On (short) track for Sochi

Me in my younger days

Me in my younger days

As a runner, of course I love the Summer Olympics, but right now, I’m pretty fired up for the Winter Olympics. The sports are sometimes far off the radar and fun to watch. And I have a little background in short-track speed skating, (what?!) so I can’t wait to catch those events. I’m even familiar with some of the names out there at the trials and from past Olympics thanks to my stint on blades and wheels.

A little background: before getting into triathlon, I spent a few years competing on inline speed skating teams. The sport was tiny to begin with, but I think it’s almost non-existent today. But for a while, there was a pretty lively scene in some parts of the country. We’d do races anywhere from 5ks up to 100ks (once a 10-lap race in Central Park–pretty cool). It is a sport that plays out much like cycling–you have teams that work together in tight packs and draft off each other. There’s also an indoor component to it, just like short-track ice but on wheels.

Before I left the sport and changed over to triathlon, I got onto ice as well. I was pretty comfortable there because it played into my childhood sport of figure skating. But the speeds are something else, and falling is pretty terrifying, I will tell you. I saw some pretty ugly injuries (cuts) along the way. We wore helmets and kevlar gloves for protection, but that was about it. A fall at a good speed could send you careening toward the boards or into a blade. Sidenote on that–one of the girls I used to race against, Theresa Cliff, was expected to make the long-track team at trials last week, but a competitor fell and slid into her while she was on the side of the ice, and she missed her key event.

I thought I’d provide a little primer on short-track speed skating for you all before you tune in to Sochi: Race distances are going to vary from 500 up to 3,000 meters, but the “track” is a 100-meter oval. It’s a pack start and depending on distance, the skaters will either take off fast or fairly easy to save their legs for the final laps.  There’s a lot of strategizing that goes into an event: figuring out when to make a move or cover a move and how fast or slow (relative term at the Olympic level) to pace it. Inside passes are the most effective–going on the outside is pretty dicey and you’d better have the power to pull it off. Some subtle blocking goes on, too, but penalties are assessed in the form of a DQ if it is blatant.

Getting into that low position? Holy lactic acid, especially if you are going to hold it for the longer events. I used to have a slideboard in my garage to practice it on dry land. The folks who excel at this sport are seriously strong, fearless, and badass, if you ask me!

So that’s my little off-the-beaten-path background, and the roundabout way I ended up a triathlete and runner. What did you do before becoming a runner? 

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  1. says

    Well! We all have a few deep dark secrets in our pasts. Speed-skating – what an interesting history! My skeleton in the closet is that in between those childhood mad-dashes-through-the-park-with-dad and my current life as a runner, I was a dancer. Of all stripes. It started with ballet and then I picked up jazz, hip-hop and modern dance. I performed with two dance groups in college. And I’ve missed it for so long, I’m semi-seriously thinking of doing a Zumba instructor training course. :)
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  2. says

    That is awesome! I had no idea you used to compete in either! How exciting! Sounds pretty scary to me, but my training means that I am very tentative to do anything outside of it In case it messes up my running or gives me an injury, but that is so exciting! I look forward to watching the winter olympics too! Thanks for sharing that little piece of your life :)
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  3. says

    How cool is this? I knew you were a skater but not speed! I am fascinated by the cat and mouse that goes on in those races. You know I’m an old figure skater and this is Nationals week. Our rink has 2 pairs couples competing and of course Gracie Gold, although she recently defected to Colorado Springs. I am glued to the coverage!
    Marcia recently posted..Run Puerto Rico: A GiveawayMy Profile

    • MissZippy says

      It’s so much fun to watch people you know, isn’t it? Fun fact: one of the girls I inline skated with eventually married a guy who was the sole x-country skier ever from Thailand…kind of like Jamaican bobsled!

  4. says

    You continue to amaze me! Wow that’s so awesome. I always wanted to try speed skating but in sc not really an option. Before running in my younger days I was a gymnast, cheerleader and even played around with spring board diving. So much fun.

  5. says

    That is such a cool background! I have never heard of inline skate racing but it makes sense as a summer sport to speed skating. You look so determined and hard core in the photo!
    I’ve been a runner since grade 8, but before that I played baseball and soccer.
    We won’t be at home for the Olympics, but I’m determined to watch some of them on the road. A good friend is competing in bobsleigh for canada!
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  6. says

    So cool! (And terrifying…speed on anything but foot makes me very nervous).

    Before I ran…I …um…read a lot. I played basketball all through grade school and high school, but after graduation that was the end of organized sports for me.
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  7. says

    I have a friend that just told me she wants to do an inline skating marathon, she saw it somewhere, so I guess there are still a few events out there! That is so cool that you did that. I love watching the speed skating, but cannot even imagine racing at those speeds. Before I was a runner, I didn’t do much of anything, an occasional walk or hike and class at the gym were about it. Thank goodness I started to enjoy running!
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  8. says

    What a cool little tidbit of information to learn about you, Amanda! Speed skating on ice at any level is badass in my opinion!

    Before I started running, I rode my trail bike (as in Suzuki 185) all over the family farm.
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  9. says

    WOW!!! So very cool!! I love that you used to skate and that you shared a tiny glimpse of your past as well as a bit of info to prep us for the upcoming Olympics!!
    I was already excited for the Olympics but now I really can’t wait!!
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  10. says

    I love the Olympics (any and all), and short track speed skating is one of my favorite events in the winter games! Your past experience in the sport is so interesting – especially the blading part, never heard of short track on inlines! – and I’m not surprised that you were an awesome skater just like now you’re an awesome runner!
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  11. says

    I’m looking forward to the Winter Olympics too. Australia, historically, hasn’t been a Winter sports nation – probably because we don’t have many ski fields. But in the last few Games we’ve started to pick up some medals and this makes it a much more interesting prospect for the parochial sports-mad among us.
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  12. says

    This is so cool! I love that old photo of you :) Pretty fun to learn more about speed skating!
    Before becoming a runner I was a lot of things….figure skater when young, gymnast and springboard diver through high school, soccer and field hockey at the end of h.s., then I found my calling in college…rowing. That one was harder to give up than the running.
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  13. says

    How interesting!! Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait for the Olympics, I love watching them and seeing dreams come true and hard work pay off. Luckily I will be home starting February 14 and will have plenty of time to watch the Olympics all day :)
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  14. says

    Just when I thought you couldn’t get any cooler – you write this! WOW! That is pretty awesome my friend. I was a gymnast before getting into running. I competed from when I was about 4 until I was 14. The high school I was going to didn’t have a team so I gave it up. Sometimes I regret it but, of course, I love running so it all worked out.
    I’m excited for the Olympics to start too. Thanks for the insiders look at in-line skating!
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  15. says

    So awesome!!! Love to find out little things like that! Badass!

    I loved playing soccer as a kid- it was everything to me. But in the town I lived in, it was a very political sport. No matter how good I was- it didn’t matter because the coaches played their favorites, they played those that had the family name (which I did not). Other parents and coaches used to comment to my parents that I was a natural runner because I just ran all over the field the whole game. Back and forth back and forth. When I got into Junior high, my love for soccer started to fade (but I still played) but I started doing track. I found my love for running outweighed any feelings I ever had for soccer.
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