Join the Team

I’ll be getting more serious about my winter training this year; I’ve joined the new Schankel Canada Marathon Squad, managed by Andrew Hegarty. I’ll be signing up for Northshore as a team member, and I’ll be wearing my Schankel skinsuit at all events now. There are a few others on the team, and we have an awesome new skinsuit design. Andrew is going to post full details on later this week.

Our team goal is to have a presence at marathons in North America and if there is opportunity, then in Europe as well.   I’m really looking forward to 2010 now; I have a reason to train and be motivated, and there will be some friendlies at races…always a  good thing!

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Marathon Chicago Style

The Chicagoland marathon has come and gone.  I went down for the marathon, but there was actually a whole weekend of events.  Team Rainbo really went all out and created full weekend of racing.   Sprints on Friday, time trials and 10K races on Saturday and then “the big show” on Sunday.  There was a lot of buzz and everyone seemed to really enjoy the format.

Overall my race went well, it was kind of a slow race but racing isn’t always about the raw speed.    Final ranking for me was 13th among the pro masters (finish time of 1h 18m 13sec  ~32kph).  I should have placed higher, but wasn’t positioned well going into the final turn before the lead up to the finish line.  More details below…


As an event Chicago is awesome not just because the venue is great and the organizing efforts are well done, but its easy to get to.  The flight there is and hour and a half, very tolerable, and you can get a flat rate cab from the airport straight to the hotel, from which you can then skate to the start line.  This is my kind of race!   Being extremely nearsighted I’m not allowed to drive, so races like Badger or Nappa are just not an option for me :(

I don’t really get nervous about a race before, but at the start line I have no shortage of adrenaline.  I almost feels like I’m vibrating with skating energy, as soon as we go though, my focus is 100% on the race, and nothing else, no worries about work, or anything else, just…race!

The only difference about this event leading up to it, was that this time I tried carb loading through the week.  Lots of pasta, and by Thursday my legs literally felt like they wanted explode.   It seemed to help, I felt really good in this race, a lot better than in prior races this summer.  Ofcourse having had some sleep the night before helps a lot. :)

The other changes that I’ll be making based on this race;  I usually don’t drink during a marathon, I stopped bringing fluid last year sometime.  But you know, now I think I’m going to reverse that and carry fluid again.   During this race I found that fluid helped near the end, and even if not a physical aid, the psychological benefit it huge.  It at least makes you feel like your ready for me.  So next race, I’ll be packing some extra juice.

The other thing is my focus on weight; through the season I’ve been trying to drop my weight to 160lbs.  The mortality charts say I should be at 166lbs, but my body fast percentage is still pretty high around 15%, so I’ve been trying to push down to 160.  But I think I’ve been burning muscle :( Its tough to diet and try to train at the same time.   In the last couple of weeks I’ve eased up on the dieting, and I’ve immediately felt stronger and more ready for training and racing.  I think I’m just going to have to accept that 160lbs is a goal for 2010, not for 2009.

Anyways, the racing action!  No GPS graph this time around, I have a graph, but its missing a 3km segment so its incomplete.  I think what happened was that while we skated in a train, someone was pushing from behind and clicked the start/stop button, and then it happend again 3km later.  There was a lot of pack pushing because this course has a lot of hills.  Actually a very technical course compared to others.

Overall the course is awesome, it features lots of turns in both directions, lots of hills, and the pavement is in good condition throughout.  Plus, the whole area surrounding the start/finish is a loop where spectators can hang out and see the action during the marathon, and then take a few steps to see the big finish.    The course is entirely closed, so no traffic to deal with :)

Minor complaints about the course; the north east loop was not swept, there was sand on the corner and every time through that little loop we were sliding through the corner.  It might have been that some previous skater took a dive on the inside of the corner…and kicked up sand, don’t know.  The other issue is the concrete divider in the middle of the road.  Its actually a low profile rumble strip.  Several skaters made the mistake of skating on top of it thinking it was just concrete.  I saw it happen in our pack, the skater (Niko) recovered though and there was no fall.  Other skaters were not as lucky :(   Maybe some cones placed on the rumble strip at intersections would help remind skaters to stay off it.

The skaters; The pro masters and pro veterans were grouped together, and in that group there was lots of potential for a fast race.  Fellow Canadians Morgan and Benoit were there, Tony Muse, Chris Rojo and Niko Ramkissoon are all guys that I know to be great sprinters, either by word of mouth or by direct experience :)    Among the veterans Herb Gayle was there and I’ve skated with him in many races and know well that he has the legs for a big finish.   So lots of potential for a fast race.

I talked to Benoit and Morgan before the race, I don’t skate on their team (iL Peloton), but with so many sprinters we were agreed that if we could do anything to wear them down early we should try.  Especially with Tony at the line.   I wasn’t there the whole weekend, but from I hear Tony was in top form the whole weekend (and in fact he won our race as well).

The start wasn’t too big a shock, I was a couple of lines back and after we took off I was able to move up to mid pack pretty easily.  There didn’t seem to be too much urgency as yet.  A little further down the course I cruised to the front, things were packed pretty tight so I went on front and gave Herb some draft (he was pulling at the time).  I did a comfortable tour and rotated back.

Little later I came up again to see if I could move up.   Hernan (for whatever reason) decided to give me a 4min + lecture on how there was obviously no room at the front and I should go to the back until I learn to skate.  Honestly, I have no idea what triggered this.  I hadn’t made any attempt to break into the pack, separate any team members, or clicked skates with anyone, I was just skating up to look for a spot or go to the front (although two minutes into his speech I clicked skates with someone slightly because I was so distracted by him).

From my perspective Hernan was griefing me for no reason.  Later in the second lap, Hernan was outside the pack…guess who let him in?  :)   I didn’t get any grief after that.  To his credit Hernan (a veteran skater) did more pulls up front than some of the masters guys who weren’t doing any work at the front at all.

Beyond that, the first lap was pretty normal, there were a couple of attacks, notably Niko went on a BIG break away attempt on one of the two big up hills on the way back from the far end of the course.  I came up on front a little after he took off, and paced a little higher but didn’t sprint after him, I didn’t see a need, I was pretty sure we would reel him in within the next few klicks (and we did).

Benoit and Morgan were working good together to attack on the hills.  The pack responded pretty good though.  Well into the second lap (its a three lap course), the whole group was together.  Into the second lap and third lap the group started to thin out a lot more.

Working together is a big deal; for skaters  at least a break away is a LOT easier if you have one or two people to work with.   There were at least two instances where we missed out on possible breakaways.  During the second lap one of the guys up front went on a break (I *think* it was a Team Safe guy), but no one went after him.  I came up front after a bit to pull and in the next couple of klicks we reeled him in.  When we caught him he said “I went but no one came with me”.  All I could say was I wasn’t at the front at the time.  If I was and had seen him go I might have gone with him!

The second lap saw more surges and attacks, some of the other skaters came up front and did some good attacks (and continued to through the rest of the race).  When we caught them though, the typical masters situation happened; not enough guys willing to push the pace so everyone stands up, and rolls…the group collects itself and we repeat… I personally find this frustrating at times, and I know it was frustrating to others…Benoit and one of the other skaters exchanged some words over it :)

The race pace overall was actually kind of slow.  You can see in the results that Tony finished in just over 1:18 and the rest of us came in less than 20sec later.  The course was technical,  and the hills were actually hills, but even still I think a 1:16 or better should have been very achievable.

At the end of the day, I don’t think it helps to point fingers and say that some skaters aren’t working hard enough in the pack.  The fact is our group is small in numbers, and there just isn’t enough skaters to keep the pace up.  To be fair, many of us are or will be on teams, and if your attack fails, you have no incentive to help other teams.  Still, I personally think we should all be working to “race” and not just skate.

Half back on the second lap, I got to skate with Allan again (see my Canada Day report). Him and a Team Safe guy pulled in front of me to take over the pull as we headed up  the hill on Huntington.   For some reason we actually had a mini breakaway going on the hill.  At the top of the hill the pack caught up with us, but I think this was another missed opportunity.  If I had asked those two for help on a breakaway, maybe the three of us could have gotten some distance on the pack, or at least worn down the sprinters a little bit.  But I didn’t say anything, and nothing happened.  :(

So another lesson learned, talk, communicate, form alliances.   Even if only temporary, this can help your race, and if nothing else just make the race more fun.

A little further on I was pulling again,  and coming up to the north east loop (the one with the sand), I actually turned left instead of right!  My brain must have been short on blood! I heard the pack yelling and immediately knew I was pooched unless I did some quick skating.  I circled around, and hammered it to get back up to the guys at the front.  Fortunately just as my legs were giving out and the lead guys were coming out of the final corner of the loop they slowed up again, and I slid in behind Benoit (I was second from front).

