Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Cold Side of the Blade

A long time ago in an ice rink far, far away…

A Padawan skater schooled in the ways of

polyurethane roll, is being lured toward the razor’s edge

of the steel single blade…

I feel as helpless as Obi-Wan Kenobi watching security holograms in the aftermath of the Jedi Temple massacre. Speedy Weezy, my son, was the one who would bring balance to my inline skating career, rising to become a greater inline skater than I could ever hope to be. But now, with the influence of a very cunning and patient coach (a Dark Lord of the Olympic Ice Oval) and non-stop U.S. Speedskating coverage, Speedy Weezy wants to understand the ways of the Cold Side of the Blade. 

Trust your feelings young one.

After a less than stellar first attempt at ice a few months ago, I was surprised when Speedy told me he wanted to give it a go on the frozen oval again. But I understood. We’d been really wrapped up in what Shani, Apolo and Chad were achieving in Vancouver, so knowing there’s no Gold-On-A-Rope at the end of the inline track, I figured it’d be good to allow this indulgence. Anyway, the ice program here in Fort Collins is very well supported by the city, the coach is world-class, and the facility is excellent, clean & safe. If he’s going to get into something, this is something he can potentially take somewhere. 

The ice Padawans.

Being that this was only his second time on ice speed skates, probably the 4th time ever actually skating on ice, I’ll admit that a father’s pride started to swell. The kid has a natural ability I just don’t have. 

Learning the edges.

The coach made it a point to tell me how well Speedy is handling his edges. I was really impressed when it came time for balancing on one skate and maneuvering around the cones. He did it with relative ease, considering it was his first time trying it. 

The Force is strong in this one.

I’ve got to admit, the kid was making it look so easy, I was re-considering ice. But I’ve got to stop myself because I really want him to find “his sport” without me being “the old man” who’s always gloaming along. I guess if it worked out that ice is his thing, that would be pretty cool. 

I’ll give him this too, he’s brave. Last time we tried this, he took a spill that would have ended my career really quickly. But this guy’s got guts. I admire him for getting out there and facing his fear of falling. He fell a couple of times during the practice, but he got right back up with that victorious “I’m alright!” reserved for sports heroes like him – the guys that get out there and give it their all, fall down 7 times, get up 8. 

At the end of the day, I’m just happy Speedy is going deeper into sports because he wants too. As his parents, we’re not pushing we’re only consulting. Whatever he wants to try that’s OK. But you know I’ll be standing on the sideline using Jedi mind tricks to make him believe inline is ultimately the side to be on.

In racing news…We’re off to Wichita today for the Wichita Speed Skating 2010 Classic. This is Speedy’s first meet, and we’re really excited to be going. It’ll be a 9 hour trip in a rented Prius, but with the recent accelerator enhancements Toyota has admitted to, we should get there pretty quickly. 

With any luck, we’ll be broadcasting live on FirstLoser TV! Provided there’s wireless connectivity at Roller City, we’ll be on the air. Announcements will be made via Twitter and Facebook if it works. No Ross & Chelsea color commentary, but a streaming feed to let you peer into the action. Keep your fingers crossed…

2/23/10 Training: Last practice before Wichita. This was the largest Rink Rabbit class we’ve had to date, and we were even short 4 regulars. I need to talk to the head coach, this thing is getting too big! The kids are in great shape – this is going to be a fun meet!

2/24/10 Training: Wasn’t able to get a workout in today. Call it a day off.

2/25/10 Training: 12 smooth miles on the trail in Loveland at lunch. I miss my buddy John, who’s gone off to Mt. Shasta. That aside, had a great skate, the weather was perfect.

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Casting party

Have you ever stepped in warm dog poo barefoot? I’ve actually done it; will never forget it. We were frolicking in the yard, running under the sprinkler, and I hit the jackpot – WHAM! Landed flat on my back, the warm ooze still soft between my toes and slick down through my heel. Ah the glory days of youth! So while I’ve never been cast for custom boots, I at least know what it feels like. Or so I’m told… 

"Damnnnn, Diddy!"

