Winter in half the USA

It was 8 degrees in Salt Lake this morning; Brrrrr! Both my dog Lilly and local sledding hill were loving it.

However the east coast is unseasonably warm right now. THE LAKE PLACID OVAL OPENING IS ON HOLD! I will be updating the Dimon Sports website with the latest as news comes in.

Check out this fascinating USA weather map -try the mouseovers just below the national map, you can see temperatures sloshing about, the east coast looks very warm. My parents in Vermont say it is “almost scary warm”.

XC & Downhill Skiers, Speedskaters waiting for outdoor ice, and other winter enthusiasts are not happy in this age of global warming.

I must admit that out of some flavor of “guilty liberal duty”, I went to see the Al Gore film, An Inconvenient Truth. I am glad I went. It shows absolutely terrifying scientific projections that have nothing to do with any political philosophy; Global warming is really a moral/survival issue. Yeeeeoww! Go see it, just go, really….

Of course does this have anything to do with speedskating in an era of indoor rinks? I would argue yes, it does.

Speedskating (and skating in general) started on lakes, rivers, canals & ponds. If natural ice slowly dwindles, then the roots of this sport are weaker (and much of lowland China, Manhattan, San Francisco, Florida, and Holland will be under FEET of water, that’s mildly important too).

Even from my own small sample of one, I took my first “clap blade” enabled steps on a pond in December of 2001, and a few months later took this picture during a 100k speedskating race.

It was this weekend I met my longtime friend Carla, who is wearing her infamous “blue mittens of doom” in this photo. Many skaters have felt these fleecey paws skimming their nose as they try to draft her.

So yeah, no natural ice, my life is different & I might never have met a close friend. They even had to cancel ice Marathon Nationals last year. It got too warm, the track was a foot deep in slush.

How many speedskaters from Michigan got their start in the sport, or met longtime friends on the Lake Petoskey natural ice track? Speedskaters in Butte rely on cold weather, and anywhere people shovel a track out from snow covered ice, you need sustained cold.

The list goes on & on, and increases unimaginably when you add the joy that is pond hockey to this consideration (there even is a huge pond hockey national champs, cool…)

Spring, summer, & fall sports have their seasons, however we could see the slow disappearance of many winter sports in our lifetimes. Sad…

For the first time I will try importing an amazing video I saw YouTube (if it screws up your browser/computer, let me know, here is a direct link to it on youtube).

I have spoken to several people who have related awestruck stories about skating canals winding through cities or the countryside in Holland. It’s on my “list of stuff to do before I die”. This is an amazing video of exactly what I imagine it to be like.

There is a sound, and a freedom to the easy speed of good natural ice. I can feel it here. Also find out what a “wak” and “klunen” is. Hey Ernie in the Netherlands, thanks for this video!!!!!!!

Gratitude Journal

A close friend of mine from college has a conventional blog, and in addition, she has her gratitude journal, a simple concept I really like, and it fits into what I am feeling right now.

The kindness of the many good folks who have contributed to my tip jar has lifted my spirits in a way that leaves me at a loss for words…

The generosity of the skate tribe (and others) is deeply moving. I will be able to pay my bandwidth bill! as well as site hosting for the year and a used ibook battery on ebay!

You all are powering this blog, literally, to continue on. There are many names now in my own inner “Gratitude Journal”.

I will work my heart out to return your kindness.

In other news:

  1. Lisa Floshank-Windham has started a central informational web page for folks interested in the marathon national championships. I really like this event, and skated it in 2002. I trained like an allarounder-marathoner for my first 3 years on ice. I still suck at marathons, but they are wonderful fun.
  2. The Lake Placid outdoor oval is scheduled to open this weekend. I will be checking out this webcam hoping to see beautiful ice on Saturday.

  3. The US national all-around team has returned from Europe & 3 world cup races. I have a couple of interviews with them coming up.

Picture of the day, on the left, the final turn from an awkward 500m I skated on November 11th, check out the HORRIBLE back curve, left leg is pushing backwards too… This image is painful to look at.

On the right, practice today, traveling at a similar velocity, I’ve been working obsessively on rounding the back & relaxing my shoulders…

It’s the little things, over and over, drilled into the head & legs & back & soul until the body knows no other way to do it than the right way. That is the only way to play this game of “cool” perfection.

Of course skating technique will always be far from perfect, the right shin is too straight up and down & a zillion other little things.. sigh, I guess I will just have to work on it for a lifetime.

Eyes & Victory

The eyes and skates of junior world team member, Mia Manganello.

