A Moment on Intervals…

I have been thoroughly enjoying the Powerslide Powerskating Tutorials over the last couple of months.  The guys at Powerslide are doing some great educational videos to teach skaters about different elements of technique.  The framing of the tutorials is easy for everyone who is interested in skating to understand, but these tutorials are really focused on fitness and speed skaters who want to skate marathon events.

After the Chicagoland Inline Marathon this year, I heard a number of comments from skaters about how they needed to add more interval workouts to their training.  I totally agree and have been needing the same structure in my workouts, also.  Part of the problem is that this is a structured work out that really isn’t fun, and, realistically, we all skate because it is fun to go fast.  Intervals, though, are well worth the pain.  Bringing this post back to my comment about Powerslide’s Powerskating Tutorials, a recent installment was specifically about intervals:

This is a very basic explanation of intervals for skaters.  Simple is really the best option here.  There is a ton of sports science on intervals, and, honestly, all it does is add to the confusion.  Intervals, for work outs, should be simple:  go hard for a certain amount of time, go easy for a certain amount of time.  The question quickly becomes how long the intervals should be.  Different intervals will, in theory, accomplish different training goals.  Realistically, intervals help you get your heart rate up so you train at or above your VO2 Max, the goal of which is to increase your VO2 Max, thereby increasing your level of fitness.  Intervals are also important for racing because, in a good race, you will have to deal with a lot of attacks from the front, and chasing down a flyer, climbing a hill, or a finish sprint are basically work intervals.  Joe Friel (clearly one of my favorite sport science bloggers) had a recent post on a study from Norway about the different effect of interval duration on highly trained racing cyclists.  The results are compelling, but what was notable is that the test group who had shorter interval durations had bigger gains in their VO2 Max after 10 weeks of training.

The science is fun to read (for me at least), but what we really care about is:  1. Why bother doing intervals, and, 2. How long should they be?

There are two reasons inline skaters should be doing intervals.  First, it is one of the best ways to help build your VO2 Max, and basically get you in better cardiovascular condition.  Marathon outdoor racers participate in endurance events, at least in the sense that the race takes at least an hour to complete.  We need to be cardiovascularly fit.  However, any training plan that includes intervals should also include extended duration Zone 2 heart rate work, also.  The musculature used for speed skating are made up of reciprocal systems, and both need to be utilized to create a strong skater.  Intervals help build lactate threshold tolerance and VO2 Max by working fast twitch Type II fibers, but the slow twitch Type I fibers work to clear out that lactate during the rest intervals.  As a result, you need both to be stronger and faster.  So we do intervals to compliment all that mind numbing time on the bike or on the trail staying in HR Zone 2.  Second, it is the best kind of training that mimics racing we can get, not considering tempo/fartlek sessions, especially if you train solo.  All of the up and down of intervals help prepare you for the pack dynamic of a race.  Lets say you get stuck at the back of a long pace line of about 30 skaters at the NorthShore Inline Marathon and you get to that first really sharp feeling hill climb around mile 10 of the race.  The front of the line speeds up, the middle of the line lags, and pretty soon, you are looking at an accordion gap opening in front of you as the line pulls up the hill, potentially leaving you skating alone in no-man’s land.  The best way to make sure you have the gas in the tank and the power in your legs to race up that hill and stick with the line is to do intervals, because this is the kind of situation you will run into over and over again in race after race, especially races with hills like the Chicagoland.  Intervals allow you to train for this part of a race without actually being in a race during every training session.

The big thing to remember and consider when doing intervals is to stop immediately if you cannot maintain your technique.  Absent good technique, the exercise/drill is meaningless.

