video of Chad’s 1500m

I produced this for Chad Hedrick's web site, from my own hand held camera shots.. I might as well post it here too.

During today's 1500m, Chad Hedrick was paired with fast starter Joey Cheek, Chad chased him down, and came within .02 of his own world record.

There is a really emotional scene after the races, where Chad & Derek Parra congratulate each other, Derek also skated a tremendous 1500m, and qualified for the Olympics despite all the odds against him (he has been going through a lot recently). In the shot are their two coaches, Scott Koons and Bart Schouten.

Olympic Trials, Impressions from day 1 & 2

An athlete must, at times, be completely self-centered in order to maximize their performance. This is especially true in a sport like long track speed skating, that is completely individual, just you vs the clock.

At moments, over the last few days, I did remove myself from my haze of self-centered-ness, and watched some of the amazing efforts & struggles of Olympic trials. My Brother and my wife took many videos, and these pictures are from them.

You can find the results of the races here, But this blog is not a results page, this is my impressionistic take on these few days.

Here is the cool poster advertising Olympic Trials. This picture does crop out the dates to the left and the complete list of sponsors below.

Like many US speedskating advertising efforts, it’s a mix of brilliant and stupid. First of all, the graphic is stunning, but the words “Olympic Trials” were completely missing from the poster!!! (p.s. note, see steph’s comment for the possible reason why this is missing, it makes sense) Also missing were some of the “marquee names” racing in this event. Where is mention of Fitzrandolph? Parra? Witty? Rodriguez? Hedrick? This is what will draw the public to come watch the races. Why not put 1,000 people in the stands, instead of a hundred or two? Aren’t US speedskating’s sponsors paying for “media/public awareness”??

There are maybe a dozen of these hung around the oval. They appeared roughly 3 days before Olympic trials. Why weren’t these hung in every supermarket events board & sporting goods shop in town? Most local classic rock cover bands know better how to promote their shows than this!

Even so, There were actually a some people at the oval Tuesday morning for the first day of races. I could actually hear the cheering as I was racing.

Marco Bucci’s first 500m was his fastest of the season so far, here he is paired with Michael Stein about 30 meters into it. Marco has a habit, like myself and many ex-hockey players, of sometimes swinging his arms like he still is holding that hockey stick in his hands, he controls it nicely here. Good knee drive too. The second photo is marco in exactly the same spot on the track, 400 meters later.

Like in 2002, Eva Rodansky is one placing away from making the Olympic team, here she is driving to the finish of a 500m a bit ahead of multiple short track Olympian Erin Porter. This picture shows great technique from two great skaters, in very closely related moments.

KC Boutiette and Chad Hedrick have competed with & against each other for years on wheels, now they are 2 of the best ice guys in the world, and Chad could come home from Torino with several medals. Here they are in a 500m, Chad on the inner, KC on the outer. Once up to top speed on skates, you have to drive your body forward, while also pushing to the side, it’s a really hard trick to master. In this second pic angle, you clearly see two masters doing it exceptionally well.

500m Gold medalist Casey Fitzrandolph and 500m Bronze medalist Kip Carpenter. No matter if you do a traditional standing start or a down start with one hand on the ice, the goal is the same, to drive off the line powerfully, and to position the shoulders and hips in their proper position for the first 100m. Note that these two skating studs come to identical positions within the very first step

Carla Langenthal skated, in the words of Bob Fenn “the best he has seen her skate in 2 years!” I pretty much agree, Her 3k was great, and she missed a top 10 placing by a whisker. That’s her coach & Zen 10 Interview Victim Dave Tamburino standing in the background.

My brother-by-another-mother Kirk has a great pain face, here he is, in the last step of a teriffic 5000m effort, and a new personal best for him by 6 seconds. He can die a happy man now, or at least go golfing for the next decade without guilt.

Here is Chad and Derek in the 1000m, Derek losing balance in the corner a bit, yet even with this hand down moment, Derek skated a 25.87 lap, incredible. After the 1000’s were over, the margin between Chad Hedrick and 1st place finisher Nick Pearson in the was by the smallest measurable amount, .01 seconds.

