Thursday, February 25, 2016

Another Speed Skating Race Report

This time a picture!

There I am just starting the 3000m mass start event. But first things first.

The day started out much warmer than last week's race. This time the wind was a head/tail win and not a cross wind which was nice. But the warmer weather and rain we had received during the week made the ice quite soft and took away the snow piles in the corners.

The day before i was trying to go hard in the corners during training and fell. Nothing major, just a slip with no consequences, but it did give me a little hesitation during the race because without the snow piles, you basically go onto a gravel area and into a fence. Ouch.

Anyway, first race up for me was the 500m Olympic style race. I was facing off against Greg this week. I decided to really go for the start and once given the go I was off, running awkwardly down the ice and quickly into the lead. But then my less than stellar cornering combined with the desire to not fall lead to me falling behind pretty quickly. I kept up slightly on the back stretch but Greg easily pulled away in the second corner. The push to the finish was on wobbly legs, as is always the case in the 500m and I crossed the line in 1:01.71. While I felt like it was my worst race in the 500m of the year, it turns out my horrible awkward skating style still managed a PB time by 4 seconds. I guess that running start of mine actually did some good.  Overall I was 13th out of 25 skaters. Mid pack seems to be my finishing place this year in that race.

Then onto the 300m  mass start. Mass start requires  little more safety equipment (check out my cool Kevlar ankle protectors). It also requires some guts for the glory. You need to be bold at the start of the race and I certainly was not. We all started quickly together and I was right on the tail end up in the group until another skaters barged in at the corner. I got stuck there for a moment and then repassed on the straight. Unfortunately I lost contact with the skaters in front by that time.  I opted to be conservative with my speed for the race lasts quite awhile but still tried to catch up to the skater in front for a draft. I just couldn't make that push through though and by the last couple of laps my legs were dying.

I pushed as hard as I could on the last lap with wobbly legs and crossed the line in a time of 7:41.74. 7th out of 8 in my group. And seeing as this was my first 3000m, a PB I guess. Hopefully next season I can blow that away.

One more race I know about coming up this weekend. Another 10K marathon skate. I look forward to it and trying to beat my old time. We'll see!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ugh, So Behind. Quick Race Report and a Movie Review!

I meant to keep up on this fast paced racing I am doing, but time does slip by.

Last weekend was another great bit of speed skate racing on Sunday. Well great to race but the conditions were crazy. High cross winds and freezing cold temps (-15C or less) made things tricky.

I signed up for the 500m and the 1500m races, Olympic style. This mean a 2 person battle and then all times are tallied at the end.

I had been working on my cross overs the week leading up to this and had made some good progress. I also found some fault in my form that was slowing me down, so that was nice to also work on (I am slamming my foot down too early).

The 500m was always going to be fast. My start was great and as I was on the inside lane I manged to hold the lead til the back straight, when I was passed just before the final corner. As the 500m is all about pushing hard, my form fell apart a little. I managed my cross overs in the first corner into the wind, but didn't feel safe on the second corner with the huge wind gusts at my back. I pushed through to the finish in a time of 65 seconds. That was second in my heat, 13th overall out of 23 skaters. The fastest skater, Cooper, was awesome to watch.

I had not raced the 1500m before so this was going to be a test of speed and endurance for me. I had a great start and hit the first corner fast. Too fast as a wind gust made me almost fall and I lost a lot of momentum regaining my balance. The 1500m is 3 laps long and I was already quite behind by the end of lap 1. The next corner wasn't so bad and I made it to the back straight in good form. But finally my endurance failed on the last lap and I was just happy to stay upright as I pushed to the finish line.  I finished second in my heat and 11th out of 11 skaters overall. My time was 3:27. Yeah, not very fast, but still fun.

Last night I was privileged to get into a sneak preview of the movie Race, the story of Jessie Owens' race towards getting into the Olympics and his success at the Berlin Olympics.

First off, how this has not been a major movie before now, I will never know. It is one of those stories that has everything Hollywood loves. Underdog, natural but rough around the edges kind of guy, raise to glory, some stumbles and then success. The story is fairly well known (at least you can easily look it up) so as is usually the case in these biopics, it is all about a well crafted script keeping you on edge.

I think this is a must see story. It is well told and extremely well filmed. The acting is great and I was impressed with the fact that the lead actor managed to capture Jessie's running style so well.  Now as is always the case in a biopic that is a 2 hour glimpse into a person's life, the focus is on the highs and lows, and I am sure some things were missed, others combined and others exaggerated. But the feeling is there and the important aspects are there.

As a runner, you want to see more of the athletics, but I understand the need to temper that with the side stories.  But I just suggest if you see it, pay close attention when Jessie arrives at the Olympic track and field venue. For me, that was so well done and was the building point I had been waiting for.

Back to it, I'll post again soon as I have a race this Sunday on the Oval!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Speed Skating Race Take 2 - The Marathon

So this past weekend I was able to take part in another speed skating event. Rather than the more traditional 2 up Olympic style event this would be a mass start marathon event. Apparently in the speed skating world a marathon is anything over 10km, with this one being around 10.1km (I think). 26 full laps.

In this style of event you have your timing chip on and start in a mass group. Due to its length, a super speedy start isn't totally important, though people did get off the line as quickly as they could.

The day before I had been working on my cross overs in the corner. This is where speed is built in speed skating and an area I just could not get a hold of. Thankfully I got some one on one lessons that really helped. I am not where near good at cross overs yet, but I am now approaching the point where I can get them without feeling like I will fall over. The trick being a speedy cadence (gee that pops up on my blog a lot) going into the corner and crouching low.

Due to being in a crowd to start the race, I avoiding attempting cross overs. I didn't want to trip anyone up. After a few laps I was mostly by myself and decided it was worth the risk to give it a try, as this was a for fun race anyway. And wow, what a difference. The speed you can carry through a corner with cross overs is significant.

The wind was high and picked up throughout the race. It was strong on the front straight pushing you right down the ice into the first corner. It was wicked on the back stretch, so carry that speed from the front and through the corner was essential, otherwise you suffered all the way to the second corner.

I did try to do my cross overs in both corners but I found that I was quite tired fighting the wind going up the back straight and therefore just didn't have the secure footing I needed to feel safe.

After about 3 km I could really feel my aching lower back. I am still working on proper form . Luckily the strong wind allowed me to stand and stretch a bit before committing to a tuck going into the wind. A couple of laps like that helped a lot.

My race stayed pretty much the same throughout. I was initially skating with two other guys until they pulled away. At about 7km in a woman passed me but was only able to pull away by about 50 meters or so and held station. I suspect it was during some of my stand up and stretches where she caught up to me.  I summed enough strength to hold my tuck through the final 2 km, though, and repassed her and on the final lap caught up to and passed one of the guys who I had skated with initially.

I wish I could say I skated out of the final corner on the last lap strong and pushed hard to the end, but that would be fantasy. Well i did push hard, but my legs were shaky and my form was shot. Still I crossed the line for my longest skate race ever (previously it was 5km) in a time of 29:26 and 11th out of 15 total skaters. The winner had a smooth time of 22:18. Considering my best 5km time from the last few years has been over 15 minutes, I think this has been a great improvement.

I followed this event with a 5km easy run and 2100m in the pool. Man, it is tough being a triathlete some days.