The slow race pace helped me catch up, but my legs definitely burned some gaz getting myself back into the lead group.   The third lap was a tough one for me, I was feeling fatigue throughout the whole third lap, where I’m sure others guys were feeling tired but not that worn down.

Other than that the second lap was great because Cale Carvell grabbed extra water at the water stations and passed an extra bottle or two around, I was on the receiving end of one of them (another one I passed back to skaters behind me), thanks Cale!  After the race I saw pictures of Cale with bandages and apparently a lot of road rash…not sure what what happened, but I do know that on the second lap at one of the small turns we did a tight 90 counter clockwise, and I heard a skater behind me yell “shit!” and then I heard some stomping towards the curve.   I have no idea if it was Cale or not, but I didn’t see his name in the finish list.

The third laps was more surges, I was spending a lot more time mid pack now, my legs were feeling really worn down and with surge it just wasn’t getting any easier.  Note to self, work on foot speed!  By the time we came up to the final turn before the lead up to the finish line, I was well back in the pack.  At this point there just wasn’t enough time (or gaz in my legs) to get to the front before the final turn.  I could see it coming but just couldn’t see a way to get there :(


So as we made the final turn the guys at the front kicked it, and I put the hammer down as well but there was just no way to close the gap, they were easily 30-40m in front of me.  I hammered anyways, caught and passed a couple of guys, and kept hammering right to the line, I passed one last skater at the line and then put my hands on my knees to recover!

As I was rolling towards the registration area, one of my legs were so fatigued that I  just lost control, and twitched…this caused me to lose my balance and I flopped and rolled on the pavement.  No damage to speak of but embarrassing :(   As I was getting up, Lenny skated by with a nod and a Quick Finish comment :)   Indeed! GPS says I was doing 42kph over the line…a pretty decent sprint for me, especially since the finish is on a slight uphill.

So even though my placing wasn’t so great this time out, I had a great race, I spent a lot of time at the front pulling and doing my share, I responded well to the surges, and I was always looking for chances to move up in the pack and tried to consistnetly keep myself near the front.  I do need to work on foot speed though and I think I need to be more communicative and see if I can get myself into some co-operative breakaways :)

Full results have been posted, and picture galleries are starting to appear (here and here).  Peter (as always) is pretty quick to link to things, so check out his as well.

A collection of videos has been posted over at inline planet.  The pro masters/vetran finish video:

Find more videos like this on Inline Planet Skater Network

After the race I couldn’t stick around for the awards, I had to cheese it to make my flight back home.  I would have liked to have stayed, but my life is pretty busy right now (two jobs, skating, volunteering etc.) and unfortunately this one was a skate and run deal :)

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Unconditional Love

After getting back from the Canada Day Marathon, I decided to start raising the intensity of my training.  Among the things I’m doing is adding more hill work to the mix.  In my city (Ottawa) on the weekends they close down certain parkways and parks to car traffic, and us sports weirdos can take over for a couple of hours :)   A couple of weeks ago, I made use of our Sunday Bike Days program to skate over the Gatineau hills (the Gats as we call them) and do some hill training.

I always tell other skaters – Hills are Truth.  I say this because hills are hard to train on, and no matter what point you are at in your skating development curve, the hill will not lie to you.  The hill will never duck out on a dinner invite, never make excuses, and never be tempted by another lover.   The hill will always love you unconditionally, always telling you exactly where you are in your training, no filtering, no spin doctoring, just the truth, and the hill always gives you as much training value as you are willing to accept.

So feel the feel the love, find a hill, and skate it!

Before detailing my romp with altitude, I should put things in perspective;  the hills I’m training on on are basically cat 4 hills.  This terminology is borrowed from the cycling world:

  • Category 4 – less than 150 m
  • Category 3 – 150 to 385 m
  • Category 2 – 385 to 560 m
  • Category 1 – 560 to 970 m
  • Category 0 – over 970 m of climbing (Hors Category)

Most of the hills I train on (and our club trains on) are well within 150 from the bottom of the hill to the top of the hill.

The only time I’ve done cat 3 and cat 2 was on my Skate Against Violence trip  last year where we skated from San Francisco to Los Angeles.    We had skate through some mountain ranges along the way.  I actually had a really bad crash on a decent during that trip.  My claim to fame is that I’ve fallen at a speed faster than most people go downhill. :(

Even though the hills I train on for skating are only cat 4, they can still be tough.  As skaters we carry our weight more directly than cyclists, and the category of the hill isn’t just about its gradient, there are other factors like where you are in your training schedule, the surface quality, whether you’ve already done a lot of work to get to the hill etc.

If your not sure what category your hill is, just strap on your GPS trainer and check out your log afterwords.  Most GPS training units now have altitude tracking as well as time/distance.

If hills scare you; try this – start at the bottom and skate up 50m.  Coast back down and roll out.  Then try it again, but up 75m.  Repeat until you reach your comfort zone limit or the top of the hill.   Eddy Matzger himself says this is how he learned to do tough hills.  Over days and week, as you get more comfortable you should eventually be able to push your comfort zone further and make it all the way up and back.

My workout was to skate from my condo across the river, up into the Gats to the bottom of Pink Lake hill.  This hill is a cat 4, but its a long hill, over 1.5km I think.  So my plan was to skate intervals; skate up for 2min, get as high as I can, stop, “coast” back down at incredulous speed, and then rest for 3-4min before repeating again for an entire set of 5-6 climbs.

My GPS data is shown below:


After a warmup of climbing up to Pink Lake through about 100m, the real action began. On my way up I saw fellow club skaters Sergio, on his way home, would have liked to have skated with him, but I showed up late; the gates close from 6AM to 11AM and I showed up after 9:30AM…early bird gets worm.  Next time!

My plan was to do 6 climbs.  This turned out to be ambitious.

On the first climb, I kept a steady pace and tried to just hold a solid but consistent pace up the hill for 2min.  I did it, but at the 2min mark I was done, and I mean baked!  I pulled off on to the grass to gasp for air and let my churning stomach settle down a bit.  I didn’t toss my cookies… but I wanted to.  I coasted back down, if gliding at 40-50kph is coasting!

That was hard, but I resolved to complete as much of my set as possible. I managed to get another 4 climbs in, none of them got any easier :(   On my fifth rep my legs were starting turn to rubber and loose control and it was nearly 11AM (car traffic would be upon me soon), so I threw in the towel.

That was one of the hardest sets I’ve ever done, yet it wasn’t really that hard to execute, basically you skate up the hill, come down and skate up again.  Not rocket science.  But its a lot tougher than you might think, especially with the hill being so long.  I skated for 2min up, but I only got a little past half way up the hill.  There was at least another minute of skating to get to the crest of the hill.

From my GPS data it seems the climbs I was doing were between 40 and 70m so well within cat 4.  At this  point I can’t imagine making it through a cat 3 climb at anything close to race pace.

But this is why we train, to condition ourselves.  So, my upcoming training will need to show the hills some love.  I have to skate Chicagoland this weekend, but after that I’m going to make a bigger effort to get back in the gats.  My challenge now will be to do more reps on Pink Lake, and before the end of the summer I want to do some climbs at pace from the bottom of Pink to the Top…without tossing my cookies. :)

Training has been a little off for me lately; Ottawa is getting a LOT of rain, and its kept me off my skates at times. I’ve been coaching at our skate club this summer, and most of my club sessions are coaching so I don’t get any training for myself.  I try to train as intensely as I can on my own, but without faster skaters to chase, or to work on your technique with, its really hard to push yourself higher.  I’m hoping that between now and Northshore (the big show for us North American skaters), I can get some more time in with our club’s race team.

I have had some nice distance skating; I’ve been back to P’tit Train Du Nord a couple of times doing two 100k sessions so far this summer.  The second one was with a Greg Brown, Candy, Brian Oswald (the guy who says I’m not cute) ultra distance dude Ed Leung.  P’tit Train is always fun and enjoyable, this year I haven’t really gone hard on the total mileage.  I’ve skated a fair amount, but my sessions are shorter and more intense now.  Still, I am going to try and get some distance in.

Longer term (past Northshore) I want to try and be in top shape for Houstin. I didn’t do it last year, but this year I want to be there for sure.

More training updates soon…

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Strategic Learning

In the software industry (my day job), if you make a mistake usually its just a mistake.  But sometimes the mistake is part of learning to do something better, and the learning could not have been achieved any other way…except through the mistake.  Such mistakes get called “Strategic Learning”.  Strategic learning and career development can go hand in hand.  Many times you learn more from the mistake then from when “nothing happens”.

