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Zen and the Art of Speedskating

Shadow


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a nice reflection during one of my 500m races during the 1st USA Masters Single Distance Championships.

I like this photo. Steve Penland took the original. It’s just how life feels now. A snapshot, reflection. Stuff is going on.

Need… Sleep..

40


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I turned 40 at 1:05pm today—

So much is made of age, on all sides of the statement spectrum- Age is all in your head, it’s a state of mind, you are how old you think you are::::::

But your body tells you in so many ways that you are not 25 anymore. There are pure facts, as visible as your aging face, that no amount of positive thinking can drive away.

The mirror is still a shock at times. The mental image of self & the physical reality skew and do not cohere. I hate how my face wrinkles when I smile.

40… meh…

Speedskating is the best of sports, and the cruelest of sports. It lifts you up like nothing else on the best days, and it also breaks your heart over and over and over.

I was pretty freaked out this summer about 40. Such a big number— however this past weekend of racing my 8th US Speedskating nationals has answered my existential crisis.

I threw down my fastest 500m in 3 years. It felt fantastic.

I am younger in body and soul after what the electronic eye said. Who cares where I finished, I was faster vs me. Maybe this is the gift of skating. Not even in the results, but the path of health to get there.

This blog is quiet now, between fatherhood and a job I love, + trying to train + my organizational work with races + US Speedskating + masters stuff in the USA, + IMSSC international stuff, I have no time. None. Zero.

I call this “microwaving the midnight oil candle at both ends”.

This post was started in the dark, at 6:15am, before my wife was awake. And this year at nationals, I just couldn’t bear to take pictures & shoot video like I have done for 5 seasons in a row. There would be no time to do anything with them.

I miss it. Miss these moments of taking a deep breath, and looking with words, as surely as Tom DiNardo, Jerry Search, and Richard Gregerson look with the pictures visible in this post (thanks guys!!!)

Last backstretch of a 1000m race visible here. major ouch.. But technically, nose, knee, toe, and the body properly over the push. I had a major “wardrobe malfunction” in this race with my skinsuit zipper, but skated a very fast time.

I would rather have these clarifying moments in life, where pain becomes that focused smile, than ruminate about it.

Someone asked me a while ago, “dang Andrew, how old are you?” and I replied without thinking, “I’m younger than I was in June”.

It took me a while to figure out what the heck I had just said.

I think that getting in better shape, & training for goals, makes a fella younger, puts that spring in the step. Is is hard? heck yeah…

But immobile couch-suck-TV-squashy depression becomes so much harder…

And I have gotten younger and younger, happier and happier, as this year has gone on. Do I respect being 40? yup. But I also want to rock, and still know where the amp & guitar is.

Thanks Speedskating, maybe this is the lesson, right here. Today. 40

(gotta run, am skating 40 laps with friends tonight!)

Building


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Days pile up, hours, tasks, blocks that fit or don’t fit and the whole ediface is wonderful, teetering.

my amazing child is doing what kids do at two years old.

It’s a stunning, jaw dropping thing to watch a brain connect & see all the lights go on, one by one, day by day.

The dazzling little soul RZ has always been since her first breath, coming more and more into focus & clarity each day.

RZ’s first 3 word sentence was “daddy messy hair”, then “daddy race bikes”. Vocabulary like legos. Click.

So many things happening.. mostly good things. Job & family.. this blog is still left behind. A blog requires quiet, and moments to write.

It’s 11:23pm right now. I’m so tired… Skating again, the fittest I’ve been since RZ was born. It’s nice to focus on the dumb pain of skating fast in a circle after overusing my sodden brain all day.

But there is no time to press all the legos together properly. Things are pretty, fulfilling, but built in haste. I’m going to race masters sprint worlds this year again. Berlin.. Germany..

Might actally be fast if I can hold the lego tower together.

clothespins


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She usually pulls out hair elastics & barrettes, but somehow on this day, clothespins were the coolest thing ever.

She is giving me that look that says “I know I’m making daddy laugh, I’m your smart & craftly kid, you are wrapped around my little finger!”

So much happening, so much to see, to notice. It overwhelmed an adult, but a kid sucks in all in, learns, and becomes-

Becomes something amazing, something wholly apart from the parents. A picture more and more in focus each day. I am a fairly secular guy, but know of no word other than “miracle” to capture this.

Caption This #3


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Fresh on the heels of my previous “Caption this” post, here is another; Images that just beg for the creativity of you, yes YOU, to add description to-

Picture #1

Picture #2

Picture #3

BikeOrchestra


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Yaknow this song. Pick up your instrument!

Startin easy, noodling the notes & getting in tune with heart & breathing… Finding well practiced frets in your muscles & joints.

Carbon fiber shiny aluminum glinting across tuned strings of men-

beginning to thrumm out through stanzas of road, measures of climbs, bass clef of earth, treble clef of sun.

Packa hungry cyclists finding its inner band, it’s cohesion, swing band, jazz band, Rock! Symphony of this right now.

Big gears turning windsound earfuls of noise.

Best instrument? The human heart drum drum drum endless big mallet Taiko grim faced drummer your life in that thunking speaking hollow bell ker-pow-pow-boom!

Music hiss tires and the speed builds, shadows & legs moving sync piano run of the peloton, fingers on gearshift levers / flute keys french horn Allez! Allez! Allez!.

Tires in the pack clustered arpeggios of movement. Echelons of notes, drive that gear & don’t drop the tempo!

Sheet music of asphalt, relentless rippled grey pages.

Graceful arcs of carbon, double-note outlines of muscle, chain and cable in tune, geartooth songtooth muscledrum.

