Monday, March 30, 2009

Traffic got you down?

Try skating to work!

RUL Team member Zachary Skaggs skates to work every day in Washington, DC. Landy Cook rocks his Subsonic Pulse on the way to work a few times a week, too!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Changing Ways

Landy and Brian Wheatley in the early morning hours on Kent Island's Cross Island Trail.

I used to be a pusher. I was young. I didn't know any better. Most days, my skateboard got me the ½ mile or mile from my house up to the post office (best parking curbs and sidewalks), the park, or what has to be called a ma and pa and ma soda store. Skateboarding was transportation at times, but mostly said transportation was aimed at getting us to launch ramps or parking lots, or (relatively) good skate spots.

My pushing ways changed a few months ago when I saw long distance pumping (LDP) and stepped on my first LDP longboard. There is something surfy and surreal about propelling yourself on a skateboard without putting your foot on the ground. A few weeks ago, in the dark of the pre-dawn morning I left my house and pumped the 3.5 miles to meet Charlie at Cedar Point Road. In that time, my feet never touched the road, and only touched the road upon arrival to meet up and get going.

For me, another key moment in the progression of my own LDP style was the first time I pumped up a small hill (rise really, we don't have much in the way of hills on Maryland's Eastern Shore!). Now, if we are skating 10-20 miles or so, I try to make a point to see if I can pump up whatever hills there are. It's a challenge--one I shy away from during longer skates (i.e. Ultra Skate) in favor of pushing and the path of least resistance.

I can't say that prior to Derek sending our Rise Up Runners group a link to Barefoot Ted breaking the 24-hour distance skating record that I had ever thought of long distance skateboarding. But the combination of long distance and the glide and flow of LDP and I am hooked.

I am on a hunt for what Landy has termed "adventure longboarding" treks. Scenic rail trails end-to-end. Covering roads and places I haven't seen before or haven't seen from a longboard before! So I am searching for the sweet trails, the cool runs, the places where you can get a 20-100 mile day, with stops for food, rest, and to take in the scenery. Life seen from a longboard is quite a view...

Mike V.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ultra Skate VI: Maryland Style

Landy, Mike V., Zach, and Charlie during a change of venues during Ultra Skate VI.

Ultra Skate is an international event, originated with James Peters and the crew in the Northwest United States. The idea is to skate as many miles as you can in a 24-hour period. On March 21, longboarders around the world took to the pavement to see what they could do. The following report was submitted to the Pavedwave Forum and reprinted here.

Here in Maryland, we had a very good time and did the best we could. Zach from DC joined (Charlie, Mike and me) Friday night to start riding. We had a quick dinner and gear check at my house, then geared up and hit the road. Shortly after 8 pm, we started riding in an industrial complex road that made about a 1.2 mile loop. It wasn't the greatest but we wanted to avoid attracting a lot of attention from the cops and to stay away from cars filled with people coming back from a night at the bar. We lasted about 20 miles, then got a little more adventurous when the nearby Target closed and we could make some larger loops on smoother pavement. There were just enough rocks on the industrial road to send me flying a couple times. It was enough to remind me why I always wear a helmet. We managed 30 miles in about 4 hours, then drove to Charlie's house for some good eats his wife had made earlier in the day for us (Thank you Pam!!!)

At this point, we were all feeling pretty tired after a full day of work then evening skating, but we pushed on and decided to ride Oxford Rd for a while. This is a favored early morning route of ours that is wonderful without cars, but dreadful if it gets busy. There is a bike lane than drivers occasionally recognize. Luckily, there weren't many drivers out by 1 am, so we found a smooth stretch of pavement and made 3 roughly ten mile laps out and back. For me, this was the low point of the experience as my pump was fading fast, and it seemed to get colder and colder. I think the low was 25. Zach never seemed to tire and made it look easy. Mike and Charlie seemed more tired but still capable with the pump. I felt ok mentally, but physically wasted. We quickly realized 60 miles in that none of us was hard core 24 hour straight riding material, and Charlie keenly suggested that a nap was in order. That sounded like the best idea any of us had ever heard, so we hit our beds (Zach hit my couch) for about an hour and 15 minutes. It would have been longer, much longer perhaps, if I hadn't awoken to my cell phone ringing. Our own Peppermint Rhino had called to say he was at the trailhead half an hour north of here ready to ride. In my haze, I had forgotten that we'd planned to be up there to ride a bike trail in the daylight around 7 am.

So I quickly woke Charlie via text, nudged Zach off the sofa, and we tried to regroup. Mike was unreachable on his phone at this point. I did indulge in a quick dip in the hot tub before leaving, and I think it helped get my stoke going again. Charlie came by, then we drove to Mike's house to see if he was still game. He was slow to stir, but mumbled something about hopefully meeting us up there, and we were off.

Peppermint Rhino was at the trailhead when we arrived playing with his set-up. By the way, he pumps just fine for a noob Smile He had plenty of energy, and we enjoyed riding an out and back on the five mile long Cross Island Trail. This Saturday though, there were a lot of soccer players and parents on one section of the trail where it cuts through a sports complex. There were whole teams standing right in the path, and they didn't seem too eager to move at all. It seemed like there were brick walls across the path. At around this point, one little kid rode by on a rip stick and shouted "two wheels are better than four!" It made me laugh, but more in a little "You little punk kid" sort of way;) A little while later we were joined by Zach's friend David, an in-line skater from DC. He was very supportive and helpful, particularly after my rear kingpin on my Pulse broke and he skated up ahead to get the car to drive me back to the parking lot where I had extra gear.

Landy's rear kingpin was an Ultra Skate casualty on the Kent Island South Trail.

At this point, it was early afternoon and Mike had been eager to rejoin us but had been pulled into family duty and running errands much of the morning. So, we decided to head back to our town to finish up the last 15 miles with him on our local rail trail. The downside to this trail is mainly that it is short(2.5 miles), with average pavement and quite a few busy road crossings. But it is convenient and close, even comforting at the end of a long day. As the afternoon wore on and our mileage increased, we peeled off one by one for various reasons, mainly to get back to families, and Zach drove back with David to DC. Wish we could have had celebratory meal or drink, but maybe next time!

Here are our mileage totals:

Mike -83 miles. Mike learned not to fall asleep at his house on an Ultraskate day Smile He made it 60 miles with us overnight before "nap time", then rejoined the group around 2:30 pm for almost 25 more miles in Easton on our local rail trail. Mike exudes stoke, and I wish he could have been with us the whole time.

Charlie 101 miles. He seemed strong physically the whole time but was just wiped by the lack of sleep Friday night. Charlie was feeling really guilty about missing family time Saturday and was a machine towards the end trying to hit 100 miles then get home mid afternoon to his family. Later, he told me that his watch read 99.8 miles when he got back to his car at my house. So he pumped another 1.5 miles back on the rocky, wavy pavement near his house. He had his pump on the whole time, but wasn't his usual smiley self towards the end Smile

Zach 100 miles. This guy is unreal...makes pushing look effortless but still does a fair amount of pumping. He barely ate or drank anything by my standards and never seemed at all tired. Out of camaraderie he stayed with us the whole time but boy is he a fast, easy pusher when he tries. If he wanted to he could certainly put up some big numbers, and I thank him for tolerating my slow self.

Landy 111 miles. I just couldn't stop at 100 since I felt so much better late afternoon Saturday than I did the whole night before. I was definitely the slowest of the group but was enjoying a late day stoke surge and just keep pumping along at a snail's pace until I'd had enough.

Overall, I think it was a decent first effort, even for the three older guys with kids who are new to longboarding and LDP. Zach is unreal and his years of growing up skating and pushing really show. Mike has nicknamed him the cyborg. He also knows how to carry on a conversation and this pulled us along in the harder parts. As a group, many lessons were learned and much stoke was shared by all!

My favorite point at the end of the ride was around 109 miles in when I passed a group of young male teens on the trail. They were hanging out leaning against a building looking at me- here I was a slow, pitiful-pumping, exhausted looking guy wearing this ridiculous outfit complete with helmet, full pads, shorts over tights and Camelbak trying my damndest to go a measly 7 miles an hour. Putting my head down as I skated past, I expected the worst kind of criticism. Instead I got four waves and a "Hey, nice longboard!" After that, I felt great and finished the ride strong with my head held high.

Charlie and Landy bringing it home on Easton's Rails to Trails when they were up over 90 miles into the day. Both broke 100 miles in their efforts.