Category Archives: Skate Frames

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:



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:

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 Prep for Roller-Dome

We are less than a week away from the Metrodome Inline Marathon on March 8, 2013.  A couple of weeks ago, I got all the gear out and cleaned bearings.  Luckily, it was a day the baby was sleeping well, so I managed to get everything done.  I wanted to try using mineral spirits, but decided since I was already set up to clean everything with Simple Green, and I am familiar with the product, so I stuck with it.  After getting all the gear cleaned, I adjusted the frame placement under the front toe of each boot.  After cleaning and making all the adjustments, I had the opportunity to get up to the Metrodome for a practice at an open Roller-Dome Session.  They only had one level of the Dome open for skating.  This meant that they had speed and pace line restrictions in place, basically no pace lines, which meant any skating for time would be on my own, and not a very good practice for race conditions.  Regardless, I managed to get out and skate a half marathon distance.  I finished in about 50 minutes, which isn’t bad for a solo effort.  I am hoping that come race day I will be able to skate with a line at a good pace and finish below 95 minutes, but my ultimate goal for this race is a 90 minute finish time.  Regardless, finishing below 95 minutes will be a success for me because I finished this race last year in about 98 minutes.  I am also testing a new gauge layout for the race, using my Forerunner to count laps.  The counter on the far right shows the lap count, which is based on my manual input into the Garmin watch.  Since GPS doesn’t work well in the Dome, I have removed the Street Map view, and made the focus the heart rate gauge.  Speed is there for reference, so there is at least an idea of what is going on when the GPS works.  The video follows.  I am looking forward to the race this weekend, and will have a race report as well as a video within a week of the race.

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.

2011 Bont Jets, Bont S-Frame 7, Bont 110 mm G3 Wheels

On Good Friday, I stopped by Adam’s Inline while in Minnesota visiting family to try on Bont boots to determine the size that fits best.  If you haven’t investigated these skates, Bont skates use consistent sizing and the sizes have stayed the same over the years though many other footwear makers have increased the number of the size without changing the actual size of the shoe or boot.  This is why Bont has a very specific sizing chart on their website.  After trying a couple of boots, I settled on a size 8, 2011 Bont Jet boot with the S-Frame 7 inline skate frame.  The package sold by Adam’s Inline has an upgrade that includes the boot and the frame upgrade, with the 110 mm Bont G3 wheels, and Adam’s Swiss Bearings.  The price is really the best available that I was able to find.  It turns out that, for the most part, Adam’s Inline has the best price on package skates, and provides a bunch of upgrade options.  If you are in the market for skate parts, Bont, or Luguino skates, check out Adam’s Inline.

Since the boots were the new model that has only recently released, shipping of the package took a little longer than expected.  On May 21, 2011, the box with my new skates showed up at my office.  When I opened the box, I pulled out the new boots, with the frames attached.  Upon inspection of the assembled parts, I noticed that the frames were the wrong model from what I ordered.  I called Adam, who dropped the correct frame in the mail with a couple of pairs of skate socks, and I disassembled the parts and put the frames back in the mail that day.

I got the boots home, and started to examine what was in the box.  The box, sans the frames, had the boots, the wheels, laces, some extra bolts, the axles, and a wrench.


The boots are impressive in their own right.  They are very thin, and when they came out of the box feeling very stiff.  Adam warned me that before you heat mold the skates they can feel stiff.  Once I did heat molding, the boots started to feel much more like boots than like cardboard.  A group of pictures of the boots follow:

The first thing I did after getting the skates laced up was heat molding.  This is a process whereby you put the boot into the oven at between 180 and 240 degrees Fahrenheit.  As odd as this sounds, the boots feel very hard and inflexible prior to this process.  Once they are sufficiently warm, the resin in the boots becomes pliable.  At this point, you put the boots on, lace them tight, and sit for about 20 minutes.  The next picture shows an example of the boots tied on during heat molding.

I received the frames a couple of days after receiving the boots and wheels.  The S-Frame is named for the shape of the frame made by the extrusion process.  It looks kind of like corrugated cardboard, but is made out of 7005 Aluminum.  It is very light and very stiff.  Pictures of the frame follow:

The next step was to put it all together.  I was warned by another skater that the Bont frame bolts tend to come loose if you don’t put Loctite on them.  As a result, I made it a point to stop by the hardware store to pick up some Loctite Blue to put on all of the frame bolts and frame axles.

One of the shocking things about these skates is how light the boots and frames are, even assembled.  The skates don’t get heavy until you put the wheels into the frame.  The wheels make the skates intimidating.


I will report back once I am able to get out and skate on them.