Now that we know why, the next step is to determine the best duration for intervals.  Friel’s post suggests shorter durations for work intervals, and even shorter duration rest intervals, something similar to 45 second work intervals and 30 second rest intervals.  He also points out, though, that these kinds of intervals work best for well trained athletes.  The rest of us mere mortals are better with a 1 to 1 interval duration ratio.  The Powerskating tutorial above suggests 1 minute by 1 minute intervals, and this is a great place to start.  This means skating hard for 60 seconds and skating easy for 60 seconds.  There are tons of permutations on these examples.  A recent favorite of mine is a 2 minute work interval followed by a 1 minute rest interval.  The better question when deciding on interval duration is deciding the kind of workout you are going for.  Different intervals will accomplish different things.  Readers of Barry Publow‘s book Speed On Skates will note he goes into great detail about the different types of intervals and what they will accomplish.  Publow has also added to the general skating knowledge-base on the issue of intervals, also.  His post on Inline Planet provides some explanation for the benefit of intervals and two sample work outs for intervals.

In my experience, there are three types:  Short intervals with very high intensity, equal duration intervals, and long duration intervals.  Short intervals at a high intensity are just that, 30 seconds or less at a pace that puts you at or near your max HR or max level of exertion.  These can be done in sets with a longer rest interval between sets or with shorter rest intervals.  These build your lactate threshold and lactate tolerance, and will help you when you are in the finish sprint with your legs burning and ready to give out from under you.  Equal duration intervals are, basically, the intervals discussed in the Powerskating video above.  They are great for helping build endurance generally.  Longer intervals at speed get you used to skating faster for longer periods so you can chase down a flyer in the middle of a race.  Intensity should vary based on duration.  Shorter duration work intervals usually mean higher intensity while longer work intervals usually mean less intensity during the interval.  However, generally, intensity for any interval should be above 80% max effort, or HR Zone 4.  My recent long intervals will have HR spikes above 160 bpm, where my shorter interval spikes will be closer to 170 bpm, if I can manage it.

Either way, it is clear that sport science suggests that interval training is an important part of training.  However, it is important to also note that while intervals are a necessary part of training, they should not be used to the exclusion of longer duration endurance work outs.  I have already started to think about what the off-season will look like for me, and what my macrocycle and microcycles will look like for training.  I will have more on that after the NorthShore Inline Marathon.


Race Report: Rollin’ On The River

I didn’t attend Rollin’ On The River, but since it is one of the primary races on the Midwest race calendar, I wanted to get an opinion of how the race went, specifically from someone who raced in the advanced/rec division.  The race took place on August 16, 2014.  You can find full event information at Inline Skate MPLS here.

Since I didn’t participate in this race, I asked Mike Williams to write a race report.  The following is his race report.  Thanks to Mike for writing the report.  I hope I can do this for other events in the future, particularly reports from the Advanced and Rec groups.


 

Rollin’ on the River is quickly developing a reputation as one of the best run inline road skating races of the season. As such I felt it was imperative to get there and show as much support for them as they do for us. That is saying something because Grand Forks can be a tough place to get to.

The trip over was fun. I shared a ride with Pat Stream and Chris Mackowski. Pat and I used the time to pick Chris’ brain on all things skating. We talked about warm up strategies, mechanics, and some race day tactics. The five hours passed quickly.

After packet pickup things got hectic. We desperately wanted to strap them on and roll over the bike path section of the race course so we headed out immediately. It was a complete blast. Pat got some great selfies and I got to hang on Chris’ wheels and get a feel for his mechanics in action. When I was able to align with his tempo and grab some underpush it really felt like things were clicking. This might have been the best part of the trip. A local told us this path basically surrounds the city. I may just have to do an extended say to check that out sometime.

Pats picture

All went as planned in the morning of the race. We got there in time to be the first ones on the first bus – which ended up being more fortuitous than it probably should have been. The race did a great job with feedback and added some port-o-potties to the starting area.

The legs were feeling a little heavy. I did five minutes of stretching and about 10 minutes of light skating for a warm-up. I never really pushed out the heaviness. My only suggestion would be to give us all more time by starting buses a little earlier.

The race was a mass start. The Pros and us Recreational skaters all started at the same time. My tactic for the start was to pick someone I know to be slightly stronger and more experienced than me and pin myself to him. Matt Melanson and I had finished close together at Apostle and I was happy with the idea of that happening again, so he unknowingly became my rabbit. Also, the race is basically a straight shot for the first 18 miles – and today it was into a headwind. That meant being protected with numbers will be the key to not only a fun day but a competitive day.

