Hallmark Moment

A blog reader/speedskater sent me a very nice email, including this image. And it’s worth sharing-

This winter scene of a natural ice skater, cruising long with his hands on his back is truly a “hallmark moment”, and I do mean that literally.

Here is what the artist wrote to me:

My work here in Kansas City has been at Hallmark Cards - as an illustrator. A few years ago I designed a Christmas card I hope you might enjoy.

I thought I would share it with you out of gratitude and respect for a fellow skater and designer.

Anyway, the card is finally in the stores this year. To have anyone in the “real” speedskating world aware of it and even send it would be more honor than I could handle.

Thank you so very much for such great work! I enjoy your writing, your point of view and dedication.

-Ken Sheldon

I asked Ken where a person can buy this card, because frankly, I’d like to own a box of them.

Currently it’s available in the set called “boxed Christmas cards” and also can be ordered via their paper catalog (& in hallmark “gold crown” stores), however currently there is no online link.

The card has metallic foil on the skater and trees & there is glitter on the skate tracks. So I think the hardworking pixels of the internet do not do this image justice.

Thanks Ken!

(and thanks also to the managers at Hallmark, as evidently there was quite a vigorous discussion about my query if it’s ok for this image copyright of Hallmark Inc. to appear in blog-land.)

First snow

Why is it that the first snowstorm of the year never really “feels” too cold?

Could it be that the sense of wonder at how much the world can change overwhelms the protesting nerves?

We pass by this street sign every time we do the Salt Lake City Friday night skate. As I looked at this snow-spattered sign, it made me think of evenings where where the asphalt feels soft & sticky after baking in 100+ degree sun all day long.

I like the moon in the upper left corner of this shot & the blue, snow filled clouds encasing it. I did not notice the moon as I was taking the picture, but that is the fun thing about writing, photography, speedskating, or life. Sometimes if you keep your senses open, you discover surprising things along the way.

It’s waaay too early in the morning, and I am writing & photoshopping instead of crawling to the gym like I originally intended to.

Choices… Choices…. Choices… Much of life, like the turn of season, has nothing to do with our choices, but what we do during the day & early morning, we do have at least that….

Just how I roll

One of the only pictures I took during the recent holiday, this is my brother, during thanksgiving dinner.

At the moment of this picture, I was giving him some good-natured crap about the fact that he has Diet Coke in his wine glass. It just seems so wrong. His effortless response?

“That’s just how I roll”.

I like that. It’s a great motto/excuse/maxim/philosophy.

And it’s always wonderful to roll with family, no matter what they choose as their beverage in whatever glass….. It’s been a house full of Love (the Love family, as it were).

Here are a few images my bro took of Salt Lake.

Liberty Park

and the great Salt Lake-

looking, as usual, like a borrowed piece of another planet

I have got to get back into the blogging groove… Even though I have been skating short track a bit, I’ve been off the long track due to my blade problems. Frankly I am scared to go faster than easy laps due to how twisted my blades are.

There is just something about long track. A bit like baseball, that just seems to create words & thoughts. It’s not that short track is not wonderful too, but there is just no mental room for anything during screaming laps on the tiny frozen hamster wheel.

I like the big wheel. I have replacements blades on order, hopefully will get them soon.

Race Announcement

Like the graphic? I actually skate on these “old school” classic Viking hardtails every now and then. They are a ton of fun.

But seriously, this is the title graphic I made for a race I am organizing in Milwaukee on January 5th & 6th.

Here is the entry form & race info: - WORD DOC - .PDF

The ENTRY DEADLINE IS DECEMBER 17th

If you are over 30, Masters International events are a lot of fun! as easygoing or intense as you want them to be. All levels of skater are welcome. This is going to be a complete blast!

(If you are under 30, this is proof that skating is a true lifetime sport! Also if you are under 30, you can still race this weekend, just in your own category).

Several committed Masters skaters in Milwaukee have found some nice sponsor support for this event. Check out the entry form for more information, including who is hosting the traditional Saturday night party/gathering!

One thing that is not on the entry form, but is appropriate to mention here, is that as the primary organizer of this event I will get to do something I’ve always wanted to do:

All the officials, volunteers & timers at the Pettit will get a NICE breakfast on race day. It’s not an exaggeration to say events would not happen without these good folks spending the early morning hours of their weekends standing in the cold. This is my small way of saying THANKS!

There are 2 other noteworthy events in North America that are also Masters International (IMSSC) events.

The Masters International Canadian Open in Calgary

(metric, 500-1000-1500-3000)
February 9th-10th
Here is the Entry form, the entry deadline is December 8th, I have a 50-50 chance of being there.

