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It is All About Personality

November 12, 2011

Well, the oval is now open in Roseville, so it will be time to start the season. My first day on the ice will be Tuesday and since I have been busy with school, I was unable to short track during the summer. Instead, I elected to do a lot of biking and running to build my endurance, as well as doing yoga to build my flexibility. Although telling you about my summer training was not what my intent was with this blog post. Instead I wanted to talk about ‘personality’ when it comes to skating.

Last year I got a setup of Maple SL800-BFT boots and blizzard blades. These skates are fabulous, I love them. The lightweightness and the fact that I could heat mold them, really made them feel like these were MY skates and they were made for me. There was another part of my skates that were ME- the skate guards; my old Zandstra skates (the ones that my flat feet hated, not me) had the standard silver zandstra guards, while the new Maple skates would have blue and silver guards. However, this summer I bought a new short track setup and I was short a pair of hard guards, which required me to get another set. And this is where my story begins…

Now before someone starts fretting about leaving my blades in the hard guards. I have a set of soft guards for every setup, and they are never stored in hard guards. Continuing on…

This fall, D got a new setup (she too got the Maple SL800-BFT/blizzard) and we began talking about skate guards. Especially seeing that she was not replacing a pair of skates, but rather adding to her collection. This slowly became a several hour discussion about what colors to choose for skate guards. And you’d think that with 30 choices that it would not take long to make a decision, especially when you get to pick three colors (yeah for long blades). Was I wrong, since I am a bit of a geek when it comes statistics, math doesn’t follow very far behind and the following will show why I was horribly wrong.

Now, the most simplest way of calculating how difficult this choice was, would be to say that order is important and repetition is allowed, where n is the types to choose from and r is the number chosen. Then it would be n^r, or (30^3 = 27,000). Yes, theoretically there are 27,000 possible combinations. Now if we say that we must have different colors, so there is no repetition but we still care about the order, then we have 24,360 options. Yet, only when we don’t care about the order then it drops down to 4,060.

Now I hate all things pink and purple, and putting them near my skates is not an option, so that subtracts 9 choices right there.Which drops 27,000 choices down to 9,261 choices. Or 24,360 choices to 7,980. Finally 4,060 becomes a manageable <yeah right> 1,330.

D and I’s trying, revising, reselecting went on for several hours. It wasn’t until I perked up and said, “It is all about personality.” Did it make sense? Yes, as we did finally make a decision, and it was based on our personality. I chose red-white-green, as I love Italian food. While D chose green-black-gold as to show her love for Guinness.

One final note, if I was a figure skater, I think it would be easy when it comes to blade guards: Costume is red, buy the red guards or red glitter guards. Bonus points only come if your costume is white then you get two pairs in order to not dirty the white pair before the competition season. Don’t worry mom’s of figure skaters I am convinced it is not that way at all. Yet if your child only likes pink and purple, you only need to sort through 81 possible choices, and you do not even need to throw the third guard into the mix.


The lure of speed skating.

January 24, 2011

This past weekend I skated in my first official skate meet that did not include the word “marathon” in the title. I was really looking forward to the event even though I knew I would not be the fastest or anywhere near the fastest in my age group. The weekend was full of skating, cheering on my children, and cheering for the other skaters both young and master that I am getting to know. The great news was the weekend’s event was just as much fun as I imagined it to be.

The skaters at the event were as young as nine and as old as 70 something all there for a different reason.  Some skaters are training hard with the hope of being an Olympian some day while others just want to win a race in their age group.  I was there as a recreational skater who happens to race one in awhile.  I skate to improve but I do not train, so my goal was to improve on my previous times and I did just that in four out of the five races.

I have spent the last two weekends at skating races I realized that the sport of speed skating loves all the skaters no matter their reason for skating. I was by far the slowest in my age group and there was a large gap between me and the skater ahead of me.  That did not matter as the other skaters and the timers they just shouted encouraging words.  This makes speed skating such a luring sport.  Fresh air, exercise, and wonderful people who give you support and guidance.  I will be enjoying my time on the ice for a long time and I hope one day I too will skate as a Master 70+, maybe even 80+ if I am lucky.

