Monthly Archives: September 2010

When you think no one is looking…

Stardate 8/23/10

There are lots of things I’ve done when I thought no one was looking, just to discover later that enquirering minds were lurking beyond my peripheral vision, watching my every move. It’s led to some awkward denials and having a few invitations rescinded. All I can say is let those without sin flick the first boog.

$5 says the Windsor kid eats it.

But this post isn’t about my private predilections and deviations from societal norms, it’s about the definition of character and dedication to our sport. And, in breaking with my inner narcissist, it’s not even about me, it’s about some new Rink Rabbits we took into the club this weekend…

The 2010 Rink Rabbits World Team

We were honored to have Joey Mantia and his friends & team mates Michael Cheek, Sara Sayasane and Wouter Hebbrecht to do a technical clinic with The Rink Rabbits here at our home rink, Rollerland Skate Center, in Fort Collins, CO! Not only is this one powerfully talented group of World Class achievement, they’re all genuinely nice people who truly love inline speedskating. Their love of the sport comes through in many ways.

The clinic itself was custom tailored to be an event open to all of our skaters, from the youngest, least experienced on through The Fast Kid, who’d just returned from Outdoor Nationals with 2 Gold Medals. Everyone skated away with something they could use to make them better, faster, stronger and smarter skaters.

Case in point…Horseypants.

My better half has been a recreational skater for just about as long as I’ve been skating. This year, she’s going with me to Duluth, Minnesota to skate her first half marathon at the 15th Annual Northshore Inline Marathon. We upgraded her to 100mm “race cuff” fitness skates (Rollerblade Speedmachine) a month ago, (which I’ve since bumped up to 110’s with the CadoMotus 4×110 Dual Box) and she’s been training regularly to increase her mileage and improve her time each week. She was at the clinic with us but she didn’t skate. She took all of the pictures and video attached to this post so we could document and remember the day for the club.

Horseypants on wheels.

Well, this morning (day after the clinic) she had already skated 5 miles around the neighborhood before I dragged my old, sorry and sore butt from bed. By the time I’d strapped my skates on and caught up with her, she was rolling and preaching the Gospel According to Mantia. She even started to recognize the elements of my stride that need work. Freakin’ know it all…but admittedly, she was 100% spot-on. And I didn’t need a Garmin to tell me she was already faster and more efficient then she was the day before, it was obvious in the speed I needed to catch up with her, and her ability to recover quickly from her burst activity. And to top it off, when we got back to the house, she asked to try my Pro M1’s. She took them for a two mile roll and declared, “OK, I want a pair.” She’d graduated from recreational to speed skater in less than 24 hours.

She doesn't wear pads anymore...

Like any good predatory drug dealer who can spot the future junkie in their recreational customer pool, I quickly moved in for the kill by rushing to my supplier and ordering her a pair of her own. Alas, that was a bit like trying to convert a toker to a tweaker overnight. Too much too soon. She’s in, but it’s going to take some time before she’s ready for the stiffness of a semi-custom speed boot. Nonetheless, she herself will be joining us in the rink this winter, and she’s encouraged other Rink Rabbit moms to join the team too! Welcome to The Rink Rabbits, baby!

So, you ask in your speed-weenie whine, why all this about her, what about Joey?

So much about her because this transformation, from Horseypants to Horseypower, happened…just by watching the Mantia clinic.

It’s powerful, trans-formative stuff, and you, First Loser Reader, you’re in for a treat…

I’m going to share what we’ve learned with you, as much as I can. Over a series of posts, we’ll share in the Gospel According to Mantia, until we’re all converts to his Stride. Yes – Stride is capitalized. As it should be. Mantia is a Skating God…(and hell, I’m no dummy…the longer I can milk this Mantia story, the more readers I’ll get, the higher my unique and repeat traffic will be, and world domination won’t be far off…and all those Ivy League schmucks I grew up with can suck my knee cap!)

Getting it together

Working with Mantia to set this up was smooth from beginning to end, just like his Stride.  We were able to coordinate the event by email, and didn’t really even speak until about a day or two beforehand. He was really easy to work with, to the point where all I really had to do was let people know he was coming and show up to unlock the doors and turn on the lights.

