Debbie Rice cruising in the low-skating position. Photo: Glenn Koshi
When I switched to inlines in the mid-1990s, I trained in Houston with racing legends Chad Hedrick and Cheryl Ezzell.
Both Cheryl and Chad had these amazingly long and powerful pushes, and I found it hard to keep up. For every stroke they took, I needed two. And by the time they were finishing their warmup, I was worn out.
That's when I realized I would have to master the long stride that they used if I ever wanted to be competitive.
This meant bending my knees much deeper, rather than bending from the waist, and keeping my butt down, as though I was sitting in a chair.
In this position I was able to extend my stride and transfer every available unit of energy to my stroke, using all my wheels while pushing out with my heels. I also learned to rock my body with each stroke to create more momentum.
It wasn't easy. At first, I would tire quickly. But I kept working on it, and before long, I was able to match strokes with my champion training partners.
How to learn to go low
You've heard it before: Get low and stay low. In fact, it's the key to a long, powerful stroke.
Every time you skate, remind yourself to:
Bend at the knees
Get the glutes down as though you are sitting in a chair
Stretch your stride out
Push out with the heels
Rock your body to create momentum
Experiment to find out what angle of push works best for you.
I'm not going to say it's easy. At first, you will find it difficult. But stick with it. The trick is to keep working on it until it becomes natural.
Once it is, you'll have more power and be able to hang with the big dogs.
Racing low during a marathon
Once you are able to maintain the low position, you will need to learn to "change gears" occasionally to keep fresh. When you start running out of juice in the low position, adjust your stance. Straighten your knees a little. Shorten your stride. If you are in a pack, get into the draft. Give yourself some rest.
Then, when it's time to chase a break or sprint to the finish, you'll be ready to go low and fly.
Debbie Rice skated quads before inlines and became a master of both. She has won numerous titles, indoor and out, including the 2009 Master World Marathon Championship. She also holds the Guinness record for fastest woman on skates — 61 mph. A former cast member of the Roller Jam television series, she now jams for the Bont's Quaestor Derby Team. She is a Bont sales representative and team manager of Bont USA and Bont Quadstars Derby Team. A Houston native, she currently lives in Tampa.