In response to Aaron

Aaron Arndt is a talented Canadian inliner racing in Europe, along with fellow Canucks Andrew Hegarty & Sigrid Ziegler. They are training at the World Inline Center in Switzerland, and are taking that amazing step upward to go nose to nose with the best in the world.

I wish all three of them well. It’s odd that I seem to know more of the Canadian Inliners than Americans. It’s because I got to know them at the excellent Toronto inline club events, as well as in Lake Placid & at the Empire Speed races (RIP to that excellent series).

On Aaron’s website he wrote some notes to his commenters, and he asked of me:

Andrew Love: The color you add in a comment is terrific. What are you doing this off season? Doing much inline? Maybe I’ll see you at A2A, 500m man

I realized as I wrote an answer in the comments that I rarely talk about my own long-range plans here. I tend to write more about the “vibe” of training, or of daily things I see & think about.

Maybe this is a “cheater” entry, but so be it. Life is BUSY! So here is roughly what I replied to Aaron’s question:

after 3 years of RELIGIOUSLY adhering to scripted training ( I can count on one hand the number of times I went off-macrocycle plan for more than a few days), I am just doing “whatever I feel like” through the end of July..

This has been a ton of inline, road & mountain biking.. and almost no gym work or dryland/hill running that used to dominate my life..

I’m training about half what I used to.. but have no choice due to financial restrictions, I’m working like a dog on several clients websites, it’s good…. but I still feel great when I can get out & since I’m pretty rested, I can hammer like a freak. Who knows, that might make me faster.

I’m also about 10 lbs lighter than I was when doing pure ice sprinting, and loving it..

I’ve been suffering from some “warning” injuries in my feet/ankles for few years, and they seem to be healing… I don’t want to be crippled by arthritis when I’m 40 (and that’s only a few years away!), and my right ankle especially is rather crunchy..

I won’t be at the start line of A to A, as there is no way I could be in my skates for 82 miles.. I can hammer for about 2 hours, then I’m a burbling mess….

but I am thinking about maybe racing Napa Valley & the Northshore inline marathon in the pro-masters, maybe London if the winds blow right…. I skated Northshore in 97, and have always dreamed about going back… 5,000-ish skaters is pretty incredible.

I will be delaying getting back on the ice till late fall, and peaking for US LT champs in December, and Masters worlds in Germany in feb-march.
Of course, work comes first now.. but I’ll still be racing, & I’ll never stop skating, until they pry my speedskates from my cold, dead feet.

and of course, I will keep blogging here. I debated shutting it down for a while as the focus of my life changes away from being full time “skate-trash”, but why stop something that is so much fun?

Mountains

Despite my east coast roots, I love the mountain west for many reasons. I’m very happy my wife & I are settling here.

One of the reasons is the mountains themselves. They are metaphors for experience & actualities, daring you to climb them; or even just to glance up from a morning commute & appreciate something beautiful.

Climbing Emigration canyon on my bicycle a few days ago, I came across this sign near some construction; Hey, the road crews care about cyclists!

Actually, quite a few riders have been killed recently in Utah, in canyons & elsewhere. So this is a practical safety note.

Sometimes it’s careless drivers running the cyclists over, sometimes it’s the cyclists making mistakes & paying horrible consequences.

Either way, it reminds me of how the Sergeant of the Hill Street Blues police force used to end his morning briefing: “Hey, lets be careful out there!”.

This goes for both cyclists and the pilots of those 2,000+ lb chunks of gas-powered steel that constantly pass us.

As I was climbing the canyon, I thought I saw Chris Witty whipping down the roads in the opposite direction, a big grin on her face. The effort of the climb always brings the reward of the descent.

I will try to keep up the blogging, but the main mountains I am moving/climbing right now are these mountains of boxes.

Why is it that writers always have so many books & cats & general crapola?

We officially take possession of our new house this weekend! I am enlisting the help of many in the local skate tribe to help us move.

