Bradford Knee & Rest

Working on something else, I came across this image Jessica took of national sprint team member Rebekah Bradford, ripping through a 500m final inner turn during the last race weekend of the year.

If you can always have that knee in front of the toe, straights or turns, like she does here, you will go faster, as the pressure into the ice is instant.

This moment happened 15 days ago… but doesn’t it seem like the end of the season was a long time past?

I’m slowly getting back into easy workouts, slow & short cycling, yard work, a new-agey yoga class I am fond of.

Yoga is great for speedskaters in the off-season. We can do some things really well, other things are horridly difficult. I am really bad at Yoga, but I find it emotionally restful compared to the intensity of the rest of the year.

But mostly I am drinking wine in front of a roaring fireplace, and taking long walks with Jessica & the dog in the roller-coaster mountain west spring weather.

I don’t have a coach right now, but if I did, I think yoga, wine, and walks would be approved activities.

Sometimes you have to let the joints, muscles, & the soul, rest, rest, rest… & let the mind reflect on what you did last year, and contemplate what you need to do in the next one.

Korea Video

Occasionally, people send me things, & ask that I post them on the blog. This one was very unusual.

An American living in Korea, David Jensen, wrote me this note:

I’m an American ex-pat in Korea and an (amateur) speedskater.

I recently posted on youtube a video of my adventures at Taerung Ice Rink in Seoul. It doesn’t have much actual speedskating, just footage of Seoul, the training facility and a little bit of commentary on Korean sports.

Hopefully, I will be able to get some footage of some competitions in the near future.

In his video, there is a tantalizing moment, 1:09 in, where you see the long track in Seoul, and a little kid in a very Korean hat skating by.

The rest of his video is commentary on a Korean Olympic Museum.

David continues:

There seems to be a lot of misperceptions about Korean speedskating. First, everyone seems to think that Korea is really cold.

Compared to upstate New York (my home), Korean winters are mild. It would be really fun if the Han River iced over, but sustantial snowfall and natural ice are very rare here.

Second, people seem to think that everyone in Korea is a ST skater.

Seoul, Korea has maybe half a dozen ice rinks with a population 20+ million people. Needless to say, most people aren’t ice skating on the weekends.

I think the Koreans have adopted an East German style training (minus the steroids) - take a few talented kids and train them to death.

Since the vast majority of Koreans lives in proximity to Seoul, you don’t have the kind of issues that young U.S. speedskaters have with being far away from professional training facilities.

Like in the US, Korean speedskaters are a small but very dedicated group of people.

I have always thought that if you added up all the medals won at Long track worlds, short track worlds, and inline worlds, Korea would, in sum total, be the leading skate nation in the world.

I wonder how many licensced, competitive speedskaters there are in Korea? I do know that their masters championship had 60 skaters in it.

Hey David, where are you from in Upstate NY? That is my ancestral stomping grounds!

Here Comes the Sun

I asked Phil Brojaka what his favorite song was, he said, “Here comes the sun by the Beatles”.

Good idea Phil!

So I used this classic tune for this video, showing the last race of the season at the Utah Oval, the Champions Challenge.

Listening to the lyrics, I heard a part I had never paid attention to before-

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

How appropriate… Click here for the quicktime, or press play for the YouTube

I always want to try and show the humanity of the people who throw so much of their lives into the “appearance of effortless skating” because it’s anything but effortless, and the human struggle “underneath the hood” is such a fascinating part of this sport.

Thanks to all the skaters at the oval, it’s been an intense season, and thanks to Jessica, because I raced every single distance at the champs challenge, and she shot about half of the video you see here.

Also the sun is has finally arrived in the mountain west,

this week I’ve been riding in shorts in Salt Lake, yeah!!

Blue Demon vs. Diablo Melancolico

as always, when El Blue Demon appears, so does an opponent…

El Diablo Melancolico is the greatest challenge he has ever faced!

The two combatants race and wrestle…

A crowd gathers, cheering for El Blue Demon.

People cheer because when they see an athlete struggle, they know it, they understand, they feel part of what he feels.

The cheering, & the thoughts of those who believe in him, pour into El Blue Demon like wildfire. Muscles hardened from a lifetime of training kick into action.

There are only 3 themes in all of literature-
Man vs. Man
Man vs. Nature
and Man vs Himself.

This year, El Blue Demon’s record was 1 win, 1 tie, and 1 loss.

He lost vs Derek Parra, because Derek is a stud.

He tied vs. the wind, because no one can pin the wind.

