Event Report: Roll for the Roses 10k

Roll for the Roses is a local event in Roseville, Minnesota, that is basically a 5k and 10k run event with a 10k skate event tacked on to the start, probably because there are so many inline skaters in the Twin Cities.  Total, there were 57 skaters signed up for the 10k, with more than half of them in the Pro division.  There are two divisions, Pro and Recreation.  Pretty much everyone in the pro group is skating on low cut speed boots.  The start is a group start, so everyone in the event starts together.  It is legitimately an event less so than a race as this kind of event should attract a lot more recreational skaters.  For the speed skaters in the bunch, though, this event is pretty much a sprint.  A 10k is a warm up for skaters that usually race 42k.

This year, there was actually a race.  The weather was hotter, in the mid to upper 70s, and it was humid.  It has been raining a lot, and the forecast called for more thunderstorms, but thankfully, they ended up holding off until later in the afternoon.  We didn’t get any rain during the day in Rochester, and it didn’t start to rain until later in the evening.  The humidity could have been worse, though.

It is a fun local race that is worth the drive from Rochester. I am glad we have a local short course race. I think that we need a lot more of these all over the country. Since this race is in the Twin Cities, all of the really fast guys come out to race. I was hoping to jump in with the lead pack and hold on as long as possible. However, I made it to the event late because of some road construction and started probably 30 seconds behind the last skaters.  As I was skating toward the finish line, the gun went off for the start of the race, and the main pack went flying by me as I was skating the other direction.  I made it to the start line, turned around, and sprinted to catch up.  I bombed from the start through the rec group and caught the the chase pack that had fallen off of the leaders within the first mile. The main pack was too fast, and we weren’t able to catch them.

The course is a road course that has blocked off sections of local roadways that starts near the Roseville Skating Center and finishes in the oval.  The road wasn’t in the best shape, and part of the course went through some subdivisions with road work, that resulted in loose stone on the roadway.  It almost took out one skater in the group I was racing with.  There is also a good number of tar snakes and hills.  On the whole, though, the roads aren’t rough, or they didn’t feel very rough.  I raced on my World Record Wheel Truths, 110mm wheels at 87a hardness.  These are the same wheels I raced the Apostle Island Inline Marathon on earlier in June.  The hills proved to be a challenge as there are a couple of big ones.  We almost caught one of the guys that fell off of the main pack, but the hills proved to be the great equalizer.  The final couple of turns include a 90 degree left hand turn and a narrow downhill right hand turn that leads onto the main level of the Roseville Oval.  The oval surface is amazingly smooth, and once on that surface, I was able to put the hammer down for a 300m sprint to the finish around the corners and along the back straight away.

I was hoping to have video, but in the rush of trying to get to the start line, I must not have set up my Contour properly as it didn’t record. Hopefully next year.  Chris Lomen of SkateLove did get helmet camera video of the lead pack, though.  Official results can be found here, and Inline Skate Minneapolis has a good write up of the event, also.  I finished 24th out of 30 in the pro group, and 26th overall out of 57, in 23:02. Not bad considering I started all the way at the back. Average pace wasn’t great, 16.2 mph. It was a gun start, so when the horn went, I started with a good 30 seconds to make up.

I learned a lot during this event.  First, I need to skate more hills.  Second, I haven’t been working out hard enough during my training skates because I woke up sore this morning.  Third, technique is king, and I need to get a lot lower while skating.  I talked to Chris Lomen after the race and he and I discussed how best to go about this as I train for the Chicagoland in a couple of weeks.


Looking For Speed…

I have previously mentioned that this is the year of technique.  In reviewing all of the media I found from the Apostle Island Inline Marathon, I found two really interesting photos, and an pretty good video.  First, the photos (sorry, links only, photos by Ed Monroe):

http://www.edmonroe.com/p266220601/e19d4a69d
http://www.edmonroe.com/p266220601/e93d8db1

The second comes from a helmet camera video shot by Pat, another advanced division skater and all around good guy.

