Caption This

Some images just beg for words to be added to them, to explain what “is really is going on”:

here are a few pictures that I have taken this month, the first having to do with speedskating, the others are just plain weird, left me speechless, and I will leave suggestive captions up to your collected good minds:

Picture #1

Picture #2

Picture #3 (you can click on this one for a closer view of this extremely weird scene)

and here is a bonus, an image my brother took, and this scared him to death. I am not sure that this needs a caption, maybe just a reaction. I wish I had a recording of his scream.

Picture #4

Quick Tips & Faces

Every subculture has it’s own unique & quirky ways to get a laugh. Until this past month, I was completely ignorant of this particular method of self expression. The short track Quick-Tip.

First of all, if you are unfamiliar with what a Quick-Tip is, here is an image of our best known short tracker, in the final corner of a world cup short track race chasing two Koreans.

Notice how at top speed, a short tracker puts his left hand down on the ice, for those who do this hundreds of times every time they train, you can eventually wear out the fingertips of your gloves. For this reason, many truly fast short tracker use “ET finger-like” glue-on plastic tips for their gloves.

Here was the first pair I noticed- these belong to a Korean skater, training in Utah, who we know as “Sky”. She is about a third my size (really), and as I was skating behind her one day, I noticed 5 perfect Korean flags looking up at me.

Once I started looking for them, funky quick tips are EVERYWHERE among the elite short track crowd. Here are Nathaniel’s, stating the reason many people are skating here.

Cory Williams is just going for the art effect.

Patrick, whose gloves are wet from the snow & ice buildup after a hard training session…

Tucker Fredricks, showing the name written on his heart, and incidentally, fingertips.

Is it a bird? is it a plane? no it’s Tony Sergeant, goofing around during an obscenely early hour of the morning.

In my estimation, this is the most impressive pair of industrial strength quick tips I saw in my brief glance at the subject. This is national short track team member Jordan Malone.

Note the matching helmet, Jordan MAKES these in his garage, and sells them.

These looks so bombproof I bet Jordan could handle Kryptonite with them.

36,000 feet of rest

The jet I am on bumps it’s way through the turbulent haze covering western Massachusetts.

36,000 feet above the ground, and I can feel fatigue shedding from me like dead skin from a sunburn.

Below I can see the unmistakable Quabbin reservoir & the towns of the Pioneer Valley. I recognize dozens of roads & hills. This is the place I became a bike racer during 4 years of College.

Evan, Stephen, Chris, Donnie, Jude, Peter, Josh. All you amazing warriors from the Hampshire Cycling team from the early 90’s. Am I the only one still restless? still driving big gears & suffering on the road?

Is it a sickness to stay in a bike racing or a sickness that makes one leave? Are they the well-adjusted ones?

We are gone but the roads are still there, alive like a nerve-wire map in a living body. I could ride those roads again, but as the philosopher of our team (Stephen) told me in 1992, “it will never be this way again.”

A bicycle or a pair of skates moves so slowly compared to a plane. Time moves even faster, and in a few moments those roads and those years, fade in the distorting exhaust exhaling behind the jet.

(this writing, merely more exaust, distorted by years)

The next day, I am driving on route 79 in Upsate NY. This is the landscape that generations of my family have lived on for 220 years. Click on the image for a bigger one.

Like those roads in Massachusetts, I’ve traveled this one thousands of times, always towards home. We all have those roads, those that mean we are “almost there”.

I need this rest, to recharge, to heal myself in body and mind. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed about elite ice training plans, is that they all include at least one week long break in the fall.

When you are hyper-motivated, the challenge is rest. It takes over two weeks to notice true declines in fitness from complete inactivity. However the muscles, tendons, and the soul can heal much faster.

There is no better place to do it than on your ancestral stomping grounds.

Recommended activities for a break from training usually include things like the Ithaca Farmers Market, drinking Gimme Coffee! and eating apple cider doughnuts. Ahhhhh.

At this moment of my life I can occasionally, momentarily glimpse that massive wheel of life spinning faintly in the background of all things.

Or when I glance at my wife, suddenly I’m on that ferris wheel, Feeling that fall down one side & the uplifting rise on the other.

I will be back to speedskating soon. I’m rested & ready.

Where?

My mom & a few other good friends have emailed me, asking “are you ok? Your blog is silent!”

Before I get to that, here are some images:

The ice at the Utah Oval has been laid this past week, here is what it looked like on Friday-

And finally, today, it was skatable! Yay!

Here it is on the last few moments before any skate touched it.

It’s pure, clear, and feels like a virginal baseball diamond before spring training begins to tear upon it with frantic cleated intensity.

I shuffled out on the ice in my socks to get this image. I am standing at the 500m start line. Click on the image for a larger one

I’m an extreme night owl who married a morning person, and I do a sport requiring lots of early mornings. If it weren’t for occasional moments like this, I’d consider mornings a huge ripoff.

My training mix right now is technically focused short track, maximum strength focused lifting, and bike racing for a nice dash of brutality.

On this 3 hour mountain bike ride, I could not get that song “fields of gold” out of my head. Of course the terrain had something to do with it, downtown Salt Lake is in the distance.

Cycling is a solid fitness base for skating. In another one of my two dozen semi-finished posts that will probably never see the light of day, I wrote about the “speedskaters hillclimb” that about 30 athletes took on.

Here is April Medley hammering up a relentless grade. Does she have a grimace of effort? a smile that the finish is just around the corner? Or is it a mystery?

Her best friend Ashley, fighting the switchbacks. The incomparable Teri Willingham shot many photos at the event and the huge party afterwards (thanks Don for letting your house be overwhelmed by skaters!)

I take back every nasty & doubting thing I have ever said before about short track. I finally have some control, but not nearly as much as studs like Matt & Anthony.

It’s surprising how much short track seems to improve everything else. It’s like this activity seems to supercharge the bodies’ capacity to “do”.

The national team long trackers are also doing some short track. Brent Aussprung has just moved out to Utah, to join the national sprint team (he has a very nice website, by the way) and his folks were briefly out here.

This photo would have been perfect, Brent skating along, his parents just over his shoulder, the Utah sun reaching in the windows. However I made one mistake- The skater is the identically dressed Tucker Fredericks. Oops.

Originally the knife was the skaters body, the fork & spoon were where the blades are & Eric Krann was explaining some points of weight transfer technique over dinner.

and then I had to add snow (salt) and then some comment about skating on gravel in lake placid (the pepper), and then heaps of splenda to represent the artificial ice in salt lake…

Then a glass of water was knocked over and chunks of ice scattered everywhere, and that became the oval at Butte. The whole table was in stitches.

It was one of those weird, skater moments that 99.9% of Humanity would just not get.

So, how I started this post was to answer the question where have I been?

I’m exhausted, utterly and completely crushed beyond caring. Why? Here is the list:

1. Work has been extremely intense, professionally very promising, but emotionally intense.

2. Morning short track plus a full work day plus a second workout takes a lot out of me

3. Bike races are HARD, lovely, fun, but taking away my last grams of strength

4. I am still writing posts, and photographing, but I am so tired much of the time, I just can’t “finish” them. It’s not training tired, it’s just that there is too much “going on” kind of tired.

5. Some stuff I seem to be writing these days is a tad too personal for this space.

6. Oddly enough, watching my wife ripen like a watermelon (Jess is six months pregnant now) has not added to my exhaustion, it’s absolutely fascinating to see your partner go through this & it must be profoundly weird to experience.

I think, 3 months from now, I will have even more reasons to be tired.

All this said, I skated long track for the first time this season, and felt absolutely astonishingly good, go figure.