Monday, October 02, 2017

Pinnacle of Skating Season: North Shore Inline Marathon

I have not been skating much this summer, like last summer. Last year I developed plantar fasciitis which meant my feet were in extreme pain for two days after skating. This year, my feet are a bit better, but still not great.

I've only been out on my skates a few times this summer. I did the Minnesota Half marathon the first weekend in August, and it was exhilarating. I had forgotten how awesome it feels to skate on an open road, without having to worry about bikers or others on the trail. Before I knew it I was at mile-marker 7; I couldn't believe the race was halfway over! I finished in a little over an hour and was surprised at how quickly it had gone by.

That weekend I signed up for the North Shore Inline Marathon, six weeks after my half marathon.

I only got on my skates once more between the half and the full marathon. I was not well-trained, but I didn't really care, I wasn't going for a certain time, I was going for the thrill of it. Kristi and the girls came up with me for support; my own cheering section!

The thrilled started a little early. The drive up Friday night was awful. About 20 miles outside of Duluth we hit fog that got thicker and thicker. Soon I was peering straight in front of the car, hoping to not lose sight of the lines on the road. There was no exiting the highway because I couldn't see where the pavement began or ended, and could not tell if other cars were nearby. That was not the kind of thrill I was hoping for. We made it safely to the hotel, nearly 1 1/2 hours after we should have arrived.

The morning of the marathon looked no better. We drove to the shuttle pick-up in dense fog. Once there, it began to pour. Lots of skaters were consulting with others on whether or not they were going to do the race. I had braved such terrible driving to go there, there was no way I wasn't going to try. I figured that unless they canceled the race, which they would only do for lightning, I was going to skate it.

By the time the bus got to the start line the rain had stopped, the fog lifted and there was no discernible wind. The pavement was wet but in good condition. Road improvements over the past year meant that the majority of the 26.2 miles was on smooth pavement -- no cracks or "tar snakes" to gum up wheels. Due to the wet pavement course marshalls were recommending no drafting, making what is usually a very social event one of solitude instead.

The first two miles are almost completely downhill. It felt wonderful to just tuck and go. The storm had churned up Lake Superior, which was visible to my left, angry and gray.

I had forgotten that for much of the course, skaters have to climb up and then the terrain flattens out, then climbs again. There's no coasting downhill for several miles. And then there was mile 11, a long, slow downhill, curving gently to the right.

The lake was practically in front of me as I began, sounding like an ocean in the crashing of its waves. I tucked low and began down the hill, gaining speed. Faster and faster, until I checked my watch and saw that I was going 24 mph. Cool air, crashing waves and speed=exhilaration.

The rest of the race felt wonderful until about mile 21, when my lack of training became apparent. I felt like I was using every last bit of strength and was moving in molasses. There are a couple of big hills near the end when we get off the interstate -- a volunteer walking along the side of the race course was going faster than me. How embarrassing.

Finally, the finish line! Kristi and the girls were cheering me on and I couldn't let them down. I completed the race in 1 hr 57 minutes, beating my goal of 2 hours by a few minutes. It was such a wonderful feeling, knowing I had made it through the sludge of the last few miles to finish with gusto.

I've already signed up for next year's marathon. This time, I'm going to train for it.

Just minutes after finishing. So great to see my cheer team at the end (including the one behind the camera).