Over 30 and Willing to Wear Spandex

January 23, 2011

Bottom Row (L-R)- Carole, Kathie, Melissa, Suzy, Dorothy; Top Row (L-R) Jacki, Lisa, Silvia; Not Pictured Jan

If there was one thing I was looking forward to this weekend was the fact that I was now able to join the ranks of Master Ladies. In fact, I was so excited last May to be turning 30 that when I was looking through my emails I found an email from Silvia a few weeks before my birthday saying, “Ha!  You don’t often hear women be excited to grow older!” But at that point there was some grandeur illusion of excitement to become a part of Master Ladies and now I know why.

Speedskating has a great secret, the support from the other skaters and coaches far outweighs the really bad day on the ice. When I returned to speedskating a little more than three years ago and skated in my first US Marathon Championships, I was in dead last.  All I wanted to do was take my skates and shove them back in the closet, throw my hands up, and claim I was finished; but the fact that Chantal stood there and waited for me to finish made me rethink that proposition.

Rethinking that proposition was a really good idea. I will admit, I am the most technically imperfect skater out there. But in the past three years I have found this deep respect for those who speedskate; for those who are willing and daring to try something that requires technical perfection, stick their butts out, deal with aching backs, sore thighs, and most of all wear a spandex skin suit. It makes any time a weekend of speedskating is part of the agenda, an adventure.

To say the 2011 Age-Class Nationals were not an adventure would be an understatement. I do not know about the others, but my adventure started on Tuesday when walking through Target, I slipped and fell- hitting my butt, back and head. New boots and blades arrived on Thursday, leaving me to break them in as the temperature fell in to the negatives. Friday was too cold to do nothing more than figure out the packing challenge that lied ahead. Then being greeted both Saturday and Sunday morning with subzero temperatures and the question of, “why do I do this?” It was time to skate and the fact that I got to skate with two women who made the list of the 30 most inspiring people I knew, the lady who put my national championship medal around my neck last year, one who did an extra lap at the marathon to bring my water bottle after she had finished, and four other women who I got to know more this weekend.

So what makes these ladies so awesome? Each of these ladies has a story and their stories are incredible, from coming from a family of skaters to seeking out a dream. They can tell you why they got into speedskating, who inspires them, and what their feeling is about wearing a spandex skin suit. They support everybody- even if they are a competitor, they also support the men and the future of the sport.

If you ever have a chance to sit in the heat box with any of these ladies you will be well taken care of; they will make sure your boot bolts are tight, you have your bib, and will inspire you to do your absolute best.

Finally, as we were laughing and taking the above picture, I thought about the quote from Miss Congeniality (with a few modifications):

I realized that these women are smart, terrific people who are trying to make a difference in the world. And we’ve become really good friends. I mean, I know we all secretly hope the other one will forget their bib and get disqualified… but oh wait a minute, I’ve already done that!

So to the other eight women who fell into the “Over 30 and Willing to Wear Spandex” category. Thanks for a fabulous weekend, it was great fun.

Welcome to the Frozen Tundra: An Update

January 21, 2011

The season started a while ago but like most adults, professional lives tend to get in the way. Mine, has gotten in the way as of late and I am not sure how I have found time to skate but I have.

This weekend is the US National Pack Style Championships- D and I have planned to race along with D’s two kids A and B. I will try to take some pictures and post them on Sunday evening after the races.

In the meantime, the US National Marathon in Bemidji has been cancelled, this is a bummer seeing that this is the one race that I look forward to each year. A 500 does not thrill me, since I am not a sprinter by any means. So instead of heading to Bemidji, D and I will be traveling to Vermont for the North American Championships. I am very excited to be traveling for this race and look forward to seeing many of my marathoner friends.

Sorry this post is so short, I am trying to get ready for Pack Nationals this weekend and since Minnesota will be greeting us with its bitter cold- I am seeing a major packing challenge in my future.

Untying My Skates

April 5, 2010

This was a draft written the first week of March, that was never published until now.

Well, the season is now officially over. While I was sad to take off my ice blades and put them into storage for the next eight months, there was a sense of relief. I washed and packed the cold gear into the hamper and ushered in the capris and polos for spring. I have yet to remove my bike from the indoor trainer but I have been on my wheels and skating at the Metrodome. And soon I will be screaming for the Twins at Target Field.

