Qualified!

all photos here from the amazing Tom DiNardo…

For many speedskaters, qualifying for Olympic trials is a HUGE moment. It’s that moment where you KNOW, that all that suffering has paid off. Certainly there are higher goals, world cups, O-games, medals, media immortality, etc, but for the vast majority of the athletes. QUALIFYING is the goal, and a moment that they remember forever.

The first time you do it, it’s a lightning strike that sets your heart on fire.

For short track, like long track, you need to skate a qualifying time to make the Olympic trials meet. This past weekend at the ST Desert Classic, quite a few qualifying times were skated on the fast Utah ice. .

Here is one story, my friend Liz Looby.

This alumnus of the Rochester speedskating team, who moved to Utah in pursuit of this goal, described her experience like this–


I can’t recall any other time in my life where I’ve cried out of happiness. After seeing the time, I got off the ice as fast as I could, ran to my coach and gave him a huge hug.

Everyone probably thought I was a crazy person, running crying and yelling, but I didn’t care because it was my moment, the moment I’ve suffered, sacrificed, and slaved to experience and it was worth every drop of blood and sweat I’ve shed.

I would gladly go through years of more long days at the oval doing double ice sessions and 4 hour dryland sessions till I drop if there’s even a possibility that I could have this kind of experience again.

I have this card with all my long term goals on it that I made a few years ago, there are 7 goals on it, and until Saturday, I’ve never been able to cross one out, or even come close. So even though all I did was make the qualifying time it marks a giant step in my skating career.


I think her smile says it all:

Many other skaters also qualified for the trials, I don’t have enough words in this keyboard to even scratch the surface of this. But here are a few images from Tom’s massive archives.

Liz had a great meet in addition to her qualifying time. Her chin is where her center of gravity is, and shows how lean generates speed, as in this moment she has just planted her left foot.

Anthony Barthell also qualified, and although Anthony now has his sights set higher (top 16 at the trials themselves) I hope he takes some moments to appreciate & celebrate this accomplishment he has worked so hard for, after moving here from Florida.

Riddle me this— Why do we do this sport?

I think this is a Zach Fuller, out here from California, passing a Russian. I don’t know him, but I know something about what he has experienced to get here.

The definition of qualified is this

Main Entry: qual·i·fied
Pronunciation: \ˈkwä-lə-ˌfīd\
Function: adjective
Date: 1558
1 a : fitted (as by training or experience) for a given purpose : competent b : having complied with the specific requirements or precedent conditions (as for an office or employment) : eligible

I’d like to add to this definition, by taking Liz’s experience, Anthony’s, all the short trackers who have worked so hard for the 2009 Trials, pour it into a pot, digitally boil & distill for 4 years, then splash it onto TV screens worldwide, just before an Olympic short track gold medal final.

Maybe then the “normal world” will understand us a little bit better.

5 Moments

The Utah oval is crawling with skaters. In addition to the US National teams & the SLC skate tribe, Short track teams from Japan and New Zealand are here, and quite a few Russians as well.

But in the first of these 5 moments, I was totally surprised when I sat down on a bench, and saw fellow master skater Canadian Darren Lind sitting next to me. I met Daren at masters worlds in Calgary in 2007, and we had one of those memorable “back & forth” 5k’s that is seared into my memory.

Daren is a good guy, and missed most of last year due to injury. There are very few men I feel “small” standing next to. Darren is one of them.

Here are his skates & very long, long blades. How narrow blades are when viewed straight on.

2nd moment, I was at my desk at work, wonder why the hell I have this impulse to write/record things. Blogging is like throwing a frisbee out into the dark. Wondering if anyone is actually out there. Then I get notes like this–


Great blog - it’s the best place on the internet for speedskating related material.

I hope you don’t mind me sending you this picture, but I think you are the kind of person that understands what I am talking about. I am a 25 year old returning-to-the-sport speed skating enthusiast Dutchman. My dad taught me the art of speed skating on the frozen canals when I was 4, and joined a club when I was 8 — I quit speedskating at age 15, and last year I realized what I was missing out on those 10 years. The lakes were frozen in Holland last winter and I had 2 weeks to come to the conclusion that I needed skating as much as I needed sunshine and breathing. ——.

This is my old speedsuit that I had when I was 15. It was starting to fall apart so I took it to the sewing shop and had them cut out the part around the hips and sew black lycra shorts in the gap. I also had them cut the foot part off because my legs have grown. I think the old suit looks so good now. A total morale booster, I can’t wait skating the first 500 and 1500m somewhere in october. Anyway, I hope this brightens your day - keep it smooth!

-Wijtze

I remember the first day I got on my suit with the USA on it, I did the same thing, and I think most skaters have. Get a new suit, stand in front of the mirror, and get totally psyched for the upcoming year. Thanks for the note Wijtze. It made my day.

3rd moment…..
this is Dave Zabriskie, fresh from his strong showing in The Tour De France, wearing the colors of the USA national time trial champion starting the prolouge of the Tour of Utah. A field of cell phones & cameras waving like windblown grain above the crowd.

