30 stitches, glass half-full

60+ bicycle racers at the start- by the time we were ripping towards the final turn of the race, there were still 40+ in it to win it. The pack was boiling back and forth across the road like a scalded snake.

Earlier: Sounds of coffee percolating, was on baby duty last night, I question if I should race this afternoon. Woozy on my feet. Pot ‘O coffee 1 does not do the trick. Pot ‘O coffee #2, and I feel moderately better.

Am in 5th position, feeling solid, clipping along at 32mph, saved lots of energy to spend in this push to the line. The pack surges on every side, suddenly I’m in 25th place. Crap! Cyclists fill the road curb to curb at full power towards the final corner.

Earlier: New race wheels, new pedals, the balance point of my bike just feels a little different during warmup-, or maybe it’s just my lack of sleep headache- maybe I should not race today—

In the final 160 degree turn I am on the extreme inside of the pack, passing people, the rider in front of me crashes, I lean deeper and make it past, on the absolute limit of traction.. The leading riders are out of the turn, going straight and begin to sprint, Still leaning hard, I get out of the saddle and start hitting the big gear to catch them.

Earlier: That little voice starts again: I’m getting old, crits are dangerous, why do I love doing this so much?

My front wheel folds, I flip over the handlebars, and smash headfirst into the pavement at race velocity

Sunglasses shatter and my helmet cracks

Right shoulder digs into the asphalt and my elbow gashes through arm warmers-

Back, hips, and ass slam into the pavement, like a flyswatter.

Numb, spinning, disoriented, full body shock. Sounds of the race wizzing by, sounds of more crashes, yelling. Then silence.

This is not happening. Total sensation too powerful to speak or move. Crushing… I can…. breathe… again… ohhhh…

Others on the ground as well. I see blood on the pavement. Blood on my hands, My face? Where is it coming from?

After a few minutes I sit upright, the EMTs are there. Peeling off my arm warmer already stiff with dirt & blood, copious amounts of skin are stuck to the inside.

So that’s where I am cut. So many friends come riding over to me. Blur of faces.

Are you ok? Do you need a ride home? Wow Andrew, that’s gonna need some stitches!..

One offers that he did this as well last year, did not notice his concussion until his drive home. Chris Needham is about to start his first bike race today. Takes one look at me, asks if I am ok, then they call him to the line.

Strangers I don’t know come up, asking if I am alright. One fellow says “wow, did you clip a pedal? your rear wheel went straight up into the air before you slammed down!!”

Under an hour later, am in the ER, getting soaked & scrubbed.

The crash was my own damm fault. Maybe tiredness, maybe the different balance point of my new wheels, but I got out of the saddle too early, maybe I was thrown off by that crash right in front of me. But it was rider error. Stupid

A few more pedal strokes seated, finishing the turn, I would have been fine–

But really, what is to be learned? Maybe only that I need to be kinder to myself when sleep deprived. I am not young enough to bull through it, not when high speeds are involved.

My wife never said “Why the hell do you do this to yourself”. She understands, and accepts this part of me that is completed by racing. By trying hard, and sometimes failing, sometimes even falling.

She and the awesome ER doc had a great time comparing stitching techniques as I was being sewn up. I felt like a valued knitting project.

I’ve felt almost no pain from this nasty looking gash. A lot of other things hurt more, getting off the table after an hour of lying down, my hips and sternum were screaming at me. I never felt the needle.

There is a line between injuries and owies, and this is a very nasty owie.

If I draw my perspective correctly, it fills my glass half-full, and if I learn a lesson from this, hug my daughter a little tighter and cherish my wife a little more, the glass will be all the way full.

But right now, I need to heal.

Season’s End

How does that saying go? It’s not over till the fat lady sings? I have an addition to that saying, specific to speedskating.

“The season is not over till Mahoney slides”

I’ve seen Charlie do this to ceremonially end the season a couple of times. He gave himself some pretty nice iceburn on his back. At least he is already a medical professional.