The Masters International Packstyle in Milwaukee

(Metric 500-1500, Pack 500-1000-1500-3000, open 5k)
February 16th-17th

(they have not released their entry yet, but this meet is more racing than you can imagine in one weekend).

You can see the whole International schedule of master’s events at the IMSSC and IMSSG websites. As well as articles, pictures, & descriptions. For those who want to check out the fascinating European race circuits, I can personally recommend the events in Inzell, Hamar, and Davos as absolutely wonderful experiences.

Many talk about growing speedskating & how to do it; but mostly it’s just talk. The IMSSC was started in Germany, and has been wildly successful at creating new events in Europe over the past 16 years. In Germany, Holland, and Norway, the IMSSC has helped masters become an essential & respected part of their national organizations.

After last year’s very successful Masters worlds in Calgary (the largest gathering of master’s speedskaters EVER), several of us are trying to keep the momentum with new events in North America, also to compliment the long running & very successful Masters International packstyle race in February.

The Canadian rep, Bret Arnason, and I would love to see the 2 new masters Olympic-style events, the Canadian Open and the American Sprint, eventually become the North American Masters Metric Championships.

But it will not happen unless SKATERS decide these are events are worth attending, & this kind of thing worth growing. So come on out & join us for some insanely good skating fun with the skate tribe.

RIP Norman Mailer.

When John Lennon died, part of mourning that loss for many musicians was listening to & playing his music.

I’ve been silent on this blog for the past week mainly because of Norman Mailer’s death. I’ve been reading & re-reading the work of his that hit me like a literary sledgehammer roughly a decade ago (he hit that same sensitive spot that Kerouac & Pink Floyd nailed when I was a teenager).

Mailer could be a difficult fellow, pugilistic, rude, brillaint, cranky, barely in control at times, and he pointedly tried to explore some of the darkest, nastiest, most brutal parts of a man’s heart. Many people dislike him for this.

However like watching a world-class speedskater, I frequently see Mailer doing things on the page that leave me as awed as watching Wotherspoon or Kramer on the ice.

His retrospective The Time of our Time, is specifically the “greatest hits album” I’ve been listening to.

Mailer was fascinated with boxing, was great friends with Muhammad Ali, and opened his retrospective with a selection describing another writer who dabbled in boxing, Hemmingway, getting the snot kicked out of him in the ring.

This is how he ended that bit, I think he meant this to describe himself as well-

Most men find their profoundest passion in looking for a way to escape their private and secret torture. It is not likely that Hemingway was a brave man who sought danger for the sake of the sensations it provided him.

What is more likely the truth of his long odyssey is that he struggled with his cowardice and against a secret lust to suicide all of his life, that his inner landscape was a nightmare, and he spent his nights wrestling with the gods.

It may even be that the final judgment on his work may come to the notion that what he failed to do was tragic, but what he accomplished was heroic, for it is possible he carried a weight of anxiety within him from day to day which would have suffocated any man smaller than himself.

There are two kinds of brave men. Those who are brave by the grace of nature, and those who are brave by an act of will.

Inspiration can come from many directions of one’s life, thanks Norman, for what I have felt & thought while reading your words.

Slo-MO WR

One of the great things about speedskating is that when it’s done incredibly well, there is an artistic quality to the precision, speed and power of the sport.

What can be said about a weekend where a world record was broken or tied in every distance the men raced? It’s almost an art gallery of effort!

Sometimes, a picture, or a bit of slo-mo video, can be worth a thousand words. Click here for the high quality quicktime, or start the youtube below.

(also, for skaters, these are tremendous examples of HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE!)

Video of these races copied directly from Dutch TV are starting to pop up on YouTube and other places. I think this is a great thing for our small sport, (especially in places like the US & Canada where there is no TV coverage) but I bet that eventually they will be taken down due to the copyright issues.

So “amateur” video like this has an important place.

World Cup Images

Exhausted after watching 3 amazing days of world cup racing, I have few words in my rink-addled exhausted brain right now, just images grabbed from the 11.29GB of video I shot.

Enrico Fabris 5k world record!! Fantastico!!! It was a thing of smooth beauty for 10 laps, he sped up slowly & relentlessly.

His last 2 laps were incredible, as he knew what speed he had to skate to beat Sven Kramer’s time & get the WR. It looked like it hurt quite a bit too.

Fabris was not the only Italian success of the weekend, Chiara Simonato won the women’s 1000m. Fortza Italia!

The most exciting race I have EVER seen live, Wotherspoon vs Davis 1000m, incredible speed of Jeremy at the opener, and the incredible stamina of Shani as he came roaring back in the final 200m (this image is from the last turn). At the finish only .01 separated these two amazing athletes. The top 4 men all went faster than Shani’s world record from last year.

