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: