Day 1 of the 3 day Champions Challenge, the final race of the year in Salt Lake, and something absolutely amazing happens.
Check out this scoreboard after the 1500m races-
Since when did Great Britain ever become a long track power?
Phil Brojaka is skating absolutely incredibly right now, he topped this list of Americans including an inline world champion, and a pile of US national sprint & allaround team members.
It’s easy to complain, as an American, how small & neglected a sport speedskating is compared to others. But think of the road Phil has to walk!
Phil will never skate in a British Long track national championships, there are no mentors or local coaches with Olympic Long Track experience.
Along with his countryman Matt Lindsay, Phil trains in Milwaukee, far from home, with the “unsinkable” Bob Fenn.
Dear British Olympic selection committee. Send Phil to the world cups & the Olympic games!! He is at that level. Grant his teammate Matt Lindsay the appropriate Visas to keep training in the USA.
Both men work astonishingly hard on Bob’s training program, and if I must lapse into the UK vernacular, they are BLOODY GOOD representatives of your country, both personally and athletically.
Besides, that Brit flag skinsuit is just wild.
Here is a link to the page with full results from all the racing.
In other news, there was a terrifying moment during warm-ups. I was relaxing in the warmup lane, in the corner, and Charlie Mahoney zips by me at 30+mph doing a full power accel.
A normal thing to do during warm-ups.
Some other skaters, 50 feet past me, were filling the warmup lane in his path, Charlie had no choice but to veer off into the empty race track, again, this happens in warmups.
But Todd Porter was standing right there in the race lane in his shoes, getting the track ready for racing.
It was a horrific impact. Both men were down on the ice for some time. Everyone in the rink had a sick feeling as coaches & staff rushed over.
Todd was ok, Charlie was deeply bruised, and in a good deal of pain the rest of the weekend, but luckily was still able to skate, and set 3 personal bests on fast Salt Lake ice.
It could have been so much worse.
Is there some karmic reason that Charlie’s nickname is “The Crash”?
Evidently the security cameras caught the whole thing on tape. I don’t ever want to see it, once was enough.
Matt Plummer went sub-36 in his 500m for the first time, 35.96. He was very happy. Here he is in blue, driving off the line with another “guy in red” Matt Shanahan.
What you can’t see in this photo is some serious crazy tempo, but you can see excellent knee drive directly down the track. That’s hard to do when legspeed is a blur.
I will finish this day with a report on the happiest note I can find. Mia Manganello skated an excellent 1500m PB, in a time that beat many of the guys.
I’ve known Mia for several years now; everyone at the oval can see her talent, drive, and how solidly her family is behind her (no pressure Mia, Really!).
But yaknow, when it’s race time, no matter the talent or the support, it’s still just Mia, alone in that lane, and when that last lap of the 1500 is crushing both body and soul (as in this photo), facing it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever known..
Efforts like Mia put out today that are why I find long track such an inspiring sport.
Day 2, Champions Challenge
Tyler Goff is a fascinating skater to watch, both from a technical & psychological standpoint. His long legs create tremendous pressure into the ice, and the angles his body takes during skating remind me of Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek.
But Tyler will be the first to admit that he finds it hard to motivate himself to race at his best week-in and week-out. Tyler’s saving grace is that he always skates exceptionally well when the pressure is on.
However, this year he worked harder than ever in the off-season, has skated consistently, and this particular weekend his long-distance girlfriend Katie was out for a visit to Salt Lake.
With added motivation rinkside, Tyler was absolutely on fire, winning the overall 500m & 1000m, breaking his 1500m personal best and tying his 1000m PB. He was so fast, my camera just would not focus correctly on him at all.
Katie, you will be out here to cheer him on at nationals, right? Olympic trials too?
Mark Yanigahara came out from Saratoga Saratoga springs, N.Y., for some fast ice, and also lopped off huge chunks from his former personal best times. He can really get it going off the start line.
Mark was a US national champion at Greco-roman wrestling in his weight class, but fell in love with speedskating, and has never found anything so wonderful & frustrating at the same time. I met him years ago, during one of my first weekends ever on a long track, it’s been a wild journey for both of us.
Eli Ochowicz, a sprinter taking on the 3k! yeah! For those of us in the “fast-twitch-fraternity” distance races are very difficult. I don’t know if I have ever seen her skate with both arms on her back, but she was very smooth.
Justin Stelly simply crushed everyone in the 5k. I’ve shot a lot of video of Justin over time, so I know his style well. He looks so different now than he did last year, I have a hard time recognizing him through the camera viewfinder.
I used to just look for the flailing limbs, he is quite smooth now, and that’s an essential reason why he skated well at the world cup this year.
In this series, from early in his 5k, look at the patch of red on his hood in relation to the pads behind him, to see how he sinks into each push, and then rises out of it. For many distance skaters like Stelly, this up & down motion, during every push, minimizes the very tiring static phase of distance skating.
The key is to “sink into the push”, not the opposite.
The final day of the Champions Challenge. A test for the sprinters in the 1,000m, the women had a 5,000m, and then there was the 10,000m for the very fit/insane, or according to Ron Macky “the real men”.
When I’m tired, & worn out, those little voices in my head start echoing: “you are getting old, WTF are you thinking doing something like this?!?!”
It’s absolutely true that something changed physiologically, in me, about two years ago. That is just a fact, and no amount of positive thinking will change it.
However, this whole weekend, I’ve felt young, springy, solid, every part of my skating & recovery was the best I can be. When the young guns were complaining about being tired, I was still smiling.
I PB’ed in the 5,000m & 10,000m during the Champions Challenge, but I am most proud of my 1,000. It was the fastest time I have skated in 2 years, and physically, it felt like one of the best 1,000’s I have ever done. I can only identify a few small missteps in the first turn; the rest of it was about as solid as I can be.
The last race of the year is not just about results, it’s also about hope, and finishing the year on a great race leaves a taste that makes the transition to summer training much easier.
In these photos, the fellow in black is the WHIP program’s Alex Mark. This junior national team inliner was my pair for both the 1,500 and 1,000m.
For some reason, people paired with me skate PB’s, and both of his races were big PB’s for him. It was a lot of fun racing Alex. Even though he beat me both times, it was close, intense, fun stuff.
I did skate the 10k, and won’t talk much about it except to say that after the huge effort I put in during the 1k my legs were garbage. I finished the 10k without throwing up on myself, and that was enough.
I had fun skating the 10k last year, but this year it was uniquely horrid. I’m not sure I EVER want to do that again.
Here is a link to the page with full results from all the racing.
Patrick Meek had a lot riding on this weekend, as the selection for the US National allaround team next year is still up in the air. He responded to the pressure with strong PB’s in the 1500m and the 10,000m. Pat, I know I’m not on the selection committee, but you have my vote.
It’s good the season is over, it’s been long, and I am not the only one who thinks so, as here is Jessica’s tongue-in-cheek sentiment-
Her happiness emphasizes the fact that this sport is SO HARD, it’s almost impossible to do without the encouragement of those you love.
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