The arrival of a new pair of skates never gets old. Whether it is your first pair of speed skates or the latest addition to your closet of stinky old boots, the excitement remains palpable. As much as it hurts us to admit, inline speed skating is a fringe sport. Equipment can only be ordered through a handful of vendors and a new pair of skates only shows up at the doorstep after a seemingly never ending wait.
The anticipation is not limited to your own either. Chances are, the moment you placed your order, you have already announced to all your skating friends of the impending new arrival. You dream about how it would feel to skate on your new boots. You hope that they can do what your old skates cannot. You pray that they will not hurt your feet. For the fashion-conscious, you start colour-coordinating your helmet and skating outfits to your new boots. Of course, you talk about it with your friends at every opportunity until they beg the skates to arrive sooner so you will stop obsessing.
We love our toys.
My shiny blue Bont ZX-5 with gigantic 90mm wheels arrived at my office in August, fully assembled and ready to roll. I immediately put them on my feet but carpet was not the place to be. The next day, I showed up at the monthly practice marathon on the waterfront trail proud as could be. I even dressed the part to look every bit like a speed skater too in a homemade skin suit. I followed the example of other speed skaters at TISC and nonchalantly tucked my car keys in the pant leg between the fabric and my thigh. I was impressed by my own head to toe transformation.
What was unimpressive was my inability to skate despite my flamboyant outfit. I was too nervous to glide on one foot. My ankles wobbled from side to side without warning. My feet cramped at strange places I didn’t even know could flex. My braking distance grew incredibly long waiting for those large wheels to stop spinning on their own accord. My car keys escaped from my skin suit while I was completely unaware. I panicked to stop using the non-existent brake and fell on my bum. Well, at least I successfully stopped exactly where I wanted.
When the practice marathon concluded, I felt like I got behind the steering wheel of a race car having only driven a lawnmower before. I thought I knew how to skate. I thought upgrading my equipment would open the door to be among the ranks of speed skaters. Instead of taking one huge step forward, I was shoved many steps back. I was not so sure that registering for Ottawa Inline Festival and Northshore Inline Marathon was such a good idea. I had only a month to learn to skate again.