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Montreal 24-Hour Inline Race Report

johnnyChen's picture

2 Texas Flyers, Biff and I, skated Montreal 24-Hour last weekend (http://inline24.com/). Skatey-Mark got 2nd in this event last year.

Smooth road surface.  Each relay team has up to 10 skaters. Laps are 2.7 miles; team members take a lap usually every 1 to 1.5 hrs. Or if you're going through midlife crisis, you can skate the 24 hours all by yourself. Below is my very wordy story for the long ass event.

Montreal is a fun town to visit.  Drivers treat daily commute like a marathon races.  Smoked meat sandwiches are excellent.
-JC
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Montreal 9/6/2008
24-hour skate, loop course, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve (4.32km)

 

Expectation

I decided to make Montreal the 2008 "A" event when Tibetan border closed.

I looked at past winning times and thought them reachable.

For 2008 the field would double in size, and Le Man winner would participate.  Other factors included the single-mindedness of Lawrence, the top-returning participant.  I thought getting on podium would be a moving target and picked 300 miles as the goal.

 

Race Plan #1.

  • Stick to the eventual leader like glue. 
  • Stay with paceline when possible. 
  • Basically race like an Italian road cycling sprinter. 
  • Stop every 4 to 6 hours.

The obvious flaw is my ability to identify the right lead at the start.

This plan also didn’t match the goal, but it was early in the season and all my neurons were devoted to duathlon and the Tibet trip.

 

July Austin rehearsal

Brian Shicoff organized the 12-hour skate in Austin.

I suffered unexpectedly. I went out too hard, ate too much. I watched in awe as Lawrence (aka More Cowbell) tapped out steady rhythm.

 

Lessons:

  • Steady pace
  • Minimize non-rolling time
  • Minimize calorie requirement
  • Don't challenge the climbs

 

Race Plan #2

  • Let Lawrence set the pace.
  • 3 scheduled stops at hours 12, 18, 21
  • Reduce calorie consumption.
  • New goal: 289 miles.

 

Last minute surprise
Biff got a solo spot few weeks before the race.  This resolved many issues.  He would hand me food and provide an hourly lap pull.  We would discuss race strategy on the course.  I didn't want Biff to overexert because of his upcoming Austin Ironman 70.3

During actual event, Biff surprised me by hourly 3-lap pulls at the speed I needed to recover and provided flexibility of variable heartrates between his pulls.

 

Race Plan #3

  • First 12 hours: Ignore ranking. 
  • Stay mostly aerobic and keep moving. 
  • Shoot for 144 miles.
  • Assuming podium finish unrealistic, hold 13 ~ 14 mph. 
  • No stops. Rolling recovery.

 

Pre-race

I wanted to hammer out a quick lap the moment I saw the smooth course.

Participants prepared their space with lawn furniture, air mattresses, hammock, clotheslines, shelves, heat guns, and espresso machines.

I resisted the urge to socialize and lay on the paddock floor.

Biff reminded me yet again this is a 9-month journey and a once-in-a-life-time opportunity, and that I could consume large quantity of comfort food after the race.  My heartrate was in racing range before I put skates on.

15 minutes before the race, I finally laced up and started the warm up.  My body felt heavy after the 3-week taper, carrying friends’ expectations, good wishes, and GPS’s.

 

Crazy first hours

In less than 1 hour the big solo pack caught us slow starters.  I jumped pack, started to average 18+ mph.  I monitored my heartrate thinking these fast laps could be my undoing, but free speed was hard to resist.  I vowed not to repeat my Austin mistake while flirting with anaerobic threshold.

We spotted the somewhat-official 24-hour skate record holder Philippe Coussy.  He wore the same outfit and $1200 frame as in Le Man photo.

Soloists chatted away. No one seemed to breathe hard.  A 23-year-old with knee brace described how he blew the left knee doing single-leg 400-lb press.  Brian Schicoff and Bryan McKenney seemed to have too much fun.  Brian actually cut the line to do extra pulls.  Majority of the soloists were capable of impressive marathon times.

Finally it was my lead at bottom of the hill.  I slow the pack down to 11 mph climbing.

"You don't pull?" A skater complained with French accent when the impatient skaters formed another paceline to pass me.  It was pointless to explain I don't pull fast when there are 22+ hours left.  Someone answered the question:

"He doesn't pull; he's from Texas."

I thought it was pretty funny.

 

Wet

Rained.  Just like last 3 previous years.

Energy bled with each stroke.  I double pushed just to avoid slipping.  Inner thighs started to complain.  I don't know how Mark Sibert skated with yellow Matters in the rain in 2007.  He must have better technique.  But it was too late to sign up for his workshop.  Most of us left the paceline of unsustainable speed.

