The Ithaca Journal

There are times when I simply stop, awed with wonder, at how the stars & winds & fates seem to be lining up and all pointing my way. From my 100% supportive wife & family, to overcoming injuries (they make me thankful for my health), to getting laid off from eCornell (along with 13 other people) pointing my way to full time training last year, things have all worked out, all pointing my way onward.

Today another piece of the puzzle fell into place. Unlike friends of mine who struggle to get their hometown newspapers to notice their existence, I have been tremendously lucky in meeting with some very intelligent and thoughtful reporters from the Ithaca Journal. Lamond Pope, the sports editor, interviewed me last week, and has produced a wonderful article that came out in today’s paper.

Here is the direct link to the article (I think this will change over a few days as it goes from current to archived, I will check to make sure this link is current).

Yes, I work really hard, I was born with a high concentration of fast twitch muscle fibers (thanks mom & dad!!), and I was taught by my parents and teachers to believe in pursuing what you love to do as the path to a happy life. But wow, today I feel like the canary that ate the cat!

Dr Love, Medieval style

Here are some pictures from my swirl of an amazing weekend…


My wife Jessica is now officially Dr. Love! Go Jess! What you are witnessing is that strange medieval ceremony known as the “hooding” of advanced graduates. The fellow in red is the Dean of vet school. A graduate’s robes are really a carryover from medieval times, and although moderns currently hang the hood from the shoulders, if you ask a graduate to actually put it on like a hood, you instantly see the medieval academic monk spring forth, either that or a Sith-Jedi apprentice of emperor Palpatine from the recent star wars movie.

Ambling through the crowds with my digital camera, feeling sore and creaky from my last few days of intense workouts assigned by coach Boris (he has ratcheted the intensity up again! yeah! and-Ouch!) , here are the equations that were going through my mind…

Roughly 80 graduates from the vet school, maybe 600-700 people in the audience at this graduation ceremony.

Each graduate, when they are announced, gets a round of applause, and they get another round after the doctoral hood is placed around their shoulders.

Each person gets about 20 total claps from applauding audience members (I counted a few people and averaged).

The veterinary degree is astonishingly hard work over 4 years, so I average the hours I estimated my wife worked, got a ballpark figure for the total number of hand-claps, and divided them into each other.

Each graduate recieved roughly 1.3 claps per hour of work (and this is not counting intense pre-vet undergraduate work, or the loads of work most do after undergraduate before even applying, 3 years of it in my wife’s case.).

I then extrapolated to the Olympics, when an Olympic athlete steps to the line, their bodies & souls are tattoed by a whole lifetime of training, astonishing hours of effort & focus, pain & determination. How many TV sets & individuals in the stands watch their efforts? what is the dividable equation for that? How many TV sets tune in to witness a lifetime of work explosively culminated in one expression of speed and perfection?

Of course Olympic speedskaters don’t do this for the TV, and my wife did not work as hard as she did for that brief applause. Things like this are too hard to pursue for some brief thunderstorm of appreciation. You do this because you really really have to do it, because there would be some part of you empty if it was not filled by the effort, because effort when combined with passion for your work, becomes love and satisfaction with your life.

Jessica’s mom gave me a poke in the ribs, and said, “be patient, your time will come soon”. I know… Olympic trials are 30 weeks away, but its not 30 weeks or even 210 days, its really 9 training cycles of hard work/rest and improve, plus a taper of drastically reduced training to get really fast.

But today is not that day, and my smile won’t be as good looking… today is Jessica’s day, today is all about DR. LOVE!!!!!

ZEN 10 Questions: Jim Cornell interview

I first met Jim Cornell in Lake Placid some years ago at the Connecticut speed skating association Christmas Camp. We quickly became friends (skating in screaming blizzards can accelerate the process of getting to know someone), and he is someone whom I have come to respect deeply, as a skater, as a coach with the Rochester speedskating team, and as an allaround excellent fellow.

Jim recently was honored as US Speedskating’s Volunteer Coach of the Year, he also had an article published about him in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. I am going to be adding short and sweet interviews to this blog, I call them “Zen 10 questions” and Jim seemed an ideal choice for the first one!

Hello Jim!

It is an honor to be interviewed on the Andrew Love blog. We have had many interesting speedskating related conversations in Lake Placid.

1. What world class speed skater would you someday like to have dinner with? What kind of questions would you ask them?

Eric Heiden. How did you get started in speedskating? What motivated you to endure the rigors of high intensity training? What was it like traveling the world speedskating at such a young age?

2. Your skaters talk of “The Plan” that you have spent over 200 hours developing, I have seen it, in its phone-book sized binder, and it’s more complicated & detailed than some national team annual plans I have seen. Can you describe it for all those in internet-land?

“The Plan” is a year long periodization road map. It consists of a few interactive spreadsheets (described below) that can be customized on an individualized basis.

