Reading & Missing Stories

There are so many stories happening within the sport of speedskating, I have a massive backlog of things half done, including things that I feel are quite important, like the video of Allaround nationals.

The thing is, another story is absorbing so much of my time & emotional energy, and it’s the best story ever.

There is one personality trait I see that is ubiquitous among national caliber speedskaters; it seems that most are monomaniacal perfectionists who are pissed off when we can’t do something. Then we throw ourselves into the fires, emotionally & physically, to get better at what we want to do well.

Forgive me for occasional silences here. I have a hard time forgiving myself sometimes, even though I am at peace with the choices I have made.

I guess this is part of that emotional earthquake known as “parenthood”.

(weird detail in this photo, Jessica is wearing a t-shirt I bought at the stunningly beautiful Viking Ship Olympic rink in Norway, here is the picture I took of this Godzilla-sized Trilobite. several years ago.)

Road less traveled

Pat Meek, dragging a nasty weight sled around at the Utah Olympic oval on Saturday–

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

-Robert Frost

My wife keeps joking with me “how about for your next sport, take up something with upper body, like rowing or shotput?

I have never managed to create a coherent reply, except something along the lines that this is the road less traveled, this is the hardest sport I have ever found; and traveling it makes you freaky strong, in multiple physical and emotional ways.

It’s one thing to look at a pair of ripped legs like Pat’s here, and see them as existing in one moment, it’s quite another to contemplate traveling the painful roads that created them.

Even a road that is frozen, circular, and does not go from point A to B.

Oddly enough, it’s the rare skater these days who actually seems to have the T-Rex syndrome. Precision, endurance and muscles that can “crack like a whip” are more important than simple blade crushing power in this era of indoor skating.

Sure big legs look nice at the beach, but it’s more tissue to power with your heart, and more weight to accelerate & haul around the track.

Pat did not make the world cup team for the spring races, so right now he is on an intense training rebuild. The road is pointing straight uphill.

Caption This:

Another installment in my series where you get to write the captions for pictures that are just begging to be described—

The first two images are by Tom Dinardo, recently taken in Whistler, the next two by me—





Nick/Andrew, 1 corner

Here is a series of images from the talented Teri Willingham, this is the first corner of a 500m race this past weekend, in blue is National sprint team member Nick Pearson, in red, yours truly.

There was a time when I could give Nick a good race in a 500m, but that was some years ago. He was moving quite a bit faster than I was here; it made for some great pictures, but we tangled up in the crossover about 5 seconds after these images were taken.

I thought this was a fascinating series because Nick is a world class sprinter, and I am at the bottom somewhere at US Nationals during the sprint races.

So what is happening to create this difference between him & me? Dissescting our technique gives some clues.

1. When I am skating well, I’m a right leg dominant skater. What I mean by that is I get a better physical & technical push from my right leg. Nick has said to me when he is going well, he feels like he favors his left.

2. Ideally, one would be equally rockstar with both, and the absolute best in the world are. But in these photos it’s clear Nick is much more balanced than I am. You can see me in a slightly more dynamic right leg push in image 3, and Nick in a VASTLY better left leg position in 2 & 4. Look how high my hips pop during a left leg push. If you could “graph” our pressure into the ice, I’d bet he would be consistent; I’d be surge-release-surge-release.

3. This is why the really good skaters look stable & have “flow” in the turns. What you are seeing is consistent pressure from both legs.

4. Nick has a much better “Cat back”, my back is flat like I am still grabbing the handlebars of a bike. A “cat back” puts more pressure through the heel of your push, making more speed, it’s also more relaxed. You are more like a “spring”.

5. Nick’s shoulders are square in every image, my shoulders are rocking slightly. They are where they should be on my right leg, on the left leg they dip.

6. Check out the very subtle difference in the direction our blades are pointing. Mine are not 100% down the track, Nick’s are. This is clearly visible in image 4. That small difference makes more pressure.

