It all started with the long drive up there. This year John Sherwin (aka Herb) made the trip with me in the Rainbo party van that was stocked to the roof with items to sell at my booth at the Expo. We got up there Thursday early evening and met Jodi (my booth helper) and found a local bar to sit and watch our beloved Bears spank the Packers………..ARRGGHH!! We all know how that ended! I was hoping that it was not a bad omen for the weekend.
Friday night brought our annual Duluth dinner. This year I invited the 8 members of the Flying Fossils who were there to join us. Memories of the Montreal 24 race were fresh and many of the Team Rainbo Montreal team were there to share them with….Great having them with us at dinner. We had quite a lively group at dinner and enjoyed sharing skating stories, catching up with friends and getting really excited about the race in the morning. One of our favorite Team members, Jan Kopis, called in the middle of dinner to wish us well. It was a great gesture, as we know that he really wanted to be there…..we missed him as well as my darling wife Margo, who was still recovering from some nasty shoulder injuries. For each of them, I held up the phone and everyone simultaneously yelled “WE MISS YOU”. Hopefully, we will see them back next year.
I should be mentioned hear that we had a few surprising skaters who made the trip to be part of the excitement. Our own, legendary, Greg Major got out of that Crossfit Gym, came out to one practice, and was ready to go. I guess that he just couldn’t stand missing another Duluth. It was great to see his big smiling face, and listen to his humor, which always seemed to have me as the butt of the joke. Some things never change. Also in attendance was the mysterious, rarely sighted but always loved, city dwelling…..Kevin O’Neill. With a sense of humor that was quiet, but deadly, he fit right in, as usual. Only wish that we could see them out skating more often. Rounding things out was the appearance of Mark Delanoy, a former Team member from many years ago, who was one of the top pros on the skating circuit. Mark moved out to Washington and gave up skating (but not working out like a madman) and maybe, just maybe has been re-bitten by the skating bug. He was going to skate, however he hurt his back a few days before race day and had to pull out. Hopefully he will start skating again and get back to the form that made him a great racer……Having Mark there to cheer us on was a real treat!
Okay…..race morning…..we got to sleep in an extra two hours, and actually got to see the surrounding area on the drive to Two Harbors, because it was not the crack of dawn and dark like in the past…..that was really nice. The weather could not have been better….cool but not cold, beautiful sunshine, a little tail wind, and the thought of the new 5 miles of new black top to start the race. It just does not get much better than that. Those of you who missed this years race, really missed out. Everyone was excited, as usual, and suited up, warmed up a little, and were ready to go………..Let’s get to it.
Because of the change in age groups this year, I was now skating in the 50 and over division. I was worried about this because some of the younger guys could really push the pace, and I was no sure if I could hang with them. I was thinking this might be my last year in Elite. 5,4,3,2,1………and off we go…..like bats out of hell! We blew through that first five miles so fast I didn’t know what happened. The motorcycle on the side of the road told us we were at 27 mph….unbelievable……after the new pavement, we hit the middle section of the course which was quite a bit bumpier than I remember, and I had trouble maintaining the speed of the front guys. There were numerous breakaways at this stage which 2 or 3 times I was barely able to answer. I was pleased that at the half way mark I was still hanging on to the front group…..could I keep it up? Finally we got off the bumpy stuff, and I started feeling pretty strong. I was now pretty confident that I could hang in there, even though there continued to be plenty of surges and breakaways…..the pack reeled them back in with major effort Some days I feel like I still “have it” and some days I don’t. Today I was feeling “it”……. No one pushed hard up Lemon Drop hill (thank you very much!). So down to the interstate we went. Now it was just a matter of staying on my feet til the end. With my super skinny wheels, the highway meant I had to abandon my normal long stride and take little recreational style strokes to stay on my inside edges. I REALLY hate that part of the race. Made it to the ramp off the highway okay, and hammered up the hill. Was surprised to find myself in 6 th place as we began the final push. Was feeling great, but was going too fast at the left turn at the bottom of the hill, and went way wide, almost up on the curb, I lost about 6-7 places on that move…..Damn! Now just had to put my head down and hammer as hard as I could. Made the final left turn in 14 th place but had a good sprint and ended up 9th in a personal best of 1hr, 10min, 48 seconds……needless to say……….I was ecstatic! Did not expect to do so well. This will keep me in the Elite division for next year.
Not long after finishing, someone said “Did you hear about that girl in the pool of blood along the side of the road?”. It turned out to be our own Trish Kaufman. She was hanging in there with the front of the pro women’s pack when down they all went. Unfortunately, Trish was the only one who could not get up. Rumors spread rampantly about her injuries but we are glad to report that nothing was broken, however 60 stitches in the face should have the authorities checking to be sure that Larry didn’t “work her over”….:) It really was a shame about the fall, especially since I have been telling her for a while that she needed to give up that whole Roller Derby thing she does and concentrate on speed skating before she gets hurt…….so much for my genius advice. Of course, Trish is one tough gal, and I am sure we will see her back on her blades soon…….I have no doubt she would have finished in the front of the pro women’s pack next year……..
A few other honorable mentions to the weekend include:
1. Herman actually deciding to get out of those ridiculous Rexton skates of his and buying a new set of Bonts…..I will believe it when I see it.
2. Two of our favorites, Liz and Peter Nelson, finished the marathon together, and as they were getting their chips taken off, there was a little confusion and by accident, Peter tripped Liz and down she went…..a large gash needing 16 stitches opened up on her leg. Liz was very gracious in saying it was an accident, but knowing Peter, here is my theory……..As they decided to finish together, Liz’s competitive spirit arouse at the last second, and she did a “hawk” so her time would be ahead of his…..the so called “accident” was Peters payback…..so much for “the family that skates together, stays together”……:)
3. While listening to race stories at lunch, we heard that Doris Hoffie really struggled keeping her speed up, and her husband Bill had a wheel fall off during the race. They both got new wheels for the race, and Bill, being the wonderful husband that he is, changed out the wheels and bearings for both of them before the race. During the conversation he mentioned how if he tightened the axle bolts, the wheels did not turn very well. His solution was to not have the axles very tight. Upon hearing this, we mentioned that he might have had the wrong size spacer in the wheel. His response………hold on, wait for it…….he said……………………”What’s a spacer?” As we picked our collective mouths up off the floor, we could not believe it. Doris was looking at him in disbelief (like only a wife can look at a husband), and we all just couldn’t contain ourselves. We really started to rip on him like only good teammates can……..To his credit, he took the teasing (or should I say beating) like a man and laughed along with us……………..I do think, however, that he now is very clear on the importance of spacers in your wheels.
4. The evening at Grandma’s was it’s usual fun with plenty of cocktails, laughing, people watching, and general debauchery….but I noticed that one of the people I was most looking forward to sharing the evening with was not there…..Kevin O’Neill was not in attendance! I asked Greg where he was, and he said that Kevin had been in the room all day working. He skipped our lunch, and our dinner, and now the ultimate ………..missing Grandma’s….?@#?!@*! I am really worried about about him….I think aliens have landed and taken him over…..not sure if we should let him on the team next year because he might try and put us in a pod, or something, and take over our minds. If anyone sees him, keep a close eye on him, because it might be an alien duplicate……………… He will truly be missed.
A few great performances should be mentioned…..our #1 finisher was Johnny Shenko….the top pros are starting to look around and notice him because he was in the front of the elite pack until almost the end of the race………..look out racing world……Johnny is on your tail! Mary Ann Taconna won her age group in the 1/2 marathon. Frank Gildea was 3rd in his age group in the 1/2. Liz Nelson was second in her age group in the full, and one of our newest members, Doriana Diaz, was 5 th in her age group in her first really big marathon…..she is now officially “hooked” on skating. Lot’s of personal bests by many skaters…….
We all know, however, that with Team Rainbo, it is not where you finish but that you participated that is the most important thing. EVERYONE who was there made EVERY member of Team Rainbo proud. I never get tired of this, and I hope that one day you will all be standing up and cheering for me when I am up on the podium after having been the first guy over 90 to finish the race……..Thank you everyone!……….Cale
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