Inline Skating, SketeGrrl

Florida March 30th 2003, Disney Marathon

The course was 13 miles of a perfect mix of straight-aways on roads and twist and turns through Epcot and MGM theme parks. The registration for the event was filled in the first week of March.  The original believed cut off was set at 1500 but rumors were that it went up to 1600 skaters which would make it the second largest race in the country.  Many more would have liked to attend but you gotta sign-up early and numbers were held at this amount for safety reasons.  Safety was made a very high priority both for skaters and for the parks. 

We were very limited to what we could wear during the race for water/sport drinks.  Even hydration packs were not allowed.  This was my first race that I ever actually utilized a single water stop.  And with cups being used I did manage to soak my legs once really well.  Also there were timing mats along the route to keep racers progress current.  For those of you that don’t skate, I am referring to rubber mats that cover wires that run across a track underneath them that are activated by the mobile timing chips skaters wear on their boots or ankles.

 Two nights before the race a Friday night skate was held in the Celebration neighborhood.  The roads were nice for the most part but we ran into some wet roads and drizzle.  My only good clean pair of bearings (mini's at that) got ruined.  Cleaning them right afterwards was not good enough.  I was ruined for the race but wait, much to my fortune a Chicago friend had a spare set of Swiss that had only been used indoors so I was saved!! 

Race day, we were warned to be at the start by 5 AM!!! even though the race was not due to start till 6:30 AM.  Roads were being closed off for the race by 5:30.  Traffic was backed up for a few miles and very slow.  Disney did not offer and kind of shuttle service for skaters, even ones staying at resort hotels so it was a madhouse.  Next year instead of getting up at 3:45 I am aiming for 3:15... if I go to sleep at all.  To some of you this may sound just terrible but there is an upside to this.  The less time your body is laying down the less time your muscles have to tighten up.   I stretched as much as I could prior focusing on my lower back because I, like many skaters, know what it is like to race in such pain and 20 more miles to go so I have made sure to all but cure that problem.  Daylight hits and we head over to the staging area. I see a few people I know but my teammates Deb and Jodi are not yet in sight.  A few minutes later we are free to skate over to the start area and I move up as far forward as I can.  I don't like starting in the back of the pack and it is not a helpful place to be unless you are worlds greatest sprinter and feel up to spending the first 3 miles chasing down the lead pack.  By this time I have spotted my teammates, old friends from MN, friends from TX and best of all we are all packed together.  Cool.  I am surrounded by people who know how to skate and best of all we know how to start. 

Relax, chat a bit, then the gun goes off and away goes the advance pack.  I took off looking for stable skaters and lines to hop into.  None exist yet.  It is still a melée of hyped up and over reckless skaters.  One guy in a Hawaiian shirt way ahead of his league (not good) is down less that 100 yards into the race.  We come up to a few WIDE and large spaced turns and people in front of me are dragging their wheels to slow down.  All I can think is you have got to be kidding me, and I don't want to skate with this group of people.  I drop off the girls that I was trying to form a line with and start looking for smarter skaters.  Yep they are way up ahead flying along.  To my left I see Deb and Jodi in the starts of a small line and that's my cue.  I drop in and away we skate.  Anther turn to the right and all of a sudden my skates are slipping like they are on water even though there is none to be seen.  I thank the yoga for the balance that kept me up.  Skaters are going down all over.  I counted at least 4 that included a girl in the middle of the road holding her leg that is showing through her shredded speed suit and screaming her head off.  I am sure she is in pain but again the first thing to enter my mind is get up and get going... at least get out of the way, there is time to hurt later.  Any fallen skater will tell you usually the adrenalin keeps the pain away till later.  Looking back I hope she is ok but during a race unless something is broke you get up and move your butt.  A few seconds later Paul of team Bodyglide out of MN skates past me.  I remember seeing him on the ground.  Turns out after avoiding screaming girl he stepped on a water bottle and went down.  Ouch!  But like a great skater he got right up and took off after the lead Advance pack.  Go Paul!  Go!

