24-Hour Inline Montreal Race Report
Wow... What do you say after skating for 24 hours? Well, first off I want to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to our AWESOME support team! Andrea, Maria, Renee, and Dawn -- YOU ROCK! In fact, we need to create a whole new verb that adequately describes how much you rock. And another BIG THANKS to Brian Shicoff for organizing everything, and to Lawrence for really making me earn that silver medal, and to Bryan McKenney for rounding out our team of Americans determined to fulfill Brian's dream of sweeping the podium... (lol)
Another thing that comes to mind is that I am absolutely amazed that everything went as well as it did. I was skating on different wheels than I had skated on before. I wasn't entirely sure I had figured out how well I could tolerate eating for 24 hours. I wasn't sure how my feet, joints, etc would hold up for 24 hours (especially wet feet from the rain.) I didn't get too hot or too cold. (I was a little warm towards the end of the race, but not too bad.) And my brain didn't turn to mush like it normally does after several hours of skating -- that turned out to be critical with regard to getting more food & drink from the best support team ever... :) So everything really did line up quite nicely, much better than it seemed at the beginning. But first things first..
I flew into Burlington, VT on Thursday night and stayed overnight there. Then I drove to Montreal, which is a pretty scenic drive. I got into Montreal just in time to check into the hotel and walk over to Brian's hotel so that I could meet him and the rest of the crew for lunch. We went to a Mediterranean restaurant, which wasn't too bad, and chit-chatted a bit about the upcoming race. I really didn't know what to expect and set a somewhat conservative goal of 250 miles. Brian wanted to get to 200 miles, I can't remember if Lawrence had a goal, and I'm pretty sure Bryan was in it to win. After lunch we went our separate ways, figuring that people would want to do their own thing for dinner and we wouldn't be likely to find a restaurant to accommodate all our choices of cuisine. I got my gear ready, made 5 gallons of Gatorade, and relaxed a bit until it was dinner time. Then I ventured out and found a restaurant called Reuben's. I got a smoked-meat sandwich & fries, smoked meat being one of the foods Montreal is known for. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoked_meat) If you ever want a quick meal, I swear you can walk into a place and have a smoked meat sandwich in less than 5 minutes -- they have that stuff ready to go all the time.
I went to bed around 9:30 or 10:00, which is early for me. I slept okay -- I think I woke up once during the night. I had the alarm set for 8am, which would give me time to check out, drive to the park, and check in for the event. (We had decided at lunch to try to get there around 10am...) Before driving up to Montreal, I picked up some cheap Styrofoam coolers with the intention of getting some ice, but I couldn't find any place that sold ice on the way to the park. And of course there was no ice to be had at the park. So that part of the plan didn't really come together. We marked our territory in the paddock space and started to organize our stuff. I started dividing the various food items I had into baggies to make it easier on the support team to hand me new stuff. The plan was to eat an energy bar, a package of sport beans, and 2 gu gels. When the baggie was empty, I'd get a new one. I had a waist pack that could carry two water bottles, the idea being that I would replace one of them as soon as it was empty, so I'd never be without fluids. I had planned on wearing a short-sleeved jersey (my white/red TTT jersey) since the temperature seemed very moderate (about 75 degrees). But out in the sun it felt warmer, so I switched to my sleeveless RSN jersey. I made sure to put some sunscreen on my arms, neck, and face, since skating sunburned for hours and hours didn't seem like a good idea.
Eventually, we made our way down for the rules discussion, which were really meant more for the teams than the solo skaters. I munched on 2 energy bars during the talk. After that, there was a warmup lap... It was a good opportunity to check out the course for those like me that had never seen it before. It wasn't bad. One mild uphill, a nice gradual downhill, and a 180-degree turn into a straightaway that took you back to the start. That final straightaway was perhaps close to a mile long total and had a brutal headwind... I mentioned to Brian that, by the end of the race, that little uphill was going to seem like a mountain.
Afterward, we went back to the paddock until the race. I made myself a pb&j sandwich and drank some Gatorade. Everyone's spirits were up, despite the absolute insanity we were about to embark on. It was about 12:30 when they suddenly announced that skaters needed to start lining up! WHAT?!?!? I thought I had another 30 minutes to mentally prepare... So I went down and asked - how much time do we have, really? Well, we had at least 20 more minutes. That's more like it. So I go back to the paddock yet again, double check everything and make sure that the support crew knew where to find all my food & drink.
