Tag Archives: photos

Suave blogger award…cha!

Ca-ching! Ca-chow! Check it out…First Loser has been awarded the soon to be investigated “Suave Blogger Award” for stylish male bloggers. I’m honored and incredulous in the same breath. Did the members of the Academy who develop these awards not bother to read First Loser before conferring this great distinction upon its (using the term very loosely) author? Let’s illuminate the definition of Suave and see how this blog’s content fares in this light, shall we? (Don’t worry, it’s not fluorescent, which makes us all look as pale and sickly as Michael Jackson does these days…)

Suave: The hardest part of inline skating is telling your family you're gay.

Suave, as defined by The Free Dictionary: (adj.) Smoothly agreeable and courteous, (esp of a man) displaying smoothness and sophistication in manner or attitude; urbane [from Latin suāvis sweet]; having a sophisticated charm; “a debonair gentleman”…hmmm. I don’t know. Scratching my chin, I look in the fractured mirror of self-effacement and say, “Self, let’s explore this.”

I land on digging into some synonyms. Let’s see if that helps bring some clarity…

Smooth

Smooth: Chop goes the weasel.

Charming

Charming: Less than a week off skates and I'm singing in Vegas.

Worldly

Worldly: The high-collar look updated with mantyhose. HUGE in France.

Urbane

Urbane: "Swing me out wide and I'll clear that ice patch at the trailhead."

Affable

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

Sophisticated

Sophisticated: It's getting HOTT out HERRE...I don't feel so good, but I look devine.

Mon Dieu!

OK…I’m convinced. They’re right! I deserve this award on all counts. If ever there was a blogger that met all of the criteria in spades, it’s yours truly. I mean c’mon…I make this look easy.

On behalf of the group (me, myself and I) I’d like to thank the Academy for this most notable of recognitions. But, as is always the case when it comes to anything I do, nothin’s for nothin’ and nothin’ is free…there are always some strings attached. For me to accept this award, I actually have to work a little. So in the spirit of “I’ll do anything for an award,” here’s the full list of things I need to do to ensure the eyeball milking effects of this award will bang up my site stats:

  • A link back to the person who awarded it to me: www.SumpinSumpin.com
  • 7 things about me…1. I like to inline skate outdoors on paved, multi-use recreation trails 2. I really enjoy a good inline skating session on the road too 3. I like to inline speed skate on the USARS sanctioned 100m track 4. I like to inline speed skate on the NIRA 100m oval track too 5. I like to inline skate in inline skating marathons 6. I like to inline skate ultra-distance events at least once a year too 7. I like to participate in short track ice speed skating. And because I’m an overachiever…8. I’ve got the best spouse in the world, I love spending my free time with my family, I’m best friends with a pretty great dog, I’m a direct response consultant, think Aaron Burr got a raw deal, play guitar, and I’m learning Japanese.

OK – so the last couple of bits have been a challenge and made me miss my self-imposed Tuesday publishing deadline. Well…that’s a lie. I missed my deadline because I’ve been ice skating like mad, getting in all of the ice time I can. That and, in the interest of future blog fodder, took up yoga this week. (That’s a story for another post, so I don’t want to hear anything from Bean Town Frenchie – you know who you are – until I’ve posted on it!)

Image courtesy of Bean Town Frenchie...everybody wants to get in on the act.

Anyway…here’s where this gets tough: I’m supposed to issue this award to 15 other blogs. Crikey! I’m thinking that the award giver will allow for equal opportunity award distribution, meaning I’m not limited to giving awards to Dudes. So, since I know there is a female equivalent for this honor, I’m going to award to some women as well…

For the ladies...

Blogs By Chicks:

1. Highly Irritable

2. CS – She publishes by email only, so no link – sorry!

3. No Appropriate Behavior

4. The Clothes That Got Me Laid

5. Blog-Blond

For the boyz...

Blogs by Dudes

1. Just Rolling Through Life

2. Zen and the Art of Speedskating

3. Failbook

4. Stuff White People Like

5. The Art of Trolling

6. This is Photobomb

7. There, I Fixed It

8. After 12

9. Failblog

10. The Daily What

I’m assuming some of these are done by Dudes, given the subject matter. I don’t know how I’d react if I’m wrong with that assumption on some of them…Oi!

You’ll no doubt note some high-profile names that didn’t make this list. This isn’t a “favs” list, just a list of discoveries that you may not have heard of.

So…there you have it. Now, for the final task on the acceptance list: I’m off to write each award recipient and tell them I’ve bestowed this high praise on them (and hope they don’t think I’m some freak stalker…)

Enjoy!

Zen and the art of speedskating

Like a chronic wanker with Parkinson’s, I often find amusement and get sidetracked for hours…inadvertently. I don’t mean to, but when something piques my interest, I grab hold and shake it for all it’s worth, squeezing every last drop of fun out of it before moving on. Blessing or curse? You decide. I can do the same within the realm of thought, and sometimes, that endeavor proves more productive…

The Thinker, 2011. I got nothin' but time (and a case of silver bullet long necks.)

