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Speed Skating Forum Most of the discussions in this forum will be about inline speed skating but discussions about ice speed skating and quad roller speed skating are also welcome.

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Old June 26th, 2013, 01:52 AM   #1
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Default Marathon Tactics for the Rec/Fit crowd??

I've been getting a bit worked up reading the tactics discussion and the other discussion in the 'Apostle Island' events thread.

I don't have a lot of inline marathons to my credit (yet) and so I'm still figuring out what I've got, what others have, and how to work with that.

I'm wondering what tactics and behaviors the rec/fit skaters consider OK or not OK. I wonder what kind of cooperation could be initiated and cultivated during the race. During a race last year one of the pack leaders took it upon himself to encourage the pack to keep 'fresh legs' pulling and it worked out well for everyone. This year it seems the skaters didn't want to hear anything from anyone... they were content to have their seat on the bus and ride it to the finish line.
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Old June 26th, 2013, 02:29 AM   #2
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In my personal opinion, the rec/fit crowd has always been more about helping each other finish the race and placement doesn't seem to matter much. Each person finishing and trying to get a new personal best seems to be more of the game than winning the overall race.
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Old June 26th, 2013, 02:44 AM   #3
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I agree with Kufman. It'll vary some from race to race and pack to pack but generally people are happy to take turns leading in rec/fitness and through most of the "advanced".
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Old June 26th, 2013, 12:53 PM   #4
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It seems the only real tactic in rec/fit is to hook up with the pack that best suits you right at the start.

This year at Apostle I watched from about the 10th spot in the 2nd pack as, about 2/3 way thru the race, a skater pulling the line slowly pulled completely away and just kept going. It wasn't a breakaway... evidently he just decided to skate his pace with or without help. At the finish line I was about 15 feet short of catching him. Anyway... as we approached the finish I realized that earlier when he started to pull way from the pack I should have jumped out of line and joined him then. Together we would have done much better. I guess this falls into the category of knowing what you yourself have got and are capable of. Then having the guts to step up and use it.

Does anyone use Gu or the like during a marathon? I find I need to or I fall apart at the end of the race. I also require lots of hydration and a salt/mineral tablet at around mile 17 or both calves cramp terribly aproaching the finish line.
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Old June 26th, 2013, 01:25 PM   #5
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Does anyone use Gu or the like during a marathon? I find I need to or I fall apart at the end of the race. I also require lots of hydration and a salt/mineral tablet at around mile 17 or both calves cramp terribly aproaching the finish line.
I use gels or energy bars and carry around 750ml or 1L of fluid (mostly with something hydrating inside) for marathons. I eat at around 20 or 30 minutes on journey, so that I have sufficient energy for finish.
I have seen guys in rec groups just pulling till they die, so there is no major tactics there, except that I always try to organize the group I'm in so that we at least take some turns. Many times thou there is someone doing longer turns then required and many more times someone is missing turns, so everything soon ends up in one long tow to the finish by the guy who wants to beat his PB.
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Old June 26th, 2013, 01:56 PM   #6
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Tips, tricks, tactics, and inane ramblings to follow:

Your best bet in a rec/fitness pack is to get to the front at the starting line and do your best to stay towards the front. There are plenty of very fit skaters out there but, it seems, once you get out of the pro ranks, there are surprisingly few who have the foggiest idea of how to skate in a pack. I skated wave A at NSIM last year and it was pandemonium any time you were more than 10 people back from the front. Part of the reason is the size of the wave (it's huge) but the bigger part is that people just dive in and out of line, dance between pacelines, slow down, speed up, etc. Your best bet to avoid this is to stay up front where you have the best chance of skating with people who know what they're doing. If you can't keep up, then drop, but if you start too far back, a lot of times there is no catching up.

Beyond that, just be the best skater you can be, both in terms of speed and etiquette. Skater hard, push to the side (so you're not clicking skates with the person behind you), take your turn on the pull.... Don't dive out of line any time the pace slows - be a man and touch that dude in front of you really close to his butt, the weirdness goes away eventually. And, if the person in front of you can't handle being pushed, get away ASAP or risk having them go down in front of you. Cooperation is the name of the game in a rec/fitness pack, so find the best skaters you can and go skate fast with them.

As for Gu gels - I use them in most races. I need every little bit of help I can get and I can notice a difference in a long race if I don't use one. My legs go dead just as I'm getting to the end of a race, just when I'm looking for a last burst of energy to finish. I actually took two of them with me at Madeline Island and choked one down after I finished each lap. They're not magic, but they make a difference for me.
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Old June 26th, 2013, 02:54 PM   #7
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I agree with the prior comments here. The rec/fitness pack is more about working together for personal times. Any competitiveness in these groups is for those looking to beat PRs or to place in their respective divisions, but even in this context you aren't looking at the race-long strategies that go into the elite level races.

Realistically, everyone should pull their turn, but there is a tactical element in that space, also. Sometimes, you just don't get close enough to the front of the pack to pull. That happened to me at the MN Half last year, where the advanced pack changed so much in the first 5 miles, unless you were pushing or setting the pace, you were in the back of the line. I think that, if you want to be in a position to push the pace or drive the line, you need to be at the front of the pace line. If you don't want to deal with less experience skaters, stay at the front. Most races with large packs will have plenty of people willing to wheelsuck their way to a race finish. Find out where those drafters are and get in front of them. Take your turn with the pull and put in the work. However, if the line breaks up, or you feel like you want to go faster, make the move to a better pace line or break away. I don't see anything wrong with that either. Just be courtesy to everyone else you are skating with.

As for gels, I use Power Bar energy gels largely because I like the taste better than Gu. I take one before the start of the race, and somewhere around half way. It makes a big difference. I don't typically use them for long training, and can really feel the dead legs at the end of a 20+ mile tempo skate.
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Old June 26th, 2013, 04:57 PM   #8
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Does anyone use Gu or the like during a marathon? I find I need to or I fall apart at the end of the race. I also require lots of hydration and a salt/mineral tablet at around mile 17 or both calves cramp terribly aproaching the finish line.
Nothing for me except a sip of water around 1/2 way. Anything else upsets my stomach which is worse than muscle cramps.
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Old June 26th, 2013, 07:24 PM   #9
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be a man and touch that dude in front of you really close to his butt, the weirdness goes away eventually. And, if the person in front of you can't handle being pushed, get away ASAP or risk having them go down in front of you.
If the person in front of you doesn't look like a seasoned speed skater or seems to be acting like being in a pack is slightly uncomfortable, it helps to say "contact" or "touch" before you touch. I once barely made contact (in indoor skater terms) with the person in front of me. He turned around and started yelling about how I shoved him. At the time, I was only about 110 lbs and I barely registered the contact, so you know it wasn't much. Same guy had no problem with other people as long as they said something ahead of time.

A lot of the sharing is up to the people up front. Pull for your time, then move to the side and let someone else take over. Drop back into the pack about 5-10 people deep. Sometime it takes a couple moves back and forth or a word of explanation before the person in second realizes that it is his or her turn. If you don't do this there are plenty of people who will let you tire yourself out up front.
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Old June 26th, 2013, 10:37 PM   #10
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Yea even when i first did a speed practice @ Midland roll arena in Michigan, a hand placement at the lowest part of the spine is fine. It centers the inertia your transferring into someones body.

Also if that force is just ever so slightly guided upwards as if to push energy into their lean some, at least for me. Or a touch with a finger befor applying pressure with your palm.
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Old June 27th, 2013, 02:00 AM   #11
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Switching back and forth between ice short track and inline marathons is a bit goofy. On inlines I have no trouble at all reaching out to transfer my momentum forward rather than blow it off and nobody benefits. But that ease bites me on ice when I come up on someone and make a (proactive protective) reach without even touching. At meets I get cautioned all the time. On inlines I'm used to calling out things like 'little push coming' and when we all get used to each other just 'big push'. To ease the transfer I typically reach out, make very light contact with knuckles (to avoid grabbing if something goes wrong) and then bring in my arm but increase the forward force until everything settles out. I've got no problem pushing guys... but still uncomfortable pushing women I don't know (cooties, right?).

Sometimes our little group will even push when we're all stroking at speed. Holy cow... with just a little forward pressure from each of us we roll like an express train. We put my wife up front because she can get the lowest (and keep it!) and then progress up, with me bringing up the rear. It is really great experience to feel how skates and legs behave differently at those speeds and to get used to it.
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Old June 27th, 2013, 10:58 AM   #12
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In terms of Gu products, I do use them and I would recommend the brand "Honey Stinger" because that goo is sweetened with honey, which provides energy at a more balanced uptake into your bloodstream than either sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
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Old June 28th, 2013, 03:59 AM   #13
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I'm with Roto on the Honey stinger products, plus they are made with organic ingredients(as are cliff bar products). I usually take water along for a marathon, and a bag of Honey Stinger Chews. I dump the chews into my jersey pocket, and pop a few every 5 miles to keep the electrolytes up. You could also do a 1/2 and 1/2 sports drink water mix.

Pace line etiquette seems covered pretty well, but I'll add a few comments: Before ever getting into a pace line in a race learn how to race in a pace line. From beginner - advanced most long lines tend to have few (5-8) people rotating off the front while everyone else takes a free ride, or they feel they are too slow to pull, or they end up gapping the line because they're not comfy in a pace lines.

It's important to stay in sync with the skater in front of you, match them stride for stride, otherwise it's easy to click skates with the person in front/behind you. You do this to lessen the chance of clicking skates of the person in front of you because he/she cannot see what you are doing. You put them at risk when you're out of sync or running up on them.

If you are running up on the skater in front of you stay in skating position, don't stand upright. Running up on the person in front of you can cause you to bump into their skates from behind. In skating position your skates remain underneath you, so there is less chance of clicking.

And, touching has been touched upon here, but never grab for person in front of you if you feel off balance or if you are being pushed into them by the pack. Place the hand(fisted) so you wont tend to want to grab at them if you are coming into them too fast or getting pushed by the line,on the lower back, above the hip. And, yes call out "push" BEFORE contact so they know it's coming. If you're on the receiving end, and aren't comfortable with this type of pack skating activity, then stay out until you are truly able to be in there comfortably and safely.

When to rotate off the front? Every 1-2 miles. I've been in pace lines where skaters take it upon themselves to call out the rotations and keep people motivated and moving along with a lot of chattering - it can be fun, but also can be annoying for 26 miles. Judge all of this by the group you're in. If no one is talking, just start asking where people are from, or is this their first race, etc... people open up quickly. Some skaters do not know when to get off the lead, often times beginners tend to pull too long, and they do not realize they're slowing the pace. When that happens call out for a rotation, and thank the last leader, but keep things moving at pace. If I'm positioned 2nd or 3rd behind them, and this starts happening, I usually say to the puller, 'hey, give yourself a break.' Most times they do not realize they're slowing down because the effort out front still feels the same.
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Old June 28th, 2013, 04:50 AM   #14
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In preparation... just before droping off my gear bag and heading to the start lineup... I cut the top open on my Gu pack and insert a 'SaltStick+" capsule into the pack. Then I fold over the open top a couple times and stick the pack in the leg of my skinsuit (away from where my arms rest). At 2/3 of race I take the Gu/salt and at least 8 oz water. I must stay well hydrated because I REALLY sweat. (the joke at dryland is that I can work up a sweat just eating breakfast)


When pulling I tend to over-exert... being somewhat of a greenhorn, I have trouble gaging how much power to put out to keep the same pace as when I was a couple back. Because of this I tend to pull away from the line. I'm starting to use my gps to monitor my 'current pace' in order to know exactly how fast the line is moving so when I get on pull I can know when to dial back and how far.

Is it allowed to 'push' each other as a group when powering along? This is such a great way to get added at very little cost.

At Apostle Island once when I came off pull someone from back deep in the pack called out to me something to the effect of 'get to the back of the line!' and I thought "nuts to that... it's bad enough up here, I'm not getting stuck back there and get caught when half the line falls off and drops back". Is this OK?

What suggestions do people have to offer about becoming a graceous and welcomed "Pull Czar"? By this I mean a person that takes it upon themself to keep tabs on how pulls are working out, when to encourage someone to rotate out, when to pick up the pace, etc? Most of the Rec/Fit races I've been in the men are pretty closed mouth. I'm always surprised to hear my wife tell me everything she and the ladies discuss during the race. Where they work, kids, vacations, etc!

There are times when I have a bit of trouble syncing up with the skaters around me. I've been working at low hips for long extension and slower cadence (short & long track ice). Often I feel like I'm tireing myself out more quickly by skating slower than usual but at a faster cadence.

Since this is Rec/Fit... I'm wondering what would happen if a strong skater called out "Hey Guys... I think I've got a bit more than this line has... who wants to join me and pick up the pace a bit?" I don't recall seeing small breakaway groups in Rec/Fit which I think is a shame because some of these guys are pretty capable.
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Old June 28th, 2013, 09:45 AM   #15
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Well some people think once you drop of front that you should/must go to end of pack. What I have seen and done more than once is to invite skater back in, in front of me, if they do not seem dead tired (this is called towing as I just gave myself 1 more turn of free ride). However that being said in smaller fitness pacelines I would never just force myself in middle of group (like you do when jumping packs), because there is no real point. If there is big enough gap, you go for it, otherwise no cushioning

Why would you yell out and tell everyone you're going to attack? Check who is best skater in group, get behind him and ask him nicely if he'd go faster. He will have time to think and reply, and then try to persuade bigger group. But consider it like this: you just told your biggest rival for position that you want to cooperate with him.

More interesting is what do you do if someone attacks and you know you could follow, but were too far back behind. This is a question you should always have in mid and this is the point where you need to talk to people-> who will do the chase, if anyone is capable, etc. This is probably also the point where you define pulling times and turns the fastest. People tend to be more cooperative when they're on edge...
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Old June 28th, 2013, 12:47 PM   #16
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Why would you yell out and tell everyone you're going to attack?
Because this is rec/fit and it wouldn't be an "attack" in the traditional sense. My sense is that we don't really compete but rather merely cooperate. My goal would be to seek out those wanting to 'cooperate at a slightly faster pace' and encourage them to do so instead of blindly staying in a line because there is nothing better around.
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Old June 28th, 2013, 06:21 PM   #17
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Because this is rec/fit and it wouldn't be an "attack" in the traditional sense. My sense is that we don't really compete but rather merely cooperate. My goal would be to seek out those wanting to 'cooperate at a slightly faster pace' and encourage them to do so instead of blindly staying in a line because there is nothing better around.
Where you get back in the line depends on the size of the line. In a smaller group, especially with people I am familiar with, like around 10 people, I will drop all the way to the back of the line. At NSIM, where the lines are regularly 30 people deep, I get back about 5 people, and start looking for the person who is going to let me cut in. I don't want to get too far back because you can get gapped by the skaters that can't keep with the line.

As for attacks, in the rec division, unless you are at the front with the advanced skaters, I don't see a problem with asking if anyone wants to kick up the pace anytime before 5 miles left. Within that last 5 miles, any break away in the rec/advanced group will be an attack for the finish. Some of the harder skating advanced group people won't talk out the race like that, but I certainly don't see a problem doing it in the rec division, since everyone is out to finish and maybe set a personal best.
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Old July 8th, 2013, 09:22 PM   #18
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By nature the stronger skaters are holding the front of the pace line. Pulling off the pack and rejoining should be done every 1/2 mile to (max) 1 mile pulls, otherwise people's speeds start slowing. The ones that pull too long are notorious for not knowing when to rotate off. They just continue til they bonk then they usually get dropped because they cannot keep up after rotating off.

Where to drop back in? If it 's 10-20 people, look for the gap in the line of skaters then drop back in around position #5-8. You're right, the pack could easily split then you can get stuck and as the front pack departs, and you may not bridge the gap. Just be courteous and point yourself in, and thanks the nice folks, usually people will allow you in. It also helps to have good skills moving into tight spaces without taking anyone else out around you. You have accept that some skaters are in there for the free ride and won't ever pull, so they will gap to let you in. When you're up in the front more often you'll get more pulls than most, too.

If the pack is shorter 4-7 people then drop to the back, but keep close eye if someone in front of you is causing some gapping (2' or more away from the skater in front). If you see a gap opening up in front of any skaters positioned in front of you instruct them (nicely) to close the gap, or everyone behind, including you, will lose out as the front pack move away. If you see a gap happening (2' to 5' ) and they just cannot close it, or are too timid to skate close in to really benefit from the draft, then jump out and sprint to re-enter with the end of the front pack. You have very little time to decide these things out there while racing, and you'll need to be able to hold the sprint long enough to close things up, especially if the gap opens to 10' -20' or more. (This is where interval training pays off.)

The guy in the back yelling for you to go all the way back has no control over you and how you chose to do your race. Sure it's courteous to go the the very back, but if that holds you back or you see a big gap in the pack as you drop off the front then don't go to the back, simply re-enter in the middle, in front of the gap. You'll kick yourself for having gone to the back then losing the front group as they power away, particularly if you could easily maintain pace with the front group and endure some surging.

And, yes, you can always encourage others to break away with you if you see the pace has slowed and you're idling out there without much effort. Usually, if you go off on a solo flier (as they say), the pack will eventually catch you up. But 2-4 skaters can sprint off then make a nice working pace line with good short rotations. So look for folks in the front who are strong and have shown they can pick up the speed, then suggest it.

Admittedly, the higher inline stride frequency/cadence drives me a bit nutz in pace lines these days. In having done more & more ice, I am more accustomed to deeper pushes and longer glides (long track ice), but if the glide is too long then the wheels friction slows you unnecessarily. So, timing IS truly everything, if you're long pushing know when to get of the push skate as not to defeat the purpose of all that hard work. When training it's good to practice different cadences, striding fast-quick paced, then lower-slower paced, altering body posture/position from staying low or more upright. It's good to mix it up and have different gears as this helps to keep your legs fresh out there. Maintaining one continuous stride cadence for 26 miles is difficult. Just like on a bike you need cruising gears, granny gear, and sprint gears!
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Old July 8th, 2013, 10:17 PM   #19
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When jumping out of line to pass a gapper... drop the hips, get the chest down and put on the power! You just lost the slipstream and all of its benefits for a few moments... maybe forever if you played it wrong!
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Old July 9th, 2013, 03:42 AM   #20
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yup, ya need enough reserves to hang out there until you clear the gapper then connect back in, recover, and get on with the race... the pack won't wait for you.
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