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Published on January 9th, 2012 | by Hot Quad

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The Pursuit Of Derbyness: GO FASTER

4:09. I was pretty proud of that. 25 laps in 4:09. That was my time after five months of skating and it allowed me to believe that speed wasn’t necessarily a skill on which I needed to spend a great deal of time. After all, if the goal was to be able to skate 25 in 5:00, I was smoking it. I believed that right up until the day at practice we were working on skating 10 second laps in a pack.

Our coach pronounced us to be proficient in this area and a cheer went up amongst my teammates. He then put on a very serious face and said, “yeah, but teams are skating 10 second laps and executing strategy, or even faster.” Then I did some math. 25 in 4:09 means a 9.92 second pace. Shit.

The question of where to go from there began to loom in my mind. Speed is only one part of the many skills we work on during the all too short 3.5 hours of team practice we have every week and the three minutes or so of speed skate at open skate just didn’t seem like enough.

Lacking a real strategy to address this issue, I allowed myself to become momentarily sidetracked by a sudden and urgent desire to skate backwards really well. That might have gone on forever except for a small poster that appeared one day in the window of the roller rink. It said simply, “want to go faster?”

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It’s like they know me.

Before I knew it, I was emailing a USARS sanctioned inline speed skating team – and asking about gear and practice schedules. Were quads OK and could I wear my knee pads and other related gear? After getting a ‘yes’ to both of those questions I packed my things and prepared to spend some quality time in the slow lane.

You see, the trouble with racing against people wearing inlines lies not so much in skill or strength but physics. Our wheels have substantially more surface area, and therefore, more friction than inlines. Also, inline skaters tend to use much larger wheels. This helps them to maintain their fast speed better than your average quad skate wheel.

The first night arrived and I arrived neurotically early as I customarily do. The website had strict instructions not to enter the building prior to our allotted time and so I waited nervously in my car, watching the door, not sure whether the other vehicles in the darkened lot contained other skaters or horny teenagers. This gave me time to ponder the idea that six months ago it would have seemed very strange to me that people anywhere would hang out in parking lots and eagerly wait for rollers rink to open, but now it’s just another part of my day. Life is weird like that.

Finally, the doors opened and people began to emerge from their cars. It was a fairly thin but friendly crowd. After gear had been donned and a few laps nervously skated the coach said, “OK, ten minute warm up. Go.” What followed was an hour an a half of the kind of endurance workout that was previously unknown to my skater legs. During that time, the following lessons were imparted:

1.) Do not skate further than you have to. You will have to work much harder to finish first if you’re skating an inefficient path.

2.) I’ve heard a lot of people say that good crossovers feel like you’re falling and then catching yourself with your own feet. However, none of those people have been able to articulate how exactly to get to that point. The speed skaters say to shift your weight before you cross over. At that point you will either have to catch yourself with your feet, or you will fall down.

3.) Some people say that good speed skating form can be gained by turning your shoulders into the middle of the track. Other people advocate that you really lean into your left hip and focus your weight there for good form. Which method is the best seems to be a matter of some debate. Pick one of these strategies and go with it.

4.) You don’t skate with your arms. Swinging them too much will only throw you off balance. Make sure you’re not swinging them across your body and keep your shoulders down. Otherwise, don’t worry too much about them.

After practice the skaters wanted to ask me questions about derby. What is the most important skill to develop? (I’m not sure I can point to just one). Why the hell are we running around on our toes like that? Have I ever been to a game in Olympia? It’s been my experience that speed skaters in the Seattle area really only know one thing about derby, and that’s Oly. I think they’re just bursting with pride that some of their own have had so much success in our sport, and being an Oly fangirl myself I can’t say that I blame them.

So is my 25 lap time still 4:09? I have no idea. It feels like I’m going faster. Actually, it feels like flying.

Want to pursue more derbyness? Check out my new blog at http://derbybusiness.blogspot.com/.

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