Of course, not pictured in this is all the time I spend at work or changing diapers when he is training! But yaknow, the ice does not care about that, & the few times I’ve been in the gym when Nick was there, we lift about the same amount of weight & can snap similar amounts up in an explosive lift.

Technique, technique, technique. That is why Nick is an Olympian, and so many others are not.

Ok, my lunch hour ruminations are over, back to work! Good luck Nick & the rest of team USA in the next rounds of the World Cup!

World Sprints on NBC

This weekend NBC-Universal Sports Online will be recording the World Sprint Champs in Moscow, and then re-broadcasting it on Wednesday the 21st. You should be able to watch both on TV and online.

How cool is that! Here are the relevant links:

Complete Speed Skating Schedule with video links

Speed Skating Channel

Speed Skating Highlights

One thing worth noting about the current broadcasts is they just added Dan Jansen to the commentating team. Dan is another person who also has a PHD in speed skating.

Here is a direct quote from him, during Sven Kramers’s final 10k at Europeans:

I had an interesting conversation some years ago with Bart Veldkamp, Former European champion, former Olympic gold medalist and current coach of the US team

I asked him what is the difference? why is it that we as Americans tend to be better sprinters, and you guys here from Holland, what is it with the distance races?

The explanation he gave was the best I have heard-

Bart said: “The only difference is what you have seen before you, when Americans are growing up, you think about how fast you can skate, we dream about how far we can skate.”

As Dan was relating this story, Sven Kramer, halfway through his 10k, threw down a 29.0 lap, then a 28.9, wow….

I think there is a lot of truth to this idea, and as an American sprinter, I will be glued to the coverage this coming Wednesday, and looking forward to his analysis.


Let me be clear, Shani Davis is NOT RETIRING!

However after his success at US nationals this year, he is retiring his beloved Marchese custom boots that have seen him through 8 & 1/2 seasons. They are simply worn out.

These skates have won Olympic gold & silver, two world allaround championships, broken world records 5 times, taken 4 single distance world championships & 23 world cup wins. Add into that the astounding amount of hard work an elite athlete like Shani puts in; the endless laps, accels, starts, etc.

If these skates could talk, what would they say?

Elite skaters will often kill a pair of blades per year, so boots are the true & lasting connection to the ice. Shani now has a new, dark purple pair of Marcheses in hand. He and Paul Marchese were lacing them up & mounting blades on them for the first time after Nationals ended. (update, he broke them in a week, so back to his old skates!)

I don’t think I have ever read an accurate depiction of the Shani I have gotten to know over the years. He is a complex fellow, who has been through a lot in his life & stellar career.

You cannot describe him in a sentence, or a sound bite, or even a brief interview. It’s one reason I have never tried.

But I will say something I have never seen written about him; Shani is a true master of this extremely complex sport. If there is a speedskating PHD, he has it.

There are many athletes who could never manage their own equipment, training schedules, psychological preparation, discipline, and ways to be at peace with the challenges speedskating throws at you.

Shani knows the pieces of the speedskating puzzle thoroughly, and his understanding of technique, both his own & others, is very deep. It is one of the reasons he has been so successful for so long, no matter where he is living & training.

I ran into him & Apolo at an ice cream shop last summer (Hatch family chocolates, for you Salt Lake Locals); and the conversation turned to certain aspects of elite technique, and very quickly they were speaking at a level light years beyond my own understanding.

I might have felt “the force” a few times, but these two are Jedi.

RZ update

Is a picture worth a thousand words? As someone who blends photography & writing, it’s a question I do think about.

Sometimes a picture can be the beginning of many words too:

Thanks to the Needham family for the hat. Of course joining the Red Sox nation is a choice weighted with implications, & the members of my family who are hardcore Mets fans might say something about that.

RZ also has a NY Giants Jersey, and from my awesome cousins, Cleveland Browns gear.

People keep kidding me if I have already bought her skates. Really, I don’t honestly care, as long as she is happy (is being happy incompatible with being a Red Sox fan?).

