Tag Archives: gear

The Stall…

That is just sort of where life is at the moment.  Stalled.  Training is at an abrupt halt, except for the body weight Bulgarian Split Squats I do with my office chair at work at my standing desk.  As we are settling in to life here, training of all kinds is on the back burner in favor of keeping the kids alive and staying on top of work.  I did acquire a new barbell that I am looking forward to reviewing in the near future.  Beyond that, I haven’t meaningfully skated in a couple of months.  With the weather getting colder and indoor practices now only being on Sundays, I don’t anticipate inline skating until the spring.  I may get to ice skate around Christmas, though.  This is where training and fitness are right now, though:  Stalled.  I am planning for the future, and that will probably never stop.  Until then, the new garage gym is outdoor and gets take apart after every use.  My programming is pretty limited, power cleans, front squats, hack squats, dead lifts and Romanian dead lifts.  It is grip intensive.  The new bar is very helpful with that, though, as the knurl just sticks to your hands.

the stall


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:


DIY Equipment Update: Slide Board

While I am not building a new slide board, I am always on the look out for new material solutions, as acquiring laminate from Ikea by happenstance is a hard way to build equipment.  Lifehacker posted an article about inexpensive surfaces for custom made dry-erase boards, and suggested a material called Hardboard Panel Board.  Looking at the material, it looks pretty thin, so it would be ideal to apply this with an adhesive on top of a half inch sheet of plywood.  You could basically substitute these two parts for the surface, and follow the rest of my directions to complete the build.  I haven’t seen these materials, nor have I tested how well it would work for a slide board, but the surface for dry-erase boards would make a pretty good surface for a slide board.  I would imagine this might work well, also.  If you are in the market for a lateral trainer, this may be a good parts option for a personal build.

By way of other updates, I am attending the SkateLove Joey Mantia Clinic in Roseville, Minnesota, this weekend.  I am hoping to shoot some video and have more information about the event next week.

I am also working on a post targeted at cardiovascular fitness for speed inline skaters that I hope to post soon.  After my VO2 Max test, I reconsidered how I have been training for skating, and realized that my training did not include cardiovascular capacity as a focus.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of sport science specific to speed skating, and even less for inline speed skating.  I am planning on trying to relate a lot of what I have learned from various sources to inline speed skating in hopes of having all of this information make better sense for myself, but also get it out there for other skaters to discuss.

How To: DIY Plyo Box

Keeping with the trend of building my own exercise equipment to keep costs down, and after reviewing some material on plyometric training for building power while skating, I decided I needed to build a Plyo Box.  A plyo box is just a wooden box with various heights onto which you can jump.  This helps with short twitch muscles, which should translate to benefits in sprinting and general push power.  I built mine out of plywood from the hardware store, some wood glue and some drywall screws.  I found directions for building a plyo box over at End of Three Fitness.  There are two different tutorials on that page, and you can use either of them.  I used the first tutorial for my build as my dimensions were different than both of the builds on their website.  However, the second tutorial is good for direction on how to layout the cuts in the wood.

My planned design was for a 36″ x 24″ x 24″ box because I wanted to have a really tall box to jump.  I wasn’t prepared for exactly how tall 3 feet would be, but after using it, I think it was good choice.  Upon further reflection after returning from the store, I opted to go with a 36″ x 24″ x 20″ box to provide a little more variety for different types of jumps.  I sketched out my plans on a sheet of paper and decided how to deal with cutting the wood.

After reviewing these blog posts, I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish and what I needed, so I headed to the hardware store looking for a sheet of 3/4″ plywood.  I walked around confused for about 10 minutes, and then talked to an associate.  I learned that someone (probably who works at IBM, they are local) complained that the plywood they sell wasn’t 3/4″, but 23/32″ thick.  Seriously…

After picking out my appropriate 4 foot by 8 foot by 23/32″ thick sheet of plywood, I was able to have the first set of cuts taken care of at the store.  If you go to a big box hardware store like I do, consider having them make the cuts, as they will be easier to complete and more accurate since they have bigger saws made for cutting whole sheets of plywood.  They did three cuts for me, yielding the 6 pieces of wood I needed for my box, two 24″ x 24″ pieces, two 34.5″ x 24″ pieces, and two 34.5″ x 22.5″ pieces.  When I got the pieces home, I decided to change the dimensions on the box and cut 4 inches off one side of the 24″ x 24″ pieces and the 34.5″ x 22.5″ pieces reducing them to two 24″ x 20″ and two 34.5″ x 18.5″ pieces, respectively.  Laying out the cuts would look like the following (forgive my terrible image editing skills):20140313 Plyo Box cut diagramThe resulting cut pieces looked like this:photo 1 - Copy (2)
I used the materials listed in the first tutorial, but opted for 2″ drywall screws:

photo 3 - Copy (2)photo 2 - Copy (2)

Assembly was tricky because of the size of the box.  I put a bead of glue on the edge, and set the top piece using a desk.  I then screwed it all together with the screws.  The two medium sized pieces fit inside the top, bottom, and two other sides.  This inset piece can be hard to attach, so after assembling one side, I added the inset pieces.  It looks like this:

photo 1 - Copy

I used a lot of wood screws to make sure things didn’t come loose or in case the box was damaged later.  Setting the sides of the box in and screwing everything together looked like this:

photo 2 - Copy photo 4

After adding all of the sides, I got the following box:

photo 3 - Copy

So far, I have used the box once, using the 24″ side to do step-down jumps, the 20″ side for single leg jump-ups, and the 36″ side for jump-ups from the floor.  The 36″ side is high, but I can make it, so I have some room to grow here.  It also makes a nice table for when I am riding the bike so I can put my computer on it to watch video while cranking out the hours of intervals or recovery rides.

Sum total, this was a $30 build and took a little over two hours to finish.  It is much cheaper that buying something similar.  I will probably cut hand holes at some point, though, to make it easier to move.

How To: DIY Slide Board

Slide boards are a training tool used predominately by ice skaters, but there they are great training tools for inline skaters, also.  Known in the fitness world as lateral slide trainers, this kind of equipment very effectively works the hip and inner thigh muscles in the legs.  Hockey skaters also use slide boards for off-ice stick handling training.  Speed skaters on ice and inline use it for polishing technique and building power.  The main drawback to the slide board is typically the cost.

You can find slide boards geared towards hockey players on Amazon for between $200 and $300.  Last year, I acquired a slide board from Amazon, but it developed a big problem.  The board wasn’t made for more powerful speed skaters.  The guy who makes the board told me as much over the telephone.  The cheaper boards are priced in the $150 range, some of them even lower.  However, most of these boards are built to be portable, made out of fabric like materials or other materials that roll up to be portable.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are very high-end slide boards that are a single piece, generally are not portable, and are made for world class gyms.  These boards range in price from $300 to $600.  You also need to nearly double the price to get them shipped.  After destroying my slide board earlier this year, I went on a hunt for a suitable replacement.  I wanted to make sure a replacement was not cost prohibitive, which, after my initial research, ruled out commercially available options.

After some additional internet investigation, I came across Kevin Jagger’s instructions for building a slide board on LongTrackLongShot.com.  This was the general starting point for my design, and I opted to focus on finding suitable materials.  My budget goal was $50.  Knowing that the most important, and potentially most expensive, part of the board would be the sliding surface, I was very careful about choosing the material.  I hunted for a supplier, but wasn’t able to find anything suitable or geographically reasonable for the 8 foot by 2 foot sheet of material I needed for the project.  However, earlier this year, my wife and I bought a house for our little family, which means we made several trips to Ikea.  I learned from another friend who skates that you can get good sliding surfaces for slide boards for reasonable prices from the As-Is or “Handy Person’s Corner” at Ikea stores.  We have all seen those shiny looking storage units sold at Ikea.  It turns out the doors make pretty good surfaces for slide board building.  I picked up an 8 foot by 3 foot sheet of this door material, which appears to be a form of coated and compressed laminate particle board, for $10 in the As-Is section of the store.  While the purchase required a harrowing 60 mile ride home through wind and rain with the board strapped to the roof of our car, and it made noise like an airplane engine, it proved to be a great find and became the base for the project.

Starting with the sheet for the surface, the next step was to make end-stops.  The end-stops are made from 2×4, foam pipe insulation, duct tape, and light weight black denim.

the 2×4 is 3 feet long, in this instance, to match the width of the board.  I started off by using the duct tape to attach the foam insulation to the 2×4.  I then cut the denim fabric to length so I could use it to wrap the end stop, with the denim being stapled to the 2×4 to hold it in place.

IMG_1733 IMG_1734 IMG_1736 IMG_1735

I wrapped the denim in a manner similar to wrapping a box with wrapping paper and also secured it with the staple gun.

IMG_1738 IMG_1737 IMG_1739 IMG_1740 IMG_1741 IMG_1742 IMG_1743

You can see from the ends that one of my sections of pipe insulation wasn’t the full three feet of the 2×4.  This hasn’t proven to be a problem during use, and had more to do with poor measurements in the packaging and reduced length after cutting.  Once you get this assembly completed, you have two reasonably attractive end stops.

IMG_1744 IMG_1751 IMG_1752

The next step is to attach the end stops to the sliding surface.  I did a lot of research, and my design ideas went through several iterations, because I knew that the ends tops needed to be able to handle a lot of abuse.  Generally, these stops will have to withstand upwards of 300 pounds of lateral pressure against a mounting that is perpendicular to the direction of force.  Since I had a bad experience with my last board, I wanted to make sure that this board would last a long time.  My original plan was to use four 2 inch long, half inch to inch thick, flat headed lag bolts that would attach to the end stops through the bottom of the board.  I planned to countersink the space for the nuts on top, drilling the countersink hole large enough to hold a washer.  This would, in theory, provide more than enough structural support to withstand the push force exerted on the end stop.  Ideally, it also would have meant the entire project would have been reasonably easy to disassemble.  However, after speaking with one of the hardware guys at Home Depot, He indicated that two and a half inch wood screws would work just as well.  This option ended up being cheaper, and has so far matched the expected performance.  I used 12 gauge wood screws to be sure.  I bought a box of 50, and, in an act of over-engineering, used 25 screws to attach each end stop.  I staggered the screws an inch or two apart vertically and horizontally as shown in the pictures below.

IMG_1753 IMG_1754 IMG_1755 IMG_1756

While working with my old slide board, I noticed that it had a tendency to slip on the floor when I pushed.  To correct that problem, I bought some shelf liner and put it on the floor under the board.  This, generally, created more friction so that the board wouldn’t slide as much.  Theorizing that this could also be a problem with the new board because it would be placed on painted concrete and be heavier, I stapled the shelf liner to the bottom of the ends of the new board.  They are evenly spaced at the middle of the board, and the board digs down into the liner during each push.  So far, this seems to have prevented the board from sliding on the ground, but I do not know for certain whether it is the shelf liner, the weight of the board, or the floor surface that is preventing the board from sliding.  It is nice to have a stable board.

IMG_1757 IMG_1758 IMG_1763

The completed board is 8 feet long, 3 feet wide, with an approximate 7 foot sliding surface from end-stop to end-stop.  It probably weighs about 50 pounds, and is not portable with out a second set of hands and a large vehicle.  However, it does appear to be very durable.  I waxed it with NuFinish Once a Year Car Polish and used the booties from my last slide board.  The end product has a very nice sliding surface.  I have to apply the car polish every other use, but the benefit in reduced friction is worth the extra care.  You can also use Pledge furniture polish, though I haven’t tried it on this board.  A friend of mine uses a silicone lubricant on his with good results, also.  I will likely need replacement booties, though, because the ones I currently have aren’t very high quality and they have some holes that could end up causing my shoes to bind on the sliding surface.

I store it leaning up against the wall as shown in the picture.  I am considering making some nylon straps that will be stapled to the underside of the board to make it easier to move.  So far, though I haven’t used it much, I am very pleased with the result.  My total budget ended up being approximately $55 because I purchased a staple gun.  If I had the tools, it would have been much cheaper.  The following is a general budget for the build:

Board Surface:    $10.00
8′ 2×4:                   $3.00
Denim:                  $8.00
Wood Screws:      $5.00
Pipe Insulation:   $5.00
Staple Gun:           $18.00
Staples:                  $5.00
Total:                      $55.00

All in all, this project was far more economical and educational than spending $300 to $600 on a commercially manufactured product.  At my current level, I probably don’t need a Pro-Slide or Ultraslide board, and, depending on how this board holds up, I may never need to make that kind of investment.  However, if you are interested in purchasing rather than building, you can check out the 3G Slide Board, BlackHole’s Slide Board, the Hockey Train portable board, or a G1 Slide Board.  Even with the commercially available options, I highly suggest building your own.