So it goes in skating sometimes as well.  My Canada marathon saw me turn in a  lack luster performance, after hesitating during a hill attack near the end of the first lap, I got flushed out the back of the lead pack.  I chased them down after about a klick and a half, but when I caught them, they attacked again, and I was forced to conceed…to let them go.    I still managed an ok finish, but it was several minutes longer than my result for this same race last year.

In different ways, hesitation has cost me at several races.  Looking back I can connect these different mistakes into one pattern of hesitation; waiting too long to close a gap, not moving up in reaction to changes in the pack in front of you,  not reacting soon enough after an attack etc.  My strategic learning from this race is don’t hesitate!

The gritty details…

The Canada Day marathon is kind of a replacement for our national competition road race.  its not officially part of the national competition (for worlds team selection etc.), but in spirit, it is our big show :)   This marathon is held in Cambridge about an hour outside of Toronto.   The location has the advantage of have some really nice road conditions, 90% of the course is fresh or good quality pavement, and there are some nice smooth flats, some not so big uphills and one moderately big downhill.

The course isn’t very technical, except that there is one 90% clockwise turn on the back end that is high speed (at the end of slight downhill).  Normally not so much of an issue, but this year they had the cones for the turns really tight, barely a meter from the gravel on the side of the road.  It made the turns a little scary since people were clipping the cones and the cones would get flipped towards people farther back in the pack…such as moi.

Unfortunately this year July 1st fell on a Wednesday and even though the race was at 8:15 in the morning, there was still a good amount of traffic, including transport trucks and other heavy vehicles.  No accidents, but because the course isn’t closed to traffic this made things a little risky.    Fortunately everybody stayed on this side of the yellow lines and most of the passing traffic gave us the lane.

Overall though, a great course and usually makes for a very good finish time.  In previous years the course was short 42K by a few hundred meters, this year it was corrected and we got full 42K distance in.  This year turn out was a little lower, but a nice spread, skaters from recreational to elite and skaters from both Canada and the US.  Skaters from Alberta who had come for the nationals stayed for the marathon.

When the dust settled, Peter Doucet was standing atop the podium with Sergio and Benoit from our Ottawa club flanking him.  Several other Ottawa skaters claimed podium spots in their classifications.  You can browse the full results.  For myself I finished in 1:17 and change…an ok result, but my result from last year at this race was 1:12 and I’m pretty sure I could have been sub-1:14 on this race had I not messed up my first lap.

At the start line I was a row back, but not too worried about not being in front.  Race starts can be a little weird, sometimes they go full tilt at the start, but sometimes its a slow start as people wait for someone else to “go”.   For this race is more of the later option.  Off the line there was the usual chaos of skates everywhere in a small space, but within 50m a couple of lines started to form.  I found a spot in  a line, and then the lines merged.

Right away Herb Gayle (more on him later!) broke to the left and headed further up.  I got on his wheel, went with him and we had a couple of lines again.  The start line is just before a moderately big downhill.  As we hit the hill, everyone merged and we essentially had one big pack again.  We cruised the hill, it seemed like a pretty comfortable start, no one was doing anything serious as yet.  With gravity though we were cruising at 46kph :)

As we passed the finish area, there is a short but fairly steep hill, climbing the hill separated the pack a bit, and coming around the first corner I was still with the lead pack.  Things were pretty low key, about 2Km in there was a surge at the front and I had to pick it up to 40kph to stay with the group.  At about 4km just before the next turn, another surge this time I had to jump up to 47kph to stay with the group.

After rounding the corner we regrouped and I was with the pack again, but was feeling like my body wasn’t responding as comfortably as it should.  Not that sprinting at 47kph should be comfortable, but it just felt like this surges were taking way more out of me than usual.  In the weeks leading into the race, I had not been getting good quality sleep…working two jobs, trying to keep up with training, volunteering, and blogging ;)   I think the lack of quality sleeping was a factor in not being as recovered as I should have been.   That aside, there were hesitation issues that ultimately did me in.

Somewhere just after 6Km the girl in front of me (a girl from Toronto that I don’t know but seemed like a good skater), fell back a little bit, we were both at the back and she was in front of me, leaving me in the suicide position.   Not wanting to get dropped in the same way I did near the end of last years race, I moved around her, but waved for her to hop into my draft.  She waived me on, I think she was having back problems.

At that point there was a good 150m between me and the pack, so I had to work to catch up, I picked it up to 38kph and caught the lead group before the rounded the next turn.  At this point I was the tail end of the lead pack of 13 skaters.

My thinking at the time was that this isn’t an NROC race, I don’t care about ranking (for points), I just want to get a PB finish time (sub-1:12).  So I wasn’t eager to move up in the pack or work any harder than I had to, I just wanted to save as much gas as possible, and stay with the lead pack until the finish line.   The problem with this thinking is that being at the back is never good, you have to work a LOT harder to deal not just with surges but the attacks at the front are amplied in time (farther back reacts slower), so the farther back you are, the longer you have to sprint.

This was a big factor in my undoing, just too much work. You can do it for a while but at that pace, it just wears you down too quickly.  No matter your strategy, don’t hesitate to move up, its not even a matter of being aggressive, middle of the pack or higher is just a lot easier to skate in.    Working harder than everyone else is not really good unless your looking for extra training.

In point of fact Peter does just that.  In the last two years at this race I’ve watched him drop back, skate at the back of the pack for a while, and then attack from the back.  I’m really not sure where that dude finds so much raw energy!

Before the next turn there was another surge at the front and things picked up to 44kph, we rounded the corner to the long straight back stretch of the course and the pack did the slinky a few times, but nothing major was happening.  We skated between 34 and 40kph.  At the end of the back stretch we made the tight 90 degree clock wise turn and then skated a few hundred meters to a short uphill that leads up to the start line (and then through the to finish area to complete the loop).

I was at the back at the time, and wanted to move up a bit, so I skated to the side of the pack and started to work a little harder, at the front Peter attacked mid-hill, should have seen that coming!  The sudden change  of speed caught me off guard, I was outside the pack, and sprinted hard (41kph) to catch up, but I was working too hard outside the draft of the group and I faded near the top.

As they got away from me, I know I had to work to get back, because this would be the end of my hopes for a PB finish time if I couldn’t get back on.   I gutted out 1km of skating on my own as fast as I could, through the start line down the hill, through the finish line and caught the group just as they were climbing the small hill before the first turn on the loop.

Peter attacked again.  Should have seen that coming too.

At this point my brain was saying “you need to go”.  My legs were saying “no dice.”  I gave one last attempt, but my legs were empty, I had to let them go.  At that point, mentally it was “Game over man“.

So while the first lap wasn’t the hardest lap ever,  I was positioned poorly during the the first hill attack, and hesitated to get into the back soon enough to stay on, and it cost me a place in the lead pack.   Into the second loop, I slowed down, dropped into cruising mode and just focused on going as fast as I could sustain while recovering.  My game plan now was to catch people who get dropped like me and work with them.

Such hope was a long time in being justified.  I skated a whole lap on my own.  Once recovered I was able to skate some sections at 32-33kph, but it was not enough to help me catch the lead group.  Going into the third and final lap I did catch up with Herb Gayle.  He had been dropped and was happy to see someone to skate with.  I was kind of happy to see him; good to have someone to work with, but Herb is an awesome sprinter, he might be a lot older than the rest of us, but he’s still a sprinter.  He was skating 27 sec and change 300m laps when I started skated a few years ago.

So now I have a problem.  I’ve picked up a sprinter, someone who clearly will make life hard for me at the finish line.   Still though, having someone to work with is more important so far from the finish.  About half way through the loop, we were overtaken by the chase group.  The US skaters (including Brian Osawald whom I’ve skated several races with), Dominique Lalonde and Candy Wong from Toronto.

We rotated the pulls, when my pull came up I was recovered enough to hammer for a bit, I brought the pace up to 36-38kph for 2km or so.  As we got to the 90 degree turn into the final stretch I started thinking about the finish line and my buddy Herb! After the turn I came to the front again, and pulled hard up the hill where I had originally been dropped.  Everyone was well rested though and the group was staying together.

Thinking back to Aaron Arndt’s advice of never leading at 100% I dialed it back a bit after getting to the top of the hill before the start line.  I focused on just being ready to “go”.  Even though my race performance fell far short of what I was expecting, the race still had lots of racing action to be had.  This was one of those moments, regardless of the pack you are in this is the moment when anticipation peeks and everyone is on the knife edge of readiness.

Among the US skaters with us were Larry Griffen and Allan Marcossan.  I *think* it was Alan who went first.  He broke to the left and tried to sneak up the left side of the roade.  I spotted it, and put the hammer down to take his draft. I heard stomping behind me and presumed it was Herb.

