Saturday was a banner day!

My goal for the season was to qualify for the next Olympic trials.  I needed to skate a 39.00 or better in the 500 meter race.

It was a typical weekend time trial racing in Milwaukee.  There were about 45 skaters doing races from 500 meters to 10,000.  The ice was pretty fast today, there was a lot of activity between the two olympic size hockey rinks. The 400 meter speed skating oval that surrounds the two rinks as well as many local runners on the running track outside the oval.

I had a very productive week of training. Good recovery indicated on my ithlete this week.  I skated Wednesday.  After talking to my coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr. We had a plan to do more high-speed work.  I figured out right away what had happened on the high-speed second turn of the 500 last week in Salt Lake.  I made a skate adjustment between my left skate boot and blade.  I started to build confidence.  I adjusted it twice more.  Then I felt confident.  I built on that confidence.  I knew that was key.

Thursday more skating and more confidence.  Recovery work including rolling my legs with “the stick” on Friday and ready to race on Saturday.  I was the 19th of 20 pairs.  After a good warmup off and on the ice it was time to go.  I had the first outer lane for the start.  This is not my favorite lane because the second turn would be an inner lane and hard to hold at high-speed.  I think I got this lane in the draw for a reason.  I need to work out my fears here and now. I was ready.

I approach the start with my usual mantra of gratitude, remembering that this is fun stuff going all out  fast.  I got off the line a little late but get down quickly.  I felt a solid connection to the ice, every push connecting.  I was aggressive but patient.  The first 100 meter opener was 10.72.  That may be my best ever, not sure, I need to check my records.  The first outer turn was also solid and good acceleration.  My pair, Nathan Miller, was pretty close to me in the first 100, maybe a couple of feet behind.  He beats me to the crossover as expected.  I am going faster by now and I switch to the inner lane and set up the next turn.  I hit my mark, after one crossover I hesitate a little to feel the pressure.  Then I start to crank it hard with confidence.  I shoot by my competitor who is in the outer lane now.  Feeling pressure on my legs, never really conscious of skating just feeling.  Doing so many turns in my life they turn into feelings instead of conscious action.  100 meters to go, trying to stretch for the finish line without losing any strokes along the way.  Still good power to the ice.  I skate through the electronic eye timer.  I look up at the time on the scoreboard.  39.00!  This is faster than I have ever gone in Milwaukee.  It is a personal best for me at this rink.  My previous best was 39.04, 3 years ago.  I have just gone fast enough to qualify for the US Championships next fall and winter.  This is where they will pick the next Olympic team for Sochi 2014.  To qualify for this race distance in Milwaukee is extra special.  My wife came to see me race today and take some video.  I am so grateful for her essential support.

I raise my arms in victory as I glide around the warm up lane.  I get many accolades from fellow skaters, coaches and officials.  They know what I just did and show their respect.  I put my warm ups back on and skated a couple of easy laps to start to flush the lactic acid from the effort.  My feet were hardly touching the ice.  I was floating on peace and serenity, a job well done.

40 minutes later I am back on the ice for the 1000 meter race.  This time I have the first inner lane, my favorite.  I love this race, I love the speed, the technical demands, the conditioning required.  My pair in this race was Brett Perry, he had just skated a 38.12 in the 500, he was going to be fast.  Good opener, nice pressure through first two turns.  This is what speed skating is all about for me. We go faster in this race than any other.  Hanging onto as much speed as possible without running out of gas too soon.  This was a tough race.  I beat Brett to the first crossover but not by much.  He passes me on the third turn, on the inner lane.  I try to keep him in my sights.  One lap to go, just trying to keep pressure, stay on my feet. Last crossover to the last inner turn.  I see Brett but cannot catch him.  He finishes about 25 meters ahead.  I look up at the scoreboard not knowing what to expect.  1:17.60.  This was another personal best at Milwaukee.  I still have some work to do for this qualifying time (1:16.08).  I am gliding again in the warm up lane.  I have reached my goal for the season.  I can add to that now.  I have the ability, and now the confidence.  I still have more racing to go at faster tracks.  I am not done yet, I will add another race or two.

Goal achieved, barriers broken, 56 years of age and faster than ever!

Photo by Steve Penland

Photo by Steve Penland

Lessons Learned

I went to Salt lake City this week to race on the fastest ice on earth.  My training and racing was progressing.  I had a little time off and wanted to see what kind of validation I could find.  I flew out on Wednesday evening from Chicago through Denver.

I skated Thursday afternoon.  I was able to do some speed work.  I was pleased with what I was able to accomplish.  I did some fast laps, much faster than Milwaukee.  The altitude is about 4650 feet above sea level.  Milwaukee is about 700 feet.  About 80% of our drag is aerodynamic.  With thinner air you go faster.  The ice was pretty fast too.  The Utah oval is preparing for the upcoming World Sprint Championships next weekend.  This track has many world records.  My best times of my career are here.  I was able to adjust to the speed by setting up my turn entries earlier and making visual markers.  I needed to get a feel for the pressure in the turns.  My strength in my skating is my pressure through technique, not explosion.  It is a fine balance between all out max speed on the edge of a 1.1 milimeter blade and going slower to stay in control.  Falling at 35 plus miles per hour is not something I like to do.  I have a strong desire for self preservation.  On the other hand I can push my muscles and heart to their limit.