It started to get close to "the time" and we made our way down to the start line. Brian pointed out Eric Gee, the man to beat. I had to chuckle because he had one of those aerodynamic time trial helmets on. I thought "who is he kidding?" Bryan suggested moving my bib number, which was stuck to my back, down to my leg -- better cooling... So I did that. The sticker didn't stick quite as well as it could have, but it was good enough. Soon, the countdown began and then we were off!
We started off waaaaaaaay too fast! But not as fast as some others -- Bryan and Eric were gone in a flash! Brian and I were cruising at around 17 or 18 mph probably. My heart rate was at least 20 beats above the range I told myself I would stick to. The whole first lap I kept telling Brian it was too fast, the pace wasn't sustainable, etc. Still I stuck with him as we made our way around the first lap. The strategy was to try to get behind someone else before the 180-turn so we could draft through the headwind, which I think we did. That first lap was the fastest of the whole event for me, and I was still whining to Brian as we started on the second one... :) Finally, I told him I was going to drop, and to just go on without me if he was feeling strong, which he did. I felt a little down having dropped so soon, as was wondering if my strategy of "slow steady pace" was the right one. Other solo skaters passed me as well, sometimes I would skate with them a bit, but usually my heart rate was still too high. I had told myself I would keep it under 150, but I was easily letting it creep up to 160. (Better than 180, but not good enough.) I turned on my mp3 player, which was set to shuffle mode. The first song to come on was, ironically enough, "Eye of the Tiger". Okay, I thought, I can do this...
Still, I thought it was probably time to reset my expectations. As far as I knew, the only person still behind me was Lawrence... The only person disciplined enough not to get caught up in all the excitement and stick to his game plan. I figured that I would just see what I could do. 250 miles still seemed attainable. But placing seemed unreasonable. Part of me knew that the pace people were going at was just too high, but it's hard not to doubt yourself when just about everyone is passing you. The first few laps after dropping from Brian, I would get a glimpse of him around the 180-turn, and he was creeping further and further ahead. I stuck with the strategy of trying to keep my heart rate low, but at the same time try to catch up to someone before the big headwind so that I could make better time on the final straightaway. The first 7 laps I was so out of it mentally that I kept forgetting to hit the lap button on my hrm and gps. (That's over an hour and a half.) That's probably about when I ate the last bit of the food I started with... So I got some more food & drink and settled down some more. That's when I finally got into a rhythm and things didn't seem quite so bad. That is, until I'd get lapped by Eric and Bryan again, or any of the other solo skaters -- which seemed to happen about once an hour. (Or so I thought.) Now I realize that what was happening was people were taking breaks, then coming out fresh and passing me...
The support crew really did a great job -- there were only a couple times where there was a miscommunication or a missed handoff. And the laps were short enough that it was no big deal to just wait until the next lap. During one of my early bottle handoffs, I got a note along with the bottle that said "we need your chip number if possible". Fortunately, I could read the number while skating so on the next lap I yelled it to them, and everything seemed fine again. A lap or 3 later, Andrea is waving very dramatically for me to stop. She says there is an issue with my chip (but doesn't elaborate) and that she has another one for me. So 30 seconds later I'm back on the track with 2 chips now. I didn't hear anything more from her on the next few laps, so I figured whatever issue there was had been solved.
My energy seemed to be holding out pretty well, although it was still early in the race... I wasn't having any trouble eating or drinking, although the energy bars were getting tougher and tougher to eat... Still, I figured I should keep trying to choke them down as long as possible before switching entirely to gu. I continued to just crank out laps, listening to music. The start/finish line was always interesting since that's where the relay handoffs were happening. I'm surprised there weren't a lot of accidents there, since people were cutting out in front of other people and really not paying attention to what was going on around them. I and many of the other solo skaters would just back off through that area and try to keep as much empty space around us as possible, to avoid crashing.
Every now and then, I'd pass Lawrence... He seemed to be doing well, just cranking out the laps like me. I loved his team name -- "More Cowbell", so I would usually make a cowbell reference as I went by. We encouraged each other when we saw each other, and he always seemed in good spirits when I saw him... This was only his second race ever (so I heard), so he was doing awesome by those standards. (By any standard really -- who's crazy enough to skate 24 hours, regardless of how much experience they have?)
