In the spoiler alert at the bottom of a post, I mentioned in passing the Rabbit Race which took place on the 1st October 2011. A few months back when Alex Bangnoi spotted it I ummmed and ahhhed quite a bit about whether to go or not. Frankly, I was disappointed by my performance at Goodwood back in August and so I wasn’t feeling too motivated. On the other side, I really love Holland, and more especially the few people (read longboarders) that I have had the pleasure of skating with, at various events (Skaiti, CaRott, Brussels, Paris Ultraskate) . I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go so I booked my tickets. I’m so glad that I listened to my gut instinct as I had an awesome time!
There was no hesitation about what board to use, so the G|Bomb went in the bag along with some Swiss goodies since I was staying for free at Flavio Badenes‘ place. Once I arrived at Amsterdam airport I had a little trouble finding ‘Sport Park Slotten‘ where the marathon was to be held because neither the Tourist Information nor the taxi driver who I resorted to had either heard of it or could find it on their GPS. A quick phone call to the race organiser, Flavio Badenes and I had a meeting point: The Nieuw Slotten shopping centre. Once there, knowing that I had about 30mins until he arrived I made the most of time by nipping into a supermarket to buy varying sizes of Stroopwafels, the very best thing to accompany tea/coffee and with which I cannot live without.
Having bought the necessary items, I then sat down on a bench in the sunshine to eat a pre-race sandwich and wait for Flavio. Half way through the said sandwich I heard the unmistakable sound of wheels on pavement. It was Paul Coupe and and Rob Ashby (?) who were also having trouble finding he venue and had spotted my bright yellow Decent Hardware bag and had thought ‘this guy knows where he is going’. After working out that I wasn’t Dutch but English like them (I had said hi with a mouthful of sandwich) we chatted a bit and I told them that I was waiting for the race organiser.
A couple of minutes later Flavio arrived in his car and whisked me off to the track, having given directions to Rob and Paul. We were about 5 minutes away by car and quickly passed a huge concrete rabbit, which had inspired the name ‘Rabbit Race’:
Once we’d arrived at the venue we set about meeting various Dutch guys that were already there, including Lennart Van de Peppel. Little by little people started to arrive, I was super stoked to see Alex Bangnoi and also Giovanni Barbazza who’d came from France, but also Paul Brunninkhuis and Iemke Karun Postma with whom I’d skated with before during the Paris Ultraskate.
Once changed, Giovanni and I decided to do quick warm up lap and I was really enthralled by the course. The weather was perfect, apparently there were 4000km of blue skies over Europe that day! The later start (5pm) was really appreciated because it meant that the temperature was just right. Although the course was a bit short 2.48 km (1.54 miles) the scenery really made the course. The Autumnal colours, canals and peaceful atmosphere was only interrupted by the sound of urethane on tarmac.
At the starting line there was a really good vibe and at just after 17.10 the start was given and we were off.
Right after the starting point there was a short but steep uphill, on the warm up lap I remember thinking ‘this hill is nothing’ – something I would rethink as the race went by. The good thing about the hill is that it split up the pack really quickly at the start of the race. Going into the first corner Alex, Paul and Iemke were pretty much neck and neck. I was in fourth and just behind me was Giovanni who was really keeping the pressure up.
Then began a small game between Giovanni and myself where I would lead for much of the lap, him right behind me. On the run-up to the uphill section he would then put on a burst of speed overtaking or drawing level with me. This lasted about 8 laps and was really forced me to keep the pace high. There was once really sketchy moment after I managed to pull away quite a bit from Giovanni where I completely lost my balance. I ended up having to get off my board as it went into the grass. In a second I was back on and accelerating as hard as I could, relieved that I had not lost fourth place.
A routine started to form in my race, push 6 times with left leg, tuck into an aero position,push 6 times with right leg. At the last corner before the straight, I would start dreading the uphill, then get up the hill, and afterwards try and catch my breath on the downhill get some water/energy gel down me, wait until the speed after the downhill gets to below 24kmh and before starting the routine again.
At around the 3rd lap my body was screaming for water and I ditched the Isostar drink and I shouted to get the attention of people giving out bottles. I just couldn’t take any more sweet stuff. In the end Wizzy of Bakaboards ran along with me and ensured I got a bottle. Phew! Big thanks to him. I’m definitely going to look into getting some Elite Electrolite which is completely tasteless. The way forward if you ask me.
