Monthly Archives: April 2010

Speed Weenie

I’m a freakin’ self-fulfilling prophecy. I knew there was a different path, but I stubbornly refused to skate it. Where I’m from, any extra-curricular activity called “turn & burn” would have probably raised an eyebrow or two and landed me in rehab. It even sounds addictive, and probably not something I should have ever tried – not once. After all, I’d seen the type skulking around the rink and in packs at inline skate marathons. I didn’t want to be one of “them” – those skin suit freaks that do nothing but talk about, think about and post crap on the internet about speed skating. I knew I had the potential of becoming “the thing that should not be” but, alas this self-knowledge availed me nothing. I was an outdoor skater who wanted more in the off-season. A way to keep the buzz going. So I went to the rink. And what happened? In classic Frankie Machine style I thought I could control it. It’s clear I could not. One lap was too many and one-hundred would never be enough. Yes, I’ve become a Speed Weenie.

The Oscar Meyer sponsorship was the last straw for John, a staunch vegetarian.

Yes, I refer to myself as an inline speed skater, a label usually reserved for indoor or oval track skaters. To me, that spells Speed Weenie. My weenieness doesn’t end with a label or venue preference though. Another dimension has emerged as I continue to learn and grow in the sport, and it’s anything but “manly.” It’s borderline whimpiness, and for a New Jersey native, that crap jus’ don’t cut it. As someone who trades in the currency of fear that my home state carries with it, I’m not allowed to let my guard down – not for a f$%*&ng minute. Because it’s true, anyone who’s driven over the Verrazano Narrows is connected to the mafia.

"You wanna piece a dis pace line pal?"

Anyways [sic] we’ve got a few skaters at our Sunday speed practice who’ve been at the top of the game. Tough guys. Their skills and accomplishments are intimidating. I really enjoy skating wit deesguys, but when the speeds get high and the passes get nutz, I back off. Fuggetaboudit. I don’t engage. I hang at the back of the pack and watch, thinking I’m pretty smart to stay out of the fray. What I really am is a freakin’ wussy. My mob name should be Big Wussy. I have a fear of passing competent skaters, of inflicting a skate-bite that’ll whack me and the rest of the line off in one ill-conceived move.

Maybe I could be forgiven if that’s the only thing I was afraid of, but I got a big friggin’ mouth. Talk, talk, talk it up! My mouth moves faster than Mantia & Cheek combined – miles a f*&*%in’ minute. It was HorseyPants that called me on it, tellin’ me I was almost obsessively talking about “being scared” – scared to fight it out off a tight line; scared to make a full-on run at the first cone;  scared to set up and attempt a power pass in a race situation; scared of slipping across the floor in the turns.  Essentially she said I was being a bad example and that I need to just shut the f*#k up and skate.

In the interest of full disclosure, not to mention an overwhelming sense of pure defensiveness, it would be easy to  say that I was making a point of telling the little kids in the group that yes, it’s scary even for a grown skin suit weenie like me to be on the floor going fast with these other skaters. What I was talking about was how sometimes it’s hard to face that fear and stay in there, but that it’s the only way to grow and that’s why I stick it out, even if I don’t win or finish at the front of the pack. Lofty ideals yes, but f&%$*ng bu)(*$#!t nonetheless. HorseyPants don’t let me get away with dis stuff. She don’t buy it. She says I’m punkin’ out. She’s right.

What I’m really doing is making excuses for not skating up to my potential. I’m being f@#$%ng lazy. In the words of one of ‘da boys I’m talkin’ ’bout, I’m setting myself up to lose, every f!@#$ng time. I’m too worried about what the f#$k the other guy is gonna do, and by doin’ dat, I keep myself behind them. I let the race get away. Cause it’s not like I can’t keep up, I gots duh endurance for that. It’s that I let them get away cause I flake on the effort, and I’m holding myself back. It’s a shrink-a-logical set-up. A head fake that I’m on the losin’ end of. HorseyPants also thinks it’s a weak display and likens the behavior to our dog rolling over when I’m exerting the alpha male role at home. It was that image that struck a chord and woke my sorry butt up.

From now on, I’m gonna fight the urge to “be safe.” I’m not talkin’ ’bout bein’ a stugots or somethin’ like dat. I’m talkin’ ’bout taking a well thought out opportunity to pass when I can, sprint when I have to, and hold on for dear life when they race to the finish. Cause while I’ll never give up point-to-point thrills on the marathon trail, inside it’s all about going fast and turning left, and not ending up in a ditch somewhere in the Meadowlands when the hawks are at the line.

