Knee, Tandem, & Hot Tubs

It hurts in the morning, walking the dog around the block, stiff and little twinges every footfall. It aches when I sit too long at the computer, but I was able to go a careful 80% hard last night in my jump workout (skipping the really ballistic stuff). I think lifting would be baaaaaad, so I am still staying away from the squat rack. It’s a maddening injury. Ok then pain, pain then ok.

When I first hurt my knee, I thought it was an “owie” not an injury. But it’s definitely an injury, yet seems to be slowly getting better. The doctor explained to me that knee problems of this sort can happen in “white tissue” or “red tissue” within the knee, and the red tissue injuries are the ones that are capable of healing themselves. The white tissue injuries are the ones that sometimes require surgery. I am hoping this is a “red” issue.

My MRI is scheduled for Monday, and my follow up on Wednesday. So we shall see.

Jess and I went for a really lovely tandem ride this morning (knee 100% normal). This picture, she shot over my shoulder as we were engaged in typical Ithaca climbing. We had been steeply and gradually climbing for a solid twenty minutes when she took this, and we still had some ways to go till we got to the top (this is waterwagon road, for Ithacan reference) .

Shouts go out to my “brother-by-another-mother” Evan Schaibly, the artwork you did back in 1992 for the Hampshire College bike racing team jersey is still beautiful! Notice our hot tub company sponsor! The day I first met Jessica I was in one of their hot tubs, but that is another story…….

Zen Quote

From “Zen in the Art of Archery” by Eugen Herrigel. This is Herrigel’s Master speaking to him:

“I must only warn you of one thing. You have become a different person in the course of these years. For this is what the art of archery means: a profound and far-reaching contest of the archer with himself. Perhaps you have hardly noticed it yet, but you will feel it very strongly when you meet your friends and acquaintances again in your own country: things will no longer harmonize as before. You will see with other eyes and measure with other measures. It has happened to me too, and it happens to all who are touched by the spirit of this art.”

Thankfulness/Waiting for an MRI

The Orthopedist extended and turned my leg, flexing and prodding my knee joint slowly, deliberately, like a jeweler turning each fact of a diamond to the light. Of course, in my case, he was looking for pain. He went through a long series of movements, extending and contracting, gently and firmly, nothing, no discomfort.

Then with the tip of his index finger he put gentle pressure on the side of my kneecap, pushing it inward, and the diamond flashed with light, ooouucch! Ok! Yes that hurt!

I think this Doc has a pretty good idea (from the mechanical perspective) of what I did to my knee, or at least, he has it narrowed down to a couple of possibilities, mostly involving some soft tissues deep in the knee that skaters tend to hurt (this doctor actually skated short track some years ago, & used to work out regularly on a slideboard, so he knows athletes & skating, I’m lucky). I will have an MRI done later this week, and then we will have answers about severity/time till I can hammer again.

Thanks for all of my friends who, upon reading this blog, sent me emails & advice & encouragement. I really appreciate it. My brother did tell me strongly that I violated a blog rule of not updating more frequently when important things like knee injuries are happening!! so my apologies….

Till answers come, my coach wants me riding my bike to keep the fitness gains I have made (cycling is ok & does not hurt). Great! So I dug around my box of jerseys, and pulled out one of my father’s early 1980’s wool jerseys. It is very clearly “not of this decade” in a wonderful way. I wore it for a reason, because I want to dwell in the positive! I have to. This knee problem could be merely a delay, or it could be bad, so wearing this reminded me to be very thankful for what I can do. With almost 20,000 miles in his legs, My Dad has really not been able to ride since his heart attack in 1993, more than a decade of blood thinners & subsequent pacemaker instillation has gotten in the way since. My dad has “software” that controls his heartbeat, how’s that for a thought! Wearing one of his old jerseys reminded me to keep perspective.

It was 70 degrees today and with a blustering wind. In the spirit of thankfulness, I wanted some serious punishment to crumble my worries into dust, so I did a bunch of 5-minute intervals into the wind and big ringing it up the hills in my PowerCranks. I was pretty happy, I was able to sustain 190bpm for these intervals, and that nice big old flagon of lactic acid was mentally purifying to drink from. The bike is an old friend, and its nice when old friends beat the crap out of you on days when you simply need it.

