Curse ‘o the Reach

Ever feel cursed? Athletes can be strange sometimes. Some surround their performance in a race with ritual while other look to lady luck for a helping hand. Some like myself simply get wrapped up in history of performance at an event. If I’ve had bad experiences at a particular race, it can really put a wet blanket on that event for me. Case in point, Run For Reach.

Run For Reach is an early season 21K marathon, the skating event is tacked on to a larger running event. Reach has been around forever. Providing a channel for charity fund raising and an opportunity for skaters to race in Ottawa. This year Reach brought a lot of skaters to town, nearly a hundred skaters stepped up to the start line this year. Not bad for half marathon.

I didn’t do this race last year, since I was in Mexico training, but each year I’ve done it, I always seem to be dogged by problems. The year before last, it was cold and wet and I overdressed, and then overheated, and got completely exhausted during the race.

The year before (2006) that I slipped at a turn around and did some home base sliding.


This year I was nervous going into the race, just wanting to not mess it up. At the start line I was about the 3rd row back from the line, after everyone got crammed into the start area. When we took off, I was able to move up the right side by the curve and get in behind what looked like the lead group forming. So far so good! Garmin says the start was fairly fast, around 40kph, and was held around there for a lot of the time up until Pretoria and the Queensway. From the GPS graph you can see things holding around 40kph for the first 5Km, and then they drop down when I was forced into the chase pack. The sprint into the finish line at the end brought things up to 40kph again.

Sergio had taken an early lead and was hammering hard and the others were trying to catch him. I’m not sure who it was, things shifted before I could look around. On the other side of the pack I saw Morgan moving up to close the gap with Sergio, so I stepped out on my side, to the right, and tried to get on the back of Morgan.

So we were now about half way through the first lap and I was cranking as hard as I could to try and close the gap with Morgan and hopefully secure a spot in the lead pack. This would turn out to be over-trying, but I didn’t know this until later. As we came up to the Pretoria crossing and under the Queensway, Benoit passed me (I’m guessing to group up with Morgan and Sergio, since they are all on iL Peloton’s team). We clicked skates, I lost my balance for a moment, but was able to recover.

After the intersection, I could see I wasn’t closing the gap, so decided to seek the shelter of the pack. But as suspected, they had been sitting behind me, and as soon as I pulled off (with heavy legs), they zoomed past and I couldn’t muster the leg speed to get back on the main pack. I got flushed out the back and was able to get into the chase group.

It turned out later that Sergio’s big lead disappeared and the main group consolidated into one big pack. So if I had been conservative and just sat in the group like everyone else, I likely would have stayed with that group through the race. So on one hand I’m really disappointed that I overextended myself, and it cost me, but on the other hand, if you never go to the front, and never take some risks, then you just aren’t challenging yourself.

As they say though, life goes on. Once in the chase pack, I tried to first just recover. We came up on the first turn around really quickly, and while t-stopping hard, I wasn’t slowing enough to make the turn, and had to go outside the cones, slow down and double back, and chase down the group. Fortunately Adrian Lowen was there and took pity on me, and pulled me up to the group. Adrian was just skating for fun, dealing with an ankle injury but still trying to get on his skates.

The Chase Pack (some guy from Ottawa in front)

The Chase Pack (some guy from Ottawa in front)

For the rest of that lap and a lot of the second (final) lap, we settled into a pattern of the first 3 or 4 skaters pulling in rotation. I did a big share, Herb Gayle (team Aloe Up), Erwin, Stephane and Fabio from Montreal, and George Nikodym from Toronto. The girls from Montreal (Morgane and Martine) helped out at the front as well. Our pack had a lot of passengers though, I didn’t even know some of them were there until the finish line.

That’s the way it goes sometimes, sprinters just hide in the pack and wait to take you out at the line. You can either up the pace, and wear them down (and maybe yourself as well), or you can learn to sprint…which isn’t so easy. :(

During the race I felt kind of depressed after getting flushed from the lead pack, but I still wanted to race hard and earn a good placement. Even still though,  I didn’t always feel like I had the gaz. My legs weren’t feeling heavy, I just didn’t really feel zippy.

I think my 33k skate yesterday may have been fun (chasing bikes at top sprint), but not really a good way to save up energy before a race. I don’t think this was a big factor in the race, but it wasn’t helping me either. Still, the Saturday skate was my weekend highlight, I sprinted with cyclists doing 42kph 4 times. Granted not a safe thing to do on the city paths, but it was fun to mix it up with the cyclists.

When they are truly serious, they just step up to 50+ kph and then they’re gone. But some of them will play with you :)

I guess next time I’ll let my pre-race taper be a proper one with some good old fashioned rest the day before the race. :)

So going into the last 5Km I was up front. I looked at my Garmin, 16K already rolled. With sprinters behind me and legs not feeling super zippy, I figured I would slow down and just take an easy pace until people started attacking. No point wearing myself down. I didn’t want to fight for positions in the pack, no point risking further injury to my leg, and no point being at the back when someone attacks. Its a lot easier to respond from the front.