4/16/10 Training: Super-secret new training regimen started today. OMG…OMG.

4/17/10 Training: Did a 10k in the hood to get the legs moving. The new workout effects are almost devastating. Won’t be posting this 10k time out at SkateLog any time soon.

4/18/10 Training: Rink Rabbits to start the day, then kicked butt at indoor practice. Missed the sprint because I didn’t hear it was 30 laps then sprint 3. Held on longer than I ever have.

4/19/10 Training: 22 miles in the wind. Ticked off a couple of cyclists, especially one who asked for a 1/4 mile head start at the turn-around point. He got the downhill with a tail wind and I let him keep his lead till the next uphill…heh heh heh, or as they say in Japan – sayonara suka! He was not pleased…

4/20/10 Training: Super-secret workout followed by racing with the Rinky-Dinky-Doo’s, or Rink Rabbits as it were. Love this stuff! One of the kids tried out speed skates for the first time today. The kid’s a natural. Very talented. The rest are getting so fast I don’t quite know what to do with them next.

4/21/10 Training: Mandatory day off due to new workout schedule. Not sure I like this part. Makes me feel like this guy.

4/22/10 Training: Super-secret workout, making progress, increasing the exercises. Brutality!

4/23/10 Training: Did a half-hour on the elliptical, level 7. Don’t know how many miles that was, the computer readout is acting up.

4/24/10 Training: Went to Lionheart’s birthday party at Rollerland and skated for 2 hours for fun. For the two prior years I’ve always skated my first timed marathon distance of the season to coincide with the TX Road Rash. I call it my Symp-a-thon because I never go but the rest of the Speed Weasels usually do. The wind was too fierce to do it today, will look to get this done next weekend.

4/25/10 Training: Rink Rabbits followed by indoor. All racing, no plyos. 1,000, 700, 500, 300, 100m races plus passing drills. At least I didn’t come in last, but I acted like a weenie. Done with that junk. Re-read this post for details. Fuggetaboudit.

4/26/10 Training: 13 skate trail miles at lunch. Beautiful day!

4/27/10 Training: Super-secret workout. It’s intense. Did that for 45 minutes then did practice with the Rink Rabbits. Speedy Weezy took a nasty spill chasing me and bruised his hip. He’s OK but took the day off of school to recover. He’s tough though – skated a 300m after the fall with gusto! That’s my guy!

4/28/10 Training: Mandatory day off. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Good to be a Gangsta

Didn’t get to skate yesterday morning. I’ve had a side-line as an independent marketing consultant for the last 9 years or so and yesterday, tragedy struck. Yesterday morning will now forever be known as Oh Crap Thursday. I was spinning my wheels in full freak-mode. My first employee had left me sometime past midnight in the wee hours of the morning. All that was left behind was a note:

Primary Drive 0 is not found…

I quickly tried to resuscitate my loyal companion, because I could hear a distinct rhythmic clicking, but all I could bring up was this:

NTLDR is missing Press CTRL + Alt + Del to restart

And this is where it was left, in a looping hell of Hard Drive Death. A post out to Facebook confirmed what every computer Geek forum was saying – the drive is kaput! Good bye friend. You’ve served me well. You’ve provided countless hours of service to the company and the family and you will be missed.

Left a nice scratch on the carbon fiber, but it was worth it.

But why did you have to die on TAX DAY!!! You, you, HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!?!?! The fear started to creep in. Hell, there was no creeping, it juked me full on at 35 mph in the space of a moment that only a guy like Apolo Ohno (Oh no, indeed!) could insert himself into, and I slipped to the Darkside.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Up yours Yoda. I’m pissed. That’s when it’s a good time to fall back on old habits and new friends that spend time doing bad things. I called my boys to dispose of the goods and send a message to the other computers that work for me.

And as I quickly pass through the stages of grief, I move to a casual WTF place, because after all, I trust no one and nothing, especially technology products. So at the end of the day, the bastard hard drive lost, because everything that was really important I had saved on two external hard drives.