Allan was accelerating through 40kph and still climbing, felt ok in his draft! Allan drifted towards the center of the road, and Herb took this as his queue, he exploded to the right as we hit the top of the downhill, I knew this was “it” and put my arms up to turn it up to 11 :) I passed Allan on the right and caught Herb…got past him for about 2 sec, and then he stomped past me.  I tried to catch him again, but by the time I maxed out at 47kph we were only 75m or so from the line and I just wasn’t closing the gap quickly enough.

I eased up thinking it was all over ‘cept the cry’n, but I heard Dominique and Brian behind me and realized I hadn’t actually crossed the line yet.  I pushed hard for a couple of seconds and cleared the line.    Congrats to Herb, well earned.  Note to self, don’t pack up with sprinters!

The final racing action was a lot of fun, you don’t always get actual racing, sometimes it just ends up being grinding out the miles.  More often than not though, there is enough going on that you are kept busy dealing with surges, positioning, attacks, or falls.  There is always something.

I suspect that if Allan had started later, he might have stayed ahead of me, not sure if he could have held off Herb, but he likely could have held me off.  His attack started almost 2km from the line though, and that’s a long way to attack.  Was great to see the girls in the chase skating hard and much faster than last year.  Brian was givin’ it as per usual.  In the race photo (via Peter Doucet) you can see Brian (left), myself and Dominique (right) all gunning for the line, fun! :)


So, another race in the bag.  This one wasn’t one I want to write home about, but more learnings and more preperation towards later season races.  For sure I will be focusing on being more ready for Chicagoland coming up on July 25th.  This is the great thing about racing, there are other races and other chances to roll the dice.  Feeling lucky?

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Training Update

I’m back from the Canada Day marathon, and I’m eager to blog about that, but I’ll hold off until the official results come out and people start posting pictures.  Until then, a little update on my training going into the Canada Day marathon.

DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
June 8
June 9
June 1024k skateFartlek
June 11
June 1260K skate

63.13K distance skate


June 13

June 1410k 18min 1sec (33.25kph)

10k 20min 6sec

37.92K skate w. parkway
DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
June 1523k skate
June 16[31k skate 5min x 2,

2min x 5,

1min x 10] all at 100%
31.93K hill skate at P8

*bad ass workout*
June 1742k skate

42.88K chasing bikes


June 18
June 19

June 20100k skate

P'tit Train
June 21

DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
June 2210k 20min 36sec (29.25kph)

500m x 8 (3min rest between)

26K skate

June 23
P8 easy skating
10k skate

June 2410k 20min 2sec (29.95)

500m x 7 (3min rest between)

36K skate

June 25
June 26

June 27
30k easy skate



June 2810K 19min 37sec (30.59kph)

In the weeks leading into Canada I’ve started trying to increase the difficulty level, adding 500m sprints into the traiing mix, and trying hard to get my 10k times down.  Its been going well, on the paths I’m close to getting into the 18min range, and on the parkways (good conditions) I’m close to hitting the 17min range.

Doing a quick 10k on the paths is not so easy :( You have to content with traffic intersections, kids, dogs (and their leashes), unfriendly cyclists, bodily fluids from dogs, ducks, gease and occasionally humans ;)   Add to that debris, sand and gravel, and its not exactly ideal conditions.  Still, my 10k on the paths is now down into the mid 19min range.  I fully expect to get into the 18min range on the paths.

Under good conditions on the Parkway (Sunday Bike Days), I’ve already done a low 18min and 17min and change should be very doable soon.  Thats getting into a respectable range for doing a 10k.   If I can get my 10k on the parkway down into the high 16min range before my planned peak in september, then I’ll be very happy.

My plan for upcoming training is to start using Sunday Bike Days to work the hills.    I want to do repetitions on Pink lake hill that will emulate what I would have to contend with in New York.  Last year I only got half way through the NY 100k before my body gave out.  I was sick at the time, but still, I want to go back and do it proper. :)   So this year, I want to start some serious hill training a lot sooner.

You can see from my log that I didn’t make my planned race weight for the Canada Day marathon.  My goal now is to get my body weight down to 160lbs for Chicago (July 25th).

Between now and then I’ll be adding more volume as well.

Before races (the week prior) I do let up a bit though, and try to make sure that by the day before the race, I’m eaither resting or doing very low volumne.  This doesn’t mean the intensity gets lower, just less volumn so that the body stays ready for a high level of intensity but is fully recovered for the race.  So in the days leading into the race, I dial down the volume but still try to do some intense stuff…just not a lot, so I have time to recover easily.

I’ve also done my first P’tit Train century (100km skate), was very good, they repaved some of the sections that had been getting worse last year.   Will definitely be doing more of those distance skates to work the old spare tire!

The other big focus I’m moving into now is technical, there are a lot of things that have been bothering me technically; what I see in pictures of myself and what I can feel when I skate.  I’ve been working trying three different styles of double push this year, one of them is the one I originally learned and the other two are aproaches that seem like they might offer advantages.  But so far I haven’t been able to get into a good groove with the oher two.  So, its time to get the camcorder out and do some honest feedback.    Getting yourself on video is never “fun”, but its the only way to really see whats going on.

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Keyboard Technique

Skating is niche sport, but like other sports there are voices. I thought I should take a few moments to provide some pointers to the skating voices that have caught my ear over ye old inter-tubes.

Canadian Skate Bloggers:

From left to right: Peter, Michael, Cor and Candy.

Peter’s energy and enthusiasm for our sport is clear to even the casual reader of his site. I simply don’t know where he gets the time to keep his site so thoroughly updated with all things speed skating related. As far as I know, its the most thorough hub for speed skating information out there. Check it out!

Candy, Cor and myself are (like Peter) skaters, but our blogs are more focused on personal experience and the trials and tribulations of becoming a speed skater.

If you are a skater and enjoy sharing your experiences, get yourself online, blogging is easier than you think! You don’t have to learn any new fangled tech-knowl-ogy…you can edit your posts in pretty much the same way you use a common editor like Microsoft Word.

Even if you aren’t into the whole blogging thing, check out sites like, where Facebook-like social networks are being born that are by skaters, for skaters. :)

Some other blogs from around the rock that I keep an eye on:

Aaron Arndt

Andrew Love

Wouter Hebbrecht

There are many, many more!  Peter has compiled a huge list of skating blogs.  Sometimes our community of skating seems small, but when you look at this list it seems a little bigger :)

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Take a Lap

Mid summer – the whether finally starts turning up the heat, training is well under way, and it feels good to be outside on my wheels.  With no races to attend, its a perfect time for an endurance event!  On June 6th, the 6th Edition of 24 Hours Inline Montreal was held.   This timing isn’t good for everyone, some skaters are getting ready for the Pan Am games, but for me this is a welcome change to the days and days of training :)

If you aren’t familiar with 24 Hours (see my video from last year), the quick break down; the goal is to skate as many laps of the F1 track as you can, in 24 hours.  The rules are simple, only one of your skaters (maximum of 10 skaters on a team), can be on the track at once, and you must exchange a baton in a designated relay exchange area.  The track layout changes a little from year to year, but basically its a 4Km loop that includes a couple of small hills and a very tight 180 degree hair pin turn, followed by a long and fast straight stretch back into the relay exchange area.

The event raises funds for MS; each team’s registration fees go largely to MS.  Some groups also do pledge drives on top of that.

There is also a “solo” category, where single skaters try to get the most total distance.

This year OISC sent several teams, and they all did really well.  We took many spots on the podium:

  • Elite:  Ottawa, Rapid Lap Dogs – First Place
  • Fitness:  Ottawa, Road Snakes – First Place
  • Rec:  Ottawa, Team Bionic – Third Place
  • Fitness: Ottawa, Loups Garou – Fourth Place

In the Solo category our very own Dan “Flower Kid” Caron  placed 5th by skating a total distance of 375.84Km…wow!

Each year the event is a good time, whether you are a rec skaters or a competitive skaters, everyone is there to have a good time, catch up with skater friends and get some skating done.  The non-stop throbbing music doesn’t hurt any either :)

I was on the Rapid Lap Dogs team, so my report will be from that perspective.  For Team Bionic you can read more at Cor’s blog.  For Loups Garou, Ray posted a report on our club’s discussion forum.  Other Canadian bloggers who were in attendance (Peter Doucet, Candy Wong) have also posted blog reports.

Our team – four years ago Dan Dutrisac and I were brainstorming on a team name and we came up with Rabid Lap Dogs, as in foaming at the mouth to win!  Since then I think the play on words has been lost to time, but that’s our origin story.  Dan has been team captain of the ‘Dogs for the first and second iterations.  This year Benoit Letourneau took over as captain, but Dan stayed on as an adviser.  Dan’s experience was a big help as he knew how to be just as crafty as the other team captains.