I only noticed a few days ago that she has “victory” written the side of her skates. She has been racing inline and ice almost her whole life, and understands the many flavors of “victory” that this sport can deliver… She is one friggin strong athlete…. physically and mentally….

I had the idea for this image because of this picture I shot last year.


am… exhausted…. more… sooon… thanks.. to… everyone…. who.. . has… contributed… to… the… tip…. Jar…. zzzzzzzzzz!

Important! Video Tip Jar

I always enjoy posting quality video & images of this sport we all love so much, like the recent Derek Parra Slideboard video.

In about a week, it’s been watched almost a THOUSAND times. From the Hyper wheels message board, to mentions on Japanese inline websites, to Speedskate Sweden, folks are pouring in to watch.

Awesome!!

However, this video (and others, like the Andy Newell XC skiing video, that over 600+ XC skiers watched) blew my yearly bandwidth allocation to pieces in a matter of days…. My site actually went down for an afternoon because of it.

I had no alternative; I had to immediately shell out $254.44 to pay for more juice/bandwidth just to get the site running again. I already pay around $100 a year for hosting and the hipcast video service I sometimes use, and that is ok, I’ll do that out of love for the sport.

But this last one hurt, especially as my iBook laptop battery also died a few days ago, ($120 to replace) and I fear my laptop itself is running like a car missing a few sparkplugs (I do drive my “car” really hard!)

Sure, I could use YouTube for free video, I watch a lot of speedskating stuff on YouTube, and most of it is frustrating to watch, as high quality video is VERY IMPORTANT for watching skating, and I want to do more of it.

Derek informally said that he would be interested in doing some more video like what I just published. That would be great! Yet I simply cannot afford the bandwidth to do his talents justice.

So like any musician playing in a public place, I am putting out a tip jar, (clicking on it sends you to paypal), to help pay for the bandwidth. It’s super-easy to use…


Musicians play because they love to play, not for the tips; I do this website because I fundamentally love this intersection in my life between writing, skating and the good folks I am blessed to know through this sport.

So folks, if enough of you can spare a dollar or two, I will do my best to reciprocate with more exceptional video & skating vibe/culture/news.

You’re a Man Now

I skated my first 10k during Olympic trials in 1998, I was only 16. The race was really hard, and after I was done, the head referee, Ernie Crutchman, came over to me and said “congratulations, you’re a man now”.
-National team member Ron Macky

There are many different experiences one can claim as “the litmus test for manhood” and from my own perspective, skating 10,000 meters is not in the top five, even though Ron’s story made me bust a gut laughing.

The best way I can describe what the 25 laps of an ice speedskating 10k feels like to a non-skater is imagine going for a jog where you climb 100 flights of stairs, and every other flight (the 50 corners you skate) you have to bound up 2-3 steps at a time. This accurately simulates the aerobic & muscular fun involved. Even at the world cup level, they only race the 10,000 a few times a year since it’s so hard.

I will never forget my own 10k experience on a windy day in Lake Placid; through the pain-glazed lens of memory I recall being exhausted, broiling with lactic acid, looking up to the lapboard, and seeing 17 laps to go!!

Yesterday 5 people at the Utah Oval raced a 10k. For some of them it was their first time, others have skated them before. My hat is off to each one of them, especially Keith, who blasted 19 seconds off his former personal best set on crazy fast ice at Olympic trials! To improve by that much is a ton of hard work. Each one of these images is at the end of each of their pain.

I tried to do my part to be encouraging, I went to a party supply store, bought a pile of cheap plastic horns, and distributed it to our whole training group. It was pleasantly loud & goofy during these long races.

In my own racing, I am happy to report that I busted through the 37 second barrier for the 2nd time ever! 36.99!! Whooo! (I skated a 3k, too but the less said about that, the better).

Interesting pair of images grabbed from the video of my 500, one is from 50 meters into the race, and the other from 450 meters in.

Body & knee angles are THE SAME. I find it much harder to sit low in the last 100m than accelerating in the first 100, so this makes me happy.

Sure, a 36.99 is only .01 faster than a 37, but I’m happy anyway, as I have been burned by .01 before.

WWDVD??

Bruce calls his homemade autoclave “the time machine”, and here it is, cooking my boots on Friday evening. And to the right are the boots, hot from the oven, wearing their final color & with guidelines showing where the top eyelet will be, as well as placing for the tongue cutout.

And here is the final product as of 11:41pm Saturday evening!!! Yay!!

I did not give Bruce too many specific instructions as to what they should look like, I just said “be guided by the mantra ‘What Would Darth Vader Do?” or WWDVD?

