2012 End of the Year Wrap-Up

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The 2012 Minnesota Inline Season Review

From my perspective, the season started and ended with a bang, but there sure were some good times in between.  The enduring memory from this season won’t be of the podiums, or of dueling pace lines on race day, but of all the grand times on the trails, and the worthy feats we all accomplished away from them.

2012 was a season of fortuitous race day weather, first time winners, a mega cluster finish or two, a course record, the absence of some familiar faces at the front (and on the trail), and the emergence of quite a few new ones.  Many have already set their sights on 2013 (the Rollerdome opens November 5th, The Oval opens November 9th), but here is one last look back at the season that was.

Below is the chronology of the 2012 inline season with links to Race Reports, Photos, Results, and special content.  You can get the full story from the links, but in this post I provide my current personal recollections to memorialize the season that was.

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Rollerblade Rollerdome Inline Marathon (March 17th)

Newcomers to our sport soon hear the phrase “Dome Season.”  Some love it, some hate it, some skip it entirely, but all will agree it is a completely different animal.  At least the course will be free of cars, tar snakes, oblivious kids on bikes, gravel repair patches, train tracks, intersections, hills, sand, and dog owners on one side of the path with their 12 foot leash connected to a dog on the other side of the trail.

For Dome skaters, five months of preparation boils down to one morning in March. As race day approached, Ron Marfori and I spoke very little about our prospects for success.  Perhaps we didn’t want to jinx ourselves.  We didn’t talk about what it would be like to eclipse a course record.  We didn’t talk about winning the event.  We didn’t talk about beating the teams.  We didn’t talk about who we would be racing against.  We avoided talking to others about any of those issues.  We barely even talked strategy.   We didn’t talk about anything other than making sure we teamed up at the start of the race and went as hard as we could as long as we could.

Ron and I took slightly different approaches in our training, but those who frequented the Dome know we both trained hard.  I trained on the wheels and bearings on which I intended to race.  The Dome is an odd surface and being comfortable was very important to me.  Ron, on the other hand, trained on old wheels and old bearings, which meant he spent much of the winter getting dropped whenever I felt like putting him in his place.  The week before the race, I was a bit concerned Ron wouldn’t be able to keep up on race day.  He was consistently falling back when I accelerated.  Then a couple of days before the race he changed his wheels and bearings; rather than being 10 feet behind me he was now 2 feet in front of me.

Starting order for the race was determined by a random draw.  Ron and I were pleasantly surprised by our draw.  We were to start with only a couple of people between us, and Ron would start after me.  That meant we had two options: a) I could sprint to the required water stop and join up with Ron on my way out, which would mean Ron would have to stop on his own later in the event, putting him a significant disadvantage; or b) I could wait for Ron to catch me and the two of us could race together the whole way – potentially giving him a chance to win.  With minimal discussion we went with option b).  I started about six second ahead of Ron and within a couple of turns we were teamed up and ready to go.

Out of the gate we were flying: 30 of our first 34 laps were completed in under one minute (the other four were 60, 61, 61, 61).  A one minute lap equates to 22.6 m.p.h. (our fastest lap was over 25 m.p.h.)  We were able to dodge most of the slower skaters (but the concourse was incredibly crowded).  We were able to shed the hangers-on and pretty soon it was Marfori, me, and Steve Meisinger all on our own.

The 63rd time we passed the garbage can at the exit of turn three, Ron and I clicked skates and I drop like a rock.  Steve Meisinger sailed over me, Superman style, and toward the wall.  The two of us stood up and brushed ourselves off, as we watched Ron disappear around the corner.  Steve and I got moving and skated that lap in 67 seconds and the next in 63 seconds.  I moved to the side to let Steve pull and he advised he had nothing left.  My hands and wrists, which I had landed awkwardly upon, were throbbing.  Ron was no where to be seen, but frustration from the fall turned to focus on finishing strong.  We laid down a 58 second lap, and followed it with a 56.  Now we could see Ron. We caught him entering turn four and he moved aside.  When we made it past another pack we picked up the pace knowing the end was near.  We closed in 58, 55.

