Having discussed my training immediately after the Texas Road Rash in Methods of Endurance Training: Results Part 3, I want to return to the realm of self-indulgent prattling and provide another detailed race report. This race was the Napa Inline Marathon in Napa Valley California where both a half-marathon (13.1 miles) and full marathon (26.2 miles) were being held with an open division for the half- and full-marathon along with the pro/elite division for the full marathon.
Since I still didn’t feel quite ready for the full marathon, I signed up for the open half-marathon. I had hoped that, similar to the Texas Road Rash there would be some degree of competition in the half-marathon. As you’ll see there really was not, much to my disappointment.
Preparation and Problems
I described my training leading up to the event in Part 3 and won’t repeat that here. Sufficed to say my legs felt good after the week of tapering and I felt ready to give the race my all. I had scoped the course online and was made aware that it would be smooth black pavement which meant I should run harder wheels.
I gotten some black 88a durometer (this is a measure of hardness) wheels which, of course meant that I had to get a matching skinsuit, socks and shoelaces. Being color coordinated had worked at the Road Rash and as I discussed in Keeping the Power Inside the Bar, once an athlete finds his mojo, you don’t mess with it. Or I’m just an idiot.
Now, I had originally planned to mount my wheels in Napa since I’d be sitting around that Saturday night. But I woke up for my butt-early plane flight on Friday had had time to kill so I went ahead and did it then. And I’m thankful that I did. Because months back, in mounting my current boots to my current frame, I had found that the third skate wheel tended to rub the front bolt and I had had to dremel it down to make it spin correctly.
Well, as it turned out, my new harder wheels were a smidgen bigger than the wheels I had run at the Road Rash and the third wheel wouldn’t spin again. This meant that I had to try to find a dremel in LA before the race and, just in case, packed a set of softer wheels that would run. Had I waited until I was in Napa, I’d have been out of luck with probably no ability to get a dremel and no wheels to run. There is a lesson to be had here in terms of early preparation and avoiding surprises.
Beyond that, everything went smoothly. Here’s me in my full regalia for the race. Again, black wheels, one red and one black shoelace, black and red socks and the flame skinsuit. If nothing else, I was easy to spot.
In contrast to the goals of the Road Rash which were, initially at least, to go skate the distance (even if I ended up racing and placing), my goal at Napa was to actually race. I had trained with the final workout to hold threshold level heart rates for a full 40 minutes and, as discussed in Methods of Endurance Training: Results Part 3, and I intended to basically go hard for the entire distance and race to win.
I had a secondary time goal of going under 40 minutes for the distance which I felt was reasonable based on my training times and fitness at that point. But I didn’t know much about the course and it could very readily be slow. Of course, I’m always looking to identify weaknesses and strengths to modify my training and getting more experience in the pack (everyone would be racing at once again) would be something useful going forwards.
Since I wouldn’t be able to be social in Napa on Saturday night, I had to go out and try to get some social mojo going on Thursday, hoping it would carry me through the event. It wasn’t ideal since it wasn’t the night before as with the Road Rash but it had to do; I hung out with the same two friends who wished me luck for that race, I had my one drink and went to sleep far too late. As noted, I got up super early for my flight and recognized my wheel issue.
Friday I flew to LA, a short flight but sitting around is never great for the legs. I spent most of Friday hanging out with one friend before meeting up with an old college buddy and Alan Aragon (who gave his version of our hangout in his blog). I also brofisted him as the picture clearly shows; I had to hope it wouldn’t come back to haunt me.
He was nice enough to let me crash at his place Saturday night and I was awoken with a massive calf cramp that morning. Painful and it left me with some major soreness; also told me I was dehydrated a bit. After a short easy aerobic workout that Saturday morning and some stretching and foam rolling, I got in the car and did the 6 hour drive to Napa. I found my hotel and the race course and got my packet, just so I wouldn’t be running around the next morning. Good thing too as my directions weren’t great and I’d have never found the race start that morning.