This ice fascination has really taken tenacious hold of me, and it’s making me do things I once thought…improbable. Like even entertaining the idea of blowing off inline speed skating practice to get some time in at the public ice skating sessions at our local ice rink. Because when I’m out there, I get lost in another zone, where hours speed by like minutes, and the experience leads to a higher level of enlightenment every time.

When skating, I just skate.

It’s deep…I’ve been focused on the sound of silence. That state where you’re no longer toe-pushing and hearing that horrible crunching sound at the end of your stride. For me, it was truly a Zen experience the first time I made it around the entire oval without making a sound. It took three solo practice sessions and three regular classes, but I’ve finally got it. Worked on the straightaways first for a week, then the corners. It was time well spent.

I’m continually amazed at how easy it is to get lost in thought while I’m on the ice. The time goes whizzing by when I’m out there. Well…it’s not like I’m really “lost” in thought, because I’m very aware of what’s going on around me. Rather, it’s that I’m elevated above what’s happening by the thoughts going through my head. Does that make sense? It’s not like I can see myself, but it is a whole lot easier for me to visualize my form when I’m on ice.

I think it’s because I’m so much more into my form. I’m becoming very aware of the subtly of the art of speedskating on ice. It’s really a perfect mix of science and art. I’ve become a mad physicist, conducting experiments, tests and proofs on each lap. I’ll take one stiff-shouldered, then another loose. I’ll push my knees way forward on one lap, and sit back into my heel in the next. It’s so much fun making mental notes of the results. With these notes, I’m kinda coming into my own, referring to them often when I get tired or hear that familiar crunch. Taking instruction from the coaching staff becomes so much more meaningful for me when I’m able to spend more time playing with this stuff on my own. Having their guidance and my own notes, I’m able to make corrections easier when my form starts to break down. I’m able to pinpoint what was wrong, and for me, it’s more apparent and easy to see on the ice than it is on inlines.

That said, WOW! Has the ice ever helped my inline speed skating form. And honestly, I’m back to a place where that’s REALLY got me fired up about inline. And as it turns out, I haven’t actually gotten to a place where I’ve blown off inline practice for ice. Not yet at least. For as any Zen master would ask, “What am I?” And deep down, I know that answer as it relates to skating. I skate, therefore I am.

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…

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.

The loneliness of the long distance skater

On Friday, June 28, 2010 I set out to skate 140 continuous miles in 10 hours or less in celebration of my 40th birthday. I chose 140 because for the last two years I’ve taken part in 100 mile skate events, so doing the classic “40 for 40” just seemed…anti-climatic. 140 felt like it would be a challenge.

It was. I didn’t finish 140 miles.

I was able to knock down 100 before the sun got the better of me and I had to pack it in. Sun stroke wasn’t on my bucket list, but a personal best record for 100 miles could find its way to being a suitable outcome for the most challenging skate of my life…

The challenges didn’t just come in the form of many miles of trail to conquer. They started the night before. Like the lead up to the other two times I’ve done an ultra-distance skate, or a duraskate, I had a lot of nervous energy to burn that night before. So I did what I normally do…I prepared my skates, hydration pack, energy bars and got my clothes laid out and ready for pre-dawn departure. I was in the process of making a protein shake for my breakfast when Horseypants leaped out of her seat and did a Triple Lindy over the back of the couch. Our dog was having a seizure at her feet. This isn’t new for him, but it was outside of his normal seizure routine, which usually happens around midnight and in his bed upstairs. This was 9:30 in the evening and downstairs in the living room. We have a very specific protocol we run through when he’s having one of his moments. We clear the room, close the door and wait for him to snap out of it and come back to his senses before we approach him. He’s a big dog, and in the post-seizure confusion state he can become aggressive. Well, this time out there was nowhere to run. Horseypants high-tailed it for upstairs to close the kids’ doors and shut herself in our bedroom. I stuck it out downstairs and waited for him to come to. He finally did and his recovery was uneventful, but it was now going to be a long night, as the second half of our routine is for me to stay up with him on a leash to make sure nothing aggressive happens.  This usually means my sleep is shallow, and that I can be sure I’ll be up several times as he gets up and reorients himself. By the time I was able to lay down it was 11 p.m. I had planned on being up at 4:20 the next morning to get dressed and be at the trail head by 5 a.m…

5 a.m. came and I awoke, groggy from being woken up several times throughout the night.  I tied the dog’s leash to the bedpost, got dressed, sucked down some coffee and rolled out. (FWIW: I know coffee is a diuretic. It’s a necessary handicap.) Anyway…I got to the trailhead at about 5:40, a little late but I wasn’t too concerned. At this point I had already sucked down the protein shake and 4 cups of coffee, so I was feeling pretty awake and good to go.

Good to go…yep, thank goodness there was a Johnny-On-The-Spot at the trail head. I’d visit it 4 times before rolling out. Nerves of jelly and a peanut sized bladder will do that to you.

I parked my truck at a mid-way point on the course I’d be spending the day on. Figured this would be a good idea in case of any emergency, as I’d have to pass it at least a half dozen times throughout the day. What I didn’t anticipate was the epic battle of self preservation vs. will to succeed that this simple parking decision would spark as the day went on and the mercury climbed to year-to-date highs…we’ll get back to this.

BEFORE - Overconfidence is strong in this one.

This was a beautiful morning. With all of the final prep and gearing up, I was on the trail by 6 a.m. There had been earlier concern about this trail being flooded and obstructed by massive fallen trees, but fortunately all of that had been cleared up and out in the week prior. Fortune was shining brightly on this skater and his ambition to prove that life really begins at 40…

My plan was to establish a pace that was a little faster than 15 m.p.h. for the first 52.4 miles. After that I figured I’d be able to “coast” the rest of the 80+ miles at a leisurely 14 mph and I’d finish 140 in well under 10 hours. I’d seen the records for A2A and while I think I could probably maintain an average of 16+ mph in a small pack over this distance, this was solo so I didn’t want to over do it. Plus, I knew it was supposed to reach about 90 degrees around 2 pm, so I needed to be sure to have something in the tank to deal with the heat. Strategy firmly in place, I rolled out.

At mile 26.2 - not killing myself, having fun with the plastic wildlife.

The first 26.2 were a breeze. The temps were cool, the trail was clear and my spirits were elevated. This stuff gets me high. Like Alan Sillitoe’s Smith, I felt like the first man ever to be dropped in the world. I was King of the Daylight World. And while there wasn’t a soul or subject in sight, the trail was loyal and subservient, and I was in a benevolent mood. To the trail, my every stride was a gift…something to make its meager existence somehow part of a grander scheme and profoundly worthwhile. I knew that 140 miles were going to be a complete cake walk.  At one point I even stopped to have a “Mark Wahlberg Talks To The Animals” moment with a turtle. Indeed, tis good to be the King:

I had so much fun with him that I had to turn around, go back and get this photo:

No s#*t...the tortoise WAS doping after all!

By 10 a.m. I was done with 52.4 miles and still feeling great. I’d sucked down only about 16 oz. of H3O Hydration drink and had 1 protein bar on the trail for a morning snack. My right ankle was starting to get a little irritated from my un-molded boot, but other than that my legs were in good shape, my heart rate was a cool 60-70% max, and I was keeping a great pace. I spent a lot of time focused on foot pressure, forward knee bend and double pushing.

What became clear to me was that 110mm wheels are going to be a blessing at Duluth this year. For distance skating, big wheels and good form make the difference. It’s both, not one. But if it were one over the other, form rules. Focus on form and the rest will follow. These long skates are great for training!

For the next 8 miles I was totally in love with this sport. I resurrected an idea I had to publish an e-book to be called “Slow to Podium: Form, Flow, Power, Speed & Grace Through Inline Skating.” My iPod was blaring out all of my favorite songs, the sun was shining, a light breeze was blowing, the trail was smooth and my form felt right. I was enjoying the freedom and looking forward to telling everyone how surprised I was that the 140 were so easy to finish. I was thinking about all of the great races that I’d not gone to this year – the Planet Adventure series in Indiana, the Apostle Islands Marathon, the TX Road Rash, all of them. Even thought about A2A and how I’d be sure to do great there if I only went (despite what I know about the road surfaces!). For the past few years I’ve only done the Northshore Inline Marathon, but now I was ready to take my 2011 calendar and load it up! I was ready to get into the action full on…

Then, somewhere around mile 60, (adopting a Sean Connery Scottish brogue) it all went to shite quicker than BP’s stock price.

First it was the ankle, which was now more than a twinge. It was full-out pain. One unassuming stride around mile 59 and I felt a shooting pain go up the right side of my calf. Became a stabbing needle point with every stride after that. And my feet and calves were starting to feel the effects of being on firm wheels for 60 miles straight. It’s amazing was a few points in duometer will buy you in terms of comfort. I should have been on softer wheels for this. I won’t make that mistake again.

It was at this point I started to think that I couldn’t stop, even for a quick pee break, because it might be really, really hard to get rolling again. I was still keeping a good pace by ignoring the pain in my ankle, but I was standing up more now due to the tightness in my lower back. There would be no more rolling videos or still photos till this thing was over, because I wasn’t even at the mid-way point yet.

With that realization…that I wasn’t even half way there yet…the mental challenge grew exponentially and took on mythical proportions. It became the Seven-headed Hydra that I’d have to be Hercules to overcome. But there’d be no help, I was on my own. It seemed that for every mile I lopped off, another 2 would appear, and taunt me. It was as if the miles went on forever. I started to think that even at the halfway point I’d be counting down as many as I’d just come. And with each mile getting more difficult as the sun grew hotter; the pain becoming sharper with every few strides; the will to finish growing weaker by the moment, I was doomed. This was horrible. What a stupid idea. Why the hell was I doing this to myself?

It was around mile 65 that I seriously considered calling Horseypants and asking her to, “just tell me I can do it!!!” I just needed to hear someone in my corner, cheering me on. I’d just come off a night of being pilloried on the SkateLog forum about a post on cycling. I started to feel like I didn’t have a friend in the world. I had become the last man in the world. It was a lonely place. Hell, I’d even considered a 911 prayer for a benevolent cyclist to come along and allow me to draft him! I was really starting to crumble under the pressure. What a f@#$%&g disgrace.

No more Skatey-My-Wanky, the Loser need moral support!

