Rest, Recover, and Reflect


Now that my training and competition season is over, it is time to rest, recover, and reflect.

This season has been hard, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I need to respect the recovery of all three.

First, the physical rest.  I have managed to increase my volume and intensity of training very gradually over the years, and this season.  Working into my off-season I need to be gentle with myself.  Stopping suddenly, my body will revolt.  I have experience with this.  Stopping before, due to injury, I have paid the price.  My legs don’t get what they are used to for activity, my hamstrings tighten up and pull my lower back out of alignment.  That is just one of the symptoms of a poor recovery process. Taking a couple of days off, then easy biking and stretching for the next couple of weeks.  I am giving my body the best chance at recovery.  It seems to take a certain amount of low intensity heartbeats to get the job done.  Waking up the other day to the thought of playing tennis was refreshing.  Tennis can be hard on me physically but getting the activity, doing something different, is part of my recovery.  Golf, walking, easy jogging with our dog Lilly, swimming, yoga are some of the things I can do for rest and recovery.  A few weeks of this and I will be ready to increase to hard levels of training.

That is the physical.  The mental and emotional rest and recovery is not so cut and dried.  I need to listen to myself for the direction.  Pumped after a great season I want to go hard again.  The danger arises when I run out of gas physically, mentally or emotionally later during the training season because I have not rested enough, or taken a long enough break to be hungry again.

Reflection on the season and my goals are also essential.  Setting out to qualify for the upcoming Olympic trials, I met my goal in the 500 meter race.  Three races skated at 39.00 (the standard) or better, improving as the season progressed.  In the 1000, finished my last race with my seasons best 1:16.15.  Needing a 1:16.08,  I missed by about 3 feet.  Qualifying next fall is still possible.  Leaving everything on the ice, I am very happy with my result.  In the 1500 I missed by 3.44 seconds.  The 1500 was not a realistic goal and that is ok.   I was proud of the only 1500 I raced this year, the second fastest ever for me, and the consistent laps.  I will concentrate on the 1000 this coming season.  The 3000 this year I skated was for fun and the last 4 laps were progressively faster.  What worked, and what did not, is also essential during the review of the season.  Building on my strengths, correcting the mistakes, moving forward.

Recognizing my support network and sharing the rewards with everyone involved in my success is a joy.  My wife Maripat, my father Harold, my coach Nancy are all indispensable players in my journey.  I hope they know how much I appreciate their help and share in “our” success.

Onward to new goals, being patient with resting, and giving my legs and my head a well deserved rest.

Racing results for me are available at http://www.speedskatingresults.com/index.php?p=17&s=4067

Our Lab and a half Lilly ready to run.

Our Lab and a half Lilly ready to run.

5th Masters World Sprint Championships, Salt Lake City


5th Masters World Sprint Championships, Salt Lake City

World Sprint Champion age 55-59, again!

There were 92 men and women skaters from 10 countries.  Ages ranged from 30 to 84.    There were 19 masters world records achieved.  There were 181  seasons best times reached.  There were 91 personal best times achieved.  We raced the 500 and 1000 meter races each day.  The combination of time from all four races determined the winners in each 5 year age categories.

The Olympic Oval is the fastest ice on earth.  We get to come and skate not only our fastest times of the season but for some of us the best times of our lives.  We prepare for this event all year.  I was not sure until last week, due to work schedules whether I would be able to attend.  This would be the last event of my skating season.  Make it count.  Leave everything on the ice.  Having already achieved a great deal this season, here was an additional opportunity to do more.

Continuing my training taper from American Cup from 2 weeks ago for this meet was easy.  Just recovery work and couple of stimulating bike workouts.  Getting a bad cold 5 days before the competition, forced me to sit down for a couple of days.  I probably needed the rest more than anything.

I flew out to Salt Lake on Thursday early enough to get in 30 minutes of easy skating and the ability to touch the ice.  Since I was just in Salt Lake two weeks ago, the transition to this ice was easy and fast.