Speaking of passing people, I obviously was passed hundreds of times during the race by the team skaters. They really did a great job of encouraging all the solo skaters. The solo bib numbers were distinctively different than the team skaters. So it was no uncommon at all to hear the team guys (and gals) shouting encouragement as they zoomed by. (Kinda reminded me of cyclists encouraging the skaters when we do events with them.)
I found myself becoming a shameless "wheel sucker", which became even more shameless as the race went on. Anyone I could draft off, I could -- men, women, children, elderly... :) It didn't matter... If they were close to my speed, I'd duck in behind them as best I could. I remember drafting off one guy for a bit, and he turned around and asked if I wanted to pull. I said I would, but that I'm not going to be very fast. Then he saw my solo sticker, and decided to just pull the rest of the lap. Sometimes I'd get into the draft, only to have the person speed up. (It is a race after all...) So I wouldn't always be able to stay in it. As the race went on, I was drafting less and less. It became harder and harder to find people skating at my speed, which got slower and slower of course.
I think around 5-6 hours into the race, it started to rain. Great, I thought... I had been hoping the rain would hold off longer than that! I had yellow Matter wheels on (very hard) and oiled ceramic bearings... Not exactly a good rain setup. But the rain was very light and, except for the short uphill, I didn't seem to be having and trouble with traction, so I decided to keep going. Despite the sleeveless jersey, I still felt warm enough too... I zipped it up, as it had been unzipped at least halfway down the front before. The rain didn't last long (maybe a lap or two), but it did make the track wet, and it was certainly a preview of the weather to come...
The rain stopped long enough for the track to just start drying out, then it would start again. Most people had stopped for breaks by now, but I was still feeling good... The miles were clicking by on the gps, and my legs weren't having any trouble. I knew I was getting some blisters from the wet conditions, but nothing too serious. I wanted to get in as many miles as possible before my first stop. Eventually I hit the 100-mile mark, and I kept going... I thought maybe 125 miles would be a good point to stop... That would be about halfway to my original goal. Around that time (I think), I was rolling past the start area and Andrea yelled that I was two laps behind... I yelled back "behind who?" and she said "Eric!"... Now that just couldn't be right... People had been passing me left & right - surely there were others between me and first place, and how am I only 2 laps down? I guess people were taking plenty of breaks... I was starting to drift a bit mentally, so the next lap I asked for a Red Bull, and picked it up on the following lap. Normally I don't drink that stuff, and bought it on a bit of a whim... But it perked me right up! Within 15 minutes, I was as alert as ever...
So, now that I apparently was in second place, I guess I had to start taking this seriously again... I reevaluated my goals and decided that getting to the podium was probably realistic after all. Here I was, all set to just cruise the whole race, and now it looked like I was going to have to put in some real effort after all. Well, that's what I came for...
Not long after that, I hit 8 hours and was getting a little bored... I had starting singing along with the mp3 player when I heard someone call my name... It was Brian, coming up behind me. He had been on a break and came back onto the track when he saw me go by. So now we decided to skate together at a reasonable pace. I told him I was thinking of stopping at 125 miles, which wasn't too far away. We skated one more "long" lap, and then were switched over to the shorter course for the nighttime portion of the event. It had a different uphill which was longer but not as steep as the longer course.
Now, up to this point, I think I had balanced my hydration pretty well, but I was getting to the point where I needed to return some of this fluid to nature. (I had probably drank a couple gallons of Gatorade at that point.) Fortunately, it was long past sunset now and there was a good unlit stretch of the track right after the downhill. So I told Brian he might want to stay back a bit on the next downhill while I took care of business... No point in stopping unless you have to, right?
We cranked out several laps and 125 miles came and went. Maybe 150 miles... :) We kept rolling and eventually Brian decided to take another break... I guess the only interesting thing to note is that after my initial rolling pee break, I was having to go almost every hour! Perhaps I was drinking too much fluid at the time -- the temperature had dropped down to the mid-60s. But I was able to hit the dark section with no one around frequently enough that I could keep postponing that first break. Finally, after grabbing some food, I decided that the next time I ran out of food, I would stop. That took another hour and a half, of course. By then my bearings had been squeaking for many hours, my feet had been soaked for a long time and I knew they would be in bad shape... A little after hour 13, I rolled into the paddock to assess the damage, and found everyone else there too... GPS said I had done 172 miles at that point.