I can even laugh about it now. But it’s because I found perspective…

Dr. Seuss Explains Why Computers Sometimes Crash

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
and the bus is interrupted at a very last resort,
and the access of the mem’ry makes your floppy disk abort,
then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.
If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,
and the double-clicking icon puts your window in the trash,
and your data is corrupted ’cause the index doesn’t hash,
then your situation’s hopeless and your system’s gonna crash!!
If the label on the cable on the table at your house
says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,
but your packets want to tunnel to another protocol,
that’s repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall,
and your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss,
so your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse;
then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,
‘cuz sure as I’m a poet, the sucker’s gonna hang!
When the copy of your floppy’s getting sloppy in the disk,
and the macro code instructions cause unnecessary risk,
then you’ll have to flash the memory and you’ll want to RAM your ROM.
Quickly turn off the computer and get the hell out of town before IT finds out it’s because you spilled your Starbucks in it.

On the tax thing, I had used Turbo Tax and submitted my forms the night before from the laptop. Could you imagine had I not?! That would have been a HUGE disaster! OMG!!! But as it turns out, the impact was actually minor. Thank God! (We said several prayers of gratitude!) So I was able to get an afternoon skate in after all, which is all I care about anyway. Damn, it feels good to be a Gansta.

4/14/10 Training: Was able to get 10 miles in skating in the hood after work. I was skating along when HorseyPants, Speed Demon and Speedy Weezy pulled up alongside me in the Honda to cheer me on, and race me! It’s fun to hear them say with awe, “We were going 25 and we still couldn’t catch you!”

4/15/10 Training: 12 miles on the skate trail in Loveland at lunch. No wind – I didn’t know what to do with myself! I worked on using my knees to push myself forward. Life is good when you’re working on form.

(How’d I do TASII?)

OY! Burn me eyes out!

I’ve been known to make fun of figure skating, and it’s probably because I can’t do it, shouldn’t ever attempt it and will never be able to do it. I’m just not that coordinated. Plus, let’s face it, if you currently or have ever answered to the name “Dude” and you express interest in watching Evgeny Plushenko or Johnny Weir skate, you might as well bust out the “RELAX” T-shirt, crank up Right Said Fred and get your butt out on the catwalk, yeah, on the catwalk. But with the Winter Games freshly behind us, I’ll admit, some of what I saw was absolutely amazing. 

His choice of Rihanna for accompaniment made his plumber's butt look well planned.

The other day at indoor practice, I was talking with a young girl and her father who are returning to indoor speed after allowing her time off to heal a back injury. For as much time as she’s been off skates the past year, she had great form and was easily placed in the middle of the pack after a few warm-up laps. So was her Dad!  

As it turns out, she was a figure skater. I asked her if she’d ever done it on inlines and she just kind of looked at me like I was nuts. “There’s no toe pick, I don’t know how you’d do it.” 

Here’s how… 

NOTE: Personally HATE, HATE, HATE that song! It’s the first song in DJ OnIt’s playlist and is usually the cue that speed practice is over. Anyway…you’ve got to love YouTube, because once you stumble upon what you’re looking for, a whole different world opens up: 

I remember finding out that USARS had all kinds of information for Roller Figure Skating, but it looks like that’s all Quad skating. I wonder why they’re not promoting Inline Figure Skating. I’ve seen inline figure skates for sale at several places so I know there’s a small market there. But for the limited time I spent tooling around the USARS site, I didn’t see much. Maybe it’s because of their experience with inline speed. They might just be afraid that they’d attract the wrong crowd… 

He was known for his triple-Lutz jump, which he could only do on pavement in speed skates.

Um. Yeah. How do you follow something like that? That’s one fine piece o’ talent. If only I had the time. So it goes… 

4/9/10 Training: 15 miles on the Loveland Skate Trail at lunch. (Don’t Google-Map that, it’s the Loveland Recreation Trail.) Nice windy skate, per the usual. (But the usual is pretty darn good.) 

4/10/10 Training: 16 miles in the hood with an additional 3 led by Speed Demon. She’s thinking it would be fun to go to MN to skate sometime! I can’t wait! 

4/11/10 Training: 1 hour solid with the Rink Rabbits, 2 hours of Adult Indoor Speed Practice, then spent the afternoon skating the Windsor to Greely Trail with the kids. The entire day spent on skates. This is how I roll! Put a set of 76mm wheels on my speed frames for kicks. Ended up pushing Speed Demon on her bike for about 3 miles uphill in the wind on the way back. Sunday evening didn’t happen. Where did it go? 

4/12/10 Training: 12 miles at lunch. The weather was perfect but the idiots were out in force! 

4/13/10 Training: Another “click skate” at Rink Rabbits practice, this time with the Brothers Speed, two brothers that have been speed skating all of 2 months. Venti (the tall one) Speed took off like a shot from every race start, easily winning or coming really close at the cone. The Brothers Speed duked it out in a 300m and it was one of the best races we’ve ever had. Photo finish and no one fell! Huzzah!

When it clicks

If you’ve ever worked with and watched newcomers take to inline speed skating, you’ve hopefully been a part of the magic moment when it all comes together for them. Especially children. I call it their “click skate.” It’s that special day when the skater “graduates” – when their form finds the refinement it needs to take their skating ability to the next level. It’s when they surprise themselves, when their speed gains and efficiency are noticed by everyone at the same time. And it usually begins when I’m not looking… 

In my case it’s been with three kids in particular, 2 of my own and one Mr. Finn (who I’m now calling Lionheart for purposes of this blog.) These are the pay-off days for me, when nothing could make me more proud, and more glad to have spent my time skating with these future champions.

"No Honey, those aren't wristguards, they're Daddy's flippers!" Speed Demon @ 6.

My daughter chose the “skate name” Speed Demon the day she took off, because, well,  she just loves going fast. She’s 9 and my oldest child. She’s one of the reasons I really began skating in the first place. She was four when we started together. We’d spent a few winter weekends at the ice rink, and when the weather finally cleared we thought it’d be a good idea to keep skating so we went to Goodwill and bought a couple of cheap pairs of Rollerblades to give inline a try. We’ve been skating ever since.

She always enjoyed skating and had been going with us to our indoor practices pretty regularly for the past year when she could, but she was never concerned with pushing herself to improve or go faster until earlier this year. She came back from watching her brother Speedy Weezy compete in a speed skating meet in Wichita with a determination to prove to herself, her family and her skate friends that she could do this just as well as those other kids.

It was pretty much in the two weeks back from the meet that she began practicing her crossover technique in earnest. She’s been a decent straightaway skater, but has been afraid of crossover execution and has at times been downright belligerent in her refusal to even try. Acting more as a personal consultant than a coach, I’ve only gently suggested she work on crossovers if she wanted to maintain and build speed. I don’t crack the whip, ’cause at this age, that’s not really necessary.

Giving her the freedom to get there on her own paid off. As soon as she started working on it she sought my help and help from The Fast Kid. It’s important to note that she looks up to The Fast Kid – a positive skating role model and a really good friend. The Fast Kid is kind to new skaters, and always goes out of her way to work with them one-on-one when she sees them struggling. This is a kid who loves the sport and it shows through in her on and off-rink conduct.

The Fast Kid helps her sister Katie-Bug find her form.

Anyway…Speed Demon took the crossover pointers and started applying them gradually over the span of two or three practices. Then it happened…Speed Demon’s click skate:

I was standing on the sidelines talking to some of the other parents when someone said, “Wow, [Speed Demon] has really gotten fast.” I was just about to say something like, “Yeah, she’s coming along at her own pace…” when she came screaming by us and then into the turn…crossing over the whole way and building speed coming out of the chute at the second cone. And she kept going, and going faster, finding her form. She was staying low, setting up the corners, leaning into the turn and crossing over all the way through to a power out and straightaway sprint. The look of surprise on her face said it all. Then the rink started erupting, because by now everyone had noticed what she was doing. “Go, [Speed Demon] Go!” clapping and smiles all around! It was later in that practice that she actually came out ahead in some of the practice races. She was beaming! We didn’t time her, but she was markedly faster than she’d ever been. We couldn’t wait to get home and tell mom!

HorseyPants was excited to see the big change in Speed Demon’s attitude, so she came to the next practice to see what was happening for herself. With Mom there to cheer her on, Speed Demon went even faster and with better form than she had at the previous session. That’s when we timed her. That’s when we saw her 100m rolling start time drop from a personal best of 18.1 to a new low of 14.6! It literally seemed like an overnight growth spurt! Now she’s really driven to get to practices and move back in the paceline. She’s declared that she wants to skate at Regional’s in May, and she’s working hard to do her best.

A Speed Demon in the making.

Of course, with her new-found form comes new-found difficulty with her skates. She’s starting to feel the pressure of the carbon fiber on her inside left ankle bone. She’s been pretty discouraged, to finally be getting it and now have another obstacle to overcome, but as the coach told her, this is because she’s finally doing it right. We’ve worked through and found a comfort solution for her that will relieve the pressure and keep her growing in her form and with the sport. She’s back in form and happier than can be! She even wants to trail skate with me this weekend!

Then there’s our friend Lionheart. This is a kid who had been skating all of maybe 5 or 6 weeks before his first meet, and got out there in front of that big crowd and finished all of his races knowing he was the last guy on the track. He took the experience and turned it inward, using it to make him a stronger and more powerful skater. He’s been micro-focused on building his form and it’s paying off big time.

You won't find a kid more focused than Lionheart.

In Lionheart’s case, we were in warm ups doing the ol’ 3 lap drop back drill. We got to his pull and he shot out further ahead of the line. I was just about to remind him that it wasn’t a race and that he needed to pull it back when he hit the third cone and I saw a different skater. The click skate in effect! He was down low, on his edges, leaning into the turn, crossing over and pulling away! At this point the rest of the line caught up and they maintained a great warmup pace for the rest of his pull. It wasn’t just a fluke, skating next to him for his next two laps, it was obvious that all of his hard work was paying off. You should have seen the look of pride, accomplishment and confidence on his face when I told him that I’d have to move him back in the line at the next practice!

This video shows Lionheart and Speed Demon up front in the line working on their crossovers before we left for Wichita. They’ve come so far, so fast. That choppiness and stutter stepping is G-O-N-E!

When it comes to inline skating, recognition of progress – personal success – in mastering a particular technique breeds the confidence necessary to take a skater to the next level. Next level skating requires you to know in your heart that you can do it – no matter what “it” is. The feeling that when you commit to that turn, that pass, that sprint, that you know what you’re doing and you just get it done. It’s takes courage to improve, no matter what level you’re at. And once you’ve proven to yourself that you can do it, the next level opens, and it’s onward and upward from there. That’s another one of the reason’s I love this sport so much…

4/4/10 Training: 16.5 miles in the neighborhood for Easter morning. Beat it out before the bad weather rolled in, which allowed me to enjoy the wind and the cold as the weather front approached. As I sat sipping a cup of coffee afterward I watched that same front blow through to reveal a perfectly beautiful morning…so it goes.

4/5/10 Training: 12 miles in the wind today. “Sprummer” in Colorado means the bugs are out off the Big Thompson. No need for a protein shake today, ate plenty of bugs to get my 20%!

4/6/10 Training: Rink Rabbit practice today. We’ve been doing a lot of racing on Tuesdays and the kids are loving every minute of it. You can tell they’re all making progress when they can’t lap each other anymore in singles pursuit (Chase the Rabbit!)

4/7/10 Training: That pesky thing called work got in the way of skating today. It’s all good, I happen to like my job.

4/8/10 Training: Worked straight through most of the day from the wheee hours and hit the trail at 4 o’clock. 22 miles on the trail on a perfect Sprummer afternoon. Lot’s of traffic, but still pulled a really good pace!

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from the deranged Easter Bunny!

Pink nightmare of the pace line.

3/28/10 Training: Indoor practice with the Rink Rabbits. Worked on foundational drills.

3/29/10 Training: 12 miles on the trail at lunch. Weather was very cooperative, trail was freshly cleared of debris. Schweetttt!

3/30/10 Training: 12 miles on the trail at lunch. Had to show a lance-wanna-be who’s the boss. !@#$%#^ seemed like he was trying to force me off the trail. Let him in the dust.

3/31/10 Training: Another 12 miles at lunch. Lot’s of traffic on the trail with Spring Break in effect. Not the fastest skate but a good run nonetheless.

4/1/10 Training: Didn’t make it out before the storms came. Did 6.7 miles on the elliptical on level 9 and some new plyo’s I took off YouTube. Brutal!

4/2/10 Training: 16.5 miles in the hood. The wind was coming at me from what seemed like every direction. This was the toughest skate of the year by far. Happy with my time and ability to push through the wind. Hope Duluth isn’t like this in September!

4/3/10 Training: 15 miles in the hood. No wind but man was it cold. Colorado in the winter-to-summer transition! (There is no Spring here.)