German Jenny Wolf & Chinese Beixing Wang were in a class by themselves in the women’s 500m. Every men’s race broke or tied the previous world record. However no records were skated in any of the women’s races, odd.

Wolf looks stronger than last year though, and even though her races contained a few technical stumbles, she skated the fastest opener ever for a woman, a 10.18

In his first solo world cup race, Trevor Marsicano skated a new US junior National record. Here he is blowing past veteran German skater Jan Freisinger on the backstretch during the last lap of a 1500m.

I wish I had images of it, but the next day he annihilated the US junior 5k record by 19 seconds.

I’ve been in this very cheap plastic chair before, focusing & stressing like Kip Carpenter is, waiting for his 500m start. Or maybe Kip is calm? Probably not. I find the moments before they call you to the start line for a sprint race gut-wrenchingly horrid.

Because you must explode off the start line like a rocket, and then calm down to a smooth aggressive control for that last turn

-or it can get very scary, very fast.

As Joon Mun of Korea finds out here, it’s amazing he did not crash, even with a totally out of control final turn, he STILL managed to still go 34.7

The Koreans all looked amazingly strong in the sprint distances. Although they did not win a race, I’d say their male sprinters, as a group, have the most depth of any nation.

Many of my friends volunteered to get an front row seat on all the action. Matt Plummer’s lifetime of skating ability makes him quite overqualified to be a block chaser. A few small things being different, & he could have been out here as a competitor. Someday I am sure he will be.

I bet Matt’s mental tape recorder was running as he watched these women zip by in 1000m races, as surely as my camera was.

FINLAND!!!!

Pekka Koskela new WR in the 1000m!!!

1:07.0

!?!??!?!??!!!!!!!!!!

here he is, 120m from the finish, in a world/universe of hurt.

(am blogging from the stands just because I can, video later tonight)

I heard a rumor that turned out to be true, that there is a bet between the Calgary & Utah oval, that whatever oval has more records set during its competition, the loser will have to fly a banner proclaiming the other “the fastest ice on earth”.

Calgary has its work cut out for it.

MORE RECORDS!!!!

Jeremy Wotherspoon has had an incredible speedskating career, even before what he did today.

He won a silver medal in his first Olympics in 1998, and went on to win more world cup races than any other skater in the history of the sport. However the 2002 & 2006 games were, frankly, disasters for someone so talented. After Torino he took some time away from the sport.

According to the local “skate-tribe” gossip, he trained with the Canadian bobsled team for a while, then even got burned out on that & went to Norway.

I hear he worked 17 hour days on a fishing boat for several months, in a place where no one knew him, growing a huge beard in the process.

I don’t know what answers he found there, but I do know this- whatever he found helped him smash the 500m world record into quivering bits in his first race back.

In the process Jeremy skated the fastest 400m lap any human being has EVER done. A 24.44!! this WR could stand for a while, unless he breaks it again Sunday!

Watching the race through my camera viewfinder, I could literally see Jeremy surging with power on the straightaway, awesome!

Here is the video, enjoy the high quality quicktime, or click the Youtube below.

Enjoy.. a… few…. Images…. Too…

I’m… going… to…. Bed…. More…tomorrow…

Records!!

I am about to walk out the door of my house, to go watch/photograph the Salt Lake City world cup races. But 2 things first-

I bid a warm welcome to the massive avalanche of web-traffic coming to this blog from several websites that follow the career of Apolo Ohno (thanks Noelle & Ohnozone for the link & kind words).

I never thought I would experience more intense force in the web-skating-universe than devoted Dutch speedskating fans, but there is one; Apolo fans!!!

Whoa!! There are a LOT of you out there. You folks are setting some serious daily visitor records for this website!

Its great! Although I think this amount of crazy-traffic will run me out of bandwidth again, but what a wonderful problem to have!

Speaking of records, although the speedskating world will be looking at the Salt Lake oval today for world records, the Pettit National Ice center just re-did their wall of rink record-banners (thanks Rob Multerer of the Pettit for these pictures).

First of all, here are the Men’s records, it’s worth mentioning the new Men’s 3k, held by Zen-10 interviewee Trevor Marsicano.

There are some pretty heavy-duty names on that list!

And here is the new banner of women’s records-

If you look at the bottom of this list at the 10,000m women’s rink record, you will see one of my closest friends in the sport has finally gotten the recognition she deserves for her tremendous distance skating ability.

Although some might not take the 100m, or the men’s 3,000 & women’s 10,000 records that seriously, try and go faster if you can!

Congratulations Carla “last-lap” Langenthal on the women’s 10,000m Pettit National Ice center rink record! I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!