All of this skating was toward the beginning of the race, at least, as far as I can tell from the pictures and video.  This means this is what my technique looks like in the early part of a race when my legs are still fresh. You only need to really watch the a couple minutes of the video.  First, the good things.  I have a good strong glide.  This is evident in the video and the pictures.  It looks like I have good control early on of my glide foot and I am controlling the skate well on one foot.  Second, my hips are staying pretty level.  This is where the power comes from.  At this point in the race, from the video, we were moving around 2o miles per hour.  I was able to hold that pace within reason in the draft (something I probably couldn’t do solo).  Generally, I don’t have a lot of upper body noise, so there isn’t a whole lot of movement, which is ideal.

Now the bad things.  The pictures show this pretty harshly, I am not any where near as low as I should be.  Drafting in the pace line or not, I need to bend my knees and get my but down more.  I think I was doing a better job of this later in the race, and sprinting at the finish, I looked pretty good and low, but generally, skating in the pack, I look like I am standing strait up.  I need to work on that for sure.  Ideally, I should be working on this in my shorter technique oriented skates and tempo skates.  I am getting to the point where I have good power.  In a full sprint with solid double push and arm swing, I hit 24 miles per hour on my tempo skate last week.  It is a work in progress, and I am happy to see results so quickly.  Something else I could work on based on these videos:  more under push in my double push.  The video shows I am really just carving on my glide leg.  I thin this is something I need to work on longer term to build strength in my my legs where needed.

By way of training and race schedule update, I haven’t been able to skate or train much in the last week because of life circumstances that have taken precedence.  I did spend a very short time lifting this week, and increased my power clean and rear squat lifts by 5 pounds for new personal record lifts, the power cleans at 145 lbs x4 reps and the rear squats at 185 lbs x6 reps.  I think I am also ready to increase my dead lifts, but didn’t get a chance to try because of time constraints.  New personal best wall sit to failure is up to 105 seconds.  Training, though limited, is on-going.  Roll for the Roses may be off the race calendar this year, but I have to play that one by ear.  I hope I get to make it and that it doesn’t rain.  Watch for updates.


Race Report: Apostle Island Inline Marathon

I wasn’t planning on attending the Apostle Island Inline Marathon, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance.  My wife and I decided to make the trip to Ashland, Wisconsin, around mid-morning, and tried to set plans in motion to leave at the end of the work day the day before the race.  I hurriedly prepared gear and registered for the race while my wife found a hotel for us to stay at on Friday night.  The race was scheduled for the morning of June 14, 2014.  For those that are not familiar with this race, it takes place on Madeline Island which is off the cost of Wisconsin in Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin.  You get to the race by taking a ferry from Bayfield to the Island.  Once on the Island, it is a short walk to the start/finish line and the event location.  This area of the North woods of Wisconsin is beautiful, and we happened to be driving through a national forest on the shore of Lake Superior just in time to see the Honey Moon.  It was a fun, though impromptu, road trip to be sure.  We got to our hotel in Ashland, Wisconsin, late Friday night, and, after reviewing the schedules, determined we needed to be up early Saturday morning in order to make it from Ashland to Bayfield (a roughly 30 minute drive) and catch the ferry to the island.

Packet pick up is typically held on Fridays at the Amory in Ashland, and it stays open pretty late.  However, we didn’t arrive in Ashland soon enough, and opted for race-day packet pick up.  It wasn’t hard, and everything was very organized.  We got on the ferry and made it over to the Island with about 30 minutes prior to the start of the first race wave.  I signed up for the recreation/fitness wave because most of the guys I usually race with in the Advanced divisions signed up for that wave.  It was cold, probably high 40s for the temperature, and it felt like it was going to rain prior to the start of the race.  By the time I was dressed and took about a mile or so skate to warm up, I was ready for the race.  We lined up by division in our different waves, and the race organizers started the event promptly at 8:30 AM, with each consecutive wave leaving about 30 to 60 seconds behind each other.  The rec/fit men lined up behind the pro women.

The race is a three lap circuit around the island that is just short of 9 miles per lap.  The weather was mostly dry, a little cool, and I was worried it would rain during the race after looking at the weather.  We did get a little bit of rain, but only enough to wet the pavement.  It wasn’t hard or steady, and it didn’t seem to change the course conditions.  I chose to race on my 110mm World Record Wheel Truths that are 87a hardness.  This is stiffer wheel, and I was hoping to get good roll.  They rolled very well, with good grip, even in the wet conditions.  It wasn’t wet enough to get a good feel for how they would work in a steady rain, but they stuck during the race, and that is all I cared about.

