I'm loving online challenges. As a family man unable to make a bunch of contest/race trips, I am thrilled to be able do them on my own time in my home space. I know they aren't the same thing as being in a set location competing with others on the same course, but I am enjoying it very much.
The first online challenge I did was the Cyber Slalom Challenge through the NCDSA. I later ran my own Cyber Slalom Challenge through Facebook. A move from central Arkansas to the hills of northwest Arkansas coincided with taking up freestyle so I haven't competed in an online challenge since 2018. Of course, the World Round-Up Online Showdown kicked off the contests for me (I just practiced my run), but the IDSA (International Distance Skateboard Association) has started challenges as well.
I recently posted about the 10K challenge from them. It was a lot of fun, and I wanted to become more of a part of it. So, I paid the 20 bucks to join and became a member of the IDSA. I know I will probably never go to an IDSA event (unless they have one in Arkansas or Memphis, TN), but at least I can support the organization promoting something that I support. Skating for fitness is a great thing. Plus, they sent some cool swag for joining. I've been thinking about a hydration vest for a long time. So, to get one for the cost of joining the IDSA and shipping is great. I'm going to get a lot of use out of that over the next year.
SoNow, for the story of my 1KM Sprint:
I completed the challenge on Mother's Day morning. I warmed up by doing a freedance session (what I'm calling my freestyle/dance hybrid skating), and followed it with my attempt at the challenge. It should be of note that I knew my track wasn't the right place to do this. A straight stretch would be ideal, and there isn't much straight stretch on this course at all. However, as I mentioned, it was Mother's Day morning and I felt a little guilt leaving my wife behind to go skating on her day. While I should have been making her a breakfast in bed, I was out skating instead. So, I was at my usual spot. It is, after all, five minutes from home which is much better than driving 20 minutes into town. This way I skate for an hour and a half and I'm only gone for about an hour and a half.
I put my everyday board into the back of my truck and used my push board, a Bustin Sportster with 180mm Caliber trucks, 80mm Kegel wheels and Bones Swiss bearings. I pushed off, got to a decent speed and hit the start button. It felt great moving into the first, at speed, corner.
Unfortunately, I was going way too fast for this course. Turning and sprints just don't marry well. I came off the board just as I went into that first corner as my trucks couldn't turn fast enough. Luckily, I was able to run it out, and didn't land on my face. In fact, I was able to get myself back on the trail and hopped back on, but I knew I couldn't sprint at my the best possible speed. After all, I had several more turns each time around the track, and several times around the track. So, since I had already come off the board and because I had to slow down for each corner, I knew my time would be slow, but I did push like mad on the one long side of the track, and got myself nice and winded. They've started a 1 mile challenge and, now that I'm an actual member of the IDSA, I am going to find a straight path and I may just send my times into the IDSA. Judging from the times I've seen on Facebook, I think if I stay on the board and have a straight path, I may do okay.
I do hope, after the world goes back to a normal a little bit, they'll keep these challenges going. It is a great way to feel connected, at a distance, to other distance skaters.
Since I've been concentrating on the dance/freestyle aspects of my skating, I've not been doing much (meaning: any) distance skating. I've been tempted to hit the Razorback Greenway a few times, but the sheer amount of people on the trail lately has kept me away. In fact, I've been completly unable to run my favorite off-road trails since the pandemic closures shut down businesses and people decided to hit the trails for something to do.
So, because I've not been distance skating, I have also quit checking on the Distance skate groups on Facebook. Honestly, I find Facebook to be a necessary evil. I long for the days when forums were active. I see half thought out political posts by people that I tend to respect and it puts me off Facebook more and more. ANYWAY, I found out a day or two late that there was a 10k challenge last month, but after checking out the times this morning, I decided to skate a 10k at my local paved "trail."
I put trail in quotation marks because this trail is just over .25 of a mile. It is almost a track, but it has a couple extra turns and isn't completely flat. In fact, it has one flat section, two slightly uphill sections and one slight downhill with a couple turn in it. Well, I say that but the course would, of course, be just the opposite were I skating clockwise. For some reason I always skate this thing counterclockwise. I have no idea why.