I grabbed a chair and pulled off my skates. The support team, again, was awesome in getting whatever I needed. The socks came off and my feet really were in bad shape. I can't remember who was standing nearby, but I'm pretty sure I heard her gasp... :) I grabbed an extra shirt and dried my feet as best I could. I fortunately brought 4 pairs of socks, so I knew I had a warm dry pair to put back on. The blisters were already broken. I knew with the wet conditions, it would do little good to bandage them -- the bandages would just come loose and cause even more rubbing. So I turned my attention to my skates. I had an extra set of wheels with greased bearings in them, ready to go. But I liked the way the Matters were rolling, so I decided to see if I could get the bearings moving again. I had brought a small spray can of Tri-Lube which is this Teflon-based lubricant. I left the wheels right on the skates and just sprayed the heck out of the bearings with the Tri-Lube. I used at least half of the can, but to my surprise the bearings were all spinning pretty well again. Very well, in fact. Of course, our whole area smelled like Tri-Lube now, which was reminiscent of bananas... I thought about switching to a warmer jersey, but I really was comfortable while I was skating. (A little chilly when stopped, which can be expected.) So I kept the same sleeveless jersey on.
Andrea came over and retrieved the 2nd chip -- it turned out it wasn't necessary after all. She didn't want to worry me at the time, but back in the beginning of the race, when they checked on our progress I was showing up as having done ZERO laps! So they figured I had a defective chip. Well, what happened is I had the wrong chip. My bib number was 118 and my laps were showing up under 114. So once they figured that out, they just changed me in the computer to be 114.
One thing I did decide to change was my food strategy... I just couldn't choke down another energy bar! So I decided to switch to all gu for the rest of the race. Even the sport beans were too much. They were hard to eat and waaaay too sweet. Oh - speaking of sweet. After drinking gatorade for hours I swear my teeth felt like there was crud all over them. Disgusting. I seriously would consider brushing my teeth during a break if I did something like this again. The battery on my GPS was almost dead, so I didn't even bother taking it back out with me - I just turned it off and left it in the paddock.
I replenished the food & gatorade, put on dry socks, and put on my skates. Now, my boots were soaked so the socks weren't dry for long. But now at least my feet were only damp, and not wet. I got back on the track and started skating again. My break had been 40 minutes long. Surprisingly, I didn't cramp up and didn't have too much trouble getting going again. Now it's close to 14 hours, around 3am. I think I was by myself here. I think also that it had continued to rain off-and-on. There was one time that the track really was drying out and then it rained the hardest that it rained the whole event. Oh well... I didn't have a headlamp... one really wasn't necessary, at least at the speeds I was going. I did have a little blinky light on the back of my helmet so other people could see me.
I enjoyed the night skating. Temperature was comfortable for me... No real distractions... Just me and my skates, cranking out the laps. When it rained, I zipped up the jersey, when it stopped, I unzipped it. My pace was definitely slowing -- my short laps were taking just as long as the long laps had taken before. Now, in addition to regular food & drink, I was taking ibuprofen every four hours. So that always gave me something to look forward to -- the next drug dose... :) I started with 400 mg a couple minutes before the start, and took 400 mg more every 4 hours. I think that it helps to start taking it before you're sore - kind of a pre-emptive strike... :)
It was a little surreal sometimes though... The long straightaway towards the relay zone was very dark, but one of the lights they set up (hooked to a generator) was near a fork just before the relay zone. So it was the "tunnel with a bright light at the end"... I kept thinking "go towards the light"... Or is it supposed to be "don't go towards the light." I couldn't remember. Then the relay zone was insane. Half the skaters that were waiting had headlamps on, and they're looking toward you, so you're just about blinded by all the lights. Then teams also tried to distinguish themselves with different colored colors, crap on their helmets, etc... So it was this very bizarre, dreamlike scene with lots of random light & noise and people and movement...