As I left the race course, Adam Bradley ran up to me asking “Who won?” After the race we knew we were the top three finishers, but had little idea what the order was.  I mistakenly thought that Steve had caught us during the race.  Ron had started after me, but he had gotten gapped in the final lap sprint and finished a fair distance behind Steve and I.  But, our finishing order wasn’t necessarily the big story of the day.

No summary of the event would be complete without noting that the timing device failed for 40 seconds on lap 24 during the individual event.  That meant skaters who crossed the line during that span did not register a lap.  My lap times were initially reported as:

19. 57

20. 58

21. 56

22. 59

23. 57

24. 1.55

25. 59

26-30. 57

The timing chip company eventually divided the 1.55 by two, which yields two laps of 57.5, and subsequently removed what it had previously included as a skaters final lap.

While I wasn’t in attendance, it was reported that the team race was quite intense.  Pinnacle/Synergy attempted to catch Adams Test Team (of Danny Frederick, David Sarmiento, Matt Meyer, and the Petersons);  Pinnacle/Synergy couldn’t pull it off, but both teams had incredibly impressive performances (especially considering that members of both teams hadn’t had the winter to train at the Dome).  Sarah Brown, also of the Test Team, had a very impressive day.

 

Texas Road Rash (April 21st-22nd)

In past years Minnesota skaters returned from Texas with a ton of hardware (the famous cheese graters), but that was not the case this season.  Minnesota’s best finisher was Brent Bovitz, who finished 15 seconds behind the winner, but in 15th place.  Other Minnesota skaters were off to uncharacteristically slow starts, but they would soon impressively right the ship.

 

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Grand Old Day 8k on the Go (June 3rd)

This is the first local outdoor event of the season and an opportunity to see where you stand before heading to Baxter.  There were quite a few of us who knew where we stood . . . so we stood on the sidelines!

8k is 4.97 miles, which means it is nearly all out all the way.  The fast five that day, all finishing within a span of 2 seconds, would be David Sarmiento, Andy Kostka, Brent Bovtiz, Mike Anderson, and Gary Johnson.  For the ladies, with Kara Peterson standing on the sidelines, Melissa Dahlmann not yet on the scene, and Sarah Brown not in attendance, it was Rayna Meyer picking up a win.

This race draws skaters across all skill levels.  Next season we need a greater emphasis on recruiting those Highland skaters to our other events.

 

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Baxter Inline Marathon (June 9th)

I probably say it every season, but this is the most underrated event on our circuit.  Baxter offers a relatively safe but still challenging and scenic course (and is a well organized event).

After a mistake early on (combined with taking a bit too much time off after the Dome), I ended up pulling the chase pack rather than mixing it up with the lead pack.  I spent more than my share of time pulling and tried to close the gap, but it didn’t happen.  I was, however, pleasantly surprised to still be able to hold off the rest of the chase pack (including Matt Meyer, a rare 2012 appearance by Ovid Westin, Mike DeZellar, and James O’hearn) in the sprint to the finish on a beautiful sunny day in the north woods.

Then I got to sit and watch the rest of the field pour across the line.  Kara Peterson was an impressive performer – winning the ladies event by nearly 8 minutes over Melissa Dahlmann, who was competing in her first inline event (on borrowed skates).

 

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Apostle Islands Inline Marathon (June 16th)

After finishing five minutes back of the winners in Texas, Andy Kostka came within feet of pulling off a major upset in one of the most dramatic finishes of the season.  A pace car, a clueless kid, Kostka, David Sarmiento, and Robb Bell all converged on the same piece of real estate.  Bell would position himself best to avoid the pace car and would pull out the victory on an incredibly scenic, and fast course.

