Bandaloop & Hawaii

This past weekend, I spend some time wandering the Utah arts festival with several other speedskaters. We are really enjoying this brief rest week before the really hard training we will be facing in the next few months. Ice cream and art, rest for the body and soul.

One of the things that really struck me during festival was Project Bandaloop, they are dancers who do their thing suspended by cables off of the side of a building, in this case, the Salt Lake City Public Library. Part rock climbing & gymnastics, it was amazing stuff. I had watched them practice from inside the building several days last week. The compression in their feet as they launched themselves off of the glass of the building, and the bending of said glass was quite visible. Each one of them was not just an artist, but an tremendous athlete, you could see in their musculature the countless hours of work they put in (they must have core strength like a neutron star). Dancers are not given the kind of credit & respect as athletes that they deserve. Do speedskaters deserve credit as artists then? I think some do, some inspire as powerfully as any artists. Some skaters are artists of perfection, some are artists of pain (any 1500m specialist qualifies), short trackers are graceful in the face of extreme danger and muliple G’s, some skaters are artists of willpower & determination over weakness and shortcomings.

There are several different kinds of respect in this world:

  1. The kind where you have done the activity, and have a taste for how amazingly hard it is to perform something. This is how I usually feel when I see gold medal winner Casey Fitzrandolph zip by me on the ice, giving the impression of puma-smooth grace, when I have a pretty good idea how much pressure is on his body through those turns.
  2. The kind of respect where you are just slack jawed in awe, thinking “wow, I could never even contemplate doing that!”

Project Bandaloop made me feel respect flavor #2

A friend had emailed this supposed Hawaiian magic chant last week, and I was thinking of it in relation to training, preparing to race, and Project Bandaloop.

The world is what you think it is.
There are no limits.
Energy Flows where attention goes.
Now is the moment of power.
To love is to be happy with.
All power comes from within.
Effectiveness is the measure of truth.

Salted Out in Salt Lake

When you are trying to push yourself on a daily basis (and for me, that’s 3-5 hours of training most days) your limiting factors are usually NEVER what you perceive as your strong points as an athlete.

The human body is a great chain of chemical & neurological processes, co-ordination and a precise balance of water, habits & motivations. Your limiting factor is almost never something you like to think about, never something you are already good at, never the muscles that are visible upon cursory examination in the mirror.

Your limiting factor in your own astonishing chain of existence & performance is often something small and unnoticed, like weakness in part of your abs, or a hitch in your pedal stroke, a lack of strength in the small stabilizers of your legs and hips, or an imbalance in how your spine arches (this is why I have problems in the right hip-knee-ankle), or something missing in your diet that you really need. Identifying weak links is one of the things the experience of your coaches & doctors is invaluable for.

My talented slow-twitch mutant marathoner friend Carla, had most of last season completely ruined because there was not enough iron in her diet. She was quite sick before it got diagnosed, skated many PW’s (personal-worsts) and thought she was having heart trouble. That single weak link crippled everything else in her exceptional athletic chain of motion, and wiped out a season of her hard work. (note to all female athletes reading this: this is VERY common, be careful! Eat iron-rich stuff and have your ferratin levels tested occasionally)!!!

My weak link for today is that I “salted out” yesterday. When training many hours in hot weather, I sweat a LOT, I can creates puddles on the floor under a squat rack when working hard. When “salted-out” I can start to feel dizzy, weak, and suffer constant head rushes, even when relaxing around the house. For me, sometimes rest cures this, but through trial, error, & gastronomic whimsy I found it can ALWAYS be cured by a large bag of Sea Salt & Vinegar Kettle Chips.

Near the end of yesterday’s 3 hour ride (on my Powercranks, no less) I started cramping up, I was properly hydrated (2 tall bottles & a Gatorade), and as I was struggling up the final grades of the Avenues towards home, I was getting those dizzy disconnected feelings telling me its time for an infusion of salt. Gatorade has never prevented this, I can feel crummy eating potassium rich bananas by the bunch & still feel this way, I really need a bag of super salty chips.

Fixing weak links is a difficult job, but someone has to do it… hmmm, let me look at this bag of sea salt and vinegar nirvana, it has 5 servings, I am eating it all, so I am gobbling up 900 mg of sodium, and 2,455mg of potassium! Wow…

Oh, everyone send excellent surgery karma to John Dimon, frequent commenter on this blog, and friend to every skater who has ever loved this sport. He is going in for surgery on a torn meniscus in a few days. This “weak link” has bugged him for years, he is as good a soul as has ever been minted, and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Find your weak links, fix them, feel better, & always forge onward!

photos from hike

Most blogs are just words, but photoblogs are becoming more and more popular. I try to blend the best of both here. Some people come here for my words, some just for the pictures. Both have their place.

