NSIM 2010…1st timer report

I’ve never skated North Shore (NS) Before….

When I finally committed to signing up in August, I was both excited and nervous.  Trish decided that she too wanted to skate it, even though her “skate” time has been mostly devoted to derby and her new skates were not really agreeing with her feet.  In any case, we arranged to have grandma watch our daughter for the weekend, and made plans to try our first NS.

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I have to admit, leading up to the race I was apprehensive.  How couldn’t I be, Cale was so excited about it and he has skated almost all of them (all but 1 I think), so many others had story upon story of each race….giant pace lines….incredible crashes….cold, windy, fast,  fun.  I opted to register for Wave A looking to set a PB which everyone claimed would happen at NS due to the large groups.  I registered Trish for wave 4 based on her marathons in the past (this turned out to be too slow of a wave for her).  Driving the 7 hours to Duluth, I was starting to think maybe I should have registered for Wave B and some real nervousness started set in.  To further add to the excitement I committed to getting molded for some new Simmons Boots (my Edgeteks are custom too, but I’ve never enjoyed them 100%…I’ll post about custom skates one day and compare the two for all).

Arriving in Duluth at around 3:30 on Friday, we checked into the beautiful Motel 6 ($65/night and only 2 miles from the DECC) washed up and headed over to the Expo.  Needless to say, the NS Expo is bigger than any other race expo we’ve been to.  I checked in with Simmons (Margo was there getting molded) and we spent some time spending money on Powerbands (fact or fiction??), tech wear, and some elixir sports drinks. 

I returned to the Simmons booth to get molded and Dave Simmons himself did the molding (I did’nt expect this so it was a big deal to me).  In addition molding, I got to discuss with Dave, arguably the best skate boot maker in the country (or world) what I was looking for and what I thought was missing from my current set-up…Dave is so knowledgeable and has simply made boots for the best skaters, I’m very excited to see how these will boots skate, unfortunately, it’s a 16 week lead time (which is fine since it will take me that long to decide on a color combo).  Stay posted.

Trish and I hung out, talking with other Rainbo Team Members, skaters we know from indoor and some new acquaintances we met at the Montreal 24, before we knew it, it was time to start heading  to the Team dinner at Timber Lodge, but before that I decided I needed to make sure I knew how to get from our hotel to the DECC where the buses would take us the next morning (I’m a planner, so sue me).  With the next morning route figured out, we went to the Timber Lodge.  When we got there we sat with Collin, Chris (her mom), and Gary Blank (his mom and sister?)….and then the NS tales began.

Chris and Collin have skated the NS numerous times between them, the stories they had were incredible…skaters falling in front of them, incredible speeds, roads narrowing down, getting kicked and pushed….I was seriously concerned about what was going to happen to Trish and I that next day.  Gary, in all of his infinite wisdom, told me, “just stay in front”, “control the race”, “you’ll be fine”….right!  I’m not even sure what I ate for dinner, my mind was utterly consumed with the impending chaos to happen in less then 12 hours!

With dinner finished, Trish and I headed back to our room, Trish asked if I was nervous….I was, maybe even a bit scared, I told her.  I prepared our coffee pot (travels to every race with me),  set my alarm for 0400, and slept soundly until I woke up at 0355 (my body somehow wakes me up 5 minutes before my alarm…been that way ever since college).

As soon as I awoke, I looked outside, and my worse fears were realized…RAIN.  Even though the forecast called for rain we were hoping it was an evil prank predicting rain and that we would awake to 65 degrees and sunny.  In any case, I was prepared, I had a set of Storm Surges I had bought after the “rain fest” in Chicago, never used them, but had them, I figured buying them was “insurance” it would not rain during anymore of my races…. I was wrong.  I stripped our skates of their dry race set-ups and put rain set-ups on both Trisha’s and my skates, took a quick shower, got dressed and off we went to skate our first NS.

I’ve done my share of point to point races in my life so I’m familar with the bus to the start format, I will say that the NS has the busing down to a science.  No confusion, find a bus, get on, get to the start.  With that said, I was warned that the bus ride would seem long, and it did, so long that I actully fell back a sleep!  I awoke as the bus pulled up to the drop off zone.

At the drop off, we strolled to the staging area, again some pre-race nerves had set in.  As fate would have it, one of the first people I run into is Gustavo, one of our Montreal 24 Teammates.  He’s wearing what appears to be Body Armor!  I look over at Trish and I know we are both thinking the same thing, what the heck is going to happen at this race?  I see some more familiar faces from races this past year, and a couple of more people wearing motorcycle racing type body armor!…I try to not think about it and get ready to race.

The set-up at the start staging was well organized, luckily Cale and Margo had secured a Team Rainbo “area” that we could sit and get out of our warm-up clothes and lace up.  I had about an hour until the gun so I sat down next to Gary Blank and Steve Messinger, as I’m getting dressed we made small talk about wheels, race conditions and the such.  Nothing too important but enough to get my mind off what may be coming.

Before I know

it I’m warmed-up and heading towards the Wave A start, of course, I have to go pee, I get into a line for a port-a-potty as the Canadian National Anthem is playing….the line doesn’t move…. The National Anthem plays, I turn around, take off my helmet (which everyone did notdo, for what its worth, it’s my firm feeling that when the National Anthem is played, all types of head wear should be off, I’m done preaching), the line still doesn’t move.  I hear the Elite skaters going off and decide the toilet line is not going to move, I decide to head towards the starting line, of course my nerves have made we want to urinate even more.

Trish is already at her wave staging area, I tell her I really have to pee and stumble off towards some tress on the side, I have to say that was a relief.  I quickly get back on the road and headed towards the start line.  Now racer instinct kicked in, the line is quite crowded so I kind of try to wiggle in an attempt get to the front.  Bob Ryan sees me and informs me that getting to the front is’nt all that important since the “chip” doesn’t start until the line is crossed.  In any case I decide I still want to be towards the front in case of any start line mishaps.

The starter announces 2 minutes until we’re let go and I relax and get ready to roll.  5…,4….,3….,2…..,1,…..GO.

The race rolls off like any other race, lots of skaters trying to get to the front, a number of pace lines form and I find myself in a line that contains some very good young girls.  Great skaters, terrible drafts.  I opt to stay in this line because although the draft is no good, I know these girls are solid on their feet and will not fall in the wet conditions that morning.

The first five or six miles are relatively uneventful, I make every effort to stay in the first 6 or 7 skaters.  Although wet, the course is relatively smooth and I find that I’m comfortable pushing with the Storm Surge wheels.  The only real hazard are the painted lines, they are slippery.

At mile 8 I eat a GU (miles 8 and 16 almost always) even though I don’t feel I need it. There are some pushes and surges, some skaters trying to get away, but nothing materializes.

At mile 14 I was feeling that the pace was slow.  I noted that on every incline I was just kind of cruising and some skaters were already laboring.  I could hardly call any of the inclines hills, but I really think that Team Rainbo’s training area at the A T & T Center preps us well for this race.  Because of this I decide to push the pace on every incline from here on out.

Each time I pushed the pace a small group would form, but I just couldn’t get anyone to work together to stay away.  At mile 16 or 17 one of the skaters that had been in front with me all morning(he was wearing an Il Peleton jersey) said he would go with me at Lemon Drop hill.  I told him that I had never skated NS before and didn’t know where that was.  He told me that it came with about 3 or 4 miles to go and to watch for him, so I settled in and waited.

Sometime around this point its started to rain, also my very expensive Oakleys fogged to the point that I could’nt see a thing.  Other then that, it was a pleasurable cruise with some medium hard efforts on inclines.  Later I was told by another skater that each surge I made caused a few more people to drop.

I knew where Lemon Drop was way before we got there, the pace finally picked up and everyone jockeyed for position.  I stayed to the right and powered up behind the Il Peleton skater who said he would go with me.  To my surprise, we crested the hill with 4 other skaters and a small gap…..this is where it all changed.

The expressway going down from Lemon Drop Hill had been regrooved longitudally.  Skating on it was very un-nerving.  After about 5 or six pushes I realized that the only way to skate this section was to stay relaxed, and it worked.  I know a lot of people dropped off here, but if anything I felt we were finally skating race pace.  Going into the tunnels, NS threw another curve at us….extreme slipperiness!  I figure that the rain had gotten into the tunnels just enough to bring the oil to the top making for a really slippery surface.

The five of us were making due with the grooves and slipperiness when the big group came up behind us, at this point I thought the race was over, and I needed to get ready for a mass field sprint. 

I made hard efforts to stay at the front and realized that the shoulder in the tunnels were dry and offered some grip.  The only problem was there were a lot of rocks.  Didn’t matter the group pushed hard and no one seemed to kill themselves.

I’m not sure where everyone fell off pace again but at the final incline up into the DECC lot, only myself, Sara from Team Wolverines (14 years old and an awesome skater) two guys who I thought we had caught from the half-marathon and one last skater.  As it turns out I was wrong, these guys had actually caught usfrom Wave B.  Obviously they shouldn’t have been in that wave.

At the top of the ramp we made the turn and it was really slippery, I stayed behind Sara and kept thinking that the big pack would be coming fast.  I crossed the line in 2nd place but really only 4th by time.  More importantly I won the 40-44 group.  I looked at my gps, it said 1’09” I was ecstatic, I never thought I could skate that fast, I didn’t, my actual time was 1’23”, I must have been turning my gps on and off during the race.  Bummer, I would really like to skate a 1’09”

I can’t over state how excited I was to place in such an awesome race.  Immediately I got my skate bag, put some clothes on and awaited Trisha’s arrival.  She came in a bit later having crashed in the final slippery kilometer.  She too had a great race, placing 5th in her category.  Her main complaint was the wave we had placed her in was way too slow and she ended up skating a majority of the race alone.

What an awesome weekend.  Iknow some were dissapointed with the weather.  Many were upset with the pavement. But all in all what a skating event.  Trish and I registered immediately for the 2011 race.

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