Why relays matter

I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes. This is due in part to a tragic fall I took from a taxiing Cessna (a small, personal aircraft) when I was an infant. Dad hadn’t strapped me in and the door was ajar. We started rolling and I left the seat like an errant Weeble, wobbling right out the door and onto the tarmac. Landed right on my noggin. I like to rely on this event any time something doesn’t immediately compute. When I’m stumped I bring it up and people don’t quite know how to take it. Stops the conversation dead in it’s tracks. I let them linger on the thought as a stall tactic so I can take an extra second to grasp the bigger concept they’re trying to convey to me, like why a Medical Marijuana dispensary within short walking distance from a skating rink is a good idea…

Yep, shoulda worn a helmet. But Chubsey-Ubsey bounced like you wouldn't believe.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about why relay teams matter so much to the indoor crowd. I wasn’t really getting it. I had my own great “Sports Illustrated Cover Story” idea on how “The Relay” is the only team-play aspect of our otherwise solo sport. Because inline skating truly is a solo sport, where most records are set and broken by individuals. In my grand thesis, I was going to drone on like a certain Sports Illustrated writer and NPR commentator about how being on a relay team is really the only (allowable) time when you’re inline skating as a part of something larger than yourself, working with others to achieve a mutual outcome. How that feeling of camaraderie and a unifying, single minded purpose congeal to form a solid skating machine where timing and precision transform even skaters of modest ability into a cog in the wheel of a high performance engine. Alas, I was really just thinking out my butt…

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, right buttface?

According to The Fast Kid and her friend, Smiley Sk8s, relays are about opportunity. It’s the last chance a skater has to place and/or medal if they didn’t do well in their division. Even if they did do well, it’s another chance at the podium. That’s it. Wow – not much of a story there, eh?

The kids also shared with me that for kids on larger teams, it’s hard to ever know who you’re going to be paired with for any given relay event. Kids from smaller clubs that are always paired together do have an advantage, but it’s because they each know how the other one skates and they can practice together all the time. Those teams are apparently annoying because they win a lot. Hmmm, go figure.

I asked Speedy Weezy what he thought. He says relays are cool because they can make you go faster than you usually do and they’re just fun. I know the Rink Rabbits have been having a great time learning how to time themselves and get set up for the tag. Heck, I’ve been learning a lot too from the guys in the advanced class. It is pretty cool, and yeah, it’s a lot of fun.

And something pretty cool happened yesterday at the Rink Rabbits practice…I had the kids lined up in a single line doing a simple 2 lap, 3 time relay drill. Speed Demon was behind Speedy Weezy so that she’d be the one to take the pass and move on. Speed Demon was scared, but we convinced her that she could do it. That Speedy would make sure he read the timing to know if he should give her a push or a simple tag. (Speedy Weezy is exponentially faster than Speed Demon, and three years younger.) Well, the full-on push tag went off smoothly! I mean, really incredibly well. She absorbed the push without tensing up or losing balance and took off like a shot! What surprised me was what happened next. As Speedy Weezy came back into the box, he came over to me and said in a hushed tone, “Dad, I’m going just a little slower than I usually do so she can get to feel what it’s like to get a real tag since she’s going to be competing next year. I’m going fast enough so she can really feel it and get used to it.” Man – that was a million dollar moment. He’s taking care of his big sister, and actually working with her. I’d never have seen that coming…both of these kids were ready to call it quits 7 months ago! (Insert Dad beaming with pride here…)

If you’d asked me what I thought of relays two months ago, I’d have probably said I can take them or leave them. But seeing how much Speedy Weezy, Speed Demon and the rest of the Rink Rabbits are enjoying them, I think we’ll keep practicing them. If they happen to pick up a few “high-falutin” ideals about sportsmanship, team work and team ethic in the process,  let me get set up, I’ll take that pass!

6/1/10 Training: 17 miles in the hood for breakfast. Rink Rabbits in the afternoon. This is my time of year!

6/2/10 Training: Barry Publow is right – if you want to race fast you need to train fast. So I got the lead out for a 18 miles skate in the morning. Did another 12 for lunch because the opportunity was there. I’ve learned a new technique and it’s really showing promising results.

6/3/10 Training: 10k for breakfast. Not as much as I’d have liked but I’ll take it!

6/4/10 Training: A somber 18 miles this morning thinking about my friend Bill who lost his son in a car accident the day before. Hard to do anything but roll with stuff like that going through your head.

6/5/10 Training: Tried a Tabata drill within the first ten minutes of the skate. 20 sec. 90-100% sprint, 10 sec. rest, repeat 8 times without puking or crying. I did it, but then needed to finish 18 miles to skate off the 5 slices of pizza from the night before. Won’t do Tabata before a distance and speed skate any time again soon…oh yeah, then another hour and a half working with the Rink Rabbits. I like to roll it, roll it.

6/6/10 Training: 12 easy miles on the Windsor/Greeley path followed by time trials and two hours of punishment with the advanced indoor team. Took a face plant trying to avoid the spill in front of me and got banged up pretty nicely. Even with that, managed to pull off my best lap time ever, and keep pace with the lead pack through their high speed warm up and passing drills. Going into 40 with blood vessels in my check splattered, my brow bruised, my pinky looking like an Oscar Meier Wiener and rink rash on me arse. But it’s all good…this is living man, I’m truly livin’ the dream!

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4 responses to “Why relays matter

  1. Julie Barnes-Larson

    I am relatively new to the indoor scene too, and had asked the same thing when I first started (back in 2005). The first year I went to Nationals in 2006, was when I first understood what the draw of relays are, IMO, although I myself wasn’t in one that year. First, for novice and standard skaters who do not place in division, it gives them a shot at a national medal. For those skaters who don’t qualify at Regionals, it also gives them a shot at a national medal. And after having watched relays at Nationals, anything can happen and top teams that you thought for sure would win, could make a mistake, get DQd for coming in the box wrong, skate wrong # laps, or have a fall. Case in point, we had a Juvenile boy last year who was 5th at Regionals, but he was in a Juvenile 4-boy relay that qualified. His little brother qualified in Tiny Tot, so the family went to Nationals and they both got to skate. And the Juvenile 4-boy team he was on narrowly missed a national placement when the last boy out fell in the last corner coming to the finish line and they ended up 4th. Relays are exciting to watch at Nationals, much more so than at an Invitational. So, as the kids said, it’s a chance of opportunity.
    The only other thing I’ll say, I find relays more nerve-racking. I don’t get anywhere as nervous in my division anymore as I do when I skate a relay.
    See you in Lincoln! And Happy Belated 40th.

    • You mentioned most of my challenges in your comment. I seem to forget how to count when I’m out there. It took me forever to get lap timing down, and I’m still hit or miss at best! I asked Debbie Rice why relays matter to her…”Relays are just fun for me.. because I’m usually relaying with my good friends, so it’s just fun to go out there and work together on winning 🙂 ” Looking forward to IDN!

      Chowley

  2. Pingback: June 9th 2010- Roller & Inline Speed Skating News – Speed Skate World- By Peter Doucet- Online Since 1999

  3. The sibling thing going on sounds very cool!

    And happy 40th, btw!

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