Tag Archives: Chicagoland Inline Marathon

Race Report: Chicagoland Inline Marathon 2015

This report is a bit stale at this point.  As I mentioned previously, this was my first and only race this year because of everything that had been going on in life and in my family.  Training was decidedly on the back burner, and I had only skated a handful of times before this race.  The delay in this report is also a result of the craziness of life.

Going into this race, I was aiming for a time less than 1:45:00, but would have been happy with anything under 2 hours.  As usually, this course is difficult because of the hills, and the road conditions are typically an unknown.  This year didn’t disappoint when it came to conditions.  It wasn’t terribly hot, but it was humid.  Earlier in the day it threatened rain, so we had a bit of a breeze and the clouds kept it from getting too hot too early.  The sun did come out later in the race, and the temperatures noticeably increased.  The road conditions were only slightly worse than last year, with the already rough roads seeing some expected degradation, particularly on the long hills on Central Avenue.  The pace was noticeably slower in the pack than prior years too, likely because of the conditions.  And we had to watch out for strange hazards, like misplaced cones:


Off the start, the pack formed quickly.  The advanced group for this race is usually made of experienced skaters and elite masters that drop down to the advanced group because the difficulty of the course.  Off the start, we had the usual sprint to Central to thin out the pack.  By the time we got to the stop light at Huntington, we were moving around 20 mph and had a good group working together of about 30 skaters.  this group stuck together for a good part of the first pack, but those not able to manage the hills started to drop off on Central and on Huntington.  I lost the pack in the same place I have lost them in previous years.  The pace wasn’t terrifically fast, but it was consistent.  Even losing the pack about 6 miles in, I still finished the first lap in about 30 minutes.  I connected with another guy on my team, Tom, and a skater from Iowa, Brad.  The three of us skated most of the rest of the race together.  Tom has been skating for a long time, and he can pull up hills like no one I have skated with.  Brad is a great skater, and definitely took his turn in the lead.  I managed to stay with them until the last couple of miles of the race.  We also picked a nice smooth line down the s-curve hill that is always a lot of fun as a downhill.  For example:


I skated this race on a new set of Matter G13s.  I had to see what everyone was raving about.  I also used a fresh set, like just out of the wrapper maybe 15 miles total skating, of ILQ9 Pro bearings.  I have a good history with these bearings.  They come pre-lubricated with a gel style lubricant.  After skating this race, I can say that they require breaking in as they didn’t feel like they rolled as freely as my set that has been cleaned and re-lubricated.  That is totally subjective, though.  I also skated this race on softer wheels, F1s, to be exact.  That is Matter’s footprint system for wheel hardness or durometer.  It measures the size of the footprint patch made by the wheel under load.  This is probably the hardness equivalent of 86a in other wheels.  I went or something softer because of this typically rough course.  They roll well, but they didn’t feel meaningfully different than the 87a WRW Truths I skated last year.  The Truths are cheaper, and as long as that continues to be the case, I will probably continue to race on those in the future once I wear out this set of G13s.  I did notice that my top speeds were lower, but my averages were consistent with prior skating performance.  I can’t tell if this is due to differences in the wheels, though.  This set up is supposed to be lighter than with the Truths, but I couldn’t tell specifically.  The G13s are good wheels, but, for the money, I will probably stick with the Truths.  After all, WRW is a smaller company that makes a good product, and I am only racing myself.  If tenths and hundredths of a second mattered in a time trial or lap race, then maybe $25 per wheel would be worth.  However, for the weekend warrior, it probably isn’t.

My official finish time was 1:38:45.56.  This was far from a personal best, even on this course.  Overall, it wasn’t a bad finish.  I can’t complain as I basically came off the couch to this finish, without any meaningful training for almost a month in advance, and maybe 2 skate sessions in July prior to this race.  The fact is, I need to get back to training, for reasons that really have nothing to do with racing or skating.  I look forward to that happening soon.  In the mean time, the video of my race follows.  Watch out for cones, though.


Crickets and Tumbleweed…

For anyone that actively follows this blog, you are probably wondering what happened.  For those that are here looking through the archives, you may be wondering whether this blog has died the typical death of anything posted by a hobbyist on the internet.  Hopefully, this post will prove that this blog isn’t dead, at least not yet.

