Cloudy With a Chance of Skating

Normally my first race of the season would be in March (Metrodome), and then followed by races like the Texas Road Rash and closer to home the Montreal marathon.  This year though I’m well behind on my training and very much over my race weight.  Its been a huge struggle to get back in the groove, but I’ve been making steady progress.  Every time trial gets faster, and can chase down faster and faster bikes out on the city paths.

I’ve dropped some poundage, but going into the Montreal marathon, I still hadn’t dropped enough, in fact the pudge-o-meter, didn’t even sink below 190lbs (very disheartening).  Still a good 20lbs over race weight, and still far behind in my training, I decided to sign up for Montreal anyways, and use it for training and calibration.  There is no better way to honestly find out where your at then an actual race.  :)

Oh, did I mention the race conditions were 3C, raining, and snowing!  That’s right, snowing in May! Less than ideal conditions, but actually I feel rain races give me an edge, I’ve skated a lot of rain races, including technical ones like Berlin and the rain doesn’t really bother me as much as many skaters.  Unfortunately my perceived advantage wasn’t enough to make up for 20lbs of dead weight and a training debt that had yet to be paid.

Still though, I feel its important to put your best foot (skate) forward, even when you don’t think you have every advantage or when you’ve got a shot at a top ranking.  Finding out where your training really is at is important and its good to just be there with your skating friends, misery loves company!

For most skaters I think the race was pretty normal despite the rain.   As expected Oliver Jean handily whipped everyone.  Something slightly less obvious from the results is that Benoit Letourneau from our club was the only non-Olympian skater to have a sub 7:50 lap.   Having watched Benoit’s progress from scratch 3 years ago at our club, its not surprising, just impressive :)   Skaters have come along that have made great progress really quickly, but never to that level, and never at his age.

My own race was a little less stellar.  At the start line, I didn’t want to take any risks, not having rain wheels (I had Bont Mints), and with a lot of painted areas on the wet pavement, I really wanted to be conservative and not crash just trying to take off.  All that hesitation really cost me though, we started, and before I knew it everyone was flooding past me and I got jammed up in the middle and could not get around other skaters (while trying to avoid the paint).

So even before the first hill, I was already well back and trying to figure out how I could climb up past skaters to get back to the front.  This was an effort with no reward though.  From the first corner I manged to get into a pack, but I could see the gap to the lead pack was already too big and the race was all but concluded, now it was just about churning out the 10 laps.

Fortunately our group had plenty of spirit.  As we turned the first few laps, fighting the cold, rain and snow (yes snow!), we were co-operative, taking turns at the front, but also competitive.  Lots of testing the pace throughout.  I think it was the 4th lap or so, on the hair pin (clockwise), when things started to pickup more.  I was feeling froggy, so slide out a bit and started cross-ing over to build speed past the other skaters coasting the turn.  As I was doing this, 2-3 skaters behind me decided to jump as well, and they popped out, coming out of the turn we all accelerated into the back stretch.

The back stretch along the water was definitely the fastest part of the course, a nice tailwind and a slight downhill.  After this break, every lap saw big accelerations coming out of the hair pin.  I should point out that some of kids from south of the border were pretty awesome.  One of them was in our group and I don’t think he was more than 15, and I watched him go on huge (fast) breakaways on the back stretch, and with great form.   Its great to see the sport still pulling in younger blood that will doing some great racing in the future.

I think this is where our pack started to separate, and within the next two laps we picked up some skaters that had fallen off the lead/chase packs.  With them on board and recovered a bit, we picked up a little more speed :)   I think our race actually got faster as we went, but it wasn’t enough to pull us up to the lead or chase packs.  I think it was about lap 8 just before the hair pin when Oliver Jean went cruising by, all on his and clearly well away  from the lead pack.

For the most part it was a pretty clean race, even with the rain, I didn’t have’ t any traction problems with my Mints and never saw anyone in our group have problems or eat some asphalt or one of those deadly little blue signs in the middle of the track.  After the race I head about a few crashes though.  All in all the rain and snow seems to have just slowed everything down.

The F1 track is always a great venue.  When it rains its better if its been raining for a while though; it washes off the grease/oil from the cars.  If your racing when its just started to rain you get water + grease, which is another level of lethality. :( It has some nice twists and turns but its not a super technical course.  Its a great venue for beginners and advanced skaters alike. Plus there is always lots to see, do and eat in Montreal :) Before bolting for Ottawa, I made sure to pick up some awesome smoked meat.

For me the race was a wash and I took it just as training value.  After my not-so-awesome start, I did skate reasonably well.  I would have liked to have more acceleration for the attacks and stuff, but I’m still catching up on my training.  My aim now is to hopefully be race ready for the Nappa race in early June.  Even for that race though I’m not fully sure I’ll be ready.  I’m sure gonna try though!

I’ve been increasing my training intensity, and now doing morning and evening workouts and adding in different stuff to beef things up, plyos, general conditioning, cross-training, hills, and even watching what I eat.  For the first time ever I’ve given up Coca-Cola.  This is probably the hardest thing for me to do actually.  Somehow grinding out miles on the path and beating my legs to a pulp is easier than not reaching for a bottle of Cola.

Only time will tell but I’m hoping to be race ready in June.  Skates crossed!

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