1. The yearly planner – the big picture of competitions, training sessions, workloads, year end summaries and graphs which are used to view all the periodization cycle parameters.

2. Weekly workouts - detail customizable workouts. These are sent out in monthly blocks.

3. Personal summary page – charting of personal performance, physical and emotional ratings, heart rate, body weight and body fat. This let you see overtraining and under training trends.

3. Describe some of the improvements skaters following “the Plan” have had? Are you modifying it this year?:

This year we had great success with the plan and it is the first year we used it. Here are the highlights:

1. Marty Medina national short track gold medalist masters 30-39.

2. Craig Pielechowski national short track gold medalist masters 60-69.

3. Mike Burdekin national short track gold medalist juvenile.

4. Many personal bests. Personally, I took 3 seconds off of both my 500 short track and long track times. In my 1500M long track I took 10 seconds off.

There were several changes this year:

1. I created a training diary that has emotional and physical rating scales, meal entry and workout entry. At the USS spring board meeting Jen Rodriguez saw it on a table and liked it, so I gave her a copy to use. Also, the short track team in Marquett are receiving copies.

2. More performance testing. Our cycle is 4 weeks. Week 1 is recovery (easy) Week 4 is the toughest. It is in week 4 that our workouts become tests. We do strength, speed, power, agility, vo2max, aerobic and anaerobic tests over the course of the week. The test results are recorded and tracked for each individual.

4. Do you have anything readers can download to read more about the plan?

Every year our team gets together for a presentation which covers the upcoming year of training. It covers what is periodization training, what types of training sessions we do. Everything from training, recovery to nutrition is covered. This year’s presentation can be downloaded by your readers. (the 8.5 mb powerpoint will be downloaded directly by clicking here).

5. Most coaches hung up their own blades long ago. You still compete, and compete very well! You won the Jack Shea Sprints in Lake Placid as well as taking 3rd overall in the Season ice marathon series Is it hard to skate as well as coach? Or are there benefits? (the pic is Jim leading the pack at US ice Marathon National champs, 50k is a looooong race).

It is hard to skate and coach at the same time. I am lucky that Rochester has many coaches so I do not have to do keep an eye on everyone all the time. There are benefits to coaching. The process of breaking down the speedskating technique into small parts for teaching purposes has helped me understand technique more.

6. You were named US Speedskating’s Volunteer Coach of the Year this year. Where were you when you found out? What was your immediate reaction?

I was at work when I got an email from USS congratulating me on being nominated volunteer coach of the year. They needed a picture of me ASAP. My immediate reaction was, “Is this some sort of a joke?” I did not tell anybody until it was put on the USS website. Then I knew it was for real.

7. What has been your happiest moment, as a coach? How about as a skater?

As a coach, wining the volunteer coach of the year was awesome.

As a skater, I don’t have a happiest moment, but feeling the speed coming out of a corner always makes me happy.

8. Paul Marchese once said to me “dryland is the brussel sprouts of your training diet”. Do you agree? What do you think he means?

I totally agree! I think he means that you may not like it, but it is good for you.

Another dryland quote I like is from Pat Maxwell. He said “A breakthrough season starts with a breakthrough summer.”

9. Tell us something surprising about you or your life, that those of us who might have met you through skating would never have suspected:

I received my pilots license at the age of sixteen and retired from flying at the age of 22.

10. Haiku Round Speed Questions

1. Awesome training book?

Periodization of strength by Tudor Bompa

2. Best Coach you know?

Sue Ellis

3. Ideal post-marathon meal?

Lasagna

4. What movie do you never tire of seeing?

Stripes

5. What do you skate on?

Viking for long track and SS for short

6. Really expensive habit you wish you could afford?

world traveling 10 months a year

7. Biggest influence on your life?

Speedskating and all those involved

8. 2 Internet sites you visit all the time?

rochesterspeedskating.org & CNN.com

9. Do you think America fundamentally divided between “red states” & “blue states”?

yes

10. How about a quote you find motivating?

Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.

Thanks Jim! it was great chatting and I look forward to crossing paths with you this year!

packing sucks

The picture is jess goofing around on the loading ramp of our rented truck, just as we arrived in Ithaca, after our last cross country move 4 years ago, its quite wild to have all your possesions in a 24 foot mobile box with wheels, then to move that box 2,000 miles.

So I am in the throes of a full power packing freak-out today. It also does not help, that because of this influx of packing and some vet school goodbye gatherings, I have missed TWO scheduled workouts this week, therefore my body is all out of wack! And my mind is wandering down the illogical path of “you are missing workouts! Your competition is not, therefore you are a HUGE LOSER!” illogical, I know, but so goes my mind.

So, although I might feel bad, I still have 12 days till C.M.’s truck shows up. Plenty of time (NOT!)