The miles quickly pass and we hit the MGM park, here is where the fun twist and turns start.  I try to keep us in a line and everyone calm and stable.  Better to stay relaxed and on your feet that panic and wind up on your tushie.  Somewhere up ahead a wooden boardwalk is waiting for us.  Along with potholes, surface changes and all kinds of directional changes.  Cool!  Deb is leading and we see Paul up ahead.  He 'blew a lung' chasing the lead pack and is pooped.  Deb calls to him to tell him we are coming to get him.  We pull alongside and I yell at him to get in the back and get a rest in the draft.  Take his time.  Lots of racing left to go.  I was proud he tried to catch the pack that is not too far in front of us but at race speeds at little distance is a long way.   He hopped in and so now we have together a strong pack of Deb, Jodi, Paul, and myself.  A few skaters dropped off a while back and as we head in to Epcot (I think.  It was all a blur.) we see the pro men taking a HARD right turn and heading up a hill right at us.  We are separated by cones.  Is always a awesome sight to see them.  For those of you who don't know, these guys can hit 30+ MPH speeds under their own power and do it in perfect harmony/synch one right behind the other in lines 20-30 skaters long. 

We free ourselves from the parks and are back on main roads heading for the start line 13 miles later.  In my head I remember being told “go to the right if you are a half marathoner, stay to the left if you are doing the full”.  There is a guy ahead of us that earlier I overhead say he is doing the half.  He knows these girls now in with us that have been helped by 2 older men.  We have been pushing ourselves and like heck I am going to let babied skaters beat us.  So I tell Jodi who is now ahead of me that the guy who is up ahead of us is only doing the half and if he sprints for it not to chase him.  We still have over 13 more miles to go and now is not the time to be played.  We come to the right-left intersection which is much different than I pictured and there is no sign of indication if this is the spilt point.  Only people yelling out directions.  Well when you are cruising at about 18 MPH and tired and trying to stay focused they can yell all they want but it is worthless.  We all turn wrong.  In fact poor Deb and Jodi are so confused they start to turn around.  Since I was at this point farther ahead I can't because there is a huge median with flowers and trees in my way.  I wait for the next opening thinking I need to turn around and I will never catch up, then learning I am still going the right way, sort of.  I just need to be on the other side.  So I swerve left and hop a line of cones.  I keep going at a steady pace and the path makes sense once again.   Back over the starting line/mats and away I go.

Round 2 starts and I am all alone.  I have no doubt Deb and Jodi and everyone else will catch back up so I keep going at a reasonable pace.  Ah here comes Deb.  Time to start racing again.  Back down the long straight roads, up a ramp and heading over to the parks.  We acquire a whole new set of skaters in our pack and then all of a sudden when I am leading I hear a voice  behind me say “Hey.  Need some water?”  It is Rainbo skater Rob.  He had been in a pack that caught up with us and the water offer was music to my ears since I had none on me and was at the mercy of the water stations.  Leads rotate around on and off but I try to stay as close to the front as possible.  Not always easy but it is safest and the farther up the more control you have.  I often rarely know who is behind me and how many because of this.  I stay focused on the front which *knock on wood* keeps me upright in a race.

We are getting closer and closer to the finish.  Once again on the rough back service road of Epcot and our pace slows as I drop us in line behind a lone skater up ahead.  He is pretty strong but has a terrible habit of kicking back with his feet instead of pushing out.  I get nailed in the shins several times but it does not brake either of our strides.  Leaving the park you can tell people are getting antsy.  Those with energy left or from resting in the now huge draft are too hyper.  Our once small pack of 10 miles ago is now huge with skaters I have not seen before.  Our road width becomes tighter and tighter and there are now many slower skaters either doing the half marathon or still on their first lap for us to pass.  With about a mile to go we have one road lane of space, way too many skaters packed together, and the rec skaters still on our right.  I try to stay far to the left for room, to pass, and to be ready for that final sprint.  In the process I kick 3 large orange cones in a row.  They are keeping us from using the middle of 3 lanes.  WHY???  I am sure the skater behind me is nearly wetting himself in fear we are going down.  Lets just say this is something I have practiced many times over and the key is to just let the leg whip back and absorb the hit.  Relax and your leg will come back to you.

