This tale takes you on the embarrassing adventure Terry had to endure when he decided to blade the North Shore Inline Marathon.
Footnote: Terry hadn't really roller bladed since the last time he participated in this marathon over 3 years prior.
North Shore Disaster...If you want short answer to how I did, read last paragraph.
What a nightmare...So in the morning, and I mean EARLY morning, of the race started off noisy. Joshua didn't like the Pack and Play and was screaming at 3 AM for a while...note that I had to get up at 5:30 for the race...so I was tired from the get go. Pat Arendt and I made it to shuttle on time and got dropped off in Two Harbors, MN (which by the way seems a lot further than 26.2 miles when you are riding the shuttle) and waited in the brisk 50 degree air for the race to start. We had to wait one hour. I was a bit anxious seeing that I had only roller bladed twice - for a total of about 10 miles - in the last 4 years. I have obviously played hockey and what not but was very concerned about the thrashing my feet were about to take and the amount of blood and blisters that were soon to follow. Another concern I had was that my roller blades were 5 years old and like I said, hadn't been used since last inline marathon I did - only reason I was concerned is that Pat and I went out roller blading (one of the two times I went out) and I could see my blades were crap. I was doing all I could do to keep up with him because my blades would just not roll as fast and he had larger wheels (which also makes blades go faster). So I knew from the get go I was gonna let Pat leave me behind (not to mention he played hockey for Notre Dame and is still very fit - but I'll use the roller blades as my excuse :)...little did I know how far behind it was going to be.
Finally the race started. About 2 minutes in, I was pumping as fast as I could and Pat was barely striding. He said..."I'll let you set the pace"...he was being nice. I told him to take off, I was going plenty fast. So he left, then I watched wave after wave of people pass me. It was demoralizing. I thought..."There is no way I am this slow" as I watched some 200lb woman gimp her way past me (little bit of exaggeration but not much). So I started watching peoples' strides. Not only were my strides longer and better, but I was striding about 20% more often than they were. I could see that I was pumping faster and it would only take about 5 strides each foot to 'lap' their strides. So for every 8 of their 'pathetic' strides, I was doing 10 decent strides (my strides were about 50% LONGER than a majority of people passing me)...yet they were BLOWING by me. It was literally like people were 'jogging' and I was 'sprinting' and yet I couldn't keep up.
So as the first few miles were under my belt, and waves and waves of people leisurely passed my, it started to wear on me mentally. It made it hard to not pout and completely give up when I knew no matter what I did, EVERYONE was going to pass me (or so it seemed). Things were about to get worse.
So I was coming up on mile 7...the first water hand off point...I thought to myself...I don't deserve a water for how many people are passing me, I'm waiting til next one. Little did I know, this was the critical decision in the marathon for me. I should have grabbed a case! So I was chugging along...watching more waves pass me and my pathetic roller blades. At about 7.5 miles, my front wheel on my right blade literally disintegrated and the blade could not roll let alone stride. I couldn't believe it. It looked like half the wheel had broken off. (click here to see picture to the right - click to see larger version)
So I was reduced (mentally and physically) to nothing. So I did the only thing I thought I could do. I basically just stood on my left blade/leg and 'kicked' with my right blade. I say kicked because if I tried to stride, my blade would 'slide out from under' me as soon as the blade became angled enough that it depended on the 'front wheel' and lost its grip. So I was just using the stopper/brake in the back as my grip and was kicking my way down the road. Suddenly 19 miles looked like 190 miles!
So I was kicking along, next water break wasn't until mile 13.1, and I couldn't wait to get a hold of some! Everyone that passed me now looked at me with some curiosity trying to figure out what was going on. I just kept my head down and kept kicking. Periodically someone would ask if I was all right, and I would tell them my wheel broke in half. They would show some sympathy and then continue on. After what seemed like hours, I was coming up on mile 13.1 and could see the water. By this time I was completely drenched with sweat. My left leg (one that I have been standing on since mile 7) was starting to cramp and I kept battling whether to give up or not. I got up to the water and looked at my watch. It had been 1 hour 5 minutes. So 7 miles regular (if you call crappy blades regular) and 5 miles one legged, I was at 2 hour pace...(just to save face a bit, if nothing went wrong I was probably on a 1 hour 40 minute pace maximum...I tried to figure out what my previous two finish times where but they don't keep stats back that far 98 & 99...I am working on figuring it out for my own 'well being' :)...I thought heck, I must have been moving decent to be at this pace considering. Little did I know it was going to get even worse.