On the island, I skated an entire warm-up lap (8 miles) with decent pace (even passing a top skater, who I hardly knew at the time, warming up on her bike).  I was disappointed with my warm-up in Baxter and felt like I wasn’t ready when the pace had its first major surge.  This time when the pace picked up I had a bit more spring in my step.  Brent Bovitz, Steve Meisinger, Kurt Halverson, and myself jumped out on a first lap flyer.  On the second lap we were reeled in, and Bill Numerick instantly attacked.  He would spend the rest of the second lap on his own before being consumed as the pack elevated the pace in the final lap.  21 skaters crossed the line within 20 seconds of the winner.

But the drama for the day was far from over, as two other stories would soon develop:

First, as a murmur moved through the crowd that the ladies were closing in on the finish line, newcomer Melissa Dahlmann made the, relatively unusual to her, right hand cross overs to hand Kara Peterson her first defeat of the season.

Second, the neglected story of this event (because I didn’t know it had happened and then didn’t know it was so serious) did not occur on the race course, but in the parking lot.  After the race, while standing at his car, Mike Dahms (of Max Muscle) lost his balance and fell awkwardly.  He separated his shoulder and damaged nerves.  To this day he has not recovered full use of his right arm and hand, but that didn’t keep him from showing up and cheering on teammates at future events.  Get well Mike.

 

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Roll for the Roses (June 23rd)

This was my first time competing in this event.  It was smoothly and efficiently run by a by very friendly staff and volunteers.  The course sets up well for strategic racing with its many hills, varied terrain and pavement, large hill near the end, and technical downhill maneuvers.

The race shaped up as a showdown between Hoigaards and TWINCAM (with Matt Meyer tagging along to officiate); Kostka, Jeff Terwilliger and newcomer Paul Dyrud versus Brent Bovitz, Ron Marfori, and Gary Johnson (they left me in the dust early).

Half way through the 10k as I led the chase pack, Melissa Dahlmann came flying past me with Mike DeZellar close on her heels followed by Greg Miller, and then the Mullerys.  I got in line and waited.  On the final hill climb, surprising many (myself included), I shot to the top of the hill the fastest.  Then I tried to slow down enough to safely make the hairpin turn into the Oval.  A skater or two came around me as I slowed and they didn’t – no guts no glory I guess (but also no bandages or x-rays).

Ahead of us, it was Hoigaards getting the better of the duel, with Dyrud picking up his first win.

 

 

Group Skates

For many of us, group skates are a way of life during the summer, weather permitting (and at least once when it definitely didn’t). When the sun rose before six AM, so did the group skaters; and when the sun was out until nine PM, so were the group skaters. Our skates took us along the Gateway, the Greenway (occasionally over the Sabo bridge), East and West River Parkway, Lillydale, the Cedar Lake Trail,  Kenilworth Trail, Lake Harriett, Lake Calhoun, Lake Phalen, Lake Como, up and down Shepard, Elm Creek, and through White Rock.

The typical pattern was:  Monday – Gateway, Tuesday – Greenway, Wednesday – Oval/Greenway, Thursday – plyos/dryland, Friday – rest for Saturday, Saturday – Whole Foods to St. Paul and back, Sunday – see Saturday.  A year ago, it was a celebrated event when a group skate extended to 50 miles. This season a 50 mile skate occurred at least once a week with little fanfare. At times the regiment was grueling, but the support of those around us kept us motivated.

Many are on these group skates to train for the races.  But to not savor that time on the trail is failing to recognize that the reward is often the journey and not the destination.  I am definitely going to miss those trails . . .

What we learned on the trails:

  • way too much about Collins
  • Sand is slippery
  • a squirrel can, in fact, throw an apple into the path of a skater
  • “on your left” causes kids to move left 99.99% of the time (the other .01% were not listening)
  • you can catch that biker . . . and the next one . . .
  • Sandwiches tastes better when eaten on the side of a road with a sweat soaked helmet, and skater, drying nearby.
  • Earl is not a weatherman
  • Spandex keeps no secrets and tells no lies
  • Tagaderm is occasionally on sale at Walgreens  (consult Mullery for the latest market conditions)
  • Ron needs his skating gear professionally cleaned

When I began work on this entry I realized that while we spent hundreds of hours together on the trail this summer we have very little photographic evidence (which might not be entirely bad).  Below is a gallery of some of the photos I was able to locate – please send me your best shots from the trail to add to the gallery (and remember to take a few more next season).


