Back in the Saddle again

I couldn’t sleep worth a damm last night; too darn hot & my legs/back/knees were sore & complaining from self-assigned evil dryland.

At some point, tossing and turning all night turned into morning, and since I was awake anyway, might as well cool off & skate some morning ice at the Utah Olympic Oval.

All the usual suspects were there; the younger skaters all a year older & more powerful (some of them quite visibly so), and the veterans still optimistic & a delightfully long way away from mid-season burnout.

Everyone was happy to be on the skates, & beginning to put hard-earned summer fitness to use.

Here is current US junior national champ Mia Manganello leading Ron Macky, Catherine Raney & Pat Meek. A soul-train of national team ability & effort.

A lot of good technical things are going on in this photo. Mia has excellent nose-knee-toe alignment, & everyone’s glide blade is pointed right down the ice. Sure, these are very strong athletes, but it’s the controlled application of strength that creates speed.

When I mentioned Chad Hedrick in a recent post, a few people perked up in comments & said “so how’s he looking?”

He is very fit & I hear some serious determination in his voice. This year will be quite different than last.

Here is Chad, leading John Loquai, Liam Ortega, then Pat, Catherine & Mia. The previous image was about glide; this one is about pressure.

Again, the blades are pointed pretty straight down the ice, but it’s the exceptional control these athletes have that let’s them go from the glide moment to this pressure moment seamlessly.

No one can do this when they step on the ice the first time. No one. It takes a lot of work.

I think it took me about 3 years until I could feel the “pressure moment” correctly. I’m still working on the glide. It seems to go against my personality, and is the reason why I skate similar times indoor, outdoor, good ice, bad ice, etc. I just push hard & barely glide.

Here is another moment of speedskating, Liam is leading Chad & John.

At this split second Liam is driving his body forcefully into the first turn step. You can see Chad’s skates behind him beginning to lean, and John in 3rd, straight up and down.

A split second later, John’s body will be driving into the turn like Liam’s.

I bet anything that Liam’s arm swing is also out to the side a tad more than normal, so he can use it’s momentum driving across the front of his body to give a tiny extra “ommph” of directional change as he leans into the G-forces of a fast turn.

It would be easy to write endlessly about turn entry & exit mechanics, suffice it to say that tiny things like this matter more & more the higher the speeds are.

You can also clearly see the effort on their faces; the trick is technical perfection while also trying very, very hard.

Finding that balance is enough to drive a soul friggin batty.

As I am writing this, I am also I’M-ing with Kip Carpenter. He is in the hotel across the road from the Viking Ship indoor rink in Hamar, training with the DSB Dutch professional speedskating team, I included the image of Chad leading the group in our chat, and he observes:

damn,, i miss that ice

I did too. Forgot how much until I stood on it again. It’s good to be back among the tribe.

25 Responses to “Back in the Saddle again”

  1. Andrew,Why is it that when I am on wheels I didnt think of steel untill I saw this post.When does the Pettit put down its ice. I miss that glide. No sticks,rocks or cars. No little kids shelling corn in the road to see if I trip(dont need their help). Yes I miss it too.

  2. Ah, ice! I’ll be on it in less than 2 weeks (Calgary), but I won’t be looking like those guys (my coach used the word “Frankenstein” yesterday to describe my final laps in my final of 6 3K repeats on inlines…guess I need to work on that “technical perfection while trying very, very hard” thing!). I love your detailed explanations of various technical aspects in photos…a picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture is even better when it has some words to go with it!

    (Hope you’ve recovered from Napa…have you made a decision on St. Paul yet?)

  3. hey andrew, i’m in SLC!! went to the oval a few times to get the times for speed skating(mostly ST). Now looking for a place to live.

  4. Well, you guys are so lucky! I will have to wait a month and a half before we get ice here in the Netherlands (and then I’m lucky that I live in Nijmegen where our ice rink is the first to open…)

  5. Andrew,
    exactly what we want, speedskating and your cool commentary…
    awesome

  6. i moved here, so quite a while, i also just got a job at unisys.

  7. the ice looks very…thin.

  8. wow strong ice-talgia in the middle of a very hot summer…
    Morning-ice? so what does the ice do in the afternoon? what do you do andrew (working for $$s or inlining to improve the magic split second in between gliding and pressure…
    (did you ever ice-skate in the morning and inline in the afternoon..)
    Back into analysis - wonderfull andrew
    good gliding
    Jules

  9. Mel,

    In the early season, when the ice is brand new, its often very thin, clean, and sometimes it feels quite fast, however the athletes are not technically ready to really create top speed yet…

    Jules,

    morning ice is the time for national team & national caliber athletes, afternoon ice is a mixed session where intermediate skaters can play too, and evening ice is generally for kids & clubs & the occasional really fast dude whose work schedule gets in the way of morning ice..