At the elite level of skating its not always about how fast, how string or how skilled you are.  Everyone at that level is basically fast.  Other variables start to come in to play, how motivated you are, the strategies you select, the depth of your bench so to speak etc.   Having fast skaters doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t guarantee a win either.

Our bench consisted of our captain Benoit, Dan, the “other” Benoit (Tremblay) from Montreal (a clone of  our captain, both guys are skating machines!), Dan, myself, Brian Oswald (originally from Skaters Quest in the US), Damien Bouchet (French skater from Europe, working in Canada for a year or so), Dominique Lalonde, Ed “are you gonna eat that?” Leung from Toronto, Bob Mitchell from Montreal and Guy Levert (OISC skater).  Our team was kind of low key, kind of unassuming, but we worked hard, and importantly very well together.  There no friction at all.  A very positive experience.

Each year the ‘Dogs entered as a Fitness team and had hoped to win the Fitness category.  But we always managed to get bumped up.  This year, I think the organizers were on to us and put us in elite right away.  Regardless, any team that gets an average speed above 28kph (I think) gets bumped up to elite.  During the event a lot of teams with their eyes on the Fitness podium got bumped up.

Outside of the ‘Dogs I’ve been to 24hrs several times, I’ve been on a club team twice, and also on an inter-club “elite” team…more on that later.  I think I may have actually been to all editions exception the very first one.  I have not done the French version .. Le Mans over in Europe, but I do want to try their 24 hours event at some point.  Its much bigger.. 10x bigger by sheer number of skaters.

The basic goal of the event (if you are competitive), is to complete the most laps in 24 hours.  How you go about this, is entirely up to your team.  Our strategy was simple, split into three sub-teams (3, 3 and 4 skaters), and rotate the teams in 2 hour shifts.  This gives each team a 4 hour window where they can rest and recover.  We also made it clear from the beginning that its a competitive team, so we may change rotation order or bring some skaters off the bench if they are skating the faster lap times.

This might sound too aggressive, but it works out o.k.  We did have to alter some of the rotation order during the race and different people got to skate more or less laps.  But no one  was warming the bench for the entire event.

This strategy is not a new one, but surprisingly other teams try other approaches that seem far more prone to problems.  For example  relying too much on a star skater, or being completely equitable and skating all skaters without any preference.    Even star skaters get tired!  Our experience has been that its always better to make the best use of all your skaters and spread the work load around, trying to give everyone as much rest as possible.

This approach seems to pay out more often then not.  Giving people rest is a key ingredient to success! …and happy skaters!

With our bench loaded with a full 10 skaters, and strategy in hand, we put our captain on the start line and kicked off the race!  The first lap seemed to be a bit of a duel between one of the Montreal short track skaters and Benoit;  the short tracker set the fastest lap of the event: 6min 31sec and an average  speed of nearly 40kph.  Benoit came in right behind him at 6min 32sec.  Not bad for a guy in his 40s!

The first two hours went off without a hitch, we rotated through our entire bench twice, got a feel for who should be grouped with who and then made our sub-teams.  I was teamed up with Brian and Bob..a good combination we worked really well together, and even got into doing relay pushes. Bob is a great skater,  last year I skated with him several times in Quebec Cup races, and I’ve been skating with Brian in NROC races in the US.

During the first two hours we exchanged the lead position with the other two contenders; the Toronto team lead by Peter Doucet and one of the short track teams from Montreal (Montreal-Inter).   Montreal-Inter had somebody (don’t know who) who can really skate.  On the first lap he pulled down a 6min 31sec time, that’s nearly 40kph average speed!

As we moved into sub-team rotations, the sub-team with Benoit, the other Benoit (Benoit Tremblay) and Damien was first up.  The next sub-team was Bob, Brian and I, and the final sub-team was Dan, Dominique, Guy and Ed.

The Benoit clones went to work and were able to establish a sizable gap.  Damien consistently pulled down great lap times and that sub-team basically became our “gap maker” :)   When they rotated off, my sub-team and the other sub-team were focused on holding the gap or not letting it slip too much.  This was basically the formula for the rest of the race.    It worked quite well; even though we might loose some of the gap, Benoit’s sub-team had lots of time to rest, and when they came back on they could  go full out again…which the did!

Even though the Montreal team and the Toronto team had some star skaters, it was a tall order for any one skater to match the raw stamina of the Benoit clones.   Through the day and night our gap to the other two teams would grow and shrink, but it kept slowly getting bigger.    My guess is that the Toronto team was short on skaters; too few skaters being worked too hard kind of thing.  For Montreal Inter, I think their fast guy just got worn down from being relied on too much.

There were a couple of instances through the first 18 hours where we needed to change up the rotation to make sure we didnt slip too far back, but overall it was a very equitable rotation.   By morning we were multiple laps up on the other teams.  They brought their big guns back on to the track, but making up 1 or 2 laps is not so easy.  Ultimately they were able to un-lap themselves get within a few minutes of us but our lead was comfortable enough by the end and we went back to doing full bench rotation to let everyone enjoy the big finish.

For myself – my shifts all went pretty smoothly.  My first lap was fun,  I was keeping a great pace and about 60% of the way around the track, I noticed a shadow pull up behind me, so I hammered for about 10 seconds, saw that I wasn’t close to dropping my shadow, and then stood up to look.  It was Peter Doucet…at that point it was clear I wasn’t going to drop my shadow, so I let him pass.  I hooked on to the back of Peter, and surprisingly he let me take his wheel for the rest of the lap.  I talked to him after and he said wanted to save as much energy as possible that early in the race.

I would also guess he didn’t see me as a threat (and I wasn’t), but with the Benoit clones being so fast, the rest of us only had to be fast enough to make it hard to close the gap.  This was a our big advantage I think.  Our team wasn’t stacked with super fast skaters, but they were all fast enough, to make it hard to close the gap.   So for example, even if Peter has better stamina then one or both of the Benoit clones, Peter still had to skate many more laps and was just getting worn down a lot quicker.

I’m really near sighted (can’ t legally drive etc.), so  had to get other people to spot the incoming skater for me, but other than that it went pretty well.  Near the end the spotters mixed up Benoit T. with another skater and told me to go a little early; by the time we had the mistake sorted out, Benoit T was already gone and he had to suffer through two back to back laps.

During the night I picked  up some road rash.  Coming into the relay zone, there were three of us skating side by side and as I went to pass up on the left I clicked skates with the middle skater and took a tumble. Fortunately nothing broken, but I was rewarded with a big bump on my forearm and a good dose of road rash.  Took a pretty deep chunk out of the side of my hand, but amazingly nothing was too serious.  I was able to skate the rest of the event without any major problems.

As the event goes on you do get worn down.   Its a hard event to prepare for;  you have to do a 4K time trial (skating as hard as you can for ~8min)  every 16 minutes, for 2 hours (your sub-team’s shift).   Thats hard, any way you cut it.  Then you have to do all of that again 2 or 3 more times through the whole 24 hours.  By the time breakfast rolls around, even the little hills are making your legs hurt, every time you sprint its harder and harder to accelerate and recover from.

This year I felt less exhausted then previous years, but was still pretty wiped out.  I changed my eating, and I think it helped.  I cooked a lot of pasta before hand, and ate a lot of that during my downtime.  Still didn’t manage to sleep, tried to get some power naps hear and there, I think I got a little bit of actual sleep, but not much.

This year I was on my custom Bont 3 points (they allow for 110mm wheels).  I used them for most of the first half of the race, but then I switched to my older Vapors (100mm wheels).  The 110′s are great, but you really start to feel the hills when your hauling those big wheels to the top of the hill.  Even in club practice sessions both Sergio and Adrian have suggest I would be faster on the 100′s.  I’m not totally sure I have the raw muscle power for the 110′s.   For 24hrs, though going back to the 100′s was a good call, I think it helped keep me a little fresher near the end.

I think the biggest performance factor for me was just mental.  On a lot of laps I was pushing hard, but still trying to hold something in reserve and not burn out.   It was  a fine line though.  On many laps I would get to about 60% of the way around, and my stomach would  start turn, so mentally I would think “o.k., I’m at the max”, but you know, I don’t think I was.

My last lap of the event was actually 10-15 seconds faster than my other laps near the end.  Why?  It wasn’t because I suddenly felt recovered! After the hair pin turn A couple riding a tandem bike, started cheering me on, cheering is always motivating, and somehow I found another 10% to skate with.  It was  hard, but doable.