And he won vs. himself, the hardest and most frequent opponent of all.

Vote For Sheila

2 time Olympian, and multiple US national sprint champ Elli Ochowicz just sent me an email worth re-posting here.

Elli writes:

My mom has just been nominated for the Olympic Hall of Fame and I am trying to get the word out. Go to http://www.usolympichalloffame.com/?page_id=28 and vote for her.

I was wondering if it you might be willing to make a post on your site about this. I know this would help her get some serious exposure so if you are willing it would really mean a lot.

The voting is from now through Friday, March 28. Anyone can go to this website and place a vote..

It’s my pleasure to help out, especially since I had not known much about Elli’s mom, Sheila Young-Ochowicz, other than she had won a medal or two in the Olympics “a long, long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away“.

It’s amazing what wikipedia has in it!, reading the entry, I was floored at what she accomplished in her career.

How about this for having a “pretty good year”, in 1976 Shelia:

  • Won Gold in the 500, Silver in the 1500, & Bronze in the 1,000 during the Olympics
  • was World Sprint Champion and 3rd at world allaround champs.
  • Skated 3 world records
  • then won the world sprint track cycling championships.

Of course her career was more than just one year, check out the Wikipedia entry for more. Including her comeback in 1981.

After reading this, I am convinced Sheila is one of the greatest athletes the USA has ever had in speedskating & track cycling. I love this sport, but I realize, reading this, how ignorant most of us are about the history of it. (for example, did you know that the first women’s allaround champion, in 1936, was an American!)

As Elli & I were chatting about this, she mentioned how it always seems that the cyclists & triathletes all seem to band together and get their candidates voted in.

There might not be as many speedskaters as there are athletes from other sports, but let’s vote as hard as we train!! Remember, voting ends on the 28th, so go to the page and vote.

2008 Champions Challenge

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.

Day 3

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.

Thanks Jess…

Masters Worlds Video

8 days since my last blog post! Whoa!

Jet Lag has completely flattened me since I got back from Germany, I am fine during the day, but by late afternoon, I turn into a burbling, useless waste of human protoplasm (well, more than usual).

Not drooling on myself in public has become my primary goal, so blogging has been a bit beyond my capacity.

But, last night I finally finished editing video from Master’s Worlds. This video has athletes ranging in age from 30 to over 75, and every one of them is an inspiration-

Enjoy- Click here for the quicktime, or press play below for the YouTube.

Here is a shotlist of the scenes:

1. My plane, descending into Europe, I think that’s a suburb of Frankfurt appearing through the clouds.

2. Very crowded warmup ice time, following Italian Sylvia Tassara. The final training session before worlds starts is amazing, scary, crowded.

3. The opening ceremony, flags of all participating nations. The kids are from the local Erfurt club

4. Italian Roberto Sighel getting ready for a race.

5. Roberto starting his 500m, in the other lane is Austrian Hurbert Kreutz. Wow.

6. Canadian Genevieve Provencher, starting a 1000m

7. Yours truly, starting a 1500m

8. A Norwegian with a cool sweatshirt, I wonder if he was an Olympian in ‘94.

9. Ingunn Sandø, starting her 3k.

10. Dutchman Jan Duif leads Marty Haire in the 3k

11. Marty leads Jan in the 5k.

12. Art shot, the skates are Danny Witkamps.

13. Ironman Jim Cornell, ripping a 3k.

14. Warmup Bikes of all nations..

15. Ragnvald Naess finishing his 5k, deep in the pain cave. He thought he might win his age group right here, he came up a few seconds short.

16. Two Norwegians, after a race. I think one is Arne Stenhaug

17. More Norwegians, singing in the Erfurt rink bar. American culture lacks many things, one of them is good, short, hearty drinking songs.

18. A Dutch Coach.

19. Dutch skater Victor van den Hoff. Finishing his 5k and clinching the overall in the 50-55

20. I think this is Wim Brand, winning the 3k, and the overall in the men’s 65-70 for the Netherlands.

21. Art shot of a Norwegian & Swiss skater in a 1500.

22. Canadian Pierre Gange. In the 75+ category, zipping out fast 3k laps.

23. Rather Inebriated Norwegians, pounding the pads & hollering, as countryman Arne Kjell Foldvik hears the bell lap in the 3k. Arne was 2nd overall in the 70+ category. He is one of the “youngest-at-heart” men I have ever met.

