This week's tip:
How To Tell If You Are Ready to Skate a Marathon
Three ways to see if you are ready to roll
By Jim White
Fitness skaters testing themselves at the 2006 Hayward Inline Marathon in Wisconsin.
Photo: Darlene Prois
Skating a marathon is a great way to test your fitness and skills, make new friends, and get more involved in the world of inline skating.
But how do you know if you are ready to go the distance?
Here are three tried-and-true methods:
1) Skate a practice marathon.
Map out a 26.2-mile course (standard marathon distance). You can use a GPS device or Google Maps to determine the distance. Make it a loop or lap course, rather than a point-to-point. That way if you have to bail out half way through you won't be left in the wilderness.
Now skate the course against the clock.
Most marathons give skaters at least three hours to finish. (The cutoff time is usually posted on event websites.) If you finish your trial marathon within the allowed time, you're good to go.
If it took you longer, sign up for the half marathon. A half marathon can be a great introduction to road racing. Or, if you like, you can just go out there and enjoy the view.
During your trial marathon, pay close attention to your body. Did you develop hot spots or blisters? If so, do something about it (switch skates or wear ankle booties). The competitive nature of races usually magnifies problems.
Did you run out of steam on the trail? Maybe you need more fuel. Maybe you need a performance gel or bananas
Did you get dehydrated? Get yourself a water bottle or CamelBak.
Another thing you should do is check out the racecourse of your target event. Does it have steep hills or tight 180-degree turnarounds? If so, you may have to train on hills and corners.
2. Try half the distance.
If skating a full trial marathon is too much, skate a half trial marathon. This can give you a good idea of how you will do on race day.
If you find that you can skate 13.1 miles at a constant pace and feel pretty good at the end of it, you can probably handle a full marathon.
To get an idea of how long the full marathon would take you, multiply your half marathon time by 2 to 2.5.
On the other hand, if you are exhausted after 13 miles, forget about the full marathon. You are probably not ready for it unless you're willing to skate at a considerably slower pace.
3. Starting from scratch.
If you are a casual or occasional skater — let's say you skate a few miles with your kids now and then — you are probably not ready for a full marathon. In that case, sign up for the half marathon.
If you are set on skating a full marathon, you will have to build up to it. Getting ready will take several months, at least. You can train with an outdoor team or look for advice in the Skate Tip of the Week Archive.
If you're training on your own, build up your distance gradually. Start with an easy distance (e.g., 3 kilometers).
Then take inventory. Did you develop blisters? Did your skates pinch your toes? Was your clothing uncomfortable?
Correct any problems before you increase the distance. If you don't, they could overwhelm you.
Keep after it, and before you know it, you'll be ready for a marathon. And who knows ... next year, you might be ready for a more epic challenge like the 87-mile Athens to Atlanta Road Skate.
Jim White is a veteran skater on both road and ice. He skates indoors and outdoors as a member of Team Wisconsin and long- and short-track ice as a member of the West Allis Speed Skating Club. He is also the webmaster of Grow Inline Speed, a site that provides resources for the development of inline speed skating. He helps organize and produce skate races and is a regular contributor to inline skating forums.