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!