Masters Worlds –Jackets

“There is enough material in one day of your life, for a lifetime of poems”

I can’t remember what famous poet said that, but if you have your eyes open, it’s certainly true.

Although I will not blog for a lifetime about this past weekend, since I am exhausted, worn out, & a bit sick again, the next couple of posts will reference things from the roughly 10 gigs of pictures & videos I shot.

Among the community of nations, many national & club jackets were in evidence. Every time I walked past a new one, I asked for permission to take a photo.

It’s amazing what a simple jacket will do, you feel like part of something. Thanks go out to US speedskating, for buying the US master team our jackets.

I must admit I have a favorite among the above-pictured jackets. The Rotterdam watertaxi logo. It’s actually a sponsored Dutch team; they have matching skinsuits as well! The company that sponsors them, actually runs boat taxis on the canals in Rotterdam!

P.S. the Rotterdam Watertaxi folks left a comment! The World Wide Web is a small, small place.. Here is the direct link to their team website.

Day 4, Masters Worlds

I am 72, I have only been speedskating 6 years, here is my secret; I train with 14-15-16 year olds. They keep me young.

-Arne Kjell Foldvik

I met the magnetic Arne in Hamar last year, He had quite a fight on his hands in Calgary, but he won his third consecutive championship in the men’s 70-74 category.

Here he is, charging down the finish of a 3k he won by only .1 of a second, celebrating afterwards, and on the podium with Russian Ramir Kuramshin & Nederland skater Ludwig Meijering during the MASSIVE party & awards ceremony later that evening.

semi-complete results from the world masters championships are available in 2 places right now, an easily browsable over view is at DESG Weltmeisterschaft Master 2007

and there are .pdfs of individual race results at the Calgary Oval website.

back to the racing:

Here are 2 of the good men who make Masters speedskating happen, both in their own countries and as representatives to the IMSSC, Sven-Åge Svensson of Norway and Bram de Vries of the Netherlands. This is Bram’s 8th trip to Master’s worlds, Sven-Age’s 7th!!!

Silvia Tassara, the vibrant, energetic sparkplug of the Italian team. As my wife Jessica says in a comment she left on the day 1 results: Un gran shout-out a tutti miei amici Italiani li in Calgary. Ale ale ale, dai dai dai! Forza!

Sometimes that boundary line between pain & joy merges into a delicious elixir that once you have tasted it, can become a driving force in your life. Here are two Dutch women, holding each other up after scary fast 1500’s, looking at the scoreboard, and accepting cheers from the crowd.

Both Kathie Zapaticki and Karri Cox came to masters worlds with the goal of qualifying for the final distance (only half of each group gets to skate the longest race). Both succeeded, and pulled off fantastic 3k’s. They are in different age groups, and both of them had a moment of seeing their name at the top of the strong leader board as the final 4 skaters went to the start.

American Mary Lou Nicola & Latvian Lasma Kumiste on the track, and on the awards stand after.

Lasma requested the microphone, and here is what she had to say (she makes a joke here about her spinning-sliding 500m finish line crash):

Thanks you very much, all of you, because I am at first time in Canada, and at first time on this fast ice, I think it’s one of the fastest ice rinks in the world.

And I am very happy that I was first to find a new sport event! it is in 500 meters; 450 meters skating and 50 meters swimming!!! I thought that it will be a new world record in my age group! Skating and swimming!

And I would like to say lot of good words to the referees, to the organizing committee, to the Zamboni drivers, all the volunteers!!

And I am most happy that we are together again, its once of the year only, and I know and I think that it’s not so important for us to win and to receive medals, but for me it is now, it’s more important that I have some good society with all of you.

THE PARTY AFTERWARDS WAS HUGE!!!! At least 400+ people. I have discovered a new pleasure in life, drinking with Italians!!! Here I am, holding my 4th glass of cheap wine, with one of the central organizers of the Masters Speed Skating Italia, good guy Paolo Gemme. Instead of traditional medals, they gave participants bolo ties with the arty race logo, I am wearing mine here.