In contrast to the Road Rash, it was a much smaller event, and far less organized. I didn’t have great expectations about it after picking up my packet. I did my best to drink more that Saturday and my urine was nice and clear so I hoped I’d be fine.
The race was going off at an early 7am which meant an even earlier wake-up call to go get to the event (20 minutes north of my hotel), change, warm-up, etc. I actually did manage to sleep decently the night before which is odd for me. But it couldn’t hurt by any stretch.
Anyhow, the course was laid out and it was a weird one. Running along the Silverado Trail, the race went from the starting line (a mailbox with a tapeline in front of it) north a couple of miles before a hard 180 degree turnaround around cones, back south past the start/finish, south a bunch of miles to a second turnaround (described as being tighter) and then back to the start/finish. The half-marathon would do one lap, the full marathon two of them.
As with the previous race, I wasn’t carrying water but drank plenty when I woke up, I had to hope it would stave off any dehydration issues.
I got in a good starting position behind my friend Eva Rodansky (who had come down from Salt Lake with a couple of other friends to race) and we got a good start off the line. Rapidly, a line of skaters formed up on the right hand side of the road but I got trapped out on the left on the wrong side of the cateyes. I was holding speed with the pack but am still not comfortable being in a pace line and didn’t feel like trying to merge. I also didn’t want to drop back to be in the absolute back of the pack far behind the leaders.
So I did what any reasonable person would do, I accelerated to the front of the pack and took over the lead. I mean what the hell, the speeds were attainable as all get out, I felt good and I had planned to go race this thing. I had ‘joked’ with a friend that I would just race from the front and figured that’s what I’d do. So that’s what I did.
So I’m setting a strong pace and basically time trialling the entire way, none of this speed-up, slow-down stuff that packs tend to do. One group took a flyer and jumped ahead but slowed right back down about 50-100m ahead, I’m still not sure what they thought the point of it was since it wasn’t long enough to really tire anybody out or crack the pack apart. It’s like when you pass a guy on the freeway and he speeds up to pass you back and then slows back down.
No matter, 30 seconds later I was back in front of the entire paceline. But I was happy being out front, it kept me from getting nervous being surrounded by other skaters, the speeds were eminently doable, I felt strong and fit and just planned to go until I could go no further or crossed the finish line.
The First Turnaround and Back
As we came up on the first turnaround, a kid in orange (seems to be a theme for me) took a flyer to get in front of me. My guess is that he wanted to stay out of the mix when they tried to get around the corners, too easy to crash. I let him go, slowed down, got turned around, crossed over and went after him. Shortly thereafter I had his wheel.
He’s keeping a good pace and I got a good demonstration of why it’s better to sit in behind someone, I was sort of half-pushing and still had to avoid running him over. The rest of the pack caught up quickly and I realized why I don’t like being in the pack, the guy behind me was either bumping me or pushing me from behind. I didn’t like it and asked the kid if he was racing half- or full. He said full and I told him to drop in and save some gas. It put me back in front where I wanted to be and off I went, still pulling the entire pro/elite line behind me.
We continued hammering, me still pulling from the front through the start finish and into the second half of the course. I’m holding the same continuous pace although, to be honest, the course was deceptive; a lot of false flats. That is, roads that look flat but aren’t.
Even so, checking my Garmin momentarily, I was seeing average speeds of 20+ mph most of the time. There was also a long downhill as we came into the second turnaround, my Garmin says I hit a top speed of 32.7 mph and it had to have been on that hill as I didn’t back off at all. Someone on the support forum mentioned that it wouldn’t be fun to crash at that speed. Honestly, you can’t think about it or you start tensing up and that’s when the badness happens. You just keep going.
Maybe a quarter mile before the second turnaround, a big group went for a breakaway. At this point I had pulled from the front for probably 9 solid miles without much of a break. I felt physically fine but didn’t feel like chasing, I figured I’d take the turnaround and catch them up the big climb we had just come down just like I did with the main pack at the Road Rash.
I dropped in behind another skater and then pulled out front as we came into the second turnaround.
The race organizers weren’t kidding when they said that the second turnaround was tight. I came in far too fast, tried to cut it too hard and went down hard when my wheels skidded out on the pavement. Worse than that, both of my calves went into full cramp mode after the crash. Before continuing the report, here’s my road rash from the fall.
So I’m trying to get my calves to uncramp, sitting on the ground trying to pull my toes back to no avail. I finally get to my feet and still basically can’t move. It must have been at least a minute, possibly more, just standing there like an idiot unable to move, before I could do anything. I knew that if I could get back into skating, everything would relax but the pack was long gone. I really wasn’t worried as far as placing, nobody in my class was anywhere close so far as I could tell.
Finally I was able to start moving again, got back into skating and so long as I skated properly (e.g. didn’t push off my toes) my calves stayed under control and didn’t cramp up again. Unfortunately, my momentum had been lost and I had to climb the big hill all by myself. I did it and managed to catch another skater to sit in and recover for a little bit. I did and off I went hammering home to the finish.
I crossed the line with a final time of 41:08. Off of my goal of sub-40 but without the crash and cramps, I’d have made it easily. Certainly I’d have gone a flat 40 minutes given the pace I was holding. Which is relevant as the full marathon pros (who, recall I had led for about 9 miles solid) came in just under 1:20 or double that time.
In fact, after I got dropped and crashed, apparently the paceline was wondering where “the guy in the flame skinsuit” had gone. Not only did they like having a happy moron like me willing to stay out front but I was setting a nice constant pace instead of jacking around and speeding up and slowing down all the time.
In any case, for whatever it was worth, I won the half-marathon class easily, second place was a full 8 minutes back and even the race organizer made a joke about me sandbagging when I was on the podium. Unlike the Road Rash, there simply wasn’t any real competition in the half-marathon which is sort of disappointing. In any case, my top speed and ability to hold it tell me that:
- I need to move up to the full-marathon distance.
- Go ahead and check the box labelled pro/elite at future races.
Since apparently #2 is all that’s required to turn ‘pro’ in inline races right now. Only one race I’ve found lists any sort of qualifying standard (the ability to finish the full marathon in under an hour and 30 minutes) and basically if you say you’re pro/elite, you’re pro/elite. Ok then.
Basically, my top speed is there, with a touch more distance training on my skates I’m right in the mix with the top guys from a time perspective. I still need more practice in the pack and a bit more distance in my training (Eva, who took second overall in the women’s division, made the point that if I’d sit in the pack and not pull the whole time I don’t actually need to have skated the full distance in training). As well, the longer hill was clearly a weakness but Texas is pretty flat and there’s not much opportunity to practice those here.
So that’s that, another self-indulgent training report. My Garmin once again put my average heart rate at 177 with a peak of 189 and an average speed of 19.1 (which should have been closer to 20 mph without the crash/cramping). All done on the same 99% aerobic work and smidgen of sprint training that I had been doing previously.
Certainly as I move up to the longer distances and more competitive ranks a bit more quality work (to cover breakaways and such) will come in handy. But I’d make the point again that doing most of my training at fairly moderate intensity levels is putting me right where I need to be both technically and from a conditioning perspective to keep up with the top guys. Had I been willing to sit in behind someone, I doubt I’d have had a problem covering the full distance at the speeds we were holding.
But once again this is a situation where harder not only wouldn’t be better, it’d probably have been worse. I’m continuing to adapt aerobically doing nothing but easy/moderate (albeit boring) training. Why work harder than I need to, right?
And that’s the end of that. Looking forwards, there is a marathon in Chicago in 6 weeks I am considering. It’s twisty which will mean more corners and accelerations which could be interesting/fun. Failing that I’ll do the full marathon in Houston in November with a quick 10k (for which I will do some interval and threshold work) in Atlanta in about 12 weeks. More reports to come. On Tuesday I’ll finish up the Training the Obese Beginner series and then move on to other things. Maybe the research review I’ve been putting off since March.
- Methods of Endurance Training: Results Part 3
- Tour of Chicago: 2011 Race Report Part 2
- Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 11
- Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Northshore Inline Marathon
- Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 7