I made a wheel change stop. So much for skating the entire 24 hours.  2 Hours later I heard that lead pack was down to 6 but still hauling donkey.  I started to question Lawrence's and my chance for a top 6 finish.

I was glad I chose the Giro Pneumo with visor instead of the lighter Giro Atmos.  Water still got into my eyes.  Not putting sunscreen on forehead was a good decision.

Skaters crashed left and right.  There were 2 invisible slippery patches at a turn Biff and I kept losing traction yet couldn’t avoid stepping on it. I focused on minimizing underpush and staying in the draft.  Under the condition there was no way to avoid crash if the lead skaters went down; might as well draft aggressively.  A pretty red fox showed up oblivious to the danger of human presence. She didn’t laugh at supposedly good skaters losing balance all over the road.

 

Energy

"It's not how much energy you use, but how much you save." 

--Robbie McCuen on 2007 Tour de France.

I divide the 2.7-mile smooth course into 3 parts.

  1. Climbs and turns
  2. Headwind
  3. Tailwind straightaway

Like a street corner prostitute, I waited for relay racers to carry me through the headwind section. I accepted anyone from 12 to 21 mph. Beggars can’t choose, but wider the better.  Some relay racers gave up few strokes to ease my transition then didn’t ask me to pull.

To reduce calorie requirement and muscle strains, I underpushed the turns and threw no crossover the whole race.

Biff brought my nutrition to the course; I pick things directly out of his fanny pack.  This eliminated speed variation required to grab items from stationary supports’ outstretching arms.

I did spent extra calories to high-five the guy who skated backward.  Just had to.

 

Real-time decision

Skaters were chatty after adrenalin returned to normal level.

"You have to climb 100 steps to get to the washroom."  A tired soloist complained.
"Then you have walk down 200 steps just to come back down."  A local relayer agreed.

This was how I decided Gatorade bottle was the way to go with which Renee was very impressed with.

 

Mistake

Temperature dropped with the rain.

I asked Biff to get my arm warmers and long pants ready.  I mentally ran through each step and suddenly realized putting on tights required taking the skates off.  I didn't think I could bear to put the skates back on.  I decided to resolve the cold knee issue by ignoring the problem.

 

Negative incentive (9pm)

BBQ in the air.  I became immensely hungry.  The event organizer had a sick sense of humor and made the skater go through the aroma every lap.  This probably would seem funny when I look back.  I wolfed down all nutrition in the pockets and craved a big hamburger with no lettuce, no tomato, and no buns.

This was when I noticed some relay teams used Madison-style exchange.  Many of these racers held speed beyond my competency.  They usually flew by as if I were standing still. Morgan passed me twice; each time I felt the need to improve my DP.

 

Brief cooperation with MC

While I focused on staying in others’ slipstream, Lawrence tapped out consistent strides like a metronome.  We finally hooked up in the dark.  Our alliance came to an abrupt end due to his cramp.  We wished each other luck before parting ways.  He was hurt, teammateless, laps behind, and unable to hold 25+ mph for the fast straightaway.  Yet somehow I thought he could still kick my butt.

Saw Shicoff couple times. He looked uncomfortable but said he was OK.

"Just slow and steady."

His body had difficulties holding core temperature, and he wisely brought the cold-weather gears.

I couldn't recognize McKenney in the dark.

 

Surviving the 2nd half

Getting through the first 12 hrs without significant discomfort was a major goal.

"You should feel so fresh you could do another 12."

I felt great at 1 am.

Biff told me to continue the strategy of not worry about my ranking. 

"All the rabbits have gone to sleep."

Road was mostly dry by now. All body parts functional. Stomach complained only once about this unnatural diet.

I had little confidence about reaching 289 miles at this point.  I tried to pump myself up:

"I'm just like the record holder Eric Gee except I have smaller legs and inferior techniques.  I have no previous experience on the course, seldom skate on wet pavement, don't make my own boots, don’t train as hard, and never came close to winning national title at any distance." 

But Eric fought the 2007 wind using aerodynamic equipment; my race condition enabled me to minimize headwind while enjoyed full benefit of tail wind.  Advantage was clearly on my side.  Yeah, the official record was going down.

Confidence evaporated at hour 12.5.  The outside of right knee stiffened from the cold.  I took my first slow recovery lap, which didn't help enough.  I reinstated the 12-hour break and spent 5 minutes to warm up the knee while Biff put the yellow Matters back on.  I doubled the ibuprofen for remaining of the race.