After sweeping their age group, these 3 Dutch ladies showed up on the awards stand wearing new cowboy hats!! I think the pink one is quite wonderful in it’s own warped way.

Winners of the super-intense men’s 40-44 category
Candian Benoît Lamarche, stands between two dutch skaters, Jan Duif & Rene van Hofslot. All 3 wearing their medals/bolo ties.

The men’s 45-49 category:
Norwegian Jon Arthur Olafsen is flanked by Canadian Pat Kelly and Norwegian, Morten Henriksen

The collected champions, from all over the world, click on the image for a larger version.

The head of the IMSSC, and a man without whom this event would certainly not exist, is Dr. Volker Serini of Germany, he donned a Cowboy hat for his final closing remarks.

Many Americans visiting Europe want to experience the things we don’t have here; Things like medieval castles, roman aqueducts, sexually un-stuffy societies, etc, etc..

When the Euros come here, they want to do the “western thing”. I can now die happy, I have seen hundreds of older Europeans cowboy line dancing! This talented bunch of athletes was really good at it too!

There are legendary stories about a party after the masters world championships several years ago in Baselga di Pinè, involving Russians with accordions, vodka, and a bar in the middle of a frozen lake. I think this party will remain on many people’s minds for a long time.

Who knows what my own future will bring, but I would love to race this event again, because of the people & vibe, even if that means I have to skate another 3k & 5k…

Day 3, Masters Worlds

A conversation between Norwegian Sprinter Ivar Njos and myself, before today’s 5k.

Andrew: So Ivar, when was the last 5k you skated?
Ivar: Oh, about 4 years ago. It was very cold, slow outdoor ice. –23 Celsius, I skated an 8:45. How about you?
Andrew: Hmmm, 4 years ago as well, in Lake Placid, during a screaming blizzard, I did a 9:05.
Ivar: Well, at least we both will set PB’s today!

Sprinters can have a complicated relationship with distance races. The feeling falls somewhere between fear, respect, proving your man/womanhood, and the fact that we need to do them every once in a while to improve our 1000m finish and to keep allarounders from calling us wimps.

Oddly enough, my 5k went VERY well, I skated flat 37’s almost the whole way, felt in control, skated a 7:41 and was quite pleased I did not puke up the 20oz coffee I had before the start, (more from pre-race nerves than anything else). I only lost 2 places in the overall samalong, and ended up 5th.

Ivar was a bit faster in the beginning & slower at the end for his 5k, and he did a 7:43! They really made the ice cold & fast in Calgary for these races, just outstanding.

Here is Ivar, skating and finishing his 5k today.

Connecticut-based Vinnie Gagliano decided to be Italian for this competition, and since he actually speaks the language, that is ok with me. Besides, the Italian team has skinsuits, warm-ups, jackets, and knows how to party.

However he needed to use some particularly American skills in his 3k today. Near the finish, he was supposed to cross over from the inner to the outer lane, and forgot until the last possible second.

He took a big sideways step, and did a crazy short track pivot around the cone and into the outer lane. All the European coaches & the Calgary judges thought it was a marvelous bit of skating.

Stephen Gunther is one very smart fellow, after watching a Norwegian in one of the upper age groups skate a freaky fast 3k, he copied the smoothness & extension for his own race. Stephen is another example of how one can mainly train short track, and still skate well on the long track!

A Norwegian lady and a 1500m race, here is some serious focus.

The German fans were out in force, they were doing the wave every time a favorite skater wizzed by. I love the hats and the German flag colored ‘leis.

GO UKRAINE!! I tried to come up with a good metaphor to describe the color combinations & patterns of this skinsuit, the best I could do was the Ocean meets the Volcano scene from Disney’s Fantasia

Ready! Set! Go!! Kaari Cox and a very fast Dutch skater start a 1500. She effectively applied the “Skate-to-die” approach to the 1500, skate freaky fast for 700m, and then just suffer to the finish.