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Chicagoland Inline Marathon (July 22nd)

This was my first time trying the three race Luigino Tour (10k circuit race, individual 2 mile time trial, and full marathon) in Hoffman Estates.  The best part of the Tour is you get to try your hand at a few different racing styles, techniques, and formats.  The worst part is you get to lose to the same couple of people in three different formats.  That said, I would highly recommend giving it a shot.

The event kicked off with a two-mile out-and-back time trial over some hills, around many technical turns, and down a long-back straightaway.  Skaters were sent off in 20 seconds intervals, which meant you knew you were being chased, and you (sometimes) had someone off in the distance to chase.   About an hour later came the 10k, which was a SIX LAP circuit race.   (Why is that in all caps you ask? See here.)

The next day came the marathon.  Early in the marathon it began to rain lightly but consistently.  My wheels began to slip.  I began to whine.  I knew if the rain continued I wouldn’t be able to stay in the race and I wouldn’t be able to help out Ron.  At one point I had drifted nearly 100 yards back of the pack when I saw a stretch of dry pavement under some trees paralleling I-90.  I attacked and closed the gap, the rain let up, and I hung on to Ron, Gary Blank, Brian Oswald, and Craig Rodriguez.

As we approached the final few miles, I got in line behind Ron and we quietly drifted off the back to strategize.  I then went to the front on a bluff attack, and pulled up.  Everyone pulled up with me . . . except Ron, who hammered past the standing masses and flew down the hill.  Craig Rodriquez gave chase and the two would battle to the final few meters.  In a heartbreaking finish Ron, quixotically, stood up believing that Rodriquez had conceded defeat – he hadn’t and snuck a toe in front of Ron.  It was another hard reminder that we race 26.2, not 26.19.

Another lasting memory of the event will be making the trip to Hoffman Estates with newcomer and back-to-back MIGP race winner Melissa Dahlmann, and making the trip home with race winner and Olympic hopeful Justin Stelly.

 

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Minnesota Half Marathon (August 4th)

I nearly missed the start of this race because of an extended warm-up skate out to the first turnaround and back.  I made it back just in time for the National Anthem.

Half an hour later, in the final miles Ron flew past me and went to the front.  Wanting to protect him from having to pull, I followed suit and got in front of him.  Shortly thereafter Hoigaards came rolling by on the left and hammered the last big hill.  Skaters ended up being sorted into a few lines, and with such a big lead pack there wasn’t much room to maneuver.

What I remember most about this event, however, is . . . losing to Ryan Mullery.  Bittersweet moment.  I have gotten to train and spend some time with the Mullerys and they are great people.  But to lose to that little whippersnapper still stings.  Mullery the Elder tried to console me and tell me “you get used to it.”  Well, no thank you Sir.

(Great job Ryan!)

 

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Rollin’ On the River Inline Marathon (August 25th)

The lasting memories from this event will likely not be of race day, but of the night before.  I have weathered a storm or two in my tent, but the howling wind and torrential rain that Friday night seemed to be unending (particularly to the first time camper with me).  We were shocked the next morning to find dry pavement (but still some lingering lightening, which would delay the start a few minutes).

This was my first trip to the Rollin’ On the River Inline Marathon and I was pretty impressed.  The race entry included a conveniently located, and delicious, pasta buffet the night before the event.  The expo was nicely organized.  Pre-race was well organized.  When we drove the race course the night before we were surprised by how many major roads were going to be shut down to host the event.

This was a fast race.  At one point I was traveling over 26 miles per hour, on the perfectly flat course, and was losing ground to the leaders.  The pace amped up immediately as skaters raced to the 10 mile “Nako” mark and its $500 cash prize.  I drifted back from the leaders before we neared the Nako but hoped they would pull up and rest after settling the prize – they didn’t.  Sarmiento would be the first to the 10 mile mark, but Mike Anderson would not let up, and with the help of his new teammates, pulled away from the pack for good.

