Last year was my first year competing in the NYC Skate Marathon. My teammates Cinderosa and Kitty Purry competed as well, and we were the only three racing on quads. We did make a friend from Gotham’s rec league, Jeanne Williams, who was skating in the park that day.
This year’s marathon took place this past Saturday, September 24th and there were (I believe) 12 skaters on quads! The race added in a “roller derby challenge” to allow skaters a relay option. There were two teams of two competing in the relay. The marathon is just like a regular marathon- 26.2 miles, but it is a loop around Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The loop is approximately a 5k, so for the marathon- you make the loop 8 times. For the relay- you tag off each lap. I expected it to be one person skating 13.1 miles and then the next, but you switch off each time. I think having that rest probably made each lap much more daunting, but that’s just me. One derby challenge team featured O Chit of Charm City and Cybil Disobedience of Harrisburg. The other team was a skater from Gotham and her husband from the New York Shock Exchange. From my team- ED Sledgewick and Marv E Lust completed the half marathon, 13.1 miles! There was also a skater from a team in… Michigan, maybe… who completed the half, as well as a friend of Suburbia Roller Derby, and our friend Jeanne! In the full marathon there was Domestic Violet of Suburbia, my teammates- Percy QT and Amelia RIP Heart, and me.
Having quads at the race generates respect for our sport. Knowing that we can compete with speed skaters because of our training for roller derby shows that we are athletes. I’m not saying that everyone who plays needs to be able to skate a marathon, I am just saying that the speed skaters there were impressed. When they asked how I was able to go so fast on quads I told them, “roller derby!” That is the truth- practicing at least 3 days a week for 2 hours is why I am fast on quads! No secret there! But, I did do a fair amount of training for the marathon. I skated between 10-26 miles about three times per week outdoors. I started training for the skate marathon after my half Iron-Man triathlon. I really picked up the training in mid July.
Other than just increasing distances, I worked on improving times, did a bit of hill training, skating with ankle and wrist weights and varying my strides. Fortunately there are several loops that I can use to train where I live. I found one loop that is a perfect 13.1, so I would do that once, or twice, and work on my race pace. Amelia and I also skated 35 miles to the beach, but only once.
I can’t think of any other “secrets” to my training. I eat well (mostly fruits, vegetables, and yogurt), train (pretty much) daily, stretch, and drink plenty of water (about 64-72 ounces a day). The only other key to my success was setting ambitious goals.
At the 2010 marathon, my first lap was my slowest. In any race that I have done, even just a 5k, I start slow and build up. It can be a pretty good strategy, except that I was starting too slow. You can only make up so much time. So this year, when I was training and when I was racing- I started hard and got even harder. I would be around mile 6-7 of a training skate and realize that my legs could push harder than I was asking them to push. I had to break myself of the habit of reserving energy for the end. Pacing yourself is important, don’t get me wrong- but you have to find your limits, especially in training. If you start at a pace you end up unable to maintain, then you’ll slow down towards the end- at least you’ll know your limits. What I found is that I could push myself more and more towards the end, even if I had been challenging myself the whole time.
Let me use an example. I set out on my 13.1 mile loop at a 11mph pace. Around mile 2, I realize that I can pick it up- so I get up to 13mph. Can I maintain 13mph for the rest of the distance? I don’t know, but I can do it at mile 2- so I do. Around mile 10 my legs are not pushing quite as hard, I feel myself slowing down. But I realize that there are only 3 miles left! I can keep that pace- or even pick it up a bit- for the last 3 miles. With only 1 mile left, I know that I’m almost done, so I pick it up again. Then, when my house is in site, I can really sprint. Initially, I wanted to keep that 11mph pace in order to preserve energy for the last mile and the sprint at the end. But instead, I found new energy reserves! They are there, but you have to be willing to search for them. That’s how you build endurance- you can’t hold back! There is no reason to preserve your energy, you’ll find new energy, and if you don’t- you’ll collapse, haha! That’s training.
My time goal for the marathon was 2 hours. In training, my pace was typically 12.6-13mph depending on the distance and objectives for each session (ie- long strides, weights for strength). At the race, my pace was just about 13.1mph exactly.
Since it is a loop, you can see your time each lap. After my first lap when I saw the clock it read 18minutes. In order to meet my 2 hour goal, I needed to do each lap in about 15 minutes. I spent the rest of the race trying to make up for these three minutes. At my second lap, I needed the clock to read 30 minutes and it read 32. At the third, I needed it to read 45 and it was around 47. On my last lap, I dug deep and picked up the pace as much as I could. When I crossed the finish line the clock read 2:02. I was proud of myself, of course, but I was bummed. I tried really hard not to be, but I was. Sledge and Marv were there when I crossed. Sledge had a serious wipe out, but got back up and finished with road rash that looks like a zombie bite. They had both reached their goal of completing the half and I was truly very proud of them. Then Percy and Amelia came in from the marathon in under 3 hours, reaching their goal. It was cheering me up that my teammates reached their goals, but bumming me out at the same time because I was 2 minutes off mine. Then Percy told me that they started the clock from the first wave… we went in the fourth wave! My time was actually several minutes faster! Turns out my official time was 1:59:44! I was stoaked! I met my goal and took first in my age!
Here is my time broken down by laps:
It ended up being a great thing that I thought I needed to make up time! The current Guinness World Record is 2:30 for the fastest marathon on skates (I believe). I filed a claim several months ago and they replied that the minimum requirement for the record “fastest marathon on roller skates” was 2:30. So, I confirmed my record attempt date and got all the necessary information. Now, it is just a matter of compiling all the evidence they requested. I haven’t heard back from them. I emailed to see what the actual time for the record is. I guess it could really be 1:58 or something and they are just saying that the minimum to even attempt the record is 2:30. But I don’t know why they would do that… so we’ll see! Either way, I am pleased with my time. It would be cool to say I have the record, but I am not as pressed about it as I was prior to the race. Especially because I will take off even more time next year.
Other than reach my goal and seeing my teammates reach their goals, the sweetest part of the marathon was seeing Team in Training people running in the park. Team in Training is an endurance training group that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. When I did my 70.3 mile triathlon in June, it was with TNT. Prospect Park remains open during the race for recreational users and there was a whole group of TNT runners there. When I passed by them I yelled “Go Team!” and they all cheered in response. In my next lap around I yelled to them again and said “Survivor!” That was probably in loop 3-4 and that word gave me strength. It means a lot to me, I had to keep myself from crying when I said it. The pride that I feel when I say that word is immeasurable. I realized then that I could pick it up. I had more strength than I knew- shit, I beat cancer!
Next year I plan to start training earlier, train on more hills, train on longer hills, and train with a parachute for wind resistance. I’ll decide what my time goal is once I get into training, but I’m thinking I want to take off about 10 minutes. I hope to see even more people on quads! Playing roller derby gives us endurance, physical strength, and mental strength- that’s all you need for the marathon, so go for it! You’ll be able to register at http://www.skatemarathon.org/ and I expect to see you there!