Divergent & Convergent

Is this blog about speedskating? Or about something else? Sometimes I don’t honestly know, life takes you along for the ride. Sometimes you drive, sometimes it drives you.

But I do know that the driving forces in my life are going to converge with another force that will overpower all.

People are constantly asking me how Jessica is doing… In a few days she will be at 4 months, her energy yo-yos up & down, but she feels great & is slowly starting to look pregnant.

But ultrasound photos are what really blows me away-

There are the beginnings of a face there (with my forehead?) and it’s trying to suck it’s thumb. There is a real person there; I can’t wait to meet him/her. Its funny how we all started out like this, every one of us.

But life goes on, no matter this huge looming change (do I hear the soundtrack from 2001: A space odyssey, playing off in the distance somewhere)?

If I ever change the name of this blog to “Zen & the Art of Diaper Changing” then all my speedskating friends are permitted to have a good laugh & I will be truly lost to the sport.

But I can’t image that fully happening. To lose out on endorphin-addled grins like this one, taken tonight as I pedaled home from a bike race, would be just awful-

And I would lose something that I want to share with my future kid. Not necessarily cycling or skating, or even competition, but that essential something about an active, physical life.

Besides, isn’t a happy parent a good one? Doesn’t having one’s own passions & happiness also make one a more effective role model (me? Role model? The world is in trouble!).

Here is another weird camera phone pic after the race. Lots of strange details in this shot

  1. Fellow-skater/biker Inacio Lopez, incredibly happy after his strong 2nd place finish a few moments before-

  2. Some looming clouds, about to rain on us-
  3. The strange curves of my carbon fibre bike, the number plate affixed to the seat post-
  4. smeared on my rear brake, a glob of human spit, or snot, or some other biological substance. I can’t tell exactly what it was-
    I don’t know if it’s mine or someone else’s. But I found this quite funny-

Somehow, just from riding my bike to & from work, and doing a regular lunch hour ride with some extremely fast folks I work with, I’ve found myself a bike racer again.

It’s a fun sport, a bit dicey at times. There was a moment during the race, as the 40 person pack was tightening onto itself at high speed & folks were jockeying for position, I blurted out to a friend: “wow, I’m used to having a lane all to myself, all these people are freaking me out”.

Over the hiss of tires & wirr of gears, I heard a lot of good-natured chuckling at that. I bet a short tracker would have felt safer than normal.

I know my friend Kirk threw away his rock climbing shoes the day his first son was born, and as I respect Kirk tremendously, I have thought a lot about what that means.

Note to Eddy-

I just got a semi-nasty comment on the last post, but I took it seriously, and spent as much time writing a reply comment as I do writing some posts.

So it’s worth republishing, and the discussion that might spin off from this could be interesting-

anyway, here is what Eddy “the cannibal” wrote:

Andrew why do you say “just for giggles” you decided to come out to the sprints on sunday??? We are glad you came because you rocked…and you help set the bar for people to ride faster

I mean you won, and it wasn’t by any short length, no one will contest that. However, we cheered you on to victory just like anyone else if they had won. You obviously have an aura of perfection about you by the way you glance and glare at certain “neo-beatniks” as you say while at an event. I think you are also numb to any kind of praise….

Is it possible you might be taking yourself a little too seriously here?? I detect some elitist bones in your body….There were two riders who usually come to the sprints but didn’t show up who are excpetionally fast, much like yourself.

i’m sure it would have been closer if they were there. It might have been a more enjoyable race for you to have some actual competition….and you wouldn’t feel like you were a god amongst men

I took this seriously, because his note got me thinking…. So here is my reply-

hey Eddy,

hmmmm, how to respond…. ok…

“for giggles” - well… I am really serious a lot of the time, speedskating can be an absolutely brutal sport, and it demands a lot of perfectionism & a competitive nature to do it well…

and yes, it can be a cesspool of Elitism at its worst (merely hierarchical at its best)….