His skills were unfortunately needed at the Champions Challenge this year, as top athlete Kelly Gunther had a horrible crash, one of the worst seen on the long track at the Utah oval in a very long time.

She snapped her leg in multiple places, and is going to have a very long recovery. So many of us wish her a speedy recovery.

Many of the SLC crowd ended their season here. I ended my season the moment I stepped off the ice in Baselga three weeks earlier. I won’t lie, it’s been a hard year.

Two disappointing ice seasons in a row now.

There certainly were some good things that happened this year; but when it comes to me vs. myself, I’m not satisfied.

Speedskating is such a brutally difficult sport, if you are not making clear progress, it can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

However, so many other good things are happening, I am at peace. Things like this–

RZ is on a kickbike here. It has no pedals, and so she can walk along with her feet on the ground. Eventually she will figure out that she can pick up her feet and coast along after a good strong kick.

Most kids who learn on a kickbike never need training wheels.

Daddy is very proud.

Ice… SchmIce… my daughter has a BIKE!!!!

Masters Allaround Worlds, Day 3

Masters worlds is much more than just the racing. It’s also the people you share it with.

For example, here is the amazing Arne Kjell Foldvik, cheering on another Norwegian. Arne is in the 75-80 category. I asked him how many are competing in the 75+, he said with a huge grin “3 survivors!”. Arne trains a lot with 10-15 year olds.

Arne is as sunny in his outlook on life as the morning conditions were on the ice.

A 3 day allaround is a long meet, and it’s not just a physical contest, it’s a contest of emotions and expectations, the battle on the ice and the one in your own heart. (Final results of all this heart-effort, are here)

And heart is what is needed to race a 5k hard. Finnish sprinter Pertti Kiiskinen has a lot of heart, and a good pain face, 3 laps to go! (nice pictures Jess!)

His father Pentti also was racing, finishing 3rd in the 65 category.

One of the tightest races, as expected was the USA’s Marty Haire vs the Jan Duif from the Netherlands in the Men’s 45+.

As it has over the past 2 years, it came down to the 5k, this is where Marty has proven stronger. They matched each other stride for stride.

Jan put in a surge, in the crossover, Marty had to give way & stood up for a moment.

Jan hit the warp speed button, and swung his arm in the straightaway for the last 6 laps. FINALLY finishing ahead of Marty. You can see how close each race was in the results.

Jan came across the finish line a burning mess. Totally spent, and so happy.

In my own race, I tried to go out easy, and then pick up the speed halfway through. My pair, Thomas Roste of Norway, went out hard. Here he is, pulling away-

I have just been passed by the other pair, Thor Olav Teveter and Ard Neven. Who went on to finish 1st & 2nd.

I tried to hit it hard here, and for a lap, I dropped my lap time from a 39 to a 37, but then my legs blew to bits, and I crawled to the finish line. Dropping from 3rd to 5th overall.

Norwegian Masters Speedskating co-ordinator Sven-Aage Svensson or Norway. Coaching. He was not skating this year, but was still there for the strong Norwegian contingent.

Note his surgical booties, gripping the ice.

Did I say how strongly Norway loves it’s skaters? Here is an example:

These masters are true fans. It was quite the experience to watch the EuroSport coverage of the Olympics, in a room full of Finns & Norwegians, talking trash about their cross country skiers.

As the 5ks began to wind down. Jessica & I took a walk into the town of Baselga di Pine. It’s pretty quiet.

But it does have all the good things- skating, skiing, camping, sleeping, pizza, and coffee.

Ragnvald Naess, he won the 3k and 5k, and is on his way to 2nd place in the 55+, showing some old school technique here. You often see this with lifelong skating masters, the old toes up push from fixed blade habits. He does this on the left foot as well.

(more soon, will finish this entry later)

Masters Allaround Worlds, Day 1 & 2

(on the flight, I did work on my report from Masters Sprint Worlds, almost a month late, but I will publish it this week.)