So I send this missive out to my friends in the blogosphere Do you have any humorous, funny, or even pitiful packing stories worth sharing here? Help me laugh! The next 12 days are gonna suck!!! (and if I am a little sparse in my posting, that is why, this blog is now attracting 40-60 readers a day, and that is so wild! I started it for family & friends to keep up with my life, and whoa, I have readers from all over the world!!).

So fire away with stories if you have them!!!

The kindness of C.M.

A number of years ago, the Boy Scouts of America added a new category between cub scouts and full-on boy scouts. They called it Webelos. It just so happened that the first scout to complete the full Webelos program was an Ithaca resident with the initials of C.M. (I asked him what name he wanted me to use, he was ambivalent, so I think his initials suffice).

So anyway, the national newspapers picked up this story, of the first scout to ever complete Webelos status. C.M. received a tremendous number of letters from all over the country, including some containing money! and others telling him what an inspiration he is. This made a huge impression on the young man (and later exceptional athlete, as he rowed for crew super power Cornell University!), and I believe C.M. now holds it as a life value, that when someone does something that inspires you, you let them know, even if they are complete strangers.

C.M. also happens to own a 24 foot U-haul truck. On April 20th of last year, he read the article the Ithaca journal wrote about me, & he thought, “hey, I could help this guy move!” so he contacted me with a wonderful letter, and offered the use of his time and truck, free of charge to me, to move! Needless to say, this will save Jessica and I multiple thousands of dollars, as we would have had to rent a truck that size to move the 2,200 miles to salt lake city from ithaca. Financial worries scare me more than falling flat on my face during Olympic trials. So this is a tremendous help!

I had breakfast with this C.M. this morning, and his father, completely delightful people. We talked of many things. What I did not say to him there, and I will here, is that I have learned a very tangible lesson from C.M., as well as from the great local business like The Rink and Courtside, and my national level sponsors, Dimon Sports, Athlete Octane, and Powercranks. The message/lesson is kindness when you can help, and if you reach out, you can create a cycle of good, that will extend beyond your immediate effort, and create waves of good like the wake following a motorboat.

My years of being able to compete as an elite athlete are limited by time and my age (34) I have probably only 2 more seasons of being really able to run with the top skaters in the U.S. However, I will have decades after that, to be in a position to help others who inspire me, and to apply some of the amazing life lessons I am earning vias this path (and I will very likely coach someday). I do not know if I will ever be able to repay CM for his time, truck, and personal kindness, except for passing it onward, and maybe that is as it should be.

GO JESSICA!!

Jessica is taking her final vet school exam as I write this post. A truly final final. I am so proud of what she has accomplished in the last 4 years. And although this picture is her studying last night (and she is in great spirits in her new creamsicle shoes fresh from ebay!), this is not the true picture.

Imagine working 10-18 hour days, working with emergency cases & small animal surgery, lots of death, dismemberment, cancer, & sadness, as Cornell gets many cases local vets can’t handle. You get home at 10pm, eat something, consider taking a shower, decide not to since you are trashed with exhaustion, crawl into bed, and at 4am your beeper goes off, calling you back to the hospital for another emergency case. Repeat said scenario, off and on for 18 months, oh, its not all small animal, do get to do some of those 14 hours days outdoors & standing in cow crap!!! Lucky!!!

Jess is the most determined, intense, intelligent, amazing person I have the honor to know (and she married me!! How did that happen!!). She is officially going to be Doctor Love in a week!

I was joking with her this morning; today is your final final. I start racing in 19 weeks, Olympic trials are in 34 weeks, (December 27th & 28th) that is my final, right now my training is just studying. I am quite tired right now, repeated 2 a day training will do that, but nothing like what she was feeling during her clinical education in the hospital. At least I get to sleep, and my coach does not have a beeper to wake me at 4am to tell me “Andrew! Go run some hills! Right now!”. (If it would make me better, I would hand Boris that beeper gladly, but athletes NEED sleep, that is when we are physically getting stronger).

Go Jess! You are my Hero!!

Coaches and flamingos

I have been emailing back and forth with 2 time national ice marathon womens champ Carla Langenthal, about the coaches/silly putty idea I discussed in my previous post, Carla is coached by Olympian & overall nice guy Dave Tamburino. Here is what she emailed me (reprinted here with permission)

Carla says:

I have an image for you. Flamingos are pink because
of what they eat, right? So I am the same THING no matter what a coach tells me to do but get my “color” (performance) from the program I’m given. hahaha

(I thought of this image because): I like low walk workouts, so Dave
keeps saying things like “Carla’s eating this up” and “Carla eats this for
breakfast” and last year Mark Jeter said “you’re chewing this up and
spitting it out” so I was thinking about things that eat things and then
show some result.

And we’re supposed to have one foot on the ice at a time!