Friday I did a race warmup with some extra work at top speed.  Good nights sleep.  I mentally prepared for all contingencies.  I felt ready to race Saturday morning.

Racing was delayed somewhat (15 minutes) due to some electronic timing issues.  I tried to stay warmed up.  First is the 500 meter race.  I started on the outer lane.  I was off the line well.  Got down low early and felt a pretty good connection to the ice.  My pair on the inner was a runner.  I was taking 3 strokes to his 5.  He was ahead at the 100 meter mark by a couple feet.  I started my outer turn well and built pressure through out.  I exited behind my pair as expected since he skated 15 meters shorter than me.  I crossed over gradually and set up the next turn.  I got my marks.  I started the first crossover right on my mark.  Then, I am not sure what happened.  I slipped.  In order to stay on my feet I had to stand up and put both feet on the ice.  My arms were not swinging as I was trying to stay up.  My legs were frozen, I do not remember taking any more crossover strokes.  As I exited the turn I was able to get back down and resume skating.  I was even with my pair.  I got as low as I could and tried to make the most of each push for the final 100 meters.  We finished almost side by side.  My time was 40.63.  His was 40.45.  The distance was about the length of one skate blade.

At first I was not pleased.  I was expecting a much faster time.  Hard to believe I could not skate the second turn and still skate a 40.  I was disappionted that I had slipped and had to salvage something.  I put myself in this position.  There is no one but me out there skating and racing.  Training is one thing. Racing is another.  I spend 99% of my time training.  I am very good at it.  I also practice racing during training.  Actual racing is different.  I have to figure out a lot of stuff about myself and racing.  When expectations and ego are involved approaching the starting line is different.  I am realizing, as I write this on my way home, I have more to learn.

About 40 minutes later I take to the line again for the 1000 meter race.  This is my favorite race.  It suits me best.  I get a good start on the outer.  I build nicely during the turn and really crank the first long straight.  I set up the next turn and really get good pressure.  I come out of the turn even with my pair.  I have the right away since I am ahead by 15 meters and am going faster.  I power ahead to get clear and set up the next corner.  This was my nemesis 40 minutes before.  This is fastest I have gone all day and I am now skating the same inner turn.  This time it goes well.  Maybe a little hesitaion to make sure I got it.  Nice pressure, out of the turn, one lap to go.  Now I am feeling the lactate in my legs.  Set up the next turn early and crank it hard again.  I drift to the outer at the crossover and set up the last outer turn.  I have trained for this feeling.  This is very familiar territory.  Nice pressure and contact through the turn.  Exit and stretch for the line.  I know I have skated a technically good race.  I have given my all.  The heartbeat, respiration, and legs tell me that.  This is a great feeling to know at that moment. So my time is a true reflection of what I am capable of producing.  It is a seasons best 1:18.85. I feel much better about today’s racing.

As I sit here at 35,000 feet flying home I reflect on my day and more.  I get to do what I love.  I get to feed my soul.  I get to share this with all of you.  That is priceless.  Yes, I can do better in my execution.  I can change my training to help that, and I will.  Nancy (my coach) and I have some talking to do after this.  I am not done yet.  I still have my goals.  I will continue to learn and grow as long as I keep pushing.  That is the good news.  The lessons learned will unfold over time.   Breaking down barriers, mostly mine.

Photo by Steve Penland

Photo by Steve Penland

Balance And Priorities

Balance is a fine art.  I like to use the analogy of walking on a beam.  When I started out on this journey the beam was very wide.  Falling off was not so hard, or very costly.  As I have become more conscious, the beam has gotten narrower and tougher to stay on.  The rewards for staying on are much higher and the pain of falling off are greater as well.  I know I will fall now from time to time, it is part of life, so is pain.  But I can get back on the beam faster now and with less of a wound that heals faster.  I am more sensitive to being off balance.  I know better now.  I can stay on for longer periods of time and that is a great reward.

Balance is essential to my life.  It is probably easier to talk about not having balance.  We all know the effect of being off balance.  We are out of focus, inefficient, unproductive, exposed to injury and disease.  Being in balance is just the opposite.  We are focused, productive, efficient, healthy, happy, content and serene.  This is what I strive for.  I am more sensitive to being off balance today.  I can make necessary corrections so that I can stay on the beam more easily now.  It has been a learning process like anything else.  The benefits are applicable to all areas of my life.  Since they affect all areas of my life then I must give balance the priority that it deserves, top.  I think it is interesting that most of us spend about 90% of our time looking over the edge and trying to stay in balance than anything else.  Focusing on the problems to balance rather than the good parts of being in balance and continuing what works for us.  Finding out what works and keep doing it and refining it little by little.

