Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rise Up Longboarders?

Our oldest son, Will (6) on my Subsonic Pulse 40.
It's all Derek's fault really. I mean this in the nicest way. It all started when he sent us a link about this guy named Barefoot Ted, who is an ultrarunner who recently started skateboarding very long distances through a technique known as long distance pumping or LDP.

At first, I sort of chuckled and thought "That's just the sort of crazy thing Derek would be into". But then I thought about it some more and came around to the idea that is could really be challenging and fun.

I always wanted to skateboard when I was growing up, but it just never happened for me. I tried out a friend's board here and there but never really felt coordinated with it. The board felt too tiny, the wheels didn't seem to roll enough. Who knows? I even tried again on a small street board when my son wanted a skateboard a couple years ago, and nothing had changed- I still stunk. But now, things are a lot different with longboards. The boards are bigger, sometimes much bigger. The wheels are bigger too and actually roll nicely. Balance is more comfortable at first, and this long distance pumping idea seemed more like exercise, more like a long run, and more like a challenge that was less pounding on the body than a marathon but no less intense. If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend checking out James Peters' excellent site on LDP here. There are also a few videos filed under how to pump which demonstrate pumping better than I ever can in words.

Before I knew it, I had ordered a LDP board called the Pulse 40 from Subsonic Skateboards. I waited a few weeks for it to be made (very cool to have something made for you in this day and age), and then gave it a try soon after it arrived.

When I first got on the board, I was struck by two things. One, balance was way easier on this than any street/smaller skateboard I had tried before. Two, the board really likes to turn on the front trunk. It felt twitchy at low speeds or when trying to push off and go straight, but it turned so easily when I wanted it to that it inspired confidence early on. I really had no clue how to pump at first. I watched the videos several times and read the descriptions, and I soon managed a feeble wiggle on the front trunk that extended the glide of the board only a little. It wasn't really pumping, more like pumping light.

But I stuck with it. The first mile was exhausting. I felt muscles in my legs I didn't know I had. Every time I tried to push off the ground with one foot, I almost fell off. I felt wobbly. I fell a few times. But I was smiling most of the time. I felt like a kid again. After a few sessions, I began to feel an actual pump happening as I could feel the board accelerate during a quick turn. I could hit slightly higher speeds. One mile became two, and then three, and then five. I worked up to fifteen miles last Thursday and today I am hoping for twenty-five.

Soon, I was pumping to the Y to get to my other workouts in the early morning. I joined fellow RURs on my board alongside their morning run on a Tuesday, and I could keep up. I even joked the next time that I needed to find some faster running friends! All I can really say is that pumping is addicting, and that it feels sort of like a combination of other sports that I like. It has been described by others as surfing an endless concrete wave. I would say that it has the smooth feeling of rolling along just like cycling, with the steady rhythm and upper body movement of running. Add to that the improvisation and fun of dancing with the fluid, wavelike feeling of (pick your watersport). That is the best I can do to sum it up. Of yeah, I forgot to add to that a little bit of the feeling that LDP is weird, different, and, depending on where you live and skate, illegal, and you've got a pretty compelling package.

I'd love to share more, but I'd rather skate than type, and I have some training to do. Ultraskate VI is coming up in March, and I have to get ready for it!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

RUR Cross Training

The participants of the 2009 New Year's Day Stupidathon: Shaun, Lori, Landy, Brenan, Dominic and Valliant.

Despite the lack of posts, 2009 is off to a spirited start for the Rise Up Runners. We've got two incredibly active and mentally unstable new members: Brenan Roser and Shaun Hunter. Brenan came out for his first run on a 30 degree Sunday, full sleet, and slugged through a 5-mile Tuckahoe run. He and Shaun then joined us at 4:35 a.m. in front of the YMCA a couple days later, and each have made most runs since. Thus far, there hasn't been many challenges these two haven't stepped right up to do.

A case in point: The New Year's Day Stupidathon. Cooked up by Dominic and run with by Landy, this was conceived as a "healthy??" way to kick-0ff the new year in style. A 30 degree day with gusting winds greeted the six of us pictured above for our 16-mile bike, 4-mile run, and polar plunge into the Tred Avon River. A special thanks to Joel Shilliday, who was on the disabled list that day and Megan Cook who followed our crew around and took pictures throughout the adventure!

The biking leg of the Stupidathon took us out to Tunis Mills and back to Easton. For some reason, winter biking is MUCH colder than winter running! :)

The Stupidathon is indicative of a new trend in the RUR camp this year: cross training. Specifically, this winter, swimming. "Coach Keene" has faithfully led a group of RUR "swimmers" through a grueling swim workout every Tuesday morning at the YMCA. Not to be completely out of character, our group generally meets at 4:35 a.m. and gets in a 3+ mile run prior to swimming, then takes over the 25-meter pool at 5:15 a.m. or so. It's not uncommon for us to have seven people swimming and yesterday we had six folks for the run. Seems our escapades are getting earlier...hhhmmm....(not Derek early, but earlier ;)

And, in normal mud fashion, we've made our treks to Tuckahoe, with Shaun Hunter being the latest to complete the Tuckahoe 10-mile loop. We won't get into Valliant losing his shoe in the creek crossing and having to fish around for it in the frigid waters...

Our friend Joel has declared 2009 the year of the RUR "Tri." With swimming going strong and biking waiting for spring, there seems to be some momentum to that end. Yet, that isn't the only new take on endurance sports for the Rise Up Runners. Spurred on by Landy, we now also have some practitioners of long distance longboarding. But that is another post...