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!