The Paris ultraskate was the second 24h skate I have undertaken. One thing I have come to appreciate is that an ultraskate is an event which is full of highs and lows and at the Hippodrome du Longchamp, thanks to the lie of the land, ups and downs too. For some reason, the need for mental strength really came out at this Ultraskate.
In terms of physical preparation, I really didn’t feel like I’d done much at all. The recent move to Switzerland, the pretty busy work schedule and a certain apprehension to the massive hills in Lausanne have meant that I’ve not skated much in recent months. I was also organising the event from afar and hosting it on an untested circuit. Although I was super stoked to hear that people were coming from the UK and Netherlands for it, a small part of me was wondering, what happens if we get kicked off or if the track is not suitable…I didn’t want to let anyone down.
So when I picked Tim up from late on the Friday night, I was a little apprehensive…however, the ball was already rolling and we needed to get ready – and that meant eating! I’d already started carbo-loading since the Friday morning but I’d asked my grandmother with whom I was staying to cook a big pot of rice…Tim and I finished that off before snatching a couple of hours agitated sleep. On the Saturday morning we ate probably enough Bircher museli for four people, it is an amazing Swiss snack and contains many good things as well as being mega tasty. From my point of view it is the perfect breakfast to have before a sporting event as it is nutritious and filling whilst remaining easily digestible.
It was clear that for at least the Saturday, thankfully the weather would be with us. My main aim for the event was to ensure that it was a success from an organisational point of view, meaning that we would be able to hold an ultraskate as planned. I also wanted to beat my previous performance of 100mile (160km) at Skaiti.
Upon arriving at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, we were already greated by Matthieu Josse and Romain Bessière who had made their journeys from the North of France with family as support crew. Another worry was how we would fare with the cyclists who we would share the track with.
As you can see from the picture above there were quite a few around. Luckily for us though they weren’t the type to stay there all day and as time went by the track cleared (they most probably went off for lunch). We had to put back the start time to 1pm (instead of mid-day) in order to give the Dutch guys who had travelled further some time to get ready. It was all good though as was great to spend a while chatting to different people at what was to become the event HQ.
The turn out really went beyond my initial expectations. I was sure that Romain Bessière and Mattheiu Josse were going to make it, along with one or two local guys such as Alex Bangnoi, but in reality things were even better. Obviously, I’ve mentioned that the Dutch were well represented and the UK too with Tim Pritchard, but what really was good to see was that many skaters from around Paris also came along and really gave it a good go. That really was good to see.
Everyone was soon ready and after waiting for a gap in the pack of cyclists, we were off.
At first I found it hard to keep a rhythm and was a little daunted by the prospect of lots of skating around bikes. I remember spending a good few laps with Tim, generally chatting and enjoying the atmosphere. Every now and again you would hear a whistle or a ‘à doite’ being shouted by one of the more aggressive cyclists as they came up from behind.
I felt good about how I was progressing. It was a really hot day so a priority was to ensure that I was drinking enough. I was using the same Isostar endurance drink I had used before and always had a pouch of energy gel or something similar to keep me going. Every 12km (approximately 3 laps) or if I ran out of water, I would come in and have a 5 or 10 minute break and something more substantial to eat, such as a cereal bar or slice of Ultracake (reciepes in French here). I’m glad that I had brought lots of food though because I found out that the carefully prepared Ultracake had suffered al malfunction, it was undercooked and pretty raw in the middle, the sides were ok though and the general consensus was that it was tasty.
Some people, such as Jesse Beau and Paul Brunninkhuis just kept going. I was trying to be sensible and learn from my mistakes at Skaiti and manage myself, ensuring that I was eating and drinking enough. Still, the fact that in the past Jesse has done well over 100km before his first stop shows that this guy means business but also that everyone has their own preferences. Perhaps eating for me is a good way of reassuring myself that I can carry on skating, it sure feels that way.
In the eveing, most of the French guys had finished their 100km skates and headed back home. With fewer and fewer cyclists the track became our own and the rhythm just got stronger. This is the point where I put in a lot of miles – everything just felt right.
The track we were on went right around the Hippodrome the Longchamp which is a famous course used for horseracing. Around 8pm one of my stops coincided with Jesse and Paul. They asked me what the deal was regarding the use of the track on race days as like me they had seen banners all around the track saying that on race days the bike track was closed from 10am…if that were true then our ultraskate would be cut short by around 3 hours. I had seen banners around the track for an horsey-type family event, but no racing so I was pretty certain but not sure that we would be able to complete the 24 hours.
In light of this, I aimed to equal my previous distance of 160km before sleeping. In the early hours of the evening, I had a great time skating with Alex Bangnoi in the early part of the night. I’ve enjoyed many long rides with Alex and he has also been a worthy opponent in the Goodwood Roller Marathon. Later on, I asked Jochem Boer to come along with me (he’d decided to play a more supportive role in the event) and we ended up skating a good few hours together which hadn’t happend since CaRott. I also had a good time skating with Giovanni Barbazza who previously to the ultra hadn’t skated much at all. His enthusiasm was infectious and help get through some of the night time hours.
I really need to skate with people during an ultraskate, it makes things so much easier. There comes a time when I can’t be on my own, I’m too tired and need the banter and conversation of a fellow skater to help me through a tough time. Or to even just share the pain with someone else. It is funny because I have only met and skated with Jesse and Jochem on three separate occasions, but despite of the fact that we haven’t shared much time together, the little we have has really brought us close. I would definitely think of inviting them when organising future distance trips and really enjoyed seeing them at the Ultra.
As I have hinted at before, ultraskating is full of contradictions and the track we were on certainly was very varied too. Cyclists aside, one part was a haven of tranquility and the other was a mega hectic. From around 10pm one of the buildings set back into the horse-racing circuit turned into a nightclub. At first we went by queues of immaculately dressed people and as it got later we had to slalom around broken glass, drunken people and mini traffic jams. There were a few close calls but people generally didn’t take much notive of the crazy guys on skateboards.
In the middle of the night, when I was about 10km off the 160km target Jochem and I stopped at the HQ and I wondered off to ‘give life to a tree’. A guy approached me declaring himself to be ‘completely hammered’ asked me in French where I could find some weed. I said I didn’t know and explained what we were doing and that most people here only spoke English. In the next half hour we entertained this guy who was clearly a drug dealer. I got increasingly annoyed because I was loosing valuable time, but fortunately he didn’t stay long. Jochem and I laughed about this later on as apparently he could tell that I was fuming! Apart from him and a courtesy call from the police at around 5.30am we weren’t bothered at all.
From around 5am until 7 I had a rest in Alex Bangnoi’s car. Perhaps it was the vast quantities of sugar or maybe just Alex’s snoring ;-), but I really found it hard to sleep. In hindsight, perhaps I should have just carried on skating! I woke at around 6.30am feeling horrid and ate what I could to keep myself awake. This picture sums up how I felt well.
Jesse was also pretty knackered as he hadn’t slept a wink, Paul on the other hand was really going strong. We formed a nice little line and it was great to skate together and really helped with motivation.
As the morning progressed, the cyclists came back with a vengeance. I decided that I would aim for the next round number, which just happened to be 200km. With about 10km to go, I got fed up with cyclists having a go and ended up arguing with one of them for about half a lap…we were within out rights, on a public right of way (I can already feel my blood pressure rising as I write this!). The positive thing that came out of this was that my average speed jumped by about 4 km! Awesome!
I quite clearly remember skating the last lap with Tim, who had woken up by that point and I reached 200km with half a lap to go until the HQ. I slowed right down for the last bit and after shouting a bit of encouragement to the others that were still going, I just completely conked out. I feel now though that it would have been possible to continue, so I am really confident that I can push further next time. We’ll see.
Overall, I really had a great time. I was proud to have beaten my previous personal best by 40km, but most honoured that the event was attended by so many awesome people. The track in the end worked pretty well, but we were lucky with both the cyclists and the weather. I really want to thank all who attended – like most events, it was the people that really made it and I can’t thank them enough for coming. A big shout out also goes out to Marvin Thine of UrbanDrift and James Peters of Pavedwave for their support.
On a personal note, I felt the success of the event was a win also for French distance skating. Ever since I had started to get interested in trips, ultras and the like, I had got a little bit of a strange reputation. It has taken some hard work to legitimise distance skating in Paris and thanks to lots of people’s tenacity things are moving forward. I’m really pleased to see that there was anther Push Race in the centre of Paris at this year’s Greenskate, there is also another a 20km push in the South of France coming up.
The Paris Ultraskate results:
Romain Bessière (FR): 366.8 km (227.9 miles) – Push
Paul Brunninkhuis (NL): 338 km (210 miles) – LDP
Jesse Beau (NL): 324 km (201.4 miles) – Push
Matthieu Josse (FR): 305 km (189.5 miles) – Push
Iemke Postma (NL): 261 km (162 miles) – Push
Chris Vallender (UK/FR): 201 km (124.8 miles) – Push
Alex Bangnoi (FR): 179 km (111 miles) – Push
Giovanni Barbazza: 150 km (93 miles) – Push
Jason Yoyotte Lapierre (FR): 100km (62 miles) – Push
Alex Pereira (FR): 100km (62 miles) – Push
José Laurier (FR): 100km (62 miles) – Push
Eric de Ridder (NL): 68 km (42 miles) – Push
Tim Pritchard (UK): 85.7 km (53.3 miles) – LDP
Here is also a video recapping the event – it captures the vibe of the event well:
It has been my aim for a while (since Skaiti, in fact) to hold an Ultraskate in or around Paris. It is not an easy task since, especially in a urban environment since you either have to have a lot of room or more ideally, a circuit which is accessible for 24h. The Hippodrôme de Longchamp, even if it not perfect soon appeared to be the best place. The Paris Push Race last Autumn was held not too far away and since then Romain Bessière and I have planned to try and attempt to organise an Ultraskate.
After lots of ummming and ahhhing The Paris Ultra was born and since launching a few people have shown an interest. I expect that at the end of it all there will be around 15 of us there with possibly a small handful aiming to go for the full 24h.
Romain Bessière who is already a distance ninja, will be trying very hard to beat the current world record of 403km held by Paul Kent. He has already come pretty close, having completed just over 330km at the Le mans 24h roller marathon in 2007. Other than that it will be great to get back to Paris and meet up with old friends.
Hopefully before then I’ll be able to get some training in, and try out some recipes to make home-made endurance food…more to come on that at a later date.