Steve Desotell had a wild see-saw battle with a Dutch skater in his 5k. It came down to a shoulder-to-shoulder struggle over the last 100m.

If you have ever watched Steve race packstyle, he always seems to find a crafty way to win if he makes it to the final 100m near the front. However this win was just pure willpower & a lifetime of laps in the legs.

Here he is racing, and then giving his daughter/laptime provider a smooch afterwards as his friends applaud from the stands.

Speedskating is truly one of he best examples of a multi-generational sport I can think of!

Day 2, Masters Worlds

“I am in last place in my age category, but I don’t care, because no one is having more fun that me. The people, the atmosphere, it’s just incredible. Plus I skated a 30 second personal best in the 3k!

-USA skater John Nillen

Its easy to always focus on winners, the eye is attracted to excellence & perfection; no matter if it is represented by a human body, a car, a rose, or a by a speedskater flashing down the ice.

But there is far more to the world than just first place, and the great thing about master’s speedskating is that even though the winners are respected, the participation is truly what matters. Masters worlds is a big gathering of truly passionate & lively individuals, from all over the world.

The clearest example of this I can give, is that by far, the largest ovation from the crowd for any athlete I have seen at the games, was given not for a record setter, but for 85 year old Joe McDonald.

His Family was all in the stands wearing hats that said “GO JOE” and waving American flags. Press the play button to start the YouTube Clip

As for the rest of the racing, today was the start of the women’s competition, the older Men, and the 1500m for us “youngsters”.

Danny Frederick and I were the oldest skaters at US national Championships this past year, it’s a fun change to be the baby of the group. Danny has skated some phenomenal races in the men’s 35-40 group, set a bucket of records, and barring some unforeseen disaster or ice shark attack, he will win the overall championship today.

Ok, onward to some photos!

Here are 4 65-75 year old guys ripping out 500 meter races, here we have a Norwegian, a Canadian, a Swiss, and a Russian (note the hockey player in the background applauding the Russian).

Lake Placid regulars Canadian Tony Zegers and Tim Doherty raced well, Tim skated a 5 second personal best in the 500m here (I loaned Tim my training suit, and he had to skate fast to keep away from the smell).

The women also had their turn on the fast ice.

Kaari Cox flying by the crowd in her 500m, with excellent body position like this, you would never know the 500 is the race she dreads the most! A strong PB for this Roseville based athlete

Latvian Lasma Kuniste, World Champion in 1969. A few moments after this photo she tripped and slid across the finish line, and as she twisted across the ice she managed to turn it into a comic moment that had the crowd laughing and applauding. She is a rep to the IMSSC, and is one of the folks organizing this meet.

Mary O’Donnell, skating through the light slanting into the oval during her 1500m. Mary has been the US rep to the IMSSC for a long time, has done a great job, and just turned the position over to me, I am deeply honored.

Jan Zurcher, fast twitch 500m first turn. The announcer of this meet has the hardest time with all the exotic names, that when he came to Jan, he pronounced it the way it would be if she were Dutch. “JOOON ZOOOOCHER”

Joanna Walters. It just so happened I sat on the plane next to her on the flight to Calgary and had a delightful chat. Her main training for this event is hours & hours of XC skiing, she skates VERY well for the limited ice time she has.

Kathie “Sparky” Zapotocki, finding that same patch of light that Mary did, or is that the blaze of lactic acid?? as she is in the last 50 meters here of a huge 1500m PB. She is by nature a hammerhead, and loves training huge hours on the bike. This year she has cut her total training time a lot & focused on skating technique. It’s frustrating to her, but at the same time, she likes how fast she has been going.

As for yours truly, I skated a 1500m personal best, for the first time in my life under 2 minutes. A 1:59.8. I skated it like a 1000m with a surprise 500 tacked on the end, It’s a painful strategy that can work well on fast ice like Calgary. At the ringing of the bell lap, my legs were totally blown, and I was not sure I could skate another step, let alone 400 meters. I ended up tied for 4th of the 17 who raced the 1500, and still am in 3rd overall. But today is the 5k,

Ohmigosh!!! as a sprinter, I rarely skate more than 5 laps in a row… 12.5 is gonna HURT! I don’t mind pain, but pain comes in many flavors…

One final thought, here is the leader board of the men’s 1500m in the 40-44 age group.

Those are some scary fast times!

32 men did this race, here is the results sheet if you want to see how fast the group was.

The winner was Benoît Lamarche, here is a crazy thought- 20 years ago Benoît raced the Olympic games in Calgary, 1988. His time today, in winning this race, was 2 seconds faster than he went in 1988!!!

Same ice, same suit….. Yes, he is on clap skates now & they are faster…. But wow, just wow!!!!

Day 1, Masters Worlds

Hello, my name is Olaf, what are your Personal Best times?

-a greeting by one of the Norwegians, to several of the Americans, it made us laugh, actually we discovered some of the Euro’s had researched their American competitors online, and knew all of our times!!

Memories of yesterday’s amazing racing swirl through my mind’s eye like the view through a flamethrower powered kaleidoscope. Today will be no different, so let me get as much down as I can before today’s flamethrower memory machine sparks into life.

Bruce Connor came to this meet a man on a mission, and broke the 500m masters world record for the 50-55 year old age group. How good does that feel? This good!

(are these world records? fairly deep in this old post from last year, here is my take on this, all the euro’s informally call these world records).

Jim Cornell is skating in the deep and strong 32 member field of the 40-45 age group. His Parents came to Calgary to cheer him on, as they have not seen him race in 10 years. It was a good day to catch up. He was 9th in the 500 and 7th in the 3k. As I write these words, a Dutch reporter from Schaatssport is interviewing him because of his ice marathoning success (a Dutch team needs to hire him!!!)

Pat Kelly set another masters world record with a very strong 37.75 500m. He was as smooth as a greased cruise missile on a bobsled run. His face is so relaxed here, 10 meters and 420 meters into his race.

I wish I had captured on film the wonderful ovation the Europeans all gave him, and everyone who set a record. They are true fans, as well as athletes.

Dimon Sports Athlete Jeff Bakal, flying like a reddish Canadian meteor.

Ivar Njos skated several 37 second 500m races at sea level in Hamar this year, and was my odd’s on favorite to pop out a 36 second 500 here in Calgary. He opened his 500m with a very strong 10.14, but slipped on the backstretch & ended up with a 38.3.

Speedskating requires a blend of propreceptive technique and a fit body to apply it. Ivar Njos has both, and like many of the Euros, has no inhibitions about changing right in front of everyone.

It does not bug me, but I still do a repressed American double take when I see it, especially when women do it (and I did ask Ivar for permission to publish this shot).

Steve Desotell suffered possibly the worst announcer mispronunciation of a name I have ever heard, but he ignored the distraction to skate very well in both his races. Canadian Ross Hanham’s newsblog has been instrumental in developing North American Masters speedskating. Both are good men I respect tremendously, and its fun to watch friends skate hard.

On the left Greg Oly shows some awesome born in the USA sprint technique, on the right he skated a huge 3k PB, and was grinning ear to ear through the lactic haze of accomplishment.

As for how I raced, I lowered my own master’s record in the 500m from a 37.47 to a 37.40, but the race itself was an awful start (10.5) & a very fast finish, maybe the best final corner I have ever skated, but it should have been much better…. I am much happier & more proud of my 5 second PB in the 3k (a 4:24), even though it was 8th place of the 17 men in my category. Overall I am in 3rd, but will probably fall a spot or two in today’s 1500m and many, many spots in the 5,000m.

This is sooo much fun…

In an earlier post, I showed the skates of Norwegian John Arthur Olafson as he was training in Salt Lake. Here is the man, at top speed. He skated PB’s in the 500m and 3k, and is solidly in the lead of the 30 competitors in the Men’s 45-59.