While, it has been a successful season, first with the win of the Senior Women’s National Long Track Title and then following it up with my third Senior National Marathon title. Skating a personal best in the 25k and then actually finishing the 50k. I have decided that I will thus refrain from reflecting on the bad back, knee, achilles tendon or hip as I have concluded that those all come with age. In retrospect, it truly has been a season of good fortune and a good way to end my twelve years in the Senior ranks.

It has also been a season of good friends, both new and old. It has been a season where I found other speedskating bloggers and we got new readers. It was the season where I learned the definition of my best from the absolutely lovely Silvia Acevedo when my sprinting career I really thought was disastrous. A season where I still did not beat D, maybe next year but for Chantal a year that she got to hear, “National Champion from the Pioneer Speedskating Club.”

While the season started with unseasonably warm weather and the first few days skating were a bit odd as I had no long underwear on or a hat for that matter. It soon progressed to cold and then we got snow and lots of it. Erik and I made several trips to Bemdiji, the day long jaunts. However we spent a lot of time, when I spent my week vacation in Bemidji. It was there that realized why I had returned to speedskating and why Bemidji had meant so much to me. For one week it was just me and my foe, and me telling myself over and over again, that yes I could skate a 50k. I also got to learn how to drive an Olympia Ice Resurfacer/Zamboni and watched my husband (Erik) drive a bobcat.

I finished the 50k and cried some of the happiest tears that I had cried in the longest time. There was a sweet reward the hug from the other social racers and the reward of seeing a picture of me and Erik as he kept saying, “You did it!”

Addendum: Maybe I didn’t pack the skates away well enough. Maybe the wheels weren’t suppose to stay on. Because no where in my plans did I think I would take a detour off my wheels. When I heard Erik say, “Lisa, how badly do you want to skate again?” When I said, “I want to skate again.” He said, “Good, we will drive to Milwaukee and you can skate at the Petit when we head to Michigan.”

Now I am one who has never skated inside and I was speechless. For someone who is rarely at a loss for words. I was lost. I kept stammering. And to make the even better, I was the only one on the oval for the longest time. It was just me and the ice. So quiet and peaceful. And somehow I felt that I had closed out the season the way I wanted to. As I grabbed the camera, I snapped a picture of the finish line- while this year my race finishes were a range of emotions (elation, tears, pain, and fear), I concluded this was the finish line that I could say, “Kid, you’ve done well… Congratulations, you can untie those skates.”

So with all of that… Masters here I come- bad technique and all!

A great skating weekend!

February 23, 2010

On Friday A, B and I drove to Bemidji with a plan in mind.  We were going to each skate one race, enjoy the pool and hot tub at the hotel, and have a great time.

While checking in on Friday evening we talked to Chantal and greeted the other skaters as they arrived.  It was here that we met Ann from Peoria.  I was impressed with Ann from the get go.  She traveled alone and planned to skate both races alone because her daughter was unable to join her.  I have to admit that Ann motivated me to skate the 50K and we never even talked about it.  As you know I planned to skate the 25K and then cheer L on as she reached her goal of finishing the 50K.

On Saturday as I skated the 25K alone I paid attention to the other skaters on the ice.  Jim invited me to join his pack but I could not catch up.  I watched as they skated off and that is when I realized Norm was leading his son, how cool. I decided then that when A and B decide to skate this race I will do the same for them; set aside my personal goal to ensure they finish.  I finished the race just over 13 minutes faster than I skated it last year and was very pleased.  So with the race completed off we went to have lunch, a Guinness and fish and chips.  Happy relaxed and ready to end my season on a high note, I began to think more seriously about skating the 50K.

After lunch we returned to the lake for A and B’s races.  I helped them get their skates on and they did a few practice laps.  When it was time for the 9 and 10 year olds to line up at the starting line, B skated to the line, got into position and waited for the call.  Off he went and 1K later he crossed the finish line first in his heat earning himself a gold metal.  Next up was the 11 and 12 year olds.  Now A skated to the line, got herself into a beautiful starting position and waited for the call.  Off she went and as she finished the first turn she had a commanding lead.  The distance between her and skater number two grew on the back stretch and she finished first in her heat earning a gold.  I was a proud mom!