Whizzing homeward, & down the Ithaca hills, sweaty and satisfied. I passed the spot where my friend Peter Ozolins had his almost life ending meeting with a car. Thankful, bum knee and all, I am so thankful to be who & where I am right now.

Sushi & Suppositions

It was a slow night for him, the restaurant was full, the waitresses were running around like crazy, but the catered party was not ordering from the sushi bar he stood behind. He had a very Japanese face, with a low, softly modulated voice that with his particular, hesitant English diction, made everything he said seem thoughtful. His eyes only enhanced the effect.

My wife and I were sitting at his sushi bar on the Ithaca commons, enjoying both his company and watching his sushi creative skills.

His hands worked with precision and speed, born from uncounted years/thousands of rolls. Blizzards of Rice, delicate slices of the freshest fish, crisp nori, a scattering of sesame seeds, mist of vinegar, swirls of decorative sauces, arranged wheatgrass shoots; his expertise made art disguised as food.

We were one of his only customers this evening and he spoiled us rotten. The sushi he made for us was too pretty to be subjected to destructive mastication and digestion, but to not eat it would be offensive.

As he topped our rolls with perfect tiny scoops of fish eggs, each scoop a different, vibrant color, for the first time in my life, I wanted a camera phone so that I could take a picture of it and send it to someone saying “ha! see what I get to eat tonight!” (or even post it here!).

I asked him “when you make sushi for yourself here, what do you make?” and his answer surprised me to the depths of my westernized romanticisms. He said “I don’t really like sushi at all, I love cheeseburgers. Yes, cheeseburgers and good beer. Have you ever been to In-n-Out burger? Mmmmmmmmm!!”

I thought at first he was joking, but the hungry glint in his eyes at the mention of this California based burger franchise, and his following detail of how he only likes the smell of sushi, not the taste, convinced me of his sincerity. He also went on at length about how he loves the iron chef, “Those chefs are really good, the best, but the show is all about entertainment, not about their skills.” He then proceeded to artfully slice up an Orange, and drizzle plum wine across the slices, as a freebee desert for us! Wow….. Jess and I were speechless, and quite full by the time we waddled out of there.

His new place in on the Ithaca commons, in the old Rosebud Diner location. I highly recommend it.

It was a good evening. It helped me take my mind off of the unease I feel under my still injured right kneecap. My knee works, but with a sensation, like an engine warning light in a car’s dashboard that pops on mysteriously when you press a little too hard on the gas pedal. But my warning light is a sharp pain, a warning light to the brain. I have been known to ignore “check engine” lights on my car dashboard, but I can’t ignore this warning light.

scary moment!

Feeling phenomenal in the gym today, like the plates & bar were made of Styrofoam, I was tossing around weight with ease and snap, my body has absorbed all my recent hard work, and then doing a front squat with 185lbs on the bar (and I do this all the time, this weight is not even close to my max) at rep 8 of a 10 rep set, I felt a bad twinge behind the right knee, I put the bar back immediately, walked around, stretched, shook the leg cautiously, it felt fine, no problem at all… I took the bar off the rack in back squat position (easier for me, I am far stronger in that range of motion) and the same bad twinge announced itself on the second rep, like an electric shock of pain right behind the right kneecap…

My “oh fuck” echoed loudly through the weight room, just to see if it was a range of motion thing, I tried the leg press, even with two plates on each side (for me a nothing weight) zing!!!!!! pain again, right behind the right kneecap.. I had warmed up properly, stretched well, nothing unusual in my routine…… I am 34, and very aware that I need to listen to my body, and it was sending me a very loud and clear message….

I ended the workout right there…. It does not hurt at all to walk or ride a bike or stand on one leg or even hop around on the one “hurt” leg… But that lifting stress was electric pain, very bad….. I hope it goes away!!! Looking back at my training journals from last year, on april 27th, a muscle in the top of the right thigh suddenly pulled in the gym. I also ended that workout immediately, and was fine in the following days..