The start was surprisingly slow. It was clear right away that everyone was waiting for the Pinnacle team to make the first move so no one set a strong pace. The bulk of the field was still together a full mile into the race.

When the pace finally quickened I was still on Matt’s hip. It was clear he was trying to get onto the chase group and I was ready to give it a shot. But, in the chaos we had let too many less ambitious skaters between us and the group that finally went. By the time we got clear of the mess there was a good 50 foot gap. Matt and I worked hard (and together) for about a mile until we realized they were too far gone. At that point we looked back, saw a big gap behind us and said, “At least we might be able to stay away from everyone else”. We worked hard for the next couple miles until we saw that the group behind us was closing the gap quickly. The wind was just not going to let anyone succeed without lots of help. We eased up and took a breather until we could latch on.

This ended up being the exact right group for me. Seven of us I think. Every one took strong pulls into the 10mph headwind we had the first 15 miles. The group stayed together until mile 18 when it transitioned from the road to the bike path. The pace quickened when Matt took a long pull and things started to change quickly. We caught a couple folks who had fallen off the chase pack and couple others fell off our line but the core group remained about 5-6 skaters.

Rollin on the River group shot

At mile 22 we left the trail and hit the residential neighborhood roads. I completely lost track of direction as the pace clicked up even a little faster. Left turns, right turns, briefly on another bike path and finally – there was the finish line. I was just hanging on at this point – there we no more pulls in my future.

I was fourth in our group going into the final turn. I was passed by a couple in the last 100m when I completely ran out of gas. I spent everything – nothing was left. As it turns out many of the folks who beat me in the home stretch registered in the Pro class so I ended up in 3rd place in the Rec class.

Often I look back at a race and can think of a few things I could have done better. Honestly, I can’t think of anything I would have done differently. There was no way I was going to hang with the chase group (they finished 9 minutes ahead of us), and I didn’t let my ego burn me out with too long of pulls at the front of our pace line.

If I had to find something to improve I would say I missed my goal to get 20 minutes of good skating in for a warmup. As far as technique goes, I certainly spent too much time on my inside edges on straight legs. Overall though, I’m happy with my decisions and focus.

It was a great event. I’m definitely going back next year.

  • Grand Forks is really into it. They have inline speed skaters on their travel guides.   The race even got coverage on the evening news.
  • They give prizes for all participation classes.
  • They took skater feedback and made some changes
  • Oh yeah, and they had HOT PIZZA at the finish line

Skating, Fitness, and Some Science

I have previously mentioned that I want to post on the topic of fitness as it relates to skating.  Since I don’t have a degree or formal education of any kind, and the science specific to speed skating is so limited in terms of research and publications, consider this your lawyerly disclaimer that the remainder of this post is purely my opinion based on the arm-chair internet research I have done on the topic of sport science and how it may or may not apply to speed skating, specifically inline speed skating, and my experiences in training for inline marathon races.  Take this for what it is worth, something to think about and consider, discuss and dispute, dissect and analyze.  I hope this post can be used as a starting point for more conversation.

After my VO2 Max test in April, I realized that my physical ability, in terms of being an endurance athlete, is in the average range.  My goal is to skate faster, and one way to focus my training to achieve that goal is to consider what weaknesses I need to reinforce to insure I am getting the most of the engine that drives my hobby, namely my body.  Unfortunately, there is very little science specific to speed skating, and even less dedicated to inline speed skating.  Most of my research looked at similar endurance sports, like cycling, for simulacra that could be used to understand what happens to the body during intense exercise.

Cycling and running are both good sports to compare with speed skating, at least, from a physiological health and training perspective.  Mass start speed skating, like anything in inline speed, and some events in ice skating, rely heavily on the pack dynamic during the race similar to cycling.  Running provides a lot of analogies in the context of physical fitness.

In the vein of analyzing similar sports, Joe Friel, triathlete coach and master cyclist, has a wealth of information on his website that is helpful in understanding how the body works during endurance sport.  We should start with the premise, as he does, that being a good endurance athlete requires three things:  Aerobic Capacity, Lactate Threshold, and Economy.  Some posts on Joe Friel’s blog break down these concepts in detail.

