Monday, September 17, 2007


My fitness routine this summer revolved around my goal to skate the Northshore Inline marathon in under 2 hours, something I was unable to accomplish in my previous 3 races. This goal was set for two major reasons; to lose 10 pounds through focusing on body strength and endurance and to ensure I was not beat by my friend’s 65 year old father. The bad news; none of my goals were accomplished. The good news; I am completely satisfied with the race, the results of my performance and the lessons I learned through the experience.

Basic Biology: In order to lose weight, it is essential to remember the following; your calories burned must be more then your calories used. While it is important to eat enough calories to lose weight at a healthy rate, carbing up like it is race day everyday is counterproductive in achieving any weight loss goal. Using my training schedule as an excuse to eat anything I wanted, I had actually put on 5 pounds by the end of the summer (and muscle weight was really not an excuse). After realizing I was sabotaging myself, I refocused and lost 10 pounds (for a net loss of 5) before race day.

The Joy of Joints: Joints take on a whole new meaning when training in your thirties. Joints are not things that people smoke, or places they hang out, but the areas of the body that suddenly hurt with each and every workout. Advil is no longer used to treat a headache after a late night, but as a survival tool necessary to walk up a flight of stairs or sit for an hour without excruciating pain. The biggest discovery of the summer was how my fluctuating weight effected how my body ached. Being overweight in your teens and twenties is unhealthy, but you never really understand what carrying the extra tonnage is doing to your body. By thirty it becomes increasingly apparent what a few extra pounds does; joints literally protest the extra weight they carry around. Knees are the first thing to go on an athlete, and mine have been going for years, but this summer it was my hip joints that were causing training setbacks. Taking just 5 pounds off my joints helped me through the race.

Be yourself: Not everyone is built to compete in the Iron Man triathlon, run the Boston Marathon, bike in the Tour de France, swim the English Channel, climb the Himalayas or hike the Appalachian Trail, yet we are each guilty of taking on activities that are completely wrong for both our physique and lifestyles. For years I did the fitness equivalent of fitting a square peg in a round hole; running miles and miles and miles, destroying my body both physically and emotionally. Severe pain and the lack of passion for running led to many skipped workouts. Long-term health and wellbeing requires finding a sport or exercise that is both enjoyable and doable. There is no sense in being in tip top shape in your twenties and thirties if you can no longer move in your fifties.

Goals are meant to be modified: A few days before the race I declared that I was ready both physically and emotionally to break the two hour mark… as long as there was not a severe headwind. Up until the day of the race, I thought nothing could be worse then last year’s rainy inline marathon. Mother Nature has a sense of humor, and racers quickly learned what was worse then rain; an unseasonably cold and blustery day. The official temperature at the start of the marathon was 28 degrees with a 10 MPH headwind. The temperature did rise enough to curtail the number of hypothermia cases, but the whitecaps on Lake Superior provided a visual display of what every skater felt happening; the headwind picked up to over 20 MPH. Around the ten mile mark I was no longer able to “race my race,” forced to reassess my 2 hour goal and establish a new goal; just get to the finish line. Angels on wheels were all around; leading drag lines of 30 or more people, helping everyone fight the brutal wind. It was impossible to catch a break, even downhill; everyone who tried to coast immediately learned that the wind would actually push them backwards. People were cramping from the cold temperatures and a few were throwing up on the side of the road from extreme fatigue. By the time I made it to my cheering section at the 23 mile mark, Lemondrop Hill, I was physically spent and had nothing left in the gas tank, almost unable to make it up the famed slope. Somehow I made it up the hill, the site of the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge bringing a tear to my eyes. 3.2 miles later I was crossing the finish line, never so happy to hear my name grossly mispronounced by the announcers.

