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
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