Spam Poetry

One bad effect of having a blog that ranks highly in the Google Blog search engine is that spammers have suddenly taken note of my existence. I used to get 1 or 2 pieces of “comment spam” a day, suddenly its rocketed to about 25 a day. I have installed the wonderful Wordpress blog utility “spam karma 2” to dispatch these evil little digital dust motes into oblivion. It works like a charm.

One cool thing is that I get a daily digest of removed spam to glance quickly through to make sure no legit messages have been accidentally condemned.

Suddenly I am getting a lot more spam poetry to examine! What do I mean, spam poetry??? Spammers often have their computers string together constantly random, changing, auto generated sentences & misspelled words to fool spam guards. Usually it’s nonsense, but when a spammer mixes their key term in along with the random words. It becomes a kind of Dadaist poetry after a while. Here is an example, each couplet was from a separate piece of spam I received today.

personal loans Disallowing thy qu’est-il today, O Madhava,
with pursud land-cases, I will gladden the personal loans o

loans is 10-shot at the interestingness, but, since there is no
oxidizable cross-fertilisation purposeful around that electrode, it esca

loan calculator senalando has no uses except for its lessons.’
Business disposed of, he assailed aside all spherical

student loans, that her death resemblances affected with such real
sorrow, and with such a harvest-tide moose-run of lo

(can you tell I am really enjoying my rest day today, I feel 100% better! and ready to happily join in any harvest tide moose run of lo!!)

Rearview Mirrors

Thanks to all who commented on my previous post about Salt Lake, hmmm, maybe I need to do more top ten lists… hmmmmm.

But I am not feeling very writer-ish right now (shocking!) training has been crushing this last week. Off the ice it’s all I can do to eat & stagger about. Even eating has lost its appeal. I had heard about food losing its taste when you are truly worn out, I used to laugh at that, but now I can say “yup, it happens.”

I keep looking forward; my life is completely focused down this icy track, just as I am in these photos (been going 10.0-10.2 in practice for the opening 100m, much faster than last year, my recently dislocated right thumb still hurts, but is getting better).

There are moments though. when life pauses, and instead of focusing forward, I glance into the rearview mirror, and try to balance myself firmly between where I am going, and where I came from.

I left so many dear friends on the east coast. My friends Chris & Varya threw a going away party for Jess and I when we left Ithaca; gosh I miss all you folks!! These faces are just faces to many of you reading this, but there are so many stories & unique individuals in this pic, such amazing humanity. Just looking at their smiles makes me so happy.

Its also worth mentioning, that just as I am lucky to hang out with & get to know some of the world’s best speedskaters, (a Zen 10 will be coming soon with world sprint champ Jen Rodriguez) my Austin based professional musician brother is meeting some of the most renowned musicians in the world, he did the video for an interview with Willie Nelson!!!

David and I are certainly poorer financially because we follow our passions, but our lives are certainly NOT BORING!! Read his account of the interview on his blog, in this picture, that is my bro and Willie.

David is the one on the right (hee hee).

10 things about Salt Lake

Moving to a new place is always a little bit intimidating. It can be even more intimidating when it’s a place that has the theocratic reputation of Salt Lake City. I can’t even begin to estimate the number of polygamy jokes people told Jess and I before we moved here. In one of the earliest posts on this blog, Salt Lake Gloom, I talked about how I felt.

However, pretty much every stereotype I had has been proven wrong! Urban Salt Lake where I live (I define this as Downtown, Sugarhouse, & the Avenues) is as cool, liberal, hip, & funky as any New England college town.

Let me repeat that again, its significant…

Urban Salt Lake City is one of the most liberal places I have ever lived! (remember: I grew up in the people’s republic of Ithaca, NY).

What happened in Salt Lake is that a critical mass of artists/students/hipsters accumulated downtown, and all the LDS folks moved to the suburbs! So began this weird situation, of a kernel of hip surrounded by the “Zion Belt”.

But saying this is just spewing generalities, let me describe 10 specific things I have noticed that make this place unique, the sights, sounds, people, and the snails & quails from my own daily experience.