Why doesn’t speedskating have national champ specific skinsuits? are we that cheap a sport! (unfortunately… yes)

Maybe Dave Z has the best kind of noteriety to enjoy. He can walk down any street unnoticed, but put him in on the starting line in team kit, and people recognize & appreciate what he has worked for, suffered for, earned.

4th moment– From DZ to RZ, there is so much happening here. I think the wild part is that my daughter not only has figured out how to feed spagetti to Lilly, but also chuckes & pulls it back from the ever-patient dog.

5th moment– Travis Jayner

Although by no means a great picture. What is great here is not just that Travis is on his way to skating a huge personal best 9 lap time trial, but the angles of his body. You can see how at the split second the skate moves off the ice, how far back on the blade his pressure was, because of how it “pops” off with the toes up, and prevents the blade from digging in.

Even when Travis became tired, and started melting from the effort, both blades consistently were lifting off the ice parallel, with emphasis on heel centered pressure.

More soon about the short track Deseret Classic.

Salt Lake City Summer Speedskating

My camera has been along with me this summer, and here and there, I’ve shot video of what a summer of Sspeedskating in Salt Lake is like. My wife was kind of bugged about the fact that I mix images of serious ice training with fun goofy inline stuff. But ya’know, that is how I experience the summer. Serious at times, goofy fun at others. It’s all skating.

Members of Kip Carpenters Swift Speedskating team were at the oval for two weeks, so they are all over the video.

Enjoy!

The thing I cannot communicate via YouTube, is the feeling one gets after skating on ice in a 40-45 degree building, becoming thoroughly chilled, then stepping outside into a 100+ degree day… Oh… My…. Oh… Wow… It is such a wild shock to the body. Even pleasant in a sick way.

Video Shotlist

Exterior of the Utah Oval
103 degrees!
Brent Aussprung, accelerating up to 33mph (27 sec lap)
Short trackers training
My “Floydship” skates + lipstick graffiti written into the ice, probably by a figure skater.
Alex Mark, Kreg Greer, Matt Shanahan, accelerating to 32mph (28 sec lap)
Johnathan Gorman, well Hydrated, Kreg Greer, thumbs up!
US National team Short track ladies, ripping it up
109 degrees! Ouch!, at least it’s a dry heat.
Katherine Reutter, outside pass.
Brent & Kreg lead Dan Beck, Tyler Goff, and Erika Hawke.
Erik Kraan, smooth on Legacy Parkway
My shadow
Kirk Fogdall, Alejandra Maldonado Mates, Eric Kraan
2 shots of RZ in her baby jogger. Happy feet! Smiling baby.
Eric Kraan, Kim Kraan, & Jessica.
Robert Johnson Moonwalking.
Alejandra Maldonado Mates & others goofing on quads
Myself, showing how NOT to slideboard
Connor Silvocka leads Jill Rookard
Matt Shanahan, Alex Mark, and Kreg Greer, still thumbs up!
Connor Silvocka
The sun from the highway, driving to the oval.

Questions with the Master

I spent years low-walking up the mountainside, following the path grooved by thousands of speedskaters before me…. Then one day I found the Master, in a 400m oval mountaintop monastery wreathed in Inzell-worthy mist tasting faintly of sweat.

He was meditating calmly in his wool suit, battered Vikings gleaming through the fog as he skated effortless turns with eyes closed. The ice was milk-perfect & he was smooth as black cat, ageless power in every stride….

His wind-burned face turned to me, and as his eyes opened…… I gasped in shock…

They were the color of medals earned far, far above gold.

I don’t know what nationality he was- Grizzled Norwegian? Japanese? 1900’s Hudson River speed demon? a Dutch veteran of a hundred Elfstendentochts?

Time was as short as my low-walk ravaged breathing…. My sweat-soaked weight vest fell to the ground along with my pride. Dizzy & about to collapse, humble as the rawest beginner, I asked questions that have been on my mind for years:


Q: Master, how do I skate faster?

A: To know how to skate, you must first know how to skate.

Q: Why do I have to do dryland?

A: Doing what you dislike with determination & focus helps you find grace doing what you love.

Q: I need to skate fast 25 or 26 second laps this year to achieve my goals, what if I can’t?

A: Ten thousand things happen inside your body every moment when skating, the clock is not one of them.

Q: Master, should I skate more inline? Short track??

A: Always drive from stable hips.

Q: Master, how do I find sponsors? This sport is so hard, so expensive..

A: If a sleeping bear cannot feel the wind through his fur, is it still blowing?

Q: Master, what is the sound of one skate clapping?

A: The skater’s lifetime…

Then he was gone, the rink was gone, the mountain disappeared like a hypoxic hallucination…..

I had not dropped my weight vest after all, it still burned my shoulders & quads like 1500m last lap painful ambition.