Alas, I knew that calling out for Horseypants’ reassuring voice would not only make me sound like a drama queen, but that I’d probably start bawling and yelling that I just couldn’t do it. It would be the thing that let me quit. I just couldn’t do it. So I pushed on…pushed those thoughts out and focused on form and music. Just pure skating. No grand plans, no love of the sport, no blog or message boards or new Simmons Pro M1’s on the way, just skating the best I could. That seemed to work for a while.

Then, around mile 75, I came up on my truck again. Each time I’d seen it earlier in the day, I was immune to it’s wily, cool charm. Sure, it was calling to me…”Come, have a little rest. Relax, no one will know.” But each time before I’d been able to shake it off. Being able to resist that temptation gave me power; made me stronger. It was a good boost that would last for at least a mile after the encounter.

This time though, the urge to throw my stupid goals to hell, get in the back seat, crawl into the fetal position and cry myself to sleep held very strong appeal. It was a battle I didn’t expect to have to fight, and one that nearly cost me the war…

I shook it off, but this time it left a bitter taste. There was nothing empowering in the stupidity of pushing on in this heat, through this pain, and into God knows what kind of fatigue or injury on the trail ahead. Each little pebble in the trail was now, for some reason, finding it’s way under my wheels on the interior push of my double push, nearly taking me down with what seemed like every single stride. I found myself muttering in the foulest of terms, very much akin to the way my Grandfather did when playing golf. (That’s where I acquired my command of the finer f@#$%&g points of our c@#ks$%^#ng language. Fine church going man that he was and all…) Seriously, at this point I threw it all away:

  1. I’m going to just stop and call it a day.
  2. I’ll take the rest of the year off – maybe next year too.
  3. F#$k it – I QUIT! QUIT SKATING FOR GOOD!
  4. My KIDS QUIT!!
  5. I’M GOING TO SELL ALL OF OUR CRAP ON NETTRACING!!!
  6. Screw this stupid blog!
  7. SkateLoggers can bite my REAR END!
  8. I’M GOING TO TAKE UP CYCLING!!!!!!!!!!

It’s rare, if ever, that I’ve been so completely convinced that a decision was right. I was near tears. All I needed to do was find the coordination to plow my way to a stop, turn around, go back to the truck and cry, cry, cry and then cry some more. I’d have to plow stop because my right ankle was at this point about to fall off, and I thought for sure I’d spin out if I tried a t-stop with the left. This s#%t was for the birds man, I was done. I started to see weird reflections of myself in the glossy finish of the Sequoia each time I passed it…

It's getting Hot Out Herre - I don't feel well but I look Divine!

Then, I don’t know how it occurred to me, but I realized I was going crazy from the heat. I thought about those guys that do those endurance races across the Sahara Desert. Surly this couldn’t be as bad as that. But wow, even with the way I was steadily hydrating, it would do nothing to stop the heat madness from creeping in to try and spoil the party. The survival instinct is not a friend when trying to face adversity.

I b-slapped myself…”SNAP OUT OF IT MAN!” I started negotiating with the itty-bitty committee in my head…here I was, 40 years old, everything to live for, and really nothing to prove. I was making good time, better than I had the last two times I’d skated this far in a single skate. If I could just hold out another 25 miles, I’d make a personal best record and be able to walk away having achieved something. I could justify stopping – the heat was to the point of being unbearable. It was about 12:45, so it was just about the peak of the afternoon heat. I had enough SmartWater to get through the rest of the course. And I could eliminate the hills and try and stay in the shade by doing the truck-to-east run just 2 more times.

This was the responsible thing to do and it felt good. I could be happy with the outcome. I’d be able to look my family, the Rink Rabbits, the Sunday Morning Speed Team, my co-workers, my Facebook friends, my friends at SkateLog and you, the FirstLoser reader, and know that I did the right thing. For the first time in a long time I knew “a moment of clarity.” It was exhilarating. There was absolutely nothing in this world and there’d be no one, including the man in the mirror or the Monday morning quarterback,that would ever be able to convince me I needed to do anything different. I’d never second guess this. I felt it through the core of my being. I knew the insatiable need to be completely satisfied had been met by one effortless sigh of relief knowing that I could walk away from this with what I’d already done and be proud. All this transpired over a 5 mile negotiation and settlement, followed by a 3 mile Roman orgy of back slapping, and congratulations. From here, it would just be another 17 miles to glory!

Then the phone rang…it was Horseypants. She was telling me that I needed to stop, that it was 102 degrees. I told her what I’d just decided, assured her I could finish and that I’d be done in a little over an hour. From here on out, I found a new purpose in each stride. Even though I wanted to gnaw off my right ankle, I pushed through. I knew I could finish this. I was afraid of what my ankle would look like, and was pretty sure I wouldn’t be skating again for a couple of weeks, but I was going to finish 100 miles in less than 7 hours, and that was a goal I felt really good about. I executed my revised plan and skated the “bunny course” two more times to round out an even 100 miles. I sprinted the last 1/2 mile and hit a 2:48 pace as I was finishing mile 100. That was a rush, but I’d overshot the truck by about a 1/4 mile, so I had to double back before I was truly done. In the euphoria that came in the moment after hitting the little red button on my Garmin to stop the clock, I dropped my right foot back into a t-stop and let out the loudest “AHHH FUDDDGGGEEEE” you’ve ever heard. I was sure I’d snapped my ankle. It was the exclamation mark that was the cap off of the day!

