My Racing Season Update

I raced yesterday and I wanted to give an update.

This was a regular weekend time trial at Milwaukee’s Pettit Center.  There were about 50 skaters ranging in age from early teens to about 60.  The majority are in their late teens and early twenties.  Most are local skaters from Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.  There were a few masters like me that just love to skate, train and validate with racing.

Up at 4:30am.  Out the door by 5:20.  Arriving at the rink after a 75 mile drive at 6:45am.  Off ice warmup with stationary bike, dynamic stretching, static stretching, slide board, and imitation skating.  Then changing into my skin suit for an on ice warmup.  I start slow and finish with some standing starts at 8am.  The Zamboni is back on to resurface before racing starts at 8:30 am sharp. I check in at the officials table for my two races today.

Then I am back to resting and stretching.  I am the 21 st pair.  I start planning for when I will change into my racing skin and do a final warm up bike.  I want to be on the ice about 10  minutes before my race.  I need to do a couple of practice starts again and keep loose.

I make my way to the 500 meter start line and take off my warm ups.  I wish my competitor in the inner lane good luck.  We are called to the start.  “To the start” is announced by the starter.  We take our positions and place our skate blades.  I am in the outer lane, Michael Hubbs is on the inner lane. “Ready”.  We take our ready positions.  2 seconds still.  Whistle by the starter for a false start.  We both back off the line.  Michael is called for a false start due to his blade touching the start line.  The process is started over again.  We get the gun and it is a clean start.  I feel very solid, getting down low quickly.  After about 30 meters I pull away from Michael.  My 100 meter opener is 11.04.  The last time I raced was September 29th.  My opener then was 11.06.  The ice is a little slower today due to a few factors beyond anyones control.  Outside weather was raining and humid.  That can leave some extra frost on the ice and slow it down.  I enter the first outer turn at nice speed and building.  Half way through the turn I slip and lose about three strokes.  I stay on my feet though, regroup and come out of the turn just behind Michael.  I cross over to the inner with a nice stretch of straight strokes, feeling very solid.  I set up the next inner turn.  Half way through this turn at max speed I had difficulty again missing about 3 strokes.  Then settling down as I exit the turn.  Nice connection with my last straightaway strokes and solid finish, feeling heavy lactate in the legs at this point after about 65 strokes in this race.  Lap time was 28.97.  It was .04 slower than September.  Considering coming off my over-training 7 week ago and slower ice.  With virtually the same time as my last race (39.99), I consider this nice progress.

Next is the 1000 meter race.  I have about an hour.  The officials  resurface after the 500 then set up the electronic timing for the 1000.  I am the 7th pair this time starting on the outer lane in the middle of the backstretch.  I talk to my coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr.  She asks me what I expect for my first lap time after the opener.  I say 29.  She agrees.  There had been some scratches and jumbling around of skaters.  I show up for my race and end up skating alone.  Start procedure as last time.  This time the gun does not fire and I am released from my starting position.  Back again, down to start, clean one this time.  I get down quickly.  I have 50 meters before the turn to accelerate smoothly.  Then entering the turn and beginning to use turn strokes with out a lot of speed.  I concentrate on getting as low as possible.  I come out if the turn and cross the finish line and have 800 meters to go. Opening 200 meter time is 18.73.  Last time it was 18.99.  Nice tempo calmer now, very fast turn, great pressure into the ice.  First lap 29.05, right on.  Gutting it out, breathing hard, lots of lactate, legs tying up.  I know this feeling, I train for it, I have been here before many times.  Last lap 31.23. Total time 1:19.05.  1.24 seconds better than last time.  This is a great race, seasons best.  I am only 1.13 slower than my fastest time ever at this rink.  I needed to settle down and skate like I know I can.  This is real progress.  This has been a very good day.


Overtraining Update

6 weeks ago I posted about my overtraining. I have been working very hard at recovery since then. I am back to training hard and plan on racing very soon.

Here is what I have done on general principles for my recovery. I hope you can learn from what I have gone through.

First, I had to recognize that I was overtrained. Sometimes that can be hard. I have gotten better over the years. Soreness is normal, tired is normal, deep down fatigue is not. Then I stop digging the hole that I put myself in through overtraining.

The shift needs to be very fast, just like recovering from an acute injury. No more intense workouts for a while. Since speed skating is a power sport, I need to be off the ice for a couple of weeks at least. I need to be flexible with my thinking and be ready to adapt quickly. My Coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr and I need to develop a plan and be able to change daily based on my feed back and her knowledge and wisdom. Active rest, and recovery work.