So, I skated just ever so slightly over 10k this morning:
Judging from the times of the racers that actually competed in the challenge, I need to work on my distance skating. In my age group I would have placed 20th out of 30 and overall I would have been 85th out of 138. Not great, but I'm not upset about it. I've not skated distance in a couple months and the courses turns really slow me down. I think I could do a little better on the Memphis Greenline.
I hope they keep these challenges up. I probably won't enter the actual virtual race, but competing against their times is a fun challenge and a nice change of pace from freestyle/dance skating.
I enjoy cross country travel books. I've read (and listened to) books about ultra-marathoners and cyclists crossing the U.S. on two feet and two wheels, so a book about someone skating a longboard down the west coast into Mexico and through all of Central America was a must read.
In World on Board, Adrian Oh, a Singaporean who has become a central figure in the world of distance skating, chronicles a portion of his world travels. He rides a bracket longboard with Orangatang wheels while pushing a running stroller that, instead of carrying a child, carries his camping gear and water down the west side of the US and into Latin America. As both a longboard distance skater (although I've not done anything like Adrian) and as a camping enthusiast, it is a very interesting book. I've often wondered what it would be like to take off on my longboard with a pack on my back not to return for days and weeks. I imagine sleeping in my backpacking tent or in my hammock only to get up, pack up, and resume skating. Adrian has taken my imaginings and made them his reality. He has skated through Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica. He has detailed his journey through each country and how each country differs. I must admit, however, pushing a stroller and so many heavy items seems like it would take a lot of the joy and freedom of skating away. There's not much fun carving or surf style antics when you're simply trying to make it to the next host's house or campsite on item.
It must be said that Adrian's first language is not English and this is, basically, a journal printed in book form. The editing, done by Asnah Ahmed, could use a lot more work to turn this book into a finished piece. Sentence structure is often off, and I'd love to see certain parts fleshed out with more show and less tell. All of that said, however, I recommend anyone who is interested in long distance skating or any touring sport activity. His rides make my 15 to 20 mile pushes seem silly.
I believe a kindle version has just been released for anyone wanting a good deal and not being picky about having a paper copy.
Some time ago, I promised myself that I'd start doing one long skate each month. By long skate I mean over ten mile ride. I know, the true long distance purists think 10 miles is a warm up, but ten miles is about an hour of skating and sometimes getting an hour to distance skate can be a stretch when you also want to progress as a freestyler, maybe run a few slalom cones, skate the occasional curb, ditch, or bank while managing your family life and career.
What I've been doing lately is skate a few miles here and there during the week, but honestly I don't feel like I get anything out of it distance-wise unless I put in at least ten miles at a time. So, I'm making good on the promise to myself of 12 good 10 plus mile rides this year. I'll have to catch up on January and February when I have the chance.
I'm pretty stoked on this Relive app. It links up to Endomondo and creates a video based on my tracked gps ride and the photos I take along the way. So, you'll see in this video two things of note:
1. I was about 1 mile into the skate when a deer ran into a tall chain link fence, broke it's neck, and died right in front of me. I, of course, stopped skating and tried to call the park ranger to help the deer (at the time it was still alive but writhing and convulsing in pain). The last thing on my mind when it first happened was, of course, that I was tracking my mileage and time. I just kept calling numbers I found online to try and get an actual person to speak with me. I never got through to anyone. I just kept going around the same loop of voice mails and number options to speak with sales and reservation departments. The deer died while I was trying to get a live human to speak to me. Some runners said they would go find a ranger toward the visitor's center. By that point, the deer being dead, I started skating again.
2. Gumballs! I don't know what other people call them, but you'll see a picture of a "gumball" or one of those round, prickly seed balls from the sweet gum tree on the video. They were everywhere on today's skate. They kept causing me to slow my roll to nearly stopping, and they took me out at one point. I hit the gumball and went flying off my board. I ran it out the best I could, but I did end up ninja rolling and getting a nicely scraped knee out of it.
Anyway, look for more monthly longskates and some posts about how my weight training and running have helped my long distance skating trips because twelve miles today felt like nothing. I think I could have skated thirty with no problem. Also, look for the blog to be very longboard-centric for awhile. I'm trying to adjust my freestyle skating to a longboard and work in some common longboard moves (more on that in another post).
