Race Report: 2013 NorthShore Inline Marathon

I am a bit late with this report, but better late than never. The 2013 NorthShore Inline Marathon took place on September 14, 2013.  This race is broken down into waves based on historical finish times.  The Elite groups, basically the pro skaters, go out before the advanced groups.  The advanced groups are broken into waves based on specific finish times.  This year, they separated the usual two advanced waves into four, A1-2 and B1-2, based on times from previous years.  The 2012 times that qualified skaters for Wave A2 were between 1:17:00 and 1:19:00.  When considering those who I regularly skate with and where they skated in 2012, I opted to sign up for Wave A2, and have previously commented on whether I would be able to keep up.  That pace is much faster than I had ever skated, but wasn’t far off the pace I managed to keep at the 2013 Minnesota Half Marathon.  Thankfully, since last year and the addition of the “Wheels Off” Half Marathon Running event, the full marathon race starts much later than it used to.  Rather that starting the race at 6 or 7 AM, the Elite group did not cross the start line until 9:30.  That put Wave A2 at the start at 10 AM.  I got a little bit better sleep before the race, and had a decent breakfast.

My wife dropped me off to catch the buss to the start at just after 7 AM.  I managed to get on the second bus to the start line.  One of the guys I skate with here in Rochester was on the same bus, so we sat together and talked racing, off-season training, and the like.  It was a fun ride, and, as per usual, it took about 30 minutes.  We arrived at the start area about 7:30, 2 hours before the first wave was scheduled to start.  I caught up with some teammates from Chicago, got ready to skate, and did the usual pre-race dance.  They played the national anthem, and the first waves moved onto the course.  I moved into the starting corral to get ready for the race.  I got to the start line in time to see the Elite Veterans, Elite Women, and Wave A1 take the course.  The waves were started about five minutes apart.

Up until standing at the starting line, the weather conditions felt ideal.  The temperature was between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and you couldn’t feel the wind.  We milled about and talked and joked with one another in the starting corral waiting for our race.  That five minutes felt like an eternity.  The announcer kept giving us tidbits of useless trivia during the wait.  Eventually, we got to the the time for the race start.  The start horn sounded and we were off.

Tactically, I knew I wanted to stay with the front group in the wave, but I didn’t want to be so far in front that I got stuck leading early.  This was the lesson I learned at the Chicagoland, where I came out too fast and couldn’t stay with the pack after 7 miles.  However, I didn’t want to get caught in the accordion of the pack, get gapped, and lose the pack as a result, a lesson that has stuck around from when I skated this race in 2011.  Out of the gate, the pace jumped to 18+ miles per hour.  However, it didn’t take long for the wind to become a factor.  A group of about 8 guys lead out, and while I started farther back in the pack, we quickly moved up.  Shortly after the lines started to form we noticed this group of guys was getting away, so one of my teammates and I chased them down and bridged the gap between lines.  Shortly after this move, we got an attack from the group behind us.  We moved back and forth between lines until it really became clear the wind was going to be an equalizing factor in the race.  I stayed toward the front of the lead group, which means I had to take my turn pulling the line.  I pulled three or four times throughout the race, but generally managed to stay with the front of the pack.

The wind really was the story this year.  We skated right into a headwind that was a steady 15 miles per hour with gusts upwards of 20+ miles per hour.  This really slowed the pace of the race.  We went from what should have been a 19-20 mph pace to a 16 mph pace.  At times, the pace felt downright slow, with some of the hill climbs slowing us down to 12-13 mph.  The slowed pace meant a longer time skating on the rough pavement, resulting in more fatigued legs.  It took 47 minutes to finish the first half marathon.

Right around the half marathon point, my left calf started to cramp.  I managed to stay in the line and work it out by changing up my technique.  I moved farther back in the pace line to give my legs a chance to rest.  However, the line cycled through 15 people deep in the line and it was my turn to pull again.  I was fine generally while pulling the line, but couldn’t really keep the pace up.  When I stopped pulling my legs locked up and it nearly put me on the ground.  This happened a couple of times.  Going into the end of the race, we hit the subdivisions leading up to Lemon Drop hill that takes us out on to I35, I knew my legs were going to be a factor because of the cramping and lack of push power.  I worked in the line to get as much recovery as I could.  We hit the hill and I had nothing in my push.  I managed to stay with the group as my teammate John went on a flier up the hill.  He took the pack with him, and I ended up at the back of the group when we crested the hill.

The conditions on I35 generally don’t bother me.  The road is grooved vertically, so there are equally spaced ruts all across the roadway going with the direction of travel.  I capitalized on my ability to build speed on hills going down the on-ramp onto I35.  I managed to catch the lead group and moved up far enough to be within 10 people from the front.  I managed to cruise down I35 and keep pace with the front of the pack reasonably well.  I knew, though, that the climb up the exit ramp onto 5th Avenue would present the same challenge as the climb up Lemon Drop hill.  Sure enough, the pack went by me on the hill, and I managed to crest the hill with just enough strength to get down the hill headed toward the last left turn into the final straight away to the finish at the DECC.  I wasn’t able to catch the lead group as I didn’t have the strength in my legs to push hard, and catch up.  I was also working alone, which didn’t help either.  However, I finished about 30 seconds behind the front group, and still had a pretty good race overall given the wind and fighting leg cramps.

Overall, I had a solid result.  I finished 4th in my age group, just missing the podium for the 30-34 group, and finished 41st overall for the non-pro skaters.  There were a lot of lessons to learn from this race.  There are two that I am taking with me going forward as general lessons for skating and racing.  First, diet continues to be key, and I will continue to work on finding the right balance to make sure my body has what it needs for race day and avoid the cramps that nearly ended my race.  Second, The time doesn’t matter, it is who you finish with.  My 1:37:00 finish time was slower than my first result at this race, but I finished with, or close to, the top guys in my wave, meaning I am on their level as a skater regardless of the finish time.  In training to race, the focus is now on raising my level of fitness for race day to finish with the top guys, and I am not as worried about times, other than to track general benchmarks for myself.

My helmet camera video follows.  You will want to turn the volume down as the audio is mostly wind noise.  Also, I added two new gauges, one for last mile time in seconds and one for average speed, to provide a little more context to the race.


7 responses to “Race Report: 2013 NorthShore Inline Marathon

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