Looking back on my training and racing season this year, there are a lot of positive results and mixed experiences. My ongoing goal was to skate a sub-90 minute marathon, stay with the lead pack as long as possible during the Chicagoland, finish at the front of the pack in the MN Half, and set a personal record in the NorthShore. At the start of the year, I planned four races: Roll for the Roses, Chicagoland Inline Marathon, Minnesota Half, and the NorthShore. I ended up skating five races, adding the Apostle Island Marathon the day before the race because the stars aligned to allow me to attend.
My plan for the year was to train focusing on technique, working the basics of form and focusing on base fitness to build my race day performance. I had a slow start to the season, with a very short skate. The Mantia Clinic was a great experience, and I have been working on everything I learned during that clinic since April. My VO2 Max test was an interesting and eye-opening experience, and forced me to re-evaluate my cardiovascular training.
In reviewing my goals, I beat my 90 minute goal by finishing Apostle Island in 85 minutes. I stuck with the lead pack longer than I ever have for the Chicagoland, but didn’t finish with the pack. I had my first top 5 finish at the Minnesota Half Marathon in the advanced pack, and suffered through a cold in Advanced Wave 1 for a course personal best at the NorthShore. It wasn’t a bad season, overall. I could have done a lot better for a lot of reasons, but I can’t write this season off as a lost year. I was stronger than I have ever been, thanks in large part to my strength training. My cardiovascular fitness still needs work, though, even though my less than stellar NorthShore was largely due to an ugly chest cold. So, this year, while not a banner year in my skating, it was still full of valuable experiences.
As Aryton Senna once said, “[t]he past is just data, I only see the future.”
This season provided a lot of good data. I can, and did in two races, hang with some of the fastest advanced skaters in the Midwest. I didn’t prepare properly for the Chicagoland. Tactics are everything in a race with a large pack. All things considered, I was in very good physical condition for the NorthShore. The mental component is significant, and the second the thought of “I can’t” crosses my mind, I have lost the race. Strength is good, power is just as good if not better. Cardiovascular training can’t be sacrificed over the off-season. Finally, technique is 70% of speed skating.
In reverse order, I was only able to keep up during the Apostle Island Marathon because I had been working on technique. Efficiency kept me in that race without enough training to get to the finish. My first couple of on-skates workouts this year were painful, and, while I was more efficient because of my technique focus, I didn’t have the fitness I would need for the upcoming races. I got to the point of thinking “I can’t” twice this year, first in the Chicagoland and second during the NorthShore, but there was a time during the Minnesota Half that I thought “I can” where I chased down a break away and pushed the pace while pulling the line. The fact that, with a brutal chest cold, I kept pace with the main pack of Advanced Wave 1, the fastest of the non-pro skaters, at nearly 20mph average for 11 miles, meant I was in very good physical condition, and, had I not had a cold that prevented adequate breathing, I could have kept up with them. Tactics in a large pack are all about smart drafting. I didn’t stay with the front part of the pack during the Chicagoland or the NorthShore, got caught in the accordion of the pace line, and couldn’t keep up with the repetitive intervals that result from rolling hills at the back of the pack. I didn’t skate enough hills or do enough intervals for Chicagoland, period. I hung with the fast skaters at Apostle Island and at the Minnesota Half.
It was a good year and I learned a lot. Now it is time to take this data and look forward.
Looking forward, the off-season is here, and with it comes a couple of weeks of planning, a lot of weight lifting, time on the bike, and off-skate technique work. But more on that in another post…