From about the 12th lap onwards I started to notice thanks to my GPS watch that once I’d started pushing again after the hill it would take a good while for my legs to get going again. The result that I’d push really slowly at about 18kmh compared not my usual 21/22kmh. At about the 14th or 15th lap, just after the downhill section I heard a cheerh ‘hello’…it was Lennart Van de Peppel, overtaking me. For roughly half a lap I tried to match his pace but I couldn’t. He really deserved 4th.
The routine continued, with the hill getting harder and harder until the 16th lap when Matthijs van Wijk, who had started the marathon late and was on his 10th-ish lap caught up with me. He was in really good spirits and was in the mood for a chat. By this point I could only concentrate on one thing and apologised that I was not in a fit state to talk and skate at the same time. I felt really bad about this as he was obviously stoked to be taking part, but I was hanging! He overtook me with no problem and seemed to have lots of energy. After the race I went over to him and had a good chat…I was stoked to meet him! Here he is going full pelt down the hill.
I was really starting to feel the burn and by this point my GPS was showing distances well over the normal marathon time. Just before the last lap I was lapped by Paul (smiling) and Iemke I was amazed at the power they still had. The last uphill section was a real struggle, once I’d got to the top I felt my legs buckle but I knew I was on my last lap so just kept going. Thankfully the lap went by really quickly and soon enough I had finished the race in 5th place and had done 45km! I was super stoked as I knew that I’d done more than a marathon in just over two hours and with an average speed that was higher than at Goodwood in 2010 at 22.1kmh and therefore bettering my marathon time:
All the results can be found on the relevant post on Skatefurther. After the race there was a super good vibe. Everyone cheered on the people who hadn’t yet finished and once everyone had, and had managed cool off and rest a bit some nice prizes were handed out to the top 5 finishers. I was really surprised at this and really wasn’t expecting it. It was a nice touch.
Even after that you could tell that no one wanted the night to end. It got dark, the mosquitoes came out we were still all exchanging stories and sharing the wonderful atmosphere. At around 8pm we decided to all meet up at a local Chinese restaurant to get some food and relax together. More importantly we got to drink the post race beer which is one of the best tasting ever! In total about 14 of us were there and it was great to discuss past and future events, get to know new faces a little better and catch up with old ones. Flavio told us about his diverse history in skating, Alex about his time at the NYC leg of the Adrenalina Skateboard Marathon and we all chatted about distance skating more generally.
The next day Alex, Giovanni and I went to breakfast in central Amsterdam and we bought some souvenirs (tulips, Gouda) had a nice cruise around the pretty streets. Alex wasn’t even aching and looked like he could do another marathon, I certainly was feeling the previous day’s efforts so we didn’t do too much. Alex then took me back to ‘Sport Park Slotten where I watched some of the Slalom antics before heading back to the airport. My only regret was not to see Jesse Beau (get well soon) or Jochem Boer.
I’d spent barely 24 hours in Amsterdam but left feeling really as if we had managed to pack a lot in. I want to thank Flavio and the NLDSA for having organised the race and for making us feel really welcome. We will certainly be back if the race happens in 2012 as planned. A big thank you is due to Sofie Jochems and Orta for their excellent job at timing and for taking many lovely photos. I think I almost rode into Orta as she was taking some more ‘extreme’ shots by sitting in the middle of the downhill section. Mike Fish and Wizzy of Bakaboards also deserve thanks for their pictures too.
Most of all, if you get the chance to travel to Holland and meet up with any longboarders, you can be sure to find a lovely welcoming crowd of talented and dedicated people. I for one will be making trips there as often as possible and can’t wait for my next skate with them. Who says you need hills to skate! Vooruit!
So my weekend of training is finished. As I sit here slightly aching and full of food I know that in a weeks time the race will already be over. Seeing as I only started training properly around a month ago, I’m pretty pleased with how things have gone. I’ve learnt a couple of things too which I want to record here so that I don’t forget.
Sounds basic, but is easy to get wrong. Realising that I wasn’t going to have all that much time to put in the miles, I decided to go for an sprint approach with my regular sessions. The route I used is short in distance terms, around 4km (2.4 miles) but has an elevation of around 135m (442 ft). Here is the different times it took me to travel the route:
Jul 18, 2011: Pace: 4:04min/km, Speed: 14.47km/h
Jul 21, 2011: Pace: 3:49min/km, Speed: 15.72km/h
Jul 27, 2011: Pace: 4:20min/km, Speed: 13.83km/h
Aug 02, 2011: Pace: 4:02min/km, Speed: 14.83km/h
So what happened on the 27th July? Well, I arrived back home thinking I was going to pass out. Coming up the hill I felt like I had no energy and like I was skating through treacle. It was a horrible feeling. From that day on I decided to eat more during the late afternoon to fuel the longboarding runs. The results are that I have got a little faster (last run) and I am also decidedly less grouchy upon arrival home.