First, aerobic capacity is basically your body’s ability to process oxygen and use it for helping your body generate and consume fuel.  Oxygen is the catalyst for the biochemical mechanisms that make the body operate, especially during exercise.  Unfortunately, aerobic capacity is dictated by, in large part, genetics.  However, you can train your body to increase your capacity.  Scientifically, this capacity is measured using a VO2 Max test, and it is one of the reasons I was so interested in participating in this kind of test.  It provided a benchmark for me to compare and analyze my fitness for the purpose of skating.  Realistically, there are a couple of things you can do to increase your VO2 Max without getting new genes.  Weight can be a factor, and I have been fighting with mine lately.  I am always looking to drop an extra 15 to 20 pounds, but now that I am past the ripe age of 30, that has proven to be more difficult than I expected.  The one big piece, though, is endurance specific training.  That sounds ridiculous.  I skate long distances all the time, so I should be getting enough endurance training.  However, what makes endurance training important has more to do with heart rate than distance.

There is a lot of scientific support for the proposition that most of an endurance athlete’s time should be spent training in heart rate zone 2, roughly 60%-70% of your max heart rate.  It makes sense that you train in this zone to build endurance because in this zone you are “teaching” your body to burn fat for energy, and your muscles respond by increasing the mitochondrial density (and see also) in your slow twitch muscle cells.  Before we go off the scientific deep end here, this really just means that the portions of the muscle cells that produce and consume energy during a workout are increased as a result of this kind of training, making the athlete more efficient at burning calories for long periods of time, thereby increasing your endurance.  In addition to Zone 2 training, intervals are important, especially at a pace that is at or near your VO2 Max.  What we see here is a coordinated way to increase your aerobic capacity by spending a lot of time training in Heart Rate Zone 2 and doing intervals, in addition to losing some weight.

The second piece of this puzzle is Lactate Threshold.  I won’t belabor the science here, as Friel’s post does a great job on that point.  This is literally the “red line” for your heart, or the percentage of your maximum heart rate you can hold for 60 minutes of high intensity exercise like a race.  This is sport specific.  My Lactate Threshold based on my most recent inline marathons suggests that my threshold is about 165 beats per minute (bpm).  However, take that with a grain of salt because I have never undergone any specific lactate testing.  For more information on this terribly misunderstood topic, check out Training Peaks discussion on Lactate Threshold.  The conclusion in this article is very interesting.  In order to increase your LT, you need to do more Zone 2 cardio because it is the slow-twitch muscles that clear lactate from the fast-twitch muscles.  However, it is also important to work those fast twitch muscles so the body can recruit all of the muscle systems to maximize its efficiency in clearing lactate.  Bottom line, spend more time training in cardio Zone 2, and do intervals, also.

Third, we need to consider the economy of movement to maximize the use of energy over a long race.  Joe Friel, again, notes in his post, that science knows very little about how this impacts fitness and sports performance, but that it is basically defined as how much oxygen the body uses per specified amount of exertion, or milliliters of oxygen per mile.  When speed skaters think about economy, we usually also think about movement efficiency, and for good reason as they are basically the same for our sport(s).  Friel talks about different ways to improve economy by pointing to examples on how to reduce external friction (like aero bars on TT bikes) or work on pedaling technique for cyclists, and reducing gear weight for runners.  However, he also notes that explosive exercises like plyometrics can make the body more efficient.  For anyone who has been to a skating clinic, this probably all sounds very familiar.  For speed skaters, this really boils down to something very straightforward, technique.   This is something we can work on until we think we have it perfect, watch video of our skating, and find 10 new things to change.  For skaters to excel on this level, it requires drill after drill to perfect technique and form, something most of us don’t care about as much as we should because we just want to get out and skate.