Even volunteer coordination was a snap. One of the great things about a small club is that it was super-easy to get folks to pitch in and do things like clean the floor, set the lunch counter, cook the food, watch the little kids and clean up. The jobs were gone within a half hour of sending out the email call for help. Rink Rabbits Parents ROCK!

The Rink Bunnies - the real backbone of the 2010 Rink Rabbits.

For such a busy guy Joey was amazingly responsive. I got a real kick out of seeing his name appear in my text message in-box. I was in a business meeting when I got a text from him and leaned over to show the name to a colleague…she smiled politely and shifted uncomfortably, not really sure why I was giggling like a 12 year old. Anyway…

No introductions necessary

Our schedule called for check-in and warm ups between 9 and 10 am. Mantia and Michael showed up on schedule at about 10 to 10 and came in with a couple of extended family members in tow…Sara Saysane & Wouter Hebbrecht from Simmons Racing / Team USA & Team Belgium! Two more world champs to make this the second such surprise Mantia pulled on me…the first was when he emailed and asked if I’d mind Cheex coming along with him. I think that was the day or two after Cheex had run an 8.4 flying 100m and taken the 2010 award for Grand Indoor Champion at National Speedskating Circuit. Cha, do I mind? As if…

For the most part they showed up without being noticed, which was great because Mantia just strapped on his skates and rolled out the floor while the kids were all open skating and warning up. You should have seen their faces as they began to realize who that new guy was…it was a classic entrance!

Moreover, it was more revealing of his character than anything he could have said. With his easy nonchalance and good nature, Mantia makes you feel like you’re on the same team. When we were going back and forth by email setting this up, he more than once said he wanted to help our club and was happy to be able to whatever he could to make the clinic happen. Seeing him roll right out there and mix it up with the kids made him the most accessible, everyday skater super-star in the world. He was really right in his element and looked immediately at home with them. Cheex followed closely after him and by that point to gig was up, the guys were in the house and running the show. Mantia took the wireless mic, called everyone the middle and got the clinic rolling.

Jason was just about to say "Over!"

He got the skaters going building their foundations. He got the MILF’s in the room going with his “fluid grace and power.” (That’s a quote.) Facebook was alight the following day with snapshots of the kids with Mantia & Co., and one drooling comment after another about Mantia’s legs…and the obligatory, “and little Johnny looks like he had a good time too. But really, are his legs THAT BIG in person?!? OMG!!!”

This is a picture of Jason...right.

In retrospect, I should have emailed around a pic of the guys in their skin suits with the event announcement. I could have charged for spectator admission and all the local moms would have funded the club for the next three years.

Where the learning begins – the basics

Ah, back to the clinic…bending your knees and getting low. Weight distribution and edges. They covered a lot of ground quickly and made sure all of the skaters got through the drills with individual attention and moral support when it was needed.

We spent lots of time on our skates doing drills that we normally do as dry-land (skates off) drills. Being on skates for drills like these adds a whole new dimension to the workout, and shows you pretty quickly why these drills are important to get right.

No one was left behind or made to feel “less than.” Rink Rabbit spirit was in the air. As our in-house Olympian and head coach pointed out, they covered a lot of the stuff we been working with the kids on for the past year, but Wow! How responsive they become when the current Champ of Everything Speedskating is teaching!

One of Mantia’s gifts for the in-house coaching staff was complete validation.

It was great that our skaters were somewhat prepared to do some of the drills through muscle memory and the basic knowledge we’d passed along up to this point.  They’ve been working hard all year. But there was a lot of new stuff too, which was just awesome…how to “lock in,” and what locking in will do to help you become more stable and unmovable when you’re in a tight pack and particularly into your corners. Not only did he run us through a drill, but he explained the whys of importance too.

One of the Brothers Speed getting a tip on his form.

A constant theme of the day quickly became “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance.” We were shown how World-Class achievement starts with low-level attention to detail. Mantia is very purposeful when he’s training. He’s very precise with his movements, and it was amazing to watch him break down his Stride into smaller parts that he then practiced with a patient determination to get the motion and muscle response as perfect as he could see it in his mind.