Aside from the relay zones, things were pretty uneventful, and I continued to crank out laps. I remember looking down at my watch right around 16 hours and thinking "wow, only 8 hours left." Then it hit me -- I have ***EIGHT*** hours left! There's no "only" about that! That's a long damn time! Ugh... But I kept going... It was nearly dawn now, so I was going to soon lose the cover of darkness for my hourly pee breaks. Oh well, I'd figure something out. By 6am you could definitely see without lights... I figured I'd stop in another hour or so. I wanted to get to 18 hours before stopping again. I knew the stops would probably be more frequent in the latter part of the race. I skated past the relay zone and Andrea yelled I was only one lap down! I told her I'd be stopping on the next lap. I don't remember if I saw Eric out there or not at that point. I soon finished my lap and rolled in for my second break, just after 18 hours.
This was a much shorter break, maybe 20 minutes. My bearings, despite going through more wet conditions, were still spinning well. (So no maintenance there.) I pulled the skates & socks off again, and put on dry socks. My boots were mostly dried out by now, so my feet stayed dry the rest of the race, although the damage had certainly been done. I knew I'd be losing at least one toenail, and had some of the worst blisters I've ever had skating. I might have had a pb&j sandwich. I think Andrea told me that Eric's team had told him I was on his heels, and basically made him go back out and skate. I asked how far 3rd place was behind me and was surprised at the answer... "3rd place is sitting right next to you." Lawrence! How cool is that! So I think I had 6 or 7 laps on Lawrence at that point. Eric was still in reach, but I was tiring fast and Eric still looked strong when I saw him. So without taking any more time than necessary, I got myself together and got back on the track.
So it's past dawn now, and we're still on the short route. I figured they'd switch us back to the long route as soon as daylight hit, but apparently it would not be until 9am. Brian is with me, trying to pull me back up to Eric. Brian took a long break and got some sleep during the night, so he was somewhat refreshed. I, on the other hand, am definitely feeling the effects of the race. Brian easily drops me on the uphill, and has to slow down for me to catch him. We skate several laps. Brian's goal of 200 miles is still within reach, but I am slowing him down. Brian still says he'd rather help me catch Eric than pursue his own goal, though... Brian's an awesome guy... :) At some point, Brian stops to switch skates, and I keep going. At one point, I actually passed Eric on the track. It was the only time during the race that it happened, and he was still a couple laps up on me (at least), but it was a little psychological boost.
Brian rejoins me and we crank out a few more laps... I'm dying fast though. I need another break already. I suffer through a couple more laps and finally stop again. (Partly to use the bathroom...) It's 20 hours into the race now, and I take a 20 minute break... Eric, with the help of the Toronto team, has re-asserted his lead and now has 5 laps on me. Lawrence cruises by and now is only 5 laps behind me. 4th place was something like 10 laps behind Lawrence. So, unless someone screwed up, first, second, and third places were more-or-less decided. Provided, that is, that everyone kept skating. It's hard to lap someone more than once an hour, so with only 4 hours left you just have to keep rolling to keep your spot. Now I knew Eric had first place locked up. But Lawrence still looked strong, so I had to be careful and plan the rest of the race carefully to maintain my 2nd place position.
Anyway, Brian and I head out again... He decides he's still going to skate with me even though first place is almost certainly out of reach. At this point, the draft effect is minimal. But the psychological effect of having someone to skate with is big. The headwind had returned on the straightaway, so the drafting definitely helped there... But mainly, just having Brian there gave me a boost and made it easier to keep putting one foot in front of the other... We do some more laps... We're on the long course again - they switched everyone back over right before I took my break. Things are a bit fuzzy in this part of the race for me. Fatigue was definitely setting in. I was pretty coherent through most of the race, but it was getting warm again and my brain was turning to mush. Another hour goes by... 3 to go... I want to stop, but know I can't. I decide I really want to get to 22:30 before stopping. That's only an hour and a half. With Lawrence looking strong, I'm not sure I can even stop at all for the rest of the race. I think Brian took another break at some point... Around 22 hours, I decide to ditch my sliders and roll down my shirt. I'm definitely warm now and want maximum cooling for the rest of the race. I get two more laps in, then have to stop for another break. (A quick trip to the restroom, then flopped in a chair.) Lawrence cruises by while I'm in the chair... He's only 4 laps behind now. Definitely in striking distance. I can't wait too long. I figure he's halfway around the track when I get back out there. The watch says 22:45 now... An hour and 15 minutes left. I figure that's only 5 laps at the most. Lawrence is 3 1/2 laps behind... So I'm trying to do the math and see how many laps I need to skate before it becomes mathematically impossible for Lawrence to catch me. He still looks so damn strong, and so determined! For a minute I hate that he's making me work this hard... Why can't he just accept 3rd place and stop? Why is he making me worth so hard for this? Well it is a race after all... Duh...