You have no idea about this weird little subculture out at the Utah Olympic oval that I’ve been marinating in….

If it’s seeped into my bones, deepest apologies, and I need to have those bones removed with no anesthesia.

Believe me, I’m pretty chill compared to many… Part of me mentioning the “$30 and free beer” is that in 99% of events, Speedskaters race our hearts out for NOTHING. So any kind of prize is a shockingly wonderful thing.

This event was WONDERFULLY relaxed & fun, it was not about “winners & losers” in the stark terms that skating sometimes can be… it was about having a good time with some chill folks… My soul needs this sometimes…

I am glad to have done well at the sprints, but if those 2 riders come on out & mop the floor with me, I will still be having just as much fun… really…. my ego is not on the line during an alleycat.

It is worth noting I was the lamest of anyone at the trackstand comp.. and cheered on everyone else, as well as admiring the handling skills & guts of the folks who brave the “full contact” nature of the foot down…

“neo-beatniks” -no group of people exists in a vacuum, and I see a lot of commonalities between some things about the late 1950’s “Beats” & the current urban rider culture.. Much more than the 60’s counterculture….

Should I have used another term? yeah, all labels are limiting.. But how would you describe this loose-knit collection of folks? Like all groups, there absolutely are social norms & patterns of behavior/dress.

And I never would have written about myself the way Blaue Reiter did. I would have been an arrogant bastard if I had…. I am no “god among men”, I get my ass kicked all the time in races, and even if Olympians & national team skaters who are the ones administering said ass-kicking, they aren’t gods either…

They are just really talented folks who train frighteningly hard… That does not make them any better or worse human beings than anyone else….

All this said, I had an absolute blast at the event, and I look forward to talking to you when I am back…

$30 + free beer

Training monotony is something to be avoided like the plague, both in the body & the soul, as doing the same thing all the time leads to stagnation.

So just for giggles, I showed up at an “Alleycat” sprint race on my track bike. These are urban races that sprint the full length of a city block from a standing start. I was racing with the same bunch of biking neo-beatniks I filmed during the Salt City Sprints

Some of these urban riders are quite quick off the line, and there was a smattering of true bike racers as well, including fellow speedskater Inacio Lopez.

The bikes ranged from titanium & velodrome worthy rides, to things scrounged from dumpsters & rattle can painted.

I had good sprint legs this day, and ended up winning $30 for first place of the 30-ish riders, plus as much beer as I could drink at the after-party at the W Lounge (2 PBR’s was all I could down & still manage to bike home safely).

In addition to the sprints, they also had a fun event, called “foot down”, where the spectators form a ring, and the cyclists circle like sharks within the ring, and try to knock each other off their bikes.

The spectators slowly contract the ring during the event, and as I said, it’s low key fun, note the fellow drinking a beer during this-

My aluminum track bike is similar structurally to the beer can this fellow has in his hand, so I skipped this part of the competition.

However it got me thinking, imagine a short track event, maybe a relay, where the spectators are on the ice, creating an ever shrinking circle pad barrier. Contact would be natural!

It would eventually become just one long, endless corner pivot, punctuated by the thud of bodies into the pads.

If that does not attract the attention of ESPN, I am not sure what would (half naked, fur-wearing cheerleaders?)

It is one of the true mysteries in sports that short track is not all over American television, as it has EVERYTHING Americans love about sports….

Oh yeah, maybe if we did it in WWF masks, or in Speedos, or…..

P.S.SaltCycle blogger Blaue Reiter wrote about this event, and called me a “heap-big speedskater and general cool dude” in his post.. That made my day… Yeah!

Also he took a nice picture of me in my super-secret, holey, 18 year old, “bike-race-day-only” flannel shirt that few speedskaters have ever seen. Damm, my secret is out!

Again, this was just a lot of low-key fun.

Caption Cycling

I am tossing out to the general readership an opportunty to write descriptive captions for these 3 bike-related photos. Each picture was taken this past week, in 3 different states, thousands of miles apart.