Side to side, side to side...can I get an Amen?!

Breaking down the elements of “a skate” or “a race” into smaller, more digestible parts, Mantia worked us slowly through drills that took us from the start, down the straightaway, in on the cone, through the corner and out to the finish line. It’s all in your technique and how you breakdown your form. Wouter said it best when asked to share what it is he knows now that he wishes he’d known when he 14. He told us it’s technique. Form and function are the most crucial things to focus on and get right when you’re just starting out.

What was great about all of these on-skate and dry-land drills was that the kids were familiar with some of them, excited by the new ones, and all of them were endorsed by Mantia & Co. They will now associate “perfect practice” with their visit, and understand that Mantia’s secret isn’t so secret after all – he’s not doing anything they can’t do themselves. He started skating when he was 9 too, so it’s not unthinkable that if they listen to what he said and start doing what he does, they too can be World Champ someday. It’s not out of reach.

We spent a lot of time on starts. Each participant got personal attention and pointed critique and correction of their starts. There’s not really a better example of why this clinic was so worthwhile.

When it comes to starts, opinions vary. As an instructor with the Rink Rabbits, I’ve got an Olympian coach and his method, I’ve got a coaching manual (or two) with methods that aren’t exactly the same but very similar. When you’re teaching a group, you want to be able to get the idea across to everyone in a way that speaks to all, leaving no one behind. Some people progress quicker than others, and eventually someone gets to a place where it’s time they tailor the “art” to their own style. What’s great was having World Champs share their foundational points, but then give the students the freedom to find their own form based on sound principal. They showed the students why the “science” elements (for example, loading up on your front leg in a side start) are important, then they helped the students understand how “feel” (art) takes the sport and makes a custom fit.

Even The Fast Kid showed that active learning is key to future success.

It was during the time that we were going over side starts…which no one except The Fast Kid had ever even tried (we focused on down starts all year)…it was during this time that I spied Cheex, Sara and Wouter being themselves. I looked off to the far side of the rink, and there they all were, discussing the things Mantia was going over with us, over there on there own. They were talking about side starts and running through them by themselves, thinking no one was paying much attention to them. That, for me, was why they were here, and made their dedication resonate with me. I mean, here they were, all Champions in their own right, hanging out at a clinic that their buddy dragged them along to on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and there they were, “behind closed doors” as it were, talking shop, running drills, laughing out loud and being just as engaged as if they were among the student population. What that revealed was that they all have something in common – they possess an athletic character that’s crystallized in the phrase “pure skating.”

That was a huge take-away for me, and what I think is a good lesson for us all. If you want to make it and stay at the top of your game…the game that’s yours alone, your form…then you’ve got to be a life-long learner, and it’s got to be fun. To keep it pure, you’ve got to enjoy it, genuinely. You’ve got to have an open mind, be ready to take someone’s advice and give it a try. Being able to hang out with Mantia & Co. for a day made it pretty clear to me…their dedication and interest in the sport isn’t different than mine at all. Is their training more intense? Sure it is. But their hearts are in the same place as mine. It’s Pure Skating. When no one is looking, you’ll find us all in that same mental place, where Stride & Glide are all that matter, and that’s pretty cool, to know I have that in common with the greats.

Training log

Now that the outdoor season is done for me, I’ve put the Garmin away. It’s back to the rink, and time to slow it down. Break it all down to build it up again. This training season is going to be more intense, I look forward it…bring it on! More soon…

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Lucky number 13

The skating of the 15th Annual Northshore Inline Marathon is now complete. I was there when the start sounded, and I’ve earned my finishers shirt. While I’m savvy enough to not hang a banner that says “Mission Accomplished” off the tailgate of my Sequoia, I did achieve what I set out to do. I skated with some of inline skating’s all-time and current best, I actually kept pace with them for most of the race, and I finished with the lead pack. That makes me a winner in my book, and it makes me 13th in the race standings for Masters 35-44. I’ll take it.

Yep...it was the luck of strategery...

All in all it was a wet experience. The road was wet, my feet were wet and I was wet behind the ears. This being my first year skating pro (as in, Professional Speed Weasel…at least to you that is…) I made a few, how do you say…rookie mistakes.

