Category Archives: Skate Boots

Finishing the season…

The outdoor inline season is pretty much finished in this part of the country.  There are still some races where it is warmer late in the year, like Silver Strand and the Tinsel Tri in California.  However, the group that I skate with has all but disbanded at this point in the year.  While other skaters in the area have moved to cycling or hockey, I am trying to skate as much as I can before the weather prevents skating, and it is time to start skating ice or move indoors.  The Metrodome is due to be closed for demolition and reconstruction at the end of the year.  As a result, I am planning on making a cross-training transition for the off season.

Before moving inside or onto the ice, I took one last opportunity to run a tempo skate around the 8 mile loop I use for that kind of time trial.  The goal was to set a baseline for training next year so that I can shoot for this target toward the beginning of the year. The goal was to repeat something that I only managed once this year, a 16 mile per hour speed average over 8 miles through the Cascade Lake trail.  I went out at the beginning of the month, October 2, in the evening after work.  I shot video, which follows.  And I am going to run a side by side comparison of this run from the beginning of the year and the end of the year to get an idea of the differences in pace.  This was a good skate, but it was a hard skate.  I hope I can get back to this point early next year to build on this progress.

Now that we are edging into the off season training is changing.  I had good results this year thanks to a lot of weight lifting.  I am putting weight lifting back into the schedule, but it won’t be a focus for weekly training this year like it was last year.  My goal is to lift once, though preferrably twice, per week, get at least one plyometic and slide board session in, and spend some time working on base cardio fitness on the bike, ice, or in the Roller-Dome.  So far, I have only managed to get back to weights, as I am still skating outside the weather permits.

Future off-season posts will detail the transition to long track ice skating for cross training, more on power lifting, plyometrics, gear reviews of the Bont Z and Bont long track Jet boot, in addition to a tutorial on building a slide board.  It looks like it will be a busy off season.


Training Update

At this point, it is 10 days to the Northshore Inline Marathon.  I don’t know how to feel going into this race.  My training has been hit or miss lately, but what I do get in focuses on speed.  Labor day weekend, I put in some decent miles Friday, 20 miles Saturday, took Sunday off, and put in another 22 miles on Monday.  All told, it was 50 miles for the long weekend.  It felt good to be on skates that much.  I have been adjusting my boots some, as the navicular bone on my left foot has been causing problems and my forefoot still feels smashed in the front of the boot.  I also adjusted my frames.  The adjusted the frames, also, because I noticed I wasn’t landing on top of my wheels when recovering during the push when I was tired.  The frame placement has helped me skate better overall, not just when I am tired.

My average speeds have been steadily increasing.  Last night, I went out for a tempo skate.  My tempos had previously been smashing my goal of a 15 mile per hour average speed.  It wasn’t really pushing me.  I upped the pace to 16 miles per hour, and that was quite a bit more difficult.  This is the kind of tempo skating I should have been doing in June.  I know better now going into the off-season as I start thinking about next year.  It felt good to skate hard like that.  I am hoping to skate intervals tonight, schedule permitting.

While I haven’t been struggling with injury, this life transition has taken its toll mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Skating is where I find peace in the craziness.  I am looking forward to the race next weekend, but with trepidation at the end of the season, racing a course I haven’t been on in two years, and being in a wave that may be too fast for my ability.  Ami the Writer summed it up in her post yesterday.  Now is the final push, though.  The taper really starts Monday after at least one long skate this weekend.  Then the bike Tuesday, a skate Wednesday, rest Thursday, travel Friday, leading up to the race Saturday morning.

I hope the weather holds

Race Report: 2013 Minnesota Half Marathon

This post could also be titled “How the Chicagoland Marathon should have gone.”