My fellow masters skaters were a welcome sight.  Reconnecting with old friends that have shared my journey as a masters skater is a real treat.  I met new friends and made bonds that will continue for a lifetime.  We may not be people who would normally mix.  From such varied backgrounds, and cultures all over the world we have a common ground in our love for this sport.  This is my tribe.  We share a bond in the humility that skating shows us.  This sport exposes our very souls.  It shows us who we are, and  what we are made of.  To share this inward journey with my fellow masters is deeply satisfying.  We get to catch up, eyeball to eyeball.  Laughing, crying, realizing our goals, showing our frustration, learning something new, growing, rejoicing, supporting one another on our individual paths.

Friday evening is the team leader meeting, the opening draw, and a nice reception for all the skaters.  Saturday we start racing at 9am.  Everyone is nervous with anticipation of the upcoming racing.  Andrew Love, a fellow Masters World Champion, and competitor, is the meet director.  From my perspective as a skater the meet came off flawlessly.  We had everything we needed to perform at our best.   Andrew and his volunteers pulled of a great event that culminated on Sunday evening with a banquet and awards ceremony for all.

The masters skating community is like nothing else I have ever experienced.  During the competition you get to see fierce competitors wish each other good luck at the start, then congratulate each other on a fine effort at the end.  Yes, we race to win.  We want the visible recognition of the record, the title, the trophy.  But we also race against ourselves.  You can ask any skater what his personal best time is and without hesitation you get an answer.  We all know where we are and how we are doing.  Progress is the goal.  Celebrating those personal best times achieved is so important and so satisfying.  We train very hard, we put our souls into this work.  We want and need validation that we are making progress and here is the showcase in front of our fellow tribesmen.  We are committed to this work and here is our accountability.  The anticipation before racing is when we coming to grips with the reality I have helped to create by my actions.  I now trust that I will get the results that I am supposed to get.  Sometimes it is a hard fact to swallow but I chose this path and now comes the time for the visible, tangible, reality.  This is the journey we share.

Victor Van den Hoff from the Netherlands is my closest competitor in my age group.  We are paired together in every race, head to head.  We get to skate both distances each day.  Switching starting lanes for each distance to keep everything even.  In a nut shell,  I won every race in my age group.  I also placed very high among all the age groups in every race as well, from 5th to 7th.  I was very consistent, my trade mark.  Technically I was skating very well.  The first 500 I did a seasons best 38.75, masters world record.  The next race the 1000, I also did a seasons best 1:16.46, and masters world record.  Sunday 500 a touch slower at 39.15 but very solid after a slight slip on the start.  The final race was the 1000.  My attitude shifted before this race.  I was having fun!  This is my favorite race.  It fits my personality and style the best.  I love to go fast in this race, manage my energy systems, feel the pressure into the ice, set up the high speed turns, make my technique work to be efficient as possible, give it my all, knowing I have done my best.  Cross the line, 1:16.15.  Another seasons best, world record.  The combination of all four races was also a world record.  Victor was also skating well, he also achieved many seasons best times this weekend.  Great work Victor! Great work everyone!  You can see all the results on speedskatingresults.com.  Search for the 5th Masters World Sprint Games Salt lake, March 16-17, 2013.

On my way home now at 35,000 feet reflecting on the great weekend.  Pledging to keep in touch with my tribe over the summer.  I take stock of my goals for this season and reconcile my progress.  I am already thinking about what is next.  Skating has taken a great deal of time this year and my priorities must shift back to a more balanced life.  Connecting to my wife, and family most important.  Rest and recovery work for a couple of weeks.  Then onto planning for the next season and the upcoming Olympic trials this December.  I am already thinking about playing some golf and tennis soon.  B-777 school is coming up as well for me (about 6 weeks in Denver for that).  Onward, upward, higher, faster, farther, the choice is mine.  Getting better and going faster is more about intention and choices than age.

Masters World Sprint Champions!

Masters World Sprint Champions!

photo by Jerry Search

photo by Jerry Search

My Case Study Published on www.myithlete.com


ithlete logo nostrap jpg

Here is the case study that is currently on the http://www.myithlete.com website.  I am one of a few athletes that are featured.

“I am skating faster now than I ever have before.  I currently hold 4 Masters World Records in my age group.  I am a Masters World Sprint Champion.”

Occupation:  Airline Captain B-747 United Airlines

Primary Sports Long Track Ice Speed Skater

Cross Training includes running, cycling, weights, slide-board, yoga, swimming and tennis

My Sporting Career

I competed as a long track ice speed skater from age 12 till 19. I achieved a great deal and won numerous competitions, including being on the US National team from 1974 through 1976. I am faster now by far, at age 56, as a speed skater, than I was as a teenager. I have blown the concept about getting slower as we age, completely out of the water. I have broken down that barrier.

Back in the fall of 1975 I went to The Netherlands to train for the upcoming Olympic trials.  I did know anything about tapering before a competition.  I ran myself into the ground by working overly hard right up to the competition.  My race times were actually slowing down as I approached the trials.  I retired from the sport right after the trials and did not put on skates again for 12 years.  I did not return to the ice and skating, even for fun, for over 20 years.  I was burned out and overtrained.  My legs ached everyday for about 18 months after.

After 20 plus years away from the sport, I returned.  I had some unfinished business.  I was skating only once a week and going faster than I had as a teenager.  How fast could I go if trained as hard as I did as a youth and was smarter about it? I decided I wanted to try and make it back to the Olympic trials again at age 49.  I was not going to make the team, just the trials.  I wanted to continue to go faster than I had ever been before.  Was it possible?  My answer was, why not!  I was realistic about what I could do.  I was competing more against myself than for a spot on a team. I just needed to see what I could do.  This would be 30 years after I did it the first time. Was it possible?  I had to find out.

I have now qualified for the US Olympic trials ages 19, 49, 53, and I am in the process of doing it again at 56.  I am skating faster now than I ever have before.  I currently hold 4 Masters World Records in my age group.  I am a Masters World Sprint Champion.

Overtraining

I have a tendency to overtrain, I know a lot of highly motivated people who do. Being sore is part of the landscape; being tired is also part of my training life. Deep down fatigue is not.  When I lose the pop, when I lose my gratitude for the ability to do what I love, that is the difference. My most effective training includes a lot of recovery work.

I have had three distinct times in my life where I have physically overtrained. The first was the 1975 Olympic Trials described above then I did the same thing to a lesser degree just two years ago and had to take 5 weeks off. In this instance I did a lot of weight work and not enough recovery work in between. I am currently recovering from bout of overtraining.  I have a coach this time and we are being very aggressive about facilitating my recovery.  I tend to go to extremes.  It is in my nature, I know that.  I have surrounded myself with people and tools that can help me avoid this.

I have used various methods to calculate recovery, including historic training knowledge from myself and my coaches, 3 weeks hard 1 week easy method, one rest day every week, etc. I believe that ithlete will help me achieve my goals this year through validating my rest and recovery.

Using ithlete

I heard about ithlete from a fellow speed skater, looked it up and decided that this was something that might help me decide when to go hard or back off on my training. I’ve been using it for about 6 months now. I have had some illness and stress in my life in that time and my HRV numbers have been pretty low as a result. It reflects all of my life factors including a very high training load.

I work very intensely and am used to high training loads, if I get a low ithlete HRV score I will vary my workouts or do an active recovery day. Now ithlete is telling me my body needs me to slow down I can now take active recovery much easier. I can also take into account my sleep and stress levels. In the past I would train right through these times and believe my racing suffered as a result.

My coach and I plan a taper for racing based on historical norms in speed skating and can now adjust this using ithlete HRV to the optimum level.

In speed skating there is a technical element; I can build the motor but I need technique to apply it to the ice. One of the ways to gauge my readiness to race was my technique and ability to get into a low skating position.  If I am not skating well technically and my position is high, then I must be tired and not at my best. When I am rested I skate best, there is a direct relationship. Here is where my coach can give me feedback and ithlete validates that feeling.

