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The Bearing Story: Part 1

Ok, this is really just a space filler until I get around to typing something else up; this is the bearing story which will hopefully make at least two points.  The first is that I am often a huge idiot.  The second, and hopefully more useful point, has to do with overall equipment maintenance and making sure what you have is working effectively.

I mentioned this issue/story very obliquely in Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 9 when I was talking about equipment; I just didn’t have the time nor space to discuss it there.  More accurately this is a story that goes with the No Regrets Series since that’s when it happened.  No matter, space filler is space filler and it’s all just part of the timeline.

Now as I was blathering about in Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 9, I’ve never been a huge equipment guy (though I love training toys; go figure).  Fed up with people who try to buy performance (usually in lieu of training or what have you), I sort of ended up at the other extreme and often neglect my equipment.  I mentioned in that piece that my skates would explode at least once or twice a year on the ice because I wouldn’t tighten the bolts.

And while I still feel that, for the most part, equipment is secondary to other things relevant to performance, there are places where it matters.  One of those places is when your equipment is just horrible.  In general, cheap stuff is just cheap; it doesn’t work well, falls apart, whatever.  And it will hold you back if it sucks too hard.  But once you surpass some price threshold, rarely does throwing more money at the problem generate massive improvement benefits.  Sure, it matters for the top 1%.  If you’re reading this, you’re not one of them.

But there is another place where equipment, even ‘proper’ equipment can be limiting and that’s when you don’t keep it in good (or at least passable) working order.  This story is an example of that second situation.


The Background: Summer Inline

As I discussed somewhat in the No Regrets Series ice speed skating is a bit odd as a sport in that a large amount of the training is not done on the ice.  This was originally a holdover from the realities of winter sports (you can’t skate on a frozen pond if the pond isn’t frozen or ski when there isn’t snow) and speed skaters were often faced with up to 6 months where they had to find ways to train without having access to ice.

My coach used to tell of his own career where he’d spend 6 months off-ice, maybe 6 weeks skating short-track, 6 weeks on the long-track, another 6 weeks short-track and that was it. When you have to wait for lakes and such to freeze, that’s what you have to deal with unless you could afford to go to Europe to train.

Even outdoor ovals have to deal with weather to some degree, it’s to expensive to try to freeze water when it’s warm out so even with the ovals in the US (Lake Placid, Butte, maybe one more) speed skating was still limited to a lot of off-ice summer training.

Even now, with the advent of indoor ovals (the Salt Lake City oval is open about 10 months out of the year), the reality is that most speed skaters still don’t stay on the ice year round.  My coach had told me that the Canadians had tried it when they first built Calgary but everyone was burnt by October. Skating around on an ice circle just does that to you.

So the sport still revolves around some extended period of summer dryland training before you move to the ice.  Programs vary but almost all of them revolve around some combination of bike riding, weight training, skate specific dryland ‘imitations’ (something I’ll write about in more detail eventually) and other stuff.

That other stuff often but not always includes inline skating.  When inlines first came around, back in the early 80’s (the fad didn’t hit until the 90’s and designs actually existed in the 1920’s or so) there were seen as quite the novel thing for ice speed skaters, who finally had a way to practice skating during the summer time.  Certainly there were some differences that had to be recognized (especially given how heavy early inline skates were) but they offered another far more specific way to train for ice speed skating.

My coach used inline skating extensively as part of our training, he’d told me that he got most of his technical improvements during the summer time and inline was a big part of that. Generally twice per week during our summer training (which usually ran 20 weeks) we’d meet at the parking lot for inline training.   This included warmups, turn cable (which got gruelling in the heat, especially by the time he was pushing me the length of the parking lot for about 2+ minutes of continuous turning) a ton of technical drills and then conditioning.  We also set up a track.


The Inline Track: AKA The Circle of Hell

Among the other fun things we did in the parking lot, we also skated an inline track that we’d set up.  We used skateboard wheels as blocks (we’d use a rope to ensure that the circles were the same diameter although we finally got smart and spray painted markers to save time) and set up a standard corner at one end and the full circle at the end.


The Skating Track

We never did actually measure the thing but it was probably 200-300 meters total one time around.  With this set up we could practice everything we needed to do on the ice including corners, straightaways, corner entries and exits.   We’d do circle drills around the full circle (coach stood in the middle so he could see/yell at us) and even did circles for time which was murderous.  We also did right hand circles to help avoid some of the back problems that tend to plague skaters.  It was on a right hand circle that I tripped myself and cracked my rib the one season.

Of course, we could also skate full laps and while we very occasionally did extended sets, our typical workout was what is called lap on/lap off.  Basically skate a lap (at whatever pace/heart rate/effort Rex wanted), then cruise a lap.  And we’d do this for extended periods, at one point I was doing a straight hour which amounted to about 25-30 laps or so.  It wasn’t really hard, it was mainly just boring.

With few exceptions we did this as a full circle lap.  So we’d start at the top where I indicated start/finish going towards the half circle. You start by accelerating  the straightaway then skate a standard corner, exit down the straight, hit the full circle and go all the way around it (so you get a circle and a half), exit to the straightaway and then stand up.  Then you coast up around the corner, back down and around the second corner and then start your next lap (you don’t get to do the full circle on the rest lap).

Rex would shout lap times to give us an idea of where we were (we usually had some goal time for each lap) and if there was more than one of us skating, we’d alternate leads (usually it was just Caleb and I consistently).

And that’s where I’m going to cut it today; yes, all of the above was basically background for the actual story which I’ll tell on Friday (this is all part of my current approach to extending content by making everything more than one part).

Read The Bearing Story: Part 2.

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