I have used various combinations. Early in the process I used walking, stretching, stationary bike, yoga, and swimming. Saunas, cold tubs, whirlpools, massages and rolling my legs with “the stick” daily, are additional tools. Recovery work is almost as time-consuming as regular training. If I do the work, I get the results, period.

I have kept track of my HRV number using my ithlete device daily. When I start to get higher numbers indicating I am better rested, then I can add some easy but stimulating work. When I do my stationary bike work I can add some sprints at first. Maybe a little jogging. I need to be careful about any impact that could hinder recovery. Then some easy skating. I was very careful to stop skating hard or back off when I felt fatigue again. Then some easy weight work, again just for stimulation. A lot of stationary bike work, and swimming. The key for me is that it takes a certain number of heart beats at low intensity to recover. A nice walk can be very beneficial, especially with my wife Maripat and our dog Lilly.

Now that I have increased slowly to full speed training, I can be ready to race again. Sometimes the process of overtraining and recovery can have a silver lining. I will only see that in retrospect. We will see.

Lilly my smiling off ice training partner.

Lilly my smiling off ice training partner.

Competing with others and myself

“We improve ourselves by victories over ourself.  There must be contests, and you must win.”  Edward Gibbon

I have realized that my concept of myself in my teens was all about my sports performance.  I poured everything I had, all my energy into my sport.  I could have gone a different way than sports, it could have been school, money, power, but that is what I chose.  Sports and physical activity feeds me.  My self-worth was then tied up in my achievements and performance.  I was certainly focused.  I was certainly driven.  I went to the extreme.  You could not tell me that I was going overboard when I was young.  I could not, or would not have been able to see it.  Only with stepping away for a very long time could I have any perspective.  Only after about 22 years could I try to skate again.  Once my old self was far enough away I could see what I was doing as a teenager.  I was drawn back to the sport out of pure love for it.  I also realized I love the training, the process, the people, everything about it.  I needed to guard against picking up my old ways of thinking about skating and training and competing.  I started back into the sport by keeping in good shape and only skating once a week for a number of years.  In the spring of 2005 I wanted to see how well I could do if I put a great deal of effort into skating again.  I was very happy that I had made this commitment to myself to train hard again.

I  had to watch out for my old way of thinking about my priorities.  Sometimes my old ways of thinking would creep back in, just like an addiction.  If I got back into the sport at a high level of effort would I be going down the same road as a teenager with the same land mines?  Was I doing this to fulfill some unrealized need in me to achieve?  How was my achievement tied to my self-worth?  Was it all about the performance?  I had a good balanced self-esteem in many other parts of my life.  Was I trying to fill this hole again?  Will they love me if I win? Will I accept and love myself?  Am I worthy?  These are some very tough questions I had to answer as an adult starting this process.  I was fearful of some of the answers, but I had to know.  I had to go through this process to figure it out.  I could not see all of these questions when I started out but I kept going and kept digging.  The result was that I struck gold.  My gold.  I am more in tune with myself now than ever before.

Through this process I know better who I am.  I appreciate myself more now than ever, good and bad.  So I have come to understand that I have found things that feed me, that drive me, and that push me around.  I can now embrace all of them.  I am worthy of being who I am, without the achievements.  My family and loved ones and God, will love me for who I am, good and bad, not what I do or accomplish.  It took me a long time to accept that.  That is my issue and no one’s but mine.  I had to work it out on my own terms in my own time frame.  The important thing here for me is that I keep doing the work and digging and I will find gold, always.  Part of what I have learned is that I love to compete.  I do not so much like head to head competition.  I do love to take out the variables so I can measure my own progress.  So the best person to compete with is myself!  I will always be there.  I can measure my own progress against myself.  I love to see how far I can go.  I will always be able to measure up against myself.  This can be good and bad. Carried to an extreme I will run myself into the ground like I did as a teenager.  As an adult I will lose my sense of priorities and harm other parts of my life.  With a balance of priorities I can enjoy competing with others and myself just for the joy of it.  If competition and achievement becomes too much, I can recognize it, and change my path back to balance and conscious decisions, rather than unconscious underlying hidden motives that lie buried in my subconscious.

When I push myself through competition I reveal my true self.  I get to, learn who I really am.  Hello, the real me.

Here is a video of my last Olympic trials 500 meter race in October 2009.  My brother Bart Conner, Olympic Champion gymnast shot this video with comments at the end by my coach Dave Cruikshank Olympic Speed skater.  I am the oldest person to ever compete at these trials.  This is what I am training for now, to qualify for the next trials in October of 2013.