The 2009 competitive inline season (outdoor) has come and gone. I plan to skate the Tour de Donut in November, but it will be a fun race more than anything else. Now I’m wrapping up my season and taking some well earned rest for a month and in November I’ll be starting my off-season training. Through the winter I’ll update my blog about the joy of plyometrics and weight-lifting among other things.
In this post though, I’d like to talk a little bit about the cost of being a skater, and in particular a pro skater. For me (and many like me), being a “pro” means competing for ranking in races, working other skaters on a team, and most importantly being on the start line for as many events as you can. This doesn’t sound that unusual, but the fact is our sport is not a main stream sport.
This not so small observation leads to many important consequences, not the least of which is the financial burden of being a pro skater in our sport. I’ve been competing at the pro level for 2 years now and while I’m still eager to show up at all the events I can; it simply isn’t cost effective to do. Even if I was sponsored and even if I won races, it would not recoup the cost of attending races. Let me give you some numbers that demonstrate why:
Without question I love skating and competing in races, but that $4K would have helped on the old mortgage payments! Unlike most people my age I don’t have the added costs of a family, putting the kids through school etc. While I might complain about the high cost, its something I can afford.
For most skaters who might want to skate professionally I think they would look at the costs and just say no. Unfortunately this is a reality of our sport. You have to travel to be at races, and even if you are on a team, there is little if any pay to help you recover the costs of just being at start line.
I’m getting a bit of a break in 2010; I’m on the Schankel Canada Marathon Squad, and I get a very nice discount no some new custom boots, and may get a discount of some kind on team skinsuits.
Ultimately though for the majority of skaters (including myself), if you are skating in races, you are doing it simply because you love competing and you want to be there. I don’t think anyone is doing it as a “job”. There are perhaps a small handful of skaters who have the skill/ability to win enough races both in North America and Europe…to make it pay dividends so to speak.
For the rest of us though, its all about the skating
Some tips I would offer to other traveling to races:
- Travel light. I can usually get away with one carry on, my skates, and everything else in a back pack that I check in (since it has skate tools etc.) I can’t overstress this point, there is nothing worse than lugging around gear you barely used while dealing with an injury from a race or just being tired from a missed connection and 10 hours of redirection at the hands of one or more airlines. Ever heard of overbooking? If not you should, there are many more ways to miss a connection than you might think.
- If you can hook up with other skaters for hotel rooms…do it. You might not sleep as well, but paying 1/3rd the cost of a $160 room will save you a lot of money. It doesn’t take long before you save enough to buy some new wheels!
- Like the hotel, sharing a rental car is another great way to avoid getting gouged on taxi fair or rental car costs.
- Plan your season early and register early. I’ve never been to a race that didn’t have early bird pricing.
- Use online travel sites to hunt for deals on flights. In particular Kayak does a great job of aggregating from several travel companies and allows you to search and get alerts on deals as they come up.
- Keep your skates with you at all times. 99.9% of airports will only require you to put them in a bag, and not even a sturdy bag. I’ve only ever been forced to check my skates at one airport; Copenhagen. Go figure.
My season overall was “ok”. Most of my races were well off my personal best finish time. In the pro division its about ranking more than finish time, so in most races the group skates slower overall. In addition the masters group is just a smaller group and there are not enough skaters to keep the pace high.
This year my main focus was on NROC, I attended all the NROC races I could. My final standing is 8th of the 11 pro masters skaters registered in NROC. Some fellow canadians faired better; Stephane Charron took 6th and Benoit Letourneau (from my club) claimed 1st.
Unfortunately most of my races this summer saw me suffer through falls, bad timing or bad positioning and I wasn’t able to get into the front of the final field sprint (within the pro-masters group in any of the races). This starved me of higher points gain in the standings.
For 2010 I’ve already started working on improving my ability to get into the final field sprint within my division. Re-planning my off-season training to be more intense and focusing more on plyometrics and slide board (to better focus on skating motion). I spent the later part of this summer re-making my technique. I’m already seeing results from that, and my double push is now well on the way to be an actual double push rather than just carving. I gave it a test drive at Northshore and it works great
When next summer rolls around I also have a much better appreciation now for how to focus my training for faster foot speed and better stamina. This year I started cutting down on the “volume” skating. last year and the year before I skated about 4,000Km over the summer. This year I skated 3,000Km, but focused much more on intensity and quality. Next year it may even be less…but it will be far more intense and quality driven.
A lot of my season this year was lost to “re-tooling”, but next year I should be able to make a bee-line for higher rankings. Even though skating and competing is expensive, I’ll keep doing it as long as I can afford it. I love a good challenge and skating still offers me lots of challenges. With every race I learn new ways to improve/enjoy skating, and I meet new friends and catch up with old ones. Along the way you get visit some cool places, and just have some plain old unique adventures.
There are so many unique/memorable “moments” that I’ve had through skating. Even through the costs and the road rash, I would not trade in any of it. Those moments are worth it. The snow will soon be falling for a few months, but I’ll thinking of spring and where I’ll find the next moment.