Productive on all levels. Sunday evening now, as I write this, on an airplane going home at 35,000 feet, reviewing the work done during the competition and the important validation of training, etc.
I left Chicago Wednesday morning for Salt Lake. Skating in the afternoon, getting in some speed work. At the altitude of 4650 feet above sea level the air is different from my usual training ground of 800 feet at Milwaukee. The ice was fast and the aerodynamic drag is less, this means we go faster with the same effort. Accounting for the increase in speed, turn entries are earlier, the lean in the corners is steeper and more dramatic. Mental and physical adjustments are made, sometimes equipment too. Not too much volume of training here, just enough intensity to continue the taper but make the changes.
Everybody in the US skating world is here. My skating family. Great to see old friends, coaches, officials. This an open competition so I have some fellow masters here but mostly they are Olympic hopefuls.
Thursday is a day just to touch the ice for about 40 minutes and cement yesterdays changes, building confidence.
This is the US Single Distance Championships, Fall World Cup Qualifier, and American Cup I. US Champions will be crowned in each distance from 500 to 5000 meters. The top spots will also be on the Fall World Cup circuit competing in Calgary, Salt Lake and Europe. The fall world cup events will determine how many spots are awarded to each country for the upcoming Olympic games in Sochi, Russia starting February 7th 2014. This an Olympic year, everything gets ramped up. In this country, our sport gets a nice bump in attention each Olympic cycle. Important to take advantage when the attention is here.
Friday is the 500 #1, also is the ladies 3000 and the men 5000. Saturday is the 500 #2, total time for both determines the champion, and the 1000. Sunday is the 1500.
I am racing all but the 5000. Friday is just the 500 #1, for me. First race of the season. Little bit slow to start, 11.31 for first 100 meters. I am a little bit tentative due to a low back issue that is aggravated by starts. Not great tempo. First outer turn building speed well, connected to the ice. Crossover to the inner, my pair was ahead and not a conflict. A little hesitant coming into the last inner turn, building confidence half way through, exiting strong. Great lap time of 28.85, fastest lap all year finishing with good technique at 40.16. Pretty good start considering changing airplanes in May and flying a full schedule to Europe and training. Rest is what I lack now, sleep will have to be later. I was not sure what to expect but this is a good start and something to work on.
Saturday is the 500 #2 and 1000. Inner lane this time to start, better opener at 11.23, but not really connecting on many strokes. Higher turnover but less good contact. 29.05 lap, 40.28 finish. Very consistent from friday, so I am pleased. Outer lane start on the 1000, pretty good opener at 19.13. Great next lap, smooth, powerful, in control, efficient. Settled down, this is where I excel. 29.61, then the lactate builds in my legs, heart rate at max, breathing to match. Last lap at 31.07, Nancy, my coach, shows me my spilt times on the backstretch and shouts reminders and encouragement. Right on schedule, only dropped 1.46 on the last lap, very proud of that. Good take aways from today, confident moving forward into Sunday.
Sunday is the race of truth. The 1500 taxes every facet of my being. The physical limit exertion of strength for speed and endurance to maintain self-propelled inertia. Mental toughness, emotional fortitude, and the spiritual conclusion knowing I have nothing left at the finish line. Based on the weekend so far, a 2:05 was realistic. Starting on the outer, getting good pushes into the first turn, smooth around the corner with nice pop in my cadence. Opening in 27.17, nice, better than planned but comfortable. Next fast lap at 30.53 right on target. Now the lactate starts to build. Maintaining good rhythm and technique to keep the speed two laps to go. 32.28 next lap, then a 34.16. Any drop less than 2 seconds per lap is a sign of good conditioning and validation of training. This is what I train for, skating with lactate heavy legs. The ability to rise up to glide after that last 100 meter strain for the finish line and know “That was all I had”, is satisfaction. A quick look at the score board shows a 2:04.14. Fifth fastest 1500 ever for me. Nice start to the seasons first racing for me.
Champions crowned. Fall World Cup Team announced. Many new personal bests and seasons bests. My hat is off to all those who made it possible, and to my valiant competitors that I get to share this hallowed ice. This Olympic season will be great fun! Eight weeks to the US Olympic Trials back here in Salt Lake. Stay tuned for a great ride!