10. Before I met my first Mormon, I had conversations with Navajo artists, Gay pride activists, Tongans, Fire Island beach bums, robotics engineers, cute barista-marathoners, local bondage community folks, Russians & Norwegians, and of course -lots of speedskaters from the Midwest. When the missionaries finally showed up on my doorstep, they were from California & exuded mellow groove.

9. There are flags at many intersections, you pick them up, and wave them at traffic to get their attention as you cross. They are actually necessary at times, due to item #1 and I have used them.

8. The excellent Tibetan restaurant 3 blocks from our house, next door to that is an incredible fudge shop!

7. The counter-culture is sincere here, not calcified from decades of sarcasm & irony. It’s because there is really something to REBEL against. There is a higher ratio of tattoos & funky hair than anywhere I have ever lived. A symbol of the new Salt Lake is that just down the road from the massive LDS temple, is a business that specializes in Vegan Bondage wear! (the Andrew mentioned in this article about them is NOT me!!)

An absolute shining star of radio, whenever I listen, I hear incredible music I have never heard before.

5. Liberal Mayor Rocky Anderson. Since things here are so fundamentally divided between extreme liberal & conservative, he does not have aim for that decisive middle electorate, since it really does not exist here. He marches in the gay pride parades and when George Bush came to speak last month, organized the counter protest!

4. Huge snails! I see them on the sidewalk every morning as I walk the dog. Salt Lake life is just not really complete until you are walking the dog, hear the crunch-squish, and have snail guts hit you in the knee!! This is not the only local fauna worth mentioning. There are skittering tribes of California Quail around. Lilly ignores the snails, but the Quail drive her ballistic.

3. Stylish women walking along with expensive umbrellas, but not because of the rain, but TO KEEP THE FIERCE SUN OFF THEM. Picture expensive black clothes, pink high heels, pink handbag, and a pink umbrella, & you are getting the idea.

2. The incredible number of cyclists/runners/multi-sport folks. The neighborhoods at the mouth of the canyons seem to be “athlete ‘hoods” where open garages expose stacked skis, snowboards, bikes, kayaks, & in-home climbing walls. In the early 90’s, I was a lone cyclist, pedaling along rainy Massachusetts roads, now I am just one of the lycra wrapped swarm pedaling up the canyons under sharp blue skies. It’s NICE!

1. Stupid Drivers! here is a comparison:

  • Boston drivers are bad, but that is mostly because they are driving along asphalt covered cow paths designed in 1612.
  • Washington drivers are scary, cause they are all excellent drivers and drive like it’s a NASCAR race to get to work.
  • NYC is its own brand of terror, because most cars are driven by professionals who confidently squeeze through tiny openings in traffic.
  • Florida can be a scary place to drive, but most of them were once excellent drivers, so I have more compassion.

But I have seen sheer stupidity in Salt Lake unmatched in the annals of human autmotage. There is lots of “create your own lane” antics, and late at night, you hear the high-pitched scream of young men/future organ donors drag-racing each other through the suburbs on motorcycles.

All thumbs

I get into my down start position, and begin my long steady exhale waiting for the gun to go off. I use the down start. A down start differs significantly from the traditional skating start.

In this picture here from a race last January in Milwaukee, you can see me using the down start, and my ol’ Lake Placid buddy Donald Stewart using the more traditional speedskating start position. One of the tricks to the down start is to put a lot of your weight on the hand resting on the ice. When the gun goes off, you remove your hand, and your body falls forward, so gravity becomes an additional force you can add to the power your legs generate driving off the line. Also in practice, both feet push, even though skaters concentrate on that front leg. The only thing original about my own usage of the down start is I rest my left hand on my left knee, it helps me avoid false starts, as when I am really amped up & nervous I have a hard time keeping that left hand still.

Many top skaters use the traditional start, as they have spent a lifetime perfecting that technique. Yet the down start is being used more and more, even though most coaches are wary of it. With my clean slate, I practiced a lot & became moderately proficient at both, and found I was more consistent with the down start.

So anyway, there I was, about to start the first real race of the season, waiting for the gun to go off, focused, relaxed, and with all my weight on my right hand, my thumb suddenly pops out of joint!!!

I have done the down start for years, and never had this happen, I crumpled to the ice in quite an inglorious false start. And then quickly try to re-focus myself to go to the line again. (the thumb went right back in, it’s fine, just hurts).

After awkwardly setting myself back on the line, palm flat on the ice, I was extremely rushed & not set in my technique, and stumbled my way to a 38.44 500m. I was pretty pissed, as I did not execute what I train my heart out to do. The thumb was certainly a distraction, but I should be faster. Isn’t that what metric skater always say? Its just frustrating after my training tests tell me I should be around 37, to skate that much slower, the training load has been very high recently, and because of it, Boris advised me not to race this weekend, but I am stubborn.

Mentioning my story of my dislocating thumb to the pioneer of the down start, KC Boutiette, he laughed and said “yeah, that happened to me in Berlin once, and they fired the gun anyway!”

By the way, Casey Fitzrandolph skated a 34.9 in his 500m race! Wow! It was completely astonishing to watch, and he is the first man in the world to skate sub 35 this year! I have never seen a first outer skated like Casey threw down in his race, even with all the talent on the US sprint squad, Casey just skates different,.

For skaters like Casey, they will face their moment of truth in Torino, not really at Olympic trials, so it’s worth mentioning when normal folks qualify for trials, as they are our “games”. My friend Kirk Fogdall raced a 1500m. He was nervous, tense, got cold before the start in his spraypaint thin skinsuit, stumbled twice in the first 100m, but still cranked out scary fast laps & dove head first into the searing last lap of pain like his son goes for a hug. He skated a 2:00:4 and qualified!! Go Kirk! He claims that now that he has accomplished his main goal, he is just gonna rest from now till trials in December. His 1500m PB is now faster than mine by about a second, I think we are going to have to have a grudge match 1500 sometime, with something significant as the bet, waddya think Kirk? I don’t know who will win, but I am pretty sure that I will be ahead with one lap to go, puking on myself from the effort & suffering rigor mortis from lactic acid poisoning, if Kirk can skate around the puke, he just might pass me!!!

The Tyler Leap

On the ice today I was doing a very slow speed drill & gliding along, with my left leg extended completely, sitting really deeply, and holding that position (it’s a technique thing).

When suddenly there is a flash of skates flying right by my face!!! a skater traveling very fast has leaped over my outstretched leg, passing roughly over my knee/thigh!!!

Whoa!! Even more amazing, is that all 6 foot 3 inches and 195lbs of Tyler Goff stuck the landing cleanly (he flew quite some distance before he touched down too). Tyler was embarrassed and apologized profusely. Any human being traveling that fast with machetes on their feet would cause significant damage if they hit you. But Tyler is one of the few speedskaters who makes me feel small! It would have been a horrible crash.

When we caught up with each other, he confessed he was not feeling well, and after doing a 400m tempo, he suddenly experienced some dizziness. Its good he came out of it in time to leap over me, luckily Tyler is a sprinter who CAN jump! Would a distance skater, or a shorter athlete have had the vertical leap to make it over me? Hmmmm.

One or both of our seasons could have ended right there! I am glad it’s just a story, and that I am not blogging from a hospital.

There often is no lesson but to appreciate life right here, right now. I am trying the best I can to be thankful each day, it could all go away in a second.

Juice Beast

This picture is from the women’s world sprint championship, as US skater Jen Rodriguez is passing Belarussian Anzhelika Kotiuga in a 500m race. Jen won The World Championship, and Kotiuga took second overall.

These flyers were all over the Utah Olympic Oval earlier this summer, celebrating Jen’s win. The graffiti on this particular flyer is the handiwork of Eva Rodansky. Jen Rodriguez is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and would never say anything this nasty. Eva, however, never hesitates to fire the sarcastic machine gun of brutal honesty whenever she can.

The reason for Eva’s graffiti is that a random drug test had just caught Kotiuga with artificial Testosterone and norandrosterone in her system. The ISU just gave her a 2 year suspension. Here is the press release.