    I skate all 3 depending on what direction the wind blows…

    this particular day of this post, I did ice in the morning & inline in the afternoon.. but that is rare, as I try never to combine the two.. some can, but technically it messes me up…

    oh, and in the 8 hours between the two sessions I was working on my laptop ferociously, I just had a massive project go live, a redesign of the PowerCranks website.

    I thought that after last season, I’d be going right back to cubicle-land, but recent independent projects have treated me well… & if I work really efficiently, I do seem to be able to still get in hard workouts…

    or at least, hard enough… maybe 75% of what I was doing last year…

  10. …and NONE of the ice sessions work for people with real jobs.

  11. That’s why the next indoor oval to be built in the US will have housing on site and be open 24/7, so people with real jobs will have real ice time.

  12. thank-you so much for the Chad Hedrick insider, I hope we will hear more about him via you blog in the future!

  13. damn, finally. it’s about time they built some housing for athletes, at least if that’s what I’m understanding.

  14. I found a place to live that’s 3mi. from the oval. not the best for my job, so I’m still looking, and trying to get someone from Michigan down here (or up) for a job so we can skate.

  15. Hey, Bri, I would have offered you a room at “Mama Eva’s Boarding House,” but wasn’t sure you’d want to stay with USS’s “most subversive.” My house is only half a mile away from the oval.

    Yeah, you’d think a former Olympic host city with intentions of maintaining its status as a training center for athletes would have made more of an effort to build some sort of housing for athletes.

    Actually, Tim is talking about an oval that he’s working on getting built north of Seattle. I hope it opens ’cause it sounds like it will be run by people who care about skaters and want people to have fun. And, what do you know? The place will probably have some sort of profit motive, so I’m sure it will have excellent customer service and be as accommodating as possible. Sounds like a great place to me.

    But what would happen if gainfully employed adults were able to train at 6 in the morning or 7 in the evening? Maybe you wouldn’t have girls on the U.S. team going 42 in the 500m at World Cups and fighting it out for DFL?

  16. Mama Eva’s Boarding House is the BEST!!!!

  17. Eva, that’s very tempting really, is it a half mile north or south of it?

  18. Andrew, you probably also know how Bruce feels about USS as well. I talked to him and he’s still waiting for kooreman to ring him back about his LT boots.

  19. It’s actually to the west, up on the hill. “Live high, train low, on the West Side!”

  20. hahahah, west side!!

    i googled the area that you live in, and looks nice!

  21. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being the “most subversive” if it brings out the truth. I recall a particular team porterhouse dinner in the fall of ‘05 that was of higher caliber that those that were provided at the oval. There was quite a discussion about that amongst a few select friends. I’m still laughing (actually fuming) about all the crazy antics that were played out against those who were on the US team, but intelligently chose to not be 100% conformists to the auspices of USS. I personally feel that even those who were on the national team and now aren’t, still rank up at or near the top of their game despite the fact they are not regularly on the ice or at all anymore. All of us who have made a good name for ourselves still hold onto those legacies–that’s our “ownership” in the world of speedskating.

    Sometime soon, I hope some of you can get your big, muscular, glutes out here and pound out some serious mileage on the old route 9-11. The new routing of 9 goes by where I would plan to build, but for now, a 4m-wide lane of blacktop is as golden as the ice. Just yesterday when I was out at sunset on the strip of WA-9, I was thinking this must be like a speedskater’s perception of heaven–miles of pavement with virtually no traffic, no strollers, bicycles, dogs–just fields of corn, blueberries, raspberries, and the snow-capped Canadian Rockies and Mt. Baker.

    Just get your butt out here! I’m off work the whole 1st 9 days of September. Call me…
    :)

  22. I sure as hell hope it doesn’t rain, but if it does, ST here I come!

  23. Hi ANdrew,
    Question, You long trackers don t step on the ice from End of March thru July? So it is all dryland training… I have Brian Nelson out here in CAlifornia, he trains public session s with me at Culver, along with cotton wood summer camp and the triple over booked ice.

    Mark

  24. Mark,

    interestingly enough, when calgary was opened (it was the first indoor oval allowing year ’round LT) people thought that constant access to LT ice would make skaters faster…

    that proved not to be true, it’s actually really good for the body to build strength (& conserve mental matchsticks) away from the ice…

    some of the programs out here are on ST ice once a week, or doing things like playing fun hockey pickup games…. but really, its all dryland, lifting, & cycling/inline/running, depending on the athlete..

    but I did not step onto ice last year till august 15th, and I was ready to rock by mid-october…

  25. So what exactly is this “pressure moment”? The transition between glides?

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