Humorous or serious, each caption should get at what is really happening in the photos.

Picture A

Picture B

Picture C

Thanks to Alice & my Brother, for their contributions to this.

Bella Gallery

I have been chatting with Tom DiNardo via email- Tom is a photographer, and he directed me to some AMAZING galleries that he took of the North American Longtrack Speedskating Championships that occurred February 8th-9th & 10th.

For example, here is Kreg Greer warming up:

I love photos like this, where you can clearly see the light coming in under the front half of Kreg’s right blade, it shows exactly where his weight is driving through.

There are a lot of Canadians in this gallery, including Nicole Garrido, who I met 6 years ago in Calgary, she was just a kid then, now she is a cruise missile of Canadian national team speed.

Connor Slivocka, another young skater whom, every time I see him, seems to be an inch taller & 10 lbs bigger.

Here is a wild Panorama, of Canadian Kerry Dankers/Simpson, (we think) crashing. Click on it for the big version.

I’m not sure who this is, but wow… that’s some nice 500m corner form. (note: as per her comment, this actually is 2006 Olympian Kerry Dankers/Simpson again!)

Here is Tom’s homepage and the direct link to his North American Longtrack Speedskating Championships Galleries

Tom has tried to organize his galleries by skater, so if you competed there, check it out. Here are the skaters he has identified, and has multiple shots of:

Midway Speedskating Club - Women
Midway Speedskating Club - Men
Puget Sound - Non-Race
Saratoga Speedskating Club
Sault Speedskating Club
Askervold, Thorston
Belanger, J-R
Belchos, Jordan
Bergeron, Stephanie
Bernhard, Nathan
Berriault, Tobey
Blouin, Vincent
Boutin, Michele
Bucsis, Anastasia
Cribb, Evan
Dankers, Arne
Duffeld, Kelsey
Dutton, Will
Dyrud, Rebecca
Gendron, Kyle
Garant, Alexandre
Garrido, Nicole
Gladys, Timothy
Gregg, Sarah
Greer, Kreg
Goplen, Nick
Gozinsky, Marcin
Growden, Dan
Haire, Marty
Han, Jimmy
Hambly, Lisa
Hawke, Erica
Henry, Elyce
Hill, Jackson
Huot, Veronique
Jackowniak, Steve
Jeong, Clare
Johnson, Andrea
Kemp, Jennessa
Kitura, Jeff
Kriek, Ricky
Kryski, Eric
Kury, Tim
Lanser, Erica
Lapointe, Sabrina
Lay, Kirsti
Lee, David
Lewis, James
L’Heureux, Justine
Makowsky, Mykola
Marsh, Pat
Martel, Peter
Maunder, Justin
McCabe, Adam
Nam, Julia
Ouardi, Muncef
Parrot, Kyle
Phillips, Crystal
Plummer, Matt
Queen, Amanda
Riopel, Phil
Sadlier, Aaron
Savard, Mireille
Sibold, Shannon
Simpson, Kerry
Spencer, Haley
Stinson, Fraser
Starke, Alister
Sugden, Lynn
Sugden, Scott
Sulzer, Keith
Tutt, Breanne
Waples, Stephan
Zettler, Spencer

From a speech

“I believe sports is one of the best places you can learn about yourself,” Ohno said. “Sports puts you head-to-head with the demons you face, and you have to deal with it — right then and there.”

Apollo Ohno

This is from a speech Apollo recently gave at the University of Arkansas

and he is absolutely right…..

I did my first bike race in about 4 years on teusday (on the evening of my close encounter with that car) and although bike racing is certainly a very hard sport, and FAR more dangerous than long track, the nature of the Demons speedskaters face are unique, and in my own experience, nastier….

(of course, I never was able to dream about being anything other than an average cyclist, on the skates, it’s different for me.

So maybe the size of the demons correlates directly to the size of one’s dreams)


Mood: Enraged!