It’s funny, but if you look at Kotiuga’s career results, see if you can find the place where she might have started doping, I think it’s pretty evident. It’s worth noting that she was 31 and had already been on the world cup circuit for 7 years when suddenly there is this dramatic improvement in her results. Now maybe there is another reason, a different coach or training plan, or maybe it’s just circumstantial, but I find it kind of odd for a 31 year old sprinter who has been on the world cup scene that long, to suddenly go from pack fodder to almost winning the world sprint championships.

But she didn’t win, so there is some truth in the idea that nice guy/girls DO finish first, at least in the technique intensive sport of speedskating, what is depressing is that it took the ISU this long to catch a cheater.

Someone might point out that I started this sport at 31, and now at almost 35 am going really fast too, but there is a crucial difference, I have improved a very consistent amount ever year (roughly 1.3 sec a year in the 500), there has been no “sudden” drop of my times, and also, I am still friggin learning how to skate! every week or two I feel like I figure something else subtle out about technique. Kotiuga probably has been speedskating her whole life, and also that is likely why she fell victim to those internal demons of “winning at all cost”.

Felix Felicitas

In the new Harry Potter novel, there is a potion called “Felix Felicitas”. It is basically liquid luck; and it imbues the drinker of the potion with feelings of warmth, confidence and limitless possibility, and then reality warps so that everything perfectly goes the way the drinker of this magic juice hopes. In the wizarding world, Felix Felicitas is a banned substance for athletic competition!

I have had the most incredible run of luck in the last 24 hours, I feel like someone spiked my Gatorade with Felix Felicitas. It’s been amazing -here is the list:

1. Google just debuted a new blog-searching tool, so I went there, and typed in “speedskating” to see what comes up. WOW! This blog is the #1 and #3 search result! In the WORLD!! (this changes by the hour! & if you type “speed skating” you get different results)

2. A nice check arrived in the mail for me from one of my web design clients. For more than I expected!! (I need it badly too!)

3. The 2nd place finisher in last years Russian Sprint Championships, Sergei Kornilov, has joined our team. Sergei finally got over his jet lag, & his technical skill & explosive speed is EXACTLY what I need to follow. He is scary fast, and excels at things I am bad at, especially exiting corners at top speed. During one of our sprints today, I am sure I hit a higher velocity than ever before. It had to be a high 25-second lap, absolutely wonderfully scary fast.

4. One of my sponsors from last year, Jay and the good folks at Athlete Octane, contacted me. We spoke on the phone for quite a while, and they want to sponsor me again this year! Athlete Octane is great stuff; it minimizes the damage you suffer during workouts, and creates a physiological climate for improved recovery. It’s also extremely convenient and quite tasty (and for a daily workout supplement, that matters!). Unlike most of the stuff sold at GNC, its completely legal too. I passed the drug test I took last year at US single distance championships, and I am a regular Octane user. (I wasn’t worried about passing, I compete clean, but it’s still a relief!). I mentioned one of my other sponsors, Powercranks, in my previous post. Both of these folks, independently, talked to me within 48 hours of each other & both still like me! What are the chances of that?

the good luck keeps flowing!

5. When I stepped onto the ice for my warmup, just as I was getting up to speed, Jeremy Wotherspoon, skates by, also warming up. I slotted into his draft with no extra effort, and cruised behind the winningest world cup skater ever, for some relaxed, precicse laps.

6. Several of the top US guys, fellows with medals in their pocket, said very nice things about my skating to Boris today.

7. A great old friend from high school emailed me out of the blue. Trevor Exeter is a tremendously talented musician, and has played his cello all around the world! And I am very glad he was not killed by that cement truck in London, (it turned his bicycle into “road tape”).!

8. Warming up for my final workout, I find this Norwegian Kroner on the ground! There are many Norwegians training in utah right now, but how random & lucky is that!

9. Modifying the bend in your skates usually takes lots of careful attention, time, and frequent swearing. I went to modify the bend in my right blade, and Voila! Perfectly changed in about 30 seconds! It handles more predictably at top speed now .

Felix Felicitas is of course, a fictional construct, so maybe there is another truth here, about this run of luck, I would like to believe the following quote:

“The harder I practice, the luckier I get,”

-Gary Player
who hit 18 holes in one during his PGA career.