24. USA skater Tom Cole, 3,000m, riding that straightaway glide!!!

25. Austrian Hurbert Kreutz again, incredibly happy with his 2nd place finish in the 40-45 category. He skated huge PB’s this meet.

26. The winner of the 40-45’s, and one of the top skaters of his generation, Roberto Sighel.

27. The scoreboard.

28. Marty Haire, after the best day on skates in his life, winning the 45-50 category & quoting from the wizard of Oz.

All of us on the US team truly enjoyed our time in Europe, and all the wonderful people we met. However, there is no place like home…

Preamble

Many thanks to Canadian Rejean Lavoie for the help with the high speed access, otherwise I would not have be able to post anything from Europe.

My brother wrote in a comment–

“this is gonna be epic”

Yeah, it was…. Omigosh… it was EPIC.

Blogs are not chronologically set up well, as you read the latest posting before the first, so you know what happens before you see how it starts.

But for these 3 posts, as I am posting them chronologically to make better reading. I wrote in bits & pieces when I could. It’s hard work to blog & race & attend the endless meetings of the IMSSC (I am the USA rep to the group that puts this event on).

Enjoy!!!

I am finally uploading this from the floor of the JFK airport, and I stink like only 30+ hours of travel + racing + a party can make a man stink.

I am glad blogs only communicate words & images, not smell.

Masters Worlds, Day 1

Here is team USA, in some fantastic warmup gear! THANKS US SPEEDSKATING!!!

(the winds of change are blowing, when it comes to US speedskating & masters)

from left to right you have Tom Cole, Myself, Jim Cornell, Marty Haire, Eric Rosario.

Click here for a goofy moment as we were shooting this.

Warmup was CRAZY BUSY!!! 150-ish fast skaters, nervous, and ready to go…

The competition was unusual in some aspects of its setup, 4 races, 500m on Friday, 1500m & 3,000m on Saturday, and the 5, 000 on Sunday..

Races started fast & furious, I was one of the first to go. Gosh I need to round my back more at top speed (this is the final straightaway stroke before the last turn).

The 500 is my best event vs the distance skaters in my age group. I thought I could skate a high 37 if I skated flawlessly, a slip in the first turn, and I went 38.4. Still good enough for 1st in my group, & a solid lead

But for team USA, the story was Marty Haire, who skated an AMAZING 500m, finishing 2nd in the incredibly intense 45-50 age group.

Look at how many there were in the final results!! You can see how tight a 500m race can be-

Marty said he was shaking so badly before his race he worried he would false start. I am going to try and get him to write something for the blog, it’s quite a story.

USA skater Eric Rosario was not so fortunate, injuring his groin 2 steps into his 500m. He actually heard it tear as he went off the line.

His weekend was over before it really had an opportunity to get started.

Eric said he was amazed at how many skaters have come up to him since his injury, expressing their deepest sympathies, sharing injury stories, and wishing him a speedy recovery. He said he has never met a nicer bunch of people that the international masters athletes.

These posts for masters worlds are far better because of his awesome camera work. I gave him my camera, and focused on racing. Thanks Eric!!

Here is a 70+ year old Norwegian-

70+ year old Russian Vladimir Budin. He has more flexibility than any of the US skaters here… wow… These guys are my heroes, and I always stop and watch them skate, so does every other athlete in the competition.

Gunda Niemann-stirnemann, coaching in the rink named after her. I think if I had her yelling for me, that would make me go faster!

She was coaching several of the German masters, and with Italian world champion Roberto Sighel in the competitors, their presence added something important to the event.

Tom “hardcole” Cole & Jim Cornell both had solid 500m races. Jim in 7th place in the 40-45, and Tom skated a personal best 500m, right in the middle of the 45-50 group in 14th.

Tom came here wanting to be in the top half, so he gets to skater the final 5k (only half of the competitors get to), so he is on track

There were no official warmup-warmdown bikes at the rink.

But there was an area you could set up your own, and if you put a bike there, the honor code said it was “available for everyone”.

For example- here is Russian Sergej Avdejev on a Swiss bike.

Ok, I’ve gotta run! More soon! I will finish with a picture of Austrian Herbert Kreutz, at top speed.

Herbert is having the meet of his life, and is in 2nd place overall in the 40-45. He is chasing the Italian 5 time Olympian & world champ Roberto Sighel, both in the standings, and at this very moment in a 500m race.

Masters Worlds- Day 2

Any day is a good day when you are at an indoor oval, and chatting with fellas like Ragnvald Naess. He is as warm as his smile indicates.

