Tag Archives: Contour+

Race Report: 2014 NorthShore Inline Marathon

This year’s NorthShore Inline Marathon took place on September 13, 2014.  I have been on the fence about how to approach this race report.  I have been training hard, tweaking work outs and spending a lot of time on skates, doing intervals, adding volume, and generally trying to train as hard as I can.  The hope was I would move up to Advanced Wave 1 from Advanced Wave 2, where I raced last year.  A lot has happened in the last year, and I registered early in 2014, not thinking I would be able to move up and stick with the guys in Advanced Wave 1.  Then, the first race of 2014, I stuck with the lead pack all the way through the race.  I also had a top 5 finish at the MN Half in August.  This ultimately lead me to sign up for Advanced Wave 1, moving from Advanced Wave 2, because most of the guys I have been skating with all year were planning on racing that wave.  My thought after the move was simply “I hope I can keep up.”  This mindset provided one of the very important lessons for me for this year’s NorthShore.

So I moved up a wave, and I increased some of the intensity of my training, working on getting my average solo pace up to around 16 miles per hour on my “slow” wheels and bearings that I spent the summer skating.  My last training session was, basically, as planned, at the end of three days of increasingly intense tempo and distance skates including one of my usual hill routes.  This trip was, basically, my typical volume trail skate, but I only went 15 miles, and the pace wasn’t ridiculous, but for a typically unruly trail after some rain earlier in the week, I was happy with the pace.  When I got home, though, my legs were totally dead, and I felt like I could barely stand up for about an hour.  I actually spent much of that hour eating a little here and there and sitting, because my legs, and really the rest of me, felt so exhausted.  This should have been a warning.

The following Monday, I woke up with head congestion and a sore throat, the sound indicators of a looming head cold.  That head cold turned into some ugly chest congestion, and my attempts to ward off the illness with Zinc supplements and sleep didn’t save me from a wet, chesty, cough that persisted through the remainder of the week and into the morning of the race.  Basically, I skated the NorthShore this year with one of the worst chest colds I can remember.  In fact, a week after the race, I am still struggling to overcome whatever this bug is, and I really hope to get over it soon.

Before race day, I had been watching the weather.  Friday, the weather said we could look forward to start time temps around 40 degrees, with a 5 mile per hour WSW wind.  That WSW wind is, unfortunately, a headwind on the NorthShore course, as the course travels South from Two Harbors to Duluth, Minnesota in a Southwest direction.  Still, 5 mile per hour winds aren’t much to worry about.  However the forecast did call for an increase in the winds to 10 miles per hour through the morning, which meant skating into a wind that would be getting stronger the closer we got to the finish.  Not the best conditions, but certainly not the kind of wind we fought in 2013.

The morning of the race, my wife dropped me off at the bus stop to the start line around 7 AM.  My race was scheduled to start at 9:35, but I didn’t want to be rushed getting ready for the race like I have for just about every other race, especially Roll for the Roses, this year.  The bus I happened to board was the first bus for the full marathon event, and included most of the roller-ski competitors who were scheduled to push off at 8:30.  I was very early, and it was pretty cold, but it certainly wasn’t the end of the world, as I had plenty of time to jog a bit, catch up with some other skaters, find some of my Team Rainbo teammates, and get my gear on for the race.

We lined up at the start line in time to see the Elite Women take the course.  After a 5 minute wait that felt like forever, the horn sounded, and Advanced Wave 1 was on the course.  The start of this race is notoriously down hill, though not in the sense that it is steep, but just that the grade decreases over the first couple of miles.  It was a fast start, as I expected, and it took about a mile before the pace line really started to form.  I spent a lot of time trying to position myself well in the pack and not waste a lot of energy, as I couldn’t breathe very well with my chest cold.  From that point, I felt the race was pretty predictable.  Lots of little attacks here and there, but nothing really significant happening.  About 7 miles in, I started to get tired, and as the line flexed and compressed going up and down the rolling hills on the course, the line began to accordion.  This lead to a lot of sprinting on my part, and reminded me of the all the interval work I spent doing getting ready for the race.

