A2A, 38 mile finish line; 2011

Monday, September 17, 2012

Northshore Inline Marathon 2012 - recap!

View of the finish line from our hotel room!

Wow, what an incredible weekend!! We arrived in Duluth just in time for a team photo and packet pick-up, check into the hotel, then back to the expo to work the Ezeefit booth. I had SUCH a blast working the booth!!! It was so much fun to get a chance to talk to so many other skaters. I was using Ezeefit products long before I started skating for them, so it was really easy for me to sell the products. I could not believe how busy the booth was and before it was time for me to head to dinner we had sold out of many items. (The palm sliders are awesome, so are the shorts - two items that sold out quickly!!) and of course, the signature booties. I love mine, I never skate without them. I sincerely hope that everyone who bought items from us had a great race!

After the booth I met up with a group of my friends for dinner. I still cannot get over how pivotal social networking has been as far as connecting with other skaters! For dinner I got to hang out with several people I met through the Endomondo site (Endomondo is a GPS app you can use on your phone, they also have a website where you upload your workouts and connect with other people - sort of like Facebook.) The neatest thing was getting to meet Ed, who traveled all the way from the Netherlands to skate with us. It's one thing to challenge and support each other virtually, quite another to do it in person! It was so wonderful to see everyone over a nice meal. I think the pre-race dinner is one of my favorite parts of any race weekend!

Clockwise fr/ left: Ed, myself, John, Mike, Chris M, Susan, Carla, Pat, Chris L, Scott and Phil!

Of course, I slept like crap. I was so worried that the alarm wouldn't go off or there would be some other catastrophe that would make me miss the race. I was up hours before I needed to be, but at least that allowed  me to get some cool sunrise photos! The day dawned GORGEOUS. Sunny, mild, with a tailwind. Perfect day for a race!!!

 Sunrise from our hotel window!

This year I had the opportunity to ride up to Two Harbors in the luxury of Roger's RV instead of the buses. (I didn't mind riding the bus last year, but one advantage of the RV was the availability of a bathroom!!) It was a nice ride spent chatting with my Ezeefit teammates. We arrived with plenty of time to relax and get a couple of group photos. 

From L to R: Glenn, Matt, Walter, LR, Mechele, Brian, Myself, Roger, Ami, Luis and Billy.

Got Booties??? :)

Before I knew it, it was time to line up at the starting line. I was in Wave B this year, and my plan was to try to stick with Pat and Mike for as long as possible. The mass start was really scary, especially for someone who is used to skating alone. People were all over the place! I lost Pat and Mike about 2 seconds after the start!! The new pavement at the starting line was BEAUTIFUL. I hit my fastest speeds on that portion: I'm sure everyone else did as well!! (I was averaging 20 mph over that first 5 mile stretch!!!) It was over too soon, though, then on to the cobbled, tar snake-streaked pavement. I tried to find a pace line but no one was going at a consistent pace I felt comfortable with. I am a fairly consistent skater, so when I joined a line that went fast/slow/fast/slow with the skaters spreading apart then bumping back into each other - I was out. I don't feel safe or comfortable skating like that. I took off and decided to do my own thing. If I found another line then great; if not - oh well. Eventually I began to overtake skaters who had blazed past me at the starting line. I found a steady, consistent pace and stuck with it. After about 15 miles I figured I'd be doing this one solo and just tried to maintain my pace. I felt very strong, and I was having a blast; so I didn't mind being alone. 

 I found that the grooved section in the tunnels didn't spook me nearly as much this year, and after an initial slow down, I picked up my pace and flew through that portion with no issues. Some lady tried to strike up a conversation with me when I slowed down, but I really hate that... I'll talk your ear off before and after a race; but during the race I am all business. I cannot focus on what I need to do with someone trying to make small talk. Sorry! I pulled away from her and the other people she was skating with and continued onward. 

Up the hill, around the corner and the finish was just ahead! With a sudden burst of energy I sprinted as hard as I could to the finish!! I wanted to finish strong! 

Just crossed the finish line! My official time was 1:26:48!

Meeting up with some of my friends after the race!

My goal for this race was simply to beat my time from last year. This was a transitional year for me, going from  the K2's to the Bonts and all of the struggles that came along with that. I did not feel that I could gauge my growth from the races I did prior to Northshore, because this one is not like the others. It's faster and the field of competition is much broader. My gauge was to be the differences from last year to this year. This year I felt stronger, faster and more technical. I could feel shifts in my form that required correction so I could maintain my pace. I got one blister (pinky toe) probably due to some toe flicking towards the end of the race as I started to fatigue. Over all though, I felt very strong! I managed to place 5th in my age division again, which was really cool!!! There are some strong skaters in my age group and I feel honored to rank up there with the best of them. 

1st place, (Penny Streicher), 4th place (Jamie Jensen) and 5th place (me!!) 

This was a wonderful way to close out my 2012 skate season! I know what I need to work on next year (I really need to find some people to skate with, I need the experience of pack skating!) I also need to work on sprinting (Currently I take about 5-6 miles to warm up and cannot hit my stride right off the start like a lot of other skaters. Main reason I lost Mike & Pat right at the beginning.) I am not sure if this is a bad thing, but it can be a bit frustrating. Of course, my form is an ongoing work in progress. 

I kind of gave up on collecting miles this year in favor of focusing more on skating comfortably and consistently. The new boots were definitely a challenge to get  used to, and the constant tweaking became a normal part of my routine. I can now skate with socks and I feel that the boots and I are bonded, so I should be able to hit the trail rolling next year without having to do anymore tweaking. I definitely need to log some indoor time this winter though - either on ice or inlines. 

Considering all of my issues though, I still managed to have a really successful season! I placed at all four races I skated, and I managed new personal best half and full marathon times. I also made new friends along the way and for me, becoming a part of this close knit skating community has been one of the most rewarding parts of the entire experience!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

10 More Days Until the Northshore Inline Marathon!

The Bonts w/ the 105 87A Mayhems. My new favorite set up!

Ah, the Northshore inline marathon. The biggie. The race that all of the other races have been leading up to. Northshore also marks the end of my 2012 season - it's my last race of the year. (I was going to try to do Houston, but financially it just isn't going to happen.) I am very excited to skate Northshore again - it will be an excellent cap to my skate season...

And what an interesting season this has been... It started out with me so fired up about my new boots; only to discover that there would be a very brutal period of those boots breaking ME in. (They almost broke me PERIOD!) Blood, sweat, tears; weird bony knobs on my feet where there were none before; scars from the boots wearing through the skin, excruciating foot ball pain so intense it gave me nausea, having to re-train my muscles to skate in a lower crouch; moments of feeling like giving up, chucking my skates into a closet, and switching back to the comfortable, reliable K2's....

But I didn't do that. I kept skating. I did 2 full heat molds. I kept skating. I struggled with some anxiety and confidence issues; things I attributed back to not having a heel brake and the fact that I skate on a highly congested bike trail. I'm finally feeling confident again and not so focused on every single possible 'what if' scenario. I'm learning how to stop even at the higher speeds and that has increased my confidence. I'm feeling more comfortable in the boots and that too, has increased my confidence. I tried 105 wheels again and actually had success with them, so I will be training and racing on 105's next year. (I'm doing Northshore on the 105 Mayhems as well.)

Over the past couple of weeks, skating has become fun again. I am extremely aware of my form and when I get tired and start skating sloppy - things start hurting. I have to be diligent. It's like negative reinforcement designed to keep me in good form! But I have relaxed again. I smile a lot when I'm on the trail. I pass a lot of bikes and I get a huge rush out of that. (I especially love it when I draft a bike and the cyclist keeps looking back in disbelief.) Luckily most of the cyclists I encounter are very cool with that and with me - I've had negative experiences in the past with cyclists who do not like skaters. I guess giving them a run for their money earns me some respect or something. Ha!

I've also finally managed to get socks to work - HALLELUJAH! I will say that I so do not like skating barefoot. I sweat way too much. Even though my feet don't have much room to move around, they still felt like they were sliding around and it was disconcerting. The socks keep my feet more stable and that makes me feel like I can dig in more when I push out. I'm waiting on some new socks to try from the Skate Now shop (I'll blog about those once I try them out, I have high expectations of them!) That was the last piece of the puzzle as far as getting me to a point where I feel comfortable and enjoy skating again. I currently skate w/ the ultra thin Ezeefit booties and the dry max ultra thin running socks. I think I can actually go back to the thicker Ezeefits because there is some sloppiness around my ankles. If that makes sense. That is probably due to the heat mold - I did that with the thicker booties as well as a pair of socks. Either way - almost there...

I'm skating Wave B and I'm feeling pretty confident. I'll probably skate 4-5 more times before leaving for Duluth; one more long one (even though I totally have the distance down) and some short ones with a focus on intervals. I've been managing to average 14 mph on my outings - last year my average was 12. My goal for Northshore is to beat my time from last year (1:34). I'll be happy with anything faster than that....

For my skater friends who are going to Duluth - I will see you all in 10 days! Can't wait!! For everyone else - here's hoping my Northshore follow up is all good!