It didn’t take long for theory to turn to praxis. Erwin took an early jump, Morgane went with him, and I jumped in behind her. Herb and the other sprinters were staying back, no doubt saving it for the finish line. This attack was very early and unlikely to be a factor. Morgane and Erwin slowed we rotated, and by the time I was on front again, the pack had regrouped.

Erwin and Morgane are both athletes by the way. Erwin is in his 50′s and each year he just kicks more asses and takes more names :) I’ve skated with Morgan on the track and she is a worker. I’ve seen her push herself to the absolute limit of what her body will give her. If I could wring so much out of what my body has available, I would be insanely happy.

In an athletic event, it not just about how strong you are, or how fast you are, its also about how you perform. How much of your potential you can draw out. If you can’t tap your full potential, you’re already at a disadvantage. For me this is definitely an issue, if I get psyched out for some reason, it becomes very hard to motivate myself. Going into this event feeling like I was cursed from previous installments, really wasn’t helping!

With about 2K left, Stephane and Fabio made a break for it, no doubt hoping to work as a two man team for a breakaway to the finish. Always happy to play spoiler I bridged the gap and got on Stephan’s wheel. The pack came with me, and after about a minute things eased up again. No one was eager to pull, so everyone just stood up and rolled, waiting for someone to go up front. Regrouped again, and I shortly found myself pulling again.

I was glad to have the attacks though, kept things interesting. I’m definitely not a sprinter, so I’ll take all the practice I can get. Knowing that sprinters would now just be saving their juice for the line, I geared down and just skated easy for the next kilometer and a half. Constantly looking over my shoulder left and right, to keep aware of the attack. I was hoping that at least being up front, I would be able to shut down an attack or respond easily to one.

Right away there was a false positive; I looked back, saw Erwin step out and I thought he was going, so I geared up, but it turned out he was just moving up in the pack. I settled back to cruising again.

We came into the final 500m stretch, and I knew the bomb would drop any second; I looked back. left and right, no action. I just finished turning my head back to the front when I heard Stephane yell Up! And the sprinters jumped. I tried to spin up my own speed, but my legs were feeling heavy…hmmm, all that pulling? Before I know it 4 or 5 skaters had edged around me and it was all I could to do to stay tight behind Martine and the others.


Kudos to Erwin, he jumped with the sprinters and manged to finish right behind Fabio and Morgane. The Herbalizer stomped past all of us at the line. Herb is pure sprinter, if you don’t retire someone like that earlier in the race, you better hope you can sprint at the line. Herb is also an Athlete; he skates the Pro Veteran division. Just goes to show, our sport is very un-selective. Male/Female/Young/Old, if you’ve got the will power you can do well.

Erwin & Herb

Erwin & Herb

So when the proverbial cookie had crumbled, I finished 18th overall out of 92 skaters with a time of 39min 58sec (results). In the larger picture, not a terrible result, but I feel disappointed that my eagerness early on cost me on the pack positioning. If I had been a little more conservative, I’m sure I would have skated the race with lead pack. But that’s racing; You can’t control everything, and you can’t see the future. You can train hard though, and you can learn from your races :)

The next race is the Montreal marathon on the F1 track, May 17th. Between now and then, I’m going to try and get some mileage in and  get my weight under control (need to lose about 8lbs), and work the sprints. My peak won’t happen until August/September, but I’m still hopeful that I can play my cards better in Montreal and come home with a better ranking.

Side note: I finally got my Catlike helmet replaced. Cycle Power over on Carling has them. They only one color unfortunately black/white, but still I was able to get a new Sakana. My Gyro helmet is ok, but nothing breaths like Catlike helmets. I finally have a cool head again :) The Sakana’s are super light and have huge airflow, unfortunately they also come with a mega price tag ($250 retail). So bring your visa card. Despite todays race, I’m already very happy with my latest toy :)

If you haven’t seen them yet, some photo sets are up, Cor Beattie and Nathalie Larouche have both posted sets.  The shots above are from Nathalie.  Several other galleries should be up soon.  Greg Brown was snapping off shots like crazy and is apparently trying to trim down a set of over 800 shots.


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2 Responses to Curse ‘o the Reach

  1. Pingback: Report- Minto Run For Reach (Ottawa)- From Mike Garvin (Live Breathe Skate) « Speed Skate World- By Peter Doucet- Online Since 1999

  2. Cor says:

    Anytime you want to switch up your skill with me, let me know. I would love to experience the excitement of the lead pack. Maybe in a few years I will have the same woes. LOL

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