Its an easy week of training (a good thing, last week was pretty hard) and a good chunk of the high 5 team took a nice long hike up to the mountains. I am really not sure where we were (boris? what trail did we take) but it was gorgeous. Hiking with a bunch of high level athletes, at 10,000 feet, while not being quite used to the altitude, is sooo much fun!!! So, Lots of pictures result, as my brain was definately oxygen starved.

The view looking up

The view looking back, Salt Lake city is very faintly visible, 5,000 feet below & many miles beyond

Kim doing yoga,

Boris in a Boris moment, I think he was saying something like “lets keep going up”

I could not resist the chance to make a snow angel in late june, and no, I am not mugging for the camera, I am howling because this was a VERY COLD result to a spontaneous impulse.

but I am not as much of a sensation-seeker as Eva, she leaped into the snowpack fed lake. We could hear her voice constrict as all her muscles siezed in the ice cold water. She is quite the Kamikaze-beatnik-mosh-girrrrl, After she thawed out, we had a conversation that that she wrote about in her blog.

After the 4 hours on the trail, this was soooooo nice on my tired feet, it was so cold, I could not stand more than 20-30 seconds at a time. If you ever wonder why I have to use custom speedskating boots, you can blame my high arch, very visible in this photo.

hours & fire

“Victory or defeat is not determined at the moment of crisis, but rather in the long and unspectacular period of preparation”

“It’s not the hours you put in, it’s what you put in the hours.”

“Having a great game is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You have to light yourself on fire.”
-Thomas Luebbe

“The harder you work…the more fun you will have.”
-Eldon Marshall

When I look back, and think about previous seasons, It feels as if I am opening up a book of hard work, fire, endless hours and a lot of fun. And also some insanity! I used to spend countless hours shoveling off this pond above (scenic, but very cold and studded with muskrat holes) to skate a 300m long track oblong (a real oval didn’t quite fit). I usually was lucky if the pond was good for a week or two a year, and it would take around 7 hours to shovel the whole thing myself. Around a week from today, I get to start skating on the fastest 400m ice in the world! In JULY! And I live here! I will finally get a whole season on a long track!
I look out the window in the morning and can’t quite believe this is what I see through the trees beyond the house.
I find no lesson to write down, in some essential book of my own truths, but that this life is a whole giant pile of choices, some big, some small, some complex, some simple, all these choices compressed and visible on your face & body every step you take through all your days, every step you take from each starting line, hurtling through precious seconds, crossing each finishing line, and then doing it all over again.

Zen 10 Questions: Dave Tamburrino

Anyone who has ever skated Long Track at the Pettit center in Milwaukee recognizes 2 time Olympian Dave Tamburrino’s intense face at the end of the straightaway. He is usually so completely concentrated & involved with the 20+ skaters he currently coaches it’s hard to grab a word with him. But if you catch him off the ice, he is warm and quite funny, with an offbeat sense of things. I though these qualities made him the perfect candidate/victim for a ZEN 10 interview. I have so often been tempted to ask Dave what really goes on in that brain of his, now here is my chance!

1. I asked Casey Fitzrandolph what was the craziest thing he ever saw on skates. This is the story he told me:

“We were training in Inzell, Germany. On that track, the Zamboni’s enter in the corner. One came onto the ice just as Dave Tamburrino came around the corner at top speed doing a flying 400m. I thought Dave was going to die for sure, but he leaned completely over, put his hand on the ice, and did a perfect graceful short track pivot around the Zamboni! On his long track skates!”

Do you remember this? And do you have your own “Craziest thing on skates” memory to add?

Come to think of it, I do remember that - about 8 years ago or so. Which is surprising, because I couldn’t tell you what I wore to work on Friday. Craziest thing I’ve ever seen on skates: Johan Koss beating Frank Dittrich by over one lap during Koss’ 10,000 meter gold medal performance in 1994.

2. You went to 2 Olympic games, 1994 and 1998. What moment from the Olympics comes first into your mind when you think to your experiences there? I have heard from several Olympic skaters that your first trip to the games has a vastly different feeling than subsequent ones, was this true for you?

Hearing 75,000 fans go crazy for the USA during the 1994 Opening Ceremonies gave me goosebumps, and thinking about it today still gets me pumped. My first Olympic experience in 1994 was like going to Disney World for the first time. The second time in 1998 was like punching a time clock before starting work.