My design for the 2011 Speed Weasels Skin Suit. Unleash your Speedo Weasel...

I also did a few things right, I think. Maybe. Whatever. In any event, I’m skating away from NSIM 2010 with a great experience, knowing I can do it again at this level next year.

Honestly, it felt like I dodged a bullet when we woke to rain at 4 a.m. on race day. I’d adopted a different training regimen this past year, and while I know it was awesome for me in many ways, it was unfamiliar too. I had a sense of uncertainty leading up to this race. This was the first year I’d skate with the Pro Masters, and I’d spent very little time on long distance skates. Yes, I’d done the 100 mile thing, but in years past I’d spent nearly every Saturday & Sunday morning pounding out 26 to 32 miles for months in preparation for this one event. This year, I could count the number of times I’d done 26.2 miles since January on maybe two hands. While they were quality training sessions, they just didn’t add up to what I’m used to.

This year I listened to my coaches who said distance wasn’t the only key. Each was supportive of the other in their own ways so that the message got through: intensity, precision, intervals, rest, and recovery all mattered just as much and distance skating, and that I needed to pay more attention to all of the elements in order to successfully meet my goals at the Pro Masters level. They also gave me a bit of strategy advice, and admittedly, this is my Achilles heel. (Could insert nasty partisan joke about “W” here, but that’d be too easy and might offend some friends. Heaven forbid!)

In fact, it was my inability to commit to a “tough guy” strategy that was the first of the mistakes I made. I don’t remember exactly where we were mile-wise in the race. It was probably just before the half-way mark, when a guy in a Twin Cam skinsuit made an easy mark of me. I was cruising right where I wanted to be, about 5th or 6th in the line behind Norm Kirby, Ryan Chrisler, Jorge Botero, some dude in a Synergy skin suit (nice guy) and maybe one more guy when Twin Cam moved up on left to cut in. I stiffened up, left my hand up and told him to move in behind. Push came to shove and I said something like “WTF, DUDE?!’ before bending over like Eeyore and letting him slip me the Tigger. Then he started letting his buddies in line in front of him from the right. I knew I was pooched with this guy for the rest of the race, so I rode it out a while, then when I saw the four or five leaders make a break I jumped out and on them and took off to get back where I wanted to be. And of course, later on I’d find myself in situations where I needed to catch a break and get back in line, and would inevitably find myself next to Twin Cam so I’d just have to look forward and work harder to get further up in front of him.

Go ahead, slip on in. Everyone else is doing it...

In the end it all worked out OK but the lesson was learned: don’t piss people off too early. It just makes your life harder when there are too many other things to worry about. That early in a race, all you need to do is stay focused on what’s happening up front, and what’s coming up the rear.  People jumping in and out really shouldn’t be too much of a concern if it’s not pushing you too far off the leaders so that you can make a move if they do.

As a side note: this Twin Cam guy unfortunately went down really hard as the pack mad-dashed in a mob-like way up the service road to the off-ramp at 5th Ave right at the end of the race. It was like going to see The Who in Cincinnatti in 1979. I hope he’s OK, as I hate to see anyone get hurt when we’re all out there just having a little lively competition for fun. If you’re reading this Twin Cam dude, sorry I was a prick too early in the race. I should have played nice and let you in without a fight, at least till I35. At that point, the pin stripping on the highway would have given us both something more to consider than jockeying for position too early in the race.

My favorite rookie mistake was at about 5 miles to go when you enter the residential section leading up to Lemondrop Hill. It started when we were on the downhill that leads you around the bend, over the bridge and into the town. I was drafting behind the guy in the Synergy suit and Jorge on the downhill when Jorge stood up and moved out of line to the left. It looked to me like he’d exchanged glances with the Synergy guy, who a second later stood up and moved out of line as well. Voi-la, there I was, leading the pack on the downhill, leading right up to the long, gradual up-hill that leads through the neighborhood and up to Lemondrop. I knew I was screwed and that I’d have to think of something fast. This was exactly the situation I didn’t want to find myself in, and here I was. Damn it. Then Knowl Johnson was like, “Hey, you have a witness, you led this race!” And he sincerely meant it. But all I could say to myself was, “Cha…as if” in my best Wayne Campbell. I’m so not worthy…If he only knew who’d told me NOT to do this…