So I am riding my bike to work on one of those huge, open, Salt Lake roads that has room for 4 lanes + turn lane + parking + ample bike lanes.

a minivan darts through an opening in traffic, AND ALMOST RUNS ME OVER!!!

I barely have time to grab my brakes, as the minvan flashes by a mere foot in front of my wheel, -they are turning into a gas station.

My heart is jumping & twisting like a fish on a hook. After a few seconds to collect myself, I turn into the gas station after them.

These idiots are driving through the gas station, using it as a shortcut to get to a different road!!

Traffic is brisk, and they are stopped at the exit. I roll up behind them, angling towards the drivers side window….

Suddenly traffic clears and the minivan rolls forward. I am about to put my fist through their back window, but at the last second remember that is a really bad idea (for my hand, I don’t care about their window) so I do a loud open palmed thwack, and let loose with a stream of All-American obscenities at the top of my lungs (and I can be LOUD when neccesary).

Usually, confronting a 3,300 pound Plymouth Voyager while riding a 19 pound Bianchi is a VERY bad idea, but with a gas station full of people sympathetically watching, it’s a bit safer.

The minivan spins it’s wheels, & zips away with the driver giving me the finger.

I continue back on my commute, wobbly, angry, sick to my stomach, wondering if I did the right thing, and with a wild new feeling mixed in, that my life is not just about my life anymore…

It’s not over till…

The saying “it’s not over till the fat lady sings” is in common usage across many sports.

Maybe a good equivalent for speedskating would be:

“it’s not over till Alaska melts”

Peter Haeussler writes me:

The ice season isn’t quite over here in Alaska. Attached is a photo of skating of ice on Eklutna Lake last weekend. There was a few km of decent, but not great ice.

The lake is Anchorage’s main water supply. Very beautiful. Our outdoor oval even had skatable ice on Sunday.

Wow what a beautiful shot. It’s the desktop on my computer right now.

Peter continues-

On the right is Chet Fehrman. Chet, FWIW, was this year’s Susitna 100 winner. This is a 100 mile wilderness race in Alaska. You can enter as a skier, runner, or biker.

Chet skied and blew away the competition this year in wet heavy snow. Chet finished in about 20 hours and was 5 hours faster than the second place finisher.

The Jack Russel terrier is named Arbor and belongs to Chet’s girlfriend. What is missing from the photo is MY Jack Russell terrier, Mito, who was dashing about.

Here a picture Peter sent me of Mito-

I am back in the gym again, and starting to ride my track bike. If I can just bring Mito’s intensity & dogged optimism to my workouts, maybe someday I will feel truly fast again.

Chad Hedrick owns several Jack Russells along with his fiancé Lynsey.

Hmmm, I never thought there would be a connection from skaters to certain breeds of dogs.

Or maybe it’s that certain breeds of dogs very carefully choose speedskaters as the best possible human companions to match their own natures?

Zen 10 Follow-up, Jennifer Rodriguez

(if you have not seen it, be sure to check out my HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT just after this post)

but onward to my first Zen-10 questions follow-up

I have several google news alerts that tell me when speedskating news appears on the web.

When an alert popped up that JEN RODRIGUEZ was coming out of retirement for another shot at the Olympics, I stalked around the office that I now work in, and tried to tell anyone who would listen about this great news (I received the quizzical looks that most folks give to speedskaters who get excited about something).

Given the scarcity of good news sources for anything deeper than just race results, I realized that if I didn’t ask Jen some of these important questions, who would?

So first of all, let me holler out, on behalf of so many, WELCOME BACK!!

1. You have 2 Olympic medals in your pocket, you have won world championships in both ice & inline. So why the comeback? Is there business left unfinished?

My original intention after the 2006 Games was to continue skating, but I was so overtrained and burned out, the thought of skating made me sick.

It wasn’t until this past November that KC finally got me on the ice at our local rink here in Miami. The first step on the ice, I realized how much I missed it. I actually started to get a little teary eyed.