I came at this race only two weeks after the Chicagoland Inline Marathon with only five training sessions.  I was hoping to get more miles in on skates, on my bike, or some dry land work, but life gets in the way.  I had a lot of apprehension about the race because of the limited training and limited preparation time.  Coming out of Chicagoland, I was disappointed by a time I was hoping would be better.  I couldn’t figure out if I didn’t train enough, if there was a diet problem, or if I just wasn’t in the shape I was in last year.  These feelings compounded a bit going into the Minnesota Half Marathon.  This race tends to feel like the late season litmus test going into the last 6 weeks before the Northshore Inline Marathon in September.  Last year, I finished the Minnesota Half far better than I could have expected, setting a new personal best for a half marathon distance at just over 43 minutes.

I had one goal going into this race:  to stay with the main pack.  I didn’t want to get dropped from the pack at all if possible.  Last year, they left me at mile 9.  This year, my goal was to finish with the pack, but going in I would have been happy to last longer than 9 miles, and make it past the last turn-around point on the course.

I was nervous at the start, and on the video you can see me rocking back and forth.  We didn’t have any problem getting into St. Paul to stay with my sister-in-law this year.  The weather was great, and the trip is now only an hour since we live in Rochester, Minnesota.  This basically makes this race a local race for me.  My wife and sister-in-law decided to run the 5k at the event this year, so I was out the door at 6:30 to head to the race for a 7:34 AM start time.  I got there, found parking, paid for parking, and by the time I got to the location of gear drop-off, it was just after 7 AM.  I got ready, dropped off my bag, but didn’t have time to warm up because they called the skaters to the line for the start.  I was nervous because of my lack of training, my goals, and my result at the Chicagoland Marathon.  One of the odd things about sport performance is the degree to which the mental component matters.  I knew what I had to do, and once the countdown for the start of the race hit 0, it was all business.

I skated the race on the same gear I skated the Chicagoland, and this race included the same wheels and bearings from last year’s race.  Everything worked out very well, and even though there are now considerably more miles on my 2012 Bont Black Ops 87a 110mm wheels, they are wearing well, continue to roll well, and are very smooth over rougher surfaces for such a hard wheel.  My new boots and frames did excellently as well in the conditions.  My new boots (2012 Bont Zs) are starting to break in very well, and get more comfortable every time I skate them.

The first part of the race was similar to last year.  The front starters and fast skaters took off and set a fast pace.  We were cruising at around 20 miles per hour headed to the first turn-around point.  I stuck with some of my teammates, and the first trouble in the race really didn’t spring up until we caught the slower duathlon skaters.  We had to maneuver through a small group of slower skaters, and the slower skaters basically covered the course from about a half mile in to the first turn-around point at around 2 miles into the race.  Once through the turn-around, there weren’t any obstacles in front of the main pack.  The dynamics of the pack were similar to last year, in that they were all over the place and the front of the line wasn’t calling hazards.  There weren’t any major surges in the pace except for on the hills, which are mild and short by comparison to the hills on the Chicagoland course.  The pack cruised along, swapping positions with skaters coming up on one side or the other of the line.  We hit the big hills and I just hung on for dear life, working hard to close any gaps that opened in front of me.  I kept checking my Garmin to see what my heart rate was doing.  It is interesting to watch the video now to also see where I was with my heart rate.  It wasn’t as elevated as last year, so I am in better physical condition, at least so it seems.

As we got to mile 9, and were coming up to the last turn-around on the course, I got nervous again because I started to gap the line at the same point as last year.  I could feel my heart pounding in my ears, and decided to push through and stick with the pack as long as I could.  We made the turn around, and with one of my race goals down, I was going to ride it out and see how long it lasted.  However, we turned the corner and the pace of the group slowed.  Not remarkably, but enough for me to catch my breath and recover a bit.  As we headed into the hilly section on the return, there was a skater in front of the one of my team mates that kept letting other skaters in the line.  My team mate decided he didn’t want to let this go on, so he jumped out of the line.  I didn’t want to get left behind, so I went with him.  What was supposed to be a tactical move up in the line turned into a short flyer.  Next thing I know, we are out in front with a gap on the line as we crest over the hill.  My team mate moved into the draft behind me and we started down the hill.  He warned me that the line would likely come flying by us on the down hill.  At that point, I was too spent to care, and just coasted the hill.  The pack caught up, but the surge didn’t happen until we were headed back up the next hill.  Thankfully, the down hill coast was enough for me to recover from the sprint.  As the line went by, I managed to stay with the front 15 or so skaters.