A lot has been going on in my life lately.  My wife and I welcomed our second child.  Within a couple months of that wonderful expansion of our family, we moved from Minnesota back to Chicago.  I started a new job, we sold our house, and I sold a considerable amount of my exercise equipment, but by far, the hardest item to sell personally was my barbell and iron plates.  I kept the standard plates, dumbbells, and bumper plates.  The other big stuff, including my bike, trainer, my dip stand, floor mats, Bosu, and some other items are in storage, but did make the trip.  My bigger items, like my plyo box and squat stands, went with the barbell set and iron weights.  Since the move at the beginning of July, I have skated a couple of times, but haven’t had the chance to lift.

As a result of family, a job change, and big move, training has hit the back burner.  My race season has been cut significantly based on what I had hoped for the year.  I have a presentation in the Twin Cities the weekend of the North Shore.  That means that my entire season is the Chicagoland Inline Marathon.  This race is hard.  I am looking forward to skating a familiar course.  My lack of training this year will make a good result difficult.  I have a low bar, hoping to finish the race in less than 2 hours.  At the same time, I have finished at least one other race with an unexpected result racing unprepared.  However, those were different circumstances, with a very different course.

For this race, I am looking to stick with the lead pack as long as I can and then to find a good, consistent pace line to roll with through the finish.  Pain stays at home tomorrow.  I can suffer for a couple of hours to know I put everything into this race.  My legs are strong enough to skate hard for that distance.  My lungs are decent enough to keep a manageable pace.  The skates are in good shape.  I have a brand new set of Matter G13 wheels and a full set of TwinCam ILQ9 Pro bearings fresh from the package.  I will, at the very least, have a good review of the wheels after tomorrow.

I hope to have a reasonable report and a video that is not too boring to share after the race tomorrow.

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:


Reviewing and looking forward…

The end of the year always brings retrospective lists of what happened, and what we expected to happen but didn’t happen.  While there aren’t any lists anticipated in this post, in order to move forward, you have to look behind you.  As Ayrton Senna said, “[t]he past is just data, I only see the future.”  His point remains that the past is relevant to see where you have been so you can determine where you are going.  In that same vein, I can’t gauge my expectations and plans for 2014 without considering what happened in 2013.

2013 was an interesting year.  It involved a lot of major changes.  I moved from Chicago to Rochester, Minnesota (technically in 2012, but it has been the first full year here).  My wife and I welcomed a son to our young family in February.  I started a new job in April after 6 months of voluntary unemployment (see comment about moving).  We bought a house.  All of this living was going on notwithstanding any of the skating that was going on.  I started training with a new group of guys semi-regularly.  That was great, though one of them is much faster than the rest of us.  I finished well in the Metrodome Marathon, struggled through the Chicagoland Marathon, hung with the lead pack for the Minnesota Half, and did my part to pull the pack through the wind at the NorthShore.  I did not meet my conspicuous goal of breaking a 90 minute marathon time, but what did become clear is that I have the ability to hang with the front of the advanced pack, which I did to my detriment in Chicago, and to the finish for the Minnesota Half.  I set new personal bests in the Marathon and Half-Marathon distances, and pulled the lead pack at some point in three races.  I cannot be entirely disappointed in my performance in 2013 even if I did not accomplish my goal of 90 minute marathon.  I know I am capable of finishing in that time because I was able to finish close to the lead pack at the NorthShore, and with better tactics I could have finished with the lead pack at Chicagoland.  That said, I have a lot to look forward to in what will likely be a short season next year because of the state of our sport.  More on that issue in another post, though.

Looking toward 2014, I hope to skate at least 4 races, including Roll for the Roses, Chicagoland, the Minnesota Half, and the NorthShore.  The two wild card races are Apostle Island and Rollin’ on the River.  If the opportunity arises where I can make these races, I will certainly try to attend those races.  They could be day-tripped if I got up very early, as each race is between 5 and 6 hours away.  Financially, it probably won’t be feasible to go and stay.  With the later start for the NorthShore, I may consider making that race a day trip.  I would love to make the Route 66 race in St. Louis, Missouri, but that is a bit too far of a trip.  There may be another event here or there I can attend, but that is entirely contingent upon the schedule at the moment.