So I talked with a few of the water volunteers as I gimped past them, asking if there were repairs anywhere. They said no. So I kept gimping along while slamming 3 water bottles. By now, the first wave of sweepers were just starting to pass - sweepers are vans that pick people up who can't finish. They saw me hobbling along. I told them my wheel was 'gone', didn't have any replacements/tools, and have been doing this since mile 7...they tried to convince me to get in the van, but when they said I wouldn't get a shirt if I did, I said I would keep going. So somewhere by mile 15 or so, someone who was passing me, asked if I was all right, I gave him the song and dance about my wheel and he said he had an extra. By this point, I wasn't sure if I wanted an extra... a) I had lost my desire to 'try hard' and b) Since I had already gone 8 miles one legged, I got used to the Martyr role (if this qualifies). I told him I would take it. It turns out that my blades were so old that now 'standard' wheels are bigger than what even fit in my blades. So his wheel would have simply rubbed (not rolled) against the base of my boot. So we decided to take out the crappy wheel from the front and just put the third wheel from my blade there so I could at least skate. After 10-15 minutes of battling my blades...both of our bodies weren't responding the way we wanted them to and we fumbled along trying to get my wheels changed (not to mention that I am about as flexible as a dried out 4x4, so my legs were probably not helping in any way shape or form). So after the fiasco (and this man being nice enough to just stop and help me out), I was up and skating, 4 wheels in one blade and 3 wheels in the other. Honest to God, no later than 0.3 miles later the wheel we just put up front shredded to nothing again! I was speechless. First time was frustrating, now it was becoming something close to comedy. So I was back to one legging it.
I went through the routine of talking to sweeper vans again (they were coming more frequently as I fell further and further back in the race pack), them telling me I wouldn't get a t-shirt and me 'arguing' with them that I didn't want to get a ride quite yet. I was now at mile 18 or so. I came up on some race officials and asked if they had any wheels or repair tools. They had tools but no wheels. So after the usual discussions as to whether I should continue (and these were the worst b/c the officials were offering to buy me beer if they drove me back), we decided to take the third wheel from my left skate and put it on the front of my right skate. Again, 10 minute repair and I was off again. Down to 6 functional wheels. Now here is where humility really came into play...there was a woman about 0.2 miles up in front of me that looked like a 3 year old skating. It looked like she was skating on both ankles and could barely stride or keep her balance. So I started skating and quickly notices that with only 3 wheels in each blade and crappy wheels at best, I wasn't gaining as fast as I would have hoped for. I thought this is ridiculous...so I really started pumping. I was probably striding 70% more often than her and 80% longer, and it took all I had to catch her and pass her. I did it fairly quickly...0.4 miles or so, so that puts me at 18.5 or 19 or something...well, after passing her (I should have given her a fist pump or something to show her my enthusiasm over my accomplishment) and getting about 100 yards in front of her...you'll never guess what happened. That's right, the front wheel again disintegrated. I was beside myself now. Especially as I watched this hapless woman pass me just a minute or so later (glad I didn't do the fist pump). I tried my best to keep up with her one legged but couldn't :(. Right there I decided that I was quitting. So essentially, I skated 7 miles, then one legged 13 miles. By now, my left leg was cramping so bad that I could only do about 3 kicks with my right leg before I had to stop and lift up my left leg to stretch out the muscles a bit (and remember that my right blade didn't roll, so when I say stopped, unfortunately I mean STOPPED). We entered the city of Duluth at mile 20, and I had a bright idea. I took off my blades and decided to try and 'jog' the last 6 miles. Running in socks carrying blades after already battling 20 miles isn't exactly what I had trained for, but I was optimistic. The running ended pretty quickly, lol. I probably jogged 0.3 miles and said forget it, so I walked (which was bad enough...don't know why but I have sensitive feet and it killed to walk without shoes...I can hardly walk barefoot on a beach let alone a road with gravel sprinkled throughout).