Speedskaters always need more back, core, & upper body cross training. This should be perfect.

Thanks to all who have written their congrats! Again, BIG party soon….

I finish this post with a picture I took some years ago on the top of Mt Wachusett, in the northwest corner of Massachusetts.

Speedskating & Cycling have always been part of the mountain for so many. Click on it for desktop friendly version.

Doucet Heart

My buddy Peter Doucet raced the Canadian Pan-Am games trials this past weekend.

This was a major goal for him, on his website speedskateworld.com Peter wrote:

Last November I put up a picture near my computer of 3 of the guys I thought I would have to beat to make the team- the picture was of Olivier Jean, Steve Robillard, and Brian Jalbert on the podium at last year’s Canadian championships.

On Saturday, I took the picture to the trials with me and buried it at the CITC. This might seem weird to you. The thing is that I’m not normally superstitious or anything, however burying the picture that I had been staring at for months and months signified burying my fears, accepting the outcome of the races, putting my training and sacrifices behind me since I was where I was and everyone else was there too; at the trials.

It was time to race. Burying the picture meant burying my competitors…

This really struck me, as it clearly shows the connection of mind-body, internal & external competitiveness, and the role that ritual & totemics play for athletes. I do understand this, as all I wanted from nationals last year was a T-Shirt.

Glancing through photos of the racing (kindly posted by Shannon Hegarty) I was blown away, and can clearly see Peter has worked himself into the best shape of his life. He is leaner than I have ever seen him, and has muscles growing out of his muscles!

This morning I got an email from a scientist whose email signature was this quote:

Exercise and sport scientists historically have attempted to describe, explain, and predict maximal physical performance in biologic terms, whereas sport psychologists have usually employed psychologic models.

It is only possible, of course, to separate mind and body for purposes of discussion.

- William P. Morgan”

I immediately thought of Pete, and although one might be tempted to look at his body & natural talent as the reason he did eventually qualify for the Pan-Am games at these races, there is also sacrifice, determination, ritual, diet!! (a huge factor for both Pete & I) coaching, friends/family support networks-

and that word that has physical, emotional, and psychological shades of meaning:

HEART

52,839 SLC Century

The start of the Salt Lake Century. 2,000+ cyclists, at all skill levels, riding 37, 67, or 107 miles.

It’s been a while since I’ve ridden in a big pack, as I train mostly by myself. But the feel for the peloton I gained in a decade of being “racerhead bike trash” came back naturally. Like riding a bike, one never forgets.

A massive pack of cyclists is like a school of exotic swarming fish. It’s never static, never quiet. Carbon fiber & aluminum scales flash past; chattering & rhythmic legs swimming in a hiss of tires-whirr of gears-thunk-thunk of gears shifting, bright jerseys finlike & sunglassed eyes focused on ripples of motion through the road & vibrant arrowing school.

Dancing on the pedals through cool morning air, it’s great to be a fish! This was not a race, but people were moving well & riding smoothly. Eric Kraan & I rode together, that’s him in the yellow. There were cyclists as far ahead & behind us as our eyes could see.

Due to the flat terrain, huge packs of “like-minded souls” quickly formed. Eric & I ended up with not just any fish, but hammerheads, barracuda, marlin, mako, & tarpon of the friendliest, fastest kind.

As the morning heats up, this pack ate up the miles at an astonishing pace. (note: we were far from the first groups, all great whites & orcas).

We are flying across the gorgeous antelope island causeway here, spinning the big ring at 27mph. Snow in the mountains visible over our shoulders.

Does this photo of make my butt look big? I have a maximus gluteus no matter the camera angle. I am “keeping it old school” here on a VERY old Bianchi full of “passione celeste” that my brother gave me.

Among the carbon fiber, aluminum & titanium fish so common in current top level bikes, I think my brother’s old bike left a swirl of rust in the air as I rode along. But I could almost hear it singing in Italian to me, or was that just the early warning signs of dehydration?