Later that day in the hot tub, I was talking to my children about skating the 50K.  They both told me in their own words that I should skate the race as I would be proud of myself for finishing something I did not think I could accomplish.  So how could a mom who had encouraged her children with the same logic not skate the race?  So that night I signed up and made a pack with L that we would do it together.

At 9:00 am on Sunday morning I was on the starting line.  By then L and I had included Norm and Ann in our pack to do this together.  Almost 3 hours later we had done it.  First Norm crossed the line and then he skated up to Ann and helped her finish.  I crossed the finish line 1/3 of a lap behind Norm, stopped to have a doughnut, got up and skated 5 more laps to help L finish.  What a great accomplishment for all of us.

It was a fantastic weekend!  The weather was perfect, the ice was out of this world and the other skaters were great. The 2009-10 skating season is a week from being over.  It was a terrific year and that means next season will be even better.

Taking You Home

February 22, 2010

Last year, I was going to do them both. I was going to be the senior national champion in the 25k and the 50k. I had never gotten a Did Not Finish (DNF) in my life, I had been lapped twice in a two mile race but I still finished. So I figured I could finish the 50k after skating the 25k. Then reality set in and somewhere in the middle of my 50k race; I was done, in tears, and had earned my first DNF. And for the past year I have kicked myself every time I saw the 50k results and there was my name with that DNF. I called it my ‘big fat DNF‘ and I was not going to have one at the 2010 marathon. I was going to finish that *&^%# race.

See there is something truly magical in US Speedskating when it comes to the marathon. Last year I was in so much pain during my 25k and didn’t think I would even finish that race, I had another skater who had finished offer to break wind and work with me during my last two laps. I never forgot the graciousness of that skater. This year, I realized that to finish any of these marathons, put your time aside and work as a team. See during the 25k I watched a father break the wind for his son and another skater break the wind for one of his skaters, to go a few more laps and get his other skater finished. During my 25k I took it easy but still skated a PB. As I was skating I heard Dan say, “jump in our line” and then a few laps later Norm saying, “skate with us.” And for my last 8-10 laps, I skated with Norm who was breaking wind for his 14 year old son.

I ended up skating a PB in the marathon. Still off of my ultimate dream of breaking the sub-hour mark. Which seems to be a goal of many skaters, maybe next year. But this year I wanted to finish the 50k. I had priorities, so killing myself to skate a sub hour marathon and then skate the 50k was completely out of the question. And more shocking was to look up and see Dan capture the moment. It is one of my most favorite pictures. He called it ‘Lisa heading home.’

After the race on Saturday, Norm came up to me and asked me how badly I wanted to finish the 50k. I told him that I wanted to finish the 50k more than anything after the experience last year. So he admitted that he was thinking about skating the 50k, then D said she would skate it as well, and Ann- well she traveled for the race so she was going to do the 50k too. And all of a sudden we had a little pact. The rule, everyone will start together and everyone will finish. People who had done the 25/50 dual gave us tips and tricks to succeed, including telling us that at 40k we would feel like we were going to die.

So during the banquet we nicknamed ourselves the ‘Social Skater’ crew. We were going to skate this 50k and we were going to succeed. It no longer became, I am going to finish the 50k, my job was to make sure that D, Norm and Ann finished as well. One of my favorite memories of the race was when we were coming down the back straightaway Norm’s son and Chantal’s son greeted us with, “Go Social Skaters!” We had a good laugh but back to work.

After a while D and Norm did a bit faster of a lap to stretch out their legs. I couldn’t blame them, they obviously had more energy than I did. So Ann and I kept skating together. After a few laps Norm and Dorothy caught up with us and we began skating together again. Then Ann took a bad crash. But this woman was a fighter and she got up, she was finishing this race too but she had fallen off our line. Each time I would cross the finish line area I would say, “We are going to finish this race!” And those at the finish line would say, “Yes, you are.”

Around lap 30 we had gotten separated (my boot became untied) and I had not a smidgin of energy left to try to race and catch up with D and Norm again. Instead, I was greeted with four little angels. Norm’s son offered to break wind for me, Chantal’s little girl (who I nicknamed Short Stuff) kept saying, “My mom is not out here so I am the coach now, get down low and skate.”, B and another Bemidji skater G. Skated a few laps with me. Actually it was probably more like 12 laps but they were the best little support crew. I wanted to quit but I kept hearing, no we are doing this together and we are going to finish together.