The pace picked up from there.  We crossed the 12.5 mile mark and the line disintegrated into an extended field sprint.  The guys at the front of the line stayed together, but farther back, it was every man for himself.  I really pushed the pace all the way to the finish, and my speed was considerably higher than what I usually skate.  My heart rate was through the roof, but I made it to the finish.  Officially, I finished with a time of 40:49.88, finishing first overall in the open masters division (age 30-39).

20130803 MN Half Award Picture w Medal

Much like last year, this was a great race, and anyone who is on the fence about whether to attend should take the plunge.  It may only be a half marathon, but it is certainly one of the great races of the year that I have attended.  I am looking forward to next year, and hope to be in the front of the open pack at the finish.  The one thing I would change about this race is the way the duathlon starts.  The slower duathlon skaters are a danger to the faster open group skaters, and this was blatantly apparent this year as we had to dodge several of them during the first 2 miles of the race.  I think this could be fixed with better instructions to the duathlon skaters about staying to the right of the road way .  That notwithstanding, this was a great race generally, and a good race for me personally.  The video of my race follows:

Race Report: Chicagoland Inline Marathon

The 2013 Chicagoland Inline Marathon took place on July 21, 2013.  I had been working on preparing for this race since the Metrodome Marathon in March.  However, as my posts on this blog have detailed, it has been a challenge to train.  Between the weather, a new baby, and a new job, skating became less of a priority.  In addition, the week prior to the race, I only managed one relatively slow skate and was battling a head cold.  Going into the race, I was nervous about my potential performance.  Tactically, I wanted to hang with the lead pack of the advanced division as long as I could, and try to get to the front as much as I could to keep pace.  This plan was based on my experience last year getting dropped by the pack on the first lap headed up the return hill on Central Avenue.  I thought I had a pretty good plan going into the race, but was concerned about my fitness level and the lack of training the week before the event.

At the start, I had gotten a pretty solid position near the front of the pack.  When the race started, I managed to get out ahead of pretty much everyone except for 3 or four skaters.  Two of the skaters ahead of me formed a pace line pretty quickly, and we stuck together out onto Central Avenue with the rest of the pack on our heels.  The entire lead pack formed up quickly on the first uphill, and we cycled through pulls on the line.  As we headed out on Central Avenue, I had my first experience pulling the lead.  Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and only happened once.  I pulled off the front of the line after pulling up the big hill at a solid pace for me headed up a hill.  I moved back into the line about 5 spots back.  At that point, my plan was moving along fine.  There weren’t very many attempts to push the pace as we were moving pretty fast, and the breaks usually hold off until the return hill on Central.  I gave up a few spots as we moved down Central, and gave up a couple of more spots heading into and around the turn around on Central.  As we headed back up the hills on Central, the only thing I wanted was to stay in the line and not lose the pack.  As we came back up the hill on Central, the line kept a steady but quick pace.  I managed to stick with the line, and as we turned on to Huntington from Central, the line broke and picked up speed again on the uphill there.