3. Do you have a couple of core principles you follow as you write the training programs for your skaters?

Each morning in Africa a lion wakes up knowing it must be faster than the slowest gazelle if it plans to survive. Each morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up knowing it must run faster than the fastest lion if it is to survive. It doesn’t matter if you are a lion or gazelle, when the sun comes up… You’d better be running.

4. What are the major mistakes athletes who train on their own, withut the benefit of a coach, make?

Don’t know. If I’m not coaching an athlete, how am I supposed to know what mistakes the athlete is making?

5. Do you miss skating full time? When you arrive at the Pettit Center for those dawn time trials, does the competitive urge flash within you? Or does coaching/your sweet job with the milwaulkee brewers fill that need?

The only thing I miss about skating is knowing that I’ll never have an opportunity to make good on the mistakes I made during my career. Racing and training I made some great decisions, and a lot of bad decisions. What I can do is take the lessons I’ve learned and the knowlege I’ve picked up along the way and use it to help future generations become their best. Today, I get more satisfaction from knowing my work could result in an Olympic medal for one of my athletes than if I were to go out and try and win one for myself. Been there, had my shot, done that.

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

I’m ranked 23rd on the DezClan Half Life 2 server out of over 500 people. I plan on cracking the Top 10 in the next couple months.

7. What was your happiest moment as a skater? Your win at US nationals in 1988? 5th in world allarounds in 1995? Or is it in some race in a blizzard long ago that everyone else has forgotten but you?

Happiest moment as a skater: Winning my third consecutive National Short Track Championship in 1989.

8. What has been your most satisfying moment as a coach?

Tallying up all of my athletes personal bests at the end of the 2004/2005 season, and seeing tangible results on paper that everyone in the group has gotten faster.”

9. Who are some of the good folks of this sport? The smart, funny, good hearted fellas that you still really enjoy sharing dinner table conversation with?

Good folks: The underappreciated officials who make the weekend time trials at the Pettit possible. Thank you, your work is not un-noticed.

10. Speed Haiku Round
1. Best car on the road other than the mini-cooper youdrive

BMW M3 w/ Competition Package.

2. Do you think doping is a problem in speedskating today at the elite level?

Doping is an issue that needs to be addressed in all sports.

3. What coach did you have when you were competing that really influenced your own coaching style the most?

I’ve taken the best from Pat Maxwell, Diane Holum, Mike Crowe and Gerard Kemkers, and have mixed in a few of my own ideas. And, it is working.

4. Who do you think would be a better speedskating coach, archetypally speaking; Yoda or Darth Vader? and why? (I played hockey for both in my youth, and I was a better player for Vader).

Best coach: Darth Yoda.

5. What movie do you never tire of seeing?


6. Some theorize that our personalities are formed by our defeats & failures more than by our successes. Do you agree or disagree?

Don’t know, don’t care. Skate fast and make me proud to say that I am your coach.

7. Will Lance win another Tour De France?

Ask Lance.

8. Born in Saratoga Springs, but Wisconsite for a long time now, are you a loyal Packers fan?

Yes. I’ve been to Lambeau 3 times, and saw the Pack win each time.

9. We are close to the same age, will I ever get the memorable pleasure of going blade to blade with you in a masters race?


10. Is there any truth to the rumor that you once lost a bet involving Gunda Neiman’s 5k time vs your own 5k time? And that there was nudity involved for loser of said bet?

I’d never offer up the chance to be seen naked outside in the middle of winter.

Thanks Dave! I feel like Darth Yoda has finally spoken, and the skating world is richer for it.

Redemption Song/Ride

Armies of snails inhabit our neighborhood, and as I walk the dog in 7am morning sun, they are out in their slimy battalions everywhere. They leave a calligraphy of silver tracks sparkling along sidewalk, notes in an alien language? Hieroglyphics? My fortune written out by creatures I crush underfoot in brief moments of daydreaming inattention?

My heart was pounding with tiredness, my right knee is stinging (not the old injury, this is new abuse) How the hell am I going to complete my job/workout today? We are riding straight up some insane Wasatch mountain climb for… ummmm, a long long way…

I ride to the meeting place for the group, even the slightest rises of downtown Salt Lake make me labor out of the saddle, my heart is thudding along like a jackhammer into my sodden willpower. I call myself an athlete? Ugh!!

But there is nothing like seeing a group of like minded crazed souls, many of them also tired from hard training, to make the soul brighten, (coffee helps too, I was drinking as I was riding!) and shortly I was hammering up the grades of emigration canyon behind 210lbs of hill climbing bike cracking power that is the Kirk Fogdall express.
An hour and a half of climbing later, and after something like 3,000 feet of vertical gain, our group arrived at the top of the Wasatch range. The view was as stunning as the climb was hard, at one point I had about 25 minutes straight climbing with my HR pegged at 188, pounding my easiest gear at about 70rpm. Kirk & Eric Krann did the climb so fast they made the rest of us look silly, but the pain is the same for all of us, no matter the speed.