We got the call for the start of our wave, and, as the gun went off, a group of about 1o of us came off the line and took the first tenth of a mile to figure out how the line would start.  One or two guys got out front, and as the line formed going up the first hill after the first left hand turn, we caught up and formed up in the line.  The pace started pretty quick and stayed there.  We eventually caught up with the chase pack for the pro women’s group and, at some point, the advanced skaters from the 50+ group.  There wasn’t anything really exciting that occurred during the race.  There weren’t any real attacks, but the faster skaters did pick up the pace when they reached the front and pulled the pace line.  The action didn’t heat up, really until the last lap.  There was a lot of anticipation in the pace line on that lap.  The pace didn’t start to pick up until about 4 miles in when people from the back of the line started to move up.  Those of us in the front of the pace line kept pace, and the attacks built until we were 6 miles into the lap.  At that point, the line broke up and everyone was skating for the finish, hoping to gap the group and lead a flyer to the finish line.  We finished as a pretty solid group, all within about a minute of each other.  It made for an interesting pack sprint in the last half mile.  Unfortunately, my helmet camera died and I didn’t get video of the pack sprint.  My wife did get finish line video, though.  What makes the finish on this course hard is the 90 degree right hand final turn.  It is narrow and sharp, and only leaves a couple hundred meters to the finish.  Once we got through that corner, which everyone seemed to take wide when I cut right at the curb, it was a full sprint to the finish.

My goal for this race was to hang on to the lead pack in my division.  I didn’t train for this race, had only done one interval skate, and was coming off of a training week that included a heavy lift and a tempo skate.  Even with 2 days off before the race, I didn’t feel 100%.  Also, sleep the night before was a bit elusive thanks to a fitful toddler that couldn’t seem to get comfortable.  So, with little or no preparation, I signed up for this race, and just hoped to finish, ideally with the lead pack in the wave.  I couldn’t be happier with the result.  I ended up pulling the line a couple of times and finishing with the pack in the pack sprint.  I used a lot of what I learned at the Joey Mantia Clinic the week before, and the changes in technique helped to insure I had the energy to finish with the group.  I plan on doing a lot more technique training, too, in hopes of increasing my average pace and have solid finishes in the rest of the races this year.  My finish time was 1:25:08, a new personal best marathon by nearly 7 minutes.  I also managed to win my division and finished in the top 10 or so of my wave.  It was a great race.

I can’t extol the virtues of this race enough.  The course is amazingly smooth.  I don’t think there is another Midwest race that has tarmac in such good condition.  This meant the pace was fast the whole race since we weren’t fatigued from rough road.  The weather was not as great as it could have been, but it was far from terrible.  The race was well organized and in an spectacular location that is only rivaled by the NorthShore for its scenery.  While the race can be a little hard to get to, it is a must for any skater that wants to skate a full or half marathon.  I had spent a couple of years trying to make it to this race, and now I never want to miss another one.  My helmet camera video follows.  Check it out:


Event Report: Mantia Clinic

There have already been two very good reports on this Clinic here and here, and I don’t want to regurgitate a review of the entirety of the event.  However, I do think it is worth posting what I learned, in addition to a little about the event, and some pictures/video.

This was a unique clinic, as I understand the clinics that Joey typically run are optimized for indoor racing around a 100m flat track that typically take place in roller rinks on coated wooden floors.  Pretty much the entire group in attendance at this clinic skated outdoor over marathon distance.  His original intent was to run the clinic at the Roseville Oval in Roseville, Minnesota.  However, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we ended up using the back-up location at a nearby elementary school.  While the venue ended up being indoor, the clinic focused entirely on technique, including the double push.