Thinking back on it, I’m sure that 10% was there through the entire race, I just wasn’t tapping into everything I could lay down on the track.  This is one of my challenges this year; I’ve seen how other athletes can dig deeper and pull out everything they’ve  got.  I don’t think I’ve been doing that.   Its a hard thing to do though, its not physical, its a mental thing.  And 99.9% of my training is physical training,  I almost never try to train myself at just digging for the last 5 or 10% of what I can give.

Going forward though, this is something I’m going to focus on for sure.

For those into numbers (full results);  I skated 21 laps, for a total distance of almost 91Km.  My average speed was 32.86 kph, which is .67 kph faster than last year, and this year I had three laps that were 34+ kph average speed, where last year I had none.   My slowest lap speed last year was 30.2 kph, where as this year my slowest lap speed was 31.55.   I would have liked to have had an average at 33kph for the event this year, but even still I’m making progress. :)

Some graphs (these are times for me personally):

(lap times are for me personally, others have higher graphs!)

For the lap speeds by year; Rabid Lap Dogs I – 2006, Rabid Lap Dogs II – 2008, Rabid Lap Dogs III.

Overall a great event, no rain, and everyone got along really well.  No friction at all.  I’ve been on teams in the past where it was stacked with super fast guys, but ego’s/personality got in the way and things eventually fell apart.  Putting a bunch fast guys together on a team doesn’t guarantee anything.  If you can get skaters together though, who will consistently give their best for the team, and step back when needed, then you’ve got something!

When things start falling apart, things go south pretty quick.  Skaters just disappear and if they do their lap, they may not be fully comitted.   In the end you leave the event with a lot of negative energy instead of being stoked about the event.  Make sure your team can gel :)

Peter Doucet put together a big link collection of pictures, if you want to see some great shots of the event just scroll through the various galleries.

Our team was competive, but you can join a fitness or recreational team and have a more purely fun experience, there is something for all levels of skaters. If you haven’t tried 24 hours yet, I highly recommend.  Its one of the unique  adventures you can have thorugh skating.  One the reason’s I skate is the adventure it brings.  Sure I like training, and getting in shape…all good, but what is work without some play?    Get out there and find some adventure…preferrably on your skates!

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The Great Wall of Training

This past weekend I skated the 24 Hours Inline endurance event in Montreal. I will post a big report on that a little later when the detailed results come out. Quick summary; Our club owned the podium :)

While 24 is a great event, my focus this year is on NROC sanctioned marathons. So my training has all been focused on preparing for races such as the upcoming Chicago race. This year I’m not even doing provincials and nationals. This isn’t to say I’m completely off the track; when I can make it out to the track I get good hard session in. Without a car though its been really hard for me to line up track sessions. I still haven’t had a chance to try out Le Taz, although I’m supposed to coach a session there at the end of the month.

For now though, a long road of training lies ahead. The training update since last time:

DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
May 1817.10%
May 19
May 2010K (21:50)

10K (22:07)

10K easy skate
10K 70%

10K 70%

10K eash skate
May 21
May 2210K (21:17)

20K 5x1min @ 100%
10K 70%

Fartlek [ 5 x 1min @ 90%]
May 2341K
active recovery
May 24
DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
May 25
May 26[400m @ 100 x 5] x 2

24K hills at P8
10K was Aylmer track
May 27
May 28
May 2930k easy skate

May 3050k easy skate


May 3110/30 (2 of 4 sets)

pack skate
23K skate
DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
June 1
June 2Hill skate with P8 (sprints)

17.51K skate



June 340k fartlek
40.73K sakte
June 4
June 5
23k skate

easy skate

June 624 Hrs Inline

June 724 Hrs Inline

As with my last training update you can see that the volume isn’t really so big. Nothing like the mileage I was putting in last year or the previous year. But…and maybe this is a good thing; I don’t feel like I’ve peaked yet this summer. Usually just after 24hrs I reach my peak, and its hard to reach a second one in September for the big concluding events like Northshore.

So on one hand I’m a little disappointed that I’m skating as much volume, but at the same time I feel like I’m track for a bigger/better peak later in the season.

Still need to work the flab, the body fat percentage needs to come down. I’m working towards getting my weight down to 160lbs before Canada day. I think that is pretty much my race ready weight. Below that it feels tough to maintain and I’m not sure I keep enough muscle on below that weight. I am aiming to hit 160lbs though. The insurance companies believe I should be 166lbs, so if I can get the flab down and muscle up, I’ll be in good shape!

Left: circa '96 Right: today

Above you can see the progress I’ve made while taking on a skating/athletic lifestyle.  On the left is me around 1996.   On the right is a shot of me from 24 hrs this past weekend.  I’ve made a lot of progess, not just in terms of burning off calories, but in terms of changing my life style to be an athletic one.

I’ve always been a computer nerd and I never imagined myself as a skater, yet here I am!  I’m happy with my progress, but as I say I think my race ready weight is around 160lbs.  So a little bit of work needs to be done between now and July 1st (Canada Day marathon).

I think its worth noting that this progress did not just land in my lap, nor was it gained over night.  Its been an ongoing effort (struggle?) for many years.  Likely more to come as well.  So, if you are focused on weight loss through sports; great, go for it, but don’t get dis-heartened if you fail to shed 20lbs in a few months…it just doesn’t work like that.  If it goes off (to stay off), its about changing your lifestyle and slowly over time, dialing in a lower weight.

I’ve never found any quick fix that works.  The only thing that really works for me is good old fashioned regular exercise.   Just do it.  At the end of the day its a matter of callories in and callories out.  You need to be burning more than you are storing.

From here, my plan is to ramp up my training intensity and bring up the volume.  My focus is now solidly on the Canada Day marathon and after that on Chicago.  Haven’t decided yet on going to St Paul for the two middle distance races.  I’d like to try some of the other US races like Badger, but they are almost impossible for me to get to (since I can drive (since I’m really near-sighed (and like programming in lisp))).

Stay tuned…big 24hrs report coming soon…

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Road To Montreal

Some people take the long weekend to go to the cottage, relax, and de-stress.   As a competitive inline skater though, I have other options.  This long weekend I exercised the racing option, by competing in the Marathon Roller de Montreal.  This is my 3rd 42k race of the season, the first being the Metrodome, and the second being the Texas Road Rash race.  Montreal still felt like the first 42K race of the season though, or at least “an early season race”.  For many skaters it really was their first race of the season.

For myself; aside from the othe races, I had 4 weeks of training leading up to Montreal.  A quick summary of my training:

DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
April 20
April 2160 HR 140 Spin bike
April 2245min Stair sprints
April 2310/30 Spin bike
April 24
April 2532.32 SkateModerate w/Bike Chases
April 2821K SkateRun 4 Reach
DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
April 2737.07 SkateRace Pace167.418.00%
April 2826.4 Hill (P8) Skate1st P8 Session
April 2910K Run - 51min 44sec169.218.30%
April 30169.618.40%
May 1
May 230K skatecapacity intervals170.418.70%
May 372K skatelow intensity167.817.80%
DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
May 434K skate10/30 workout166.817.40%
May 517k at P8 with race team169.418.30%
May 636K sakteactive recovery16717.50%
May 7
May 810K Run - 46min 39sec16717.50%
May 9
May 10
DateWorkoutNotesWeight (lbs)Body Fat (%)
May 1143K skate165.917.10%
May 12
May 1310K (22min)
25K skate
10k 70%
10/30 workout
May 14
May 1510K (21:50)
20K - 5x1min sprint
10k 70%
5x1 @ 90-100%
May 16
May 1742K Montreal Marathon1:17:50 (11th place)

As you can see from the training log, my early season training has been good, but not necessarily super intense.  My planned peek is September, and perhaps even October, as I want my final race to be the Houston Inline Marathon.  For now my work has been very heavy on distance to build up my base conditioning, with some spicy workouts thrown in to taste :)

I’m currently at a fairly big disadvantage in terms of pace training; I’m the head coach at our club and I have to coach a lot of sessions, so while I’m coaching, I can’t train with the race team.  I don’t mind training on my own, but its a lot better to train with other skaters, especially when they are faster, and you can work your fitness/technique up towards theirs.  On your own, what seems challenging, might not really be so much.

Also battling the bulge from the winter :( Looks like I hit the cola and chips a little too hard this winter.  I should be able to get my body weight/fat under control in a few weeks, but it will be sometime in June before I’m in decent condition for racing.  For Montreal I felt “ok” but for sure, far off my peek.  I’m hoping that the Canada race (July 1st) will go much, much better.

As they say though, one must live in the moment…Montreal:

If your a guy, I only need to say one word: shrinkage.  If your not a guy, let me just say that 6C weather combined with gusting 30kph winds do not make for ideal skin suit wearing conditions.  It could have been worse, it could been all that plus rain.  Fortunately it was a dry race though.

