22 May 2013

Return of the LIZard!!!

Over the last few posts, I've talked about the races in this, Liz Looby's first full season of competition since her 2010 accident.  Over the winter, she'd been a little discouraged, and wondering whether and when she could eclipse the PB she set in November, and wondered if she can recover enough from the injury to be truly competitive.  The goal had become to get to qualifying time for the Olympic time trials coming this fall.

Objectively, from my perspective, things looked reasonably good:  since switching to the Evo blades, she seemed to me to be able to control the injured leg better in the turns.  The time trials she'd been running at the Oval, from November to mid-February were pretty consistent within a tight band.  Most encouragingly, her 500 time at AmCup III in Roseville had been in that same tight time band, notwithstanding the fact that is was outdoors, at four below zero before wind chill, and at the lower altitude of Minnesota, and raced within a week of her bout with the flu.  I was looking forward to seeing what might be possible at AmCup Finals in March, on her home ice, indoors, in Salt Lake City.  As it turns out, we didn't have to wait that long!

8:30 AM, MST.  Utah Olympic Oval.  500 meter Time Trial.  Starting in the outer lane, three time Olympian Allison Baver.  The same Allison Baver who, when Liz was just starting out, provided the first set of real short track competition blades we'd ever had, which Liz wore in her first Nationals and for a long time after.  Starting in the Inner Lane, Liz Looby.  It's a fast pace.  They are both moving hard, arms engaged....Liz in the inner looks like she is leading into the turn, but its the inner so hard to be sure....switch lanes, around the final curve and coming at the camera, Liz outside, Allison in both pushing hard all the way to the line.....and it is Liz!  42.91, a personal best!  Allison 43.10 a season's best!  And both of them are below the Olympic Time Trial qualifying time!!!!

The start

The curve

The Finish!

I can think of no better confidence booster, no clearer way for Liz to internalize that she can aspire to top level competition again!  We're so proud of her and of how hard she worked to do what no one thought possible.  And there is no better time to thank everyone who helped her from Tom Conley and Ellen Mularkey and others on the ice that day, to the doctors, nutrition experts, chiropractors, acupuncturists, Biomodulator operators, trainers, coaches, friends, teammates,  family members, University of Utah staff and administration who's good will, prayers and friendship have helped her back to this point!  Thank you all!

Late Bloomers and Success the Hard Way

Baseball is the home of many great stories of perseverance one new one went into the books today, May 22, 2013.  Chris Colabello labored for seven long years in the independent league in New England, finally getting a chance to sign with the Twins last year at 28 and play for New Britain in AA ball. 
This season, playing first for the AAA Rochester Red Wings, he was the bright light of our early season, going yard regularly, and batting over .300 (over .400 in May). Last night after midnight on the team bus riding back to Rochester from Allentown, our manager told him, to the cheers of his teammates, that he was going to the majors! 

Chris caught the early plane to Atlanta from Rochester and joined the Minnesota Twins as #55, playing his first major league game at right field! In the same game, relief pitcher Caleb Thielbar, who was called up earlier this week from Rochester pitched to hitless innings against the Braves, before being pulled for a pinch hitter who homered. Thielbar is also a product of the independent leagues, having played for the St. Paul (MN) Saints in 2011. 

Chris' story is almost like "The Natural" without the silver bullet! Good luck up there to both of these guys, who came to success the hard way!

28 January 2013

AmCup III Roseville MN Jan. 19=20, 2013

Liz returned to the ice for her second Am Cup of the Long Track season, this time, alas only about six days out from her two week bout with the flu.  Roseville is a truly beautiful facility, but it IS outdoors and -2 before wind chill is cold!!!   Well the bad news is that the flu did a number on her energy level, and she seemed to run out of gas in her longer race.  The good news is threefold:  while Liz has not done much outdoor Long Track yet (one of the purposed of being in the Jack Shea Sprints in December at Lake Placid) her first 500 was the best she's ever done at that distance outdoors.