At one point, I knew Eric would be coming up behind us and I told Brian to keep an eye out for him. When Eric came by, I got his attention and congratulated him on a good race. The race wasn't over, but I knew he had it locked up at that point...
I think we decided that I had to do 3 more laps, but that if Lawrence passed me I'd have to do 4. We got another 1 or 2 laps done. Somewhere in there, Lawrence passed us and said "Crunch time, gentlemen!" Man he looked strong. But time was on my side. I knew if I kept rolling, I was set. Soon, there was only 30 minutes left. We went through the relay zone, and I more-or-less had 2nd place locked up. Still, it couldn't hurt to have a little insurance, so we kept going. The excitement level of the participants is growing now, with the end of the race so close. The relay zone is getting more & more crowded and people are cheering even more than usual.
We do another lap... I am dead tired... The short hill really is a mountain now. I'm practically walking up it. Everyone is yelling encouragement during the lap. This is the last lap I need to do, but Brian wants to do another one after it. I say "no way, I'm toast"... But a minute later I ask "do you really want to". Brian says he does, so I say "ok - let's do it." Actually, I said something else, but it would make this report PG-13... :) Anyway, we get to the relay zone and there are more people, more excitement... Lawrence is there - he finally stopped. He's got his hand out for a "high five" as we go by. The watch says 23:45 as we pass our support crew and wave.
That last lap really sucked, but I gutted it out... After we got around the 180-turn, Brian grinned and asked about sprinting to the finish... I said I didn't have it in me, but to go for it if he was feeling it. So off he went and I skated the last bit by myself. As I got closer, I mustered up a little energy for some double-pushing and got my speed up to something more respectable. I wouldn't necessarily call it a "sprint", but I was moving pretty well. You have to look good at the finish at least! I got to the relay zone and everyone is going nuts! There are even MORE people there now, all screaming. I stand up as I cross the finish line... 24:02 I think is what my watch said. Everyone had their hands out. There was this tunnel with people on both sides and I must have slapped hands with at least fifty people on my way through the relay zone. I got to the paddock and the crew was there waiting with their own congratulations. I coasted into the paddock and plopped down on the cement floor, totally exhausted.
So I laid there for several minutes... Then finally got the energy to take off my skates. Now that I'm done skating, it of course hurts more to take them off, sliding over the various blisters and such. You can ignore that sort of thing to a certain degree during the event, but afterward you get to experience it in full. So I get the socks off and my feet are pretty trashed... Blisters, lacebite, various other abrasions, at least one toenail getting ready to come off, plenty of swelling. They ache just sitting there... I get my sandals on and decide to wander down to the first aid station to see if they can do anything -- maybe at least clean everything and bandage them. Well, I get down there and it's gone. I guess you're fine if you get hurt during the event, but nobody sticks around to take care of people after the event. I'm sure if there had been a real emergency someone was around to take care of it. But I didn't feel like looking around for anyone to take care of a few blisters and such. So I headed back to the paddock and hung out there some more.
So we sat around a chatted a bit and started packing some things up. They announced over the PA that they'd be doing the "victory lap", which of course NONE of us were up for doing. So we just hung out there. I had the rental car there at the park, and we decided to wait until some of the other cars left so that we could move the car closer to pack my stuff up. Our support crew continued doing a stellar job in helping us after the race too. Eventually, they announced that the award ceremony would be happening, so we wandered down to the announcer's area. Lawrence & I grabbed some chairs -- my feet hurt just standing on them. So we watched all the team awards, and then they finally got to the solo category. They did the women first, then the men. Lawrence got called up for 3rd place and was all smiles. They called me up for second place... I'm sure I had a pretty big grin, too, as I made my way up there. I shook Lawrence's hand and congratulated him again on doing so well. Then we both watched as they called up Eric for first place. We shook his hand and posed for the many pictures. Then, basically, it was done...