Knowing that efficiency is part of the game is great, but there also has to be a way to measure economy so we can see when it is having an impact on our skating and potential results in a race.  Friel commented in a Twitter post that the method of calculating efficiency over the duration of a work out is speed/HR.  If you are looking at an overall workout, for example, you can take average speed divided by average heart rate to get your economy for the entire work out or race.  My recent race at the MN Half Marathon would look like the following: 18.7 mph avg/165 bpm avg.  I think this serves to show speed over effort, and there are a lot of factors that influence this kind of data.  For example, in a pack sport like outdoor inline marathon racing, drafting is a big part of the tactics and should be considered a required skill.  It reduces the amount of wind resistance and can conserve energy by up to 30%.  However, when you are out on a solo skate, pounding away at the pavement, the real terms of economy come down to stride and glide length, underpush, weight transfer, and knee bend.  I also think that weight lifting has a role here, particularly in skating.  By lifting weights as part of training, you are capable of putting more power to the ground under max effort, which should translate to being able to put a larger amount of power to the ground through the push than if you are not weight training.

What does this tell us about training?  First, this analysis doesn’t seem very far off base.  Sutton Atkins from Sk8 Skool Online recently dissected a post from Training Peaks on these points.  Generally, we seem to agree that much of this scientific study from other sports applies to speed skating.  Second, and most importantly, it gives skaters an idea of how to train.  Joey Mantia said in the Minnesota Clinic he did in June that some skaters are tremendous physical athletes, while others have perfect technique, but the best skaters in the world have both.  I think anyone who seriously trains for speed skating should strive to be a great athlete with great technique.

Clearly, there are three things that need to be in a training program:  Long HR Zone 2 work outs, Intervals, and Technique practice.  However, we also see the need for supplemental exercise to support overall fitness and increase skating performance.  Plyometric exercises, skating in groups for drafting practice, weight lifting, and tempo skating all have their place in a well structured training plan.  Also, it shows we can rely on science supporting other endurance sports to help direct how we should be training as speed skaters.  All of a sudden, there is a lot more information and a lot more training options out there.

What do you think?  Am I right, or so wrong I should go back to the basement and spend 5 hours on the slide board?


Race Report: 2014 Minnesota Half Marathon

A lot of people question the value of the Minnesota Half Marathon.  However, after the race this year, this event should be considered a staple of the Midwest outdoor racing circuit and anyone within reasonable driving distance should put this race on their calendar.

I have often felt that this race rejuvenates my confidence as a skater after the Chicagoland Inline Marathon, as I haven’t been able to keep up with the main pack at that race since I have raced it.  Coming out of the Chicagoland, I was aggressive with the two weeks of training I had getting ready for this race.  I like this race, generally, even if it is only a half marathon.  The road conditions are decent, there aren’t a lot of big hills, and the pace is pretty fast.  This is a local race for Minnesota skaters, and it usually draws a big crowd from the local speed skating contingent here.  This year was no exception.

I got out of the house and on the road by the time I had planned, but didn’t get to St. Paul, where the race took place, until 7:15 AM.  The race was scheduled to start for the Open Wave at 7:33 AM, so I was very late.  The line for parking was long, and I still had to get to packet pick-up and get my skates on before getting to the start line.  The gear drop was also in an odd place.  Thankfully, one of my teammates from Team Rainbo was kind enough to drop my gear bag for me at gear drop while I got my skates on.  When I checked in and got my bib, I didn’t get an ankle chip.

I made it to the start line, but just barely before the National Anthem.  I got in with the group of skaters in the open group, but was shuffled a couple of skaters back from the start line.  The conditions were tight, and it took a bit to get across the start line.  At the start, the pace was predictably fast through the turn around.  The main group filtered out after a couple of miles.  We had a solid group through the first half of the race.  Oddly, at about mile 5.5, I was pulling the line and found myself alone.  I looked back to see the line dropping off behind me.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold that pace through the rest of the race, and opted to let the line catch me.  We rotated out, I continued to draft, and as we approached the turn around a couple of skaters got away.  Cale Carvell gave chase, and caught the group on the flyer.  The line broke up a bit up the hill to the turn around, and I opted to see if I could catch the flyer. It took about a mile, but I managed to reel them in.  Unfortunately, the rest of the pack came with us.  The last couple of miles were very fast.  I managed to duck in behind Roger Olson and hang on to the finish.  We were cruising into the final sprint, and I looked to my right only to see one of the other skaters closing, so I shot my right foot out to cross the line first, finishing in the top 5 for the wave, first for my age group, and 33rd overall, finishing in 42:02.30.  Full results can be found here.  The open wave was lead by Matt Melanson, Cale Carvell, Roger Olson, and myself.  However, the official results list Dan Stietz as finishing first, though I don’t know we ever saw him in or around the main pack, and he finished about 3 seconds ahead of the pack.  There was some great racing in the open division this year.