We turn right and finally there are 2 lanes for the last sprint.  We have such a short distance to go.  Maybe a 1/4 mile and people start to take off.  So many skaters.  I stay to the left which in the end is my undoing.  Rob takes off just ahead of me and I think there is my opening.  I can't follow him (he is the fastest sprinter I have ever seen) so I hang back in his wake.  Bad idea.  Out of the woodwork I am surrounded by big guys trying to take off after him.  I am trapped.  I want to go.  I have the energy!  I see the girl who I worked with and talked to later on to keep her up in with me, she has a clear path to my right.  Arrrghhh!  There goes Deb right behind her.  I can't get over!  Move you big ape!  And the final heartbreak was some girl I had never seen in the race take the same clear path.  BUT much to my luck not a one of them was in my age group so I go on to cross the finish line first in my age 30-34 and my second best marathon time ever 1:28:24  8th overall for women in Advanced.  There had been 3 females that survived farther ahead in the pack of Advanced skaters.  Talking with JD who was ahead commented on how one of the girls was very strong, even leading at points.  And by her time it is obvious.  At least 5 minutes faster than our group.  Wow!  I must keep training!   Our finishing pack was so sizable that over 20 skaters crossed the line in under 4 seconds.  With only 2 lanes of road space that is very considerable.

The awards ceremony came and the rain held out just long enough for the Pro and Advanced skaters to receive their awards.  I was fortunate enough to visit with many wonderful fellow skaters that I see on rare occasions, like only at races.  Lots of skaters made it down from MN and even some from WI as well.  Over all Disney did a great job with their first ever marathon race and with some tweaking and a longer route you bet they will fill their registration for next year as well.


Big Granite

I drove to Ashland last Friday and made it in time for the packet pickup and to eat the pasta feed.  I really had no desire for it.  Later on my car mate and I headed over to a place down town and I ate my pre race meal of salmon and rice.  Much better.

I woke Saturday morning for the race feeling ill.  I had been taking so many different drugs (up to 5 different prescriptions a day) that my stomach and over all systems were just whacked out.  I wanted to toss it all in the grass before the race so my system was clean but it never happened.

I skated to the start line ready to go and get it over with.  Totally curious as to what my body would offer.  I had not put on skates since Plano which was 2 weeks prior.  I had biked once for a 26 miles on Thursday and felt only so-so.  Gun went off and so did we.  All the fitness and rec skaters started together no matter if you were skating the full or half.  I was feeling just fine doing the first round of hills.  My legs and back were ok.  My 2 former teammates and I headed the pack with a lone male skater fighting the winds all alone up ahead.  He was one strong skater for sure.  After a couple of miles we turned to the left and continued our climb.  This was the spot where I start to hurt each year.  Where most skaters start to hurt.  Unlike the steep hills that you just got doing this was a long slow climb.  Also unlike the others there is no down hill break (not 'rollers') and so for a girl with no hill training and not on skates for 2 weeks my body yelled uncle and shut down.  My hip flexors cramped up and my wonderful heart was being told to shut down.  Damn near did.  I had hit my max, past it, and then held it for over a minute but my lack of high quality training spanked me and I went from holding near the front of the pack to practically a walk.  The line started to pass.  I looked for a spot to jump back in.  I found one but could not hold if for more than 30 yards or so.  I fell out again with a few more people passing me.  Two guys told me to hold on but they just drifted away.  Jim, knowing my conditions told me to just do what I can.  Good thing to say actually.  It helped.  After about 20 seconds of giving my body a recovery (still climbing though) two more men passed me and the last told me to hop a wheel.  So I did.  I whipped myself up to their line and held on for all I could.  Finally we hit the gentle downhill and my heart rate was able to lower to the point I no longer feared my head exploding. 