That’s when the thought of trying to make a comeback happened. I played around, back and forth with the idea for a while and made my decision in January. So to answer your question, I just love skating and did not want to end my career the way I did.

2. You have been a professional skater your whole life, but the last 2 years have been away from the sport. What did you miss? What didn’t you miss?

I absolutely miss the professional athlete lifestyle. It can be hard at times, but real life sucks big time! Physically it’s not nearly as demanding, but the stress level is no fun.

Right now I’m working 12-14 hours a day. I enjoy what I’m doing, but I don’t love it. At least as a skater, when times are tough, you’re doing something you love.

3. Do you have a particular picture of you, or you & KC, which represents the past 2 years. Will send it separately.

Here’s our picture…This is how the last 2 years have felt for us.

4. You spent a lot of time since you retired working on Track cycling, are there lessons that Track can bring to speedskating?

I spent about 10 months with the whole track thing. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I also think it was too soon for me to try and come back to competition.

The main lesson I learned was that no matter you do, you have to work extremely hard if you want to achieve success. I had a lot of work to do to make it in track and I wasn’t ready to commit the time nor the energy to it…at least not at that point.

5. You have had 2 very successful Olympics, 98 & 2002, self-analysis is so essential in a sport like long track, looking at your Olympics in 2006, what are you changing looking forward to 2010.

My main problem in 2006 was overtraining. By the time I got to the Games, my body was almost in complete shut down. My motivation level was zero, I could barely skate 2 laps without dying, I couldn’t sleep and was living off sleeping pills (mind you, I can sleep in the middle of the highway) and I had a constant numbness that covered my shoulder blade down through my left arm.

If you don’t learn from that experience, something is wrong with you.

There are a lot of things I will go back and change. The most important will be making sure I’m getting the proper rest. I’m no spring chicken anymore and I’m going to have to be very careful, especially now that I’m playing catch up.

6. When I wrote you asking about your comeback, you replied “, I’m on my way back and maaaannnn do I have a lot of work ahead of me.” Like what?

For me, at least I’ve stayed in somewhat decent shape. I’ve lost a lot of weight, mostly muscle, so I’m going to have to work extremely hard to get that strength and power back.

It was always a weakness for me anyway. And, even though I’ve been on the bike a bunch, it’s still not the same as skating. Sitting in that position is going to take some work to get back.

7. What did you miss about not being a full time skater? What didn’t you miss

I miss taking naps! I love sleeping. I miss my teammates and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss traveling.

You do so much traveling you actually get sick of it, but when you’re cooped up for two years with no travel, it can drive you insane. Right now, I’m completely stir crazy.

8. I asked Jessica if she wanted to ask a question, here is what she came up with.

You & your husband are obviously both very competitive people, how does that affect the dynamics of your marriage, considering that you participate in the same sport, and often train together?

When it comes to daily life, I think I’m more competitive than KC. Maybe that’s because he beats me at everything and then laughs at me.

On the ice though, there’s no competition. We were always good about leaving the ice on the ice. We rarely brought skating home.

9. You were consistently among the top skaters in the world for several years. From your perspective as one of the truly fast, what are the factors that sorts out who is 1st, 3rd, 8th, 12th? Everyone is talented; everyone tries really hard, what creates those tiny differences?

I think a lot has to do with natural ability. Some people have it, some don’t, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a great athlete.

I think the quality of each exercise and workout make a huge difference. A lot of people work hard, but don’t pay attention to fine details. They kind of just go through the motions.

When I’m training and skating, I’m always thinking about my position and how to make it stronger and more efficient. Plus, when I race, I just go for it. You can’t be afraid of the pain. It’s always going to hurt.

10. When was the last time you walked out of the Utah Olympic oval? what were you feeling & thinking, and what do you think will be in your heart when you return in May?

The last time I walked out of the Oval was before the 2006 Olympics. I didn’t think it would be over after that.