Inline Skate Minneapolis‘s race report from the overall event can be found here.  Kelin Dunfree pulled out the overall win, followed by Rob Bell and Alex Fadek with Hernan Diaz and  Team Rainbo’s Steve Meisinger rounding out the top five finishers.  Kaari, over at the Longtrack Life also pulled out her inline skates and raced the event.  Her race report can be found here.

My technique was better in this race, but after watching the video and observing some of the other skaters, I can say that the big problem with my technique is where my center of gravity sits over my skates.  The other fast skaters have their center of gravity further back over the heels of their skates.  Mine tends to be over my skates.  I noticed this after the Chicagoland, but this certifies the problem.  I have been working on this aspect of my technique.  I need to get my balance and weight farther over the heels of my skates, and I will continue to work on this body position.  The big benefit of doing this is it forces me to push out to side more effectively, thereby transferring power to the ground more effectively to generate more speed.

The race was a little slower than last year, but my finish result was better in the main pack.  While there was a little hiccup with the timing because I didn’t have an ankle chip, the race organizers were very accommodating to add my time to the final results.  My helmet camera video follows:

I used DashWare to make the gauge overlay for this video.  This process is shockingly more cumbersome than using CycleCam.  CycleCam creates the gauge videos with just the use of the Garmin TCX file.  However, it doesn’t have very many options for gauges.  DashWare has considerably more gauge options, and the gauge designer is very powerful, though not entirely user friendly.  DashWare, though, is designed to make the entire video, start to finish.  DashWare has options for titling, but isn’t very capable as an editor.  I had to make a background to make the green screen so I could use chroma key to overlay the gauges on the camera footage.  I like the gauge options, but you have to render the video with audio in DashWare then edit the camera video and gauge video in Lightworks.  I am going to keep working with DashWare to see if I can construct a viable workflow.  I will have a review of DashWare specifically in the near future.


Race Report: 2014 Chicagoland Inline Marathon

This year, the Chicagoland Inline Marathon took place on July 20, 2014.  The weather is usually a source of concern for this race because, as one friend and fellow racer of mine put it, its like racing on the surface of the sun.  It is usually brutally hot and terribly humid, but that is what you get when you schedule a race in the Chicago area in July, basically the dog days of summer.  This year, though, the race start for the Advanced division at 8 AM, the weather was reasonably pleasant.  The temperature was in the mid 60’s and the humidity was around 70%.  The Elite group had a little tougher time weather wise, but it never got much more humid.  Generally, pleasant conditions for skating, all things considered.

The race started shortly after 8 AM, and the group came off of the line typically quick, with the speed of the lead pack jumping quickly up to 20 MPH.  As the group thinned to the 20 of us, or so that could hold that pace.  The pace stayed in that range, and for the first half of the race, we were averaging 18+ mph even over the hills.  Last year, I got dropped after the the hills on Central, headed up Huntington toward Lakewood.  This year, I managed to stick with the lead pack through the entire first lap, and through the long outbound stretch on Central to the turn around about 12 miles in to the race.  For this race, it is the longest I have managed to stick with the lead pack.

Like previous years, we lost half of the pack on the hills on the return on Central.  This group got together and hung together for the rest of the race.  The lead pack put some good distance on them in the half of a lap or so after we got away.  However, it wasn’t too much longer before I lost the lead pack.  At the turn around, I got shuffled to the back of the pack.  When we came around the corner back onto Central, I had the opportunity to jump up the line, but, mentally, I wasn’t there, and miss the opportunity.  The guy in front of me lapped the line, and I got stuck in the accordion effect of the sprint back toward the hills on Central.  I couldn’t get my legs under me and sprint after the pack to stay in the draft.