The Speed Weasels, the outdoor team I roll with, had a custom-boot casting party a few weeks ago. Glenn Koshi, the master caster himself, made the trip out here to Northern Colorado to coat the feet of the weasels in gooey socks, casting their peds for cushy new pairs of custom Bont Vaypors! 

Titanium T.'s fetish collection.

I was the odd man out, not being cast ’cause I’m “broke as a joke, G!” Well, not really, but I just didn’t have the heart to tell Glenn I’m not a big believer in custom boots. If I had foot problems maybe, but I’ve actually done OK making out-of- the-box skates work really well – particularly with the help of his invention, the EZee Fits

We're really very sensitive when one is vulnerable. This could have been worse.

For those who skate custom Bont, Glenn Koshi is an ICON. The man has been casting boots longer than the lifespan of your average penguin (wiki that) and he’s been coaching even longer. A true gentlemen of the sport. His talents for shaping the casting sock, calling out the hot spots and making sure you get the perfect fit are known the world over. The Speed Weasels were honored to have him to ourselves for the weekend. 

Pretty much what you'd see in the locker room with these guys. Now you know.

I was struck by how light these Bonts are. Particularly with the magnesium frames. And I almost lost control when I saw Tony’s new black & silver set up. Sweet ride! 

In 8 to 10 weeks I'll be kicking myself for not getting a pair myself. These will be 3 point Vaypors 110's.

OK, so a minute earlier I was saying I don’t believe in customs. That doesn’t mean I’d NEVER get a pair. I’m just not ready yet. But I know as soon as these guys show up on the trail in their new skates, I’m going to be torqued at myself for not taking the plunge. 

"Damn John. A little warning would have been nice." "Sorry, it's my vegetarian diet."

Because Glenn is so good at what he does, I was tempted to have him cast me and hold the molds while I decided how I’d convince Horseypants that custom Bont’s make a great 40th birthday present. But as it turns out, Glenn will only guarantee a cast for a month, because he says feet are always changing. Hearing that I knew it’d take me longer than that to get the courage to tell Horseypants what that great 40th birthday present would cost, so I let the opportunity pass. Cheaper than a new Camaro yes, but not as useful for carting the kids to skating practice. 

If you’d like to have Glenn come cast for your team, it’s easy: get 5-7 of your teammates to commit and he’ll be on the next plane. He quick, efficient, and in the minds of these Speed Weasels – THE BEST! Contact him directly through the E-mail Us tab on FunRoll.com. Get there by clicking here

2/20/10 Training: Indoor practice with the Rink Rabbits in the morning. Lot’s of race focus this week – we’re going to Wichita on Friday! We’ve got a good-sized group going: Speedy Weazy & Mr. Finn’s first meet; “the fast siblings” making their season opener; “the fast kid” with something to prove after NC; the “shoulder roller” making her comeback. In the evening, did 1 hour on the slideboard. Feeling 98% recovered from the stomach flu. The slide felt good. The time off hasn’t hurt. I think it’s actually helped. Easier to stay in tight, tail-tucked position for most of the hour. 

2/21/10 Training: 2 hours indoors. We didn’t do any plyos this week so we could get the kids ready for Wichita. Being the night after Apolo’s exciting Bronze in the 1,000, we had a blast running the short track, trying to look like him. Worked on fighting through with our passes, good starts, front end strategy. The most fun I’ve had all year on wheels! 

2/22/10 Training: 1 hour on the elliptical, level 9, 6.1 miles.

You can skate on ice?