 

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North of the 49th Inline Marathon (August 26th)

Free entry into this event wasn’t enough to draw a significant crowd.  You were all just two hours away in Grand Forks, but so few made the trip.  Randy Plett has intimated his intent to recreate the event in some form next season.  At the very least it will remain an annual north of the border group skate, which is actually how the event began.  Thank you to all our friends in Canada for your warm hospitality and support throughout the season.

Perhaps the best spectacle of the day was the attempt to chase down a Snickers wrapper in the windy parking lot.

 

Summer Inline Series

  • Every other Wednesday we gathered at the Oval for what was intense racing for some, and tremendous interval training for others.  Turnout started low this spring and varied little.  Thank you to David Sarmiento and Adam Bradley for your efforts this summer.
  • There are very few places in the country with such a racing surface.  To have it in our backyard and not use it is a shame.  Those with ideas on how to rejuvenate this event are encourage to speak up. We need to try to restore the event to its past glory.

 

North Shore Inline Marathon (September 15th)

After a bit of a disappointing end to August, I recommitted myself and refocused with the goal of ending the season strong in Duluth.  I doubled my time at the gym, I put down the fork, I hit Axcelerate fitness multiple times per week, I hit every group skate (and when the formal group skate finished for the day, my “partner in crime” and I would skate some more).    I was ready . . . and then . . .

In July 2011, in a post entitled “The Most Popular Posts” I reported the following:

The two most popular stories in the history of the website are:

1. Randy Plett Injured in Bike Accident (June 2009)

2.  Andy Uttke Fractures his Clavicle (June 2010)

Clearly skaters love carnage – there is no doubt about that.  The gap between these two stories and the third most popular post – which is non-crash related – is like the gap between Joey Mantia and the rest of the field.  Apparently the more serious the injury the more popular the post.

Skaters love blood.  But I want to think there is more to it than that.  I want to think we are also a small niche community that may have its differences from time to time, but at its core is a family that cares about each other.  I’d like to think those stories garnered attention because people in our inline community cared about Randy and I, and wanted to know we would be alright.  We celebrate each others accomplishments and use them as motivation as we pursue our own inline goals.  But when one of our own is in need I’d like to think we all rally to their aid.

Or maybe we really are just a blood thirsty brood . . .

Melissa (a/k/a “Mel”) Dahlmann, a prominent cyclist and ice speed skater, crashed less than two hours before the two of us were to leave for Duluth.  She crashed at the Oval while warming up with teammates and was rushed to the ER; where they called me.  I had the privilege of training hundreds of miles, and traveling thousands more this summer with Melissa.  In the time it takes for the static filled cell phone call to register, you realize how much more you care about the ones you are training with, than you care about what you are training for.

On a respite from the hospital, I posted Melissa’s story on inlineskatempls.com and started a donation drive to defray medical and dental costs.  Within 24 hours we had raised over $4k, within a week we were over $8k.  Online donations have been received from 13 states, and three foreign nations.  The support from the community has been incredible and at times overwhelming.  I am incredibly proud to be a member of this inline community – we have an amazing group of selfless skaters and fine people.

We sincerely and humbly thank you all.

For the record, Melissa Dahlmann Injured. Please Chip In. is now the most popular post of all time on www.inlineskatempls.com (and it isn’t even close).  After the outpouring of support for Melissa, we all know the carnage posts are popular, not because of a love of carnage, but because of a love for one another.

 

 

Now, that said, multiple sources have confirmed that you fine folks went ahead and held that race in Duluth, without the two of us.  Since I did not make the trip, I do not have too much to add, other than that half the people I trained with ended up making a trip to the hospital, and the other half ended up on the podium.  Congratudolences.

 

Final Minnesota Inline Grand Prix Standings

The very top of the MIGP standings lacked drama, as David Sarmiento had the title locked up weeks before the NSIM.  The drama was down the board: would the Mullery’s make the Top 25 (only one), would Ryan finish ahead of Michael (nope), would a female (or more than one) crack the Overall Top 25 (just one), and who would grab the hotly contested age group awards.