Brain/Body Argument

There are 2 kinds of respect in the world, respect flavor #1 is the kind you feel for someone who is doing something you can’t imagine what it’s like, like a gymnast doing a triple twist off a pommel horse.

Respect flavor #2 is the kind where you have done the activity, and can accurately imagine what an individual is experiencing. I am getting to the point where I can look at some world cup level skaters and think, “yeah, I can picture doing that, I am a few steps slower, gosh I respect them, but its within the possibilities of what I could someday do”.

However, the winningest world cup skater ever, Jeremy Wotherspoon, has shown up for some training with the US national team. I watched him do a stunningly fast 800m, and upon hearing the times yelled out by the coaches, I felt a heaping serving of respect flavor #1! If ‘Spoon took off that Canadian national team suit and exposed a superman logo on his chest, many would not be surprised. He actually looks like he comes from the same physical mold as Wayne Gretzky, He is very tall, wide-eyed, long legged, and insanely talented. Nice guy too. After practice was over, I told him I can see that he is working very hard by his facial expression, but it’s amazing how smooth his technique remains. He smiled and said “That is the trick, really.” Very few skaters just leave me slack-jawed with awe when they really air it out, Casey Fitzrandolph is one, Jeremy is another.

I also asked Chris Needham why his ever-present Boston Red Sox cap is never torn from head by the wind during workouts, even at the warp-speed velocities that earned him National Sprint team status. He removed his hat, rubbed his hand across his thin buzz of hair, and said “its not hair, it’s really Velcro!”

I put some extra internal pressure on myself today as well, Frank Day, owner-inventor of Powercranks, and one of my sponsors/web design clients stopped by the Oval, on his way back from an expo. It was great to see him. Powercranks are tremendous training tools for skaters, especially in the early season. They condition the hip flexors & hamstrings like nothing else, & cut about .5 off of my opening 100m last season. If you survive the ego-killing adaptation to them, they are amazing. I know about a half-dozen speedskaters who use them, ranging from short trackers to marathoners & coaches. I spend lots of time on mine from April through July. Frank is a good guy, and I am also great friends with his #2 man, Andrew Weber.

I put self-inflicted pressure on myself to skate really well that practice, especially as Frank was there with his video camera. I flew for most of practice, but right at the end of the workout, it’s came my turn to lead our group at top speed; my legs started to burn in the first corner, in the final corner my technique came completely apart, and my new Russian training partner (& the second fastest russian sprinter in the world) Sergei Kornilov went flying by me, I struggled and stumbled to a time much slower than I expected of myself. I was furious. Angry that I could not perform when I really wanted to throw down a good time in front of someone who believes in me.

Boris was very happy with my times, Frank was impressed seeing what I do in person, & what a world class speedskating facility looks like. But I had put myself in “race-mind” and failed, I asked of my body and it could not deliver the way I wanted.

Later that evening, during workout #2, pissed at that physical meltdown earlier, I consciously picked up my intensity & speed every moment I felt tired, My body and mind began to have this conversation every time I was about halfway up the nearly vertical hill I was running up.

Body: I can’t do this! This HURTS!!

Mind: Go Faster! Loser! Don’t EVER get passed again like you did today! WORK HARDER!!

Body: Lactic acid burn!! Danger!! Exceeding muscular limits!

Mind: Fuck off, weak loser, PICK IT UP!! MORE!!

Body: really? Ok, how’s this, Heart Rate of 194!!!

Mind: Ha! That’s nothing! More footspeed!

Body: You just earned yourself tunnel vision for the last 50m of this hill!

Mind: Who needs to see? I am not here, I am in the last 150m of my 1000m race at Olympic trials!! I am strong and moving FASTER!!

Body: Think you are so cool, playing mind games!! fine! I am now removing all sensation from your legs except for scary pins & needles.

Mind: HA! BUT I AM STILL INCREACING MY SPEED!! Here is the hilltop! YEAH!!

Body: have some involuntary retching, compliments of me… plus you get to walk like a bowlegged drunk cowboy for the next couple of minutes.

Mind: See, you can do it, you should be proud.