Wow – I took a poll this morning that asked for my answer to what is my favorite winter sport. 39% of responders chose ice speed skating, it was number one. Next week it will be ice hockey I’m sure. With all of this hype around the Olympics, it’s good for us landskaters to remember that “Inline to Ice” isn’t so much a desertion as it is a return migration. Even if an individual I2I skater didn’t start their career on ice, skating itself did. And that so many top inliners go to or plan on taking their game to the ice says there’s something in the blood. Instinctual? Maybe. A desire for gold & glory is more likely.    

As I was taking that quiz and looking at the list of winter sports possibilities, it dawned on me that there’s another transition sport we can advance,that might have more of a chance of making the cut during the next Olympics: Inline Curling.   

The Tar Snakes at Lemon Drop Hill were a particular challenge.

I figure hey, if I can’t train or compete on Jondon, Chad or Apolo’s level, I’d might as well come up with a new game I can dominate early. Inline curling is my ticket to Olympic Gold baby!

And then there’s those b-a-d-d out-fits! Imagine how they’ll feel after pushing the stone for 26.2 miles to drop it on the button. People standing on the side of Old Highway 61 ringing their cowbells shouting “Hurry! Hurry! Harder! Harder! Faster! Faster!” I think I just soiled my stretchy pants. 

We need to start farming a team and training now. There’s a lot to consider: for starters, 110 mm wheels will cause a really high center of gravity. Gonna be hard to stay down in the heel with this game. (Maybe we finally have a good application for clap-skates on the marathon course!) And it’ll be a helluva lot harder to get the stone to the house sweeping pavement! Our athletes will be better, stronger and faster than any of those ice curlers. Then in a few years we’ll start our own I2I program, then take Olympic gold! Yeah! 

Or I could just go the inline figure skating route. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about a situation like this:  

 

 

2/12/10 Training: 1 hour on the elliptical, level 9, 6.1 miles. Burn baby, burn! 

2/13/10 Training: A speedy practice with the Rink Rabbits! 

2/14/10 Training: 2 hours indoors. Did our first mini-pyramid this week. “the fast kid” was in NC so I won! Yeah, baby! 

2/15/10 Training: 1 hour on the elliptical, level 9, 6.2 miles. 

2/16/10 Training: 1 hour with the Rink Rabbits. These kids are all getting their crossovers. The foundational exercises are really paying off! 

2/17/10 – 2/19/10 Training: Stomach flu had me sidelined pretty bad. Yucky.

Good luck fast kid

I want to wish my friend “the fast kid” good luck at the Blue Ridge Challenge! You can watch it live & streaming like at: www.skatersplace.com

2/11/10 Training: 12 miles on the trail on the 110’s. Took the big hill, maintained a 3:40 pace up the hill. I like these big wheels.

Ina-Gadda-Da-Skatin

Like a self-indulgent dinosaur rock band who think its OK to go into the studio and “update” their old songs with the help of the latest hip hop producer and a touch of Auto-tune, I’ma bust a move right here. ‘Scuse me while I whip this out…   

Seriously huge in Sweden.

This was where I was at with indoor at just about this time last year, just before my kids and I took the plunge into the foot-funky world of full-fledged rink-ratdom… 

Originally published at Inline Fitness, Feb. 2009: 

This winter hasn’t been dragging like it usually does. That’s because my son and I have been training indoors. I’ll be the first to admit, if [he] wasn’t into it, I probably would have dropped from the pack back in December. But I’m really happy I’ve stuck with it. 

I’ve been feeling pretty good about the technique tips I’ve been picking up, but honestly, indoor speed skating is a completely different sport than outdoor long distance marathon skating. I’m at home on the trail, alone. Being more focused on eventually getting back outside on the trail, I haven’t been so interested in being all I can be indoors. I haven’t been trying to move back in the pack – we start drills lined up from fast to fastest and I’m usually in close to the front. I haven’t felt the need to prove anything, because it’s been a winter experiment. A diversion. But that’s starting to change, because despite my lack of total commitment, I’m improving in this discipline. And it’s pretty neat!  

