Tag Archives: Wouter Hebbrecht

I needed that

In the dizzying spiral of days that wrapped up late summer and started the fall indoor inline speed skating training season, life got faster. Not necessarily on the track or trail, but in general. Somewhere along the way, the rules changed too, and the expectations I have of myself got higher. Commitments and responsibility are starting to get in the way of my inline skating. WTF?

11 days off and I'm right back to where I started...

I’m not the same skater I was a year ago, and training took a toll I didn’t expect this year…it led to fatigue and low-grade burnout. Like Pooky in New Jack City, all I want to do is high-step it into the Enterprise room and get beamed up to Scotty. All these years of smoking polyurethane seem to have caught up with me…

I tried to kick... but that s#*t just be callin' me man, it be callin' me, man... I just got to go to it!

It’s been a great year, the best so far that’s for sure. My involvement in the sport has run deeper than I would have volunteered for at any one time, and it’s all good, too. It’s been a gradual progression, albeit quick. One of those things where you just decide you’re going to do something, set about getting it done and sit back and say, “Wow…how did that happen?” Do that over and over and the s#*t starts to pile up. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced anything like that, or if that statement makes a lot of sense, but I don’t have a lot of time to over-analyze my writing or edit myself if I expect this blog post to get done anytime soon…

The burnout symptoms came out of nowhere, but yet in looking back I guess I could have seen the warning signs if I’d been looking for them. I’ve been in that special place reserved for those that over-train before, and I can tell you…this bout of burnout was something different. It grew over a few weeks of Indian Summer, where the world of long distance outdoor inline skating was bumping up against the foundation building of indoor inline speed training. Here’s my takeaway, the two disciplines play really well together when it’s early in the year and you’re working on building up speed indoor, but that relationship goes to shite faster than Lucy finding Ricky in the back bedroom with Ethel and a sixer of Four Loco when you’re still burning up the trail outdoor, and you’ve torn it all down to rebuild your foundation on the indoor oval…it can snap your will to skate.

Before this, I thought I’d done a stellar job of creating a better skate / life balance this year. I’d put my house in order, allowing the changing needs of my growing little family to take priority. I’d changed my training routine in so many ways this year that at a certain point, although I’d been skating harder than ever, with more purpose and intensity, I felt like I was cutting myself short and not training frequently enough. Of course that was all in my head, but in years past that feeling and thoughts like it had always been motivators to make the time I needed to skate and just get out there and put in the miles. Not this year. Those thoughts and feelings of not doing enough started to weigh more and became de-motivators…

Your passion is...illogical.

The burnout warning signs glow like neon in the cold, dark night now, but I couldn’t see it when it was happening…started taking more days off for “healing” than I used to…was satisfied with shorter distance skates at lunchtime…stopped skating in the morning all together…let a little wind stop me from gearing up…put off updating this blog…stayed away from the chat forums…started to think all of the pros ARE doping and didn’t give a s#*t…was actually happy to tell Horseypants that I wouldn’t bring my skates for 11 sun filled days in Naples, Florida…really didn’t care that we wouldn’t have an internet connection to watch the Inline Speed Skating World Championships when we were on vacation…didn’t miss my skates at all while we were in Florida…found it very hard to get back into the swing of things when we got back to Colorado…for the first time found myself thinking about the logistics of canceling a Rink Rabbits practice the day of practice…gave up the idea of chartering a team…there was actually more.

In all of this, except for our trip to Florida, I’ve been skating. But my heart was a half-beat behind. I just didn’t feel like I was sitting comfortably in the pocket. And it dawned on me that it was fear that was driving me when I was actually skating…fear of losing my legs, destroying my base, that fear drove me to keep skating and doing dry-land exercises. It wasn’t that I really wanted to be doing any of it. And that, for me, is the key. The desire and passion to be on my skates was really just not there like it has been for the last six years. For me, that’s just not right…

My passion for inline was in perfect hibernation.

When I started to realize that it wasn’t so much fun anymore, or at least as fun as it used to be, I started thinking about other sports…and concluded that I’m not a jock and really don’t care to participate in any competitive sports at all. All or nothing thinking crept back in. I’m either in this or I’m just not. Well, at least that was a comfortable emotional place to be for me. And I think it was from there that I started feeling a little bit better. I know I’m in it, it’s to what level, that’s the question.

