This weekend I raced the Texas Road Rash event in Round Rock, outside of Austin Texas. All in all a great weekend, I came home with the wrong kind of trophy, but more on that later When the dust had settled, I finished 19th overall out of 111 skaters, and within Pro Masters, I finished 8th of the 22 Pro Masters skaters. My finish time was 1:28:11, it may seem slow but this is a hilly 45Km course. Even Botero finished with a 1:18 a good 10min over marathon times he is capable of. You can see full results by division and age. There is also a play by play on inlineplanet.com
The TxRR is a whole weekend deal, there are elimination races on Saturday in a stadium parking lot, then on Sunday in the same area, there is a road course for a half and full marathon. Its actually a little longer than 42K, and with the hills and wind the finish times are typically slower by at least 10min than most marathons. The course itself is a great course, mostly smooth pavement that doesn’t seem to be more than a few years old. There is a long gentle downhill on one side of the course (Red Bud Ln.) that is completely new pavement, its a sweet ride, at one point our group was tucked in a train and doing 40kph just coasting as a train.
My only complaint was that one of bridges along Palm Valley Blvd. has globs of hardened pavement tar that apparently fell off a paving truck at some point. If you don’t notice these they can throw you off balance. I don’t think any one actually fell because of them though. The road course is all clock-wise turns, not an issue for me but maybe some people don’t like turning the other way
On to the action…
Saturday we did the elimination races, very short races since it was just “last man standing”. Each lap the last skater across the line is eliminated. Usually down to the last three skaters. Toronto clean up on Saturday; Candy won the Pro Woman’s race, and Morgan won the Pro Masters race. I was in that race…but not for long.
Off the line of the Pro Masters elimination race, I was able to easily sit in behind Alex Fedak from the Simmons team. Alex took the lead immediately but was not going full tilt. Likely he was waiting for someone to attack so he could catch some draft before the elimination laps started. The first two are neutral laps. Half way through the second neutral lap, Alex appeared to slow a bit and Morgan took that as the queue to jump. Morgan attacked on the outside taking one of the sprinters with him…I think Hernan Diaz, I’m not sure though.
At any rate, I jumped on the back of their wheels and rounding the final corner before the line, I was cranking it as hard as I could to keep up with them, and not be eliminated on the first elimination lap. Everything was going according to plan…I was 2nd to last (not by much), and at the line I jabbed my front foot forward to try seal the deal on my position. Something went wrong with my balance though and my back wheel swiveled under my body.
It happened so quick, I didn’t have time to react. Before I knew it I was on my back like a helpless turtle after scrubbing off all my speed with my left shin muscles. If you are into crash porn, you can see it all on YouTube, Reality TV version, and the actual race coverage (index 3:05).
So my elimination race fell a little short of being glorious. I wasn’t expecting to make it to the final lap or anything, but I was hoping to last through the first elimination. Next time! Congrats to Morgan, he managed to put the hurt on the sprinters and take the race. Well played good sir, well played.
Alex went on to clean up the Pro Masters division the next day, he and the rest of the Simmon’s Pro Masters team completely owned the podium, 1st, 2nd and 3rd for Pro Masters. They stayed with the kids right until the end, finishing only 28 seconds or so behind Rob Bell. Nicely done.
Sunday was the full marathon, and the real reason for me being in Round Rock on this sunny Sunday.
You can see the full GPS graph of my race here:
You can see right off the start things had potential to be fast and furious. The start is at the top of a hill that dips down to a bridge and then comes up a hill again before turning into a serious of turns and upward hills on the back end of the course. It then slopes gently down again in a long straight line towards a sharp turn to the finish line (its a big loop, you do it 6 times).
No one was crowding the start line so I took a spot right on the line off to the right. George, Morgan and Candy (all from Toronto) were over to my left and back a row or two. After the horn the kids took off with lightning speed and everyone was booting it downhill towards the bridge while trying to jump into one of the “evolving” three pace lines. Brownian motion is beautiful. Just after the bridge and before the uphill someone in the middle line went down and everyone scrambled to get around them as we climbed the hill. I’m not sure who or how many skaters were caught up in that. I managed to be in an outside line at the time, so I wasn’t in too much danger.
When I say “kids” what I really mean is the “open” pro division, all the 34 old and younger skaters. I believe most them are in their twenties or younger. Many are world class skaters with world class speed, so I say kids only to point out that they are not the skaters I’m trying to compete with…I’m competing with other Pro Masters skaters.
As we came over the top of the first hill, the lines had solidified and I changed lines a couple of times. The back end of the course is a series of turns and upward hills, going through this, I passed up through the lines and near the front their wasn’t any easy place to jump in, so I want to the front and hopped in behind a Simmons/Shenkle skater who was leading out the main pack. I spent a couple of minutes pulling the pack trying to close the gap a little and do my share of the work kind of thing, but started to get tired without closing the gap, so I pulled off.