I lost the pack after 12 miles, and then skated the remainder of the entirely alone.  I tried to pick up a skater or two on the way, but wasn’t able to find anyone to skate with.  Another skater was on my tail, but not closing fast enough to allow us to work together.  I think we both may have done better if we managed to connect and work together.  Regardless, after seeing one of my team mates with a bit of a lead, I was hoping to catch him.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t close the gap and I spent the rest of the race in no-man’s land, skating solo in the wind, fighting for every minute I could manage.  I finished the race in something of a disappointing 1:35:20, 5th in my division and 16th overall in the wave, as I hoped to finish around 90 minutes.  However, I do think this is one of my highest overall finishes at this race, which does give me some hope that the work I have been doing on technique and fitness are helping.  This time was better than last year, but not better than the year before, which was a personal best at this course, if memory serves.  The advanced division race results can be found here.  The rest of the results by category can be found here.

This race is challenging.  While the road conditions get a lot of complaints, that isn’t what really makes this race hard:  it’s the hills.  To race Chicagoland, you have to be ready for hills, intervals, and hot weather.  Without that combination, you won’t last.  The road conditions are just another layer that will separate those who are comfortable skating on any surface from those who aren’t.  I will keep attending this race because I like the challenge.  I wasn’t prepared mentally, and could have used a little better physical preparation, but I learned a lot (like how my form on hills falls apart when I get tired, leaving me with heel blisters to remember the experience).  My hips were pretty sore after the race, too, which also gives me confidence that my work on technique is helping as the kind of soreness and fatigue I came away from the race with is a good indication that my technique wasn’t as bad as my feet would have me believe.  That said, the goal for next year is to hang with the lead pack through the entire race.  I have a better idea of how to train now, generally, and will be adjusting my off season work to accommodate a lot more base cardio, something I missed this last winter.  Mixed with a strong helping of weight lifting, a little bit of ice skating, and a mix of other things that I will probably discuss more at length come October, I am hoping for a stronger finish next year.  Overall, I can’t complain much about this race.  I did better than last year and placed higher, overall, than I have at this race.  My time wasn’t spectacular, but given the other gains, I can’t say that this race was a total loss.  I know now what I need to work on, and if I am not learning something in this sport, I am doing something very wrong.

From a gear perspective, I have been messing with my frame placement, and I think it was a little off on both skates, but more so on my left skate. That is where the biggest blister was after the race.  I skated some earlier this week and noticed the placement issue.  I moved the frames in a couple of millimeters, and they feel dialed in at the moment.  I am going to stick with this placement for the near future, probably through the end of the season.  While cleaning my bearings before the race, it became apparent that my Adam’s Swiss bearings were dead after not being properly clean after getting wet during the Apostle Island race.  It was a stupid mistake that forced me to replace the bearings with ILQ9 Pro bearings.  I like the ILQ bearings from TwinCam generally.  They are a good product, but I wish I had more break in time on them.  They roll very smoothly, and I couldn’t complain about the team price.  It is also what a lot of the guys that skate in Minnesota run, too.  The WRW Truth wheels seem to be doing reasonably well, but they are wearing more quickly than I anticipated.  I will have to see how they fair over the next two races to provide a better review.  Any experience I had at Chicagoland this year will be colored by a lot of other gear changes that contributed to my struggles in this race.

The next race is the Minnesota Half Marathon on August 2. I don’t feel ready for this race, but I didn’t feel ready for Apostle Island this year or the Minnesota Half last year.  My goal is ambitious, though I don’t know if I am capable.  Last year, I accomplished my goal of staying with the lead pack.  This year, I am shooting for a top 10 finish in the open division.

My race video follows.  I am switching to DashWare to create the gauges, but building custom gauges in that program takes some time.  I hope to have that program in the mix for the NorthShore in September.  Beyond that, I used Lightworks to do all of the editing, rather than having to create the titles with an image editor and importing them into the video.  The new version of Lightworks is great.  If you need an NLE video editor, check it out.  As for the video, judge for yourself:

 


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.


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