Since this blog is as much about tearing down my (Gene) Simmons sized-ego as much as it’s feeding my narcissistic tendencies, I’ve got no problem telling you that my ego got in the way of better judgment and coach’s instructions. Here I was, up front, with Jorge, Norm, Ryan, Richard and several other really strong skaters in my line, and I was pulling, being the workhorse. I was told not to. My coaches told me to let the ego sit on the sideline, to just watch the leaders and take their lead. Be a wheel-sucker, take verbal abuse if necessary, but do not pull under any circumstances. Well, I skated right into the poop. They got me. I kept the pace leisurely like they had, but it was harder because we were beginning the climb. To make matters more difficult, the masters pack in front of us was making ground, and I knew at some point were going to have to push harder and attack to regain the lead. At one point, this guy came whipping out front and stayed there for a bit maintaining what looked to be the same pace as we were. So I figured, “heh, heh, heh, sucker…I’m gonna make you pull.” I pushed it up slightly to get behind this guy just as he was bonking out. Mondieu! That wasn’t going to work, and now I’d spent some energy making mistake #2. Well, at this point, my quads were starting to burn, and that’s when the usual suspects jumped out and made their attack run on the pack ahead of us. I made a break to catch them but pushed too hard and slipped with my right skate, giving the pack that remained behind me the opportunity to drop me like a spaz with bad teeth and worse smelling breath that sits on the school bus giving people wet-willies. It looked like my goals were toast.

Well, that’s when you chalk stuff up to experience, recover quickly and remember your training. I just heard the word Tabata in my head. It became a chant. Tabata and Puz, Puz Puz. Puz is a code word I share with my home team that means it’s time to kick it into high gear. I just kept my sights on Richard Cassube’s back and pushed hard to get around the pack that had dropped me and back in line behind Richard. I caught up right at Lemondrop Hill, and was happy when the pace slowed to get up the hill. It gave me that few seconds of recovery I needed to work hard again. But the beauty part of it was, this next interval would be nowhere near as hard as the standard Tabata Protocol normally was. I knew it was going to be this way and it gave me the security I needed to navigate the top of the hill, the left turn and the transition to the highway. And that was a blessing, because there was a lot to worry about on that highway.

The transition was smooth, but it quickly became apparent that this road was very much a work in progress. The road was chewed up with those vertical strip grooves they grind in preparation of a new road surface. Combined with the rain and the usual mix of cracks, potholes, bad patching attempts, sewer drains and random square punch-out holes, and this was going to be two of the scariest miles I’d ever skated in my life. Early onto the highway, it became apparent that the lead pack would use everything it knew to shake people where they could. They were very adept and getting the pace line right over the most difficult pieces of road. I was hanging pretty tight at about 6 or 7 in line, but when we started hitting the underpasses, things got very dicey. The rest of the course was pretty well oil free thanks to the rain having washed it all away. But in the tunnels, the oil and water were just waiting for us, and people started dropping like flies. It was rough, but that lead pack kept right on going while people were scrambling all around them. At some point, someone yelled that we had 1 mile to go till the off-ramp, and that’s when all hell broke lose. I could see pretty quickly that some of these other guys who’d been hanging at the middle to back of the pack were going to now make a serious run at the win. They started taking more risks, and some of them paid dearly for it too. I had to jump out of line and over into the shoulder at one point to avoid someone who fell, and I ended up fighting for dear life to get back in line without ending up in a sewer grate or on the road. I absorbed a skate bite and kicked my butt into high gear to get back on that lead pack. I was slipping and sliding quickly to catch back up.