Aside from racing, the big goals and challenges for 2014 come in the form of training and technique.  I haven’t really spent a lot of time working specifically on technique.  As a result, my training in 2014 will focus specifically on technique, and building areas where my skating is weak.  Currently, I am focusing on weight lifting to build base strength like I did at the end of 2012.  I saw meaningful gain from this last year, and thought it was worth doing again.  So far, I have seen a significant increase in my lifts.  Like last year, this has already demonstrated tangible benefits in my skating.  This cycle will warp up in a couple of weeks, and my training will transition to the next mesocycle I have planned for the year.  This will involve one day of focused weight training with dry-land, likely dry skating and balance training, to specifically work technique in addition to base strength and explosive power; a day of plyos; a day of slide board with a specific focus on technique, and a day of cycling that will start as base cardio endurance and some intervals.  I am going to try and ice skate as much as I can, weather permitting, with a focus on classic technique, also.

The next mesocycle will start as soon as I can get outside to skate.  I am planning on quickly moving to skating to work technique as much as possible.  I am going to do a lot of longer slow skates, attempting to generate speed just from the technique.  I am also planning on doing my hill route at least once per week in addition to the long skates on Saturday mornings.  Ideally, I hope to skate at least 3 times per week.  Once we get into May, the volume and the pace will pick up, as the focus for skating will move to increased paces with intervals and fartleks (speed play), in addition to hills.  This will all lead up to Roll for the Roses, which will be the first test of my training for the year.  After that, the focus will be hills and intervals to get ready for Chicagoland.  Ideally, while I will be working on stepping up the pace, most of the skating will be focused on technique, and attempting to master technique as much as possible.  This means a lot of drills where I get low and push long and hard to the side.  If I work this focus for the season, I should be able to build on my success of 2013, and have a great year in 2014.  I am looking forward to what the season has in store this year, and hope that this year can lead to a rebuilding for me personally and also the sport.

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.

Training update…

The last couple of weeks have been pretty good for training.  After the let-down of Roll for the Roses, I refocused and got on a better, more specific training plan, involving at least one interval skate, one hill skate, and one long skate each week, mixed with recovery skates and bike rides.  This seems like it is working out well so far.  I have only been on this plan for a short time, but I feel like I am getting better.

Last weekend, I did my last long skate before the taper going into the Chicagoland Marathon this weekend.  I skated with one of the other local guys, and we took the shortened route out on Old Salem Road.  This is usually the route we take for the 20+ mile skates, but the guy that usually skates that route with us was out of town, so we started right off of Old Salem Road rather than leaving from his house.  Leaving from his house adds an additional 6 miles to the trip.  As a result, this last long skate was only 14 miles.  My goal was to work on maintaining better speed on hill climbs.  Usually, with steep hills my speed will drop down around 7 or 8 miles per hour.  My goal for most of the hills was to stay above 10 miles per hour.  I got some acceptable results, but my hamstrings have been tight and sore since the skate.  At least this means I am getting stronger.  I shot some video of the skate, which shows the metrics, including the climbs.  The video follows.

Concerning the video, I may either shell out for DashWare or the Pro Version of Lightworks.  They are both comparably priced.  I may favor DashWare because it provides a lot more options for using data and gauges.  CycleCam has been buggy lately, and the beta version doesn’t provide very good gauge options at the moment.  I can’t complain, though, because it is free software, and the developer is a great guy.  I will probably continue using my current set up for videos for the foreseeable future because our financial situation is such that I can’t afford to spend money on software.  And, if the current system isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it.

Going into the race this weekend, I am feeling a bit uneasy.  Since last Saturday, my hamstrings have been a bit sore.  This is muscle soreness that appears to be related to skating.  I am taking it really easy this week so I am ready to go on Sunday.  I don’t want to get 20 miles into the race and not have enough energy in the tank to finish the race.  I am also recovering from a fairly mild head cold that started up Sunday.  Going into the race, I have high hopes of a new personal best, and my target is to finish the race in less than 90 minutes.  I got really close last year, and I feel strong this year, particularly on the hills.  Provide the rest of my body holds out, and I have the energy to finish strong, it should be a good race.  I just hope I can get recovered in time to race hard on Sunday morning.

Update on the Chicagoland Race (Pictures and Video)

I have some updates on the Chicagoland Marathon.  The previous post lacked any media.  This post has some updated pictures and video.  First, the pictures:

The pictures were taken by my step-father.  I think he did a pretty good job.

I haven’t been able to get the editing software to work.  The Beta version has been producing some interesting errors in final videos.  I am working on getting the editing caught up, but I am limited by my software at this point.  I combined the videos from my helmet camera and posted the video to YouTube, which follows: