Lyle Dickieson's goal was clear -- he wanted to be among the 10 fastest men in the world in his age category.
Now, he is.
Dickieson, a 57-year-old long track speed skater, broke into the top 10 in the international rankings in two of his events at last week's Olympic Oval Finale in Calgary. In his 3,000-metre race, he powered to a time of four minutes 33.01 seconds, a time that ranked him ninth in the world in the 55-60 division. Later, in the 1,000m distance, Dickieson crossed the finish line in 1:24.41, a result that placed him eighth on the global list.
"It was incredible," Dickieson said of meeting his objectives. "I'd set a pretty high bar [in the 3,000m race] and of course you're never really sure if you're going to accomplish it or not. I could tell my conditioning really kicked in because I didn't fade very much at the end. And the 1,000 for me was quite a surprise because I'm not usually as good on the shorter distance ones so I was quite happy with that."
The Olympic Oval Finale ran for six days and attracted athletes from all over the world. While Dickieson was in Calgary, he also skated in 500m and 1,500m races. In the 500m event, he posted a time of 43.47 seconds and is now 15th in the international rankings. In his 1,500m race, his time of 2:09.61 moved him to No. 14 on the planet.
Dickieson, a world-class canoeist in the summer months, took up speed skating when he was in his late 40s. Over the years, he has claimed various provincial, national and North American titles. He also competed in the world masters championships in 2007 and 2011, recording top-20 placings on both occasions. For his exploits in a boat and on the ice, he was inducted into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame last year.
Dickieson believes in setting targets for himself and then chasing them down. In achieving his goals, he has been helped immensely this season by local resident Jeremy Campbell.
"He was a biathlon coach for many years and he helped me with a conditioning program," Dickieson said. "He put together quite a bit of stuff for me and that totally helped me prepare. Basically it's been an 11-month program, starting out in early spring with doing some easy rides and then building it up through the summer with some long, three-hour rides. The key to it is getting your heart moving at the right speed, whether you're biking or swimming or skiing or skating. The key is that he puts together this plan with the end results in mind -- to taper down ahead of time and peak at a certain time."
Leading up to the Olympic Oval Finale, Dickieson was on his blades for the Sylvan Lake Marathon and the Silver Skate Festival in Edmonton. At Sylvan Lake, he skated in the men's category in four distances -- 10km, 25km, 50km and 100km -- and placed, respectively, second, third, fifth and seventh against much younger competitors. At the Silver Skate, Dickieson finished first in a 10km race and third in a 25km event.
"That ended up being 220 kilometres of racing between them all," he said. "My slowest [average speed] was 25 kilometres an hour in the 100 and my best speed was 35.2 in the Edmonton race on the last lap [of the 10km distance]."
With all the ice he has eaten up in the last few weeks, Dickieson is now ready for a break in the action.
"That's it for the season," he said. "Between Sylvan Lake and Edmonton and Calgary, it's been a lot of time on the road. I'm a bit pooped. Racing and then driving home, all of that kind of adds up. It's time to recharge the batteries. I'll take it easy for a little while and then think about my goals for next year and then start to get ready."