US LT Champs, Day 1 & 2

You can see the results for the Men’s allaround & the Women’s allaround at the new DESG website (check out their ability to track individual skaters time progressions in each distance over their career, very cool! even though it does not account for indoor/outdoor races).

A 2-time Olympian once told me:

“Look, there are a LOT of different training philosophies in use around the world. The Canadians go fast, the Koreans go fast, the Dutch & Norwegians go fast, the Japanese are amazing, all of them train in radically different ways.

So there absolutely is more than ONE way to train & be good. The important thing, really, is to believe that your way is the best way for you.

This was never proved more clearly than by the results of US LT nationals 5k, check out this list.

3 guys who train mainly on the short track, 2 inline/ice mixers, 2 who train the “conventional long track ice way”, and from what I understand, the winner Shani does a pretty even split of long & short track.

Also notable in this result is the “coonpup” Justin Stelly. His mom picked a great week to come up from Louisiana & see her son announce his arrival as a true force in US distance speedskating.

Speaking of Shani, he and Catherine Raney were absolutely dominant in the allaround. Catherine was even training through this competition, as her true focus is the world championships. She said she was tired, but certainly did not skate that way.

Many ways to go fast! in 10th place in the 5k was my friend Keith, in a huge achievement representing an astounding amount of work. If Keith skates the qualifying time (you must do both a top 10 at nationals and skate faster than a time standard), he earns Cat I next season!

Here he is, smiling, giving the “10″ sign, or maybe its just “8 V’s of victory”.

When I start in the inner lane, this is what the scoreboard reads, it’s good for a laugh on a stressful race day. I was in a pretty early pair, and after this race, Justin Stelly & I got to be on the top of the leader board for a while. A nice feeling.

National allaround team member Ron Macky & I have had a running joke this year. When he beats me in the 500m, he takes away my “sprinter card.” When I beat him, I get my “sprinter card” back. We have been within .1 or .2 of each other every weekend.

Look what happened in the final results from the allaround 500m!

What do Ron & I do? Do we both have sprinters cards now? Or do we have to split it?

Unfortunately the next day, Ron developed a serious fever, and was not allowed to finish the allaround. This was his 10th year skating US LT nationals.

Kaari Cox & Charlie Mahoney were skating their very first USA nationals, congrats to both of them in how much hard work it takes to get here!

Kaari is 44, coached by Matt Vraa & skates in Minneapolis. Charlie works with Bob Fenn in Milwaukee. Skating for Bob makes you tough (or dead tired), and Charlie skated tough.

Caleb Eaton, also in his first nationals, got the ferocious cold that was going around. Train your brains out for several years to qualify, and wake up the day of the races feeling like dogcrap. Life can sometimes suck.

He skated some tough races in his homemade green skinsuit.

There was a lot of holiday public skating going on, so the Utah oval did not shave the ice down, so times really were not fast like crazy fast ice can make them.

Kate Ortega traveled down from Alaska to the lower 48, to watch her son Liam race.

There was A WHOLE BUNCH of short track nationals skaters who raced LT nationals. Probably the most successful being Charles Leveille & Ryan Bedford.

Leveille is just so dang strong. I love the curve of his back, like a spring that puts a ton of pressure through the back part of his blade. When I bent the back 2 inches of my left blade crashing earlier this season, entering corners is when I felt it the most. Leveille is a 2006 Torino Olympian, he was 3rd overall at US short track champs, and 4th in the LT Allaround.

There is no award or term for that, but maybe there should be-

Carla Langenthal is sitting next to me as I write this, and she mentioned that she felt like at Nationals this year she ended up watching people for more the quality of their skating, rather than just watching times.

Our first Nationals was 5 years ago, and maybe Carla & I had the most fun at that one, as we were just so happy to be there. Since then, we expect RESULTS from ourselves.

It changes the game.

Erica Lanser, pure guts & glory & pain & the last lap of a 3k! She misunderstood what lap was her last one, so her finishing sprint to the line was quite a bit longer than she had planned on.

She was coughing so much the remainder of the day, her brother did not want to leave her alone at the restaurant during lunch, he was so concerned Erica would cough & choke on her food.