I don’t know how long the gray skies would have lingered, but I do know what snapped me out of it…

¿Dónde está el baño?

It was a blog post by a writer named Matthew DeGeorge about Alex Cujavante’s, ah, mistake, at the 2010 Inline Speed Skating World Championships in Guarne, Colombia this year. If you haven’t seen this video, it’s really horrendous. Alex is rounding the last corner of a 20,000 meter race and he thinks he’s far enough ahead of the pack that he can stand up and showboat across the finish line in front of a hometown crowd. Sang Cheol Lee of South Korea didn’t stop skating and came right up his rear…taking the gold from Alex and making him a viral internet superstar. Watch the video. I’d love to know what the Colombian commentators are saying.

Anyway…this blog post. Mr. DeGeorge has a way with words. He essentially tears our sport to shreds, writing things like, “…Cujavante was competing in the 20,000 meter race, which, if it seems like a ludicrous distance to cover wearing a child’s toy on your feet…is. (I can only imagine a mile long pogo race as its equivalent.)” And, “…Colombian speed roller skater (seriously!)” Topped off with a third snark, “…Lee’s winning time in the marathon (actually, they have one of those, too!)”

Reading all that I was like, “Dammmmnnnnn. A child’s toy on his feet.” Now I’m not generally known to have a thin skin, and I thought the “pogo race” comment was pretty snappy, but I was ready to call it quits. What a joke. Here in the US, the sport will never be taken seriously. World Champ Wouter Hebbrecht thought it might be a good idea to track Mr. DeGeorge down and bring him to an inline event. Would it help the perception of our sport out there on the internet and in the world? I don’t know, but I bet Mr. DeGeorge would walk away with a new appreciation for our sport after having seen, met and watched some of our best athletes in action.

That aside…At some point it occurred to me…I remembered…one of my problems is that I end up taking things too seriously and THAT’S what feeds the burnout. THAT’S what saps the joy and fun out of skating for me.

DON’T TAKE THIS S#*T SO SERIOUSLY…As it turns out, DeGeorge’s blog post was just what the doctor ordered. The video IS funny. It’s a damn shame that Mr. Cujavante had to learn that lesson in front of the world, but seriously…looks like he needed the lesson. And c’mon…after re-reading DeGeorge’s comments, what he wrote was funny. A child’s toy indeed! This sport does keep you young. Young in fitness and young at heart. And if you’ve lost the ability to laugh at yourself, all is lost. At least in my mind. Hell, I remember when I first heard about the “serious” side of this sport – I was incredulous to the point of ridicule too. Even when I started skating outdoors, I swore I’d never be a skin-suit weenie like you. But hey…look how far I’ve come, despite all of that and crap like it.

Here’s our reality…and sorry if it’s hard to read but it’s the truth. If DeGeorge’s comments are hard for you to swallow, just realize that there are just too many people here in the US who have no clue that our inline world exists. So even coverage like this is good, because it builds awareness. Ain’t that some s#*t?!

It was only after I was able to think all that through that I was able to laugh it all off. All of the months of ambivalence and doubt. The time off was good for me. It’s time to get “serious.” Time to get back to what I love doing, for the reasons I love doing it…I love to eat pizza – like 5 slices on a Friday night – and skating allows me to eat whatever the hell I want with impunity, despite my slowing metabolism. THAT’S why I do this…cause I love to eat and I like being thin. Simple. Oh, yeah, and skating IS actually fun. Almost forgot…

So with that, I went downstairs, got my skates out of the trunk and skated with a renewed passion and interest. The next day it snowed. So it goes…

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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…

Joey Mantia Technical Camp: Rollerland 8/22/10

In a major coup for FirstLoser, we’ve secured the web-exclusive first-look inside the Joey Mantia Technical Camp that was secretly held this past weekend at Rollerland in Fort Collins, CO. We know it’s just luck…the guys at WikiLeaks are busy with more personal, pressing matters.

This first-hand account was written by Horseypants, and is presented to you in its unadulterated format. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know that this story would have made it out this week…although I’m working on my post as fast as I can.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m outwardly hoping there are some typos (in her section, pay no attention to mine here,) so I can promptly use them against her…

JOEY MANTIA CLINIC REVIEW – by Horseypants

I had zero expectations of Joey Mantia. I really had no idea what he does. Ok, well, it had come to my attention that he goes really fast. Some nights between making dinner and putting the kids to bed I also heard talk about how he has won lots of races.