At that point, I was completely drained, and had gassed out.  I started way too fast, and expended far too much energy trying to lead the pack.  The long set of hills on Central and onto Huntington took their toll.  I was hoping to get a gauge for where my heart rate was at this point, but for some reason my heart rate monitor wasn’t relaying data to my Garmin.  As a result, the only thing I can look back on is the feeling of my heart pounding in my ears and the lack of power in my legs telling me that I needed to spend more time on cardiovascular fitness.  I lost the main pack and skated the rest of the first lap solo.  As I came around the finish, I could see the pack starting to break up.  I picked up one skater towards the end of lap one, and the two of us eventually picked up another skater out on Central.  A group then caught us, and I skated most of the second and the beginning of the third lap with them.  On the return hill on Central, we caught a couple more of the stragglers from the main pack.  However, I lost this group headed back up the hill on Huntington and ended up skating the section on Lakewood solo.  As I made the turn off Lakewood, I was passed by another group that I was able to jump in with.  I finished the race with this group, setting a good pace over the last mile.  Making the final turn of Central, there was standing water on the course in a prime line around the corner, and as we came around the corner, I broke for the finish only because the pace picked up and I was number 2 in the line.  I couldn’t hold the pace and lost a couple of positions at the end.

I finished the race in 1:35:58 per my Garmin, but the official time had me at 1:36:01.  I placed 27th out of about 45 total racers in the Advanced division.  This certainly wasn’t my goal, but I finished without any serious problems, and managed to stick with the main pack longer than last year.  This is a hard course, and every time was several minutes slower this year than last year.  Whether it was the degrading road surface (there were a few more holes in the road this year), or the standing water on the course I can’t say.  This was a great learning experience.  I am glad I jumped out front.  I know I can keep that pace in the line.  However, I may be better off staying a little farther back in the line and avoiding the pull until later in the race.  I am taking this experience into the Minnesota Half Marathon in about a week and a half and the Northshore Inline Marathon in a little under 2 months, and will try to develop a better game plan for those races.

The big take away from this race, though, was my lack of cardiovascular fitness.  I need to work on harder intervals.  Lately my work outs haven’t been pushing my limits because I have been focusing on technique.  I think the technique is working for me, now I need to refocus on cardiovascular fitness to make sure I can continue to hammer the pace all the way through a 90 minute race.  Also, I struggled with wasting energy trying to match stride in the pace line.  I am going to work on becoming more efficient in shorter strokes, also, since that was an area that cost me in the race, and will continue to be an issue.  It seems like training solo has made this difficult.  Regardless, I need to refocus on my cardio moving forward.  I will also not be taking cardio out of the rotation over the off season this year, and I hope that hard bike intervals mixed with some potential ice skating will keep me in reasonable condition going into the early season races next year.

This was my first outdoor race on my new 2012 Bont Z boots with 3PF frame.  I used the same wheel/bearing set up as last year.  The skates did very well, and I think I have them about where they need to be with being broken in.  I need a new pair of EzeeFits, which I am going to buy at the Minnesota Half, but otherwise, the set up worked great.  The new helmet was terrific also.

The video follows, but I warn you that after the first 10 minutes or so it gets kind of boring for about 20 or so minutes.  Things get interesting again from that point.  Also, the heart rate gauge is dead because my Garmin didn’t track any heart rate data.  Otherwise, the video looks good.

Spring is finally here

The weather has been very strange in this part of the country.  We got a couple of warm days in April, then it got cold again and stayed cold for most of the month.  My training after Metrodome was limited to occasional outdoor skates, supplemented by occasional weight lifting, and occasional time on the bike.  The trend for occasional work outs is a complication of starting a new job and taking care of an infant when my wife and I are not working.  At least I am able to get work-outs in, though.

My first time skating outside this year was about April 7.  I think I may have gone out once or twice before that but not for very long skates.  I took the camera with me that day, and the video is at the end of this post.  This video was one of my first skates outside with my new Bont Z boots and 3PF frames.  I like this set up a lot, but more on that in another post.

On May 2, we got 14 inches of snow…Yes, that says over 1 foot of snow…In May…

Now that it is getting warmer and the weather is cooperating a little bit more, I am looking forward to skating more.  I have added intervals to my on-skate training.  It is very different from what I have done before, but I can already feel that it will benefit my skating.  I am also back to training on slower gear, basically unbanded wheels (though the G4 Mint Greens are great wheels), and the Bont ABEC 7 bearings, which are good, but definitely lack the free spin and roll of my Adam’s Swiss.  More resistance means I have to push harder, and the theory is that this kind of skating builds strength.  I have been able to clear 20+mph during my sprint intervals, but I wear out fast.  I am also still looking for a good loop course using the local train system.  So far, though, I am enjoying what I have found.

Roll for the Roses is the next race.  It will be over the weekend of June 22.  It is a short 10k as part of a larger festival.  I am going to race for fun, but also to get an idea of how the race is set up because I am hoping to get an event started here, also.  I will have a lot more on that in the future if it materializes.  Besides life being very busy, I am doing my best to keep up with training.  Ideally, I am trying to work out 3 times a week.  Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes its more.  As life settles, I hope things become more consistent.

Regardless, now that the weather is getting better, get out and skate!

Race Report: Metrodome Inline Marathon 2013

The Metrodome Inline Marathon took place on March 9 for 2013.  This was called the “Grand Finale” because the Dome is slated for demolition in February of 2014 to make way for its replacement. Since it was presumably the last inline marathon at the Dome, the field was opened for more skaters, and the event organizers instituted a finish time limit on wave 1 of 95 minutes.  In order to skate in wave 1 you had to be able to finish below this time limit.  The half marathon and full marathon skaters with finish times in excess of 95 minutes were assigned to wave 2.  The last race of the day was the Team Time Trial, which is what the Metrodome race is really known for.  In that race, teams of five skate together to get the best time possible.  The fourth person to cross the line from the team determines the time for the team.

Like last year, I skated wave 1.  However, unlike last year, I had an ambitious finishing goal.  I wanted to finish in 90 minutes, which, after my last practice in the Dome, seemed like a difficult target to hit. Previously, my personal best marathon time was 1:32:53, set at the Chicagoland Inline Marathon.  Going into the race, I knew I was able to finish within the time restriction for wave 1 based on this race and my 43:03 finish at the Minnesota Half last year.  With that in mind, I came into the race hoping to finish at or under 90 minutes, but would have been happy finishing below 95 minutes.  This especially because of my lack of training overall in February, and only having one month of hard carido training in January after spending two months focusing on weight lifting.

Start order for the race was alphabetical.  We lined up on the stairs prior to the race, and the race official called the race participants in order, and released us out on the course one at a time.  This is a unique race format, and it is more of a time trial style, which is odd for a pack sport, especially since all the racers are on the course at the same time for this race rather than one participant at a time.  It makes the race a pack time trial, which is entirely unique.  This is one of the reasons this is a great race, and it is one of the reasons it is such a hard race.

The racers in front of me hit the course, and I stepped up to the line.  The race director told me to enter, and I was off.  I didn’t want to come out of the gate too fast.  This race requires a lot of strategy, knowing how to read your body, and having a plan about when to make the required water stop.  I was hoping to have someone to skate with the entire race, but didn’t end up making those arrangements prior to the race.  Going into the race expecting to skate alone or to work with skaters I am unfamiliar with.  Skating this race alone is a brutal experience because of the monotony of the laps.  They never seem to end when you are on your own.  When you are skating with a group, it is easier to focus on the skating.  Out of the gate, I caught a good line that only had a couple of people.  The pace was fast, but I was able to keep up.  The line fell apart after only a couple of laps, and I was back on my own.  I managed to pick up another line a few laps in, and stuck with them for a while.  The pace was solid, and we were at or below my target lap times for the race result I was hoping for.  As we cycled through the line, pulling a lap or a little more, I got to the front of the group, pulled my lap, and cycled back.  As I rotated to the back of the line, I counted five skaters other than myself.

Race rules prohibit pace lines longer than 5 people.  As I moved back in the line, the sixth person meant I could not join the line and continue skating with the group.  Outside of the draft, I couldn’t keep the pace, and fell off the line.  One of the frustrating things about this race was that the pace line restrictions were either ignored or not enforced.  I could have stuck with that faster line for a good portion of the rest of the race, but wasn’t able to maintain the speed they set.  For the rest of the race, I bounced around from line to line.  I found a couple of other groups to skate with, but nothing consistent.  I spent most of my race skating on my own.

