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

4 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. After reading your blog, it makes me want to get back to SLC and skate on that fast ice ! We skated the Am cup in Roseville and it was very cold and windy and needless to say the times were not fast. I Hope to see you in SLC in March for the Am cup and the Masters Sprints. Greg Oly

  2. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after looking at many of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely pleased I came across it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

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