Some of the people I like look to for skating quality are April Medley and Maria Lamb, this is what you call a LONG PRESSURE MOMENT, these skaters just hang on their edges a physics-defying amount of time. Mia Manganello is chasing Maria here.

Rather unusually for a speedskater, Maria does a lot of training on skate skis. THAT is a wonderful sport, almost as much fun as cyclocross!

My body is fried like a burnt egg after 4 days of racing. But my brain is fine, and I’m working on the sprint entry & videos for both competitons right now, much more, very soon.

2400mg

In years past, I only competed in 2 of the 4 days of US nationals, it’s SO much harder to report/blog about nationals while competing in ALL 4 DAYS (and working too)!

Even so, I popped off a great (for me) 500m today, 37.12, in some pretty slow ice conditions. That time was much faster than I thought I would skate this year.

It’s only good enough for 16th place of the 34 sprinters. But in the race vs. myself, I am quite satisfied. Long track is weird like that.

I was hobbling away from the ice today, & a little worried about how much crunchy pain was happening in my right ankle, but then saw Kip Carpenter also limping along next to me.

Kip sliced up his ankle quite badly during a top speed 500m crash. He did a 500m reskate, and then raced the 1000m with stitches, staples & blood soaked tape holding his foot together. (do I post a picture of it? I’ve got a painful one).

Then kip went out & won the 1000m!

I asked Dr. Eric Heiden what the legal drug-test limit for ibuprofen is, he said it’s 2400mg, in 3-800mg doses. Good to know, otherwise Kip & I would be tempted to marinate ourselves in a 55 gallon drum of the stuff.

So many stories happen, even in a sport as simple as skating a 400m frozen hamster wheel as fast as you can.

I have shot over 6 GB of video, and am working on other stuff.. More… soon..

Blogging or sleep?

It’s late, I need sleep, 2 days of racing down, 2 to go. I could blog for hours about what has happened so far, and I will (videos too) but I need sleep right now to be at my best tomorrow.

There is always time to write, but only a few chances to race.

You can see the full results of the US Long track championships here at the growing website Speedskatingresults.com

But results on a scoreboard are only ashes from the true fires, only part of the human stories that created these simple numbers.

There is far more to this sport than just results, robots don’t skate these times, a unqiue collection of people do, and I think maybe my place in speedskating is to do my best to capture the bits & pieces of their story.

Like Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr.’s skates, ready to blast off the line for a very strongly skated 3k.

Note the Viking logo printed backwards, I think this means they are a custom pair from their factory.

Why they do this is beyond me, but it never fails to make me grin when I see it.

Much more soon…

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Right now I am testing some new, super-secret aerodynamic headgear, sure to take the speedskating world by storm.

The furry tassel at the end smooths the airflow over your back, and as it swings from side to side, it improves your weight transfer.

Actually, my right ankle has been in a lot of pain, one of those “It hurts to walk” kinds of pain. It’s a chronic injury I’ve had for years, and it’s flared up again.

Combining ibuprophin with wearing silly hats makes it feel better. LT nationals starts in two days!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!!!

ST nationals 1000m

The men’s & women’s 1000m races at short track nationals were oddly similar, the strongest skater in each field just took the lead & said “here I am, try and pass me” cranked their speed up to maximum, and no one could pass.

Here is the men’s 1000 final, Click here for the high quality QuickTime, or press play for the youtube

Here is the women’s 1000 final, Click here for the high quality QuickTime, or press play for the youtube.

Natuurijs

If there is a kind of speedskating that is on the opposite spectrum from short track, it is natural ice distance skating.

Instead of all corners, it’s no corners.

THERE IS ICE IN HOLLAND RIGHT NOW… for the first time in a LONG TIME, this is a country that is crazy about distance skating, specifically outdoors on the canals.

Imagine if the USA’s relationship to baseball was hampered by the fact that baseball diamonds only rarely appeared, and sometimes, not for years on end.

There are lots of clips on Youtube, showing what the sound, sensation, & magic of this is. Just click here and see the search results for yourself.

There are LOTS of clips (ignore the first one in the search results) the only constant between the clips is the sound of skates on Naturrijs (how do you pronounce that?)

For example:

Older fellows skating quite fast

Is there a mysical, aspect to skating in quiet places?

This guy climbing out after falling in the water

I like a particular follow shot of this this fast lady, even if I have to crane my neck to watch the first half (they do get it right for the second bit).

I wonder what they are talking about… Probably not about people, many thousands of miles away, watching in amazement, & listening to that unique sound.

Men’s 500m final

This was an amazing race, with human-dragster hybrid J. P. Kepka ripping off the line in the same style that saw him set a US national 500m record earlier in this day.

Apolo Ohno and Jordan Malone ran him down and then…. the finish got a little bit messy.

Messy like my car gets messy after a cross country road trip.

I’d love to hear the opinion of the knowledgeable and experienced short track minds on the final passes, and do you support the call the ref’s made?

Music for the slow-mo is by Susanne Vega. Click here for the high quality quicktime, or press play to start the Youtube below.

I do want to call attention to one moment of perfection in this race, just as Apollo passes J.P., check out this extension & incredible compression.

To find this skating position at the end of a short track race, while at top speed, with nationals on the line..

It awes me the same way as when a baseball player hits a 550 foot home run, or a quarterback throws a ball 70 yards, and a receiver catches it with one hand on a dead run.

And goes…. ALL… THE… WAY!!!

Women’s 500m final

Amazing finesse, incredible strength, scary crashes. Everything to love & fear about short track is right here.

My favorite bit about this is the HUGE smile Katherine Reutter gives as she steps to the starting line. It’s a tad hard to see in the video, but in person, it lit up the rink just like her skating.

She did the same thing before the women’s 1500m final.. Smiled big, skated fast.

I usually am a worried sick freak-bunny-stress-mess during nationals, but Katherine is obviously quite relaxed.

Click here for the high quality quicktime, or press play to start the Youtube below.

Men’s 1500m final

I almost didn’t bring my camera to Short track nationals. I wanted to watch, not tape, I want to absorb the myriad things I only foggily understand about short track.

But during the final, I found myself standing in a great place to tape. So why not?

Enjoy these amazing athletes winding it up to insane speed by the finish of this race-

Click here for the high quality quicktime, or press start on the youtube below-

Here are the helmet numbers and start lanes, lane 1 is on the right of the screen

Lane 1 #258 Ryan Bedford
Lane 2 #284 Jordan Manlone
Lane 3 278 Jeff Simon
Lane4 #294 JP Kepka
Lane 5 Apolo Ohno
Lane 6 #287 Ryan Leville
Lane 7 #296 Simon Cho

Got Snow?

If you listen closely, you can hear skiers & general outdoorsy types celebrating. Utah is getting pounded by a blizzard.

But humans aren’t the only mammal who loves the snow.

Just to have the eyes open on a night like this can give a person enough to see & think about for a lifetime of blog posts.

No matter what the world of people throws at you, sometimes the outdoors is a true balm.

Short track Nationals starts this weekend. I am going to wander over & watch a bit. Short track is amazing, exciting, and I love watching the top folks whip around.

However, it can be a tiny bit dangerous-

As I was skating long track, I heard a scream and a big “BOOM” from the wall of the short track rink. Word quickly spread among the skaters that Mary Grace had broken her ankle in the final practice before nationals!!!

Crap! This sport has so many ways of breaking your heart along with your bones. I have two other friends who just have had season ending injuries, and are struggling with the emotional fallout.

Injuries are part of sports, but it’s a sucky part. The only lesson to be learned is to appreciate it when you feel good, because it can be taken away in an instant. .

The Utah oval ran some races on Thursday afternoon, one week before nationals start. So I was able to race during my lunch hour! Since I blog about a lot of other people, it’s only fair to link to Flyin Brian, as he wrote about a race we did vs each other.

This is us, about 670 meters in, just as it starts to really hurt. Brian and I train a lot together, this was fun.

Thanks to Robert Lawrence for the photo. My 500m on this day felt great, as good as I will be for this year. I was not so great for this 1000.

Before the race, Brian was in his skinsuit sitting next to the start line, on a work-realated conference call. He puts his phone down for a moment, races a 1000m, and then gets right back on the phone.

That’s workingman STYLE!