I think I will be ok for my coming very demanding workouts…. As an athlete, its important to know yourself, know the line between and “owie” and a true chromic “injury” this is an owie at this point, since I stopped so early, not an injury…. but crap!! its scary to have this stuff happen… This could become an injury, I hope not…

Is there a lesson? Health is wealth maybe? Treasure what you have, it might be gone in 1 rep on the squat rack?

Its also scary cause my right ankle has been bothering me, it seems as if the right leg chain of joints & motion is somehow out of whack… I need my right leg…

Stay tuned….

Racin’ Ducks!

Thanks to Barend Tollenaar for his kind mention of my blog and website on the Winnipeg speed skating site! That made my day a few days ago…

But yesterday I was feeling pretty emotionally and physically down (again!!), inlining around the downtown streets of Ithaca, and trying to remind my body to remember how to skate on wheels and not ice… My balance point, & snap of leg extension were all wrong for inline. My trusty old Bonts boots & mogema frames felt not like the magic slippers of my memory, but clodhopper awkward. Being really fast in a sport is a good thing, but then when you are not that fast anymore, you remember that feeling, and it can make doing it again dispiriting, it was getting to me too. And then I came across the thick crowds of the 4-H duck run, and hundreds of people clustering around it…

This strange yet joyous Ithaca event consists of people spending $5 or so to buy one of over 3600 little plastic duckies that are dumped into the headwaters of Cascadilla creek. They float about a mile downstream, and the first duck across the finish line wins $500 for the people who put the $5 on that duck, place #2 was an ipod, and so forth down to place 405!

I found myself drawn to the weird drama of it all, seeing some ducks shooting right down the heart of the current like butter, and other ducks get stuck on rocks, eddys, or in the weeds on the bank, Like most of the crowd, I found myself rooting for the ducks, I found myself skating along the bank with the mass of people mirroring the mass of floating yellow duckies.

Then I stopped watching the ducks and really shifted my attentions to the crowd. How funny we are, cheering this on and finding it so engrossing. The mass of buzzing attention following the lead duck, the cheers for the hapless chase pack.

Drama as a submerged branch catches one little duck, he seems stuck, the crowd cheers, hoots & hollers, then the duck pops out and the cheers become clapping! Or the duck truly is stuck, and people’s attentions wander and move onward (at the end of the day, volunteers collect all the stuck ducks littering the creek edge.).

How many watchers swirl our selves into the duck eye view of the world, how does it feel for that lead duck? Or even a mid pack duck, swarming down the river, banging off rocks, jostling in the current, looking up to the cheering crowds, and the ghosts of huge fish below (the spawning is mostly over, and the remaining fish, mostly sexed out males, like diehards at the singles bar at closing time, were quite unimpressed by the ducks).

So yes, we are all ducks as we watch, the race means nothing, but it means everything, especially if you are a competitive duck, and dream of leading the way through the rapids, and get off on the cheering from the crowds…

Some dare the rapids, some watch and walk along the shore, some never leave their couches and the sucking eye of TV. I am a duck by nature, no different, plastic and tossed by rapids not of my own design, my body mostly not of my own design (hey, right ankle of mine, stop hurting, I need you healthy this year!!!)….

Do I have control? Yes, and that is where I am different than the helpless plastic ducks..or do I? Does fate and my genetically determined personality swirl me onward just like a plastic duck in a stream?

The crowd gathered at the finish line. Eager, a palpable buzz in the air, and of course, that gentle liberal vibe of happy goof that seems to be so common in Ithaca gatherings.

I swear the cheer that greeted the wining duck was 10 times bigger than the cheer that I got when I had my 12th place race at nationals, and the crowd was bigger too! (This was the race I trained my soul out for, the race I spent months away from home for, the race I have embedded in my heart like a furious ember, the race I am using to fan the flames of hard training with this year).