It goes without saying that outdoor long distance skating isn’t all about taking steep, sharp and fast left turns lapping around a 100 meter oval. Outdoors, you’re free to explore the space around you, and the form you employ is much longer – longer strides, longer glides, longer arm swings, longer straighter course. Indoor, it’s tight and to the inside, where maximum efficiency let’s you accelerate in turns and blast into a straight away, striving for a form that will keep you doing crossover’s till you have to hawk the line. So completely different.  

In trying to explain the difference between the two to my 8 year old daughter, I was rambling on and on. My wife stopped me and put it in terms [she] would easily understand – “…it’s like with horse riding. Dressage and Western. Even though it’s still horseback riding, you’re riding your horse differently. Even your saddle is different. You’re working with a horse, but the commands are different. They are two completely different riding styles.” That really does sum it up.  

Indoor is giving me a completely new appreciation for the art and form of skating overall – regardless of which discipline. The subtleties that, when incorporated into your form properly really make you more efficient. You know you’re gaining in efficiency when you start to go faster with the same or even less effort than the last time. Sounds simple, and I’ve certainly heard for years that’s it’s the form not the equipment, but now I’m really starting to see how it’s both, with heavier emphasis on the form. It’s really been pretty cool to finally get something right with my form and feel the immediate difference when it happens. Form improvements are noticeable much quicker indoors!  

I used to be very afraid of taking tight turns at high speed. (As I should have been – it’s hairy!) But as I’ve been focusing on the techniques we’ve been drilling on, my confidence has been growing more and more every week, and lo and behold I’m moving up in the pack. I’m starting to get more efficient.  

When [my son] and I started our indoor speed skating adventure this winter, I approached it as an experiment. When I saw how fast some of these guys and gals were, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to hang. In fact, I’ve meant to blog on this entire experience as we’ve gone a long with it, but honestly, it’s been a humbling experience, even with the experimental attitude. I wasn’t sure I’d be so happy with the results even up to a few weeks ago. It’s been a lot of work. When kids half your age (even less) are blasting past you week after week, it’s a challenge just to keep from quitting entirely and get back into something more pedestrian, like bowling.  

But today, I hit a milestone. I kept up during the “Pyramid of Pain”, a grueling gauntlet where you alternate laps between sprints and rest, starting at 1 sprint, 2 rest, 2 sprint, 2 rest, 3 sprint, 2 rest, etc. on up to 5, then back down the ladder to 1. It’s a marriage of speed and endurance. It’s been a drill where I’ve been able to really discern improvement in my indoor form. And this is now where my outdoor long distance training has come to bear and help my performance indoors. Marrying the two disciplines is building my indoor confidence exponentially.  

While I’m still not quite sure indoor is an area I want to compete in, it’s been a heckuva lotta fun getting to understand indoor form and feel the body mechanics in motion. And it’s translating outdoors. I’ve picked up a few things that I’ve been able to use on the trail the past couple of weeks during the cruel mid-winter tease-weather breaks. I know it’s going to be at least another month or two before I can get back outdoors with any regularity, so in the meantime, I’ll be building on this new need for speed, and call my experiment a success!  

Next time I’ll write about what I’ve seen with [my son]. Lesson’s learned from watching a 5 year old develop his form. 

If this were a double live album put out in the late ’70’s (when such things were made of vinyl) that would have been the drum solo taking up side 3. Here’s side 4, the new B-side material… 

Tiring of the dope-fueled rock scene, I finally found a band where I could be myself.

