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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:

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:

s-curve

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.

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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:


Event Report: Mantia Clinic

There have already been two very good reports on this Clinic here and here, and I don’t want to regurgitate a review of the entirety of the event.  However, I do think it is worth posting what I learned, in addition to a little about the event, and some pictures/video.

This was a unique clinic, as I understand the clinics that Joey typically run are optimized for indoor racing around a 100m flat track that typically take place in roller rinks on coated wooden floors.  Pretty much the entire group in attendance at this clinic skated outdoor over marathon distance.  His original intent was to run the clinic at the Roseville Oval in Roseville, Minnesota.  However, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we ended up using the back-up location at a nearby elementary school.  While the venue ended up being indoor, the clinic focused entirely on technique, including the double push.

Joey Mantia working with skaters in Roseville, MN.  Image courtesy of www.inlineskatempls.com

Joey Mantia working with skaters in Roseville, MN. Image courtesy of www.inlineskatempls.com

We did two sessions, and at the start of each session we started off with dry land training.  Joey showed us the basics of body position and focused heavily on weight transfer.  He said that the core of efficient skating is weight transfer, and many of the drills dealt with balance and weight transfer.  We spent a lot of time off-skates in the skater squat, which looks something like this:

IMG_2212 IMG_2211

I say something like this because I am not as low as I could be.  If you look very closely at the picture from the front, you can see that my knees are collapsing in a little bit, notably on the right side.  I shot these pictures after a heavy lift/plyo work out, so I was a bit rickety.  Everything in skating basically starts from here.  The only significant variation in body position is how deep you sit in the skater squat.  As for the actual weight transfer, there were a couple of terms that kept coming up that are good points to focus on.

First, “leading with the hip” is something often said by coaches, but something I didn’t really understand until asking for clarification during the Clinic.  The idea of leading with the hip is really a way of communicating where your body position should be when balancing on one leg in the skater squat.  The hip should be positioned to the outside of the foot on which you are standing.  The idea here is all about where your center of gravity is to distribute your weight so you can remain balanced and used weight transfer to generate push power.  It should look something like this:

IMG_2215

IMG_2219

The picture on the bottom shows the concept of leading with the hip better than the picture on the top.  You can see my hip position is beyond the outside of my foot.  This also helps to line up my nose, knees, and toes.  That is the second term that is often used in describing technique, and something that came up over and over again during the clinic.  The concept of “nose-knees-toes” describes the position your body should be in during the glide phase of the push when skating.  The idea here, when looking at your body position from the front, is to see your nose, knees, and toes aligned vertically.  Neither of these pictures show this position adequately.  The picture on the top shows good knee-toe position with my head a little far to the right.  The picture on the bottom shows good alignment of my nose, knees, and toes, but my balance is off.  Ideally, your nose-knees-toes should align perpendicular to the ground, or as Joey says, “imagine a line from your foot to the ceiling lining up your nose, knees, and toes.”  This is a great way to think about where your body position should be, even if these aren’t the best examples.  Weight transfer is the next part of the drill, and this basically requires you to shift your weight between these two positions stalling on one foot.  As a check for balance, it helps to lift the opposite foot, or recovery foot, off of the ground.  If you are well balanced, you should be able to lift the opposite foot off of the ground, but do so without a jerk or jump.  It may look something like this:

20140610 Dry-Land

This image was created from some video of my dry-land skating.  You can see the the nose-knees-toes alignment here, but another important technique issue comes to light when reviewing the video.  The hips and shoulders should remain steady and on the same line.  I discussed this in my post about slide-board earlier this year.  This is accomplished by engaging the core and focusing on lateral movement through the hips.  You can also see here how leading with the hip works, as my hip on each side moves past the center-line over the foot.  It isn’t perfect, though, as there is still some weakness in my right knee and a slight hop on raising my foot off the ground that causes my hip to shift up slightly on each side.

Weight transfer is what allows you to put power in the push without expending extra energy.  It is pretty much the Holy Grail of skating.  So much so that you could skate only with weight transfer on classic push and add the double push to average 18 miles per hour.  Well, at least he can.  These drills provided me with very concrete examples of where my technique is failing.  You can see this stuff in books and on the internet, but it never really sinks in until someone coaches you and/or you see it demonstrated first hand.  The key to fast skating over marathon distances is efficiency.  Something I have known and been working on, but these drills are the tools that will hopefully make me more efficient, and, as a result, faster.