And it does not matter really in some ultimate sense, how I did at nationals last year –or will do at Olympic trials, who wins Westminster kennel club, what NFL team has the best record and wins the super bowl, or what duck shot the rapids of chance and floated across the finish line first…

I will skate fast or not, have kids or not, be a good father/husband/human being or not, and die for certain anyway, we all will, somehow the words of the end of blade runner comes to mind, as Roy is dying:

“i´ve seen things that you people wouldn´t believe, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of orion…all those moments…will be lost…in time…like tears in the rain”

This depressing strain is how my mind works sometimes; I always trace a web of associations to its core, but I do escape, I have a solid lifting workout scheduled for today, so it’s onto the bike to ride the vertical mile (really!!!) to my gym courtside and try to improve my duck plastic!


At the gym there was a woman in her early 50’s, either just coming out of a long hospital stay, or just emerging from a lifetime on the couch. She was struggling with the easiest machines, with no weight on them, but damm she was trying, shaking, gasping, working with a personal trainer, and doing her best! She inspired me, I looked at myself in the mirror, who the heck was I, looking how I do, with the talent I was born with and have nurtured through hard work! Who am I to mope about not being fast on my inlines today, to philo-paralyze my brain with the metaphor of plastic ducks!

I was at the squat rack, doing power cleans, my haze of earlier depression began to clear, then the lyrics of an Eminem song broke through the bump-thump-boom-boom of the gym speakers, Eminem said:

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo!

The obscuring coils of higher brain functions melted away, the inner brain, stem and nub lit up like a dragster Christmas tree with neuron electricity. I threw some more weight on the bar, took a good grip, and just about fucking threw that bar and plates through the ceiling of the gym for rep after raging rep. Yeah!

Chris & Varya!!!

This blog shall return to its usual coverage of speedskating and the struggles entailed shortly, as recently my literary energies have been mostly absorbed by a wedding I was asked to write a toast for! Chris and Varya are dear friends, and they knew of my literary inclinations- So they asked me to write/recite a toast for their wedding ceremony! The wedding was beautiful, moving, emotional. And the toast I wrote seemed a hit, and since so many people asked me for a printed copy, I thought the best thing to do would simply be to post it here. (Speedskating returns tomorrow, I promise!)..

So here it is, Thanks Chris and Varya for being such true friends!!

April 16th, 2005

Its spring, and for each sunrise and sunset
Phalanxs of spring peepers chorus
their one note outward to the warmth saying:
“I’m here, I’m here..

Its spring, and birds in new plumage
Dart together across the blue sky–

Squirrels scamper across tree trunks
Weaving a spontaneous crosshatch of tails.

Flowers find the sun
Find the wind
and begin again.

Fish wend their way from Cayuga’s cold murk
To spawn in the sunlit riffles of Cascadilla Creek.

And if you look closely in the night sky
You can see the bats whirling through the dark
Loving each other upon a carpet of stars.

Yes its spring, and we are here today,
In the sun and air
In our best plumage
full of song and ritual….

Driven at first
By those same unnamed ions of union
driven by the clear sky and carpet of stars,


We alone of all species
need to understand why we do this.
To grasp our complex path
Of love that is more- because we have chosen it
Because it is our own path through
This often dark & difficult landscape.

And what of the Chris and Varya story?
What moments come to mind
On this spring day celebration?

It began in winter, during a long hike, lit by cold sun
In deep snow Ithaca woods
A hello, a conversation,

A conversation continued through emails, then dinner.
The path through the woods opens to clearings
Of honesty, light, possibility, courage.

Because love takes courage,
Courage you two have.
Love is looking the world in the eye, for better or worse
for the unexpected days when the ground can give way beneath your feet.

As it did on one of their first dates,
Varya falls through the ice of Cascadilla creek,
And Chris pulls her out,
And later they manage the
The perfect goodnight kiss
Even with mutual hypothermia involved.

There is no mathematical theorem of chance
No chaos theory algorithm to explain
Two flames of soul reaching higher because they stand together

Yet when Chris and his 2 dogs first visited Varya’s
Chris’s black lab Jazz can already tell
This home is good-
These two together make all well
So held aloft by love,
Jazz took a stroll out a window, onto the roof
And fell off the house
And was completely fine. He was right.