Click on this image of him to see a larger version, & so you can see all the detail of the amazing patches on his jacket. He has skated all over the world, and has patches on this jacket from everywhere.

He wants a patch from the USA, does anyone have one? Do we even make jacket patches anymore?

Rangvald is 54 years old, and has skated over 50 10k’s. He wants to skate 100 10k’s Yeah, there are a lot of extraordinary folks here, from all over the world.

But to the races.

I skate a solid 1500m, good for 2nd in my group, and gave me some more cushion on the pile of quality distance skaters right on my heels. It hurt, but in a good way.

It’s easy to say you are a true sportsman, but do you really mean it? Jan Duif of the Netherlands lost his fast skinsuit. He is the main competition of my friend Marty Haire.

So I loaned him my backup fast suit. This is what this event is about. It was wild to see my suit whipping around the track, but without me in it.

Jan skated a huge PB in the 1500, and jokingly did not want to give my suit back. Marty was 2nd again, also skating a massive PB, both skaters going in the 1:57’s, and Jan increased his lead slightly in the overall.

Tom “cosmopolitan” Cole PB’ed in both his 1500, and 3k today, and moved up strongly to 10th overall, in the 45-50’s. Go TOM!!!

He joked that the track in Petoskey, Michigan, should host Masters Worlds someday.

My turn for the 3k, I skated what I’ve found is the best strategy for me, skate 4 very fast laps, and then struggle to the finish like a flaming lactic meatball. This was the crucial distance in this meet for me. I could not lose too much time. I started with several 32’s, and faded horribly to a 39.

I will not post pictures of the “flaming lactic meatball” moments. It was ugly.

My pair, the superstrong Dutchman Piet Hjoksma, obliterated me, and the rest of the field, and Danny Fredericks’ 3k masters Calgary world record in one shot.

It was expected, but still awesome from my front row-seat to watch him motor.

I finished almost last, but I did not lose huge gobs of time to everyone other than Piet, I’m still in second place.. Every pair I have had during these masters games, they have skated personal bests against me.

Jim Cornell, he is skating solidly in 7th place. Jim broke his collarbone earlier this year, and that hugely impacted his preseason preparation. To see him still skating in the top 10 masters, in such an intense age category, is inspiring.

Norwegian Marja Haartsen, at the start, driving hard off the line, then 400m later at her top speed.

Ivar watching from home in Norway, you are missed by all of us! (Especially me, I want to race you in a 500m someday!)

Canadian Genevieve Provencher, also at the start and then ripping along at top speed. These are some smart, fast, awesome skaters here. Everyone tries to bring their “A+ GAME” to worlds. Most succeed.

So Marty lines up for the 3k directly with his main Dutch rival, and the one that many Europeans expect to win this weekend.

Jan Duif had an incredible battle with Brian Boudreau last year in Calgary during the 3k, it was one of the best races I have ever seen.

Jan beat Brian that day, but was 2nd overall to Canadian Benoit Lamarche in the overall. Now Jan has another North American on his hands. They are 1-2 in the standings

Jan goes our hard, and opens up a solid lead on Marty.

Marty smoothly chases him down, no panicking-

and skating repeated 32 second laps, Marty PASSES JAN AND WINS!!

It was an amazing skate! Canadian Brett Arnason stated out our sentiments most clearly when he hollered to an exhausted Marty.

There are not enough O’s in the word “SMOOTH” to describe that skate!!!

We did not realize it until later in the Evening, that Marty’s time of 4:05 was a NEW MASTERS WORLD RECORD!!

(world record? It’s a difficult question, as Masters speedskaters are denied the right by the ISU to call our fastest times “masters world records”. We are denied what swimmers, cyclists & track & field masters have. But Marty beat Jon Arthur Olafson’s amazing race from from Calgary last year, so yeah, it’s a world record in the hearts of everyone here).

Here are the men’s 45-50 standings so far.

Tomorrow, the 5,000m!

Jan & Marty are separated by a “Haire” in the 5k. If Marty wins the race by a little over a second, he is Masters champ.

Jim & Tom & myself also qualified to skate the final distance (only the top half of the ranking skates the longest race in a meet like this). This is good.

I’m still in second in my age category, but have strong Finnish skater Vesa Isoviita chasing me during my worst event, and his best, the 5,000m.

First place is far out of reach, but I do have a lead on Vesa & a Russian. If I just execute & “suffer well” I should be able to hang onto second place, but as Kenny Rodgers sings:

You never count your money, when you’re sitting at the table, there will be time enough for counting, when the dealing’s done!