Coaches & Silly Putty

Eva Rodansky and I were talking in Salt Lake last week; I was peppering her with questions about Boris’ training program, about intensities, weight training methods, length of taper, all of the details of training.

Ultimately, we both looked at each other and just agreed that one simply has to trust in a coach, and that as athletes, our job is to be “putty in their hands” and allow the coach to physically and technically shape us. As athletes, we are inseparable from the internal fires and stubborn drives that make us mentally tough, and because we are inseparable from those drives, we are frequently unable to have clear perspective to guide our own training. Also, because of our youth, we don’t have the wisdom that comes from 20+ years of competition.

Of course, I am not just putty, I am silly putty!! Picking up physical & emotional impressions wherever I can! And this is true of many skaters. Skating is such a technical sport, and since there are so many ways to explain & teach the “feel & practice” of skating, skaters who work with the same coach will start to resemble each other in their technical habits. In fact when I first worked with my current coaches, Rex Abertson and Boris Leikin, upon observing my style, Rex said to me “I bet that your first coach was Canadian!” he was right, Patrick Kelly, 2 time Canadian Olympic team member, was the first coach to ever spend time working with me.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I lifted weights this morning and now I have to go out and ride my bike easy for an hour or two, and time is short today… but I will say this, Boris believes I can make great gains in my performance from better flexibility, I was skeptical at first, but last week he showed me exactly how to do certain skate position specific stretches, and gosh! Like the hard trying ball of silly putty that I am, I have been doing them every day, and in the last 2 days, whoooosh!!! Its like my hamstrings are suddenly an inch longer, and I can extend my leg completely in the skate position!!

Go figure…. Coaches! Hah!!!!

Le Loup-Garou -A John Dimon Story

wow, 4 comments on the last post! it must be the John Dimon Magic…. since my next post is still in mental rumination format (i.e. been thinking about it, but haven’t written it yet, it has to do with silly putty & coaches) I will reprint a John Dimon Story I wrote down a ong time ago, and that originally existed elsewhere on the web. I think many of the lifetime athlete crowd of traveling sweat-gypsies have unique & weird road trip racing stories, but I have met few who have such a plethora of stories as John Dimon, here is one of my favorites (and the weirdest):

In the late 70’s a couple of US Olympic Biathlon team hopefuls were traveling the Northeast, doing cross country ski races and generally having way too much fun. As this was cross country skiing in the 70’s, lets just say these young, spunky, extremely fit fellows were just a little on the furry side. In fact John Dimon back then sported quite the viking beard (see the picture below). He learned the hard way that when carrying a pair of skis over your shoulder, keep the klister AWAY from your full beard, it was only 3/4 of a beard after that incident.

So these extra furry guys were at a race and staying in a cabin next door to a cabin containing a bunch of French Canadian racers. During the night a rat got into the Canadian’s cabin, and after running around and scaring the bejesus out of the Canadians, it climbed into a bag of potato chips someone had left on the floor and started munching away. Awakened by all the racket, a bleary eyed John Dimon appeared at the door of the Canadian’s cabin in his underwear. Figuring out what the source of all the noise was, and being only half awake, he took a flying leap through the air and landed with both feet directly on the potato chip bag! Without a word he chucked the bag containing the now rat flavored potato chips out the door, and stalked off without a word back to bed. The Canadians were speechless, This american was crazy! They liked him right away.

The next day at the races, the brutal XC ski race course contained a lot of switchback climbing through the woods. John and the other Americans were in such a mood after the rat incident (and maybe suffering a bit of testosterone poisoning that is so common to 20 year olds), that they were howling like wolves at various parts of the climb, to encourage each other, and to see where they were on the course in relation to each other.

That was confirmation enough to the Canadians, After this race weekend, the Quebec racers began to call John Le Loup-Garou. That is french for “The werewolf”. The name stuck.

endless hills & John’ s shoes

John Dimon (one of my sponsors, and owner of Dimon Sports) and I did a ride that was simply straight up and down all day long. Beautiful rural Virgil & Cortland NY (greek peak ski area is just out of sight to the left) is definately cycling for crazy people. We would climb for 20 minutes, then descend like a comet for 5, climb for 15, descent for 2, climb for 30 minutes, then descend for 10… My average HR was 155, but I don’t recall ever seeing 155 on the monitor, it was always 175 or 130! I could have done this ride on a 2 speed bike, providing that those 2 speed were the 39-23 and the 53-13!

This is john hammering on one of the very nasty climbs, he used to actually live in the middle of this hill, and ride it every day. Whatta stud, watch out masters racers! John is getting back into racing shape!!

In an extremely weird twist of strange minds thinking alike, John is the only other person I have ever met who also loves super old school time cycling shoes. I use the exact same model of late 80’s vintage shoes John is wearing here. I keep thinking one of these years I should replace them, but I have never found anything that fits my feet like these. Neither has John.