Priorities are the foundation of good decision making.  I have done a lot of work to keep my priorities straight.  In keeping them straight I can make good judgements about where I am, where I want to go and how to get there.  If I am confused about my decisions I can revisit my priorities and usually the decisions become clearer.  I keep my priorities in the order of God first, family second, work third and recreation fourth.

I know a few people that are very busy but always seem to have time for the most important things.  That to me is an example of having my priorities straight.  I am reminded of an old saying that anything that is urgent is rarely important, and anything that is important is rarely urgent.

This helps me figure out my timing of my actions as well.  Sometimes the best ideas are also the simplest.


Masters Racing at its Best!

I am part of an incredible masters movement.

I was the meet director and competitor for the 3rd USA Masters International Single Distance Championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this last weekend January 5th and 6th, 2013.

We had 60 competitors from 4 countries (US, Canada, Romania, and Germany).  The ages started at 30 and go to 80 in 5 year groups.  In fact, Vern Kappes (our 80-year-old) has been in continuous competition since 1939.  His 74th consecutive year of racing speaks volumes about the sport of speed skating and about the masters movement worldwide.

We had at 2 masters world records broken. We had numerous Mat 1 times reached, which makes skaters eligible for the honorary Masters National team and some state of the art skin suits.  We had many personal bests reached as well.  We had a great banquet after racing on Saturday that led to an open forum discussion of many masters issues.  Fellowship was continued at the home of the meet registrar Olu Sijuwade for a pot luck dinner and to watch videos he made of the first day of racing.

This meet is always a great time to get together with my fellow masters competitors.  I get to see old friends and make new ones.

On Saturday we raced the 500 meter #1 and the 500 meter #2 ( the total time of both races determines the winner) and the 1500.  On Sunday we raced the 1000, 3000, and the 5000 meters.  At the end of the meet we had an open 12 lap mass start race ( everything else was time trials ).  About 25 men and women put in $5 each. The pot was split between the first man and first women racers.  It was a very exciting race with some breakaways around the mid-point and with about 3 laps to go.  The final sprint was the most exciting.  The fastest man won by the length of a skate blade.  We sure love to race and our competitive side shows itself very prominently.  In fact the mens 5000 meter race was won by .01 of a second.

On a personal note I was 3rd overall in the 500 meter race and first in my age group.  I skated a 40.27 and a 40.22.  The two men that beat me were in the 30-34 and 40-44 age groups. In the 1000 meter race I skated 1:20.42. I was also 3rd overall ( same two guys faster than me) and first in my group.  I also skated a 3000, 5:06.53.  I do not train for this event but treated it as a fun race.  I was 4th fastest over all and first in my group.   I am very proud of the fact that I was able to negative split the last 4 laps.  I am a sprinter!  Go figure.

All in all it was a very successful meet for everyone.  Thanks to all that participated.  Thanks to all that helped to put the meet on.  Thanks to my wife for her support and help as well.  Also, thanks to my father Harold for coming in from Oklahoma for the weekend to support me.

This is a time to reflect and be grateful for the incredible support network we all work to hard to build.  This support is essential so that we can do what we love, live into our passion for our activity, our sport, our competitive sides and connectedness to each other.

Congratulations to all who are involved, we all win together!184580_586763418007099_1298278958_n

Reflections on Change

Happy New Year Everyone!

When milestones are reached like a new year, it is a great time to reflect on where I have been this last year.  It is also a time to be grateful for the progress I have made.  Then I look forward in gratitude for what I have been through.  Even though some of it has been hard, I know there was always a plan for me.

I am reminded of an analogy.  I can equate myself to a piece of marble.  When my piece of marble was created I was crude and unformed.  As I go through life, my experiences chip away the marble to reveal my true self.  My underlying beautiful sculpture is waiting to be formed by the elements, wind, rain, heat, cold, etc. A sculpture takes many thousands of blows by a hammer and chisel to form.  The elements of nature also act on my raw material to change me.

This last year has been one of those years that has changed me in many ways to help form my sculpture.  I have been reminded quite a few times what is important.  God, family, work, recreation.  In that order, I can make decisions that are balanced.  I cannot control the world around me, I can change the way I react and respond to it.

I could list a number of events that have occurred this year to illustrate my point.  Suffice it to say that my wife’s cancer diagnosis and treatment was at the forefront.  The return of my 21-year-old daughter to my life was a blessing that I could not have foreseen but am eternally grateful for.  Rescuing a puppy that ultimately rescued us. Work and skating issues were always present.

I now look forward to a new year full of potential.  I will be there for my wife’s recovery.  My children and grandchildren will be in the forefront as well.  I will be changing airplanes this year to the B-777 and flying out of Washington DC (the  747 is being phased out of Chicago).  I will be qualifying for the upcoming US Olympic trials for Long Track speed skating in October.

Here is a picture of Long’s peak In Colorado. I am formed by my outside world.  This beautiful mountain is shaped by the elements to reveal a beautiful sculpture.

Long's Peak Colorado

Long’s Peak Colorado

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.