Workin' it...photo stolen from DuffManOhYeah - Inline Planet Member Forum

I got as far as getting in behind Richard Cassube again, we’re in the lower left in this pic – I’m coming in from outside, Richard is in the orange Simmons suit – which at this point was 7 or 8 back. It was then that I realized that we were coming up on the off-ramp, and that I wasn’t willing to commit to those three turns at high speed on a wet road. They had just put fresh blacktop down on the service road leading to the off-ramp, so that made it easier for a lot of folks to get up to speed and up the ramp faster, but I didn’t think a lot of them would be ready for what was waiting up there…chewed up slick road and a tight turn. I purposely went as wide as I could to avoid the falls, and manage my slide. To my surprise no one went down, but plenty were sliding out right in front of me. I jogged hard around a couple of guys and picked up a sprint over the bridge and down the other side. I came at the lead pack from a 45° angle on the downhill. I was within striking distance of the 4th or 5th spot at this point, but I also knew that this next turn was a disaster in terms of the road through the left tight corner, and the barriers jutting out on the right. Not willing to bite it, I went wide again and just slid through the turn not even attempting a crossover. That cost me, as a bunch of guys came screaming through on my left. I was distracted and worried that someone would broadside me. When I regained my courage, I started pounding the sprint again, and made up some ground, just to give it back on the last turn.

Fighting to make up lost ground from turn 2, going into turn 3. Photo by Cher.

Going wide killed my top 10 placement, no doubt. By the time I was able to get my footing and make my final sprint, I’d given up about 7 spots and finished 13th.

I finished the race and heard Horseypants calling my name. There she was, standing over by the docked William A. Irvin ship. She’d just finished her first half-marathon, and she looked great! What a smile – and a sight for sore eyes. It felt so good to have her there when I finished. She’s my million dollar baby! And as it turns out, she took 9th in her age division in the half, only having trained a little over a month, in her first race, on 100mm wheels in the rain! Yes, I’m bragging. (More about the trip to Duluth as an experience and Horseypants’ race in the next post.)

We had a 2 p.m. flight to catch out of Minneapolis, so I said thanks to a couple of the guys I’d skated with, then we grabbed our Bont anniversary wheels, finisher’s shirts and made a line for the car. I poured about a quarter cup of brown water from each skate, changed my shirt and hoped in. Duluth 2010 was over. Yo…we out.

The most fun I had was all in my head. I’d done what I’d set out to do…skate and hang with the best. I had no idea that Jorge was in our group until the night before when Robert Burnson made a big deal out of it when we were chatting. I thought he was kidding, but Jorge was like, “Nope, he’s not kidding.” Nearly shite meself, thanked Robert for what was about to be a completely sleepless night and moved on. Anyway…my fun was in skating with these guys and matching their strides. Trying to keep their cadence and not fall behind. Trying to figure out what they were going to do, if they were going to break or not, then try and catch back up when they did or when I’d make a mistake and fall behind. I’ve never thought more about skating form in a race as I did in this one. I quote Joey Mantia here when I say that for me, it was, “perfect.”

I had to chuckle and shake my head a few times when the 2nd pack would make a run past our line. They’d look over and keep going. I was incredulous. Did they NOT recognize the tall blond guy in the red Bont uniform or the low form of the guy with the mean profile in the Powerslide suit? I laughed, but I guess maybe I make too much of who these guys are. After all, they’re all skaters, just like the rest of us. They LOVE this sport. All of them. There was a shared passion in that line that didn’t allow for my usual goof-off antics. They’re SERIOUS about skating. They don’t whoop it up under the overpasses, they’re too busy…skating. And that made it fun for me, to be in a pack where they train hard and show up to give it their best. Skating in line with them is the best form of instruction a skater can hope for, and I learned a lot that I’ll use to train with this year. Because doing this race and coming in 13th hasn’t filled me with an overwhelming desire to come back and win it in dry conditions next year. It’s revealed a greater truth for me. I’ve learned that I’ve forgotten how to lose. That’s a big win where I come from.

We came. We rolled. We out.

I win by losing, and I’ll continue to be the First Loser…a legend in my own mind.

I’m a freak, this I know…

In a world where it’s news that Mariska Hargitay is proud to be a size 8 – a news story that actually warranted an update 2 hours after it was originally published – I’m declaring my freakdom. I’m a skate spaz, the kind you don’t bring home to mother. I’m a skate-tweaker if there ever was one. When it comes to skating, I think I think too much.