Despite the conditions, everyone managed to get of the start line with no problems.  As far as I know it was a clean race with no falls (although I think someone fell in the 21K group at the hairpin turn.).  The venue is the F1 track on the island park to the south of Montreal.  The track is generally in very good condition and has excellent pavement.  The hairpin turn is the only feature of the course that could be cause for concern.

The hairpin turn is a 180 degree turn with a radio of about 80 ft.  It might seem like plenty of room, but when you come up on it at 34kph…it seems a lot smaller.  Its also a turn to the right, most skaters are much more conditioned for turning to the left, so the packs usually just parallel turn through the hairpin.

The other big features: a long slightly downward back straight, followed by a small hill up to an S chicane before a tight left and back to the hair pin (the start line is just after the hairpin before the back straight).  This year the course was in great shape, but the chicane was littered with twigs.  Wasn’t too big a problem, but it took out at least one skater.

Late in the race (3rd last lap) I came up behind Morgan, heard a squeaking from his wheels, and heard him yell for a skate tool.  I figured one of his bearings had blown, but after the race he told me a twig has wrapped itself around the axle of one of his wheels.  Morgan had to resign the 42K, but he skated the 4K race afterward.

One other note, there were no water trucks this year!  Last year, as we came down into the chicane there was a big water truck backing on the track, with a lot of yelling from the pack it stopped and we buzzed by…but that could ended differently.

This year my goal was simply to stay with the lead group, skate conservatively and try to hang on to the lead group right until the end.   This race is also part of NROC, so my secondary goal ws to place as high as I could among the Pro Masters NROC skaters (this is my second NROC race of the season).

Going into the race I was worried the lead group was just drop me right away, since being an NROC race we thought some of the top US skaters might show up, and they would push the pace.  We did get a few competitive skaters from across the border, but it didn’t end up pushing the pace very much.  Off the line, 3 packs formed and jostled around all down the back straight right through the paddocks area.   It was kind of cool to see that much traffic at the front of the race.  It was a relatively small race compared to St Paul (now defunct) or Northshore, but everyone had the gaz, and we had three lines charging ahead for most of the first lap.

In the second lap things thinned out a bit and big group formed at the front, 15-20 skaters I think.  The pace didn’t feel too hard, but I guess that the power of the pack; afterwards I was told the first lap was something like 6min 20sec, which is a very decent lap time (the kind of lap time you would dream about during the 24 hours event).    After that though the pace leveled out and there were a lot of 7min and change laps.

In fact the first 7 of the 10 laps were pretty flat.  I passed up a few times, as far forward as third from the front, and while there were surges, there was nothing that seemed like a hard pressed attack.   Then again, being burried in the pack, a lot of the explosiveness would have been absorbed by other skaters closer to the front, and they were likely doing a lot more work bridging any gaps.  I talked to other skaters after the race though, and it didn’t seem like there were any big attacks in those first 7 laps though.

Once we were skating the cold and wind were not so much of an issue; your mind focuses on the race at hand you just don’t have time to think about the wind.   I spent a time buried in the pack, but also at the back (the suicide position), and back there you have to constantly deal with the gaps created by the pack’s slinky action.   There just wasn’t time to be cold :)

Later in lap 7 though, things finally picked up.  Out of the chicane there was a strong enough attack (while I was at the very back) that I couldn’t close on the gap that opened up in front of me.   My legs just didn’t have the gaz to increase the speed enough.  My breathing was ok, it was just my legs not turning over fast enough.  Once I was completley dropped off, I settled into cruising mode, and just focused on sweeping up the chase group and other victims.  Chances are if it wiped me out, there would be others getting wiped out, just at a later point.

In interesting thing about that kind wipe out; I’m an endurance guy, not a sprinter.  So although it hurts me to do a prolonged attack, it hurts a sprinter a lot more.  I don’t have as high a peak sprinting speed, but going from my 80% to my 90% doesn’t hurt me as much as it would hurt a sprinter.  So what I’ve seen a lot is that some skaters don’t get dropped right away, but when they fall off later, they really fall off.

By the start of the 2nd last lap, I had caught up to the chase 2 group.  You can see in the results that the lead group eventually split into two, and the the tail group split again.  Our chase 2 group, was me, Morgane Echardour (from Montreal), and Brian Oswald  a Skater’s Quest team member.  For lap 9 we just rotated and worked on catching other victims from the lead group.

Just after the Paddocks I recognized one of the guys from Montreal that I knew was a strong skater, I tapped Morgane and pointed to him, saying lets grab him, Morgan spoke to him in French, and he hopped on back of our pack.  But I guess he was too wiped out.  By the final lap it was back down to Morgan, Brian and myself.

Hernan Diaz was with us for a little while on the last lap.  He was hanging out at the back letting us pull.  I was really worried, if Hernan had any kind of sprint like Herb Gayle, then he would take us all to school at the finish line.  It turned out to not be an issue though, by the last 2K of the last lap, it was just me Morgane and Brian again.

I’m not really sure what happened, by that last lap we where definitely not hammering.  The three of us were all tired, we were working good together, but we where not charging hard kind of thing.  I think maybe by the end the pace of the lead group’s pace combined with the low temperature had just sucked the life out of a lot of skaters.

When it was clear that that it would be us three at the line, I felt I had to do something to try and wear down Morgane.  Brian was skating really well, probably better than me, but I didn’t know if he had a sprint left in him.  I do know for sure that if Morgane had any gaz left, she would use it to eat my lunch at the finish line.  I’m not exactly famous for my sprinting abilities, so to even the odds a little I attacked in a couple of places after the S chicane and before the final stretch into the hairpin.

My hope was that the attacks would wear down Morgane more then they would me.  Whethor or not it actually worked…I don’t know.  But as an endurnace guy, my options were to either survive more attacks or try to get a prolonged breakaway.  I wasn’t feeling like I had so much gaz left, so I opted for a couple of quick attacks.

Going into the final stretch we rotated one last time.  I came up front and kept an eye over my shoulder.  With 200m to the hairpin, I took a last glance didn’t see Morgane or Brian stepping out, so I decided to put the hammer down and make for the corner.  I managed to get to the corner first, and had the advantage of the inside line.  I think Morgane did try to get around me, but the extra distance would have made it a tall order.  Coming out of the turn, I made one last push for the line, and was happy that much lunch hadn’t been eaten :) .

Video: Kaye Kwok

As races go, it wasn’t super eventful.  I had more racing fun with Morgane and Brian in the last two laps then in the prior laps.

Kudos to Morgane, she took home 1st place among the women, well earned. Throughout the race she constantly worked hard to stay in with the lead pack.    She held on to the lead pack (as did Brian) longer than I.   Brian if you read this; we need to get the same jersey or something so we can work together in the next race, this is the second race this year where we end up together!

The full results have been posted.  I placed 11th out of 90.  If I had held on to the lead pack, I don’t think I would have beat any of the chase 1 guys to the line, so I don’t think it would have changed my final placing.   I managed to pull down a time of 1h 17min and 50sec, ~2min behind the winner Peter Doucet who finished in 1:15:22.   Last year the lead group came in under 1:12 or 1:13, my time from last year at Montreal was 1h 14min.

Last year I placed 10th.  Its hard to say if I did worse or better this year.  If not for getting gapped half way through the 7th lap, I likely could have finished in the 1:16 area (dropped a minute), but as I say I don’t think it would have changed my ranking, I don’t think I would have beat any of the chase 1 guys to the line.

A PB was out of the question; my fasted marathon time is a 1:12 (Canada Day last year).  I’ll be hitting the training hard between now and Canada day and for sure I want to try and come home from that race with a 1:10 or at least a 1:11.  My dream race would be to come home with a sub 1:10 finish time.  After that I could hang up my skates and die a happy man.    It not something ni my control though, even if I’m fit enough to skate that kind of a marathon time, I can only go as fast as the pack goes, and the pack (I skate with) is racing for rank, not finish time.

Some photos have been posted already; Cor Beattie has a great gallery up on Flickr.  Wilby snapped off lots of shots, but hasn’t posted a gallery yet, stay tuned!

Next u pis the 24 Hours Endurance event, following that will be the Canada Day race, where hopefully I will place higher and get closer to my fantasy finish time :)

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Curse ‘o the Reach

Ever feel cursed? Athletes can be strange sometimes. Some surround their performance in a race with ritual while other look to lady luck for a helping hand. Some like myself simply get wrapped up in history of performance at an event. If I’ve had bad experiences at a particular race, it can really put a wet blanket on that event for me. Case in point, Run For Reach.

