World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.
Becoming a Hill Climber
Hi, Bill: What drills and techniques do you suggest I use to become a better hill climber? I've been using the double push for the last two years and have recently gone back to a 5x84mm setup after trying a 4x100mm setup. This has increased my climbing speed, along with my overall speed during 15-20 mile training skates. But I'd like to go faster. - Thanks, Aubrey
Hi, Aubrey: When climbing hills, skaters shuffle their feet a bit more than usual and tend not to have a high back leg lift. As a result, the double push is usually not helpful, especially on long hills, though it can deliver short, sharp bursts of speed.
Other techniques that seem to help on hills are swinging the arms a little more to the side and sliding your skates across the face of the hill, rather than straight into it.
As far as wheel size goes, as I said in an earlier column, the jury is still out. In the Glarus World Inline Cup in 2006, a petite woman (42 Kg, 5 feet tall) flew up the hill on 100mm wheels, beating all but eight of the men. Meanwhile, a tough skater on 80mm wheels finished second in the men's race.
What I can tell you is that if you want to be good at hills, you must practice on hills. Unfortunately, there are not enough big hills in top inline races to make it worthwhile for most top skaters to refine their hill climbing technique.
How Important is Knee Kissing?
Hi, Bill: I've been taught that kissing the knees together during the recovery phase is a standard part of "classic" stroke. I do it as a drill but find it difficult to maintain unless I'm paying attention. I was taught knee kissing by Eddie Matzger, who said I set down on a deep outside edge. Is "knee kissing" always necessary? - Mike Borofsky
Hi, Mike: "Knee kissing," as Eddie calls it, is important because it gets your legs under your body, which allows you to get full use of your "powerbox."
Setting down on a deep outside edge is also important. It is a sign that you are properly transferring body-weight,, which helps with top end speed and flow. Just don't overdo it. Your feet should not go beyond the outside line of your body.
The "knee kissing" drill trains you to keep your knees close together. And, as with any new technique, it's good to exaggerate at first. But that doesn't mean you need to "kiss your knees" on every stroke for the rest of your skating days. If pro skaters did this all the time, it would probably lead to problems.
What Was It About Chad?
Hi, Bill: Love your column! ... I was wondering: Do you think any of today's skaters could compete with Chad Hedrick in his prime? I have seen his videos and he seemed to be heads and shoulders above the competition. What was it about that guy? - Dennis
Hi. Dennis: In his prime, Chad was something else. I remember when I was running the Colombian national team in 1995 at the Pan American Games in Argentina. In the points race, he made Martin Escobar, the reigning World Champion points skater, look like a novice; he did the same to Jorge Botero. The topper came in the 10,000-meter points race. Chad had a front wheel collapse. Rather than quit, he ripped the wheel out, continued clocking up points, and went on to win!
A few years later, at the Pacific Games in Cali, Colombia, I saw him destroy top Colombian skaters, including Sergio Uribe, who trained at altitude.
Another year, I remember a night of celebrating with Chad after he won the 1000 meters at the World Championships. He drank way too much and made a fool out of himself. I scampered off to bed before the police arrived and arrested him at 4 a.m. Nonetheless, he came back the next day and won the 20,000-meter elimination.
He was a once-in-a-decade freak and showed everyone what the "Chad" double push was all about. One thing that made his push so powerful, I think, was that he used his hip to push his recovery leg forward (before the setdown). That allowed his other muscles to rest for an extra 0.18 seconds. He could produce top end speed for 600 meters while his opponents only lasted for 400-450 meters.
One current skater who might be at the same level as Chad in his prime is Joey Mantia. Joey is more disciplined and looks after himself better. He is certainly on the right path. But only time will tell if he can reach the same heights as Chad.