I can’t help but smile and feel accomplished after re-reading that old post. It’s been a fun year. Really, I’ve learned more about myself as a father, athlete, and friend in the rink than I would have ever thought possible. The sport has come to mean a lot more to me than just turning and burning. A lot has changed… 

  • My son is a carded amateur in USARS and is on his way to his first meet at the end of the month in Wichita.
  • I can keep up with “the fast kid” and the coach, earning a spot in the back of the pack for endurance drills. (On to the sprints – next goal: get to the back of the pack for the burn-pace drills.) 
  • I’ve been able to comfortably touch the floor going into the turn for a while now, which is something I said I’d never be able to do.
  • I know how to set up a turn and use my under-push to accelerate in the arc. This was a very foreign concept a year ago. (“You mean my left skate should finish the push to my side, not behind me? How the hell? That’s not possible.”) 
  • It’s not all about me. My kids almost gave up because of the idea that they had to endure the adult practice if they were going to speed skate. As with anything, if you let go, incredible things will happen…
  • The Rink Rabbits are a pride and joy. These kids LOVE coming to practice, and they’re all improving and the class is growing. We have such a rowdy time I leave there hoarse.
  • My daughter is overcoming her fear of crossovers with just one class a week. She can’t wait to come back to both sessions.
  • I’ve found personal growth indoor through facing my fears, listening to others and following good examples. Old dogs can learn new tricks, and get pretty good with them too!
  • I’ve come to believe that indoor, it’s 98% technique. You just need the right equipment, not the best, most expensive skate-crack to do well.
  • I can skate to the outside and let my son have his laps in the sun. I’m not going to compete indoor this year so I can be there to support him 100%. Indoor has become “his thing.” Overcoming my irrational fear of “if I don’t do it [compete] now I’ll lose my chance” has been a short track to freedom from the “weekend weenie” mid-life jock crisis so many of us old farts face. Working with the kids is keeping me younger at heart, and happier at home than any training program that has me obsessively focused on my performance.

One thing that hasn’t changed, my verbosity’s intact. Now for the guitar solo… 

2/4/10 Training: 12 miles on the Razorblades. Brutality. From the outset things just didn’t feel right. I don’t think scooter wheels are made to the same quality specs as inline wheels, as I noticed some inconsistency in the shape of the wheels, some feeling more oval than round. I came to find that they have zero grip, which make for great slick surface training. As I got into good double push technique (good for me at least) I found it a lot easier to control the slide. I felt every nook and cranny of the trail surface and I think I lost a filling or two from the vibration. The crappy bearings had no roll and made for a very slow, working skate. Hit some water and the bearings were already squeaking by the time I hit the turn around point at mile 6. Didn’t get down below a 3:45 pace working full-out. The next morning, my legs were still tingling. For all the complaining, I still haven’t taken them off my skates yet. Maybe not a great skate, but a fantastic workout. 

2/5/10 Training: 12 miles on the 110’s. Same trail, same conditions as the day before, 13 minutes faster. On full-out straightaway was able to get down and hold 2:43 pace at one point and it was no where near the amount of work it is to do that on 100’s. Definitely moving to 110’s this year for Duluth. 

2/6/10 Training: 1 hour on the slideboard. Nose, knees, toes boys, nose, knees, toes. 1 hour with the Rink Rabbits. Played tag and had to catch everyone. Not an easy task… 

2/7/10 Training: We’ve moved on to the burn pace drills and will start doing the ladders, pyramids and plateau’s of agony, pain and death that this time of the year bring. Two hours of this plus plyos. In one practice I’ve been bumped further back in the pack for burn pace. My goal is to be one in front of “the fast kid” by the end of the season. 

2/8/10 Training: 1 hour on the elliptical, level 7, 6.6 miles. 

2/9/10 Training: Just worked with the Rink Rabbits today but that was enough. They’re all about wanting to race once we get through the foundational “games.” 

2/10/10 Training: 1 hour on the elliptical, level 7, 6.5 miles.

Razorblades

I’ve become…um, thrifty as I get older. I struggle with the word “thrifty” because it conjures up images of early bird buffet lines, the Ford Focus and reused coffee filters. Yuk. But OK, I admit it, I’ve become a cheapsk8.  

"On your left! The tuna casserole is mine baby!"