The second bit of good news was that while her time did not match her indoor personal best or season's best, it was right on target with her most recent indoor time trial at Salt Lake City, which I think isn't bad given the flu, the cold, and the low altitude.  The third item of good news is that throughout the meet she held her corners very tight and well, and that I attribute to the change of equipment:  adding EVO powdered metal blades.  Finally I want to thank the Schweizer family of Mahtomedi, MN for showing up in force to be Liz' fan club at the meet!  Here (above) are Liz' mom, Jane, with three of the Schweizers:  Mark, Katie and Marin (the others were inside at the moment that I happened to snap a picture).  Thanks for your support!!!!

16 December 2012

Jack Shea Sprints at Lake Placid NY Dec 15-16, 2012

Liz got home from Salt Lake City for the Christmas holiday on Wednesday night, and Thursday we took off for Lake Placid, NY for the Jack Shea Sprints held at the 1980 Olympic Oval on December 15-16, 2012.  The goal was partly to give Liz an outdoor long track competition in advance of next month's AmCup III in Roseville, MN, but in part to give me the chance to skate in a long track competition with her.  We met those two goals and then some!

It was my second Jack Shea Sprints, but my first ever competition on clap skates so the entire weekend was a bit of an experiment.  The last time I'd skated with my short track blades. On the left, a picture Liz took of me at evening practice on the 14th of December.  The skater who looks awkward...that would be me!  The EVO blades were new, having been worn exactly once, at last Saturday's Rochester Speed Skating Team practice at the Genesee Valley Ice Rink in Rochester, NY.

The first day of the meet included picture perfect conditions!  Sunny (sunglasses were advisable), with no significant wind, really smooth ice, and temperatures just below freezing.  The second day was more typical...light snow, colder, with a brisk wind hitting us on the backstretch.

Liz, accustomed to the indoor ice of the Utah Oval and the Pettit Center, was not that thrilled with her performance, but the truth is that she was first in her classification, and her times were better than the last time she'd skating in the Adirondacks!  As for her father, let's just say that a jarring fall in the backstretch on the first race of the meet (a 500 meter sprint) was humbling but did not damage the ice or the concrete beneath.  The other three races may have taken the "speed" out of speedskating, but were a learning experience on the clap skates and a great deal of fun.

I am particularly grateful to fellow skaters and to officials who were nothing if not encouraging every step of the way!  The clap skates felt much more comfortable than short track blades, too.  I think it's safe to say that if race officials let me sign up, I'll be on the long track ice again.  And again.  And hopefully a little better at it!

There is little doubt that a little more training and conditioning would have helped!  The cold air and wind do take their toll!  At the right is a picture taken by Linda Sauza of Lake Placid about 5 seconds after I crossed the finish line in my last race of the meet, on Sunday, Dec. 16th.  It may not look it, but that is the face of a skater looking forward to the next meet!

24 November 2012

Fingers Crossed, Parts I and II

Earlier this month, we returned to Milwaukee and the Pettit Center for the first time since Liz's short track injury there in October 2010.  The reason for the visit was her debut on that ice as a long-tracker.  Whatever demons were in that hall were quickly exorcised, when Liz got a personal best in the 500 meter race on the first day, was raised up in the pairings and got a season's best at 1000m.  There is still more recovery to go, but she had two very happy parents in the stand that weekend!  First set of fingers are uncrossed.

On Dec. 15-16, with the good graces of the weather gods, Liz and I will both skate at the Jack Shea Sprints on the long track oval in Lake Placid.  For Liz, I'm hoping it will be a good outdoor tune up for Am Cup III in Roseville MN in January.  For me, it's the chance to try long track for the second time in human history! So, fingers crossed, Part II.

An excellent masters skater, Bruce Connor, writes a very interesting blog called "Faster as a Master."  I've put a link over in my right hand column, in case anyone who finds this blog would like to look at the world of Masters' skating a little more closely.  After all, you'll all be Masters division eventually!