Brian Boudreau had some terrible luck in the 500m, he false started twice and was DQ-ed. He has trained incredibly hard for this event, and was devastated. But he is a champion in soul, and some odd mechanism of fate paired him with the best Dutch Skater, Jan Duif, for the 3k.

What resulted was one of the most incredible races I have ever personally witnessed. Both men started suicidally fast & attacked every turn all out. The lead changed hands every lap & the lap times were crazy fast; whoever was going to win this race would be the new masters record holder.

Brian is the one who told me about the “Pain Cave”, and he was incredibly deep in it today.

At the bell for the last lap, both men cracked & it was pure guts & glory all the way to the finish, Jan just had a little more than Brian in the final turn. They both skated over 9 seconds faster than the previous 3k masters world record, and for Brian, it was huge 10 second personal best, Jan went 4:03.19 and Brian 4:05.10 (!!!!!)

Incredible!!! and two men who did not know each other before today are now friends. This is Masters racing.

USA Masters

Here are 18 of the 24 Athletes attending this year’s Masters World Championships from the USA, click on the image for a bigger picture.

Kneeling in the front, L to R is

Yours truly, Brian Boudreau, and Steve Miller

Standing in the back row, L to R, is
Joe Mcdonald, Jim Hundt, Steve Desotell, Tim Doherty, Joanna Walters, John Nillen, Karri Cox, Bruce Anderson (behind Karri) Mary O’Donnell, Kathie Zapotocki, Jim Cornell, Bruce Connor, Danny Frederick, Myron Yencha, Greg Oly

This was an impromteau picture, so Stephen Gunther, Tony Fiorillo, Joanna Walters, Harry Dingle, & Mary Lou DiNicola were not there.

Here is a detail of the design on the jacket. Thanks go out to US Speedskating and Tom McLean in particular, for buying these for us. All the European teams have warmups, and many have suits as well, and this year Canada has nice jackets & suits too. So this feels good.

Racing starts tomorrow at 1pm! Whoopee! And given the fact that there are 353 athletes from all over the world attending, they expect racing to run until 11pm.

It’s going to be a looooong day at the rink.

Calgary, part I

There is a certain amount of comfort when you can actually SEE your luggage going into the plane.

My trusty skate traveling toolbox is making its way up the conveyor belt in this photo.. You can see a hand reaching out from the hold & pulling the cardboard box in front of it inside. If it hadn’t, my bag would have taken a 10 foot tumble onto the pavement. Several bags suffered this fate as they piled up on the conveyor belt (to the consternation of watching passengers).

It’s great to be back in Calgary, this is my 4th time racing here, and I like the feeling of big Alberta sky.

There are roughly 300+ masters speedskaters here from all over the world… The ice was CROWDED. Skating around among Norwegians, dutch, germans, Italians, Russians, Latvians, etc, it made my whole summer of dryland training seem suddenly very worthwhile

I will try to take more pictures soon….

There are so many good folks I ran into today, Ross Hanham, Bob Lawrence, Mora D’Andrea, Pat Kelly, Bruce Connor, Rangvald Ness, Arne Stenhaug & Arne Kjell Foldvik (Arne gave me some good natured kidding about why couldn’t I have published a better foto of him on this blog, and that he does not skate that high!! that is him on the absolute lower left in the blue.. in the last laps of a 70+ 5k record)

Also here is the whole Italian Masters team, good dudes.. I’ve been working on my Italian, and am starting to understand bits of conversations.

Funny, and slightly off color story:

Several of the Norwegian master skaters are suffering from lost luggage. One of them went out and purchased a new set of top-level Van Horne Boots & maple steel blades. Just incredible equipment, very pretty in the afternoon light slanting into the Calgary Oval. I asked him how the new skates felt, he said

Well, you know how it is to be with a beautiful woman for the first time, when you both know what to do, but just aren’t used to doing it together. That is how I feel.