What I did know before this clinic: my family was really excited that “Joey!” was coming to our rink. And I knew to charge all my camera batteries because I volunteered to take photos/video. But I think this makes me the perfect person to do this review.

There will be no confectionery glaze that First Loser would have drizzled excessively over his writing, turning it into an overly-sweetened bundt cake of a post that nobody could stand to read. This is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. From “Mom,” who you know does not stand for any crap.

The Good

They took to the floor like they were showing up for regular practice.

1. He arrives on time. This was my first indication that we are dealing with a professional, something that really warms the hearts of parents everywhere who have shelled out cash for kids’ activities only to find that a great “class” turns out to be led by a glorified babysitter. I admit my radar for this kind of thing was on high. As it turns out, totally NOT the case here…

LionHeart with Cheex

2. There were other world-class skaters with him–a definite bonus. Everyone else knew them. I was clueless. But they were really nice and also good teachers. Everyone got personal attention from Joey, but when the class split into groups, someone was there to help with each one. When a kid was a little slow on the uptake, someone was there to reel ’em in. Plus it was nice that one skater was a woman, so my daughter could see this as a sport for girls too.

FirstLoser with Sara Sayasane & Wouter Hebbrecht

3. It was an organized, logical and candid presentation. It made sense from beginning to end. I would say that Joey simply came prepared. He did all kinds of proper form stuff, and then got into starts and turns and “dry land” things that I am sure First Loser will be able to explain in another post. Most amazingly he got a bunch of kids who have been complaining all year about painful skate drills to do them with a smile upon hearing, “this is what I do.”

Joey Mantia gives SpeedDemon some pointers on her starts

4. Joey Mantia definitely has a charismatic knack for this clinic gig that goes beyond just being a famous skater. There was an element of “star power” at work, but that was only part of his appeal. I mean, he held the attention of 40 people, most of them youth skaters, for six hours! It was hard work but it looked like alot of fun too.

SpeedLord, Bont Bunny and SpeedDemon revisit nose, knees, toes Mantia style.

5. This was a magic moment for me: At the end, during a “Q & A” to wrap up, a seven-year-old boy (SpeedLord) asked kind of a funny question (though he was perfectly serious) about what to do when you are going into a turn and you can’t cross over your skates because you’re going too fast and it’s scary.

It was the kind of question I thought he was going to blow off, because it was so obvious that the kid just needed to practice his crossovers. But Joey thought a moment, barely smiled, and then I think surprised everyone there when he gave an honest and workable answer.

It was a very kind, respectful and classy move. Also it made me want to cry, it was just so sweet.

The 2010 Rink Rabbits World Team!

The Bad

My husband has finally met his match in terms of a workout. He is so sore. He can barely walk today. HEE HEE! Maybe this is not such a bad thing for me. I’m sorry but, it’s just disgusting how he never gets tired. And he’s always gloating about how many miles he’s skated and how fast, when my big accomplishment of the day is folding a Mount Everest-sized pile of laundry.

The kids, on the other hand, are totally fine. Bah-HA!

The Ugly

So, lunch…the guys at the rink did a great job shopping and cooking barbecue, but this late in the summer, burgers and dogs are just played out. Of course everyone ate and looked happy. Maybe it’s just the Martha in me, looking for a nutritious gourmet meal…at Rollerland. Probably a good thing for us all that I was put in charge of photo/video.

The Extra Special Thing

I tried to find another video to show you The Extra Special Thing. But I can’t…you had to be there. What I wanted to show you was how Joey Mantia makes skating look like ballet. Power and grace combined. It was really cool to watch. Even someone like me who knows nothing about skating could appreciate it. I’m really glad I was there.

I could have sworn his eyes were closed in this shot...

In terms of the clinic, for everyone to see Joey skate up close, and then have him break it down into totally do-able chunks, was awesome. It allowed the value of all the drills that the kids hate to become obvious. Now they know WHY it’s hard. Form does equal function. And the “Joey!” clinic equals a special day my family will remember.

FirstLoser post coming soon…