17 nations, almost 300 athletes. It wasn’t the Olympics, but Baselga di Pine in Italy did a great job hosting Masters Allaround Worlds.

This competition is a wonderful blend of the best Masters athletes, + those who do skating for the pure joy of it, all came together to try their best on the beautiful outdoor ice.

Day 1-

When outdoor weather is great, there is nothing like outdoor racing. However, outdoor skating is often feared, because of conditions like this-

This is the Netherland’s Bram de Vries, fighting through some extreme snow. He is the Dutch Rep to the IMSSC, and has as many ranked masters in his organization as there are speedskaters in the USA.

The weather became rain mixed with snow crusting into a sodden mess on the ice. Marty Haire of the USA keeps his spirits up; because this veteran of Lake Placid & St Foy knows an ancient speedskating secret; you go faster if you smile.

The women got the worst of the conditions. Many were 7 to 10 seconds slower than their 500m PB. Sorry I have no images of that, I did not want to take my camera for a swim.

Things did get gradually better as the day went on. The ice went from almost unskateable to just crappy, then from crappy to almost passable. The snow stopped, and things began to improve.

Vladamir Tkachenko of Russia here, in a skinsuit covered in galaxies, starts to see better ice.

I slipped 3 times during the first 50 meters of my 500, and never really “sat down” into a good skating position after my slips. Here I am passing Dutch goodfella Ard Neven 210 meters into the 500.

Even though I won the 500 in my age group, I really needed to put 3+ seconds on talented all-rounders like Ard in the 500m. In this race, it was only 1.6 seconds, and Ard would make up more than that deficit in the 3k & 5k. I skated a great 3k (well, great for me), so had hope for the 1500 tomorrow.

But really, I lost my realistic shot at the podium during my best event. Funny how sports work.

Italian Sylvia Tassara, racing a 1500m past rain soaked pads. There is some physics thing happening here with her push direction of her foot, and the pointing of her hand.

As the Men’s categories began their 3,000m races the clouds lifted to reveal beautiful soaked & frozen mountains, (click on image for a larger one).

I think this is a German skater, in matching green fast suit & boot covers. The central building behind him was wonderful. Locker rooms, full bar/café. Indoor rink, etc (click on image for a bigger one).

One of the matchups everyone was waiting for this meet was Dutch Skater Jan Duif and American Marty Haire. These two phenomenal athletes had gone toe-to-toe for the past 2 years in a row, with Marty coming out on top both times.

After the 500m and 3,000m on day 1, they were practically tied. Amazing.

Day 2

WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!

Here is one of the top Dutch women driving off the line with relaxed power during a 1500m under bright sun. The early morning condtions were great.

A lot of 1500m races on tap today. The pain cave of the 1500. You can see the intensity of the sun in the shadow of this Dutch skater

Canadian Randy Plett skating phenomenally all weekend. Here he chases Russian Boris Orlov in a 1500m, they solidified their placings in 3rd & 4th overall out of the 20 competitors in 45-50

Jon Gauslaa from Norway. Some athletes do this funny thing with their tongue at maximal effort. Greg Lemond was well known for it. Jon shows it here.

There should be a name for this technique. PowerTounge?

Jan & Marty were paired in the 1500m, the whole rink went beserk watching another tremendous battle, Jan’s raw speed vs Martys short-track endurance.

They traded leads several times, and had another tie at the finish line!!!

My own 1500m was not so good. I overcooked the start, and was cooked on the last lap. Instead of taking time out of the Allarounders, I lost a full second. Meh.

Tiredness comes in so many flavors, we need more words to properly describe it.

You can be happy tired, discouraged tired, inspired tired, or just crusty tired. I have long said that Masters speedskating allows an individual to experience this sport any way their hearts direct them. It’s the best blend.

You can be serious, or not, and if you are tired & discouraged, no one begrudges you a few glasses of wine at the end of a long, hard day of skating.

In fact, when it comes to Masters Skating, they will pour the glass for you, and join in freindly conversation. Somehow, that makes tiredness all the sweeter.