What I see in this picture is her eye color, that seems to change a little every day.

Here is another picture, on how I take RZ & Lilly for walks.

As a man, you never realize how many women avoid eye contact, how so many instinctively protect themselves. UNTIL you are walking around with a baby in your arms, or in a carrier, then suddenly you are avalanched with smiles and warmth & trust as if you were the best looking fellow on the planet.

Of course though, they aren’t really looking at you.

This is a moment of PROFOUND discovery & intense concentration.

RZ is just figuring out this very instant that she has HANDS, and that she can change & move the world with them.

Never forget that lesson, my lovely daughter. It will always be true, no matter how old you become.

Nationals pics, day 2 & 3 & 4

Jeff Edwards was the chief referee for nationals this year. I asked him, “of the 50+ US national championships you have been to as both a skater & official, what memory sticks out the most strongly?”

Here is what he said:

It was National outdoor Championships, on lake Como, Minneapolis, the temperature was 30 degrees below zero.

It must have been 1965 or 67. Everybody showed up at the start line with their warm-ups on. And we took them off and we insisted that the gun go off the very moment the last skater disrobed. They did accommodate us, so off we went.

Yaknow how after you cross the finish line you are supposed to skate a little bit? When we crossed the line there, we immediately hockey stopped to get our clothes back on as quickly as we could.

If your forehead gets cold, it’s brain freeze, and you can’t even think, the signals don’t even get to your legs. Yeah, I was skating during that championship.

A few posts ago, I relayed the idea that I would love to have nationals outdoors on a lake, after reading Jeff’s memory, I think that like most nostalgic concepts, this one is less fun in reality.

I have a massive amount of images and commentary, so in no particular order, I might as well just jump in.

One of my favorite shots of the competition- this is Elli Ochowicz, coffee in hand & cheering on her younger brother Alex, during his 1500m.

There is a youth movement happening now, actually it is more aptly termed a youth earthquake. Alex is just one of many fast young skaters who are starting to skate MAN times.

The final Allaround podium has 2 juniors on it, Trevor Marsicano and Brian Hansen. Here they are flanking Chad Hedrick on the podium, and below, skating amazing 10k’s, a race that Trevor M actually won in an awesome distplay of focus & power.

I think the most exciting place to watch races is not at the finish line, it’s next to the coaching box. They should put the coaches on the homestretch and let the crowd see them urge their skaters on.

Coaches often wear in their expressions what the skaters are going through. In this pile of coaches you have Anglea Seulean, Paul Marchese, Nancy Swider-Peltz, Kip Carpenter, and Bart Veldkamp.

(This post is incomplete!! I will be adding more to it tonight… I am just nuts busy, posting what I have so far will make me finish it!)


I turned 38 today.

I’ve never been successful at writing about getting older, and that’s odd because I’m pretty good at talking about it-

but I do have one picture I am happy with.

This is me, the day I turned 36, skating during a global warming inspired evening at Lake Placid. It must have been 50 degrees and skating was comfortable with no gloves or hat.

It was so beautiful, the lights, 1980 Olympic buildings & the sky reflecting across drenched ice. The skates were throwing roostertails of water like powerboats.

I just kept skating and skating.

My family was in Placid too, and I knew that the moment I stepped off the ice, I’d be having dinner with them & the whole assortment of excellent people that is the east coast skate tribe in town for the Jack Shea races the next day.

(and we were singing in the rain all weekend, this link is probably the best skate video I’ve ever done)

So instead of putting on the macro-lens & trying to gain perspective, I am zooming the focus the other way.

This one moment, this one day, this one life, this sensation of flight that completes me & the good people I have met while pursuing it. I will let this moment stand to explain all others. It’s good.

(post written while baby-wrangling; RZ, you complete me too!)

Gift of Dog

The truest gift of Dog is when they walk us into the morning, noon & night, and we can be alone with our thoughts, yet never lonely.