It is tempting as a racer to only compete in events that you are good at. I am a big proponent of getting out and trying something new. This spring while meeting with K2 they mentioned that they would be in Minnesota in September for the North Shore Inline Race. K2 is the parent company for Madshus, Team Gregg’s: Ski, Boot, and Pole sponsor. My focus is still cross country skiing and qualifying for the upcoming World Championships in February but I figured that inline skating would be fairly similar and the cross training would be good. I also like the idea of getting more cross country skiers in to inline skating and more inline skaters into cross country skiing. The more activities motivating people to exercise, be fit, and have fun the better.
Several local inline skate groups welcomed me to the sport. Team Hoigaards, Team Twin Cam and my friend Paul, let me join in on a few of their inline skate workouts. Originally I came in with some bold goals of being top 10 and perhaps in the hunt for the cash purse for the top 3. Plus their is the elusive $10,000 bounty that K2 puts on the line for anyone who sets a new course record. I quickly learned that my expectations for the race may have been a bit bold. My second time out on skates I found myself skating with a heart rate of 180 and being dropped from the pack on what was described as an easy training day. Strangely enough I really liked being the weakest member of this new training group because the only thing left to do is improve. I watched a few more YouTube videos on inline skate technique and did my best to mimic the other skaters around me. My third time out I joined the Team Twincam crew and we skated over 50 miles in three hours. We had a pack of 10 skaters and we were just flying. We were able to cover a lot of ground and for the most part when I sat in the back I could keep up, although I did get dropped a few times the group always came back for me.
In cross country skiing your skis and wax make a huge difference. I have over 20 pairs of Madshus Redline skis in my fleet. I have two pairs of rollerskis but honestly don’t ever touch the bearing or wheels unless but once a year. Inline skate racers pay very close attention the their wheels and bearings. After K2 also sent me a faster set of skates with some harder and larger wheels. Both skates feel so fast relative to my roller skis but I would say that skating in the newer skates was similar to switching to your race skis with flouro waxes on them. Although I originally had been entered in the pro open category I decided it would be best to move back in to the Advanced 1 wave.
Inline racing is fast and we averaged just under 20 mph for the marathon. This meant that drafting was key. Similar to racing in Europe, I spent the first part of the race earning a spot in the group. No one would let me in to the pace line at first, so I would have to skate hard to the very front of the group. Skating outside of the paceline wad not efficient work. I could look over to the pace line and see guys resting with their skates pointed straight forward while I worked near my maximum effort. It is amazing at such a speed how big an advantage the draft is. Myself and several others made attacks along the course to try and break away but the big group was too fast with a slight headwind. We finished in an exciting sprint and thankfully no one was injured. I had a blast and learned a lot about race tactics, positioning and competing in a group of strangers.
The course follows the north shore of Lake Superior and is a beautiful route. I would recommend participating simply as a tour event for the closed down road and scenery, although I find the race to be an added bonus. Thank you to the organizers and volunteers of the North Shore Inline Marathon and for K2 for exposing me to such a great event.