Coach Boris appeared in the national media! His picture briefly was on the home page of ESPN.com, and several mentions were made in the media of his age and the other older skater in the race, 49 year old Bruce Conner. Boris was flattered, but what he REALLY cared about was that this race was an all time PB by about a half second! 38.24! An excellent time not just for an older man, but for ANY man.

Olympic Trials, Day 2

This is the inside lining of my superfast racing skinsuit. Like practically every skater who is competing at Olympic trials, I would not be standing at the start line without support (emotionally and otherwise) from my family and friends. I asked my family to write their names on the inside of my racing suit, to make it even more explicit that they are with me every step of the way.

After a sweaty day at the races wearing this unbreathing, vinyl sock, I now have vague wordy shaped blue blotches my chest and back!! Ha!

However, I felt like it brought me luck today. 600 meters into my 1000m race today, I was in a ton of pain, and was struggling with my corner technique at top speed. At that moment, I was .2 slower than my former personal best race. Hitting the final backstretch, at that precise place in the 1000m when my legs usually lock up from the lactic acid burn, I felt myself accelerating the straightaway with a new reserve of speed. My whole family was making tons of noise right there on that final corner, and I skated the fastest final lap of my life, and set a new personal best, 1:14.47, .6 faster than ever before.

Here I am, about 25 meters to go. Still driving, and feeling the “big ouch!”

I had to look at the scoreboard a few times, to really mentally connect a 1:14.47 to my name! I have improved my 1000m by 2.6 seconds from my fastest of last year.

I was really happy, I slowed down and coasted/staggered back to the part of the rink where my family was. I saw them celebrating & dancing around as the announcer mentioned it was a new PB for me. Seeing their joy, my own feelings just about completely overwhelmed me.

An Olympic medalist once told me that the most emotional part of actually standing on the medal stand, and getting that medal hung around his neck, was seeing his mother’s face in the crowd, and seeing what it meant to her.

I think I understand that comment now, even though no one hung anything on me. I don’t really care in some absolute sense that I finished 21st of the 29 skaters who dared the lactic rites of the 1000m (and there was some serious pain out there today). What I care about is the joy in my family, and that I can look in the mirror and say to myself that during Olympic trials I went faster than I have ever gone before.

Sure, It would have been nice to PB in my “best” event yesterday, but live, learn, celebrate with loved ones when you can, and always forge onward!

Olympic Trials, Day 1

To make a painful story short, things did not turn out the way I wanted. I had something of an off day on the day it mattered, both technically and physically. I have skated extremely well this past month, and all signs pointed in the right direction, but today was just not my day.

In the first 500m, I was going very well until a slip in the final corner. I lost a lot of speed, and ended up with 37.08 (another!) and finished 15th of 34 skaters. In the second one, again I was on pace for a sub-37 race, until the final corner, stumbled a bit, and skated 37.10, 15th of 44.

Maybe it was nerves, all my emotional sensors were certainly experiencing complete overload. The last several days have been just getting through the hours until it was time to race.

It hurts to feel like I failed at something I have thrown everything into being really good at. But this is what happens when you leap headfirst into a competitive arena, with a whole busload of extremely talented people who all want the same thing really badly. Someone wins, but most lose. What really hurts though, is not that I lost vs other people, but that I did not skate well vs myself.

However, there is so much that is still good, my friends, my family, this path I have taken has been very rewarding in many respects. The season is not over, tomorrow I skate a 1000m race, and there is still a lot left in the season after that.

Also my family was certainly the loudest, and best dressed cheering section in the stands (yes, they made t-shirts! the text on them says “love on ice is counter-clockwise”). They are all wonderful, and they matter far more than merely skating fast in a circle.

But it would be a lie to say that I am not upset. It hurts to write this. 15th of 44 in a race at Olympic trials.. hmmm, I should be happier about that than I am.

I have more to write, about Boris’s huge PB, and who made the Olympic team, but I am really tired.. more tomorrow…