Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chicagoland Inline Marathon

I don’t normally write about the view from the middle of the standings as most the action takes place ahead of me, and most of the fun happens behind me in the tutu division. No offense to the tutu wearers either, it’s fun to skate back there; lot’s more time for conversation. This race however is a different story. The combination of a very technical course (lots of turns) with a large field of skaters at, or just above, my ability made for an exciting race.

From the start I decide that I was going to give up on being overly cautious and try to fight my way into a good position at the gun. That was easier said then done as fella’s like John Silker and Ken Huss are busy moving through all the open spots before they close up. Each of them are deftly maneuvering through the aggressive crowd of skaters and it takes the first uphill after a left-hand turn for me to latch onto Ken’s group. John is long gone. I’m going to have to continue to work on those starts.

The course is challenging but manageable, the biggest unknown though is how will the skaters around me handle the turns? It quickly becomes obvious that few of the outdoor skaters in my pack cornering down very well, and the indoor skaters are unfamiliar with uphill or downhill 90 degree turns. This turns out to be an advantage for me later in the race. The first lap of the course was, as always for me, very hard. I normally have to push through some sort of muscle barrier at about the 12- 15 minute mark. The second and third lap passed pretty much without incident, however we did pick up and then drop Tom D'ellaringa but it was all of his own making. Instead of getting onto the back of our pack, he took the lead, ALL THE WAY UP THE HILL. Thanks man, but next time think of yourself a little bit.

It was in the forth lap that things got interesting. I pulled through to the round-about in the AT&T grounds and then pulled off, but suddenly my legs wouldn’t move anymore. I tried to hang on but couldn’t. The train was leaving the station and I had to stand up for a breath. I pushed on but it wouldn’t come. Then I just started skating and looked up. The pack wasn’t pulling away, but I wasn’t gaining. So I took it easy, knowing that I cornered better than the pack, plus I was still climbing easier then they were. So they went around the right hand turn out of AT&T and I gained a bit on my turn. Then they started up the hill and I put my head down and closed the 20 yards between us as we climbed up hill, getting to the pack just as they slowed for the 180 turn back down. I was glad to take that turn slow and wasn't complaining about being at the back. I still had a hard time keeping the legs moving on the down hill however and had to coast a bit. This opened a gap again which I was hoping the Team “Speed Weevil” skater behind me would come around and fill so I could continue to recover. No going, but we where coming up onto another turn. As the pack takes it wide I, like a good indoor skater should, cut the turn and end up right on the wheel of the pack once again. At this point I hear complements from the skater behind me for the slick move. We are again heading uphill and this time I sit in the pack and get some recovery going.

The final lap then is uneventful expect for the pain and the noticeably shorter pulls. I’m now tucked in with a female Flanders skater that I was unable to find after the race. As we came around the last turn into the uphill finish my turning ability allowed me to place myself in the middle of the pack, just out of the wind. Two thirds of the way up the hill I think "it’s now or never" and jumping out, I get low and take the rest of the hill taking the pack by surprise. Then noticing a single skater between me and the finish I can hear Tommy, our announcer say, “We’ve got a little sprint here.”

Glenn Koshi’s shot captures my “sprint” form – that’s me on the right. Not much to look at but it did the trick. I won the sprint with a little hawk at the finish, to my horror though I look down for the line and watch as I shoot out my right foot, its then I notice my chip is on the other ankle. Still, while our times are identical I’m listed ahead in the standings. And that’s the story from the middle of the pack where there still can be a bit of drama if you look for it. Happy skating.
Road America - 20K - June 14, 2006

Climbing the hill to the finish line.

Ok, how many of you can say you've raced at one of the top five road tracks in North America? Well, now I can. This was Superbike weekend at Road America, in Wisconsin, where track speeds reach 180 mph. Just the sound of those powerful engines speeding by is enough to make one's palms sweat before a race. If you haven't been there it's a 4 mile loop with long fast down hills, all with turns at the bottom and three steep up hills. The conditions where perfect for racing for this the first running of the Road America 13 and 20K race. Maybe about 90 folks came out and Adams Inline showed Team Rainbo that maybe the hill work at Sears needs to be a bit more intense - Adams took two of the top three spots. (That would be yours truly, second back on the right.)
Mystery Marks of the Metrodome - April 24, 2006

 Just back from a one-of-a-kind marathon, the Metrodome Inline Marathon. Indoors, 71 laps of smooth, almost but not quite slippery concrete floors and when I get off the floor to take off my skates here are these crazy marks on my wheels. They’re only on the inside of my right skate and I noticed a few other skaters with the same markings. Odd. Eerie. What could they mean?

Well they don’t come from kicking trash cans, which I almost did maybe one or two hundred times. And there’s no way I pronate THAT much. My wheels look like spin paintings, only with oil shooting out from the bearings. Though closer inspection shows that the marks are more like rubber or tar than oil. I’d say that they come from the expansion joint in the floor, which are filled with rubber.

Anyway as part of the "B" team for Team Rainbo we turned in a respectable time, 1:27 and change. With three of us never having skated the dome before we’re quite happy. The highlight of the day was seeing our own “Pistol” Pete Starykowicz win the individual time trial, then come back and help power the Rainbo "A" team to a forth place finish.

Lot’s of fun in MN.

Keep the helmet side up.

Close to a Washout -April 2, 2006

With many of the committed skaters off to Orlando for the Disney marathon I took it upon myself to gather those of us left behind out to the practice grounds. With the time change I thought maybe making practice a bit later to let it warm up outside. Though a look at the forecast said, “get it in early or never”. Bravely making out to Hoffman Estates in the 15 mph winds was one thing, but seeing the large band of yellow and red heading towards us on the radar was another. It was get the skates on and skate quick. The wind on top of the hills was just short of wild, and going downhill into it was work, no rest here. Herb and I, only two of us ended up making it, got one lap in before it started, within three minutes sprinkles turned into steady rain.

The radar image here shows a black and white circle in the middle, that’s our practice area 45 minutes after we packed up. Moral: In April act quick, the streets wont be dry for long.

Keep the helmet side up!

OK, that was the mid-term election.

We're totally onto something else now.