Being Average

Its been a short season. We started skating in April, and my last race is Houston in November but all the same its been a short season. Here in Ottawa we’ve had one of wettest summers on record, in fact in July we set the record. Combined with working two jobs, volunteering with the club and coaching, my training time was really limited this summer.

Even when I had time for training, it was sometimes a case of just wanting to rest and recover from it all. So, this season had ended up being a lot less volume. I’m just now coming up on 3,000km of skating for the season. This same time last year, I would have been coming up 4,000km. If I get laid off from Nortel, maybe I’ll have lots of time to make that up! :(

At any rate, I have been training and preparing for the final races; Ottawa Inline Festival Septembe 6th, then Norrthshore on the 19th. Houston is November 1st. Still undecided about New York and A2A. I did A2A 3 years ago… very cool, but this year my focus is on being in top shape for Houston.

Even the lack of volume I feel like I’m making some good training progress as the final races of the season approach. This year I really focused on intensity rather than volume and it seems to have helped. My raw speed is up. Early this season I had a lot problems technically; I was trying out different things and couldn’t find a good groove with my double push. Finally, now things have sorted themselves out and I’ve been able to get a cleaner lock on my technique.

Over the last month I’ve been hammer myself on technical stuff, going out for sessions where my only goal was to skate well, not fast, not chase any bikes, just skating clean, and as low as I could. This effort has really paid off. Last week at our regular P8 (hill) session I was able to handily keep up with the boys, and it was hard work but I felt like I was within my technical limits.

This is a big step for me, usually at that speed I’m just struggling to move my feet and don’t have the ability to think about technique and correct it as I skate. But this time around, I had that capacity. I wouldn’t say I felt comfortable, but I could feel what I was doing wrong and was able to immediately correct it, while staying at speed.

My efforts at skating lower are paying dividends, I still need to get down, more often, but I’m improving a lot. At that P8 session, I was skating so low in fact that occasionally I was hitting Stephane’s feet in front of me with my hands, and I was low enough to not be looking over his helmet. Stephane is slightly shorter than me, so this is a cool affirmation that I’m getting lower.

As I say still lots of work to do technically but my refocusing is paying off :)

Raw conditioning: lots of that! A couple of weeks ago I did a 140km skate around the Niagara circle. Ed Leung, Brian Oswald, Joel Stitt and I were skating and we had Jay Brown and Ed’s girlfriend Jen on bikes giving us some draft. It was an amazing skate, we started out early; skating by 7:20 I think, and there was very little traffic so a lot of the time we just skated on the road.

The pavement conditions were good to excellent and with the bikes giving us draft, we held a great cruising speed. At one point were cruising at 33kph and just enjoying it :)

The MS Bike Tour was happening that weekend as well so that likely helped keep the roads clear for us. Our skate took us from the top the Welland canal down around Niagara falls, over to port Coberg around back along the canal again (other side) to get back to the parking lot where we started.


NOTE: I was a little late getting a lock on the satellite and my GPS didn’t start recording until about 3km into the skate.

The first half of the skate was pretty relaxed, but in the second half Ed and Brian started to get the itch, and even Jay (on the bike) got a hankering for some speed. In last 40k or so we started to separate a bit as somebody would attack and the rest of us would chase them down. All fun and games :) In the last 10-15K things got a little more competitive, Brian and I started trading sprints to reel in Jay on the bike.

Together Brian and I were able to keep Jay in check and get some very decent sprints in to boot. Effectively emulating the end of a long, long race. Although at the end of my A2A 3 years ago, I had nothing like that kind of energy! Maybe its time to try A2A again?


I caught a lot of the skate on video, and I had awesome footage of us skating up to Niagara falls and standing right at the ledge watching the falls. Awesome footage of the pack skating and Joel giving commentary on the trip. Unfortunately my camcorder got snaked by some D-bag at a convenience store in port Colborne. I set it down on top of the ATM to grab some money and then went shopping…forgetting to pick up the camcorder. By the time I remembered and came back it was already gone.

The store manager reviewed the security cam footage, but nothing useful turned up. I left my contact info, but I don’t expect to see it again. Besides being under-impressed with humans, I’m bummed about the lost footage, I really did have some awesome video of our skating!

Aside from the long distance skating, I’ve been doing lots conditioning on my own, basically focusing on 500m repeats, lots of bike chasing, and lots of technical skates, low speed but really trying to get high, high quality of movement and being ultra low. For 500m and less its basically been a lot of bucket drills; a work to rest ration of 1:1, for example 1min on, 1min off, or 30sec on and 30sec off.

For stamina I’ve been focused on 30K time trials. My goal has been to skate 30K in an hour. Said another way, just try to maintain a 30km/hr average speed. Shouldn’t be that hard right? It can be harder than you might think!

I train on the paths here in Ottawa, since I have easy access to them and can’t drive a car because of my eye-sight. Our paths are really good, but there are some issues; variable pavement quality, debris, other users, people, cyclists, dogs, etc. There are also several places where you have to slow down or outright stop because of road intersections. While there are only 2 or 3 of these where I do my TT loop…it takes precious seconds away! In addition my TT loop is a 10K out and back look, so there is a tight 180 turn at each end that gets done 5 times…having to slow down to make that turn on a 2m wide path takes a lot of time :(

Excuses aside though, the basic goal is a good one. If you can do 30K in 1h…with these conditions, than you should be in good shape for a race where there are no such impairments. So far I’ve done a 30K TT twice, the first time I came in at 1h and 46sec. Last night I tried it again, and this time scored 1h 56sec. Not the direction I’m hoping to go in, yet it felt faster last night. At the same time I had a lot of stop and go action last night, it was pretty crowded with other people trying to get the best of the last summer weather.


Although the 30k in an hour goal seems pretty easy, it turns out to be a little more challenging because you have to make up for all the stop and go action and in practice you have to have an average speed better than 30kph. So my challenge now is drop that 56sec. Being average isn’t so easy!

Given that the Festival is on Sunday my focus now will be a little more sprint work to maintain my training level, but not a lot of volume between now and the Festival.

As I mentioned earlier on, my volume this year is lower, but I really do feel like its worked out ok, I’m feeling like I’m coming into a second peak for my season and the timing is perfect…just as I approach Northshore. Last year I struggled a lot at Northshore because my peak had come…and gone. :( This time around I feel good and like I’m right where I need to be. The next couple of races should be good races for me.

My last race is Houston though, and it will be challenging to keep my training up until November. Ottawa gets cold, wet and dark in September/October and its just not fun to skate in those conditions with twigs and leaves on the paths. But, I will definitely be giving it a shot. Will also be doing running to keep the old spare tire a little less spare :)

If you haven’t signed up for the Festival yet, hurry up! Will be a great race this year, we have a double wide finish across the entire road, so lots of room for a big field sprint at the end, even more new pavement then last year, and it should be a very fast race (no hills). The weather is supposed to be about 25-26C with low wind so the conditions should be pretty much ideal. I’ll be doing the Triple Crown; 10k, 21K and 42K…what about you? :)


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2 Responses to Being Average

  1. Jay says:

    Hey Mike, quite the blog entry, and great write-up of our Niagara Circle tour. I’d suggest one small edit: you and Brian were not keeping me in check, I was easing off and then sprinting to give the you two a great sprint work-out.

    See you Sunday at the Festival!

  2. Pingback: Mike Garvin- Being Average – Speed Skate World- By Peter Doucet- Online Since 1999

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