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.

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