Final stretch: So I made it another mile...couple more people passed me to make the embarrassment complete L. I came up to the final stretch where you circle around the DECC to the finish line. I could hear the radio DJ on the mic/speakers cheering people on to the finish. You basically come into view of this guy for the last 300 yards. As I got closer to the corner and actually started to listen to what the DJ was saying, I realized he was not as much cheering people on as he was 'making fun' of them in nice/subtle ways. I thought oh great here we go. Figured I had to really kick it down and finish 'strong' albeit on one leg. LOL. So I rounded the corner...
DJ: "Oh my God, look at this guy...folks we have a guy coming down the stretch...if he can do it, ANYONE can!" (note: he doesn't really know what my problem is yet...he just sees me gimping along...I have 3 wheels in each blade, front wheel in one blade is non-functional, neither skate is tied b/c my blisters hurt too bad...I MUST have been a sight) "Everyone come look! This guy is finishing strong!" I thought to myself, I'm gonna finish my skate strong down your throat if you don't shut up!
Luckily there wasn't hardly anyone left to watch, not to mention Ann, Katie and Pat had given up on me long ago, but there was a crowd of about 200 or so (people waiting, along with other racers having beers and food AFTER showering off). So I am about 100 yards away now, and the stupid cohort of the DJ is like...
"Lets see your number! Lets see your number!" I knew what was gonna happen, but I still lifted my shirt a bit so I didn't get any grief over the microphone for not cooperating. They wanted to ID me and my number was covered up by my shirt. After lifting my shirt, they looked up my name...
"TERRY ANNIE" (pronunciation) "TERRY ANNIE is just finishing! Let's hear it for him!" Like it was a big accomplishment that I finished in 4 hours (to be honest I don't even know what I finished in, I didn't even look up...too ashamed...but it was close to four hours...hell it might have even been less than four hours). As I was nearing the finish line the DJ says...
"Looks like he might have had problems with his roller blades. Each skate only has 3 wheels in it. Definitely must have had some problems" He still didn't know that my front wheel in the one blade was useless. Then he remarks...
"This MUST be our last racer!"
By now I heard all I could :) I yelled back with "pride" (like it was some big accomplishment), "Nope, I beat 4 people!"
Oh what a long four hours it was. Miserable. I didn't stop to talk to anyone or explain anything, I just kicked my blades off right after finish, walked in my socks to the gear pickup and put my shoes on. Went and claimed my shirt that I FELT I earned and 'stomped' home in disgust (as I mentioned before Ann, Pat and Katie (Pat's wife) were long gone...actually had already called all the hospitals and what not). I was so mad that I forgot to return my chip, so my time - I know it was blazing and it is such a shame I forgot ;) - will probably not even get recorded.
Oh well, at least there was one cool thing during the weekend. Right at the start of the race two F-16 jets did a fly by at about 100 yards in the air (or so it seemed)...that was pretty damn cool.
So, the short answer to everyone who asks 'How fast did you finish', the answer is about 4 hours, the long answer is a bit more humorous in my eyes. (click picture to the right for a close up)
So after telling this story to a friend, his first question was "Why in the world would you even attempt to skate 26 miles without checking your blades and at least putting new wheels on?", my response was "too poor" (note that Ann was just in a minor car accident in our driveway)...so how does it go?
Gas to Duluth: $45
Helmet and wrist guards: $50
Marathon Registration: $100
Food during race weekend: $150
Two Night Cost of 1 Star Holiday Inn Hotel: $400
...earning a North Shore Inline 'Finisher' shirt...priceless.
(actually should have been ...Duluth stories involving Terry Annie...priceless...inside joke on how tough Duluth has been on me...there are several other stories that are good entertainment that I should tell over some beers next time I we get together)