Funkin' up your pace line, b!@#$!

It’s taken me forever to decide which skates to roll in the upcoming Northshore Inline Marathon. It’s a big deal for me. It’s the only race I’ll skate this year. Wanting to beat my time from 2009 and finish with the lead pack becomes a tall order when you consider the field I’m rolling in is filled with the best skaters in the country in this age class – Norm Kirby, Tony Muse, Ryan Chrisler, Richard Cassube, the list goes on…including my bud Noel Creager – we came up together this year! I’m truly excited to have the opportunity to start with these guys. I’ve been visualizing the pace lines, breakaways and speed all year. I’ve watched several of these guys break a few records and win a race or two this season. They’re inspiring to watch. Hell, my coach skated with and against a lot of these guys back in the day…they know how to skate. They’re truly a different class of skater. If you’d have asked me a few years ago if I thought I’d be in the same wave with any of these guys, the answer would be…ah, no.

I’ve been training hard. All with a mind to be able to grab onto that pack and hold on till the finish, just to beat my time from last year. All things being equal in terms of weather and road conditions, that’s my goal. I’ve trained religiously on my Rollerblade Racemachines modified with a CadoMotus 4×110 DualBox frame and Road War Reds (thanks to CadoMotus.) The coach downgrade my wheel size about a month and a half ago, then we ruined a perfectly good pair of Buck Bearings by loading them with axle grease. To top it off, we added in a few extra pounds of weight per ankle with some strap-on weight bands. We came to call this “Beat Feet.” It was brutal, but I did what I was told to do.

I've been training on these all year. Great training skate, at 3 lb, 02 oz.

Hills in the heat. Intervals and sprints. Tabata and Super-slow, 5-6 days a week. In Beat Feet mode my goal was to get my speed back up to where it was before Beat Feeting it. Talk about tough. But I’ve heard through the grapevine that these guys I’ll be on the line with work harder than that. Thus, I’m super obsessed with the idea of doing my best.

When I start thinking about this stuff too much, my mind is a dangerous place. I become my own worst enemy. Like Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant, I go places I know I shouldn’t, thinking things unspeakable, and smoking way to much crack…

How'd I turn my skinsuit inside out?!

Not quite OCD, it’s disturbing nonetheless. I lose sight of the original goal. It gets perverted into something Nick Cage will try to remake 20 years from now, and it’s ugly.

Last year it was all about form. Early in the season I read 10 Minute Toughness and I crafted a performance statement that I repeated as my skate-mantra (Get Low, Down in the Heel, Full Blade to the Side, Fall Forward.) It served me well.

This year it’s been form and function. Function of form and function of equipment. For me, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to focus on function of form. I’d even say it’s more beneficial in the long run. But you know as well as I do that any skate-gear-head will ultimately come around to, (ah-hem,) evaluating his equipment. And when it comes to playing with it, (my equipment,) I have a lot to learn.

One of the things I’ve learned this year…if you’re going to put 110 frames & wheels on your boots, it’s best if the boot was actually designed to be used with 110mm wheels. The Racemachines I’ve been working with were designed for a max 104mm wheel. Since everyone and their Grandma will be on 110’s this year, it’s really where I needed to be. So I got the 110 set-up and discovered that the second wheel wasn’t spinning freely under the mounting block. So, I made a simple retro-fit using slices of credit cards for shims to jack up the front deck height to get the second wheel to clear the bottom of the boot. Easy, peesy…

For most of the training season I was skating just fine with the front of my boot about 1/4 inch higher than the heel. It really helped me get “Down in the Heel” with my push. I was hitting record times! Then, I got the CadoMotus Pro 110’s and immediately learned that being able to “feel the blade” under my entire foot, from ball to heel, made a big difference in the amount of power being generated by my stride. But my heel and toes were level. This was a great discovery, but as fate would have it I would end up trashing the CadoMotus boots before having the chance to really skate in them. Bummer…but great learning experience & knowledge gained.

Shortly after this discovery, Joey Mantia put up a video blog talking about foot pressure. Another validation point along this path to discovery of a new push.