After all of the off-skate work, we got on skates and basically did the same set of drills standing and then rolling.  We also did a lot of drills to make us aware of our edges.  The idea here was to get better on our skates, work balance, and be more in control of the skates rather than having the skates be in control of us.  Joey mentioned that Justin Stelly doesn’t have to train very hard to be fast because he is so good at controlling his skates.  He makes a good point, and being able to control my skates is something that I need to work on.  I am planning on adding a lot of these on-skate drills to my training.  Looks like I will be in the market for some cones.  I was only able to capture video of the first half of the day, but you can see the drills in the following video:

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Joey and a couple of the guys that organized the clinic.  He had some really interesting insights on the sport, on the coaching situation for US Speed Skating on the ice side, and his plan to race indoor and outdoor nationals this year.  I am glad to see he is staying so active in the inline community, as it seems that some of the Olympians that have made the switch to ice haven’t done much for inline since finishing the Olympics.  Of particular note, Joey says he doesn’t think inline should be trying to be in the Olympics because of the limited number of medals.  I think he is right, too.  His analogy was that if it were a winter sport, it would already be in the program, but since the summer program is so packed, you would be taking medals away from other sports, and “if wrestling isn’t safe, no one is.”

The afternoon started with more dry land and then back to skates.  The dry land session was a rehash of what we did in the morning and was very helpful in solidifying the drills to memory.  The afternoon on-skate session dealt with double push.  He showed us a lot of drills originally designed by Eddy Matzger.  It was a great session, and I realized, in the room full of local skating luminaries, that we all have things we need to work on.  Following Joey’s philosophy, you have to work hard at the things you are bad at doing in order to get better.  There are a couple of videos floating around YouTube of the event and there are several posted in InlineSkateMPLS that are worth checking out.

After the afternoon on-skates session, Joey did some question and answer and then demonstrated some drills and technique on the slide board.  The most shocking thing I learned during the Q&A was that Joey doesn’t lift weights.  He has legs like tree trunks, but doesn’t lift.  I was, and still am, shocked.  The secret to his strength is isometric and plyometric exercise.  He does wall-sits to failure, which, for him, is 5 to 10 minutes.  He also demonstrated some very basic plyos, many of which I am doing, but some that I am working into my workouts.  The biggest new change, though, will be wall sits to failure.  I am not going to replace lifting weights with plyos and isometric work outs because I am too far behind to work up to that level of strength, and I don’t see any negative effects from weight lifting on my skating.  This also was another interesting lesson, just because it doesn’t work for Joey doesn’t mean it won’t work for me.

Overall, this was a great experience.  I would highly recomend that anyone who has an interest in becoming a better skater attend this kind of clinic, taught by Joey or any other world class skater.


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.

–Update–

Full video up to the face plant follows:


Finishing the season…

The outdoor inline season is pretty much finished in this part of the country.  There are still some races where it is warmer late in the year, like Silver Strand and the Tinsel Tri in California.  However, the group that I skate with has all but disbanded at this point in the year.  While other skaters in the area have moved to cycling or hockey, I am trying to skate as much as I can before the weather prevents skating, and it is time to start skating ice or move indoors.  The Metrodome is due to be closed for demolition and reconstruction at the end of the year.  As a result, I am planning on making a cross-training transition for the off season.

Before moving inside or onto the ice, I took one last opportunity to run a tempo skate around the 8 mile loop I use for that kind of time trial.  The goal was to set a baseline for training next year so that I can shoot for this target toward the beginning of the year. The goal was to repeat something that I only managed once this year, a 16 mile per hour speed average over 8 miles through the Cascade Lake trail.  I went out at the beginning of the month, October 2, in the evening after work.  I shot video, which follows.  And I am going to run a side by side comparison of this run from the beginning of the year and the end of the year to get an idea of the differences in pace.  This was a good skate, but it was a hard skate.  I hope I can get back to this point early next year to build on this progress.

Now that we are edging into the off season training is changing.  I had good results this year thanks to a lot of weight lifting.  I am putting weight lifting back into the schedule, but it won’t be a focus for weekly training this year like it was last year.  My goal is to lift once, though preferrably twice, per week, get at least one plyometic and slide board session in, and spend some time working on base cardio fitness on the bike, ice, or in the Roller-Dome.  So far, I have only managed to get back to weights, as I am still skating outside the weather permits.

Future off-season posts will detail the transition to long track ice skating for cross training, more on power lifting, plyometrics, gear reviews of the Bont Z and Bont long track Jet boot, in addition to a tutorial on building a slide board.  It looks like it will be a busy off season.