Run For Reach is an early season 21K marathon, the skating event is tacked on to a larger running event. Reach has been around forever. Providing a channel for charity fund raising and an opportunity for skaters to race in Ottawa. This year Reach brought a lot of skaters to town, nearly a hundred skaters stepped up to the start line this year. Not bad for half marathon.

I didn’t do this race last year, since I was in Mexico training, but each year I’ve done it, I always seem to be dogged by problems. The year before last, it was cold and wet and I overdressed, and then overheated, and got completely exhausted during the race.

The year before (2006) that I slipped at a turn around and did some home base sliding.


This year I was nervous going into the race, just wanting to not mess it up. At the start line I was about the 3rd row back from the line, after everyone got crammed into the start area. When we took off, I was able to move up the right side by the curve and get in behind what looked like the lead group forming. So far so good! Garmin says the start was fairly fast, around 40kph, and was held around there for a lot of the time up until Pretoria and the Queensway. From the GPS graph you can see things holding around 40kph for the first 5Km, and then they drop down when I was forced into the chase pack. The sprint into the finish line at the end brought things up to 40kph again.

Sergio had taken an early lead and was hammering hard and the others were trying to catch him. I’m not sure who it was, things shifted before I could look around. On the other side of the pack I saw Morgan moving up to close the gap with Sergio, so I stepped out on my side, to the right, and tried to get on the back of Morgan.

So we were now about half way through the first lap and I was cranking as hard as I could to try and close the gap with Morgan and hopefully secure a spot in the lead pack. This would turn out to be over-trying, but I didn’t know this until later. As we came up to the Pretoria crossing and under the Queensway, Benoit passed me (I’m guessing to group up with Morgan and Sergio, since they are all on iL Peloton’s team). We clicked skates, I lost my balance for a moment, but was able to recover.

After the intersection, I could see I wasn’t closing the gap, so decided to seek the shelter of the pack. But as suspected, they had been sitting behind me, and as soon as I pulled off (with heavy legs), they zoomed past and I couldn’t muster the leg speed to get back on the main pack. I got flushed out the back and was able to get into the chase group.

It turned out later that Sergio’s big lead disappeared and the main group consolidated into one big pack. So if I had been conservative and just sat in the group like everyone else, I likely would have stayed with that group through the race. So on one hand I’m really disappointed that I overextended myself, and it cost me, but on the other hand, if you never go to the front, and never take some risks, then you just aren’t challenging yourself.

As they say though, life goes on. Once in the chase pack, I tried to first just recover. We came up on the first turn around really quickly, and while t-stopping hard, I wasn’t slowing enough to make the turn, and had to go outside the cones, slow down and double back, and chase down the group. Fortunately Adrian Lowen was there and took pity on me, and pulled me up to the group. Adrian was just skating for fun, dealing with an ankle injury but still trying to get on his skates.

The Chase Pack (some guy from Ottawa in front)

The Chase Pack (some guy from Ottawa in front)

For the rest of that lap and a lot of the second (final) lap, we settled into a pattern of the first 3 or 4 skaters pulling in rotation. I did a big share, Herb Gayle (team Aloe Up), Erwin, Stephane and Fabio from Montreal, and George Nikodym from Toronto. The girls from Montreal (Morgane and Martine) helped out at the front as well. Our pack had a lot of passengers though, I didn’t even know some of them were there until the finish line.

That’s the way it goes sometimes, sprinters just hide in the pack and wait to take you out at the line. You can either up the pace, and wear them down (and maybe yourself as well), or you can learn to sprint…which isn’t so easy. :(

During the race I felt kind of depressed after getting flushed from the lead pack, but I still wanted to race hard and earn a good placement. Even still though,  I didn’t always feel like I had the gaz. My legs weren’t feeling heavy, I just didn’t really feel zippy.

I think my 33k skate yesterday may have been fun (chasing bikes at top sprint), but not really a good way to save up energy before a race. I don’t think this was a big factor in the race, but it wasn’t helping me either. Still, the Saturday skate was my weekend highlight, I sprinted with cyclists doing 42kph 4 times. Granted not a safe thing to do on the city paths, but it was fun to mix it up with the cyclists.

When they are truly serious, they just step up to 50+ kph and then they’re gone. But some of them will play with you :)

I guess next time I’ll let my pre-race taper be a proper one with some good old fashioned rest the day before the race. :)

So going into the last 5Km I was up front. I looked at my Garmin, 16K already rolled. With sprinters behind me and legs not feeling super zippy, I figured I would slow down and just take an easy pace until people started attacking. No point wearing myself down. I didn’t want to fight for positions in the pack, no point risking further injury to my leg, and no point being at the back when someone attacks. Its a lot easier to respond from the front.

It didn’t take long for theory to turn to praxis. Erwin took an early jump, Morgane went with him, and I jumped in behind her. Herb and the other sprinters were staying back, no doubt saving it for the finish line. This attack was very early and unlikely to be a factor. Morgane and Erwin slowed we rotated, and by the time I was on front again, the pack had regrouped.

Erwin and Morgane are both athletes by the way. Erwin is in his 50′s and each year he just kicks more asses and takes more names :) I’ve skated with Morgan on the track and she is a worker. I’ve seen her push herself to the absolute limit of what her body will give her. If I could wring so much out of what my body has available, I would be insanely happy.

In an athletic event, it not just about how strong you are, or how fast you are, its also about how you perform. How much of your potential you can draw out. If you can’t tap your full potential, you’re already at a disadvantage. For me this is definitely an issue, if I get psyched out for some reason, it becomes very hard to motivate myself. Going into this event feeling like I was cursed from previous installments, really wasn’t helping!

With about 2K left, Stephane and Fabio made a break for it, no doubt hoping to work as a two man team for a breakaway to the finish. Always happy to play spoiler I bridged the gap and got on Stephan’s wheel. The pack came with me, and after about a minute things eased up again. No one was eager to pull, so everyone just stood up and rolled, waiting for someone to go up front. Regrouped again, and I shortly found myself pulling again.

I was glad to have the attacks though, kept things interesting. I’m definitely not a sprinter, so I’ll take all the practice I can get. Knowing that sprinters would now just be saving their juice for the line, I geared down and just skated easy for the next kilometer and a half. Constantly looking over my shoulder left and right, to keep aware of the attack. I was hoping that at least being up front, I would be able to shut down an attack or respond easily to one.

Right away there was a false positive; I looked back, saw Erwin step out and I thought he was going, so I geared up, but it turned out he was just moving up in the pack. I settled back to cruising again.

We came into the final 500m stretch, and I knew the bomb would drop any second; I looked back. left and right, no action. I just finished turning my head back to the front when I heard Stephane yell Up! And the sprinters jumped. I tried to spin up my own speed, but my legs were feeling heavy…hmmm, all that pulling? Before I know it 4 or 5 skaters had edged around me and it was all I could to do to stay tight behind Martine and the others.


Kudos to Erwin, he jumped with the sprinters and manged to finish right behind Fabio and Morgane. The Herbalizer stomped past all of us at the line. Herb is pure sprinter, if you don’t retire someone like that earlier in the race, you better hope you can sprint at the line. Herb is also an Athlete; he skates the Pro Veteran division. Just goes to show, our sport is very un-selective. Male/Female/Young/Old, if you’ve got the will power you can do well.

Erwin & Herb

Erwin & Herb

So when the proverbial cookie had crumbled, I finished 18th overall out of 92 skaters with a time of 39min 58sec (results). In the larger picture, not a terrible result, but I feel disappointed that my eagerness early on cost me on the pack positioning. If I had been a little more conservative, I’m sure I would have skated the race with lead pack. But that’s racing; You can’t control everything, and you can’t see the future. You can train hard though, and you can learn from your races :)

The next race is the Montreal marathon on the F1 track, May 17th. Between now and then, I’m going to try and get some mileage in and  get my weight under control (need to lose about 8lbs), and work the sprints. My peak won’t happen until August/September, but I’m still hopeful that I can play my cards better in Montreal and come home with a better ranking.

Side note: I finally got my Catlike helmet replaced. Cycle Power over on Carling has them. They only one color unfortunately black/white, but still I was able to get a new Sakana. My Gyro helmet is ok, but nothing breaths like Catlike helmets. I finally have a cool head again :) The Sakana’s are super light and have huge airflow, unfortunately they also come with a mega price tag ($250 retail). So bring your visa card. Despite todays race, I’m already very happy with my latest toy :)

If you haven’t seen them yet, some photo sets are up, Cor Beattie and Nathalie Larouche have both posted sets.  The shots above are from Nathalie.  Several other galleries should be up soon.  Greg Brown was snapping off shots like crazy and is apparently trying to trim down a set of over 800 shots.

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