The race didn’t go as I had planned, but resulted better than I had hoped.  I finished with a new personal best marathon time of 1:32:30, shaving about 23 seconds off my prior personal best.   About 40 laps into the race, my arches began to hurt right around the point where the navicular bone joint is located.  This is the same point I had a blister on my left foot after skating the Dome earlier in March.  It started on the left, but eventually started on the right also.  I managed to adjust my technique to compensate, but I am sure the change in form altered my efficiency likely sacrificing some speed.   At that point, the goal was to finish the race.  By the end of the race, I had blisters on both feet.  I need to continue to work on heat molding the new boots or continue with frame adjustments.  Either way, I am still breaking my feet into the new boots.  I may also need new EzeeFits.

Paul Dyrud won the overall finish of the race.  He set a blistering pace, and attacked hard about halfway through, going solo for the rest of the race.  He was skating so fast that he passed the rest of the leaders.  It was amazing to watch him in the race as he came by me.  He was super low in his squat, and pushing really hard.  Looking at his form, it is clear to me that I wasn’t skating low enough in the speed squat.  This is something I am going to devote a lot of time to for the rest of this season.  I think I could have gone quite a bit faster had I spent more time in a deeper squat, elongating my stride to use the power in my glutes, hamstrings, and quads.  I am going to incorporate longer low walks and more wall sits into my exercise routine.  I have taken a lot of the week after the race off, partly to recover, partly because of new obligations in parenting, and partly due to needing to shovel the large amounts of snow we received here earlier in the week.  I am hoping to get back on the bike tomorrow, and be back to weight lifting on Monday, and I am looking forward to having some new direction with my training.

The next scheduled races are the short distance events in June, Roller for the Roses and Grand Old Day.  These are short races, 10k and 8k respectively.  I expect them to be very fast sprints.  The 10k will be good practice for the Chicagoland Tour race in July, which includes a 10k points elimination race.  Depending on how things go with my job search, and whether it is possible to day trip the race, I would like to make Apostle Island this year.  It is unlikely, but it would be a nice addition to the race calendar.

Race video follows this post, as always.  The video only has two gauges on it, a lap count and a gauge for heart rate since GPS doesn’t work in the Dome. It was a great race and worth watching if you have the time.  You may want to listen to some music though as most of the sound is wind noise.

2012 Bont Z Package Skate Unboxing

Some time ago, I mentioned I was interested in getting new boots, among other reasons, resolve the boot-slop issues I have had since my skate boots were too big.  Generally, Bont boots run 1.5 to 2 sizes big compared to American Street shoe sizes.  It is very important to discuss boot fit with your skate equipment dealer.  When I was focused on custom skates, I had contacted Glenn Koshi about the best options for fitting and whether customs were right for me.  I sent Glenn some foot tracings, and after a lot of back and forth via e-mail, decided that stock boots were appropriate.  With Glenn’s recommendations, I ordered a size 6.5 Bont Z package skate with a 3-piont 195mm mount spacing, the new Bont 3PF 7050 frame, G4 Mint wheels, and ABEC 7 bearings.

Bont was out of stock on these boots when I ordered them.  As a result, there was a month delay between my order and delivery of the skates.  The following is what came out of the box:

Sorry for the delay in posting, generally, but also this post, as I have been trying to figure out how best to get the gallery feature to work on WordPress.  Also, in the last month, I have moved, and left my job, so there is a lot of settling going on.  I am going to post more pictures of the heat molding process, as there is an issue with the width in the toe box I am working on fixing.  Otherwise, the heat molding went as before, and I will detail the process in another post.  For now, this is the new Bont Z boot out of the box.  So far, it has been a great skate.  A better review compared to my 2011 Jets will be forthcoming.