The body doesn’t say anything to this final taunt from the mind, & grimly releases loads of endorphins to heal the mind/body rift

Detroit Airport

What is it with flying and me? Is there some fundamentally busted part of my Karma that makes my traveling via air so prone to extended bouts of misery? I do enjoy the varied smorgasbord of airport people watching quite a bit, but today I am spending almost 12 hours in the Detroit airport, and I have had an overdose of:

  • Women in floral print jumpsuits & badly dyed blond hair
  • Fat guys in software company polo shirts
  • Couples who cant bear to be out of physical contact, next to the baggage claim
  • Precicely groomed men talking earnestly on cel phones with clients
  • Airline stewardesses with ponytails like perfect paintbrushes
  • Skinny Japanese tourists sleeping off jet lag in corners
  • Pale guys in flip flops, khaki shorts, & t-shirts from bars proclaiming vapid young alchololic attitude
  • $7 tuna fish sandwiches served by hardworking folks who make less than that per hour
  • and my favorite people watching gem of today; -a harried Northwest employee yelling into her cel phone as she rushes down a hall “Damm! I told her over and over! That is something an Embassy needs to approve!”.

Wow, maybe my day is not that bad after all. What would I look like in that unflattering peoplewatching searchlight?? hmmm…

  • Shambling grad student with a huge ass and coffee stained ibook.

At least there is wireless here, and a coffee spigot every 10 feet, I spent much of the day surfing pictures of the burning man festival, I am absolutely fascinated, maybe that will be my week vacation next year. hmmmmm….

I am looking forward to being home, looking forward to getting back to hard training. Ever miss work after a long vacation? Truly I needed this break, but am really rested & eager to go again. It’s been ass-busting training since April, but now there are only 3 more hard weeks of training then the competitive season will truly be here. A wise friend said to me once, “Things are best in their beginnings”. Once this season starts, all beginnings will truly be over, and I will get to weigh my self-esteem against the stopwatch again, and the days will fly by, each day descending rapidly to Olympic trials, I better not blink, or I will miss it.

Here is one of my favorite pieces of the Detroit airport. How many eyes have stopped to appreciate this work of splashy art? & how the water jets splash off/on/patterns/etc. Last time I was here, I tossed a euro in, today, just a quarter.

Traffic Calmed/Traffic Angry

Grammatically this sign implies that traffic here “has already been calmed”. How they do this is not mentioned. I am imagining this neighborhood does aerial spraying of the car population with sedatives, selective culling of the most aggressive of the automotive species by highly trained commandoes, or maybe they spike gasoline with something that makes the cars sluggish & not dangerous, (they are experimenting with sterilizing deer with bait set out in the woods, why not cars?).

And there are some cars in need of calming here too. After a delightful dinner with my insightful friend Kate, we were standing outside of Maxie’s Supper Club in the pleasant dusk. There was an intersection and train tracks next to Maxie’s, and a train was slowly making its way towards the intersection. Our stomachs were full of great food and we chatted along in a blissful post-dinner haze.

Suddenly we are jolted out of our conversation by a tremendous BANG.

A large green SUV has run a red light, and squarely t-boned a small red sports car. Glass and plastic bodywork scatter across the asphalt & for an instant, I think the train is going to hit the tangled cars, but they don’t slide onto the tracks. Wait staff pour out of Maxie’s calling 911 & waving a heavy-duty flashlight to direct traffic. A woman on a Vespa scooter, who was immediately behind the red car, pulls off the road, and then she runs to the window of the smashed sports car, where the driver is looking around, dazed, and he is holding his neck.

It’s at this moment when I have the sickening realization, that I KNOW the passenger of the red car, and the woman on the scooter. I know them quite well, actually. The anonymous suddenly becomes tremendously personal.

Luckily, in the final analysis, Ben was not seriously injured, I thank the dumb clockwork of chance also that Chris’s scooter was following Ben’s car, and not the other way around, or Chris would be dead/extremely seriously hurt…

Kate talked to the very upset driver of the green SUV, she was on the way to the hospital herself, her father is in critical condition, and she did not pay attention for a split second, or was distracted by the blazing headlight of the train, and did not see the red light.

There is something in the air right now, some ions of awful convergence. If folks have creative ideas of how to “calm traffic”, speak now!