My friend Theresa posted this event on Facebook looking for team mates to complete her team. Unfortunately I responded too late. The event looked really good and it is different to anything I’ve done before so it drove me to create my own group.
Our team consists of myself who has not done any lengthy runs for 10 years but a seasoned inline street skater; another skater; a friend who had fairly recently completed a marathon; friends who participate in casual sports; and a friend who is growing a beard.
This should be interesting..
The three day urban sports festival was held in Gravesend at the Cyclopark. Events and activities included inline & quads skate, circus skills, BMX, skateboard and scooter. Camping facilities was available too.
I only attended the final day so can’t comment on the Saturday and Sunday events.
It was an hour journey from Charing Cross station on the train. The great thing about going to an event like this was that we had our skates with us. It took about twenty minutes to skate from Gravesend Station to Cyclopark, saving us the taxi fare. We saw some longboarders doing the same on the way but they were struggling when they got to the hill.
The inaugural event was well organised. You could sign up online ahead of time. As I was unsure whether I could make this event I did so on the day. Everyone was given different wristbands depending on what event they may be partaking or if you were just spectating. I signed up for the inline skate half marathon.
We got at the venue early so we caught the end of the slalom competition. Natalie, one of the organisers had been trying to persuade me to enter this but I hadn’t really slalom skated since the last competition, four months ago. (Speed skating has had my attention lately, hence the marathon sign up).
The slalom skaters were amazing as usual. It did make me want to get into the cones, just maybe away from the really good cool people!
We saw them do jumps and slides as well. Something I’ve done very little of. They demonstrated an immense amount of control whereas I’d go for it, commit and just hope for the best.
I only signed up for the half as I have the full marathon at Copenhagen a week later. Having not done a full distance before on my speed skates I didn’t want to potentially cause an injury, or not give myself enough time to recover before the event a week later.
The racers included inline skaters and longboard skaters. For the full and half event we were split into our designated start points. Full marathoners started first.
Soon after the half marathoners lined up. My friend Mark, aka Sushi invited me to join him in pacelining together for the race. I was unsure whether I could keep up with him but he reassured me he was going to take it easy. At the start line I had two rows of people ahead, Sushi was at the front. I don’t like fighting for space so I stayed put, aiming to squeeze past when I had the chance.
The gun shot and people scrambled for positions. It all happened really fast and that was the last time I saw Mark before the end of the race.
At the start of each lap was a nice downhill straight where you could really sprint down. I thought about using that stretch to recover but the speed was just too inviting with nobody in the way.
The course otherwise was very hilly, lots of sharp turns so it was difficult to actually get into a nice rhythm.
Part way up the final hill my friends Ania, Chidi and Thomas had perched themselves on a bench to cheer us racers on. Very good position to do so as that hill became longer after each lap.
There was a very sharp U turn on the final bend. If you overshot you would have ended up down a grass hill. Fortunately I tested the track out before the actual race as I freaked a little the first time, breaking quite heavily on my speed skates. As the laps went on I engaged it more efficiently with tight cross-overs.
As I went around I could see the other events going such as the BMX and Scooter. It was great to see what the other groups were doing. This also provided entertainment as I climbed the steep section of the course. Later on I was pretty much taking one step at a time up the hill.
It was a really hot day. Every time I passed my friends I envied the ice cold beer they had. Roger in jest offered his beverage. During the rest of that lap that’s all I was thinking about. I fancied a cheeky swig. So when I saw Roger again I accepted his offer.
That was the most memorable lager I’ve ever sampled. Being so thirsty I became all the more conscious of its sweet bitter flavour slipping back, working its intense taste all the way down. Slowly dispersing its coolness where it touched. I felt refreshed from that sip which surged me to go faster, knowing I could have a full bottle once I finished. (I don’t encourage or endorse alcohol during active exercise!).
Unfortunately that boost of energy didn’t last long. On the final lap I lost a bit of enthusiasm as my legs ached and cramped. My smile and bouncy energy was not around this time as I passed my friends on the hill. No posing for photos this time. I just wanted to finish.
Hats off to the longboarders as they look like they were struggling with the hilly track. A lot of them walked up the inclines.
Mark came first. So much for him taking it easy! There was no way I could have kept up with him.
I finished at just over 46 minutes (I can’t remember the exact time) which was a similar finish time to my race at LIM. This was a surprise to me as I was literally walking up some sections of the Cyclopark but at LIM I was more consistent with my pace. (On reflection I must have made up the time difference with the downhill sprint at each lap at Blitz).
Blitz Festival Finale.
To finish the day my friend Gary was attempting to break the Guinness Book of Records’ fastest time to complete a line of twenty cones on one inline skate. Unfortunately it didn’t happen that day but his attempts were impressive. They had the official Guinness man, camera crew and CBBC presenter with all his cheesiness for the event. (It took forever for them to film everything and I was getting hungry..).
Blitz Closing Comments.
This was a really nice day out and it was great to see urban sports from various disciplines all in one place. I was gutted to have missed out on watching some of the other events on the other days such as the skate cross. Hopefully I’ll catch more events next year…
Highlight of the day.
My friend Richard had the great idea of going down to Whitstable after the event. Watching the sunset on the beach, whilst eating a well-earned fish and chips with everyone was bliss.
As if someone flipped a switch, it just clicked. It feels really awesome the way you move and I don't think that translates that well from watching the video. Nor does how ecstatic I was from when I first got it going.
I have propulsion.
The thing is I can move right, but when I tried going left it was like starting all over again. From looking at this video you can see my right foot is more dominant than my left which may be something to do with it..
People asked how long it took to learn. To get to this stage I estimate about five hours altogether spread over many 30 minute sessions.
What's great about freelining is that you can just jump on them, much like a skateboard as oppose to having to carry your shoes as you do with inline skates. It allows you to be a bit spontaneous and so freelining has become my lunch time hobby by Tower Hill.
Today I went out on a public terrace area with my work colleague Antony. It was incredibly windy today so it was helpful in that I didn't have to worry about pushing off, just have to stay on these silly things!
Last month a group of skaters started this abs challenge. The task was to complete a series of sit-ups crunches, legs raises and planks. Each day the repetitions increased. It was instigated by one of the skaters Ann Marie who wanted to see if social networking (Facebook in their case), can be of benefit to each other for working out.
In Ann's group a lot of them pushed through to the end. They also did some of the days together in the park which reinforced their motivation.
I missed the start of their challenge but another friend Amy organised different group via Whatsapp.
Social networking did help in getting people going in the first place. I only gave it proper consideration to start after Amy automatically added me to the group. I'd been previously put off from after doing the 100 pushup challenge as fitting into someone else's regime is difficult, as everyone is built differently. That said, a little peer pressure and the challenge was accepted.
With constant messages throughout the week of individual's progress it did help spur people on. The trouble is when people start missing days I do think it also gave people a reason to lapse as well. With about nineteen people in the group, who would notice if you went missing? You could tell people were dropping off slowly just by the fact less and less people were updating their progress.
I was already doing a load of situps before the challenge so I did feel it was pointless for me to start from day 1. My challenge started on day 9.
Individually each of these exercises can be done without too much trouble, but when they're done back to back in this format you really do feel your abs work. The leg raises however seem to ache for me even if they're done on it's own, they're my nemesis.
When I was attempting day 30 I had actually skipped straight from day 10. My motivation was 'I just want to do day 30.' So if I skip the build up and just go for it I'll experience less days of pain! I did need quite a few interval breaks to complete the tally of moves, more specifically those damn leg raises.
One of the biggest efforts to deal with this challenge was boredom. It was so dull as it took 40 minutes for me to complete.
Since then I try to complete the whole set again once a month. With a smaller variation of it all once a week. The challenge certainly keeps the tummy trim and am glad to say I do this much quicker now (20 minutes) with fewer intervals. Leg raises are still a killer but more manageable.
My motivation now is to keep in check for those obstacle runs lined up…
(I recommend using some kind of sports back support if you're starting out. Don't push yourself too much if it's at the cost of poor technique, as that is when you're likely to cause injuries).
For the past two months I’ve been getting use to my speed skates and even had a competitive half marathon in them. I wanted to try them out myself and discover any issues before having any lessons. Now seemed to be a good time for some professional guidance before I pick up any bad practice with my speed skates.
The obvious person to go to for tuition was Mike Van Erp as it was his complimentary speed skating drill sessions that slowly changed my perceptions and got me interested in speed skating. Also not forgetting he is one of the London Skaters Speed Team coaches and was highly recommended by many of my friends.
The course was held in Hyde Park that consisted of three, two hour lessons; plus a video review. It was suppose to be on consecutive weeks but the English weather got the better of us. A lot of the classes had to postponed but Mike was very accommodating when it overran into unscheduled weeks. One Saturday it was called off but he compensated us with a free additional practise lesson on top of what we’ve paid for, even though it was the weather’s fault. Top man.
The class was for speed skating technique and ironically a lot of the exercises were done at a slow speed. It allowed us to concentrate on the nuances. Quite often the tasks would have made no sense to an outsider looking in, but they helped segregate to just one aspect of the leg movement. Mike made lots of big swooping chalk lines and shapes on the ground to aid us in understanding how he wanted us to skate.
There were exercises that had us remove a skate. It really made you aware of how lazy one leg can be, while the other leg compensates.
My slalom skating gave me a real advantage in some situations as I was already used to balancing in strange and awkward positions. One example is thrusting your front foot to carve left and right whilst your back foot is doing a toe roll.
The video review was good to have. Mike filmed us all separately from three different angles using his GoPro from his recumbent bike. We all received a link to everyone’s video and a very comprehensive set of notes for each of us. Being able to see each other’s fault and plus points helps us be more aware of what exactly is good technique. He pointed tips specific to each of us for improvement too.
While I felt more enriched with the theory of speed technique I’ve not immediately gone up a gear. These things take time.
I said earlier about not picking up bad habits. Mike pointed out that as I have been skating for over twenty years with the typical ‘street,’ style skate it would actually be harder for me in some ways over a newbie to re-program my skating style.
So practice is what I need to do now. Lots and lots. Especially at slower speeds. (So I can go faster!).
"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