Zen and the Art of Speedskating

February 24, 2007

Day 2, Masters Worlds

Filed under: RACE DAY, on the road — andrew @ 10:12 am

“I am in last place in my age category, but I don’t care, because no one is having more fun that me. The people, the atmosphere, it’s just incredible. Plus I skated a 30 second personal best in the 3k!

-USA skater John Nillen

Its easy to always focus on winners, the eye is attracted to excellence & perfection; no matter if it is represented by a human body, a car, a rose, or a by a speedskater flashing down the ice.

But there is far more to the world than just first place, and the great thing about master’s speedskating is that even though the winners are respected, the participation is truly what matters. Masters worlds is a big gathering of truly passionate & lively individuals, from all over the world.

The clearest example of this I can give, is that by far, the largest ovation from the crowd for any athlete I have seen at the games, was given not for a record setter, but for 85 year old Joe McDonald.

His Family was all in the stands wearing hats that said “GO JOE” and waving American flags. Press the play button to start the YouTube Clip

As for the rest of the racing, today was the start of the women’s competition, the older Men, and the 1500m for us “youngsters”.

Danny Frederick and I were the oldest skaters at US national Championships this past year, it’s a fun change to be the baby of the group. Danny has skated some phenomenal races in the men’s 35-40 group, set a bucket of records, and barring some unforeseen disaster or ice shark attack, he will win the overall championship today.

Ok, onward to some photos!

Here are 4 65-75 year old guys ripping out 500 meter races, here we have a Norwegian, a Canadian, a Swiss, and a Russian (note the hockey player in the background applauding the Russian).

Lake Placid regulars Canadian Tony Zegers and Tim Doherty raced well, Tim skated a 5 second personal best in the 500m here (I loaned Tim my training suit, and he had to skate fast to keep away from the smell).

The women also had their turn on the fast ice.

Kaari Cox flying by the crowd in her 500m, with excellent body position like this, you would never know the 500 is the race she dreads the most! A strong PB for this Roseville based athlete

Latvian Lasma Kuniste, World Champion in 1969. A few moments after this photo she tripped and slid across the finish line, and as she twisted across the ice she managed to turn it into a comic moment that had the crowd laughing and applauding. She is a rep to the IMSSC, and is one of the folks organizing this meet.

Mary O’Donnell, skating through the light slanting into the oval during her 1500m. Mary has been the US rep to the IMSSC for a long time, has done a great job, and just turned the position over to me, I am deeply honored.

Jan Zurcher, fast twitch 500m first turn. The announcer of this meet has the hardest time with all the exotic names, that when he came to Jan, he pronounced it the way it would be if she were Dutch. “JOOON ZOOOOCHER”

Joanna Walters. It just so happened I sat on the plane next to her on the flight to Calgary and had a delightful chat. Her main training for this event is hours & hours of XC skiing, she skates VERY well for the limited ice time she has.

Kathie “Sparky” Zapotocki, finding that same patch of light that Mary did, or is that the blaze of lactic acid?? as she is in the last 50 meters here of a huge 1500m PB. She is by nature a hammerhead, and loves training huge hours on the bike. This year she has cut her total training time a lot & focused on skating technique. It’s frustrating to her, but at the same time, she likes how fast she has been going.

As for yours truly, I skated a 1500m personal best, for the first time in my life under 2 minutes. A 1:59.8. I skated it like a 1000m with a surprise 500 tacked on the end, It’s a painful strategy that can work well on fast ice like Calgary. At the ringing of the bell lap, my legs were totally blown, and I was not sure I could skate another step, let alone 400 meters. I ended up tied for 4th of the 17 who raced the 1500, and still am in 3rd overall. But today is the 5k,

Ohmigosh!!! as a sprinter, I rarely skate more than 5 laps in a row… 12.5 is gonna HURT! I don’t mind pain, but pain comes in many flavors…

One final thought, here is the leader board of the men’s 1500m in the 40-44 age group.

Those are some scary fast times!

32 men did this race, here is the results sheet if you want to see how fast the group was.

The winner was Benoît Lamarche, here is a crazy thought- 20 years ago Benoît raced the Olympic games in Calgary, 1988. His time today, in winning this race, was 2 seconds faster than he went in 1988!!!

Same ice, same suit….. Yes, he is on clap skates now & they are faster…. But wow, just wow!!!!

10 Comments »

  1. Congratiolations with your sub 2.00, but a sprinter with 36 and 1.12 can skate faster…

    Andrew, skate Benoît Lamarche in the same suit as in 1988? If so he can skate faster in a nike suit!

    Comment by Mark — February 24, 2007 @ 10:53 am

  2. Thanks for all the great coverage. Wish we were there with you guys. Congrats on the sub 2 min.

    Comment by Tony and Sue — February 24, 2007 @ 11:10 am

  3. Mark,

    yes, theoretically, on paper, a sprinter with a 36 and a 1:12 should be able to skate a faster 1500..

    but paper is not the reality that athletes skate in… and there are absolutely pure sprinters out there, and I am one of them…

    Maybe my heart is small, or the arteries in my body small in relation to my muscle size, but I spent 10 years of my life trying, in bicycle racing, to be an aereobic athlete, and I am just terrible at it compared to the truly fast… Even when my road sprint on a bike would crush excellent racers, fast tourists could drop me on climbs…

    however, for about a minute, I can go like a bat out of hell….

