Endurance Skating

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Race Report: London Inline Marathon 08.Aug.2015

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The Olympic Park cycle track: 1,609 metres of hell in a handbasket.


For this year’s London Inline Marathon, the club pulled out the stops and secured a new venue for the event – the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Velodrome cycle circuit. This was greatly welcomed by everyone, as participation numbers had been steadily dwindling for the last few years while it was held at the Hillingdon track… no doubt because most skaters’ experience of completing a full or even half marathon at Hillingdon is akin to a form of self-torture involving surgical equipment.

However, the new QEOP cycle circuit itself wasn’t exactly a walk in the park; being exactly 1 mile long and with plenty of elevation changes, it retained the quintessential flavour of LIM, carried over from Hillingdon and even the old Lea Valley circuit before that (before my time). You won’t find many tougher and more technical inline marathon races.

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The full marathon & half marathon were run simultaneously, with about 70 participants for the full and 50 participants for the half, so unlike last year there were many more opportunities for finding a good paceline.

Pre-Race

Pre-race pep talk

Pre-race pep talk

We were called for briefing from the race officials 15 minutes before the start. I’ve had a good warm up – managed to work up a good sweat with a 3 lap reccie, got my heart rate up, and got to see the circuit… unfortunately that was over 90 minutes ago, so I’ve probably cooled down by now. Still, mustn’t grumble. This should be fun, if I can just survive the madness of the first few laps.

Start

knowing that I’ve barely done any lactate threshold training all year, and with my horrible propensity to blow up with shin splints in shorter races, I start towards the back of the field – this should stop me from doing anything too silly like trying to hang onto the fast guys. The plan is to tuck into a friendly paceline, do my very best to cowardly avoid any turns at the front, bide my time, and then make a move when I’ve got my engine fully firing on all cylinders. Ah look, there’s Richard A, I know we’re roughly the same speed, so I’ll just tuck in there.

The first couple of lap is spent trying to form a paceline… clubmates Alistair & Glenn join us, and we begin to work together, albeit in a very inefficient and uncoordinated fashion.

Early Laps

The course is “technical” and the corners and inclines are already beginning to take their toll on many skaters. You either work as a group or are in for a long and tough afternoon. We make steady progress, although our line leaves quite a lot to be desired in terms of togetherness. We are lapping slower skaters and in turn getting lapped by the leaders. Sometimes there is not enough space (or enough awareness), leading to a few hairy moments with too many skaters going for the same piece of tarmac. I’ve already avoided a stack right in front of me – too many people skating above their ability, such is the chaotic nature of any inline marathon race.

LIM1

ESS doing all the hard work for those lazy LSST slackers… (picture: LSST).

At this stage, there are still a few inexperienced solo skaters who skating at our speed and overtaking our paceline… only to fall back again like a yoyo.. they’re not actually working in our paceline, but are roughly keeping speed with us. However there is no chance that you can skate solo at that intensity for a whole marathon, and after not too much longer they inevitably drop back and pay the price for skating alone.

The steep uphill is proving to be a particular problem for our paceline; we seem to lose all momentum as we take it on each lap, as everyone seems to forget (or are too knackered) to push on and keep striding up this hellish 20-meter stretch of track. This does not bode well.

Lap 11ish

I’ve keep my head down up til now and even pulled the line around for a lap or so, but now our pace is sagging, and I’m looking around for other options. I make an attempt to jump onto the back of two girls as they pass around us, but this is aborted as it looks like they’re just about to finish the half marathon and are scooped back up by the pack that I just broke away from. We merge with another line, and it’s all starting to get a bit messy as the half marathoners are finishing their race and putting in a fast finish, while the full marathoners are trying to keep things steady.

Lap 15ish

Speedy Lenka comes around to put a lap onto our line us, but having fallen away from her own line and with no one else with her, she drops in with us, and we being to work together – although she is one lap ahead, we’re ready to pick up the pace and push on. We break away from the bigger line and join with some skaters from other clubs, including Jason from Nottingham Skaters, and make steady progress around. For me, this is the high-point of the race – I’ve got good energy, we’re matching strides beautifully, lapping quickly, and passing other skaters who are beginning to flag. At certain points of the track you can see the progress of other lines, and I keep a mental note of a faster line containing my LSST team mate Richard H that is about to put a 2nd lap on me, however, encouragingly, it seems to be taking them a long time to reel us in, so our relative speed is pretty good at this point compared to the guys 1-2 laps ahead.

¾ distance

Finally Richard’s line rolls past us, and I jump onto the back and stay with them. Although I’m now 2 laps down on them, it’s encouraging that I am able to skate in a line that contains some pretty accomplished skaters. However, the dynamic in this line is different and slightly unnerving… it seems to stop/start in an unnatural fashion. Lenka moans “why are they doing that?” and wants to break off, but I just tell her it’s best to stick in the line as there’s unlikely to be any better options around.

I’m feeling really good and looking forward to finishing the race strongly. At one point, the line splits because of the sea-sawing, and as it reforms I somehow find myself at the front and towing everyone around for a few laps – so there I am pulling these guys around who are 2 laps up on me… this is probably the memory of this race that will stick with me most vividly when I remember it in future – I was really working hard on the back straight and putting some underpush into my stride.

When the time came, the skaters on their final lap broke away and put in a fast finish which left just a few of us, but this is useful as I know that I have only 2 laps left – quickly confirmed by a cheeky glance on the the iphone GPS. I closed out the race without too much drama.

Working harder in the 2nd half of the race and jumping onto different line has paid dividends, as I’ve managed to put a lap onto the line that I was working with in the first half.

Final result: 1:30:20 (chip time).. very happy, overall. Unfortunately I don’t have any heart rate data as I forgot my HRM. It would have been interesting to see how close I was to redlining.

Thoughts

I am still not quite sure how the new venue compares to the old Hillingdon circuit – it’s slightly more twisty, and a bit more undulating, with one steep uphill that is comparable to the steep part of the Hillingdon track. The surface is fantastic for skating (although Hillingdon’s surface was also very nice). I don’t think there’s much in it between the two, although the new venue is definitely more interesting to skate, which shouldn’t be underestimated when you are going round in circles over and over. The biggest difference was probably that we just got lucky with the conditions and today was a great day for skating – sunny and not too windy, compared to the years I’ve done LIM at Hillingdon where it always seemed to be windy and miserable.

It was a tough race, and I felt that I skated it pretty well. Working on a stronger top end to stay with some of the faster guys at the start of these races will be where I can improve. I can evidently live with them in the 2nd half of a marathon, but looking at lap times, My best lap was a measly 3:11 (and that wasn’t until the last quarter of the race), while the guys finishing 5 minutes ahead are putting in 2:50-3:00 best laps at the start of the race, but getting gradually slower as the race progressed. I managed to negative split the race, with the 2nd half a couple of minutes faster than the first, which is pretty good going on any inline marathon, never mind one held on a small loop with inclines such as this one.

Overall, it was a great day out, and I was quite a bit faster than I thought I would be. Looking at the results, there were a lot of impressive performances from LSST all around, so I certainly wasn’t alone.

I must congratulate the club and the volunteers (including Nati!x) for such a successfully organised and marshalled event – I think it brought out the best in most of us who raced on this day. Well done LSST!

Things to work on

  • Being able to blast off faster at the start. While this is the riskier thing to do and you could blow up early on, this is how to improve.
  • Crossovers – Nailing slick looking crossovers at training speed is one thing… doing them at race intensity is quite another. I just didn’t really have the confidence to cross-over at the various points on the circuit where it would have been useful. Actually, that’s not quite true, I did right-turn crossovers, but as the clock is predominately counter-clockwise, that was only useful on one corner. Boo.

Essential details

Official chip time: 1:30:20
Position: 27th overall in full marathon (about 70 starters).
Race fuel: Hornet Juice x3

Misc Links

LIM 2014 Race Report

Pictures: LSST

Pictures: Jo Tidman

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3 comments on “Race Report: London Inline Marathon 08.Aug.2015

  1. Lenka
    August 11, 2015

    A great article as usual!!
    It was a pleasure finishing the race of with you Van!
    I only wished I had known my number of laps and did not get all confused..had I known I would have gotten some finish sprint in, lol.
    I absolutely can relate to your point about cross overs which were so crucial at this race and I could have felt from my perspective that it would have made a huge difference having them mastered.
    It’s never too late though.

    Look forward to more skating and reading your post race reports!

    *your great fan

    Like

  2. Van
    August 11, 2015

    Thank you Lenka. You did awesome – can’t believe this was your first marathon. It was a lot of fun to skate with you. Let’s both go faster next year!!

    Like

  3. JC
    August 14, 2015

    Well done on your marathon time on that track. Mucho impressive.

    Like

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This entry was posted on August 10, 2015 by in Race Report, Skating and tagged , , , , , , .
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