Zen and the Art of Speedskating

April 18, 2010

Orientation

Filed under: USS board — andrew @ 8:21 am

(Originally written on the 18th, pubished on the 30th)

By myself at an empty public skate session, just my battered boots & me.

Drills, easy laps, orientation of the complaining body to the skates again-

Skate politics is filling my brain, as much as my hips are being oriented again to the unnatural pain angles of the skate position, my brain is being oriented to spending hours on the phone discussing, learning, absorbing, caucusing with like-minded.

Sit on the push, back half of the blade, let the right position make the pressure- don’t force it-

So little blade actually bears our entire weight+gforces+muscle power, it’s a wonder short track is possible at all-

So it might be in skate-politics.

There has always been a lot of vehemence in skating politics. There are REAL chunks of money flying around, careers, ego, thriving and dying clubs, Olympic teams, endless investment of hours.

Listening to the new board orientation conference calls, forcing my heart to be as positive as possible. Is this how they really are, or how they want to be

US Speedskating has traditionally been like a 4 year phoenix. Immolating & reborn every Olympic cycle. The attrition among office staff has been frightful.

Lots of empty cubicles at the US Speedskating offices; tracks of who has gone before. I’m looking hard at these trails in the ice, what techniques are tried by what people.

It’s so easy to throw bombs from far off. To kvetch to your social circle; To organize/suggest workable policy is awfully hard.

Early season, just feel the push, dammmmm… Let momentum & level shoulders/hips carry you through ouch+ouch+ouch.

execute from depth.

There were a number of things that have been said by some of the experienced board members to me. In rough paraphrase


The athletes are getting better, faster, of a higher level every year. The governance of this sport needs to up its game as well!

Every 4 year cycle seems to get more intense, there are more demands, more specificity.

Recover—recover between sets makes each effort more- Protect your eyes so you can see no matter the wind (& flying ice chips)

Skate quiet off the back half of the blade, pressure; just skate right.

Then try your heart out–

& fall 10 times, fail 100 times, then get back up again. Understand and execute. Finally.. Fly.. Speedskating. Speedskating policy.

April 4, 2010

The Board-

Filed under: USS board — andrew @ 12:41 pm

The news came on Friday. My peers in the general membership have elected me to US Speedskating’s board of directors.

It is a deep honor.

After reading the election results, RZ and I took a walk down the alley next to our house.

She took every opportunity to stand in the puddles, often looking me right in the eye and saying “WOW!” as the cold water soaked into her sneakers.

Standing in mud & puddles teaches you so much more than looking at them from a distance. You know immediately the temperature of the water and how deep the puddle really is. With patience you even begin to notice reflections, rocks, crinkles in the asphalt, other puddles in the fissured alleyway-

I’m not making any explicit metaphor that speedskating is a muddy puddle, or that board of directors galumphs around like a kid in a fancy parka in the alleyway of small sports.

But I will do my best to communicate what is going on as this soaks into me. I’ve shied away from politics on this blog for SO LONG, I did not even mention I was running here.

But that will not be possible anymore.

Unlike every board member who came before me, I was clearly elected by a constituency of masters skaters. If you want to know the platform of policy items I ran on, here is what I wrote to the members.

What I did not say in the bio is that I have no illusions about the pummeling I have volunteered for. Complaining about things or people is easy; creating decent public policy is dammed hard. Triply so in a sport so many are so passionate for.

And there is this idealistic belief that I hold to; it goes something like-

“if you can make a difference in something you care about, then you have a moral obligation to do so”.

The hard work I have done with International Masters Speedskating has been incredibly rewarding, but this is totally different.

I am friends with many who have served in the Board of Directors. Better folks than me have been chewed up & spat out by volunteering in speedskating.

Despite my words & outlook here, don’t assume I don’t also have an iron set of policy fangs when it’s time to chew on hard issues. I hide them well, but I’m a veteran of many organizations, and my parents are Jedi masters of this stuff.

But I do have this moral belief, and maybe if enough of us stick our feet in the puddle, it will become a better place.

It might even freeze by next winter, and be good skating (short track, a very, very short track).

Stay tuned–

April 1, 2010

Colors

Filed under: baby stuff — andrew @ 10:54 pm

We have names for the colors we can see; Reds, greens, blues, bent through cornea, lens flare and pixels.

But our cornucopia of names trails off when color arcs into ultraviolet and infrared, X-ray and gamma, even though those powerful wavelengths flow through us.

So it is with love. Such a simple word, but I am out of the arc I can describe. It cuts through me and leaves the bones of things glimmering & clear.

Wife, kid, a simple walk on a beautiful spring day.

Why has it taken me almost 40 years of life, to arrive here?

March 22, 2010

30 stitches, glass half-full

Filed under: RACE DAY — andrew @ 5:09 pm

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.

March 17, 2010

Season’s End

Filed under: from home — andrew @ 4:48 pm

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!!!!

March 5, 2010

Masters Allaround Worlds, Day 3

Filed under: RACE DAY — andrew @ 4:18 pm

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)

March 3, 2010

Masters Allaround Worlds, Day 1 & 2

Filed under: RACE DAY — andrew @ 7:27 am

(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.

February 24, 2010

Baselga Di Pine

Filed under: on the road — andrew @ 8:56 am

Awaking from the turbulent dream of international travel, the rough ministrations of an Altalia 747 spits me out, punch drunk, jet lagged, into a strange country where everyone is skinny and dresses very well.

Must be Italy.

One sleep in a hotel bed, wake, one cup of tremendous Italian coffee (taste, not size) and I look out the window, to see this—

(this is a panorama, click on it for the big version)

This is no dream. Vinyards, mountains, gorgeous outdoor ice. The facility that Enrico Fabris calls home. I am living a blessed life.

In a few hours, am skating with Dutch, Canadians, Australians, Easy laps & a few accels. My hotel is the building on the hill to the upper right.

Past the flags getting ready for the upcoming races. Feeling great, all those hours at the rink this year. It feels worth it right now.

I will race my heart out, and have an outside chance at the podium. But today, the skating was so perfect, I almost don’t care. It is that good.

Here is a YouTube… ugh… Jet lag sucks, I need sleep.

February 12, 2010

Zen-10 Questions, Travis Jayner

Filed under: Zen 10 Questions: — andrew @ 11:10 am

Even though Travis Jayner trains in Salt Lake City, I really got to know him in Mexico City during a speedskating exhibition we were both part of.

I wrote about that very unusual trip here, here, here, here, and here. It was fitting that I really got to know Travis in such an unique place for speedskating, this is because Travis is an unusual guy; in person he is deeply thoughtful, sincere & funny.

You would never suspect that this gentle fellow is a world-class athlete in a very aggressive, dangerous sport like short track.

Welcome to the Blog Travis!

Thank you Andrew. It is a pleasure.

1. Your parents were out hiking with your brother, and were stalked by a big angry daddy moose out on the trail (visual evidence below). How is having ambitions for the Olympics like stalking, or being stalked by, something so huge?

Well, that’s an interesting way of looking at it and I would have to agree with you, having ambitions of the Olympics is like chasing or stalking something huge.

The Olympics is the competition of competitions for amateur athletes. The competition is so big that sometimes it doesn’t seem real, it seems like qualifying for the Olympics can only happen in dreams.

2. One thing I admire about short trackers is how they deal with the pressure, uncertainty, and danger of the sport. How have you learned to cope with it over the years & adjust your mindset to give the best chances on race day?

As a short track skater I know the dangers are there but I also try to focus on what I can control. Focus on the task at hand and your mind will keep from wandering in to the “what ifs” of short track.

3. You are clearly having a career year, what was the Olympic trials experience like for you?

The Olympic trials were the most mentally challenging/exhausting thing I have done to date. Every individual race seemed like an entire competition and we raced each distance twice and raced 2 time trials so it felt like a years worth of competitions condensed in to one week.

4. I love the t-shirt your supporters have made. I do believe you are dead serious about this.

I love this shirt too. For me this shirt is not just about skating, it is about life.

5. Send me a photo that feels like “you” to you. Something that speaks to this time in your life. One on the ice, and one off.

6. Tell us something surprising about yourself that those of us who know you through skating would never have suspected:

I once worked a summer job at Dairy Queen, and the summer after that I drove a forklift in the shipping department at Armstrong World Industries. Both were great summer jobs.

7. How do you stay mentally strong and physically ready, during grueling all-day short track meets.

I just take things one race at a time and try never to get ahead of myself.

8. Your father was a short track skater, and was US & North American champion in 50’s & 60’s. In some alternate universe, imagine you & your father, both at your best, skating a relay together. Would it be more awesome to get a push from your dad to set up your race-winning pass, or would you rather give your dad that winning push & watch him win the race?

Travis Jayner: What a great question. I never had the chance to see my father race when he was at his best but from the stories I have heard about his ability to pass at the end of races, even when it looked like there was no space for him to make a pass, it would be my pleasure to give my father that winning push and watch him cross the line first.

Jack Jayner: Compared to my lifetime-best of 40.1 sec. for the 440 yard [1/4 mile], Travis is going about 17% faster in the 500 meter [546.8 yard] today. Your anchorman is your faster man so, from that view, Travis brings ‘er home.

Also, he’s better-spoken, better-looking, and more empathetic than me, and so is worth more in the endorsement market – which helps keep the family afloat despite corporate CEOs best attempts to ‘Titanic’ us all. Score two for Travis.

Then there’s the practical matter: it wouldn’t be aesthetic, or sanitary in a public place, to have a lightening bolt splat into a chunkasaurous with two laps to go. But if over-the-top ego wins it, I get the honor! Place your bets, and no fair bribing the coaches.

This photo by Tony Bernato, shows Jack Jayner in the white sweater and black gloves making an inside pass to win the Junior Boys 220 yard final at the 9th Annual Winter Ice Carnival, Wollman Memorial Ice Skating Rink in Central Park, New York City. January 16, 1960.

Junior boys were 12, 13 and 14 years old back then. The racing course was called the “safety track” - it was 110 yards long, parallelogram-shaped and had 4 blocks. There are eight racers in this 2 lap final. Not much protective gear back then.

9. As part of the US national team, you have lived in Marquette, Colorado Springs, and now Salt Lake. You are often on long, exhausting road trips to races. Do you ever feel like a skating nomad? What is home?

I really enjoy traveling and I feel very honored to have had the opportunity to race and compete in so many foreign countries. Of course, when you are on the road racing for a couple weeks or a month it is nice to return home.

Home for me is in 2 places. Here in Salt Lake City, where I live, spend the majority of my time and train to be the best short track speed skater possible.

Home is also where I grew up in New Brunswick. A lot, not all, of who I am as a person came during the years I lived in NB so, a little bit of “Home” will always be there.

10. Speedskating can be a physically, technically and emotionally brutal sport, what do you find really hard & have to work on all the time?

All three.

Short track is amazing for these very aspects you mention. You have to be strong in all three.

You need to be physically strong to be able to compete in the amount of races we compete in during a competition.

You also have to be physically strong to be able to keep technique together so that you are being as efficient as possible and at the same time keeping your mind and emotions in check.

There are a lot of races in short track, you need to keep your emotions pretty even and not like a rollercoaster with lots of ups and downs.

11. What is really great about right now, what is really hard?

Opportunity and Expectations. The opportunity I have is great. I am going to represent the greatest country in the world at the Winter Olympics and I am expected to win.

It is great to be in the moment I am in right now, I am really living the dream you could say. I have pushed so much to get to this point in my life and I am enjoying every minute of it.

12. Name 3 athletes that you admire, and why.

Roger Federer, Jon Olsson and Shani Davis. All three are great champions.

I admire Federer for a few of reasons. One is his determination to win. He seems unstoppable at times. He seems to play the game of Tennis smarter then anyone else. I also admire the way he improved himself mentally.

He used to have a very poor attitude and get frustrated by his own play when he was coming up in the tennis ranks. It wasn’t until he got control of his emotions that he started to win major championships.

Jon Olsson is a professional freestyle skier. I admire his creativity on the slopes, his lifestyle and his business savvy.

Jon always seems to be having fun when he is skiing and I think that is what makes him great. I also love the art and creativity in skiing. Pushing your body physically while being artistic at the same time. Awesome!

Last but not least, I admire Shani Davis.

Shani has changed the way Long track skaters skate and train. He is smart, he has the best eye for technique in the world and he does it all on his own. He doesn’t have a coach. He has many people who help him but when it comes to training he does what he thinks he needs when he thinks he needs it.

He is independent and self-reliant. In terms of results, Shani is as close to Eric Heiden as we will ever see. He can do it all and he has done it all. He is amazing and he is one of the most caring and genuine people I have ever met.

13. You are skating the 1000m and the relay at the games. Your body has become ready for this from a lifetime of effort. How are you training your mind to be ready?

I am trying to see these races at the games as races anywhere else. Short track is short track whether it is the Olympics or a local competition.

14. No elite speedskater steps to the starting line alone, so many help along the way. Here is your chance to say thanks to those who have been there for you:

  • The coaches of the Riverview Speed Skating Club who got me started.
  • The Galliot/Black household
  • Kevin Artichuk
  • The Montreal International Speed Skating Club
  • My friends from Riverview and Montreal who have encouraged me all along
  • The Bedfords
  • The Midland Speed Skating Club
  • My current coaches and teammates, impossible without all of you.
  • Steve Blick at Oakley
  • Randy Olshen at H2O Overdrive/Innovative Health Solutions
  • And, of course, my family

Haiku Speed round.

1. You are a painter as well as a skater, here is a good place for some of your work:

2. What is your favorite ice workout ST workout, that is a regular part of your training diet.

I love it all and in short track I think you have to.

3. Who are the 3 speedskaters you would pick to help pack a U-haul with, and share pizza & beer with afterwards.

Alex Izykowski, Ryan Bedford and J.P. Kepka

4. A quote that gets you fired up:

from Lance Armstrong

5. Movie you never get tired of seeing?

Lost in Translation.

6. What was the best Halloween costume you ever had as a kid?

I was “King Travis” one year with a homemade metal crown.

7. Name a really expensive habit you wish you could afford?

Cars.

8. When wandering past a Barnes & Noble endless magazine rack, what ones do you reach for and flip through?

Freeskier or Powder

9. Most full time athlete struggles with injuries, what have been your weak spots?

If I have any “weak spots” they would have to be my hips. They just seem to be tighter then a speed skater would normally want their hips to be.

10. If you could travel through a time-tunnel and give your teenage self a few words of sage advice, what would it be?

Patience Travis, Patience.

Good luck Travis! We are all rooting for you in the O-Games!

Bonus pic: This is Travis in Mexico, with a young figure skater. It shows what a terrific ambassador for speedskating he is, and also touching his left hip to the ice, showing some serious ST ninja skills.

February 11, 2010

Zen-10 Questions: Tucker Fredricks

Filed under: Zen 10 Questions: — andrew @ 9:53 am

Tucker Fredricks does not get the respect that he deserves as one of America’s best skaters.

Mass media has a short attention span, and other stories sucking up all the oxygen in the room, but if you look at world cup results, I believe in the past 4 years only Shani Davis has stood on more podiums for the USA than Tucker.

Here is Tucker, at the salt Lake world cup this year- even with a slip on the first turn, he was 3rd in this race.

Tuck was the overall world cup 500 champion two seasons ago, is in raging form this year, and is on the short list of people who are true medal contenders in Vancouver.

So why are my google news alerts for Speedskating filled up with news of other skaters?

Tucker himself is part of the answer, he is a low-key kind of guy, but it’s still wrong; so this interview is my small way to redress the media imbalance.

Welcome to the Blog Tucker!

Tucker: Other than the olympics, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for!

1. You won “fastest skater” competitions at youth hockey tournaments as a kid. When did you realize that you could be a very good speedskater?

I always thought i would be good at whatever sport I did. i started speedskating at age 8. Probably realized that I could be really good at 14 or 15 years old.

2. You have worked with Ryan Shimabukuro since you were 13. You have moved into the upper echelons of this sport together. What are the lessons was he drilling you on back then? Have they changed as you matured?

As a young skater, still in school, it was grades first. If you didn’t make the grade, you didn’t make the cut. Now, since we’ve been together so long, he trusts my judgment in the training aspect. If I feel I need more, I can do more. If I’m tired, he’ll let me sit one out.