Around my lap 45, Norm (who had all ready finished) skated up to me with Ann in tow and said, “D is going to finish you. Remember we made this pact and we are sticking together.” When I crossed the finish line area D skated up to me and said, “Let’s get you finished. Remember we said we are going to all finish.” During my last 4 laps, D kept asking me questions non-related to skating, including “What was your favorite part of the Spy Museum?” Anything to get my mind off of my skating and the pain I was experiencing. I was delusional as I was skating that I asked for a doughnut on lap 48 and then as I finished I bursted into tears of complete joy.

But that pact we made, all four of us had finished, we had stuck together at the starting line and skated each of us home. It was by far the sweetest feeling.

If you are curious about the power of working together. My husband picked up speedskating about six weeks ago, to skate the 2k community race after the 25k. When he looked like he was struggling- A, B, and Short Stuff headed down the oval to ‘skate him in’. I snapped this picture and it is by far one of my favorite pictures of this weekend.

Race Results

February 21, 2010

It is Sunday and I am home tired but happy.  Tonight’s post will be the results from the weekend and in the next few days I should have the energy to blog about the great weekend.

Saturday 25K:  D skated a personal best and earned a silver in her age group.  L skated a race that would leave her the energy to skate the 50K on Sunday but also did a personal best and earning bronze.

Saturday 1K: Both A and B earned gold metals as they came in first in their heat and also first in their age groups.

Sunday 50K: I decided to give this race a try.  The day was calm and with the encouragement of A and B, I decided to give it a try.  L and I made a pack to see each other through to the end.  We also included Ann from Peoria and Norm from Bemidji into the pack to ensure all four of us finished.  The support lasted from the starting gun to the last lap skated today.  We all finished and all four of us earned a metal!

It is race day!

February 20, 2010

We are all in the lobby eating breakfast and checking out the competition.  In about 1.5 hours we will leave for the oval take a quick warm up lap or two and then the race will begin.

Some of the skaters were on the lake last night and said the ice is beautiful.

Our blog will be updated with race results later today.

This Is Why…

February 18, 2010

Erik and I went to Bemidji a week early this year. We did it because both of us needed a bit of a stress reliever and we thought it would be fun to do a mid-winter vacation. The last mid-winter vacation we took was to Norway/Sweden in 2004, so this little trip was overdue to say the least. I additionally, wanted to be relaxed before the marathon.

This year we also wanted to help out the Cermak’s who put on the National Marathon over the past three years.  Chantal does most of the race organization, with the help of Carolyn, and Dave does most of the work on the ice, with the help of Carolyn’s husband Norm. This year we figured we could help take some of the load.

This week has absolutely flown by. For some reason Tuesday and Wednesday have blended together, and Thursday just flew by as well. Although over the past week we have done some cool things. First, Dave taught me how to drive Big Oly (the Zamboni). This was one of my life’s big wishes was to drive the Zamboni but who knew I would drive it on the track for the National Marathon- no worries competitors we are going to have Dave actually do the final swoops and it will be absolutely pristine. Erik also got to play with a man’s toy- the bobcat to remove snow along the rinks that will be used for Pond Hockey.

Today, however, I figured out really why I had returned to Bemidji, that nagging question that had been bugging me for quite some time. On Wednesday night, Chantal, Dave, their kids, Erik and I all had dinner together, we laughed and laughed some more. In fact, I had not laughed that hard in a long time. Including the dryland training at midnight.

Today as Chantal and I were talking to the local news media, he asked us to skate. Now being paired up with a former Olympian was a bit of a disadvantage but I survived. Well, that was until I hit a crack smacked down on the ice and slid into the cameraman- I did not try to kiss him even if Chantal claims that I did. Although, as I peeled myself up and realized I had banged up my left knee good and was done skating for the day. I went and wobbled on my skates downtrack to where my husband and Dave were surveying the track to try the shot again. What surprised me was the care and concern of the smacking of my knee from not only my husband but the concern from Dave as well. So tonight when I watched the news report, I was a bit frustrated with the story but someone I am incredibly proud to call my coach, calmed me down and taught me a lesson and told me to stop kissing the camera man.

That is why I have returned- for the laughter, the friends, and skating.