Click on the link for myithlete.com to find out more!

Photo by Steve Penland

Photo by Steve Penland

American Cup Final, Salt Lake City


American Cup Finale, Champions Challenge, and North American Long Track Championships.

That is quite a name for a combined competition.  163 men, women, and juniors came from 6 countries to compete for 3 days in Salt Lake City.  Skaters represented the US, Canada, New Zealand, India, Taiwan, and Finland.  We had hundreds of personal best times, hundreds of seasons best times.  Two national records, one for India, and one for New Zealand were recorded when I was composing this post.  This is the end of season for some of us.  Some of may race once more this year.  We tapered our training, and perfected our craft through the season.  Here is the opportunity to go faster than we have all year on the fastest ice on earth.

When walking into the Olympic Oval for this competition I felt exhilarated!  Here were so many great skaters.  This is my tribe, my skating family.  This is where I belong.  I met new friends and reconnected with old ones.  We share a sport that touches core of our being.  The people who hang around for a long time know this.  We are cut from the same cloth.

We work very hard to achieve our performances.  These races validate all that work that we do.

My goals for the 3 day event were to improve on how I had raced this year.  Not being sure if this would be my last competition of the season, I gave it my all.  I want to walk away with the knowledge that I did my absolute best.  Final preparation starts weeks ahead with decisions about training loads and tapering to be at my peak.  Many decisions are made everyday that build to this conclusion.  When I approach the starting line, it is only me and my execution of the race ahead.

I can honestly say I gave it my all.  Executing as well as possible, race management set but flexible, finishing with nothing left.  Results are exactly as they should be.  I trust that today.

On Friday, the first race was the 500.  I slipped a couple of times and did not feel as confidant as I have been.  39.06, second fastest time of the year.  A friend and fellow master skater said I might check my blades.  In doing so, I found a loose bolt on my right skate attaching the front of my boot to the blade.  I guess I knew something was not right.  Next race, the 1000, I skated a 1:17.01.  Seasons best!  I felt a little flat but still improved.  Nice recovery.

Saturday, 500 was better at 38.98, seasons best and improved over Friday.  Felt better today with a little pop in my skating.  Maybe the tapering just kicked in.  Then the 1500.  This was my only 1500 this year and a real measurement of my fitness.  Great execution, nice opener, good first lap, right on schedule, very consistent speed all the way through.  2:01.41.  Seasons best (of course).  This was the second fastest 1500 I have ever done, the fastest was 3 years ago.  I was so pleased to know what I was capable of.  A great reward like this helps me feel lighter, knowing I am on the right track and making good decisions along the way.

Sunday only the 1000.  Good warmup, nice pop again like yesterday.  Good start, good speed, nice feel, low and smooth.  This is my race.  I love going this fast, for this distance, on the edge of max speed, managing energy with the distance and keeping good technique to keep the speed.  The last turn was the toughest, hard to hold.  Third day of racing taking its toll now.  1:16.95, seasons best, second fastest 1000 ever.  Very consistent with Friday, with a little improvement.  Nice cap to the weekend.

The competition is fierce here, but mostly with ourselves.  Many of these races were won in the weight room last fall, or training during the season.  We get out of skating what we put into it.  It is a very simple but hard equation, like most everything else in life. It was fun to be with my tribe and to ask “How did it go for you?”  Almost always the responses were positive.  Seasons best, personal best, etc.  Pretty cool to hang out with and share this special journey on the ice.  The reflection from the ice shows us all what we are made of on the outside as well as on the inside.

On the airplane now, going home. Racing is still going on.  I want to know how all of my tribe is doing.  When I land the meet will be over and the awards handed out.  The true rewards are still to be reaped, on the inside, over time.  That is another story….

Photo by Jerry Search

Photo by Jerry Search

Sunday 1000 first crossover backstretch with Brandon Molenda and my Coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr. giving encouragement and spilt times.  Photo by Jerry Search

Sunday 1000 first crossover backstretch with Brandon Molenda and my Coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr. giving encouragement and spilt times. Photo by Jerry Search