Joey Mantia working with skaters in Roseville, MN.  Image courtesy of www.inlineskatempls.com

Joey Mantia working with skaters in Roseville, MN. Image courtesy of www.inlineskatempls.com

We did two sessions, and at the start of each session we started off with dry land training.  Joey showed us the basics of body position and focused heavily on weight transfer.  He said that the core of efficient skating is weight transfer, and many of the drills dealt with balance and weight transfer.  We spent a lot of time off-skates in the skater squat, which looks something like this:

IMG_2212 IMG_2211

I say something like this because I am not as low as I could be.  If you look very closely at the picture from the front, you can see that my knees are collapsing in a little bit, notably on the right side.  I shot these pictures after a heavy lift/plyo work out, so I was a bit rickety.  Everything in skating basically starts from here.  The only significant variation in body position is how deep you sit in the skater squat.  As for the actual weight transfer, there were a couple of terms that kept coming up that are good points to focus on.

First, “leading with the hip” is something often said by coaches, but something I didn’t really understand until asking for clarification during the Clinic.  The idea of leading with the hip is really a way of communicating where your body position should be when balancing on one leg in the skater squat.  The hip should be positioned to the outside of the foot on which you are standing.  The idea here is all about where your center of gravity is to distribute your weight so you can remain balanced and used weight transfer to generate push power.  It should look something like this:

IMG_2215

IMG_2219

The picture on the bottom shows the concept of leading with the hip better than the picture on the top.  You can see my hip position is beyond the outside of my foot.  This also helps to line up my nose, knees, and toes.  That is the second term that is often used in describing technique, and something that came up over and over again during the clinic.  The concept of “nose-knees-toes” describes the position your body should be in during the glide phase of the push when skating.  The idea here, when looking at your body position from the front, is to see your nose, knees, and toes aligned vertically.  Neither of these pictures show this position adequately.  The picture on the top shows good knee-toe position with my head a little far to the right.  The picture on the bottom shows good alignment of my nose, knees, and toes, but my balance is off.  Ideally, your nose-knees-toes should align perpendicular to the ground, or as Joey says, “imagine a line from your foot to the ceiling lining up your nose, knees, and toes.”  This is a great way to think about where your body position should be, even if these aren’t the best examples.  Weight transfer is the next part of the drill, and this basically requires you to shift your weight between these two positions stalling on one foot.  As a check for balance, it helps to lift the opposite foot, or recovery foot, off of the ground.  If you are well balanced, you should be able to lift the opposite foot off of the ground, but do so without a jerk or jump.  It may look something like this:

20140610 Dry-Land

This image was created from some video of my dry-land skating.  You can see the the nose-knees-toes alignment here, but another important technique issue comes to light when reviewing the video.  The hips and shoulders should remain steady and on the same line.  I discussed this in my post about slide-board earlier this year.  This is accomplished by engaging the core and focusing on lateral movement through the hips.  You can also see here how leading with the hip works, as my hip on each side moves past the center-line over the foot.  It isn’t perfect, though, as there is still some weakness in my right knee and a slight hop on raising my foot off the ground that causes my hip to shift up slightly on each side.

Weight transfer is what allows you to put power in the push without expending extra energy.  It is pretty much the Holy Grail of skating.  So much so that you could skate only with weight transfer on classic push and add the double push to average 18 miles per hour.  Well, at least he can.  These drills provided me with very concrete examples of where my technique is failing.  You can see this stuff in books and on the internet, but it never really sinks in until someone coaches you and/or you see it demonstrated first hand.  The key to fast skating over marathon distances is efficiency.  Something I have known and been working on, but these drills are the tools that will hopefully make me more efficient, and, as a result, faster.

After all of the off-skate work, we got on skates and basically did the same set of drills standing and then rolling.  We also did a lot of drills to make us aware of our edges.  The idea here was to get better on our skates, work balance, and be more in control of the skates rather than having the skates be in control of us.  Joey mentioned that Justin Stelly doesn’t have to train very hard to be fast because he is so good at controlling his skates.  He makes a good point, and being able to control my skates is something that I need to work on.  I am planning on adding a lot of these on-skate drills to my training.  Looks like I will be in the market for some cones.  I was only able to capture video of the first half of the day, but you can see the drills in the following video:

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Joey and a couple of the guys that organized the clinic.  He had some really interesting insights on the sport, on the coaching situation for US Speed Skating on the ice side, and his plan to race indoor and outdoor nationals this year.  I am glad to see he is staying so active in the inline community, as it seems that some of the Olympians that have made the switch to ice haven’t done much for inline since finishing the Olympics.  Of particular note, Joey says he doesn’t think inline should be trying to be in the Olympics because of the limited number of medals.  I think he is right, too.  His analogy was that if it were a winter sport, it would already be in the program, but since the summer program is so packed, you would be taking medals away from other sports, and “if wrestling isn’t safe, no one is.”

