I arrived on Thursday and after checking into into the Lord Berri Hotel, decided to take a stroll for some site-seeing. I wasn’t but two blocks away from the hotel when I found myself in the middle of the 25th annual “Just for Laughs” Carnival. There were street performers, booths, bands, a kid area, and a parade. After spending a little time at the carnival, I took a stroll further into the downtown area and found a nice vegetarian buffet restaurant. I made my way back to the hotel for a quick drink and off to bed.
On Friday, I drove to the local Wal-Mart for race supplies — food, drink, etc. I found a mall nearby and picked up some more supplies at the GNC. The EAS gels were great during the race, by the way. I dropped off the supplies at the hotel and headed to the airport to pick up Jessica and Mike in the afternoon. After they got settled into the hotel, we went back to the Wal-Mart area for some shopping at the local grocery, back to the hotel, and then we took a stroll through parts of downtown before meeting up with the rest of the team at a local restaurant for a pre-race dinner. After dinner and a quick stroll to back to the carnival for some ice cream, we made our way back to the hotel for a good night’s rest, the last we would have until Sunday afternoon.
Saturday morning — race day — we all woke up about 5:30AM. We should have slept longer since we didn’t have to be at the track until 10:00 but none of us could get back to sleep. So, we had a nice breakfast at the hotel restaurant and then made our way to the race track. It took a little while to get to the paddocks which would be our home for 24+ hours. The road winds around the 3-mile track and around the casino which is located inside the track. When we finally got to our paddock, we found ourselves assigned to the back of the garage with 2 teams assigned to the area in front of us. This made for some challenging times getting to and from the track for handoffs, but we managed. Finally, around 12:00PM, all skaters skated around the track for pre-race instructions and a chance to get a lay of the land. Finally, at 1:00PM, the horn sounded and the first skaters were off and running, um, er, make that skating.
A little about the race . . . Each team can have at most 10 skaters. There is no minimum or maximum lap requirement per skater nor any specific rotation requirement. The only requirements are that a numbered bib is worn throughout (2 are given to each team to accommodate baton exchanges), a chip is worn to triggered lap counts when crossing the start/finish line, and a baton is carried for exchanges.
Team Skatelog chose a straight 10-person rotation in the beginning — each skater skating one lap and exchanging to the next skater until we got to the end of the 10 skaters and then we repeated the rotation. There was a group at the track selling spaghetti for charity and most of us got in on that. Unfortunately, the food didn’t sit real well in my stomach and I found it difficult to get sleep during my first long rest period. Around 10:0PM, we changed the rotation to 3 sub-teams. The first sub-team of 3 skaters, of which I was a member, skated through the 3-person rotation 3 times before handing off to the next 3-skater sub-team. The 3rd sub-team had 4 skaters. We used this rotation 2 times, giving each sub-team 2 3-hour period of rest. During that time, I probably got about 4 hours of rest and only about 1 – 1 1/2 hours sleep, mostly because of the stomach issue.
During the first sub-team rotation, it began to rain — not hard, but rain nonetheless. Not long after we exchanged to the second sub-team and as I was in a sleeping bag trying to get some sleep, I heard the downpour. I think I heard that 2 of our skaters got caught in the worst of it. Although I did have to skate in rain and wet conditions, I never got caught in the heavy stuff.
The sunrise was a beautiful sight on Sunday morning. I think most of us were scared that there would be more rain in store for Sunday morning and although there were some overcast moments, the rain stayed away the rest of the morning. As we were coming down to our last laps, we all decided that Jessica, as our team captain, should be the last skater on the track. After getting through 14 laps each, we knew that we would probably have time for 3 more laps, so the first and second skaters in our 10-person rotation skated and then the last handoff was to Jessica to complete our 143rd lap of the race.
There were 4 divisions at the race — elite, fitness, recreational, and solo (yes, some skated on their own without teammates to exchange laps to). Team Skatelog finished 9th out of 21 in the fitness division which we felt pretty good about, considering we had only just met each other as a team the night before. It was an experience that will not soon be forgotten. I think most of us wished it could have lasted a little longer or at least that the race were only a month away instead of a year away. But that also gives us plenty of time to think about our training and strategy for next year’s race.