The view at the top was stunning! The winding valley fell away below, with the countless switchbacks and straights we had ascended visible, and the teeth of snow capped mountains surrounding like the jaws of long dead reason-killed gods & titans.

Getting to the top of a climb like this is not just a pure measure of being fit, but its also about determination, and not just determination on today’s ride, but determination built up over years of repeated self-challenging, & getting the better of doubt gnawing away at your willpower. Although I am doing my best impression of roadkill in our group shot, my spirit was soaring (maybe endorphins? Altitude sicknesss/euphoria).

As slow as am going up, I am wicked fast pointing down. The group left the mountain-top in ones and twos, I waited a minute after the last one left, and then used every pound of bodyweight & spin I have to fly down off the mountain, howling with glee through the switchbacks. From years of bicycle racing, I know that fine line between “death” & “more fun” and I can confidently stand on the edge & smile. I caught and passed everyone, except the “lightning rod” herself, Eva Rodansky. The road pointed upward for one final 10 minute climb, and I threw it all into the effort, chasing her in big gears. Eva recently posted on her blog, her top 10 favorite offspring songs; here are some of her favorite lyrics

When the wind blows
I’ll lean into the wind.
My anger grows
I’ll use it to win.”

Yeah, that is Eva, She was using every ounce of rage on that final climb, as she told me later, she was thinking about all the girls she is gonna beat at Olympic trials, and I could not close any distance on her, she was riding inspired (and will probably ride that rage all the way to the Olympics too). About 500 meters from the top, I hear the whoosh-woosh of tires, a qwadzilla figure riding a bike out of the saddle blows by me, its Kirk, and he has ridden this whole last steep climb IN THE BIG RING!!! But 500 meters to go is Andrew-land, so I kick it up 4 gears, accelerate, and pass him at the summit as we both hoot & holler across the final hilltop, yelling for sheer love of this crazy thing that we do.

Later, after parting company with everyone at the parking lot, riding home I found myself humming the Bob Marley tune “redemption song”, but since I don’t really know the song well, I smooshed the lyrics around to fit my mood.

Won’t you hear me sing
On these climbs to freedom-
they’re all I ever have:
Redemption songs;

Looking at my HR data later, 3 hours & 21 minutes of riding time, averaging 166 beats per minute (max of 197, probably at that sprint with Kirk) that’s 33,366 beats of redemption.

the 3rd leg theorem

There are many training strategies & theories designed to make your two legs as strong as possible, but innovative coaches think outside the box, and the High 5 speedskating team coaches have decided that surgically attaching a 3rd leg is the best way to skate faster (it will match my 3rd eye nicely).

These two extremely strong and vascular legs belong to my buddy kirk, the 3rd one belongs to a 52 year old goofball from St. Petersburg who shall remain nameless. My legs don’t ever get vascular, no matter what shape I ever get in. Kirk’s kinda look like the road map of Idaho at this point. Oh, and if anyone has a spare pair of knees they can lend out, I hear Kirk is looking for a new set.

another day at the office

To my former co-workers/friends who read this, somewhere in your Cornell office cubicle (or any other office-bound job), please do laugh at me and my “job” every time you get your paycheck (and with as hard as my training is, it’s really a full time job), but I can tell you, the view from my “cubicle” is pretty hard to beat! Check out the mountains behind us! This is just a few of the skaters who were at a recent 3 hour pylometric practice at a high school track; I am standing next to my coaches Rex Albertson & Boris Leikin, Kirk, my brother-by-another-mother, is kneeling in front of me.. Eric & Kim Kraan are standing in the back row on the left, Paul & Arnim are kneeling in the front next to Kirk. Good folks all…. The cool thing is that some of the strongest members of our group, Eva Rodansky, Marco Bucci, and Nate DiPalma, we training elsewhere/out of state that particular day.

As I indicated before, my recent “days at the office” have felt quite good. This time of year, speedskaters are lifting in the gym, running/hopping/jumping/pylometrics, and doing hard bicycle rides. Speedskaters have been cross training for as long as there has been the sport of speedskating (late 1880’s), because there was no ice in the summer until recently!