The Top 25 can be found here.

Overall Age Group Winners

0-19 Ryan Mullery, Steven Hartman, Keaton Moen

20-29 Paul Dyrud, Steve Meisinger, Melissa Dahlmann

30-39 David Sarmiento, Bill Numerick, Andy Kostka

40-49 Brent Bovitz, Mike DeZellar, Todd Schneider

50-59 Hernan Diaz, Jeff Terwilliger, Gary Johnson

60-69 Cale Carvell, Paul Holte, Ken Huss

70+ Mike Miller, Jim White

Female Age Group Winners

0-19 Paige Burgeson, Mackinzie Brandt, Mari Beth Thayer

20-29 Melissa Dahlmann, Heather Luberts, Rebekah Dyrud

30-39 Sarah Brown, Rayna Meyer, Candy Wong

40-49 Kara Peterson, Jana Davis, Trisha Kaufmann

50-59 Lois Swanberg, Margo Carvell, Karen Smith

60+ Connie Meek

Complete scores for all skaters in the Minnesota Inline Grand Prix can be found here.

 

NYC Inline Marathon & 100K (September 29th)

An impressive contingent of Adam’s Test Team, TWINCAM, and Greg Miller made the trip to the land of no more large sodas.  Those were not the only elite skates to make the trip to New York. Joining the Minnesota skaters were names like: Eddy Matzger, Peter Doucet, Luis Carlos Meja, Justin Stelly, Christopher Fiola, Tony Muse, and other elite skaters from Spain, Columbia, and Montreal.

Minnesota skates would dominate the age group awards, particularly the 40-49 age group where Bovtiz, Peterson, DeZellar/Frederick all claimed podium positions.

Danny stood on the podium sporting a red shirt . . . it appears to be the same one he wore in NYC last season.

 

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Athens to Atlanta (October 7th)

This seems to be one of the more polarizing events on the circuit.  Those that love this race swear by it and won’t let anything (including health, family milestones, or job responsibilities) get in the way of their quest to get to Atlanta.

Others are dumbfounded as to why one would want to skate for a likely minimum of five or six hours, for nearly 90 miles, up and down some spectacular hills, over rugged pavement, all while trying to navigate marginally controlled intersections filled with traffic, and hoping you are still on the correct unmarked roads.

Whichever camp you are in, we can all acknowledge that completion of the event, in and of itself, is a significant accomplishment.  For all serious racers of the event, however, you begin with the goal of finishing in under 5 hours.  This season, nine skaters achieved that milestone, and Ron Marfori was among them.   John Schulte (who broke the five hour barrier last season) wasn’t far behind with an impressive solo time of 5:15.  Congratulations John on an incredible and inspirational season – the Skateway Gators are very proud.

 

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Thus concludes the 2012 Minnesota Inline Season. For those who still have a little left in the tank you can still test your mettle against the nations best in Houston (on November 4th) or San Diego (Silver Strand Half Marathon on November 11th). Thank you to the Race Organizers, the volunteers, all of the sponsors (of both individual events, and teams), the communities that allow us to take over their roads and structures, the friends and family that support us throughout the season, all of those who contributed to inlineskatempls (including the photographer, and Ron for all the Reviews), and all of those who “Chipped In” in some way this season. For now, let us hope the Myans were wrong, the Dome roof stays up, and the Vikings miss the playoffs (which means more skating days).

2012′s Most Popular Posts:

1.  Melissa Dahlmann Injured. Please Chip In.

2.  Red Bull Crashed Ice in St. Paul.

3.  Where to Buy Inline Skates in the Twin Cities.

4.  Reviews By Ron: MPC Turbo.

5.  2012 Race Schedule.

6.  2012 Photo Gallery.

7.  Organized Group Skate Directions.

8.  MN Inline Grand Prix.

9.  The Cheapskater’s Slide Board.

10.  Apostle Islands Photo Gallery 6.2012.

 

History: