The pro chase pack negotiates a turnaround at the San Francisco Inline Marathon.
By Edward Wachter
Making a sharp 180-degree turn is never easy on inline skates. But it's especially tough when you're skating full-out in an inline marathon.
That's why turnarounds have a well-earned reputation for danger. Go too fast, and you end up in the gravel. Go too slow, and the skater behind you plows into you.
On the other hand, if you know how to negotiate this gauntlet, you just might get ahead of the pack.
But don't wait till race day to perfect your technique. Practice turnarounds in your group skates and master the basics.
Here are some tips to keep you off the pavement:
1. Front or back
Don't wait till it's too late to decide where you want to be during the turn. Nail down your strategy so you have time to make adjustments. If you're in front, a big push may throw you off balance, forcing you wide into the grass or tripping you up. But on the plus side, you'll be first skater out of the turn and have a chance to get a jump on those behind you. And of course, you'll avoid any pileup if there's a crash — unless it's you who takes a tumble.
2. Sound the alarm
When you come into a U-turn, put safety first. If you're in front, and even if you're not, warn the pack about what's ahead. Don't whisper. Use your outdoor voice and shout "U-turn ahead. Let's be safe." There are always one or two who'll blast through, especially on the first turnaround when skaters don't know what to expect. And that's when most crashes occur.
3. Be alert
Get in the zone but don't space out. Stay focused. Steer clear of wobbly skaters or those hot-dogging it through the turn.
4. Slow down
Save your jets for the straight away. When you approach and move into a turnaround, slow down — but not so much that you cause trouble behind you or put yourself out of position.
5. Stay balanced.
With your head up, keep your shoulders level and pointed into the turn. Though you may be tempted, don't pop up. Get low and stay low. With your skates about shoulder width apart, shift most of your weight to the outside skate. (On a left turn, that's your right skate. On a right turn, it's your left.)
6. Be prepared for a push
You never know when a skater behind you will push. When it happens, you want your hands out in front, not swinging by your sides. If you are pushed, let the skater in front of you know you're coming. And if you have to give a push, place your hands on the skater's back, lower center, not on the side, which would throw the skater off balance.
7. Slow in, fast out
Roll slowly into the turn and use one or two crossovers to accelerate out of it.
8. Don't pass ... unless
Try not to pass other skaters through the turnaround, unless you're going for the gold and are confident you can pull it off without endangering your fellow skaters.
Bottom line: Use your head on the turnarounds ... or lose some skin.
Edward Wachter is a veteran racer, skate organizer and one of the most personable members of the inline world. He has raced outdoors as a pro for ten years, the last six as a member of the Bont North America racing team. He runs Fast Eddie's Skate School in Tucson and is the president of the Tucson Inline Sk8 Club. He and his mother, Diane Coonce, were the organizers of the now defunct Cactus Classic Inline Marathon in southern Arizona.
Copyright © 2008 Inline Planet