The setup was exactly the same as last year so I won't repeat the details from 2012.
Different from last year for me however is that instead of having heavy Seba slalom skates I now have a month old Powerslide Double X speed skates with big 110mm wheels.
I was tempted with doing the full marathon but other more experienced skaters advised against it as I was still new to speed skating. My muscles may not have built up enough to handle the ankle strains of speed skating.
I still brought my Seba skates just to compare the difference before the race. You're just so much more efficient when your wheels aren't rockered. The speed skates themselves just made attacking the hill a breeze in comparison. No wobbly rockered feeling on the downhill either. This should be a good event!
Last time I did this race I did three extra laps without realising. My friend Elisabeth offered to lap count for me as she, Ania and Chidi from the Easy Saturday Skate (ESS) came to support the skaters instead of participating this year. I still kept a mental count but it was nice for her to confirm my progress each lap.
I made a conscious decission to keep back at the start, no sprinting as I tend to do. My friend Alex was keeping the pace first lap. He had slightly smaller wheels but this made a big difference in speed for me especially as Alex was blocking the headwind. I even had time to pose for his helmet camera pointing back at me.
On lap two I decided to take the paceline. However the bigger wheels are just so much faster. I shot up ahead, only realising when I got part way up I had lost him.
Just before the top the three lovely ESS girls had found their cheerleading spot. Perfect positioning to give you an extra shot of energy to clear the hilltop.
I really enjoyed the course this year. Speed skates make this course a lot more fun to attack. I jumped between the few pacelines that came about. Using slower skaters to momentarily windshield before overtaking. The long windy bits were noticeably easier to cut through than the rockered skates.
That said I was still no competition for the top guys. At least it felt less demoralising this year as it took them a little more time to overtake!
About half way through I noticed two skaters in the distinctive blue and white London Speed Skaters Team skinsuits. I pushed on passed and it was fantastic to see Alex was leading the pack.
Having identifiable kit on the course is great, making it much easier to recognise people. Nice to give a little hoodwink on track.
On my penultimate lap I saw my friend Chris. I invited him to join me pushing on faster. As we went around we alternated lead which helped in conserving energy but uniformly we were stronger. On the final stretch to the finish Chris signalled to step it up one more time. I followed but that was just a bit more than I could muster.
After crossing the line I thought I might as well do one more lap even though Elisabeth had counted my laps. In fact she also insisted I do, just incase.
My extra lap wasn't rushed, a nice steady pace which allowed me to recover from the finishing sprint.
When I got to the windy stretch again I saw two skaters struggling. I ended up befriending them as I blocked the headwind for them. Jeremy and Fred were their names. I left them at the top of the hill after my extra lap.
The things is I felt good to keep going. I rejoined the circuit when I saw my friends Richard and Alistair continuing their full marathon.
Richard helped me out a lot when I first got my speed skates, giving me pointers and correcting my obvious street skater traits so I could be more efficient. As we went around we swapped positions. When I was leading he was voicing instructions just as they do with motorcycle training. Shame I didn't have him the earlier during my race!
After six laps I stopped at the ESS cheer spot. I could feel my skates were getting a bit tight as they're still new and not been properly broken into. As I rested and watched the remaining skaters go on it only made me eager to get back on the track.
I saw Anna fighting up that hill so I retied my skates up and I caught up with her. Again I acted as the windbreak. It was nice helping out a fellow skater and understood why others have done so too in the past.
Chris managed to podium overall in the half marathon with a bronze. In our age category he took gold while I took the unexpected silver! This was an awesome moment being on the podium. However I was a little disappointed to learn there were only three of us anyway in our age group! That said, I felt good and I'm really happy with my half marathon time. (46min, 45sec). Yes I had better kit this year but I still chomped off a meaty 19 minutes from last year's time. I also did a heap of extra laps which in the end equated to a full marathon distance.
We ended the day with what seems to have become a tradition of a meaty pizza. It was a smaller group this year of us ESS people but it was just as memorable.
Too much food was bought for our group trip to Le Mans. (You can never have too much food). So we had picnic the following week to help use everything up. Best idea ever.
It was so nice to get everyone together, especially those who couldn't make the trip to France. We had plenty of entertainment that day:
- This was my second time on the freeline skates, but still with little progress.
- A great skate instructor, Mike Van Erp also gave us a brief introductory on roller hockey before we got stuck into a friendly game. This was my first time playing hockey on skates, it was really fun but I can imagine the likelihood of injuries would be quite high when you start to get more competitive!
- I had my second day on speed skates too. Loving the oomph of my new toys. I stretched my legs around Hyde Park. Going up South Carriage Drive was particularly good with noticeably less effort and strides.
My friend Richard who is an experienced speed skater gave me a lot of pointers, particularly that my technique is too 'street.' So whilst I can thrash around with bursts of energy, I wasn't exactly efficient for longer sessions. Another skater Gib very kindly let me practice some speed skating drills with him. I think I've underestimated the technicality of the whole speed thing…
Overall it was a fantastic day out in the sun with good people and lots of different ways of rolling!
"Any tips, reviews and advice are my own opinions and are not to be taken as professional view points. The information on this site is what has worked for me and is here for guidance only, but I hope you gain insight into the various activities I partake in." Jonathan Chen