3. I remember the day you broke Hiroyasu Shimizu’s 500m rink record at the Pettit national ice center. You made a statement that roughly said: “Well, Shimizu drives a Ferrari and I drive an old Mazda”

Does this show the challenges that American speedskaters undergo?

Shimizu was the first Japanese winter Olympian to win a gold medal so that made him rich and famous in japan. we are one of the few countries in the world if not the only one that does not get government funding and sponsors are scarce for Olympic athletes. So yeah its a little hard for us.

4. I have heard from other athletes, that the first time you go to the Olympics, it’s often about the experience/participation. But if you dedicate yourself to going over and over, you are sacrificing because you want to win. Does that feel true for you?

I don’t think I am sacrificing anything. I’m doing this because I love to do it. My parents are the ones that made the sacrifices.

5. Speedskating can be a physically, technically and emotionally brutal sport, what do you find really hard & have to work on all the time?

For the past 4 years, training hard has been fun for me, so the physical part is out. I try to block out things that make me emotional because that just leads to stress. So that’s out. I’m always working on technique. That’s the hard part.

6. Send me a photo that feels like “you” to you.

A perfect day in collalbo italy a few weeks before the 2006 olympics. From L to R, Kip Carpenter, a yawning Casey Fitzrandolph, Joey Cheek, me, K.C. Bouttitte

(Andrew Note: This is one of the most beautiful rinks there is, here is my picture from the tram that passes by the rink.)

7. Tell us something surprising about you or your life that those of us who know you through skating would never have suspected:

my aunt studied our family tree and i’ve been told we are directly related to sir isac newton

8. What is going on “under the hood” as you step to the start line in a 500m. What are you focusing on, what is your mental state?

Every time i step to the line i think i can win no mater how im feeling. i think i just tell myself “you got this”

9. It seems that more and more elite LT skaters are doing a ton of ST skating. I’ve seen you throw down hard on the ST yourself. Why do you think this is important?

It’s great for getting strength in the turns and over emphasizing the technique.

10. Sprinters are the ultimate technicians. Who are some of the athletes you admire, and why?

Shani’s turns. Nagashimas fluidity, Jojis straight aways. I just like watching them.

11. The USA has incredible mojo with the 500m at the Olympics. Fitzrandolph & Cheek, and before them Heiden, Mcdermott, Henry, Shea, Jewtraw. We are 7 out of 20 for gold medals in this men’s event.

Do you feel this pressure?

no pressure. i just want to make it 3 in a row for the U.S.A

Haiku Speed round.

1. Do you still have your first pair of skates? What are they??

yup. bauer hockey skates.

2. Favorite sprint-centric workout that you regularly do?

500m intervals

3. Favorite recovery food after a hard day?

mcdonalds. just for fun.

4. A quote that gets you fired up:

someones going to win. might as well be me. -Tucker Fredricks

5. Favorite city on the world cup circuit to find really good food?

I like japanese food, so, Nagano

6. Movie you never get tired of seeing?

dumb and dumber

7. What was the best Halloween costume you ever had as a kid?

power rangers. green ranger.

8. When wandering past a Barnes & Noble endless magazine rack, what ones do you reach for and flip through?

probably just keep walking..

9. If you could travel through a time-tunnel and give your teenage self a few words of sage advice, what would it be?

I could tell myself something but i probably wouldn’t listen

10. Most full time athlete struggles with injuries, what have been your weak spots?

lower back L4 L5 siatic nerv(SP) and shin fatigue

11. Why did you keep buying me drinks before the hall of fame banquet in April of 08? I ended up sledgehammered thanks to you. You had just won the 500m World Cup overall, I should have been buying you the drinks!

Andrew, that was my contribution to your blog.

12. I hear a number of the elite skaters are also golfers. Who is the best? Who is the best trash talker on the course?

Chad Hedrick is the best i think. The last four times i played this year i would have given him a run for his money. Tyler Goff is the biggest talker but he hasn’t come through for me when I’ve been on his team. Sorry Ty…

I want to end this with wishing Tucker the BEST of luck.

You might not read a ton about him in the run-up to the games, but there is an excellent chance the whole USA will know who he is the day after the 500’s.

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