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Texas Road Rash 2011: Race Report Part 1

Ok, so to keep things confusing, I’m going to a different nomenclature for race reports but this is the follow up/conclusion to Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 10 that I posted on Friday.  First, the short version for readers who don’t care about this nor want to read the details:  I did not place, I raced to the best of my ability leaving nothing on the course.  I am happy with how I did and I’m taking this week as a recover/transition weak because I am completely broken.  More importantly, I identified some weak points that I intend to fix for my next big race in Chicago in roughly 13 weeks that I’ll be detailing at some point in the future.

Now here’s the long version.

The Final Three Days

Going into the race, I had Thursday, Friday and Saturday to get stuff done.  My final training day, as outlined on Friday was that Thursday and it went well.  I also attended (briefly) a clinic at the local indoor rink given by Jason Stelly.  I had ‘known’ him (at least by name) in Salt Lake and he’s one of the top inline skaters in the country along with being a top ice speed skater.  There I also ran into Harry Vogel who I mentioned very briefly in the No Regrets series.  He’s returned to inline and is another top skater.

Over the next two days I would come to realize that some of the top skaters in the country, including Joey Mantia (multiple world champion) and several others would be racing the full marathon in the pro division.  This was both scary and disheartening.   That Saturday, I watched Joey demolish the pro field in the elimination race on Saturday; he took a flyer and put half a lap on the chase pack and never looked back.

Having them in the race meant that realistically I wasn’t placing and wouldn’t be anywhere close.  Of course, there’s no point in ‘racing pro’ if you don’t have real competition and there’d be no lack of that.  As well, it let me relax; you can only skate your best race anyhow and that’s what I intended to do.  I had some delusions of trying to get into their lead pack and hold on but, well…I’m getting ahead of myself.

The rest of the time was spent resting, doing a moderate type carb-load (I didn’t go nuts, just emphasized more carbs to avoid bonkage and plugged in lots of bananas to make sure my potassium levels were good) dealt with some minor equipment issues (including buying the wheels I wanted and a new skinsuit), switched out my wheels and checked my bolts and made sure everything was set up.

I slept like a rock on Friday night and while I had intended to go out Saturday, I started to get sleepy after watching the classic American Flyers for motivation and figured I might as well go to bed. And then between two yappy-ass dogs next door and ALFIE! acting maniacal (full moon perhaps?) I was wide awake and got little sleep.  In hindsight, I wished I’d just gone out.



Despite not having slept much, the alarm still wasn’t enjoyable.  But I bounced out of bed, had a small breakfast (Powerbar, banana and a couple of glasses of water) and some caffeine.  The marathon is long enough at just the right intensity to make bonking a possibility.  I also didn’t want the cramping issue I’d had in 2010 to resurface.

At 6am, I made one final check (this is where my OCD starts to kick in, I always worry I’ll forget to take something) of my stuff, walked and fed Alfie and I was out the door by 6:15am since the course was a good 30 minutes North and I didn’t want to be rushed.  I got there way early since there was zero traffic.  No matter, better early than late.

It was going to be a perfect day for racing, just on the other side of chilly with little wind and we’d be done before it got hot. Knowing Texas weather I had taken sweats to stay warm and was amazed to see people without them just walking around in their skinsuits complaining about being cold.  Then again, Texas is supposed to be hot and it’s not quite yet.

At 7am I picked up my timing chip (it’s worn around the right ankle), took a little more caffeine and I started my warmups about 7:30am.  Legs could have felt better but that’s a morning thing, I did some easy skating and then a few progressively faster accelerations with one or two longer high-intensity bits to get things moving.   My friends had shown up to watch and take some photos and I said hi before finishing my warm-up and going to the start.

Here’s me in the new gear.  As with last year, everything matches.  I was running white wheels and had to get a black and white skinsuit to match.  I was hoping maybe I could sneak in with Team Bont but they were in Red this year.

New Skinsuit
Told Ya' I was Skinny


The Start

So about 7:50 I rolled over to the start and here I made my first mistake.  Unannounced, they had opted not to run the different divisions at different times like last year.  Instead, everyone in the marathon was going at once.  This meant that things were not only crowded as hell, I was several skaters back from the front line.

And the nature of the start is that the lead packs will take off like bats out of hell to get clear of the crowd and then settle in. And I wouldn’t even have a chance of getting through the mess to even try to stay with them.    Here are some photos of what an inline skate start line looks like with my stupid ass several rows back. 

Start 1Start Part 2

When the gun goes off, everything goes crazy, everyone trying to run off the line and that means lots of skates hitting and moving sideways and it’s chaos.  It’s not like cycling where everyone is at least holding sort of a line or there is a neutral zone.  And the presence of cateyes in the pavement and everything else doesn’t help since those can take someone down.  Invariably at least one person will crash at the start.  It happened last year and happened this year.  More pics you can see the chaos of the start along with someone going down (blue suit in the middle). 