Then, to my horror, my wife and kids accosted me on my birthday…freaking held me down on the ground by my throat, burned me with a crack pipe and forced a new pair of Simmons Pro M1’s on me for my big 4-0. I took it like a man, but in my shock and confusion over their grotesquely violent presentation of this milestone birthday gift I made a retreat to the internet and did a lot of reading about about how the Pro M1 boot was made. Putting aside my PTSD over the gift giving smack-up, I came to learn something new about the power-points that we should all be focused on if we want maximum control and power transfer. It all dovetailed with what I’d learned on my own with the CadoMotus boots, so I knew I was onto something important. I put the trauma of my birthday behind me and moved on.

With all of this knowledge (and a seven week wait for the Pro M1’s) I resumed my attack on the Racemachines. I was steadfastly determined to wear these skates in this years NSIM as a way of saying thanks to Rollerblade for all of the support they’ve given me and Speedy Weezy this past year. So, the next mod was designed to correct the lop-sided deck height.  It was another simple one…I raised my heel with another 1/4 inch of shim. This was too easy!

My wife was very happy to see such a productive use of my credit cards.

Well, the saggy trumpet began playing because I immediately noticed a significant loss of power transfer in my stride. Having the frame separated from the boot by 1/4 inch of credit card at both mounting points pretty much opened the door to have the energy I was creating just swoosh right through the mounting screws and into thin air, leaving very little to be passed through to my push and roll. I also started getting hot spots on my ankles and insole that hadn’t been there before. I had to work a lot harder to make the skate responsive and I started going through a lot of band-aid donuts and eZeeFits (I cut holes in a thick pair of eZeeFits hoping that would relieve pressure on my ankle bone…it didn’t.) All this because I was trying to wear a boot that I was forcing to do something it’s not really designed for…

After Beat Feeting it for the last six weeks, I’d become painfully aware of how much the weight of your skate, deck height and the design of the foot bed impact you ability to achieve top speed. There was no going back on this stuff. Knowledge gained makes half-assed efforts fall even shorter, because you become aware of your massive half-assed-ness and lose ground you once held through ignorance. To make matters even worse, my Pro M1’s arrived, but they were clearly going to need to be broken in before attempting any serious distance in them. And again, being determined to make the Rollerblade’s work, I didn’t really even consider that I’d wear the M1’s in Duluth this year. Sooo…

Changing the frame .05 oz per boot.

With a firm sense of purpose, I next set out to see if I could improve my situation with the Rollerblade’s through chop-shop methodology. The first thing I did was try and shave some weight by swapping out the frames. I took the Simmons 411’s that came on my Pro M1’s and put them on. Not only did that shave some weight, it lowered the deck height and corrected some of the power transfer issues. Wow – that was easy!

Um, yeahhh…not quite. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep my foot down in the bed (the RB boot is a half size too big, which was never an issue till there was a frame under them that fit the boot without shimming) and now my heel was actually rising because of the new method of pushing I’ve been practicing. What to do…

Give in. And that’s what I’ve done. The itty-bitty committee in my head went on way too long, got too far down in the weeds and ultimately lost sight of the goal. Instead of trying to do my best and beat last years time, it became all about trying to “do the right thing” by Rollerblade. And I know that’s not how they’d want me thinking. They want me focused on achieving a skating goal, not a political goal. So here we go…ready or not, I’m rolling my Pro M1’s in Saturday’s race. The Rollerblade Racemachine’s have been an excellent training tool, and they’ll remain in the feet-fleet. But this weekend I need free my mind of the clutter I tend to create and focus on my goal. To give it my best this weekend you’ll see me on the starting line in these…

All that to get to this...Simply The Best choice I could make.

The Pro M1’s are a skate fiend’s dream. Happy birthday to me.

It's how I roll, run and tell that, homeboy.

See you in Duluth. May you achieve your goal, whatever that is!

Training Log: It’s been a lot of the same you’ve come to expect…I skate a lot. Tapering this week has been made easier by all of the smoke in the air due to the wild fire burning down in Boulder. Lot’s of folks out of homes and lots of destruction. All this skating stuff is somewhat meaningless in comparison. Hoping and praying that the fire is contained as quickly as possible and that no one gets hurt.