To tell you the truth, my long track skates are still apart from the trip home from Torino. I think they’re in a closet somewhere.

I’m not sure how I’m going to feel when I get back. Probably a mix of emotions, both good and bad.

11. What do you define “success” as, in this return.

Coming across the line knowing you put everything out there. If you have a smile on your face, then it’s success.

Haiku Speed Round

1. When I moved to Salt Lake City, I had a bunch of speedskaters help me unload the U-haul, it was a world class moving crew!!! What 4 skaters would you pick, from any era, to help you load/unload your U-haul, and eat Pizza with afterwards?

Eric Heiden, KC Boutiette (of course), Dave Tamborino, Nick Pearson

2. Tell us about things you have added to your life since you were last on the ice? Hobby? Pets? Skill?

Two rescue dogs, Suki and Chuck. Own and operate my own bike shop. Went to a broadcasting school and graduated. Currently doing a sports internship at the local NBC. I love wakeboarding. I got a long board (skate board). Recently acquired Guitar Hero 3!!!

3. Most full time athlete struggles with injuries, what are your weak spots?

Bursitis in my right hip flexor.

4. Should Florida re-hold it’s democratic primary? And how?

I wish I cared about politics, but I can’t get into it. I vote, but that’s about it.

5. You get to do one more race, and then your career is truly over. What distance is it & where is the race held? Ice? Inline?

1000m Ice race. Thialf, the Netherlands

6. You are in the sponsorship hunt yourself, with medals & world championships on your resume, where should potential sponsors contact you?

My agent Rhiannon Ellis at Rhiannon@movesmgmt.com

7. Favorite Rink outside of the USA?


8. Favorite food after a brutal training day?

Pizza and a root beer or vanilla cream soda…exciting I know.

9. Best pair of skates you have ever owned?

A pair of pink quad roller skates. I won a race at the 1993 World Championships in them. I still have them, I still skate in them and I still love them

(thanks to Jim white for mentioning this picture in the comments)

Jen on pink skates

10. If you could travel through a time-tunnel and give your teenage self a few words of sage advice, what would it be?

I’m not sure. I think I needed to have all those awkward experiences to become who I am today. I feel so old and experienced now. I guess the one thing I would tell myself is not to worry about all the little things. Back then the little things used to be such a big deal. They really weren’t.


During one of the first ice days last season; Tyler Goff asked me, “So Andrew, what are your goals this season?”

I replied with a wicked grin, “My main training goal for this year is to get my wife knocked up.”

I have to report, Tyler, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Guys, I gotta tell you, when you see a heart beating on an ultrasound, and you know that someday that will be your son or daughter, it’s a soulquake like no other.

Well, at least until the baby is born! Here is the obligatory ultrasound photo.

We had a couple of early miscarriages this past year, Jess was never that upset about them, just disappointed & clinically curious. I was quite upset.

But this time around, it “feels” different, and she has crossed successfully into the 2nd trimester (I keep saying “semester” when I say that out loud) so we feel safe in making some kind of public announcement.

Oddly enough, I have been able to notice when Jess is pregnant before she says anything to me. I can just “tell.”

Her due date is mid-October. Upon learning that, my first thought was: “So I guess I won’t be skating fall world cup trials.” When I told Brian Boudreau the due date, his first words were, “So I guess you won’t be skating fall world cup trials.”

Speedskating is so absorbing, it can become how one measures time, and I am well aware that my measurement of time, along with so many aspects of our lives, is going to radically change.

I won’t stop skating because of this amazing thing. I love the raw feeling of skating too much to ever stop, but that’s ok. Things change, but some things are worth keeping in your life, even if they are not as central anymore.

I won’t stop blogging, I truly feel like I’ve found “what I was meant to do” in this website. But yes, it will inevitably change somewhat.

We are very, very happy.

a Zen 10 follow up with Jen Rodriguez will be posted here in a few days, she just sent her answers to me last night, so stay tuned!