I have been wondering, however, about my wheel choice for distance skating. I'm riding 80mm wheels, and I like them, but when you skate these urban paths that force you to stop and start quite a bit, I wonder if the huge wheel size isn't a detriment. The greenline has a lot of crosswalks that force you to stop and restart. A smaller wheel (68-75mm) might accelerate faster if you're having to stop every mile or two. Just a thought.
The last blog post on this website was about doing anything other than skateboarding. In fact, it was about expanding my life in other directions outside of skateboarding.
This, as I knew it would, has brought me full circle back to skateboarding. Mountain biking has proved fun, but is no replacement for skating. Camping is also fun, but it can easily be worked into my life...er, skatelife. And running has proven to be a great addition to skateboarding. In fact, it has brought me back to distance skating, something I've taken some time away from while I was exploring freestyle skating. I'm now riding a Bustin Sportster with Caliber trucks, Orangatang Kegel wheels, Zealous bearings, and Skull Skates Flat Head hardware. This is a great push board so far.
And the distance skating has brought me back to longboarding in a big way. I've set my landyachtz kicktail longboard and I've been doing some freestyle and street on it.
So, I didn't make it 20 miles. I rode just over 15 miles at a very slow pace, and quite honestly, I'm cool with that. If I stilled lived in Memphis, and could ride the Memphis Greenline, I would be pretty upset with my time and distance. However, having to traverse up and down the quick hills of Northwest Arkansas (technically in the Ozark Mountains) meant a lot of walking my skateboard. I'm not a downhill skater, and some of the hills are simply too much to try and navigate. Add in some wet and muddy patches and there was a lot of walking going on.
I should point out that I didn't end my journey because of fatigue. I actually decided to turn around because I didn't like where I was. I love distance skating on trails for two reasons. The first is that it is riding a skateboard which, of course, I love. The second reason is that riding a trial is an extra excuse to get out in nature. Skateboarding is an "urban" sport. Skateboarding loves urban sprawl because it gives us new terrain from handrails to concrete ditches. Paved paths help take the concrete out of the concrete jungle. Even along the Greenline in Memphis you can forget you're skating through the middle of a city.
I took off at my usual starting point at Lake Bella Vista at the Bella Vista/Bentonville border. I skated (and walked an extreme hill) past Crystal Bridges (an amazing art museum in Bentonville) and rode through the city of Bentonville.
Most of the trek through Bentonville is great. It has greenery that keeps it shaded and blocks out most of the town. However, when you get to 14th street (where 14th ducks under I-49 and Bentonville becomes Rogers), the trail basically becomes a pebble covered sidewalk.
I was disappointed about the trail at the point. Here I was, over 7 miles into my ride, and I all I could see ahead of me was traffic, an interstate on ramp, and an overpass. My plan of riding all morning on the trail and in the trees of NWA (Northwest Arkansas) was becoming unsure. I didn't want to spend miles 7 - 10 in traffic. So, I opted to grab a couple donuts, rest for a few minutes, and start riding back.
For my next long ride I am going to find out where the trail becomes a trail again and do some skating through Rogers
My skatelife has been nearly 100 percent dedicated to freestyle for about nine months now. I've gone from being a terrible freestyle skater to being not quite as terrible of a freestyler, and it has taken a lot of time and dedication to get to that point. And I do mean a lot of time and dedication.
In fact, I've cut out almost all other types of skating out of my life. After all, if I'm skating a curb or a ditch or going for a long distance ride, I'm not improving specifically as a freestyle skater and there are so many things that I want to learn or improve in my freestyle game. By missing a day of casper disasters I'm assured that my casper disasters aren't improving.
If I weren't so driven to improve, I wouldn't care if I lost a day of freestyle practice, but I'm enjoying the improvements so much that I don't want to miss a day. And that is the key, I really am enjoying myself so much that I don't want to miss a day. I absolutely love the challenge of freestyle skating.
Well, I have decided to take a one day break from freestyle next week. I have my long distance pusher ready to go. I have my backpack retrofitted for a hydration bladder. I have my hammock ready to go. I've decided to head out along the 36 mile Razorback Greenway, skate until I need a break, set up my hammock, get a little respite, and head back. It is exciting to have a change of pace skate lined up.
Looking back at last year, it looks like I did one marathon length ride, so I've decided to make sure that each year I do one minimum 20 mile ride. And now I have something new to look forward to doing.