So they turned out beautifully shiny, very black, and each boot is sub-300 grams (in layman’s terms, “freakishly light”).

I guess Darth Vader wore white tiger striped undergarments beneath all that black! Who knew Sith Lords were so kinky.

; )

Parra Slideboard Video

US speedskating has just hired Olympic Gold/Silver medalist & world record holder Derek Parra to be an Inline-to-ice transition coach. He will be fantastic as a coach, as he is quite gifted in his understanding of skating mechanics.

Yesterday, he was at the Oval working on slideboard technique with North Carolina based inliner Amber Yrbor. They had already been working hard on the slideboard for over an hour when I walked over, camera in hand.

You have two options on how to view this, click here to view a 49 MB QUICKTIME FILE

It’s worth viewing if you have a fast connection… Derek has tremendous physical skills from his lifetime of hard work, so he can demonstrate exactly the technique he wants to develop in skaters he is coaching. This video shows some smoooooth slideboarding.

Option 2 is youtube. Click the play button to get it running.

If you watch all 8 1/2 minutes of this video, at the end Derek talks about what skaters he technically emulated when he was competing, and why.

Turkey or Feet?

The kevlar-shrouded molds of my feet are now bagged up like thanksgiving turkey, with mysterious pipes connected to them, and the whole contraption is being baked in an oven…

Even my usually active imagination is failing to find descriptives for this weird scene.

November Yellow

Last week Salt Lake had many days of absolutely beautiful fall weather. I took this picture of a jet contrail looking up through the brilliant fall yellow of a tree on my lawn,

Just a wonderful day, warm enough for shorts and soaking up the warm sun & blue sky.

12 hours later it was snowing, sleeting, and generally miserable. From flip-flops to parkas in one day, a true climatologic whiplash.

There are many odd things about Utah, one of them is that when the seasons turn, it’s not a gradual temperature shift, it’s like some celestial switch is thrown, the jet stream blusters down from Canada, and the weather changes violently.

Speaking of yellow, in Bruce’s workshop my feet have changed color again! The inner lining is in place, the yellow is aerospace/military grade Kevlar on top of that, and the eventual tongues of the boots laid into place.

I once stayed up all night, and watched a master welder turn a pile of titanium tubes into a bicycle I still ride that bike all the time.

Beginnings have always fascinated me, especially when the beginning looks so different than the final result. Many of us know skates, and can speak at length about the relative merits of this brand vs. that brand; but how many can picture the embryology of skates? Cool stuff, thanks Bruce….

American Masters! Attention!

To the right of this entry are images I’ve taken of European Masters athletes, what photos can’t convey are the warm & friendly conversations I have had with many of the good folks pictured here.

This year, World Masters Speedskating Championships will be in Calgary, Canada from February 22nd to the 25th.

Registration opened October 10th. The Canadians have already filled their quota of 91 skaters, the Dutch are sending 70, 50 Norwegians will participate, as well as a “bracer” of Germans, a “blizzard” of Finns, a “precision” of Swiss, and an “enthusiasm” of Italians.

The USA has been offered 51 starting spots, and so far, according to Ross Hanham’s excellent Masters speedskating newsblog, we have only filled 11!! December 10th is the absolute deadline!

My fellow Americans! Let’s show up and rock!! I can think of at least a couple dozen American skaters, who represent the best of this sport (in both soul and speed) who really ought to be on that starting line.

From a technique & fitness perspective, I think American Masters stack up very well with the rest of the world. You can download the entry blank and find more information on the Calgary Oval website.

Masters Worlds are a truly unique opportunity to line up with skaters from other countries in a “world-cup” style atmosphere, and share in the wonderful camaraderie that results.

Many say that Olympic sports are unique because athletes “do it for the love of the sport”. I would argue that this is more true on the masters level than any other. With the multitude of obstacles older athletes face, to step to the start line when you are over 30, usually means you simply just LOVE to skate.

In this spirit, and essential to these events are the large group banquets that happen. English seems to be the default language that the Europeans use to communicate with each other, so even for the average monolingual American, it’s easy to chat with folks.

I have just been offered the position of US rep to the IMSSC, the organization that runs these events, as Mary O’Donnell is stepping down, and I have truly enjoyed the half dozen Masters International races I have been to. Usually I go to the sprint classic in Inzell or the Masters International in Milwaulkee, but I just can’t miss this Calgary race, even though it’s an allaround meet, and my 5k will be good for a laugh for anyone watching. 12.5 laps!! In a row!! ouch!!

When you really come down to it, racing is one of the most effective memory making machines there is, and some of my best memories are from Masters International Events.