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.

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