Things started wrapping up pretty quickly after the awards were done. Everyone started clearing out... It would have been nice to have had some real food there at the park. There was an organization there that cooked dinner & breakfast as a fundraiser. Lunch after the race would have been awesome -- I know I could have used some real food. So instead it was every person for themselves. I (with the help of the support team) got my stuff loaded in the car, said goodbye to everyone, and drove back to the hotel. Now, at that point, it probably wasn't a great idea for me to be driving, but I made it there okay. I had bruised or otherwise damaged the tendon on the front of my right leg (along the shin bone), so I had no forward flexion in my ankle without pain. So I was driving using my quad muscles to control the gas & brake. Fortunately, the hotel was only maybe 10 minutes away from the park. I made it inside and managed to get checked in, drag my bags to the room, and collapsed on the bed. I basically passed out right there and then.
I woke up about an hour later feeling absolutely awful. I was lightheaded and nauseous. I couldn't walk AT ALL. I couldn't put any pressure on my right foot without tremendous pain in my shin. I eventually got myself up and limped into the bathroom. I finally brushed my teeth, which was a huge relief, although I nearly threw up doing it. I clipped away some of the dead skin around my blisters to make cleaning them easier. Then I got in the shower and braced myself for what I was sure to be excruciating pain. (Nothing like sweat pouring down your leg into open wounds.) Fortunately, the pain wasn't bad at all -- I think so much else was already hurting that a little salt in the wounds was nothing. I cleaned myself head to toe and got dressed. Then I bandaged up my feet, which took most of the band-aids I had with me. (Somehow I forgot to pack a decent first aid kit.)
Then the nausea hit me again. I knew I had to get some food in me, but nothing sounded good at all. I had a couple leftover bananas, so I forced myself to eat one. There were some jalapeño chips left over too, and I ate those. My head started to clear and my stomach definitely settled down. So now I was ready to get a real meal. I thought that a walk might do me some good - maybe loosen up the muscles and hopefully that damn tendon on my right foot. So I made my way (very slowly) out of the hotel and down the street. I remembered seeing a pub-type restaurant a block or two from the hotel, so I went in that direction. When I got there, though, the line was out the door. I can't wait that long for food, so I continued up the road looking for something else. I passed Reuben's, but thought it would be nice to try something else... Nothing was looking good though. I made a couple turns and was starting back in the direction of the hotel. I knew there was a place directly across the street that would do if I found nothing else. Then I stumbled upon another pub-type restaurant (with no line.) I made my way down the stairs inside, and was greeted by cheering! What the heck? I looked over to my left and there was a huge group of people, and they had seen my A2A shirt that I had on. Turns out it was the Skaters Quest people, that had a very large contingent here for the race. They asked what team I was on, and I said solo, and was greeted with more cheers... We chit-chatted for many minutes, and then they invited me to join them. Their salads had just arrived, so I sat down, ordered a beer and some food, and chatted some more.
Running into them was a pleasant surprise, as I just expected to find a quiet corner and have dinner by myself. So we talked about the race, other events, etc... I finished my meal (fish & chips, with a salad) and said goodbye to everyone. I (slowly) made my way back to the hotel. I made a couple calls along the way to let people know I was okay. By the time I got back to the hotel, I was already hungry again... :) When I got back to my room it was close to 9:00, and I was exhausted. I checked the room service menu to see if they had anything for dessert, but they didn't. Oh well, I was too tired to pursue it any more than that. I checked some email, then got ready for bed. While walking around the room, I accidentally kicked the base of the bed with my right foot. The pain was incredible. I was so tired, all I could do was fall onto the bed and wait for it to subside. This was the foot with the bad toenail, of course.
I was probably out by 9:30. I woke up once during the night, at 3:30, incredibly thirsty. I got a drink of water and went back to sleep. I woke up again at 8:00, famished. I don't normally eat breakfast, but this was no ordinary time. So I got dressed and slowly limped my way down to the hotel restaurant. I opted for the buffet, which was mediocre at best and overpriced as usual. Oh well... It was food... I got back to the room and started packing up my stuff. I decided to work on my bearings a little before packing up the skates, so I used the remaining 1/2 can of Tri Lube on them and got all but one spinning like new. (I ran out of Tri-Lube...) I sent Brian a text message asking if he was still up for lunch, and he was. So I finished packing, got checked out of the hotel, and took my bags down to the car. While trying to maneuver the bags in the elevator, I managed to run over my right foot with one of them. It's not like they weren't damaged enough in the race -- I had to keep abusing them!