The afternoon started with more dry land and then back to skates.  The dry land session was a rehash of what we did in the morning and was very helpful in solidifying the drills to memory.  The afternoon on-skate session dealt with double push.  He showed us a lot of drills originally designed by Eddy Matzger.  It was a great session, and I realized, in the room full of local skating luminaries, that we all have things we need to work on.  Following Joey’s philosophy, you have to work hard at the things you are bad at doing in order to get better.  There are a couple of videos floating around YouTube of the event and there are several posted in InlineSkateMPLS that are worth checking out.

After the afternoon on-skates session, Joey did some question and answer and then demonstrated some drills and technique on the slide board.  The most shocking thing I learned during the Q&A was that Joey doesn’t lift weights.  He has legs like tree trunks, but doesn’t lift.  I was, and still am, shocked.  The secret to his strength is isometric and plyometric exercise.  He does wall-sits to failure, which, for him, is 5 to 10 minutes.  He also demonstrated some very basic plyos, many of which I am doing, but some that I am working into my workouts.  The biggest new change, though, will be wall sits to failure.  I am not going to replace lifting weights with plyos and isometric work outs because I am too far behind to work up to that level of strength, and I don’t see any negative effects from weight lifting on my skating.  This also was another interesting lesson, just because it doesn’t work for Joey doesn’t mean it won’t work for me.

Overall, this was a great experience.  I would highly recomend that anyone who has an interest in becoming a better skater attend this kind of clinic, taught by Joey or any other world class skater.


DIY Equipment Update: Slide Board

While I am not building a new slide board, I am always on the look out for new material solutions, as acquiring laminate from Ikea by happenstance is a hard way to build equipment.  Lifehacker posted an article about inexpensive surfaces for custom made dry-erase boards, and suggested a material called Hardboard Panel Board.  Looking at the material, it looks pretty thin, so it would be ideal to apply this with an adhesive on top of a half inch sheet of plywood.  You could basically substitute these two parts for the surface, and follow the rest of my directions to complete the build.  I haven’t seen these materials, nor have I tested how well it would work for a slide board, but the surface for dry-erase boards would make a pretty good surface for a slide board.  I would imagine this might work well, also.  If you are in the market for a lateral trainer, this may be a good parts option for a personal build.

By way of other updates, I am attending the SkateLove Joey Mantia Clinic in Roseville, Minnesota, this weekend.  I am hoping to shoot some video and have more information about the event next week.

I am also working on a post targeted at cardiovascular fitness for speed inline skaters that I hope to post soon.  After my VO2 Max test, I reconsidered how I have been training for skating, and realized that my training did not include cardiovascular capacity as a focus.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of sport science specific to speed skating, and even less for inline speed skating.  I am planning on trying to relate a lot of what I have learned from various sources to inline speed skating in hopes of having all of this information make better sense for myself, but also get it out there for other skaters to discuss.


Back In A Pack (Updated with full video)

This weekend, my wife, son, and I are visiting my parents in Chicago.  Visiting Chicago means I have the opportunity to skate with Team Rainbo. I went out for the skate session at Conway on Saturday morning.  It was a great practice, and we certainly couldn’t complain about the weather.  The pace was pretty good, and I managed to stick with the main group for about 14 miles, then this:

I was leading an echelon drill when one of the guys from the back of the pack sprinted and the rest of the group broke up and went after him.  I sprinted to stay with the group that passed me, but my technique got sloppy.  My left recovery skate swung in for set-down too quickly and caught the back of my right skate, resulting in the dreaded click that sent me tumbling.  This happens in skating.  I have learned to go with momentum and fall in a way that doesn’t cause direct impact on joints.  I got up and rolled away with some road rash, but no broken bones.  After resting for a bit, I skated another five miles, finishing out the skate at around 19.4 miles in just short of 80 minutes.  Good work out, the fall not withstanding.