Right around mile 9, we had the first, and thankfully the only, crash in the line.  I am not clear on what happened, but what I saw were flailing limbs all over and the line exploding with people jumping and weaving to get out of the way of the tumbling bodies in the path of the skaters toward the back of the line.  I managed to avoid the carnage, and kept skating with the main pack, though a couple of skaters had broken away from the main group and were opening a gap on the pack.  I continued to struggle with the accordion of the line until just short of mile 12, where my chest congestion and poor mental state got the best of me.  At that point, I couldn’t close a gap, and the main pack of Advanced Wave 1 skated away from me.

The rest of the race was pretty boring, and if you are watching the video below, feel free to stop watching the video after the first 42 minutes.  That covers the first half of the race, and most of the racing action I was able to capture.  I spent most of the rest of the race skating alone, though did manage to hang with a group for a little while after I lost the main pack, and picked up another group with about 5 miles remaining, that I lost headed up Lemon Drop Hill just before taking the entry ramp onto I35.  From that point, I skated with an acquaintance of mine, Pat Stream, through the end of the race.  My helmet camera died shortly after we got onto I35, as I started recording far too early thinking I would be finishing the race faster.  As a result, I wasn’t able to film the last 3 miles, or so, of the race.  The only real highlights from that period were the finish and being passed by the leaders of the Combined Wave (they skate the Half Marathon early in the morning, and skate the full marathon starting after Advanced Wave 3), who passed us like a freight train yelling “Pineapple!” as they went by.  This was something that Pat and the leader of that group joked about the night before the race.

I crossed the finish line with a harsh burning in my chest, exhausted, and ready to take a nap.

Finally Finished!

Finally Finished!

My official finish time was 1:34:26, I finished 10th in my age group (men 30-34), at an average pace of 16.7 miles per hour, much of which was set in the first half of the race, as the average pace for the first half of the race was nearly 20 miles per hour.  In looking at my heart rate data from my Garmin, my average heart rate was 159, and once it went up, it never really came down.  I spent a lot of time in high Zone 4, and, even when skating on my own, never really allowed my heart rate to even out.  I think a big part of this was due to my chest congestion, which prevented me from getting good steady oxygen intake.  While I was in the best physical condition I could have been in for this race, having a chest cold held me back.

Looking back on this race, I learned a lot.  My plan was to skate in the middle of the pack of possible to avoid the accordion effect that happens at the back of the pack.  I didn’t skate aggressively enough for that to happen.  Lesson number one, that I think applies to all of my races this year, is to be more aggressive in the pack.  Lesson number two is that I can skate with the guys in Advanced Wave 1, even though I had doubts that I would be able to keep pace, absent a chest cold and skating more aggressively in the pack, I think a better mental and tactical approach to this race would see me keeping pace through the final sprint.  My head wasn’t in the right place for this race, something that probably doomed my Chicagoland race this year, too.  Lesson number three, I need to continue to work on my technique.  I noticed that my heel was bouncing in the back of my boot while skating in the pace line, which is a strong indication my technique wasn’t consistent, and meant I was losing power in the push.  This will continue to be something to work on in the future.

Overall, having a chest cold is what made this a tough race.  I lost the battle of mental toughness at about mile 11.7 because I determined I was in too much discomfort.  I didn’t want to keep up with the pack enough to tough it out.  This was a great event, and I really enjoyed the race.  I know what I need to work on for next year, and I am already working on a plan to get there, but more on that in another post.  The less than entertaining video from the race with GPS and HR data overlay follows:


Race Report: 2014 Minnesota Half Marathon

A lot of people question the value of the Minnesota Half Marathon.  However, after the race this year, this event should be considered a staple of the Midwest outdoor racing circuit and anyone within reasonable driving distance should put this race on their calendar.