Packs, packs, huge numbers of people. I could never dream of riding this far, this fast, on my own.

About 65 miles in, both Eric & I started cramping hard, going from Hammerhead to guppy in a matter of a mile.

Full quad spasms sting.

We dropped away from the school ‘O fish. Even through stop signs, urban riding, crosswinds & the winding hills through Antelope Island, we had been averaging close to 23mph.

We took a decent break at a rest stop. Partook of the generous refreshments, and felt much better.

I sent Jessica this text message, letting her know I was ok.

71 so far
am cramping
headwind is bad
I AM AT PEACE

Re-hyrdated & energized, during the final 40 miles Eric & I began to merge with other riders doing the shorter routes.

After swimming in schools of hammerheads, I was reminded how wonderfully democratic cycling is. How accessible, how there are so many ways to enjoy the sport.

And that there are many people whose courage & effort to ride the 37 mile shortest route was far greater than what I needed to ride 107.

I take my helmet off to them.

Near the end Eric & I ended up with many triathletes riding on their tribars, pulling steady by themselves in the wind, dreaming of the swim-bike-run Kona Ironman.

A few moments after I took this shot, this guy took an incredible, endless pull into a headwind, 25 people in his draft, thankful for every pedalstroke.

Due to some spark of intensity innate to who I am, in the final miles I started driving as hard as I could.

How appropriate is it to the theme of this post that a rider astride a custom LandShark joined me, and we took turns team time trialing through the final few miles at 25-27mph (really, this is him, you can see the logo on this downtube).

We were not racing, there is no reward unless you count the yummy ice cream bars they had at the finish. There was no completion certificate, but who cares.

It’s the joy of riding, and the pride of accomplishment & being a fortunate fish.

Why did I title this post 52,839 ??

My father rode many centuries when I was a kid, I clearly remember him and his green Raleigh International riding the BikeCentennial in 1976.

In 1976 he was a year younger than I am now, he can’t ride anymore due to heart trouble.

My heart beat roughly 52,839 times over the 5 hours & 9 minutes it took me to do this 107 mile ride (average hr of 171, final average speed of 20.78).

…and I am grateful for every beat I have, every joyous pedalstroke that I can take, because someday I might not be able to.

Dad, although a lot of people might read this post, I really wrote this thinking of you; as I thought of you often during the ride.

Welcome to the Club

Thankfully this is not my collarbone, it’s Jim Cornell’s

Ouch!!!!! He hurt it crashing during the bike leg of a triathlon.

I remember reading a study once that said if you have raced bicycles for 4 years or more, there is a 50% chance you have broken your collarbone.

Welcome to the club Jim!

I am “almost” a member, but instead of my collarbone breaking, the rotator cuff in my shoulder shredded, crashing on a Velodrome during a race.

At least Jim is in good spirits about it, and that definitely helps.

I always thought that after they have healed, broken collarbones look like someone has implanted hot wheels cars under the skin.

It would be possible to live life completely safely; wearing a suit of armor & never leaving a concrete bunker that has TV running 24/7.

That is a valid choice for some, but for many others, that would not be a life. It’s the taste of sweat & flight & effort & possibility & risk, which makes life, life…

and there are many ways to find this, not just sports, and frankly on the grand scale of things, most sports are small risk compared to the rewards…

How does that Ani Defranco song go?

I am looking for the holes
the holes in your jeans
because I want to know
are they worn out in the seat
or are they worn out in the knees?

1973 in Missouri

This is the Jefferson City Speedskating Club, circa 1973

Bruce Kohen sent me this. He asked “can you pick me out?” If you know what the adult Bruce looks like, examine all the faces, make your guess, and then see the answer here.

I thought he was the blond kid in the front row in the funky hat, but that’s not Bruce. That must be Tanner from the Bad News Bears, speedskating during the baseball off-season.

There are so many wonderful things in this photo, the coach, the several skaters wearing ancient leather bicycle racing “hairnet” helmets. The myriad clues of the early 70’s

One would never think that MISSOURI is a place that creates winter Olympians, but look at this list, they have produced an Olympic ice speedskater every year since 1968!!!

Wisconsin, Michigan, New England and New York think of themselves as the hotbeds, but MISSOURI has some speedskating chops! (California does too).

Why Missouri? In addition to the Jefferson City Club I give you 2 more reasons,

The Gateway Speedskating Club

The Metros Speedskating Club

Clubs are the heart of the sport. As important as producing Olympians, think of the friendships, the stories, the maturing of people that happens when they experience the thrill of victory & agony of defeat (mostly defeat, but I think losing & screwing up makes us who we are more than winning). NONE of this occurs without clubs.

Go hug your local club volunteer today, no matter where you are.

And don’t laugh too hard at the photo. In 34 years, any team photo taken today will create a similar reaction from both a fashion & equipment standpoint. I wonder what a team photo taken in 2041 will look like?

Sponsors

It just so happens that I will mention my sponsors in today’s post. If you need to take this post with a grain of “commercial salt” so be it.

Starting the day off with a Cat-Scan of my skinsuit & helmet.

I must admit to picking this particular LAS helmet because it matches the black-red of the Dimon Sports color scheme.

Of course cat hair does not match anything, but for those of us who do high velocity sports, at least it tends to blow off when you go fast enough.

Intervals in Liberty Park shortly after-

The intense sunshine makes the wheels cast a molten purple-y shadow. It has been over 90 degrees in SLC recently!!

I dislike long intervals with the same intensity that I love starts & 200m accels. This is why I will be doing long intervals all summer.

One of my sponsors, PowerCranks, was in Salt Lake this past week. Frank Day, the inventor of PowerCranks, had a booth at the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning national conference.

I helped Frank explain PowerCranks to a smorgasbord of coaches. PowerCranks have a real problem; they look just like a normal bike crankset. They are radically different.

It’s really hard to explain how independently driven bicycle crankarms feel, and how they just nail your hamstrings & hip flexors like nothing else. There are quite a few speedskaters who are fans now.

Frank produced a video explaining what Powercranks are for this conference. I am embedding it on this page. Again, as sponsors they have been very good to me, and I have been a PowerCranker for 3 years, so just click play & enjoy-

Last season I used PowerCranks for over 50% my road cycling, the other half I did on a fixed gear. When I rode with other people or did mountain biking, that’s almost the only time I rode a “normal” bike last year, and then I feel like I am shot out a cannon.

They are really good at making cycling MUCH more specific for speedskating, and PowerCranks wants to try to reach speedskaters.

They are certainly an ego-killer until you have adapted to engaging your hamstrings & hip flexors, but if your self-image depends on squeezing every last scrap of speed out of your body possible, I think they are an essential part of the training equation.

I do have several almost-new sets for sale right now, contact me for price/info.

2 Shadows

Most long track ice speedskaters, if you measure their calves, will have a larger left calf muscle, due to the constant left turns putting the left leg through more hell than the right

I am glad it’s not as deformed in real life as this shadow makes it seem.

However I did just notice something really weird, and I want to ask other hardcore multi-year ice addicts if this is true of them-

Sit in a chair with bare feet. Stick your legs straight out & pull your toes back towards yourself.

The toes on my left foot can be pulled back much farther than the toes on my right foot. I am guessing that this is because of constant stepping “up” into left hand corners creates a greater range of “toe-pullback” motion on the left foot than the right.

Or maybe I am just oddly made. How about you?

I have had short trackers tell me that their right leg becomes stronger than the left, due to the pivot-turn. So maybe they are different in the toe-flex-factor too.

Here is the final shadow, from this morning.

I have really had fun recently doing intervals on the inlines & chasing Jessica on her Tri-bike.