Last night I was in Wal-Mart looking for MightyBeanz for my son (whatever the hell is the appeal of these things, and Bakugan for that matter!?) and I came across Razor scooter wheels on clearance – 2 packs of 98 mm wheels with bearings for $5.88! Well heck – it’s winter, my outdoor wheels are shot, so this looks like a really good deal. Schweetttt!!!  

Laugh it up fuzzball - the set cost me less than twenty-five bucks.

ABEC 5 bearings, 98mm wheels and aluminum spacers. Nice little package. And cheaper than the dirt in my current wheels. But the wheels have these little plastic tabs in the core of the hub that take the place of a stronger core incorporated into a normal spacer. That little aluminum “O ring” in the picture is the spacer these wheels came with.  

I've got a bad feeling about this...

The little plastic tabs in the hub are flimsy, so I can snap them out if I need to. We’ll see, no rush there. In deciding to give these wheels a try, I rationalized that a.) my kids have beaten the crap out of their Razor scooters for years and the wheels are still in pretty good shape. They’ve got to be durable. They feel pretty stiff. And b.) with the fine-threaded axle on my skates, these hubs and spacers shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Out of the box there isn’t a lot of roll, but that could change once I get rolling. (Or it could be because of these spacers. Dunno.) Nonetheless, they’ll be good for training.  

The way I’m looking at this, even if I have to pop off the tabs and swap out another set of spacers, I’ve scored a good find cheap, and I feel like Mr. Furley scoring digits on line at the Wal-Mart pharmacy waiting from my prep-H refill. But still, there are all of those other considerations about flex and stress. Hell, I really can’t speculate on that stuff. Here’s what I do think…if these are going to work on inline skates as is, they have the best chance outdoor versus indoor, because there should, in theory, be less torque. But really, what do I know? I don’t even remember being in a single physics class let alone any of the governing laws of the universe! As if…  

Anyway, if I think too much about it, I’ll end up returning the wheels without trying them out. So I’m just going to do it. Unfortunately, it snowed again last night, so I have to wait. I hope it melts quickly because if this works out, you know who is going to be skating a B-line to Wal-Mart to stock up on them crappy training wheels real quick.  

Now, back to the buf-fay for some of that sweet looking jello log.  

1/28/10 Training: Did indoor practice with the Rink Rabbits. Introduced a few more new games and the kids continue to have fun. We’re rolling with it!  

1/29/10 Training: 1 hour on the elliptical. Was pretty tired before the workout so I tried a LiftOff tab and felt pretty good through the workout. 6.8 miles, level 7.  

1/30/10 Training: 1 full hour on the slideboard. Worked on keeping my tail tucked and nose, knees, toes alignment. Wow – the burn is exquisite. Then did an hour with the Rink Rabbits playing Schitzo-coach, getting the kids good and wound up. Fun!  

1/31/10 Training: Indoor speed practice. Last week of the 100 lap drill. I hung on till lap 98, then finished third as coach and “the fast kid” pulled it out to fight to the death. From here on out, the practices are going to get progressively harder. Had another run-in with a skater in the pace line but we talked it out during the next drill. Hopefully we’ll get this right one of these days. It makes things unnecessarily tense when we’re not courteous to each other.  

2/1/10 Training: Did 10 miles out at Boyd Lake with John. The run off made for a very wet experience, which wasn’t good because I was on borrowed wheels. And boy – 110’s in a headwind just, well, if you’ve done it you know.  

2/2/10 Training: Indoor practice with the Rink Rabbits. I’m very impressed at everyone’s ability to get down low. They have an advantage being only 4 feet from the floor, but still, they’re skating low, and we all know how hard that can be! And they’re all coming along really well on their cross-overs. Progress!  

2/3/10 Training: Day off. But did spend a couple of hours with the coach and his family at a planning commission meeting to discuss the Medical Marijuana clinic they want to open across the street from the rink. More on this later…