It's less than 7, that's all that matters!

In the end it was all about being prepared to do what was necessary to walk away from this event satisfied. I took from it what I gave it, 100% of all it was worth. It wasn’t about cunning, or brute strength of will, it was about passion. I was able to spend 7 hours outdoors doing what I love to do most. I was able to really focus on trail form and find a comfort zone with a new stride. I’ll never do another skate like this in the summer again, but to do it again, and go further, faster, is something that’s going to happen. It’s in my blood.

As much as I love skating indoors, I’ll never lose my passion for the trail. Outdoors is where I was smitten, and where I’ll forever be in passionate love with this sport.

As it turns out, my ankle was just responding to carbon fiber pressure on a pressure point. I didn’t even have a blister! I’d overcompensated with the padding around my ankle bone doing more harm than good. I was able to skate the next morning with the Rink Rabbits, and on Sunday I was timed doing 100m 2 /10th of a second off my personal best lap time. Hydration and recovery nutrition are key with something like this. I skated the rest of that week, and I really came to feel the power of that session. I call it “getting my 100 mile legs.”

AFTER - Maybe just a little wiser.

My big take away from all this is really nothing new…don’t take any of this stuff too seriously. Be open-minded and flexible. Set reasonable goals, don’t back away from a challenge and be happy with your decisions. If you can look yourself in the mirror and say with 100% honesty that you gave it all you had, than that’s worth owning, no matter what it applies to.

Where do I go from here? I spent a lot of time thinking about why I do this, and I’ve come to some conclusions and I’ve revised some long terms goals. More on that in a future post. For the time being, I’ll keep training like I do, and get ready to meet up with all my friends on 9/11/10 in Duluth. Then, maybe next year, I’ll try A2A…

Training Log – I’ve been skating a lot. A whole lot. More than I care to detail here. It’s summer and this is what I do. Every morning, every lunch time, and now most evenings too. Taking rest days here and there, but mostly having a great time on wheels. I’ve been getting ready for Duluth. I’ve downgraded my wheels, put axle grease in my bearings, strapped weights on each leg, and do a lot of interval work on hills. My coach tells me this is going to help a lot. It hurts a lot, I can tell you that. But I want to beat my time from last year…that’s what it’s all about for me.

I’ve been going to races too. Spent some time at Outdoor Nationals…see if you can tell who SpeedyWeezy & I are hanging out with as we watch Jim Larson make a new record for the Master’s Mens 300m (5 legends, 3 you can spot):

One grenade would have taken out a whole lotta talent.

It’s a busy week…a couple of guys under that tent are coming to Fort Collins to give a clinic at Rollerland on Sunday. More to come…Jamaican style (so don’t hold your breath – “soon come, mon!”)

CadoMotus Test Drive (Pure Skating)

My review of the CadoMotus Pro 110’s I’ve been testing has been posted to the CadoMotus site. You can read it here: http://www.pureskatingnews.com/2010/06/chris-howleys-pro-110-test-drive.html.

The FirstLoser story is in the works…

Smell The Skate: The New Album from FirstLoser

Suffice to say…I use *different*pictures in my story. And maybe more colorful language too.

Now…you can get the FirstLoser Special of the Month from Glenn Koshi before it rolls away…

Hyper Sidewinder 110mm (black hub) Green 86a or Yellow 84a, regular retail is $110 a set, First Loser readers SOM, $80 a set.  VERY limited quantites.  Shipping $7 per set. Sorry, no 100’s available.

Email Glenn directly to get the deal today! Click here: glenn916@yahoo.com

Glenn has been so busy he’s let me bring this back and hold this deal over a few more days. I’ve seen the posts at SkateLog…any stragglers are going to want to jump at this quickly! I’ve been using them for the last three weeks and can’t say enough good things about them…great wheels and a fantastic price!

6/9/10 Training: 18 miles around the hood. The last 4 minutes was the Tabata Protocol, which seems to make a lot more sense when it comes at the end of your skate. I’m already noticing an improvement in performance…

6/10/10 Training: Eating like a horse because today is a rest day. The weather this morning was of course…perfect. As always on an “off” day.

“Dorothy, we’re not in Duluth anymore!”

Long road trips and inline skating. Indoor or outdoor skater, if you live in Colorado, and you want to be a part of the circuit or find your glory moment in a field of more than just your skating buddies, you’ll need some gas. Not talking the kind of gas that will get you relegated to the back of the pack for passing it – you need petrol, mate. Skating events in this part of the country aren’t a leisurely 150-200 mile country drive away, we’re talking a minimum of 500 road miles to the east or south, through some of the flattest land on the straightest roads in the country, where the most excitement comes from the occasional wind farm or being jarred from your road-coma by the abrupt road surface changes when you hit Lincoln, Nebraska.    

I've developed an irrational fear of wind farms. Damn things say "evil empire," don't they?

At the end of February my kids got their first taste of a skate life on the road – destination Wichita, Kansas for the 2010 Team United Inline Speed Skating Classic. This was our first indoor meet and a complete immersion into indoor inline speed skate culture. All I can say is “Dorothy, we’re not in Duluth anymore!” So grab a bottle of Saspirilla and kick back…this one’s wordy.    

Have skates, Will travel…    

2/26/10: 10:40 am MDT – Picked up Speed Demon (my daughter’s self-appointed skate name) from school early, the excursion begins. We’re off to the People’s Republic of Boulder to pick up a rented Prius, then to Denver to meet Speedy Weezy & Horseypants at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. From there, it’s no sleep till Wichita – 475 miles later!    

2/26/10: 1:25 pm MDT – Rt. 70 for Wichita! Wait – was that an exclamation mark? WTF am I thinking?    

Joe Cool is the name, Inline Skating is the game.

2/26/10: 7 pm CST – City Limits Bar & Grill, Colby KS. Waitress to server, “See that kid over there? He’s a speed skater!” Speedy Weezy immediately drops his sunglasses to his nose and strikes the “Joe Cool” pose. Where does he get that from?!    

Took a while to get out of Colby. Two trips to Wal-Mart to “buy” a DVD player for the car. The salesperson suggested we consider the dual-monitor headrest-mount car version, but I decline and we walk out with a single monitor laptop version for the kids to share in the backseat. Over dinner, I thought more about it and since we’re not really buying the thing but rather just taking advantage of the retailer’s very liberal return policy (don’t judge me), we decided to go back after dinner, return the laptop version and take the sales clerk up on his recommendation. It’s at this point we’re reminded that I should have called Capital One Fraud Prevention before the trip to advise them of my travels. Reminders like this while you’re standing in line at Wal-Mart with locals behind you and tired kids in tow are always such fun! Won’t be the last such reminder this evening…    

2/27/10: 12:10 am CST – We arrive in the greater Wichita metro area.    

2/27/10: 12:35 am CST – I’m having a hard time finding the hotel so I call the front desk. The gentleman who answers the phone is apparently new to Wichita himself. Maybe even new to America. The English language too. I tell him I’m at Wal-Mart on 53rd & Meridian, in the parking lot next to McDonald’s. He says no problem, make a left out of the parking lot, go past the next parking lot, make a right on the service road, then left, then left, then right into their lot. No problem! An hour and a freaking half later we show up at the hotel. Turns out the hotel dude didn’t know 53rd & Meridian from the corner of Ass & Elbow, despite several phone calls and assurances that “we’re just around the corner,” we were way clear on the other side of Oz. I’m not a violent guy (the red-belt in Kenpo is just for show I guess) but I’m ready to kill this guy. Luckily for all parties concerned Kansas is one of the 35 states that has the death penalty, so I take a deep breath and smile. “Yeah, I guess it’s pretty funny that there IS a Wal-Mart with a McDonald’s just on the other side of the highway, right over there.” It’s 2:10 am CST…    

Hotel Dude goes to run my credit card and it’s at this point that I get reminder number two about calling Capital One Fraud Prevention before I travel. My card is blocked, and no one is answering the phone over at CapOne at this hour. Hotel Dude is completely confused. At this point, the caffeine, aspartame, fatigue, road and unexpected 2-hour midnight tour of “Wicha-‘F’in-ta” catch up with me in a single flood of rage. I lose my cool. End up apologizing to my kids for the shameful display of anger, and the hotel guy and his supervisor who at this point are both cowering trying to swipe my debit card…need sleep.    

2/27/10: 2:30 am CST – The kids are knocked out. Get them in their jammies and in bed in about 10 minutes. I’m tight-wound from the near-death-row experience so I can’t sleep. That and they’ve had the heat on all day in the room so it’s hot, sticky and uncomfortable. We need to be at the rink at 5:30 am, I fall somewhat asleep at 4:15.    

2/27/10: 4:30 am CST – Speedy Weezy kicks me in the kidney – the kid’s a flip-flopper when he sleeps…    

2/27/10: 5:00 am CST – The alarm goes off, time to snort some Starbucks Via and get moving. Speedy Weezy looks no worse for wear. He tells me he’s pumped and ready to go. Gives me a full accounting of all his sleep – he adds up about 9 hours of sleep between the car and the hotel. I’m good with that – he’s cool. Speed Demon looks a little tired, but she’s excited and dressed in a flash. We meet the other skaters from our team in the parking lot and head out to RollerCity.    

Skater Playas in this narrative: Speedy Weezy, B-Man, Mr. Finn, Katie-Bug, The Fast Kid, and Shoulder Roller.    

Supporting Cast: Speed Demon, Big Daddy Longhorn, Horse Whisperer, Freightliner, LibertyL, XBMX, The Mechanic and Scardy-Dog.      

It’s a nice rink, very clean. Looks like a nice family establishment. Stinks of chemicals from the floor being refinished. I’m on a sleep deprivation caffeine high and the fumes are overwhelming. This will come into play later in the morning…    

Speedy Weezy 2nd from left. Back-row: B-Man 3rd from right, Mr. Finn 1st on right.

Speedy Weezy, B-Man and Mr. Finn are in the first heat of the day. We get Speedy strapped up and he hits the floor. I can tell from his reaction that the floor is faster than what he’s used to at Rollerland. It’s a wood floor known for its speed. The warm ups give him a chance to see the field he’ll be skating against. I can tell he’s having fun, his smile is a mile wide. I think he finally feels like he can be accepted for being an inline speed skater. He’s never seen or been a part of a large group of kids his general age on inline skates. He looks like he’s really going to have a good time!    

The Racing    

300 meter – Speedy Weezy finishes First Loser in his heat, places 4th in the final. He’s having difficulty with the second corner, making him go wide. B-Man has skated this floor before and handles it like a pro. The kid is really getting fast. But poor Speedy Weezy is sliding, creating gaps for those behind him to jump right in. These kids he’s up against are good at spotting opportunities and taking them. This is the first time he’s skated against anyone other than those he knows.     

Speed Demon supporting her brother all the way!

First lesson learned: making the practice session the day before would have helped him get used to the floor quicker.

Speed Demon looks on and says, "I'm gonna skate regionals!"

Turns out Speedy Weezy is skating Primary, which is a challenge up level from the novice divisions I thought he belonged in. He’s skating against kids of his comparable ability level. Not a bad thing…wouldn’t want it to be too easy for him, he’d get bored quickly!    

Second lesson: need to learn more about the USARS skater divisions.    

Mr. Finn and Katie-Bug finish their races like the little champs they are. Mr. Finn has been speed skating all of 5 weeks and he’s in his first meet. The kid has a fortitude well beyond his years and has redefined bravery in my book. And little Katie is a seasoned vet at 5. She’s taking the place by storm, the crowd knows her & loves her!    

For me, this is where the fun starts…    

Because Speedy is sliding, Big Daddy Longhorn suggests different wheels to help better manage the floor. He goes back to the hotel to grab some grippy wheels. The Speedy Weezy pit crew goes into action getting those wheels swapped out in a flash and “Land-Ho!” the first E-quipment X-citement of the day – the axle on his rear right wheel is getting stripped in the frame. It’s loose. He can’t skate on this, not at these speeds. Fortunately, we have Speed Demon’s skates in the bag so we decide to swap out frames. Here’s where I say, “Well I’ll Be!”  as we run into Equipment Excitement Two: Speed Demon is on 11.25″ frames, vs. Speedy Weezy’s 10.5″. He’s going to need to get used to the longer wheelbase in a race environment! Not really a big deal but, “Hot Diggity!” please give a warm welcome to Equipment Excitement Three – the mounting bolt in the ball of his adjustable right skate is stripping inside the track in the bottom of the boot, not allowing us to tighten it, causing frame to slip from side to side. This is soooo not good. Longhorn and The Mechanic are called in as pit crew specialists, and the three of us perform trackside open skate surgery trying to get this patient rolling again.    

How many sk8 Dad's does it take to change a frame? Go ask YOUR MOTHER!

At this point, the lights, the kinetic techno-music, the people, the fumes of the recent floor resurfacing, the sounds of the video games, the intense pressure of trying to fix the skates on the fly, the lack of sleep, the Mix 1 smoothie, the 4 shots of Starbucks Via, my cell phone ringing…it’s all starting to have a profound impact on my ability to stay positive about any of this. The place is just so freaking alive – kinetic – I feel like “The Firestarter.”    

I start thinking about why I love outdoor skating so much, and franticly start wishing I was biting off a nice piece of trail. Outdoor, it’s point-to-point. There’s no waiting around, there’s no blaring music, no rink-funk, no time to mess with your equipment. You get to the start line, you skate for a little over an hour, it’s done. You kick back and have a few laughs. This indoor thing is for the birds…clearly I’m not in a good place emotionally or mentally. I want to kill, I want to cry, I want to dig a hole in the rink and hide.

We finally get the front mounting bolt to hold, but it was incredibly costly in terms of energy & adrenaline. I’m tweaked beyond insane. XBMX and LibertyL are keeping their distance. The kids are getting hungry – Horse Whisperer takes them to get something to eat at the snack bar. Heart rate in overdrive. After the mounting bolt debacle I decide it’s not worth the risk to take his left frame off, so net result, his right frame is .75″ longer than the left. He skates the 200m heats this way. He places so things can’t be that bad, right? Well, the mounting bolt holds for the race but it’s loose again by the time it’s over. We can’t get a permanent hold. Now his right leg is a little stiff from the extra weight…    

"Give it to me straight Doc." "Well, we can fix your skate, but you'll never walk again."

Lesson Three: Don’t “F” with set up’s in between events.    

They’re calling kids for the final. At the last possible minute we have him wear Mr. Finn’s skates. No time to change out the wheels from 90 to 100. He’s got to get on the floor, they’re calling his name over the loud-speaker. He skates the 200m final in Finn’s 90mm’s. He’s got a severe handicap with the wheel size. These kids he’s up against are all strong and on either 100 or 110’s. He takes it in stride and skates his heart out. Came back from 2nd to last in the 2nd lap to nearly 3rd at the line on 90 mm wheels! The kid is working hard. A lot of the other kids have been skating this division for at least a year according to The Fast Kid. He’s my hero. I’m suicidal at this point, having slashed my wrists a thousand times in my head.    

Speedy Weezy qualifies for the bonus 400 meter race. By this point he’s visibly tired, he’s been racing since just after 6 am, it’s just after 10:30. We’ve been working on his skate and by this time I try a different mounting screw and it seems to hold so we have him roll on his lop-sided set up. He skates the 400m again fighting back from near last to 4th. Most importantly, he’s getting a feel for the floor, nailing the cone in the second corner. We’re calling it a victory, tomorrow will be a better day.    

He eventually hit this cone tight and consistently.

His starts are strong: he gets the cone position twice, and he’s really good about fighting it out to get out there to the middle to make the first cone. He wins the fight for the first cone nearly every time. But I can’t hold the video camera straight enough without shaking to get any good video. (PRODUCTION NOTE: The video in this post is courtesy of LibertyL!) For us, the racing is over for the day. At this point, I start thinking about how much more “civilized” ice skating must be. I tell the Coach as much when he calls to see how everyone is doing. He laughs and asks to speak to someone else. I’m spent.    

Speedy Weezy, The Fast Kid, Shoulder Roller representing FTC - CO!

The other kids on our team are all in their element – The Fast Kid dominated practically everything she rolled in…for example:     

Katie-Bug finished every race she rolled in and so did Mr. Finn, the kid with the heart of a true champion. B-Man loves this stuff, it’s clear. His form is getting stronger and stronger, and he’ll be faster than The Fast Kid someday if he sticks with this. He truly loves skating. Shoulder Roller is a tough competitor. Everyone has just as hard a time passing her as I do. She’s good at using her space and owning it. If you want to pass her, she’s not going to give it to you. I like skating with her because she’s making me a better skater, helping me face my fear of passing. When you have to think a lot about your move, and then fight like hell for it you overcome fear quickly!    

We like to roll it, roll it. We like to roll it, roll it!

Yes, we drove all this way for this!

After Speedy Weezy finished his races we headed back to the hotel to take a nap. After getting lost yet again. But this time I just bought a map…    

That evening we have dinner and I sit with XBMX, LibertyL & Mr. Finn and proceed to rag on the sport and all I’ve come to hate about it in the last sixteen hours – “the music – the lights – the rink food – the smell – the disco ball – the arcade games – the limited seating – the lack of locker rooms – …” At some point I remember that I’m somewhat of a coach for Mr. Finn and stop whining in front of him. LibertyL and XBMX are still looking at me like I’m deranged, but they’re twisted too so I guess it’s OK…    

Pull the plug when the racing's happening, huh?

But seriously – these kids are world class athletes. Can’t we feed them better at events like this? Can’t we kill the music? Can’t we pull the plug on the video games? Smash the disco ball? These elements do bother me and do detract from the sport a lot in my mind, but that’s a topic for another day.    

Somewhere between the rink, hotel and dinner Horse Whisperer’s dog, Scardy Dog, goes ape-shirt in Freightliner’s Freightliner and literally pulls a window out. The dog has major separation anxiety and he’s strong. Leaving him in the truck maybe wasn’t the best idea according to Freightliner. The way he and Horse Whisperer look at each other through the explanation, I don’t go near it with a ten-foot pole. Okay, so anywho…    

After dinner we buy Loktight Blue at Wal-Mart and back in the safety of the room I go at his skate again. Seems like it’s fixed. Boy, it’s a lot easier to focus when you’re not in a freaking arcade!    

2/28/10: We awake to a good breakfast after a good night’s sleep!     

The next day was exciting. The relays! The guys and girls of FTC – CO – UNITED really did well, cleaning up in the trophy department, being a part of almost every winning relay team in their divisions. The pace for the day was heavier on the racing, lighter on the anxiety.    

The kids are surprisingly good at relays, which is amazing considering we haven’t practiced them much, and when we have they end, um, poorly.    

Speedy Weezy & B-Man would have placed in their relay but they missed a tag (which the ref let go because of interference) but more importantly, someone “who shall remain nameless” directed Speedy Weezy back into the shoot when they were done. Live and learn. The important thing is that the kids skated their hearts out and had a great time doing it!    

So, these next shots, just to be clear, are not the only reason to skate boys and girls…    

Katie-Bug first on left.

 Remember kids, this is NOT what it’s all about…    

The only shot where the trophy or some adult's fat rear end wasn't blocking his face on the podium!

 I cannot stress enough that there’s more to this than winning…    

Way too many shots of these kids on the podium. They spent their afternoon up there!

It’s really not about winning or losing, it’s about being the best you can be, never letting anyone tell you that you can’t achieve something, having the love and support of your family and friends as you do what you’re passionate about – and having fun while you’re doing it!     

Smile now, cause we're about to spent the next 11 hours on the road again kids...

Thanks to the Cotter’s for putting on a great show, and everyone who went with us and suffered through and/or were entertained by my freakshow! At the end of the day the trip was worth every second. I’ve included a lot here, but there was actually more I could have shared. Perhaps those that went along will chime in through comments. The bottom line – we’re all still madly in love with this sport and the people we’ve come to know, and we’re going back for regionals in May, with lessons learned.    

No training updates in this post – it’s long enough already. Suffice to say, if the sun was out over the last two weeks I was skating outside and loving every minute of it!    

Speedy Weezy heading home.

Gr8 job FTC – CO – UNITED! Roll to Live, Live to Roll.