She was just cruising & warming up here. When she popped into the big chainring and started hammering, I had to put the camera away & sprint as hard as I could to keep up.

I love the warp on the spokes from the cheap-o camera phone. Or is that her wheel-cracking power??? Jessica is as much a fast-twitch sprinter-type as I am, and is doing Triathlons to prove some kind of point to herself.

I understand, it’s the same reason I raced a 10k metric ice last year, and might race an inline marathon or two this year.

There is something very wrong & very right with this mentality.

HOUSE!!!!

JESSICA AND I BOUGHT A HOUSE IN SALT LAKE!!!

Now, this actually has something to do with speedskating, since we found it while I was on my skates & she was riding her bike (we are the same speed when we do this, even when we both go fast), and this also means we are staying in Salt Lake for the foreseeable future.

For obvious Internet privacy reasons, I won’t publish a picture of our new place. But I will say that it’s a stone’s throw from Liberty Park, a tree-lined loop in the heart of Salt Lake where we frequently skate, bike, run, walk the dog, & generally enjoy ourselves.

Maybe someday I will use my expensive speedskates & lifetime of skate technique to be the propulsive force behind a baby jogger. Can you double-push while holding onto one of these? I plan to find out.

After moving my brother, now I get to move myself!! Arrrgggh!!

I guess skaters need to work on upper body & core strength in the summer anyway. Does this count?

We kept our business within the skate tribe, and used former national team member Tim Hoffman as our realtor. Tim did a great job, & he’s been helping a lot of skaters buy houses recently, as the Short Track National team is relocating to Salt Lake from Colorado Springs. In fact I briefly met the new Short Track national team coach in Tim’s office.

Jess & I are thrilled & scared & excited & awed & experiencing the normal emotional whirlpool of first time homebuyers.

In about a month, there is going to be a HUGE party!

Three rings

People are familiar with Superbowl rings, & the prestige/mythology associated with them (check out this link for a fascinating look at all the designs & history).

Until I saw people wearing rings with the Olympic emblem on them, I never realized that athletes & coaches also get a ring for participating in the Olympic games!

Here are photos of two Olympic rings. The first is the ring Chris Shelly was given when he competed in the 1992 Albertville games.

I asked Chris if he had ever lost it, or had a good story associated with it. Chris said:

Well, I wear it all the time, I almost never take it off. One day I was surfing in New Hampshire, and the ring flew off my finger!

In terrifying slow motion I saw it fly through the air and hit the water. The bottom was so muddy, silty & mucky, that I knew I would never find it if it hit bottom. So I dove into the water after it.

I grabbed it just before it hit bottom!!

According to a national team guy I spoke to, the rings the men were given from the 1998 Nagano games were HUGE, and almost unwearable “bling-bling”. The ones the women received were slimmer, and many of the men ended up requesting one of those.

At the US speedskating spring board meeting, I spotted the Torino ring bling-bling on the hand of Ryan Shimabukuro.

Ryan said that the coaches get a slightly different ring than the athletes, and that if an athlete wins a medal, you receive a different style as well.

I asked Ryan “how much does this ring mean to you”? He said:

Well, I wouldn’t give it to my mom when she asked for it. If I get another one, then she gets that one!

There is a third ring to this story, and one just as meaningful. This past weekend, RYAN GOT MARRIED IN HAWAII !!!

If you think about it, a wedding ring is fundamentally different than an Olympic or Superbowl ring. The sporting “bling rings” signify rare and tremendous personal accomplishment, achievement, and they symbolize a fixed moment in time when the world is watching. Incredible stuff!

A wedding ring however, is a public symbol of something intensely private; and when you first put it on, a wedding ring mostly points into the future.

But over time, it becomes a ring that looks both ways like Janus. It’s a ring that becomes richer the more years you wear it, a ring that is tied to another person, memories, family, the whole equally incredible grab bag that life is.

Congratulations Ryan! On both your rings! Between the two of them, there are some incredible truths about human nature.