The Long Skate Back To Health

When I retired, I decided to take a little time “off” from working out. My back hurt, my shoulder hurt, and, quite frankly, I was just tired. After 20 years in the military, I figured I had earned my rest.

Naturally, a little time turned into a few months which turned into a year. I got on the scale a couple of weeks ago and the number shocked me: 196 lbs.

Considering I’m 5’8″ tall, that was not a good number. It means I’m 30 lbs overweight.

To really drive the point home, for Christmas many of my gifts were larger clothes.

Time — past time! — to do something to change this.

Finding The Right Goal

I lead an extremely busy life, between full time work during the day, a start up at night, and making time for my lovely wife and three children, I’m very, very busy. I realized early on in my life that I can’t maintain the motivation to work out and stay healthy just by saying “I need to work out and stay healthy”. I need to have a goal to work towards. Something definite that I can rally behind and stay focused on.

My last big goal was to do an ultra-distance swim. This year? An ultra-distance skate.

I’ve decided to go after the longest distance skate race in America — the 87 mile Athens to Atlanta Road Skate.

My History With Skating

metal wheel skatesI’ve been skating since I was about 6 years old. After quickly destroying my plastic strap on kid skates (Playschool, maybe? I don’t know — that was way back), my folks got me a pair of quads that had metal wheels. Yeah, that’s how old I am. They were black boots, with actual steel wheels so you could use them outside in the street without wearing the wheels down. I went out into our cul-de-sac practically every day and skated around. Awkwardly at first, then with growing confidence.

I don’t know what my next pair of skates were (I do remember they had real wheels!), but I skated even more with them. Miraculously, a skating rink — a real, honest to God skating rink — opened up at the edge of our neighborhood. The 80’s were cool like that.

I spent a lot of time there.

Yeah, skating might not have been all that cool, but I just loved the feeling of it. Almost like you’re floating over the ground.

Sadly, though, those old quads weren’t really great outside of a rink, or at least a nice patch of smooth pavement. As I grew into my teens, I spent less and less time skating and more doing other things.

Then, inlines were invented.

I bought a bike to take with me to college, figuring it would help with getting around. But, the campus at NCSU just wasn’t that bike friendly. Then, one day, I was riding up Hillsborough Street and I saw a pair of Bauer Inline Skates in the window of Cycle Logic. I stopped my bike, went inside, and traded my bike for skates. Right then and there. They took the bike, I laced up the skates.

I didn’t wear shoes to class again for 4 months.

If this existed when I was in college, I would totally have done it!


Those first generation of Bauers had a plastic boot, full laces, and probably some crappy 72mm wheels — but they were perfect. I skated everywhere. In the mornings I got up and skated 6-10 miles around the campus. I’d grab a shower, then strap them back on and skate to class. At night, I might skate some more. It was not unusual to find me skating through the streets of downtown Raleigh at 1AM on the weekends.

My Junior year, a running buddy of mine pointed out that the local 5K run had a skate event. That was it. From then on, I raced.

When I commissioned into the Navy, my skating took a backseat to work. Not much opportunity to skate on deployment. But, in 2000 when I was stationed in DC, I went out with the Washington Area Rollerbladers every chance I got.

Things didn’t really pick up again until I saw Chad Hedrick in the 2006 Olympics. I remember watching him skate, my newborn son on my lap, and looking over to my wife and saying “You know, I used to do that. I think I’d like to go back to skating.” She looked at me like I was an idiot.

I ordered a new set of Powerslide R2’s from Rich over at NettRacing (always my go-to skate shop), and started skating in the mornings around the neighborhood before work.

Soon, though, an expanding family and a new duty station brought an end to regular skating. Yeah, I went out every now and then, but I can’t say it was even remotely serious training. Instead, workouts devolved to hard hitting gym sessions and swimming. Worked great, certainly, but not nearly as fulfilling.

Until now.

Getting Back in the Groove

I have to admit, I had to get some new skates. Terrible, I know. I needed something that could handle the large diameter wheels I would need for the 87 mile A2A, but had enough boot that I wouldn’t kill myself in training. My ankles haven’t had to withstand a double push for more than 100 yards in years, much less 87 miles. I still have my R2’s, but with their low cut boot, my ankles would give out before I got in any meaningful amount of miles. And I need to train.

After consulting with Rich, the answer became quickly apparent — a pair of SEBA FR1’s kitted out for larger diameter wheels. Kinda like this:

SEBA 110 Skates

There is a 16 mile long rails-to-trails not far from my work, which has become the new training ground. Smooth pavement, low traffic, pretty scenery. You’ll find me there around 6AM a few times per week.

I’ve got a lot of miles to make up.

About Rob McClellan

Rob is the founder of ThirdScribe, a unique author services platform and social network. As a naval officer and diver, he spent a majority of his career doing a lot more than you would think with a lot less than you can imagine -- a skill that has proven extremely valuable in the start-up world. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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