I just about fell over laughing, I have never heard a more eloquent connection between skates & sex.

More soon, gotta run to the rink!!

Awesome Power & PB’s

Pictured here: the results of Keith Carney’s awesome skating power!

Well, almost. Keith smacked into the wall at top speed during his 500m race today & snapped off his clap arm. Luckily he was not hurt, as the sound he made hitting the wall was quite spectacular.

It speaks to the general nature of skaters, and Keith in particular, that even after a brain jarring impact, and destruction of expensive equipment, he is still his same good-natured self.

The funny thing was that the blade did not actually fall off until he was warming up for his 1500m.

There were many races at the Utah Olympic oval today. To the right is 17 year old Matt Shanahan, who skated a HUGE personal best during his 500m. His 36.74 was almost a second faster than the US Junior record for men his age. This image is 150m into his 1000m; there is some serious dynamic power here.

People ask me why I am not going to be training towards the 2010 games in Vancouver. There are some immensely talented young sprinters like Matt who have really come into their own this year. They are part of the reason, not the real reason, but part of it.

It’s really fun to watch them rip scary fast races though. Matt was HAPPY!

There were also several 10k’s, Marian Furst, Paul Nahrwold, Michael Drews, Eric Kraan, and my brother-by-another-mother Kirk Fogdall all skated them.

You can see the results from today’s racing here

Kirk slaughtered his former 10k personal best by 26 seconds and skated a 15:09!!! (that’s skating 24.6mph for 6.2 miles).

He has been doing insanely hard slideboard workouts all year, and extremely difficult on ice work (including what he calls “10k Friday”, where he just skates several 10k’s by himself at race pace…. yeee-ouch-arama!).

Today all that hard work paid off! I am so proud of him.

As for yours truly, after a truly average 500m, I skated my first PB of the year in the 3,000m. I race that distance so rarely it almost does not count. I placed last out of the guys who skated the 3k, but so what! a PB is always a cause to be happy, and this particular PB is from 4 years ago, back when I was doing lots of inline marathons, so I’m happy.

Bonus Picture!

Wasatch club skater Michael Drews, skating his first 10k, congratulations! In the words of national team member Ron Macky, you’re a man now.

How we seek

Tell me ‘how’ you seek and I will tell you ‘what’ you are seeking.”

-Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein

In the foreground of this picture are the skates of the very fast Norwegian Masters Athlete Jon Arthur Olafsen.

In the middleground is 2002 Olympic Gold medalist Chris Witty.

In the far background against the pads is 1976 USA 1000m Gold medalist and current Norwegian national team coach Peter Muller, with one of his athletes.

How we seek is steel sliding across the ice… But of course that is not truly “how” and is so far from “what

A close friend of mine from high school, who is currently a professional pianist/organist in New York City, once told me that there are an infinite number of ways to touch a piano key and produce a tone, as opposed to something like a church organ, that will always create the same tone from a single keystroke. Aleeza has played Carnegie hall, so this is the opinon of a true pro who would know.

I have thought about her words for a really long time, and never felt like I really understood them….

But is it possible that there are an infinite number of ways for the soul to tell the body to skate that same 400m frozen circle? so the “how” & “what” of our seeking, changes constantly?

Is speedskating more piano? Or organ?


The world is coming

You can tell when a major event is coming to the Utah Olympic Oval. They shut all the windows.

Well, not really, what they do is hang these funky black curtains over the windows. You can see them covering about half of the upper row in this photo, eventually they will block out every source of outside light.

The skater here is Patrick Meek, ripping out a 1200m. Click on the image for a larger picture.

They do this so the usually brilliant mountain west sunshine streaming in does not mess with TV cameras. Also they turn on multiple rows of inside lighting, in this photo you can see the extra banks of lights straining into life. It suddenly almost feels like a new rink!

On march 8th to the 11th, the World Single Distance Championships will be in town, even now, a month out, you can feel it coming.