I felt a thousand times better and we took off.  Another left hand turn a flat straight away to start cursing on.  The guys and I rotated and when I was ready I took off.  Pulling to the best I could, we could still see the main pack about 100 yards ahead of us but ask any skater and they will tell you a 100 yards in a race sometimes mind as well be a light year.  Keeping our rotations going we chatted a bit and talked about the upcoming hill.  THE HILL.  With about 8.5-9 miles now behind us we were stuck out in the middle with us passing only a few stragglers here and there.  Just before the hill the guys behind me told me they were going to hang back.  I was ready for the hill but a tad nervous wondering if my equilibrium was messed up at all due to my 2 week hibernation and drug fest.  I went down ok with the exception of a few speed wobbles.  Not cool.  I had stayed standing for a while to keep my speed lower and even stood up near the bottom of the hill.  I just would rather stay rolling than body surfing down the hill and was in no jeopardy of being caught by anyone.  I felt my position and weight was correct on my skates so I attribute the wobbles to frame position and being on 84's for the first time in such speeds.

I made it down the hill in one piece and white cursing down A third guy who had caught up with me down the hill later told me his GPS clocked us doing 37.5 down the hill.  So my claims in the past years to say we would hit 40-45 down that hill were correct.  (remember this time I slowed myself down)  I took off after the hard right hand turn at the bottom of the hill and was all alone for about 3/4th a mile.  "My men" were working to catch back up.  When they caught me I was pooped from fighting the crosswind and let them do some of the work for me.  Another left hand turn and we now had a long straight stretch of tailwind.  The speed picked up but I wanted more.  I passed the line and took the lead going 90%.  We were hauling.  The guy behind me never really got in my draft.  Always about a yard or 2 off.  No more speed was needed since anymore of it and I would not promise to stay stable.  Wheels were barely holding on.  Road was so smooth... it was perfect skating.

We hit the cone for a 180 turn around and I let the guys take over into the headwind.  Here a quick pace and high turn over would have been ideal but everyone slowed down and tried to lead for too long.  Any chance of catching the lead fit/rec pack was now gone.  Retracing our path we made a right hand turn into a heavy crosswind and I was constantly leading.  From first to second I would rotate over and over trying to keep us moving.  A TALL guy who had tried to verbally get the group to keep up the pace and rotate quickly pulled up behind me and then lead when I rotated back.  He told me when it was time he would take off and I should follow.  I had lead my share and deserved a pull to the finish.  I was spoiled.  No way something like that would happen in the Pro cat.  So I decided to take the gift given to me.  With about 3/4 of a mile to go I told him I was ready and we took off loosing the rest of the pack.  About 150 yards before the finish I had plenty reserves and debated sprinting around the truck that gave me such a recovery.  "We aren't the same age.  We aren't even same sex."  I cut to the right passed him with about 50 yards to go.  He didn't seem to mind.  :-)

In the end my time was 45:35 and some seconds to add.  Not great but far from the super *&%$ job I was expecting.  I won my age group but did not make the top 3 which was my end goal.  Deb and Jodi and a lady named Lori who I remember from Eau Clarie last year just were able to deal with those hills better than I could.  They skated a strong race.  

This upcoming Saturday is a 10k in the twin cities of Minnesota and then a bike/skate criterion in Eau Claire July 6th.  It will be my first bike race of the year.  Oh please no bike road rash!!!



Wish I was skating

Texas Road Rash

Well some of you know part of these stories, some none but this is my first installment of my spring/summer "race" season so everyone can cringe and poke fun all together.  Those of you I have seen recently know why race is in quotations, others will soon find out.  I know you are just dancing with excitement.