"There is a beer at the end of this wind tunnel."
- Explosive Bombchelle at mile marker 16

Celebrate your strengths: I am not the best skater with the prettiest stride or the best times, but after completing the 2007 NSIM I can feel perfectly comfortable saying I am a skater. My early days of skating were on city streets and hockey rinks and the strengths I developed then came in handy during the race; bobbing my way through crowds who were unable to handle the conditions, mentally fighting the urge to drop out through my competitive spirit, and overcoming extreme pain and fatigue to finish the race like my previous three; strong and fast over the finish line. Until this year’s race, I always discounted skating, being quick to correct people who thought I ran marathons, declaring I was not “that athletic.” Surviving the rain of the 2006 NSIM and the brutal wind and cold of the 2007 NSIM finally made me realize that I might not run marathons, but I should not be ashamed that I skate them. The race was the hardest thing physical thing I have ever done and challenging my body like that is among the most amazing things I have ever accomplished; better then any size 10 I ever starved myself into. Whether you can complete a marathon, walk the Breast Cancer 3 Day, Bike a 100-miler, climb a Colorado 14er, or complete a workout tape, it is so important to set a physical goal and work hard to achieve it.

I survived the 2007 Northshore Inline Marathon and am already looking forward to racing next year. Although my time this year was slower, the stats below show improvement; I should actually move up a heat with my posted time! I still want to complete the race in under 2 hours and hopefully Mother Nature is kinder next year; but just in case, I will pack my snowsuit.

By the Numbers:
2007 Results:
Number of Finishers: 2559
Average Time: 2:22:54 (slowest average of the 12 year history of the race)
Place Overall: 1587
Division Place (F 30-34): 51/115
Gender Place: 435/1063
Total Time: 2:28:52
Pace: 5:41

2006 results:
Number of Total Finishers: 2275
Average Time: 2:02:38
Place Overall: 1697
Division Place: 69/115
Gender Place: 530/940
Total Time: 2:16:24
Pace: 5:13


Alex said...

Congrats on surviving another year! :)

We'll have to see what my competitive urges have to say when next spring rolls around, but this could be an intriguing option for me if I'm not playing frisbee. I'll be living near enough to the lakes to make training an enjoyable option, and I do like to skate. Hmm...

Brian & Becca Davis said...

Well, well done! I absolutely agree with your sentiments. It doesn't matter what you are doing, just that you are doing something and that you work on challenging yourself. (and a marathon - using any method of locomotion - is more than just 'something') We're proud of you and will raise a glass in your honor here on the left coast.


Brian & Becca Davis said...

An add on from the little guy.

Interesting to read about what all you've learned in doing these. A few things struck me specifically.

1) Being yourself. Becca and I have this discussion all the time. I've been impressed that she's started running more and I was very proud of her for finishing the 10k. However I'm more concerned for her that she find something that she'll keep doing and not skip workouts, etc like you alluded to. The most important thing is consistency; fro some people that's walking every day and for others it's training for half marathons. Doesn't matter which; just that you're doing something to get out of the house.

2) The weight issue. As someone who has dropped 35 lbs from my heaviest in MN, I definitely agree with the joint issue. I used to not be able to make it through a season of ultimate without a few injuries cropping up. Now that I've dropped the weight, I'm doing 20-30 miles x week running with little to no problems and as painfree as running that far can be. Even 5 lbs off your weight can go a VERY long way towards long-term health.

3) Being adaptable. Kudos for knowing that it just wasn't going to be your day for a variety of reasons, adapting and coming through with a good result. As any distance athlete knows, 95% of the effort is from the neck up and you came through with flying colors.

Congrats again; I'll keep all of this in mind when I run the half marathon in 5ish weeks. Hopefully it will be slightly warmer than it is there!


Ronald said...


And I could tell you were "athletic" way back during ATP when you and Krista and I would go rollerblading in the parking lot after class, and you'd be gliding around doing Biellmann spirals while I'd be falling over trying to do a simple crossover. :D

Anonymous said...

What an awesome accomplishment! I completely agree that it's so important to find a form of exercise that is good for you not only physically but emotionally as well. It brings on a whole different level of stress when you are forcing yourself to do something that you hate just in order to stay in shape...definitely sounds like my relationship with running :)