But I felt light.. it was light… Pain was clarity, and I started my 3rd set of dryland jumps, lower, and more powerful than I have ever been…

8th Anniversary

Jess & I just passed our 8th wedding anniversary, and our 10th year of being together. I am at a loss to find words to properly encompass the joys and challenges of the past year. It has been the best of times and some of the hardest of times.

Between becoming parents and Jessica’s severe illness, our relationship has been tested thoroughly, and we passed….

Now we are not just 2, we are 3, the word FAMILY has been thrown into a clarity I never before understood, both within our house, and reflecting on the wonderful families that raised us & who really came through when we needed them…

This is a cause for celebration– so hand us 2 dozen oysters & a glass of wine, it’s time for some BIVALVICIDE!!

So much was talked about over dinner. Oddly enough we talked more about some close friends who are having some truly terrible times more than about ourselves. This world can be a weird, cruel place sometimes, and our focus is often outward, even during a dinner to celebrate us.

After oysters & wine were done, we walked next door, started in on some sushi and sake!

Excessive?? maybe, but through pregnancy, and because of some of the very powerful immune-suppressive drugs Jess has been on because of her illness, we haven’t eaten like this in a long, long, long time (and can’t afford to again, for a long, long time).

Only the edge of Jess is visible in the above photo, but I still look at her with stars in my eyes. My sentimentality annoys her sometimes, as she is the logical side of our marriage, but I prefer honesty, and I honestly love her with all that I am, and I’m proud to say so out loud in pubic places.

I’ve written about our 7th anniversary (spinning rings)

And the 6th one (Jess doing a long swim, something I could never do)

5th Anniversary (I like this entry the best, writing-wise & muddy dog photos)

and the 4th Anniversary (Blog had not really evolved yet, primordial entry)

May this year be more remembered for the joy Arzelia has brought into our lives than anything else.

My past entries were more “arty” than this year’s, but I had more “space” for contemplation then. I used to think my life was “busy”. Ha… how little I knew! A blog can be a personal index, where you can look back on where you were at that time in your life, and marvel. This is post #631… Wow…

(P.S. Thanks Ashlee Barnett for babysitting! You made this dinner possible!!)

Rest in Peace, Susan Nelson

Yesterday in Utah the wind howled at 50+ mph & wildfires raged north of Salt Lake. The sun was a massive globe of red sinking through blown dust and smoke. A giant red fireball swallowed completely an hour before normal.

Sitting & watching it with little RZ, I could not help but think it was Susan’s Nelson’s soul, taking a final powerful lap around the Wasatch range & the world was shuddering with her power, and the grief of those left behind swirling in the blinding smoke & wind.

Susan is the wife of the blogger Elden Neslon, the Fat Cyclist. She has been struggling with cancer, and just passed away a few days ago. So far 2,200+ have paid their respects in the comments, a communal outpouring of grief.

There is nothing good to come from cancer, except in appreciating the good days we have, in sickness & health. For Elden there is no novelist/bloggers roadmap on how to “write” this kind of experience as it happens, no social guidelines for writing profound pain & grief & with justice & respect in the real-time nature of blogging.

I’ve mentioned very little about my own wife’s illness here, and I never even talked about her final diagnosis or a rare auto-immune disorder that she will have for the rest of her life (Churg strauss for those who are interested).

It was too overwhelming, too close to my heart to find expression through the keyboard. When it was bad I just curled up in an emotional fetal position and tried to get through each day.

Jessica has just finished a nasty regimen of drugs, and has an excellent prognosis. Churg Strauss was 100% fatal 30-40 years ago. I still fail at finding the right words to come to grips with this.

My blogger’s hat is off to a true master of this real-time art form, and Elden’s skill creating meaning & inspiration out of pain I can barely imagine.

Pain as vast & powerful & moving as the crazy atmospherics in Utah yesterday, I had no camera with me yesterday, so I will repost a picture I took when I have written about Susan’ illness in the past.

A coffee cup with dots of oils in it, like tears, and the unanswering sky reflected.

Speed

I do not have a helmet cam, I just have a small camera I hold in my hands as I skate. I can go around 28-30mph holding the camera, and if I do it just right, I can catch glimpses of amazing athletes launching themselves into astonishing full sprint velocity (33-36mph).

Here is Alex Mark (in back) Kreg Greer and Matt Shanahan getting up to warp speed.

A few moments later, hitting the turn. They were doing an 800m effort here.

Brent Aussprung, also accelerating up to a solid 800m effort.

His body position does not look quite as dynamic as the other 3 skaters, but his turnover was very high even with complete extention, and he was actually at a higher speed than the other 3.

Brent is just so controlled in his skating, the effort creates velocity more efficiently.

A few years back I followed world cup stud of all studs Jeremy Wotherspoon for a few warmup laps. When he finally stood up, I blurted out “wow, that’s smooth.” He laughed, grinned, and said in a self-effacing way “well, that is the trick, yaknow..”

Simple… Simple… I did some high speed efforts myself on this day, and although I was faster than expected, I’m still working on “the trick”. Probably always will be….