I didn’t keep my speed though, and got flushed out the back. By that point there was one big lead pack, and I spent the next quarter of a lap trying to get back on to the pack. I caught them a couple of times but the attacks kept wearing me down, after having just caught them. I couldn’t stay on the pack. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to the front, but at the time it was a good place to be, they weren’t skating full speed its certainly better than being in the suicide position at the back.
So after I got dropped I was really bummed, but I then I resolved to just skate as hard as I could with decent technique and save my energy, looking for victims from the lead pack to pick up, and form a chase pack. As it turns out this is what happened, I picked up some stragglers, but eventually a pack of pro masters skaters that had Debbi Rice along for the ride came up from behind and we formed the chase 2 pack. Later in the race the main pack broke up and I *think* Morgan, Hernan and a couple of other guys were the chase 1 pack. At the finish line we were only about 25 seconds behind Morgan’s pack. If we had been a little stronger we may well have caught them before the finish.
A lot of the skaters in this pack were along for the ride, but a couple of skaters from Skaters Quest Brian Oswald and Kent Gunlicks frequently pulled, and a kid Chris Slocum, team Fitness I believe, did some pulls. Chris was eventually the skater I sprinted with at the line. There was also a guy from the Texas Flyers who came up and pulled a lot. I didn’t catch his name though (Timo Rakkolainen?).
A lap after I got picked up by the pro masters group behind me, was when we picked up Eddy Wachter and 17yr old Chris Slocum. They were pretty glad to see us
Once we had grouped up, we pretty much stayed as the chase 2 pack for the rest of the race. There was a couple of crashes; I think the 2nd or 3rd lap, somebody clipped a cone on the long downhill, I head them yell and I think they went down, they were at the back and I couldn’t see it though. On the last lap, on the same down hill, somebody at the back clicked skates and they went down and took 2 or 3 skaters with them, including Debbie Rice. After the race I saw Debbie walking around with her wrist wrapped up, I’m guessing she’s got a cast by now I hope she recovers quickly.
Falling in a pack at 40kph is not fun.
Coming up the long stretch before the sharp right into the finish area, I looked back and asked Kent behind me if we were on the 2nd last lap, he replied “nope, this is the last lap”. I said “really?!” and he said “yup, I’m not keepin’ my eye on you cuz your cute.” Indeed. At the moment Chris was in front, no doubt getting read to break away, so I decided it was time to focus on him.
400m from the turn, Chris jumped, and I reacted and pulled up beside him, then thought it would be better to draft him, I didn’t think I’d have the gaz to stay ahead of him for the whole 800m. So I dropped in behind him, but he then gapped me about 10m at the corner. The final 400m to the line I was givin’ it as hard as I could but didn’t close the gap in time. Kent behind had his eye on my lunch, and was pushing hard but I managed to stay ahead of him of at the line.
Overall it was a pretty good race. I was really bummed when I got dropped so fast in the first lap, but this is the first face of the season, and those guys are very fast skaters, and some of them have been skating outside all winter. I’ll catch up but it wasn’t to be for this race. Even still, I skated well, I did a lot of pulling in my pack, and skated a lap on my own. I got off the start line reasonably quickly, and still had a decent sprint at the finish line.
I did test the pack on the second last lap; we turned on the long downward hill, and I jumped to full speed. For a breakaway. Eddy went with me and we got a good 20m on the pack. I looked back, and it didn’t seem like Eddy was keen to rotate and work the breakaway, and the pack wasn’t falling back so I eased up again. I didn’t think I would have the gaz to successfully get out of reach of the pack. Maybe I should have tried anyways though?
The average speed wasn’t so high, so didn’t feel challenged by this race once I had been dropped from the lead pack. For sure I’ll be buckling down on the sprint training, and refocusing on technique issues to make sure I can skate more comfortably at a higher pace and not get flushed out the back so easily after a hard pull.
Other than the actual race Austin has some great/friendly skaters, and the local food isn’t too bad We had brisket at Rudy’s, and it was good, but I think they watered the sauce down a bit, it could probably have been a little spicier. After the race on Sunday Morgan and I had some snacks at the Salt Lick, conveniently located right by the finish line. Morgan had ribs, I just had desert; I was kind of full from taking in some of the pulled pork provided the by the event organizers…thanks!
By the way, the black berry cobbler at the Salt Lick…awesome.
I didn’t walk away empty handed either. Aside from my road rash, I also got a free registration for next year’s event, for having traveled the farthest from the north. So I guess I’m going back next year. Lets hope I keep the shiny side up next time.