And then on a later hike,
Ringed by the rolling upstate New York Hills
Chris pulls a ring from his pocket
And asks Varya a question.

So now, on this later spring day
If you asked me for a mathematical proof of love
I would fail.

If you asked me to decode physicists triangulations
Explaining the oscillometry of love
I would fail.

If you asked me for the true weatherman’s forecast for our souls
For the high and lows, sunny days or hurricanes to come
I would fail.

But if you asked me,
On this sunny day
Can you point to what love is?

Chris and Varya, you are my undeniable proof…

And I don’t need a weatherman to see how all our hearts
Soar for you, and with you.

So I ,
And so we all
Raise our glasses of sunshine to you two
Chris and Varya.
To your love
and to your lives together.

Spring Spawning

O to break loose, like the chinook
salmon jumping and falling back,
nosing up to the impossible
stone and bone-crushing waterfall –
raw-jawed, weak-fleshed there, stopped by ten
steps of the roaring ladder, and then
to clear the top on the last try,
alive enough to spawn and die.

I love those lines, Robert Lowell wrote them. I think Lowell is talking about freedom, pursuing desire, illogical sex drive, and the ability to really committ, to “break loose” (with the ten steps/ten commandments & your own failing self/raw jaw in the way).

Large fish are spawning in Cascadilla Creek that runs by my house. Inspiring and beautiful to see them struggling against each other in the shallows, and fighting the current.

They are not globe trotting salmon, but rather husky local fish, as long as my arm & quite solid. From my perusal of several fish guides, they are “Moxostoma Erythrurum” in latin, and that sounds more noble for the beauty I saw than calling them by their local names, “Golden Redhorse Suckers”.

Wanna see? here is the movie I took

Bjarne, Bobby, Boris, BELIEF!

Even though the mind knows better, sometimes a new workout program that one is REALLY BAD at, can seem a Sisyphean task. According to what research says, it can take from 14 to 21 days for a workout to actually result in increased fitness (anything you feel before that, is most likely improved neuro-muscular connections)… I started this horrendous jump program about two and a half weeks ago, my physical reaction to it, and my emotional discouragement, should be no surprise, but holy shredded quads batman!! it’s hard!!

Then yesterday felt suddenly different, like my body had clicked into gear and all the buttons were in the “right places”, I slammed & pounded through the whole 3 hours in the gym with power, physical snap & emotional clarity. It was still hard, but it was good pain, not bad awkward wanna crumble pain. I can really see what this is driving at, now I want to keep working on this hard stuff, to keep breaking myself down & rebuilding my body to be more skate-efficient.

My coach Boris has many gifts, and one of them is believing in his athletes, and getting them to believe in themselves. Like Bjarne Ris did for Bobby Julich (who after his bronze medal in the Olympics, just won paris-nice and the criterium international) and right now this is really working for me, and creating a new belief in myself that I will be a cruise missile of 500m precision this winter. Bobby is 34, same age as me.

Winning does not matter as much as hope/belief, as much as that daily confident stride down the path you choose.


My amazing wife finally wrapped up her contract negotiations with a vet clinic in Salt Lake City!!!! After 7 years of friggin insane hard work, pursing her dreams of becoming a veterinarian, she is now about to actually become DR. LOVE!!!! She interviewed at 10 clinics in Salt Lake, and this was her first choice!

Jess, you are incredible! My life would be so much less without you (I mean, I could get by, but it would be 2-d monocrome/monotone instead of the 3-d full color surround sound joy-life that we have together) I wish we could celebrate today somehow, but you have obligations at school from 8am to 10pm, but we will have time, driving across the country together, hurtling towards a life in Utah, to simply look at each other and say…. WOW!

Being the goofballs that we are, after she got off the phone, and did a completely happy spaz bounce around the kitchen, we had to wind down somehow (it was late), so we went to this really amazing website that allows you to create yourself as a south park character. And so now we have cartoon alter egos. It was a fittingly irreverent end to an important day… Here they are…