    I will try very hard to improve my 1500, but at the same time I have to accept who I am… and yet still train hard to improve it… its a difficult balancing act

    You can say that just because Sven Kramer skates a 12:49 10k he should be able to skate a low 35 second 500m, but it’s just not true…

    anyway, I need to go to the rink, but I really appricate your comments..

    (and yes, Benoit raced in a canadian, plain lycra, old national team suit, he would be faster in a Nike suit, Dutch research says it’s about .3 a lap vs standard lycra)

    p.s. Tony & Sue, next year maybe we can go to MASTERS WORLD SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIPS together.. I am trying very hard, along with others, to make that race a reality…

    Comment by andrew — February 24, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  4. I have heard nike vs standard about 0.5 a lap

    Comment by Mark — February 24, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  5. Why is it that there are no Korean, Japanese, or Chinese masters skaters participating? This is not a rhetorical question, I am really curious. And congrats to Tim on his huge PB!

    Comment by Jessica — February 24, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

  6. Jessica, probably that the event being held in US has something to do with it? Also, unlike their Nordic/North American counterparts, Korea/China/Japan are only becoming dominant recently, so perhaps the wave of skaters has not reached the master age yet:-) Thirdly, the dominance is only on short track, but the long track skaters are more likely to keep skating when they age, but short track skaters are probably being literally short in terms of their skating career. Finally being a Chinese myself, I think Asian people don’t think you should be doing such “dangerous” and strenious sports when you are that old. They are ok with fishing, golf, shadow boxing though:-). I’m a s/t inline skater enjoying the sports with my daughter, I plan to skate as long as I can:-)

    But I think in general, Asian men are more likely going into less strenious, shall we say, sports such as Golf, fishing, than the very physical sports such as speedskating.

    Comment by unicycle — February 24, 2007 @ 3:42 pm

  7. Congratulations to everybody…new personal best times, new masters world records…wow. I’m so interested in checking Andrew’s blog to see what’s happening not just because I’m not there but because you’re all so impressive. And I have to say… Jim Cornell, ready to win marathons and also with 5th place and such a fast time in the 1500! Yeah!

    Comment by carla — February 24, 2007 @ 7:47 pm

  8. No one told me VINNY was going to be here. I better get over to the Oval!

    Comment by Fred — February 25, 2007 @ 11:49 am

  9. Jim Cornell rocked today and I hope my 1500 advice helped him. Danny looked good as well…sorry to hear this is his last year skating….all the US skaters I hope skated well. I was yelling to Jim on one turn and he said it helped. It was great to read about everyone’s story’s and I like John Nillen’s attitude.

    The striving for perfection has a double edged sword. I was hoping to skate a personal in my 1500 today but it wasn’t meant to be. My PB was 1:54 and i was paired with Myron. He said he skated a pb today of 2:33. He was hoping to skate better….my 1500 didn’t feel great but i hate to say that. Not to make excuses but i made at least 2 outside passes in my 1500….maybe 3 but I can’t remember.

    Before the race, i thought I didn’t want to pass someone on the apex and that’s exactly what happened. I passed Myron on the last lap entering the turn and I came to the line thinking I had one more lap. Who can think after making all those passes. Some Euros asked me why I slowed down at the finish and I told them I thought i had one more lap…LOL!!!….who skates a 1500m making 2-3 passes. Short Track helped there but it was what it was. I’ve never done a 1500m where I thought I could do another lap so that’s a positive.

    Speedskating is so hard that you have to take one positive out of each race because unfortunately it’s not everyday you skate a PB. I skated the 1st half of the turn after the finish until i heard the announcer calling my finish time. Weird weekend.

    All the Canucks were saying how great Benoit raced. I wish I was paired with him in the 1500 and 5k. I hope he’s going to Erfurt because I hope I can make it there for next year. I have a very incomplete feeling where I didn’t feel like I competed in the All round competition. That was really my first all round meet. I learned that they take the top 12 or 16 then pair based on the 3k times. That’s weird. I asked Shani about that and he said at worlds they take top 12 but pair on 5k times for 10k. So if you are in 2nd but have a bad 5k time you are not last pair. Didn’t know that.

    See everyone at the World Single Distance championships as I am block chasing. Bruce Kohen is coming to WSD’s so if you need LT boots or Short Track boots let me know if you are going to be in salt lake city. Congrats to my buddy John Diemont on another National Championship!

    note from andrew: Brian is talking about USA short track nationals, that finished today

    Comment by Brian Boudreau — February 25, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  10. hello to my friend fred.

    Comment by Brian Boudreau — February 25, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

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