StartStarting Line Crash

I seem to recall they jumped right back up and got into skating. Anyhow, the start was on and I was already several people back.  And I watched as Mantia and the other pros just launched off the line.  Any thoughts I had had of even attempting to stay with them were gone and it was time to settle down and just skate my own race.  Which is all you can really do anyhow.


Lap 1

The Road Rash course starts with a slight downhill to the left which can also catch people unawares.   This leads into a slightly climb and the group rapidly splintered into three groups.  The pros were already flying, putting distance on the field and there was a second group behind them tearing it up.  I was back in group 3 and just settled in; with 6 laps to go there was no rush.  While I had some delusions of trying to bridge to the fast group, I knew I wouldn’t have it in me to stay with them so I didn’t even bother trying.

At some point in Lap 1, I decided that the group I was in was too slow for me.  They had taken things out fairly quickly but there was still that whole paceline dicking around thing I dislike so much so at some point (I genuinely don’t remember) I pulled out and went to bridge up to group 2 that was off in the distance.

They weren’t too far ahead but I had to work to catch their line.  I figured better to get there sooner rather than later so I put the hammer down and worked until I could sit in the draft and recover.  Catch it I did and I’d stay with them for the remainder of the race.  As I said, there was no chance of catching the top guys (I didn’t even seem them after about the first half of the first lap) so this was the group to be in.

I did actually make one short individual breakaway trying to bridge to a small group ahead of us, got about halfway there and then the pack caught me and swallowed me up making the remainder of the bridge for me.  Which was fine, had they done the work in the first place, it would have saved me some effort.  Skating with them I started to notice/identify some weaknesses in my skating but I’ll come back to that on Wednesday and it wasn’t as if there was much I could do about it at the moment.

For reasons I won’t bother detailing, I basically spent most of the race at the back of this pack.  I’m still not super comfortable in the middle and since I wasn’t going up front, I just sat in back.  For reasons I’m unclear on, nobody was doing standard paceline stuff where they rotated the lead.

So far as I could tell, the guys up front just sat there.  Ah well, better them than me although I’d have been happy to take a turn at front.  I just wasn’t going to bridge the pack to do it.  This is what a skating pacline looks like on the road along with me sitting in back sucking that wheel.

Wheel SuckerPaceline

The biggest problem I was having was staying in that position.  Paclines tend to do a bit of yo-yoing or caterpillaring with the line stretching and compressing; it’s worse if you’re on the back and it didn’t help that the line kept alternating between skating hard for 15-20 seconds and then slowing down.   Between weak accelerations and being on the back I’d get dropped off the back and then overshoot the pack coming back.  I’d slow down as they were speeding up and I just kept doing this. 

We came around to the big downhill where being in back made me feel more comfortable although for some reason (maybe my weight) I was getting dropped even though everybody was just coasting.  Around the bottom half of the course we came and through the start line.  5 more to go.


Laps 2-5

Genuinely, nothing of note happened in the middle of the race.  I sat in this same pack, getting alternatingly dropped off the back and catching up with them and overshooting them.  I wasn’t tired although it was a bit boring and I was getting fed up with the line dynamics.  I’m really more of a ‘steady state just go’ kind of guy and this 15-20 seconds fast and 15-20 seconds slow crap was not my idea of fun.  Especially because I was doing such a bad job of adapting to it.

But there wasn’t much I could do. I wasn’t strong enough to make a solo breakaway without getting caught and there was nobody in sight for me to join skating ahead of us.  So there I was to stay. Beyond that, I felt fine.  I wasn’t really tired, I was a bit bored and tired of having to chase and rechase the pack to rejoin but ah well. It was clear that it was all going to come down to the final lap unless someone made a move or something so I just sat in and waited.

Every lap was basically the same, through the start/finish, down the hill up, the hill, across the top, descend, across the middle.  Rinse and repeat.  I would note that I crossed the half marathon point one minute faster than last year which was at least nice to see.  Beyond that, nothing of note really happened though I remember one guy going down on the big downhill.

Here are a couple more pics, me off the back (again) and a surprise appearance by Strawberry Shortcake.  She skated berry, berry well.

Off the BackOff the Back 2ShortcakeCropped

And I’ll stop there today only noting that the race, as always, was well organized and put on in an excellent fashion. I’m not sure of the total turnout although I saw numbers up into the 500’s.  Everything went off on time and without a hitch and they actually had sufficient safety pins for everyone (something only those with good memories will get).   It’s truly an excellent race which is probably why it not only pulls top pros but also folks from all over the world who come to skate it.

In any case, I’ll finish up next time and detail the final lap along with my overall race analysis and what I’m going to do going forwards.  Might be Wednesday, might be Thursday, might be Friday. I’m crazy like that.

Read Teaxs Road Rash 2011: Race Report Part 2

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