Skating with Team Rainbo always reminds me how important pack  skating is to the sport.  If you like to skate long distance, regardless of whether you use speed skates, fitness skates, or rec skates, you can never get the same feeling of skating in a pace line.  The dynamics of the pack are ever changing, and it forces you to adapt your technique to work with the group.  It is also far more efficient. In the pack, we could easily pace between 17 and 20 miles per hour.  I am glad I got to skate with Team Rainbo again.  I am looking forward to suiting up in the new uniform for the Chicagoland Marathon and Roll for the Roses.

–Update–

Full video up to the face plant follows:


Training Updates and Future Posts

I have been rotating between working out in the basement during the week and skating on the weekends, when the weather permits.  It has been a wet and windy spring here once the cold finally broke.  I have been able to skate at least once, sometimes twice, every weekend since mid to late April.  After my VO2 Max test in April, I did a lot of research about cardiovascular capacity, particularly material written by Joe Friel, and decided to significantly change my early season base training.  I mentioned in my last post that I was going to spend a lot more time working on base cardiovascular fitness, and, as a result, many of my recent training sessions that are not focused on weight lifting or skating have been extended duration cycling sessions with my bike in the trainer.  In addition to being a great way to build base cardiovascular fitness, it also helps me get caught up on television I don’t otherwise have time to watch.  I am averaging 2 of these sessions per week.  My weight lifting program has changed, also.  Like last year, heading in to race preparation phases, I tend to focus a lot on cardiovascular training.  When I made the transition last year, I took some of the weight lifting program into a joint plyometric program where I would do a super set of lifts followed by a super set of plyos.  I am doing some thing similar this year, but with a different target for my lifts.  Rather that focusing on split squats or Poliquin squats, I am hoping to build power by mixing power cleans, rear squats, dead lifts, and Romanian dead lifts with tuck jumps, split jumps, single leg jumps, super skaters, and box jumps.  I do this work out one day per week, and spend the rest of my training time on the bike or on skates.

Skating seems like it is going well.  The weekends have worked out so that the weather is manageable, though we have had some very windy days.  Slow skating is good experience, and it builds strength.  I am noticing deficiencies in my technique, and I am climbing a lot of hills.  I hope this will yield good results as I move into a training phase with a lot more skating.  So far, my average speeds have increased over last year, some of them by more than 1 mile per hour, which is a considerable jump from the end of one race season to the start of another.  I think weight lifting has helped considerably in this regard.

Starting this weekend, training changes again.  I am going to continue lifting weights, but I am planning on deloading, basically making my weight lifting maintenance work outs meant to insure that I am not losing anything.  I may slowly creep the weight back up, but I find that the delayed onset muscle soreness after really heavy lift days results in restricted training on skating days.  Skating volume is going to seriously increase.  This year, I am focusing on technique and trying to get every bit of power from my legs to the ground.  The hope is that this increase in efficiency will result in faster marathon times.  I am hoping to skate at least 4 times per week, with one day being a technique focus, one day an interval focus, and the other two longer skates that mix aerobic HR zone training and longer distance tempo skating.  I need to climb a lot of hills, also.  I plan on reviewing the data from the last Chicagoland Inline Marathon race to see where I struggled with the hills and see if I can keep up with the main pack this year.  All I want to do is keep up with the main pack and not get dropped.  If I can stay in the pack and avoid pulling, I should be able to keep pace for the entire race, or, at least, I hope to.  The key to this course, though, are the hills, and making sure you can climb hill after hill without losing the rest of the group.  I see a lot of time climbing the mountain-esque hills on Country Club Road in my future.

With all of this training going on, I am hoping to post more videos than I have been lately.  Also, I am going to have some posts that combine a lot of the research I have been doing on cardiovascular capacity detailing how inline speed skaters can learn from other endurance athletes and how these training theories can be applied to inline skating.  I hope it will make for some interesting reading.  This weekend, I am skating with Team Rainbo, and will shoot video of the Saturday practice to post next week.  For anyone who isn’t yet, Spring has sprung, get out and skate!


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