So I walked over to Brian's hotel because, you know, I hadn't gotten enough exercise lately... I thought the walk would do me some good. Well, a block and a half later I was seriously questioning my logic there! I made it to his hotel and immediately collapsed on the couch in the lobby! Andrea and Maria had flown back already, so it was just Brian, Bryan, Renee, and myself. We hadn't heard from Lawrence and Dawn, so we we made our way over to the Indian restaurant for lunch. We got there, and were standing in front of a very tall flight of stairs to get into the restaurant! Lunch was good and we chatted some more about the weekend and skating in general. Just as we were finishing, Lawrence and Dawn walked in, so we got to chat with them a bit too. Soon, though, I had to get on the road... So I said my goodbyes and went back to the car.
The drive back to Burlington was relatively uneventful, as was the flight back to Raleigh. Being cooped up on the plane wasn't great. My legs were pretty stiff by the time I got home. Despite putting some ibuprofen in my backpack, I forgot to take it... Oh well... I was exhausted by the time I got back to the house, but I didn't get any sleep that night. I just couldn't get comfortable and must have woken up at least ten times. Tuesday I could barely walk, but dragged my butt into the office anyway.
Tuesday night I bought some gel packs and started icing down my feet, which were still really swollen. (I had no distinguishable ankles.) Amazingly, my leg muscles never really hurt after the race -- but I think what really happened was everything else just hurt *more*... Wednesday I worked from home so I could keep my feet elevated and keep the cold packs on them most of the day. Finally, that was when my quads actually felt sore. Thursday I went back into the office, but walking was still pretty tough. Friday I worked from home again... By now I was starting to feel a little better. My feet didn't ache quite as much when standing, and my tendon wasn't quite as painful as it had been. I stuck to the same ibuprofen and cold pack regimen Friday, Saturday, and Sunday...
So now, a week after the race, I'm still recovering... But I'm feeling mostly like my old self. The blisters are healing pretty well. My one toenail is still in very bad shape. My toenails on my pinky toes aren't looking so good either. Hopefully they'll be okay. I'm thinking in another week, most of the various abrasions on my feet should be healed and I should be able to start skating again.
So what have I learned from all this? The biggest lesson was seeing Lawrence's performance. Figuring out a plan and sticking to it is key. If I could change anything, I would have held back more in the beginning. I don't know if those quick laps in the first couple hours hurt me or not, but I really do think the slow & stead strategy is the way to go. Further, if Lawrence and I had actually teamed up in the beginning, I think we would have taken first & second instead of second & third. Maybe a strategy for next year? Who knows... The other thing I learned is that support is absolutely essential, and I couldn't be more pleased about how ours turned out. Also -- it's very hard, if not impossible, to beat someone with superior support, which includes having a team of skaters to help pull you. You see, Eric had a lot of help from the Toronto team that was there. I am not diminishing his effort at all, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with his strategy. Basically it's a "home turf advantage" of sorts. (Not that Toronto is all that close to Montreal, but you get the idea...) It certainly might be worth looking at the advanced or recreational teams to see if you could team up with one of those, and get some more drafting.
The question everyone was asking after the race was "will you do it again"? And my immediate response was "no". That wasn't a reflection of the race, or the pain I was feeling. Rather, it was a reflection of the time commitment needed to train for the race. I didn't even do as much training as I had wanted to, and I was still getting tired of it. By the time the race weekend got here, I was just looking forward to it being over. But, with a week having passed, I'm not quite as down on it... My performance was definitely a confidence boost, having never done anything even close to that before! If I could team up with one or two other people and have a strategy to stick together at a slow pace, I would consider doing it again. I think 300 miles would be achievable, as well as taking the top spots on the podium.
So that's it... The weekend exceeded my expectations, as did my performance. I do recommend the event, and might even consider doing it again... Montreal is a great city, so it's always a good place to visit anyway... Whether it's Defi or the 24-hour race, I definitely recommend getting up there and doing some skating!
- SM -