 

Mistaken identity

I registered as Texas Flyer but wore a plain jersey that allowed changing without taking helmet off. Biff wore the very visible red-yellow skin suit.  People started to congratulate Biff on the top 5 standing and probably wonder how he skated that far while spending so much time in the pit preparing nutrition.

 

Grave yard shift

Statistically 3 ~ 6 am is a big hurdle.

I was busy finding drafts, monitoring nutrition, and generally being terrified of crashing. The 3 hrs flew by.  My stomach was digesting well.  I added 2 Gu’s to reduce the chance of confusing hypoglycemia with a character flaw.

I was amazed how my form held.  “Trust your training,” Biff reminded me.

 

The other French skater

2 French skaters entered the race after good results from LeMan 2 months ago.

It was about hour 16 when I noticed #222.  He asked the usual:

Where are you from? How many times have you done this? How can your French be worse than my English.…

Pretty soon we realized we were competing for the same podium spot.  Biff confirmed,

"He has 2 laps on you.  You’re 4th."

Biff and I launched attack after attack; he valiantly cameback every time, digging deep.  #222 labored to get back to my draft after Biff left the course for the hour.  I spotted 2 fitness skaters and pulled the closer one to the other's slipstream.  3 of us hammered for next 2 miles and left the little dude in the dust.  2 very strong relay racers pulled my next 2 laps.  I was spent but made up a lap toward the podium.  Lap time later showed that #222 blew up trying to defend that lap and Lawrence moved up to 4th.

I was concerned about Biff. The cold and wind couldn’t be easy on someone who made 1 hourly long stop.  I actively sought out a pack to stay in so Biff doesn’t have to work so hard for remaining hours.

Coussy was all over the course, jumping from paceline to paceline.  You could spot his seemingly inefficient arm swing miles away.  Biff confirmed  Coussy's lap count was untouchable. 2nd place was #202. I didn’t see him the first 18 hours and for a while wondered if it was McKenney.

 

7:30am (5.5 hrs to go)

The 2 hills became huge about this time.  I was in so much pain I didn't notice thesun came up.  I looked forward for theankle blister to pop to reduce the pressure. I found a French-speaking pack doing modest 12-minute lap.  Coussy sat in this pack and skipped all hispulls.  So did a well-dressed jovial guywith no bib number on the back.  Hepulled out the phone and apparently asked about me. Biff found out that the numberless skater was 2ndplace Normandeau Patrick; he had 1 lap on me. We tried to lap that pack but #203 and #204 countered our every move.

#201 and Coussy were also protective of Patrick.  #201 looked like it was hard for him to skate this slowly.  5 against 2, not counting possibly other Quebec skaters recharging in paddock.  I wanted to attack but needed at least 5 fast laps assuming everything went my way. Chances were I would bonk, not to mention lengthening Biff’s recovery for very little gain.  What I really wanted was surpassing Coussy, which seemed mathematically impossible at that point.

"You were out teammated" Bryan commented later.

I made the logical move. I begged:

"you keep me in this pack, and I don't attack." 

A win-win proposition except they didn't trust me and apparently thought my legs could still throw lots of sub-10-minute laps.  They didn't ask me to pull, which was a bad sign.

 

House of cards

Difficulties climbing. Bladder full.  Left ankle not holding correct wheel angle.

I was several laps ahead of Lawrence.  5 skaters working together could attack me in various ways.  Alternatively I could draft behind Lawrence and lose at most 1 lap, but Lawrence had incentive to pass me.

I took the easy way out: a short nap before rejoining the paceline.  Patrick and his teammates finally relaxed with this 1-lap bribe. 'til the last lap, my heart rate stayed lower than pre-race when I lay on the floor.  Top 3 skaters used little energy while Lawrence cranked out his miles, ready for us to falter.

I stayed in the comfort zone and counted all the things that could still go wrong: cramps, crashes, lower back spasm, mechanical, GI….  I started to ignore the race script to focus on staying upright.  I skipped gels and water, assuming all the heavy lifting was done.  I skipped the sunscreen and GPS swap to reduce the chance of dropping things.  All I had to do was keep moving.  There ain’t nothing wrong with a 4.5-hour cool down skate.

Biff went to the front to control pace.  At every little climb, he tried hard not to put a big gap in front of the world record holder who skated like god just few hours ago.  Coussy grabbed his left thigh the whole morning.  He gave me a blank look when I asked him what’s wrong. Should’ve learned some French for this trip.

I had no idea about my mileage.  I decided to focus on the podium finish.  The body strongly suggested that I minimize muscular usage.

 

Happy ending
15 minutes to go.  I jumped out and announced,

“I will lap you twice!” 

The well-rested pack actually reacted before figuring out the joke.  The racers were allowed to finish the lap they're on at the 24-hour mark. Our slow-moving paceline organized to make the cut off.  I sat behind the domestique #201 and beat the clock at 25+ mph.  That boy could move!  It was so exhilarating we didn't realize we dropped our teammates.

That little 600-meters fun probably cost me days of recovery time.  I spoke with French accent by this time. 

"*&^$!  We have to climb this *&^%$# hill again...."

Everyone congratulated Coussy.  I shook hands with #222, Patrick and his helpers.  I received pats (above waist) along with bunch friendly-sounding French words. They let Biff and I move ahead, and I forgot to ask about Coussy’s left thigh.  Biff and I crossed the line under the Christmas light together.  I was grateful to have a teammate to share that moment.

 

Post-race

Watching the 24-hour community tearing down the paddock home was a bit depressing.  Many skaters departed before the race ended.  Felt like I missed a party.

Biff didn't want me help packing. 

"Get out there and have a good time." 

He knew I wanted to visit with racers from DC, skatelog, and the new friends who helped me in past 24 hours.  I only knew them by backsides and voices.  I never hooked up with those skaters.  My brake ability disappeared and I kept running into walls, cars, and people.

I return to assigned space to take skates off and found heavily blanketed Lawrence in shock paying for his pursuit.  I accidentally stepped on his toenail sitting on the floor all by itself.  He graciously congratulated me and commented my speed range as a major factor.  The silver and bronze finishes were team efforts.  Lawrence's podium chance was slim by hour 18 simply because he was out-teammated.  We couldn't touch him if this were a time trial.

 

Back to real world

The salt in hotel bathtub made me notice all the cuts on my shins torn open by rear wheels.  I again marveled at Lawrence’s wattage.

Walking wasn’t too difficult for the next 3 days, though Biff and I briefly considered abandoning Guinness because the bar had big stairs.

Wednesday morning.  I sat at a Dallas Dunkin’ Donuts watching the SUV wives doing morning shopping.  The suburban scene looked surreal and easy to give up.  I limped in the car park full of Lexus and Infinities and couldn’t remember how I pictured my future at the Mercedes-filled Orange County Costco parking lot in 1993.  15 years ago I didn’t know I’d appreciate donut with coffee this much.

I still wondered how much my training would need to change in order to close that 1-lap deficit. Maybe all it'd take was a pair of knee warmers that could be put on while skating.  But races are unpredictable.  Without that 1 lap lead, the Canadian team could've exhausted me by 10 am.  I was lucky to have few enough things to go wrong that I had a good race.

 

Thank Yous

  • Shicoff for coordinating.
  • McKenney for encouragements with that confident McKenney style.
  • Renee, Rick and Andrea for staying up all night to support the solo skaters and for peeling me off the floor.
  • Mark Sibert for making me thinking about the event at 2007 a2a dinner.
  • Eric Gee for saving my skin and convincing me a sprinter could do well at such event.
  • Texas Flyers, my team, for providing paceline skills, discipline, introduction to endurance, and camaraderie.
  • Relay racers for slipstreams and extra room at the relay area.
  • Lawrence for education, encouragement, and inspiration.
  • Biff for going beyond the planned roles (manager, support, trainer) and risking his Ironman 70.3 to optimize my race.  And for being a friend.
  • Tanisha for guiding me through triathlon then taking away my bragging rights by finishing the same Ironman 3 months after C-section, and for giving Biff up for the duration of the event.

 

HRM info:

  • avg: 67%
  • max: 90%
  • 12005 cal
  • time: 24:14

Crashes: 0

Blisters: 2

Distance data:

  • avg = 13.8 mph
  • fast lap = 28.748 km/hr = 17.97 mph
  • lap count = 124
  • total distance = 334.8 miles
  • total race time = 24:13:53
Approx time not skating:
  • 5 min, change to rain wheels
  • 1:30am 6 min, wheel change + nap
  • 10:30am 8 min, bathroom + nap

Planned nutrition:

  • Hammer gel; espresso 8
  • Gu gel; no caffeine 2
  • Red Bull 5
  • Amino Vital 8
  • ibuprofen 12
  • Viviran 4
  • SportLegs 30
  • Antifatigue Cap 26
  • Endurolyte 23
  • Perpetuem 15
  • Caloriesper hour 233

Course:

 

Location

United States
45° 30' 10.1268" N, 73° 31' 43.2984" W

Comments

eebee's picture

334.8 miles!

Thank you so much for posting this report, Johnny! Big congrats on the 3rd place solo finish.

I can't process the mileage, pain and have no concept of your time in skates as I have not done this event. So thank you for explaining it all so well.

The solo event definitely sounds like a different animal this year to last year's event. I was looking at the solo 'team' names. Pretty funny (Dead Man Rolling, Youb Solo to Gap France, and one of the women solo names is Mallow Pieds):

http://www.mylaps.com/results/showrun.jsp?id=953507&perclass=1

"...along with bunch friendly-sounding French words..." - They were probably all swear words. Johnny you can borrow 2 of my French cuss-word books for next year so you'll be fluent: Merde! and Merde Encore!

Interesting what you said about minimizing calorie requirement in the training skates. 

After this report (and others) I'm not sure whether I crave doing this event or avoiding it at all costs. This is probably how non-A2A skaters view our A2A war stories!

Bryan's picture

I'm not sure whether I

I'm not sure whether I crave doing this event or avoiding it at all costs

I'm thinking that I will do it solo some day. Not any time soon, but in maybe three years or so. And not with any hope of winning, either. But just to do it.

skatey-mark's picture

great story

This is definitely one of those events where you question your sanity, even moreso than A2A if such a thing is possible... It sounds like the spirit of the solo race has changed quite a bit since last year... I guess the "slow and steady" strategy isn't enough to win any more... Now there are pack dynamics to contend with, etc. As for skating on the yellow matters in 2007 -- I was surprised that they held their grip too. But keep in mind I was only skating 11-12 mph probably, and most of that by myself or in a pack of two. There were no attacks the whole race, no sudden acceleration... Just steady skating the whole time (except for the first couple laps.) I'm definitely thinking about going back in 2009, but that's a long way off... We'll have to see how the scheduling works out... - SM -
roadskater's picture

At 14mph for Third Place It's Less Slow Regardless of Steady

Yeah. I haven't read elsewhere on this (and I read johnnyChen's while oh so lightly editing) but it sounds like Johnny's strategy suited him and let him keep up a higher average. I do like the idea of grabbing a passing pack for a microburst (wx term I know) of 30 secs to a minute of higher heart rate perhaps, while watching the average heart rate. Still, one could do slow and steady if the slow is 14mph including stops for 3rd place! It looks like having a domestique may be a requirement? Did places 1 and 2 have domestiques? How did MoreCowbell do in the end and I am assuming he was using the same turtle tech I use when I have a brain. But no way could I do that mph methinks, unless that track is pretty flat but not totally flat, say. And of course were I to keep skating all winter and lose weight ha double ha all winter maybe the power/weight might work out. By the way, do we have weight data for any of the participants? I'd like to timewaste on some pound-miles/hour calculations. I assume there's no chance they weighed the skaters, huh? I know. Silly.
johnnyChen's picture

steady is the way to go

To optimize distance, steady is definitely the way to go.  The problem was not having anyone to go steady with (which explains that I'm single).  Cowbell went steady and fought the wind more.  It wouldn't surprise me if he uses many more calories.  His avg heart rate was higher.

They're already talking about a 600 km attempt.  Sounds very doable if 4 workers are willing to do this: 6 or 8 hour 2-man shifts.  Each worker comes out with nutrition then pull 3 laps.

Domestique is not a requirement if you have sufficient friends in the race.  Home court advantage played a big part this year for soloists.

I'd like to think I have a shot at 600 km under ideal condition, which makes me think there are skaters who could go further.  Eddy, for one.

 

roadskater's picture

No Denigration of Domestiques

I just wanted to make sure I wasn't sounding like I think domestiques or using them are bad. Friends or domestiques, Lance Armstrong would likely not have made 7 Tours de France wins in a row without them, and an incredible lot of other factors of planning, skill and perhaps luck. Even with domestiques it might be better for some to catch drafts from passers by, and this likely depends on the individual skater's strengths in physique and training. I'm in awe of both approaches and anyone who does the 24 solo, as this is the way I would want to do it were I able to some day. I would like to have a roadskater.net team of soloists, but imagine we'd break up into smaller 2-packs or so by the end of it!
johnnyChen's picture

drafting behind relay racers

Based on what I saw this year, dedicated worker is required to maximize the distance. < 100 skaters are stretched over 2.7 miles. Most are not going near your ideal speed.

Lots of drafting opportunities were lost in the relay zone. It's hard to pick the optimal person to draft behind. Once identified, you often couldn't afford the energy to bridge the gap + matching the acceleration up the hill. On few occasions, drafts from passers by worked out well. They're far in between and lasts at most 2.7 miles.

The big solo train this year had potential except maybe a bit fast. Then the rain broke the train. Without workers, I think the cooperating paceline is the way to go. Winner would be the one taking the least breaks.

 

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