I have often felt that this race rejuvenates my confidence as a skater after the Chicagoland Inline Marathon, as I haven’t been able to keep up with the main pack at that race since I have raced it.  Coming out of the Chicagoland, I was aggressive with the two weeks of training I had getting ready for this race.  I like this race, generally, even if it is only a half marathon.  The road conditions are decent, there aren’t a lot of big hills, and the pace is pretty fast.  This is a local race for Minnesota skaters, and it usually draws a big crowd from the local speed skating contingent here.  This year was no exception.

I got out of the house and on the road by the time I had planned, but didn’t get to St. Paul, where the race took place, until 7:15 AM.  The race was scheduled to start for the Open Wave at 7:33 AM, so I was very late.  The line for parking was long, and I still had to get to packet pick-up and get my skates on before getting to the start line.  The gear drop was also in an odd place.  Thankfully, one of my teammates from Team Rainbo was kind enough to drop my gear bag for me at gear drop while I got my skates on.  When I checked in and got my bib, I didn’t get an ankle chip.

I made it to the start line, but just barely before the National Anthem.  I got in with the group of skaters in the open group, but was shuffled a couple of skaters back from the start line.  The conditions were tight, and it took a bit to get across the start line.  At the start, the pace was predictably fast through the turn around.  The main group filtered out after a couple of miles.  We had a solid group through the first half of the race.  Oddly, at about mile 5.5, I was pulling the line and found myself alone.  I looked back to see the line dropping off behind me.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold that pace through the rest of the race, and opted to let the line catch me.  We rotated out, I continued to draft, and as we approached the turn around a couple of skaters got away.  Cale Carvell gave chase, and caught the group on the flyer.  The line broke up a bit up the hill to the turn around, and I opted to see if I could catch the flyer. It took about a mile, but I managed to reel them in.  Unfortunately, the rest of the pack came with us.  The last couple of miles were very fast.  I managed to duck in behind Roger Olson and hang on to the finish.  We were cruising into the final sprint, and I looked to my right only to see one of the other skaters closing, so I shot my right foot out to cross the line first, finishing in the top 5 for the wave, first for my age group, and 33rd overall, finishing in 42:02.30.  Full results can be found here.  The open wave was lead by Matt Melanson, Cale Carvell, Roger Olson, and myself.  However, the official results list Dan Stietz as finishing first, though I don’t know we ever saw him in or around the main pack, and he finished about 3 seconds ahead of the pack.  There was some great racing in the open division this year.

Inline Skate Minneapolis‘s race report from the overall event can be found here.  Kelin Dunfree pulled out the overall win, followed by Rob Bell and Alex Fadek with Hernan Diaz and  Team Rainbo’s Steve Meisinger rounding out the top five finishers.  Kaari, over at the Longtrack Life also pulled out her inline skates and raced the event.  Her race report can be found here.

My technique was better in this race, but after watching the video and observing some of the other skaters, I can say that the big problem with my technique is where my center of gravity sits over my skates.  The other fast skaters have their center of gravity further back over the heels of their skates.  Mine tends to be over my skates.  I noticed this after the Chicagoland, but this certifies the problem.  I have been working on this aspect of my technique.  I need to get my balance and weight farther over the heels of my skates, and I will continue to work on this body position.  The big benefit of doing this is it forces me to push out to side more effectively, thereby transferring power to the ground more effectively to generate more speed.

The race was a little slower than last year, but my finish result was better in the main pack.  While there was a little hiccup with the timing because I didn’t have an ankle chip, the race organizers were very accommodating to add my time to the final results.  My helmet camera video follows:

I used DashWare to make the gauge overlay for this video.  This process is shockingly more cumbersome than using CycleCam.  CycleCam creates the gauge videos with just the use of the Garmin TCX file.  However, it doesn’t have very many options for gauges.  DashWare has considerably more gauge options, and the gauge designer is very powerful, though not entirely user friendly.  DashWare, though, is designed to make the entire video, start to finish.  DashWare has options for titling, but isn’t very capable as an editor.  I had to make a background to make the green screen so I could use chroma key to overlay the gauges on the camera footage.  I like the gauge options, but you have to render the video with audio in DashWare then edit the camera video and gauge video in Lightworks.  I am going to keep working with DashWare to see if I can construct a viable workflow.  I will have a review of DashWare specifically in the near future.

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:


Race Report: Apostle Island Inline Marathon

I wasn’t planning on attending the Apostle Island Inline Marathon, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance.  My wife and I decided to make the trip to Ashland, Wisconsin, around mid-morning, and tried to set plans in motion to leave at the end of the work day the day before the race.  I hurriedly prepared gear and registered for the race while my wife found a hotel for us to stay at on Friday night.  The race was scheduled for the morning of June 14, 2014.  For those that are not familiar with this race, it takes place on Madeline Island which is off the cost of Wisconsin in Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin.  You get to the race by taking a ferry from Bayfield to the Island.  Once on the Island, it is a short walk to the start/finish line and the event location.  This area of the North woods of Wisconsin is beautiful, and we happened to be driving through a national forest on the shore of Lake Superior just in time to see the Honey Moon.  It was a fun, though impromptu, road trip to be sure.  We got to our hotel in Ashland, Wisconsin, late Friday night, and, after reviewing the schedules, determined we needed to be up early Saturday morning in order to make it from Ashland to Bayfield (a roughly 30 minute drive) and catch the ferry to the island.

Packet pick up is typically held on Fridays at the Amory in Ashland, and it stays open pretty late.  However, we didn’t arrive in Ashland soon enough, and opted for race-day packet pick up.  It wasn’t hard, and everything was very organized.  We got on the ferry and made it over to the Island with about 30 minutes prior to the start of the first race wave.  I signed up for the recreation/fitness wave because most of the guys I usually race with in the Advanced divisions signed up for that wave.  It was cold, probably high 40s for the temperature, and it felt like it was going to rain prior to the start of the race.  By the time I was dressed and took about a mile or so skate to warm up, I was ready for the race.  We lined up by division in our different waves, and the race organizers started the event promptly at 8:30 AM, with each consecutive wave leaving about 30 to 60 seconds behind each other.  The rec/fit men lined up behind the pro women.

The race is a three lap circuit around the island that is just short of 9 miles per lap.  The weather was mostly dry, a little cool, and I was worried it would rain during the race after looking at the weather.  We did get a little bit of rain, but only enough to wet the pavement.  It wasn’t hard or steady, and it didn’t seem to change the course conditions.  I chose to race on my 110mm World Record Wheel Truths that are 87a hardness.  This is stiffer wheel, and I was hoping to get good roll.  They rolled very well, with good grip, even in the wet conditions.  It wasn’t wet enough to get a good feel for how they would work in a steady rain, but they stuck during the race, and that is all I cared about.

We got the call for the start of our wave, and, as the gun went off, a group of about 1o of us came off the line and took the first tenth of a mile to figure out how the line would start.  One or two guys got out front, and as the line formed going up the first hill after the first left hand turn, we caught up and formed up in the line.  The pace started pretty quick and stayed there.  We eventually caught up with the chase pack for the pro women’s group and, at some point, the advanced skaters from the 50+ group.  There wasn’t anything really exciting that occurred during the race.  There weren’t any real attacks, but the faster skaters did pick up the pace when they reached the front and pulled the pace line.  The action didn’t heat up, really until the last lap.  There was a lot of anticipation in the pace line on that lap.  The pace didn’t start to pick up until about 4 miles in when people from the back of the line started to move up.  Those of us in the front of the pace line kept pace, and the attacks built until we were 6 miles into the lap.  At that point, the line broke up and everyone was skating for the finish, hoping to gap the group and lead a flyer to the finish line.  We finished as a pretty solid group, all within about a minute of each other.  It made for an interesting pack sprint in the last half mile.  Unfortunately, my helmet camera died and I didn’t get video of the pack sprint.  My wife did get finish line video, though.  What makes the finish on this course hard is the 90 degree right hand final turn.  It is narrow and sharp, and only leaves a couple hundred meters to the finish.  Once we got through that corner, which everyone seemed to take wide when I cut right at the curb, it was a full sprint to the finish.

My goal for this race was to hang on to the lead pack in my division.  I didn’t train for this race, had only done one interval skate, and was coming off of a training week that included a heavy lift and a tempo skate.  Even with 2 days off before the race, I didn’t feel 100%.  Also, sleep the night before was a bit elusive thanks to a fitful toddler that couldn’t seem to get comfortable.  So, with little or no preparation, I signed up for this race, and just hoped to finish, ideally with the lead pack in the wave.  I couldn’t be happier with the result.  I ended up pulling the line a couple of times and finishing with the pack in the pack sprint.  I used a lot of what I learned at the Joey Mantia Clinic the week before, and the changes in technique helped to insure I had the energy to finish with the group.  I plan on doing a lot more technique training, too, in hopes of increasing my average pace and have solid finishes in the rest of the races this year.  My finish time was 1:25:08, a new personal best marathon by nearly 7 minutes.  I also managed to win my division and finished in the top 10 or so of my wave.  It was a great race.

I can’t extol the virtues of this race enough.  The course is amazingly smooth.  I don’t think there is another Midwest race that has tarmac in such good condition.  This meant the pace was fast the whole race since we weren’t fatigued from rough road.  The weather was not as great as it could have been, but it was far from terrible.  The race was well organized and in an spectacular location that is only rivaled by the NorthShore for its scenery.  While the race can be a little hard to get to, it is a must for any skater that wants to skate a full or half marathon.  I had spent a couple of years trying to make it to this race, and now I never want to miss another one.  My helmet camera video follows.  Check it out:

Back In A Pack (Updated with full video)

This weekend, my wife, son, and I are visiting my parents in Chicago.  Visiting Chicago means I have the opportunity to skate with Team Rainbo. I went out for the skate session at Conway on Saturday morning.  It was a great practice, and we certainly couldn’t complain about the weather.  The pace was pretty good, and I managed to stick with the main group for about 14 miles, then this:

I was leading an echelon drill when one of the guys from the back of the pack sprinted and the rest of the group broke up and went after him.  I sprinted to stay with the group that passed me, but my technique got sloppy.  My left recovery skate swung in for set-down too quickly and caught the back of my right skate, resulting in the dreaded click that sent me tumbling.  This happens in skating.  I have learned to go with momentum and fall in a way that doesn’t cause direct impact on joints.  I got up and rolled away with some road rash, but no broken bones.  After resting for a bit, I skated another five miles, finishing out the skate at around 19.4 miles in just short of 80 minutes.  Good work out, the fall not withstanding.

Skating with Team Rainbo always reminds me how important pack  skating is to the sport.  If you like to skate long distance, regardless of whether you use speed skates, fitness skates, or rec skates, you can never get the same feeling of skating in a pace line.  The dynamics of the pack are ever changing, and it forces you to adapt your technique to work with the group.  It is also far more efficient. In the pack, we could easily pace between 17 and 20 miles per hour.  I am glad I got to skate with Team Rainbo again.  I am looking forward to suiting up in the new uniform for the Chicagoland Marathon and Roll for the Roses.


Full video up to the face plant follows:

Race Report: 2013 NorthShore Inline Marathon

I am a bit late with this report, but better late than never. The 2013 NorthShore Inline Marathon took place on September 14, 2013.  This race is broken down into waves based on historical finish times.  The Elite groups, basically the pro skaters, go out before the advanced groups.  The advanced groups are broken into waves based on specific finish times.  This year, they separated the usual two advanced waves into four, A1-2 and B1-2, based on times from previous years.  The 2012 times that qualified skaters for Wave A2 were between 1:17:00 and 1:19:00.  When considering those who I regularly skate with and where they skated in 2012, I opted to sign up for Wave A2, and have previously commented on whether I would be able to keep up.  That pace is much faster than I had ever skated, but wasn’t far off the pace I managed to keep at the 2013 Minnesota Half Marathon.  Thankfully, since last year and the addition of the “Wheels Off” Half Marathon Running event, the full marathon race starts much later than it used to.  Rather that starting the race at 6 or 7 AM, the Elite group did not cross the start line until 9:30.  That put Wave A2 at the start at 10 AM.  I got a little bit better sleep before the race, and had a decent breakfast.

My wife dropped me off to catch the buss to the start at just after 7 AM.  I managed to get on the second bus to the start line.  One of the guys I skate with here in Rochester was on the same bus, so we sat together and talked racing, off-season training, and the like.  It was a fun ride, and, as per usual, it took about 30 minutes.  We arrived at the start area about 7:30, 2 hours before the first wave was scheduled to start.  I caught up with some teammates from Chicago, got ready to skate, and did the usual pre-race dance.  They played the national anthem, and the first waves moved onto the course.  I moved into the starting corral to get ready for the race.  I got to the start line in time to see the Elite Veterans, Elite Women, and Wave A1 take the course.  The waves were started about five minutes apart.

Up until standing at the starting line, the weather conditions felt ideal.  The temperature was between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and you couldn’t feel the wind.  We milled about and talked and joked with one another in the starting corral waiting for our race.  That five minutes felt like an eternity.  The announcer kept giving us tidbits of useless trivia during the wait.  Eventually, we got to the the time for the race start.  The start horn sounded and we were off.

Tactically, I knew I wanted to stay with the front group in the wave, but I didn’t want to be so far in front that I got stuck leading early.  This was the lesson I learned at the Chicagoland, where I came out too fast and couldn’t stay with the pack after 7 miles.  However, I didn’t want to get caught in the accordion of the pack, get gapped, and lose the pack as a result, a lesson that has stuck around from when I skated this race in 2011.  Out of the gate, the pace jumped to 18+ miles per hour.  However, it didn’t take long for the wind to become a factor.  A group of about 8 guys lead out, and while I started farther back in the pack, we quickly moved up.  Shortly after the lines started to form we noticed this group of guys was getting away, so one of my teammates and I chased them down and bridged the gap between lines.  Shortly after this move, we got an attack from the group behind us.  We moved back and forth between lines until it really became clear the wind was going to be an equalizing factor in the race.  I stayed toward the front of the lead group, which means I had to take my turn pulling the line.  I pulled three or four times throughout the race, but generally managed to stay with the front of the pack.

The wind really was the story this year.  We skated right into a headwind that was a steady 15 miles per hour with gusts upwards of 20+ miles per hour.  This really slowed the pace of the race.  We went from what should have been a 19-20 mph pace to a 16 mph pace.  At times, the pace felt downright slow, with some of the hill climbs slowing us down to 12-13 mph.  The slowed pace meant a longer time skating on the rough pavement, resulting in more fatigued legs.  It took 47 minutes to finish the first half marathon.

Right around the half marathon point, my left calf started to cramp.  I managed to stay in the line and work it out by changing up my technique.  I moved farther back in the pace line to give my legs a chance to rest.  However, the line cycled through 15 people deep in the line and it was my turn to pull again.  I was fine generally while pulling the line, but couldn’t really keep the pace up.  When I stopped pulling my legs locked up and it nearly put me on the ground.  This happened a couple of times.  Going into the end of the race, we hit the subdivisions leading up to Lemon Drop hill that takes us out on to I35, I knew my legs were going to be a factor because of the cramping and lack of push power.  I worked in the line to get as much recovery as I could.  We hit the hill and I had nothing in my push.  I managed to stay with the group as my teammate John went on a flier up the hill.  He took the pack with him, and I ended up at the back of the group when we crested the hill.

The conditions on I35 generally don’t bother me.  The road is grooved vertically, so there are equally spaced ruts all across the roadway going with the direction of travel.  I capitalized on my ability to build speed on hills going down the on-ramp onto I35.  I managed to catch the lead group and moved up far enough to be within 10 people from the front.  I managed to cruise down I35 and keep pace with the front of the pack reasonably well.  I knew, though, that the climb up the exit ramp onto 5th Avenue would present the same challenge as the climb up Lemon Drop hill.  Sure enough, the pack went by me on the hill, and I managed to crest the hill with just enough strength to get down the hill headed toward the last left turn into the final straight away to the finish at the DECC.  I wasn’t able to catch the lead group as I didn’t have the strength in my legs to push hard, and catch up.  I was also working alone, which didn’t help either.  However, I finished about 30 seconds behind the front group, and still had a pretty good race overall given the wind and fighting leg cramps.

Overall, I had a solid result.  I finished 4th in my age group, just missing the podium for the 30-34 group, and finished 41st overall for the non-pro skaters.  There were a lot of lessons to learn from this race.  There are two that I am taking with me going forward as general lessons for skating and racing.  First, diet continues to be key, and I will continue to work on finding the right balance to make sure my body has what it needs for race day and avoid the cramps that nearly ended my race.  Second, The time doesn’t matter, it is who you finish with.  My 1:37:00 finish time was slower than my first result at this race, but I finished with, or close to, the top guys in my wave, meaning I am on their level as a skater regardless of the finish time.  In training to race, the focus is now on raising my level of fitness for race day to finish with the top guys, and I am not as worried about times, other than to track general benchmarks for myself.

My helmet camera video follows.  You will want to turn the volume down as the audio is mostly wind noise.  Also, I added two new gauges, one for last mile time in seconds and one for average speed, to provide a little more context to the race.

New Video and the Taper Week

Last weekend, we got some really hot weather.  I guess it would be out of character for this part of the country, but I haven’t lived here long enough to credibly make that statement.  Temperatures last Saturday were in the high-80’s and the humidity was particularly high.  I helped a friend move, but still wanted to get a skate in.  Usually we do 20+ mile skates on Saturdays.  everyone else went earlier in the day, and based on the heat, I opted to get in a 10 mile skate Saturday evening.  It was still hot, but not unbearable.  Sunday, though, it was a little bit nicer, so I took advantage of the cooler temps to get another 10 miles in before starting my taper week before the Northshore Inline Marathon this coming weekend.  It was still a little more humid than I would have liked, but there wasn’t much wind.  At this point, I was still skating on my training set-up, with my now well worn Bont G4 Mint Green 85a wheels and Bont ABEC 7 bearings that desperately need servicing.  My average pace has been steadily creeping up.  I haven’t worked on this as much as I should be, and this will be a focus as I move into the off-season and contemplate a training plan for next year.  This outing ended with a pretty good 15.7 mile per hour average over 10 miles.  There is a new gauge that tracks this just above the date and time stamp at the bottom of the gauge cluster.  I shot video of this trip as a gear test for the race this weekend.  The video follows:

Training during a taper week always feels like a no-no.  However, I feel like you have to do something to keep moving or lose all of the progress that has been made since the start of the season.  It is an odd feeling to be sure, because, at this point, I should be in the best shape of the season.  I think my race times this year have been somewhat contradictory to that point, as Chicagoland was quite a bit slower than Roller-Dome, and the pace I managed at the Minnesota Half was beyond what I hoped to do after Chicagoland.  Regardless, in the vein of thinking it is good to keep moving, even during a rest week, I skated last night.  It was a quick 8 miles, partly to break in the cleaned bearings and get back on race wheels.  The Adam’s Swiss I have been using still do very well when clean and lubricated with Bones Speed Cream and Gun Oil, and don’t seem to be showing their age as much as I expect.  I am considering going back to Twin Cam ILQ bearings in my next switch, though, and lubricating them with Twin Cam T-Gel because I am very familiar with how durable those bearings are and they are very consistent in capability.  The average pace for the skate yesterday was only 15 miles per hour, but I wasn’t looking to push the pace more than necessary to make sure I am recovered for the race on Saturday.  I don’t know whether I will work out tonight, but if I do, it will be some light cycling just to keep the blood flowing in my legs.  Either way, I am looking forward to the race this weekend.  I should have video and a race report next week.