My favourite snack of choice at the moment are home-made cereal bars that I used during the Paris Ultraskate. Why make them? Well, here are some advantages:
1/ You know exactly what is in them
2/ They contain different levels of sugars to give you quick and sustained energy
3/ Really easy to make
Long Distance energy bars – all credit goes to the fantastic Diet-Sport-Coach site (in French)
By slightly changing the ingredients, you can make either a sweet or a slightly salty version – good to ward away boredom for when you have to eat a lot of them during ultras, etc…
Mix for sweet:
> 250 g powdered almonds
> 100 g fructose (powdered or agave syrup)
> 50g brown sugar
> a small potato (80g) cooked and mashed
> Add 80g sesame and/or lin seeds
For salty version:
> 250 g powdered almonds
> 75 g fructose (powdered or agave syrup)
> 100g peanut butter
> 80g sweet potato steamed and mashed
> Add 80g sesame and/or lin seeds
Mix everything up into a paste. It might at first appear really dry but just mix in enough and it will turn into a paste. Leave it to set in the fridge overnight. The next day, cut the paste into bars and wrap in cellophane. You can also wrap the paste around fillings such as dried bananas or dates.
The last big training push
During the weekend, I had some time to get the final bit of my training in. Since I setup the Illuminati not too long ago and had a couple of issues getting to grips with it and it was a real feeling of relief to feel everything come together. I’ve mainly been playing around with bushings (see last link) and also trying out ways to strengthen them.
I knew that it was possible to setup and get used to a board that is both good at pumping and pushing. From using it at the weekend, I think that I have came close to achieving that.
The weather around Lausanne has been pants for the last couple of weeks; muggy and showery. Not really very summery at all. All in all I did nearly 60km (37 miles) during the weekend at race pace for as much as possible. The most interesting run was on Saturday. I actually had a false start that day. I came out of the flat ready for a skate and after 10metres it started to rain. That was in the morning.
In the afternoon as I was waiting for the bus to take me down to the lake, I got my picture taken by a passing photographer:
Once at the lake, I’d done about 12km when again, it started to rain. Luckily, I decided to press on and the rain didn’t last – I did almost go home at one point because the rain kept threatening to come down.
Here is the route I took according to RunKeeper:
I’m happy with the speed. The route is certainly one of the more interesting ones to skate around on, but that does mean that you need to keep your wits about you. I had multiple near-misses with children on bikes, roller blade or just people randomly changing direction. There were also several crossings to deal with, although for the most part I managed to time them just right to get the ‘green man’. When you’re not dealing with all that, there is a lovely view of the lakeside. The surface really is top notch too. Physically, afterwards I felt pretty good and made sure I did my stretches. That reminds me…
Tim Pritchard recommended that I read a copy of Chi Running by Danny Dreyer. There is some interesting stuff regarding technique. After reading it, I’ve tried to keep in mind the following when I skate:
– Strike the ground when pushing with the mid-foot, making as little noise as possible
– Stay as straight as possible, lean forwards more the faster you want to go
– Don’t reach too far forwards, concentrate your push to the back
– Focus on the point where you want to be going (as much as your board and the terrain allows you)
I would really recommend this book. There are some very waffle-y sections and some running information that isn’t very relevant to longboarding, but the philosophy, warming up/warming down, stretching, race preparation and training plans are all well worth the read.
T minus 5 days-ish
So now comes a nice part of the training: eating and resting as much as possible! I’m really looking forward to the weekend, as well as the race it’ll be a good chance to catch up with old friends (Matt Elver, Keith O’Leary, Tim Pritchard, Tom Parker, Nick Randall, Zoltan Nagy), and meet some new faces for the first time in person (Chris White, Gary Ewens of Smile Longboards, the UK Longboard Larry distributor, and who knows else!).
A sad fact though is that Alex Bangnoi will unfortunately not be able to make Goodwood this year- it won’ be the same without you drifting me around the track ;-). The French will be duly represented though by Matthieu Josse, a young gun who shot to 8th place in the Ultraskate rankings at the Paris Ultraskate. I think there are going to be a few surprises this year…let’s see!