Roar of blood barely contained by arteries saxophone wide open.

All lined out in hardsong, world dissolves to that one tire waving in tunnel vision of crescendo,

15 cog, 14, clack, 13! Whirr, 12 wirrr— 11??? what are you made of? Can you really play?

The one trumpet, vibrato velocity, as the music moves & you move, chasing & leading.

Willpower– there is the microphone and so pull through. So sing! Sing! ya bike rider with every note in your body! sing! roadsong is the bestsong,

Sing! that one long uptempo vowel of cyclesong…


Thanks Glen-Josh-Samuel-Brett-Brent-Rick for playing in the band/ride today. It was awesome.

Caption This #2


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Some images just beg for words to be added to them, to explain what “is really is going on”: The first picture has to do with speedskating, the rest are just odd, I will leave suggestive captions up to your collected good minds:

Please leave your creative caption in the comments-

Picture #1

Picture #2

Picture #3

and you can see Caption This #1 here

Reach in. Have a drink. Stay.


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A picture I took with a camera that was handed to me; at a party celebrating a friends 10th wedding anniversary.

Fresh pressed tablecloth, the cluster of candles & flow of light. Wine as crisp and red and flavorful as the picture suggests.

Intersections; angles of seams pressed in cloth.

Reach in. Have a drink. Stay.

The two women off camera right, one of them was the owner of that glass of wine (nothing here is staged).

They were in their late 30’s / early 40’s. Educated, probably professionals of some type, or married to professionals.

Moms for sure. But able to still dress up & be mistaken for younger, unless you listen to their voices.

You can hear maturity as surely as you can feel an elevator shoot you helplessly upwards through a high-rise. 21st floor, 30th floor, 40th floor… Ding…. welcome to right now.

But yes, back to the wine.

When I was handed the camera, I felt awake again in a strange way. I kept firing off pictures in hopelessly low light conditions.

The pictures/pixels were unimportant, but looking at things somehow mattered again. Listening mattered. The conversation & the crowd on the dance floor- mattered.

I’ve never written a goodbye post here, even as other responsibilities have crushed/overwhelmed the time I used to spend blogging.

Overwhelmed by tiredness, overwhelmed by work/dad/life- sleep was all that mattered. But RZ has been sleeping though the night for the past month.

and I think I might be waking up again.

Greening


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A little over a year ago, I was out mountain biking with my friend Zane, and we rode some trails where wildfires had charred the mountainside.

Groves of skeletal trees, ash stains imprinted on the ground, wildflowers beginning to push into view among the devastation.

That day, I was sleep deprived by my 6 month old, riding poorly, feeling weak & fat, and through exhaustion & trying to keep up with a ‘ragin Zane, those charred trees felt like they were speaking:


“this was your life, you are nothing more than crumbling ashes, but look at all these blooming flowers, this is new life”.

I wrote about this then, but never published it, I was too “new-parent-overwhelmed-syndrome” on that day, and too depressed to blog what I was feeling.

But this past Sunday, I went back to those same trails with another friend, local mountain biking cat 1/semi-pro Kevin Wilde.

Wow can he ever big-ring steep dirt climbs. Amazing.

Kevin also has a little baby at home, and we talked in depth about our experiences as our mountain bikes zipped & danced through the singletrack.

We agreed it’s pretty much impossible to systematically train when you have a little kid.

Impossible for me, as a speedskater, to consistently train all the complex “pieces” of the skate-training puzzle. Impossible for Kevin to regularly complete 3.5-4 hour epic training rides, so he can big-ring climbs at the end of 3 hour mountain bike races.

But we still love getting out, as much as ever, even though we are slower than we once were.

Our wives understand this about us, & actually kick us out of the house every now and then, precisely because we are committed fathers.

And on this day, keeping up with Kevin, my former life is truly crumbled and gone, I almost don’t see those blackened tree trunks anymore, ashy groundstains swallowed into the landscape of dim memory.

But what do I see? Something so much more beautiful. Flowering. So alive.

My little girl… There are far more ways for a man to measure himself than the fruits of being hyper-competitive. I get that now.

RZ you are always my teacher, thank you.

Richmond- Board


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A live picture from a freezing room at the Holton in Richmond, VA, full of people incredibly passionate about a frozen sport-

John Dimon was always fond of saying:


“The way people act, speedskating is not life or death, it’s FAR more important.”

You see that a lot at this meeting. All level of the organization engage fully. The folks who really run the nuts and bolts of every level of Speedskating, so many are here.

And it’s all about the athletes yaknow. From Juniors to Seniors, Olympians, Masters, First timers. How can we improve that experience stepping onto the ice. From a first time kid to an Olympic games moment. The organization has an impact.

I’m rooming with Travis Jayner, and here is his Olympic bronze medal, in his hands.

It’s a wild item. The design of each one is completely unique, like the journey of each athlete who has earned one. It’s really, really heavy.

Travis said that at one of Jordan Malone’s webcast events- some fans were asking him “show us your medal”, and when Jordan pulled out his own relay medal. Travis just got chills looking at it, even though he also has one.

I’ve written before from board meetings; an incredibly hard event to capture in words. It’s my 4th, but my first one as a board member.

When I picked this up at the registration table-

it gave me chills too. Not because it’s an award. But because it’s an ethical responsibility. A seal of trust. A pragmatic responsibility.

At what moment does an outsider become an insider? Maybe that dialectic is the wrong one; there are multiple sides, a dodecahedron to each moment.

Many surfaces to stand, I’m watching, finding my footing one this new surface- stay tuned.