My assessment of my return to racing
That's how long it's been since I've skated a long track speedskating race. Since March 1, 2014...three years, 10 months, and 19 days.
Today, I broke that streak and am happy to say that I finally, finally, feel like a speedskater again. And me being me, I have to write about it. (Also, I want to maybe give some hope to fellow "hamsters" who may be having long and difficult recoveries and are wondering if there's any chance they can get back to their favorite activities again).
For those who are new here, (or those who've forgotten since it's been, oh, over a year since I last posted), I used to speedskate. Then I crashed on my inlines on August 25, 2014, and avulsed my proximal hamstring (tore the hamstring tendons off the pelvic bone). I had surgery to reattach the tendons on September 2, 2014...and have had hamstring pain ever since. (If any of you hamsters want to read the gory details, click here). I've been able to resume CrossFit and to do some inline skating (although it scares me now), but real long track skating--training hard and racing--just hasn't been possible. I tried it in the winter of 2014-15--way too soon after the injury/surgery. In the winter of 2015-16 I made it to about 10 skating sessions before the increased pain in daily activities made me stop. Then in 2016-17 I followed the advice of a Mayo Clinic sports medicine doctor who I saw that November and who told me to take six months of lower body rest from workouts, which meant no skating at all that season. In between, I tried acupuncture, PRP injections (2), physical therapy, steroid injections (2) into a muscle that's being squished by the enlarged hamstring tendon, and a few other things I've forgotten. None of it worked, and by this fall I'd pretty much given up hope of ever truly skating again (not to mention sitting or running or walking without pain, but that's another story).
But still, I had to try it once more. And so when the Oval opened in November I started skating...and it felt OK. And as the season progressed, my hamstring pain actually decreased rather than increasing--both when skating and also in daily activities. After about six weeks, I found myself actually being able to really "train" rather than just skating slow laps. Clearly, it was time to give racing a try!
So I signed up for this weekend's time trials at the oval and headed out this morning at 7 am. First stop, McDonald's, for my traditional pre-race breakfast of a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit. Then on to the oval, where I was greeted with the best sight a Minnesota speedskater can see...limp flags.
The high tech wind speed indicators at the Oval
I had signed up for the two shortest distances, the 500 meter and the 1000 meter. I'm usually a distance skater, but since right now I'm barely in shape to skate a 3K at training pace I didn't think it would be a good idea to try to race one.
The 500 was first and it went surprisingly well, especially considering that even at the best of times 500's rarely feel like they go well for me. True, I felt like I was scrambling and flailing the whole way, and I froze when I got to the second corner and almost coasted (but didn't!) but overall it felt pretty good and my time, 53.79, was actually barely slower than my last race in 2014 (although that had been a very bad race for me). So I was happy. The hammy complained a bit, but not enough to make me wonder whether I should do the second race.
The second race, the 1000, also went well, but I could definitely feel how out of skating shape I am--that last lap felt LONG! But my time (1:49) was better than I expected it to be, the hammy felt decent, and overall I was very happy with both races and with how my leg felt.
So there you have it. I'm back...and I couldn't be happier.