A few days ago our group rode up big cottonwood canyon outside of town, it’s a pretty nasty 14 mile climb. Eric Kraan is an excellent cyclist (and a world cup skater) he and I rode off the front of the 7-person group as the incline began to bite. We spun easy & chatted on the gradual bits, and hammered for all we were worth on the steep parts (that is what the coaches wanted, big gear hard efforts on the steep stuff). I took the lead about 1/2 of the way up the pass, and started hammering out of the saddle around switchback turns and increasing grade. My heart was redlining along nicely 194-196bpm, turn after turn I kept going, then finally, wham, done, I was toast, Eric floated by me (I outweigh him by a good 40+ pounds of sprinter muscle) saying “only 10 more minutes of climbing till this steep part is over” ugh!!. Eric disappeared up the hill. I backed off the intensity for a few minutes, recovered, then cranked it up again, earning tenths of seconds in my legs for the 1000m races I will do this fall.

In wonderment, I was approaching the snow & treeline when I came across Eric relaxing outside a mountainside restaurant. We turned around to zip home, I thanked him for pushing me on the climb, I actually like being passed by people, if in my efforts to catch them, I improve my own abilities. I earned something on this climb today. Over and over I have chosen training partners who are good at things I am really bad at. It helps if they are friendly & a little crazy too. A lot of people dislike being competitive & competitive situations, but I usually thrive in them, especially competing with good fellow like Eric.

Just another day at the office!

email blues

Ok… I admit it, I have an email addiction. In the crazy hurly burly of moving, I have only had about a half hour of online time every two days or so, when I can drive down the steep streets of the Avenues to the library or a wireless enabled coffee shop. My email inbox is filled to overflowing, and I cannot give it the attention it deserves.

I have clients who mainly contact me online, I have friends who are used to me replying within 15 minutes of them sending me an email. I find that I can be often more thoughtful & coherent in words here than I am over the phone. No email is like one of my main vocal chords being cut, like one of my senses for understanding this world is dimmed.

Think about this fact for a second if you have suffered from similar withdrawal from email/cel phone/land lines; Half of the people alive in the world today have NEVER EVEN MADE A PHONE CALL! That is sobering.

I glance at my mobile phone clipped to my belt, in a few seconds I can be connected to an almost limitless number of people & places. If I got hurt skating or if my health imploded, think of the tools the doctors have at their disposals to help me. Humans have come a long way from smoke signals, drums, and leeches. Is what we talk about any different though?

Anyway. I think the tone of these words will undergo a change reflecting how my life is changing. I used to be very engaged in the theoretical implications of this choice I have made. Now the path is right in front of me. I wake up in the morning, and the mountains are out my window, everything I own is halfway in or out of some box. I have been training on my own, like I have for years, suddenly, now, I show up for workouts with a bunch of other committed dreamers. A soul finds its society.

Like I want to write about my 2nd and 3rd days at the office with these like minded souls, but I have had no time, but here is a picture of what I have been up to, more on that later

First day at the new office

Image yourself on the first day of a new job, current job or past job, imagine the care and thought you take as you dress in the morning, and as you follow unfamiliar directions to get to work. It’s probably work you have done before, and maybe even work you are already very good at. But it’s a change of scenery, new people, new workflow, and there are always “new-job” jitters.

Well, I got up this morning at 7, with the distinct nervousness connected with heading to a new job; I dressed carefully and with the appropriate attire & care for my new occupation. Old worn Raleigh bicycle T-shirt that once was my dad’s, well used workout shorts, beaten up running shoes that are a month overdue for the trashbin, a dun green baseball cap (inscription “Northshore inline marathon”) with a visible salty sweat stain on it placed backwards on my head. two puffs of albuterol and I was out the door, munching a banana & drinking my first Gatorade of the day.

See, today I start training with the high 5 speedskating team, for the first time as a Salt Lake City resident. I take this as seriously as any full time paid occupation, and you need to be on time for work & ready to perform. I used to drive to my old job at eCornell, cup of coffee in my hand, and calm myself, going over the mental checklist of whatever XML, HTML, or content organizational challenges were ahead of me. Today, although the cup of coffee during the drive is the same, my mental checklist as an athlete is quite different, (the knee is doing great! The altitude is still hard!). But the end goal is the same, to arrive at work and to be ready to give it the best I can give.

4 hours later, my car returns to the driveway, I let the dog out and collapse on the porch, munching a cheap burrito & smartfood popcorn that tastes like the best things I have ever eaten, I am happy, content, work went VERY well today. My boss/coach is happy with the improvements I have made since we last met 5-6 weeks ago, especially my gains in skate position flexibility (one of my weaknesses). It does not matter how I “stacked up” compared to the 5 other skaters who were training with us today, as I race against myself, and against myself, it was a good day at work…..