But this weekend was a big one, the NorthShore Inline Marathon, THE skating event for me. It's a full 26.2 marathon, along the same course of Grandma's marathon, from Two Harbors to Duluth, MN, with a view of Lake Superior for much of the race.
Last year was my first time skating it, and I completed in 1:58, beating the time I thought I would get by a good 20 minutes. I met a lot of good people, learned a lot about skating, equipment and the efficiency of drafting.
Conditions were ideal this year. Last year it was 29 degrees at the start and only warmed to 45 degrees by the finish. I had to buy lined tights at the expo the night before because I knew I would freeze if I wasn't properly dressed for the weather. It took a long time for muscles to warm up to get up to speed.
This year it was a nice 50-something degrees at the start and 65 at the end, with very little wind. I wasn't cold, and I never felt hot. It was perfect.
I had hoped to skate with a friend I had made at the Minnesota Half marathon a month ago, but she was put into a different wave than I and would be starting about 4 minutes ahead of me. We were very similarly paced and had drafted well previously, but it wasn't meant to be this year.
Despite not having anyone to start out with, I was amazed at the community and camaraderie that exists between skaters. Around mile 3 two women who were drafting skated past and asked, "Would you like to join us?" Why sure! I'll happily draft with a group.
They passed a few more skaters and asked, "Would you like to join us?" and pretty soon we had a drafting line of between 12 and 15 skaters, men and women alike, but women were always in the lead. (Girl power!)
One woman led the line for about 4 miles, keeping a consistent speed up the hills and flying down the hills. Those of us in the drafting line kept encouraging her -- "You're keeping a great pace! Keep it up!" Finally she was tired and fell back, to have someone else take the lead. I took the lead for about 3 miles or so, and it was a blast. Everyone was incredibly encouraging and very smart. No one took unnecessary risks and if they were speeding along too quickly they would pull out of line rather than risk falling and taking down the rest of the drafting line with them.
I stayed with this group from mile 3 to about mile 21, when I caught up to my friend who'd been in the wave ahead of me. Then she joined our group (or we joined hers, depending on your point of view), and we finished close to each other.
I completed the marathon in 1:35:08, or about 23 minutes faster than my time last year. Hmmm...maybe if I set my goal for 1:35 next year, I'll beat it again by 20 minutes? That seems to be the pattern.
|Photo near the finish.|