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Zen and the Art of Speedskating » Find Your Groove

Find Your Groove


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In the summer of 2002, I went to Calgary for training camp. On a hot, windy Alberta day, Canadian National All-around team coach Arno Hoogveld led the group to a frighteningly steep hill.

Some of the younger members of the camp had been slacking off, and I will never forget Arno standing in front of the group, hands on hips like a marine drill sergeant -and he told us a truth that in my memory replays like this:


“Look at the grooves in this hill. Elite speedskaters from all over the world have made these grooves sprinting and low-walking up this hill…. If you want to be serious about this sport, stop screwing around, get in those grooves, and work hard. I will give $50 to anyone who can run to the top of this hill in under a minute!!”

The group snapped to a razor sharp predatory attention, and within a few minutes, 5 at a time, we were charging up that hill in pursuit of $50.

No one even came close to the prize… But several skaters did throw up along the way.

I overheard the coaches talking later that there are only a few men in the world who can make it up that hill in under a minute.

Years later, when I was in Calgary for a race, I went back, and got a good picture of this hill, the grooves faintly visible under a layer of snow. There is a waist high metal pipe at the very top, and you can barely see it here. This sucker is STEEP.

Training camps are not just to create fitness, they are also meant to change habits.

Every summer since then, I hear Arno’s words echoing in my mind, and I find a good steep hill to do running sprints on.

I have always thought that if I work consistently & insanely hard, eventually I will wear my own groove into a hillside, if I can do that, then I am truly getting somewhere with this sport.

Today as I was doing my sprints, I started to see that after a whole summer of charging up this one hill 2-3 times a week, -the grass was thinner & flattened along the path I have taken over and over.

In this sport of constant learning, maybe I am finally finding my groove.

This season I have been training a bit more like a track cyclist than a true speedskater, throwing everything into becoming more explosive & powerful for the first 10-20 seconds of my 500m. I will find out in a few months if sacrifices and “this new groove” translate into results.

Find your groove, whatever it may be, and then throw everything into it. Isn’t that what life is all about anyway?

14 Responses to “Find Your Groove”

  1. great post with awesome insights and inspiration potential! it gives a whole new meaning and interpretation to my life…this whole time i thought i was in some meaningless, friggin’ rut!

    but no - now i look at it as a groove that defines me in a whole new positive light and is taking me to some place i want to go with a purpose!

  2. thanks Speedy…

    maybe one man’s rut is another man’s groove… maybe the difference is not in the rut/groove itself, but in the man (or woman) & how they look at their journey in it…

    I prefer to groove.. I have crashed in many ruts while mountain biking..

    I am more and more curious about who you actually are, & why you use a pseudonym (I imagine there is an excellent reason, maybe you are a coach? a well known fella?? hmmmm)….

    the only thing I know for certain about is that you are fairly tech-savvy, and use an RSS reader (or some other notification), as this is about the 4th time I have made a post, and your comment appears within 20 minutes…

    again, thanks…

  3. just looking at you running up that hill makes my legs burn, after the sugarhouse park-fri. morn. paceline. Which coincidentally i just happened to email you about last nite? So, when are you coming out to get annhialated by the hill-chewing Eva-monster?

  4. Thinking about a needle bumping down a groove in a vinyl circle. Good or bad it depends on what you did or what you like. Your groove is an unforgiving yet simple freedom of will that leaves me in awe. Thank you for this amazing insight.

    I’ll be in the Sugarhouse Park paceline with a Cannondale for now. It might be fun to beat an old rabbit with 18 gears and a 120 psi float.

  5. The ‘old rabbit’ could give you a run for your money at Liberty Park, for sure, but I think you’re right about Sugarhouse, Jamie-mon. You’d dust me at the second hill for sure. Skates aren’t built for hills, no way, no how!

  6. No mention of the gallons of vomit that have been deposited by said world-class skaters on said hill over the many years it has been in use?

    And if only a few can make it up there under one-minute, how many have done it in 50 seconds?

  7. Fred, you are a Calgary guy, the hill is in a park about a mile or two from the oval, there is a pedestrian bridge crossing a wide shallow river… and a very nice inline trail right there… what is the name of that park??

    Greg & Jamine, I will have to pass on inline hill annihilation w/eva-monster, its ice time now, and the wheels are going back into the closet until next summer…

    I never mix them… maybe some can, but I get all sorts of technical confusions when I mix steel & wheel..

  8. Edworthy Park

  9. Do you think that there is, for everyone, somewhere, a groove? Clearly, for you folks, there is. I think of you, exulting in what you care about so much and do so well, as badgers, those mighty digging arms diving in to move the very earth.

    It seems that we hummingbirds get blown around through a plantscape that changes almost daily. Even in our own minds, we leave little trace, and can’t measure ourselves against the atmosphere.

    Tough as it is, i hope you’re thankful that you HAVE a goal and a passion. Not everyone does, or ever will.

  10. Funny that Edworthy park comes up here… We used use that hill for nordic dryland training and to race our mountain bikes up it a long time ago (when suspension was still a fad). The race was usually just getting to the top with your bike…

  11. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a hill, or stairs, the same. I’ll try to not to puke however.

  12. Give me a puke-worthy hill over an unreasonable fight with a bunch of idiotic sports administrators ANY OLD DAY!!!

  13. […] . This has been a ton of inline, road & mountain biking.. and almost no gym work or dryland/hill running that used to dominate my life.. I’m training about half what I used to.. but have no ch […]

  14. […] the end- That would be a lie. One my favorite posts I’ve ever written is called “Find Your Groove” & it’s all about hill sprinting. These guys have groove. I have not done hill runn […]

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