Over the weekend of January 5-6th, 2013, I competed in my first-ever speedskating event as a “Master” skater. The “Master” distinction is given to those who are of racing age 30+, who are not currently members of a world or national elite-team. I was informed in December that I meet the criteria for this category, and was then subjected to copious amounts of peer-pressure to compete in the event. Since the racing was to be held at my old “home turf,” the Pettit National Ice Center in West Allis, WI, and would coincide nicely with my planned visit with my family down there, I decided that it would be a great way to end my “winter vacation.” Plus, I would be leaving the Twin Cities just in time to avoid some nasty outdoor skating weather, to enjoy a week of training indoors at the Pettit!
I signed up for the 500m (the shortest sprint event), the 1000m (my favorite distance, a long sprint), the 1500m (least favorite race!), and the 5000m (the longest event for women and Masters men). Interestingly enough, I elected to do the 5000 instead of the 3000m race because I did not consider myself “in shape for a 3k;” I was not up to the anaerobic/aerobic challenge of skating pretty much the intensity of two 1500′s in a row! I figured the extended lap sets I had been skating on inline speedskates, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, would tide me over for the distance race.
The Saturday events were the 500 and 1500; I skated two solid 500′s and a very typical 1500, for me. They were good for two silver medals overall (medals were given according to the times being posted, regardless of age group. Age group classifications for Masters events otherwise are determined separately, per 5-year groupings in age). I was beaten in both races by a very talented athlete who is twenty years my senior, so my work was cut out for me for Sunday!
I was paired with my admirable foe for the first event of the day, the 1000m. I went out with a bang and a vengeance (I wanted a gold!) so was satisfied to cross the line first, even though the time was a full 1.5 seconds slower than I had hoped for. The ice was feeling “slow” the whole weekend, so I had low expectations for the 5k yet to come, although I was almost guaranteed gold in that event, too. At the Masters, racing pairs were drawn according to seed times, so not only were all the age groups mixed, but men and women were paired together sometimes, too. I was to skate with a speedy-looking guy from the 50+ age category. He asked me to take it easy on him. I assured him I would; we were getting along swimmingly, so far!
We opened up our race rather speedily- I did not expect him to take off so fast, nor do I imagine he thought I would, either. Then, lap after lap, we would skate through the lap-split timing gates neck-and-neck. I decided to give it my all to stay with him, since a pairing that good rarely happens when I race! By the last lap of the 12.5 lap ordeal, he managed to pull away from me, with about a 5m lead through the finish line. I had time to look at the board, see how well I had done, and rejoice briefly before doubling over with some seriously shot legs. It was thrilling! Congratulations were abound for the two of us, for having competed such an exciting race. I was pretty sure it was a personal best for me in that event- and, it was only the fourth 5k I had ever raced, to boot.
Later, I found out that not only was it a personal best, but also a new Masters World Record for the 30-35 age group! I was so pleased to have decided to enter the event after all; not only was the fellowship of the Masters skaters amazing, but I had some really great results as well. A skater friend of mine welcomed me to the “over the hill” club; I can honestly say I am happy to be a member, and am looking forward to more Masters events to come!
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