Things started out pretty well.  It rained in Houston a couple of days before I left June 7th for Dallas and the first of many in-line and bike races.  I took it as a sign to let my body rest.  It worked just fine for when I was at the start line at were gone.  It had rained the night before and that morning in Plano.  The roads were super slick... did I say super slick?  I meant super duper ultra slick... slipping every stride.  Slip sliding away...  Post time came and skaters lined up.  Pros out in front followed by the advance and then fit/rec behind them.  The gun went off and all skaters started together.  This year included a timing system like CHIP but with a few added bonuses.  Of the minor was the fact the chip was built into a neoprene band that quickly and easily went around your ankle.  The best part was no mats.  I repeat NO MATS! Woohoo!

 The course was just over 3 miles long and was skated 5 times to equal a 25k.  Not to harsh to kick off the season.  I took off but the sliding around kept me in my place.  It was not till the second lap that I learned the far left lane (we had 3 on this section of the course) offered grip.  A very encouraging thing to learn.  

In the first lap I caught up to a forming pack of what I believe was Advance men.  Perhaps there were some Pro vets and masters in there as well.  I didn't ask.  I pulled up on their right side (they were discovering the joys of the left lane).  With cross drafting ok they told me to hop in but instead I continued on.  They pursued behind me and I was now leading a pack of intelligent skaters.  My favorite kind.  In the first lap we all decided it was going to be a fielding out the course lap rather than risk serious injury on a wet course.  There were 4 right hand turns in the course and one was at the bottom of a hill.  Later on in the race by my understanding there was an incident with rec skaters and the pro men lapping them and then a big nasty pile up at the bottom of that hill/turn.  By the time that I got there on lap #4 (I think) there were emergency vehicles at the site.  Glad I missed it.  I also later saw a skating acquaintance Lloyd, who is a super nice guy and I greatly admire, holding a pack to his face.  It was not pretty.  He had been ahead of me the entire race and turns out he had a dealing with that hill as well.  I don't know the details but I know my heart screamed out in sorrow for him when I saw his injuries.  Summed up it looks like he was beaten with a baseball bat.  I sure hope he is much better now.

Anyway back to my fun... starting the second lap I was leading with Johnny Chen and a few other men pacing behind me.  We were in the left lane and I was starting to feel real good and ready to start digging in.  All of a sudden my right foot stuttered as my left was coming in for a recovery.  I had hit a perpendicular spacing in the road and it was just enough to cause my foot to delay for the other to click it.  Front wheel hit rear wheel.  Must have had too much weight on the front wheels.  *sigh*  So with no traction to recover I went straight down on my left leg and cheek.  Johnny tucked and rolled over me.  He went down but from the glance I took of him he looked clean.  All the other skaters managed to swerve right and left to avoid us.  Instantly I got up and took off after the unscathed skaters.  With a quick breather behind Johnny I took the lead and pulled us to the pack that kept a decent pace.  

Ok so now I needed a rest.  After that we caught up to the pro women who were each skating solo.  I am sure they were tired a bit.  I rotated up and over the course of the second lap we pick up a few more strong men and lost a few others.  I was doing ok till I spent a stretch trying to pull us back up to Stacy Eldridge who had turned up the juice and created a little gap.  I was feeling ok at the point but decided to rotate back before I was drained.  Makes sense right?  Well it was bad timing on my part.  The lane was too narrow for the line and myself to get a full stride.  So as I tired to keep some momentum the line flew past me too fast and without the traction I needed I could not chase after them.  (Lesson learned!) 

I was now alone for about a mile looking back for the pack of men I had skated with earlier.  I could see them but it was going to be several minutes before they reached me.  This section of the course offered a headwind and my lower back was reminding me of such.  All of a sudden it just cramped up.  Oh joy.

The men caught back up and I decided this was a good place for me to stay.  I was sore in leg and back and knew there was no way I was going to be able to chase down the stream train that I had lost.

In the end I finished trying to sprint around a fellow skater who was in that left lane.  I knew the middle would offer me no traction but I still wanted to try.  I didn't want to reserve myself to just settling for behind him.  We crossed at the same time.  He did a great job and again my favorite... a smart skater.

In the end I managed 3rd woman overall in the race and first in Advance and age group.  Yeehaw.  However I should say that I do not think there were as many women racing this year.  I would not doubt it due to the weather and surface conditions.  IN the aftermath I got to speak briefly with Stacy and John.  Both offered good jobs and John said "proud of you girl".  That really made my day.

Ok so if you were paying attention you remember I said I fell.  It was far from the worst road rash I had endured and was not bleeding so I didn't think too much of it.  Strolled over to the car and emptied it in order to reach the well packed first aid kit.  

SIDE NOTE - now the first aid kit stays on top.

I washed out the leg with antiseptic foam.  My first clue that it was not strong enough should have been  that I didn't scream when it soaked the wound.  We went out to a late lunch with some local Dallas friends followed by a trip to Walgreen's for Tegaderm and gauze.  The application of the Tegaderm was fun loving stroll through a lush garden of happy birds and pretty flowers.  Not.

That night I started my road trip north to Milwaukee.  I didn't think much of my owies other than they hurt but big whoop.  Been there done that.  Then as time passed the swelling went from near non existent to eventually my left leg being twice as large as my right.  I will leave out the yucky stuff but lets just say there was oozing and draining from under the leg wound covered in Tegaderm.  I kept thinking the swelling (before the 100% growth in size) was due to muscle bruising and would go away any day soon.  It didn't.  I was starting to fear my Brainerd race.  I was not getting any training, or even slight amount of exercise in.  Day before Brainerd 3 of use carpooled up.  One sick, one on new skates, and me Limping Lena.  We got in town just in time for the 10PM packet pick-up deadline.

I went to sleep with an ice pack on and pumped full of Ibuprofen.  I woke around 4 AM and the tears started to set in.  I knew I was not going to get to race.  The flat easy perfect for me course was not going to pass beneath my skates this year.  Went to the race and I was not strong enough to fight back the tears that started to stream down my face as for the first time ever I had to return my timing chip. Instead I got to cheer my friends on.  While it was cool to see the start of a race from "outside the box" and it was solo amazing to watch to pro men come down the homestretch fighting their fatigue and each other for placement. I hope I never have to see it again.  

But alas in the past 12 days the most I have done is unload and load up my car.  Unpack and repack.  I called Russ of Big Granite this week to move from Pro full marathon to fit/rec of the half.  Race is this Saturday.  (no pro for the half)  I don't know if I am even going to get to skate it.  (Racing it is out of question)

Saturday night upon returning from Brainerd my car mates took me to local hospital ER where I had the IV from hell.  First try was in my wrist.  Bone was hit... I am pretty sure I cursed.  Not at the nurse of course.  The vein blew and we had to try again all over elsewhere.  Lots more tears.  The whole time I thought about how I would rather be out skating A2A on 3 wheels rec skates in the middle of winter.  Anything but the elephant needle again.  My leg was scrubbed clean and after of week of swelling and infection it was raw and more tender than new mother taking a spin on a my bike with no suspension.  I wanted drugs.  I wanted booze.  More tears.  

Since Sat. I still have been limping but it is less.  The swelling has gone down considerably but the wound itself still leaves me in throbbing pain every time I stand up.  Oh well.  Live and learn.  Always carry hydrogen peroxide around.  If it didn't hurt the wound then it isn't clean yet.  

I am in bike short and have the Klein on top.  Today will be my first attempt at any form of athletics.  I hope the leg holds out.  I have a long way to go to get back to where I was but I have found that I really should not think about it.  Just as depressing as sitting on the couch with leg elevated and icing while you stare out the window at the most perfect weather and roads to skate/bike on stares right back at you.

Someday soon I won't be staring out the window anymore.


Wish I was skating

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