23 June 2012

So THAT's What the Outside Edge Feels Like

The process of trying to get into some sort of condition for the speed skating season (about 30% physical and 70% mental) goes slowly but surely.  A major part is getting more comfortable on skates with the help of my figure skating coach, Alexandre Chichkov, who has been nothing if not patient.  He's a former World Juniors Champion (You Tube has films), so a head case student like me must be frustrating.  Anyway, this past Thursday, after my lesson, I was practicing, concentrating on position and the feel of the blade.  All of a sudden, nearing 270 degrees in the arc, a revelation:  so THAT's what the outside edge feels like!!!

The practices since Thursday haven't been quite as close, but I'm focused, and skating, and feeling the ice...

Meanwhile, the real athlete of the family is making great strides in her recovery, and I think she'll show people something in the coming long track season, starting with the Desert Classic in August.  The past two Saturdays, Liz Looby has biked on Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah, and this weekend made it to the summit in Brighton, Utah!  She has worked so hard to recover from the injuries in October 2010 that it is easier and easier to believe that her strength and her belief in herself and her dream will get her to the Olympics.

02 April 2012

April Second: Summer Dryland Training!

It's April, and the team has been off ice for less than two weeks, but some of Rochester Speed Skating Team adults couldn't wait for May and dryland training, so....

Last Monday an "unofficial" dry land practice began at Rochester's Cobbs Hill park, home of the Hill O'Pain.  Couldn't make it that day, but this evening, with a cool Spring temperature and bright sun, I joined about a dozen teammates, and it was onto the woodland trail for a couple laps, and then another around the reservoir. Wow, did that feel good!!!  Last unofficial dry land training before I'm eligible for Social Security!

13 March 2012

An Incredible Lightness of Being

The day started unremarkably:  rain beating on the windows, grey skies, a feeling of not being ready to wake up, but knowing I'd hit the snooze bar a couple times already.  Washcloth, floss, toothbrush, hair brush...all sort of mechanical.  Then the nine mile drive to the ice rink and somewhere on the route, something happened.  Imperceptible at first, but a sense of relaxation, contentment, ease.

By the time I got out of the car, my mood was inexplicably light and good.  Laced my skates, mentioning it to my friend Pat.

Some warm ups on ice, and it felt very natural, and I felt loose.  It was like joints actually worked!  My coach, Alexandre Chichkov, came on the ice and we started the exercises.  I can't say that I was "good" but I can say that everything was comparatively better and I felt more at ease on the ice than at any time in the last year!  A lightness of being...

I have no idea where this sensation came from, but it feels so good!

07 March 2012

American Cup (Long Track) Salt Lake City March 2-4. 2012

Liz made her post-accident return to competition this past weekend, and met every goal she had set for herself, notwithstanding the residual issues relating to recovery of nerve function.  When I said "She's Back" in the last post, I had no idea how far she had come.  Her own words at her blog "The Speedy Ice Effect" are better than anything I could write:


25 February 2012

She's BAAAAAAACK (and so is Liz's Dad)

It has been a while since there was all that much to report.  Liz has continued with her therapy and training, and was able to do a 500 meter time trial in late October.  We're still watching to see how much the tibial nerve regenerates, but by Christmas the item at the top of her wish list was new Oakley goggles!!!

The comeback took a really good turn today (a left turn, of course), when Liz took the ice at the Utah Olympic Oval for 500 and 1000 meter time trials!   I should mention that several months of back and knee problems for me are starting to resolve, to the point where I've been on figure skates for a few weeks.  So, early this morning I went through the snow to the rink, and while not quite ready to trust my back to the speedskates, did figures for an hour or so, sending positive vibes to Utah.  I have decided to believe that it helped:  Liz had good starts, and pretty decent results in both events.  As a result, she will return to competition next week, at a US Speedskating long track event at the Oval.  I could not be more pleased, or more proud of her achievement!

Jerry Search took photos today:

As you can see, she got the Oakley goggles!  Anyone who knows us both will know with absolute certainty that she did not inherit her crossover from me.  The elder Looby has some catching up to do.
Here is what Liz reported to me about times: