You’ve probably heard the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But what would you do if it’s only a little broke? Do you stay with the status quo or take the risk in your attempt to improve? I was faced with this dilemma the week leading up to Nationals. The first few minutes of stepping into my skates, I always felt like my left frame was pointing to the wrong direction. Visual inspection suggested otherwise but it just didn’t feel right. I was skating well on road and alright on 400m track. However, the stress of racing on the 200m banked track got to me and I decided to adjust my left frame to my marked position because I needed every advantage I could get for the weekend of racing.
Any experienced racer can tell you fussing with your equipment set up is the last thing you ought to do before a big race. I was well-aware of the risk but the frame position was clearly marked so I had confidence it was a minimal change to the tried-and-true. My sprint races at Nationals were nothing to write home about. In fact, my times were well off my personal bests set over two years ago. I dismissed it lightly thinking I simply have not been training for track racing and my cornering skills have taken a turn for the worse.
The distance races went a little better strategy-wise. The 10k points race was a hard fought battle, clawing my way from last place to close a three quarter lap gap. I was dead by the time I caught SH so obviously I had no energy to accelerate past her. When it became clear that SH would not let me rest in her draft, I had to do something if I wanted to beat her. She is a much better sprinter than myself so giving her a free ride to the finish would only mean handing her third place on a silver platter. Fitness is my strength so I had to use it to my advantage to drop her long before the race was done. I started doing acceleration down one straightaway every lap. Well it was not enough, I picked it up to acceleration in every straightaway. With less than five laps to go, I finally dropped her and got my third place finish. I was so exhausted that I dreaded having to do it all over again the next day for the 15k.
The 15k was the second event on schedule on Sunday right after the senior men had their turn. Stupid me slept in and barely arrived on time for my race. With 75 laps waiting for us, we took an easy start and dropped back every lap. Somehow I managed to stay in the pack just long enough to give me a half lap advantage over the skater behind me. I focused on skating at my most efficient and skated unbelievably steady lap times. It was a much more relaxing race by comparison and I took third place. With two third place finishes, I earned third place on the distance podium. It was a pleasant surprise for the weekend.
I did not think about it much but I was wobbly the whole weekend. Merely ten laps in to my distance races and I lost the stability to glide on my left skate. I thought it was nothing more than my horrible ability to skate on a 200m banked track. Well, it happened again last week when I skated club practice at the familiar 400m track. My left leg cramped up quickly and I could barely finish the drills. I am no stranger to this feeling and knew immediately my frame adjustment was the culprit. Frame adjustment is all about trial and error. Even the most miniscule change can feel drastically different with the wheels on the feet. It was an incredibly frustrating experience as I struggled to find a new home for my left frame. At one point, it got so bad that I could not even finish skating 5km in a straight line without leg cramp.
Aside from the frustration and anxiety of setting up my frame before the marathon this weekend in Montreal, I am a little curious about this whole situation. Remember how it all started with the frame feeling like it was pointing to the wrong direction? The obvious answer is it shifted from some rough terrain I skated through. However, it really did not look like it moved when I checked my skates. I begin to suspect it is related to my evolving technique. Since returning from Denmark, I usually warm up with exaggerated drills to extend my gliding phase while moving dead straight. I try hard to minimize weaving left and right when I glide on one skate. It is entirely possible that this drill gradually changes my body position and weight distribution. Hence the uneasy feeling of my old frame position. At this point, I only hope to find a good place for my frame so I can be ready for Montreal this Saturday.