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My Summer Sabbatical as a Skate Pro

By Liz Miller

Danville, October 19, 1999 5:24 PM. Three hours ago, after a moment of nervous hesitation, I dropped the manuscript for Advanced Inline Skating into the shadows of a Federal Express pickup box. With that, I finally burst into the light at the end of the long tunnel I've been traveling since the beginning of this year! And what a rich year it's been, despite the difficulties of trying to support myself solely on the pitiful income of a skate pro.

It may have been providence--it was certainly convenient!--that my technical writing contract for Chevron Oil ended on March 31, leaving me "on sabbatical" to work on the book until I chose to accept further employment. I tackled the easiest chapters first, while doing a bit of technical contracting on the side. After a couple of months, I realized the book wasn't progressing nearly fast enough because technical writing was so much easier than writing a whole new book about skating! I had to quit my procrastination excuse and devote my time only to writing about advanced inline activities.

Winter and springtime visitors to the Get Rolling web site may have noticed another major distraction that ate up the precious time and money of an already stressed skate pro. During those months I dutifully played the role of breast cancer victim, patient, and finally, cured survivor. It was a triumph to have only missed 3 of my planned 30 days of skiing. After the small surgical scars healed, five weeks of daily radiation therapy treatments gave form to my days and actually got me in excellent shape, because after my 4pm appointment, I'd often go skating for an hour. It was great fun revisiting so many of the routes I've written up in California Inline Skating during my state's most colorful season. I continue to be in excellent health, but today I feel decidedly more connected and compassionate towards others of my gender!

The most fantastic adventure of my summer was working as a guide for Zephyr Inline Skate Tours in Holland. There were so many rewarding and interesting aspects of my 3-week trip to The Netherlands in August. I had no idea, for instance, that the money system and language would be so easy to manage or that I'd be able to effortlessly pilot a 9-person van through Amsterdam and all over the narrow back roads and dike paths in the province of Friesland. I got really good at getting lost, then making a U-turn and getting oriented again, thanks to the prolific road and bike path signs there. I skated the Amsterdam Friday Night Skate four times, and chatted with its enthusiastic organizers each time. We Zephyr folks were easy to recognize, even in a crowd of 3000, not because of our "Skate the World" T-shirts but because we were the only people wearing helmets! By my fourth FNS, rolling over bricks and tram tracks was very much second nature.

Other images from Holland I hope never to forget:

But Holland was not my last excellent adventure as a skate pro this year. Past customers and all of the Zephyr guides were invited to participate in the Zephyr Reunion weekend that took place in September in Duluth, coinciding with the Northshore Inline Marathon. This race is known to all speedskaters as the best event of the year because it's extremely well organized and takes place on a gorgeous, smooth road alongside Lake Superior. I've never raced in my life, so it was with no small trepidation that I put into practice some of what I'd been writing in the Fitness chapter of Advanced Inline Skating. You can bet the research for my Speedskating chapter immediately took on a more personal aspect.

There was one other major obstacle: the 5-wheel skates Salomon gave us Zephyr guides has no heel brake! That was not a big issue in Holland where everything is relatively flat. However, with my secret fear of speed and totally intuitive use of the brake, being restricted only to T stops, "slowplows" and hard-carving slaloms seemed an unsafe proposition. All summer long, I took those 5-wheelers further and further up the hill outside my front door until I had every brakeless slowing and stopping method nailed. Sections in several chapters of Advanced Inline Skating dramatically improved over the Summer due to those efforts!

How'd the marathon come out? I was gratified and quite proud to finish 35th out of the 250 women in the Fitness class and 8th in my age group (I would have placed 6th if I'd registered in the Advanced class). The math says I averaged just under 15 mph to complete the marathon distance in 1 hour and 42 minutes. Although the course had fairly gently rolling hills, it still terrifies me that I did them all without a heel brake, especially since I saw and heard so many others crash and burn on the pavement around me (so glad I was wearing my new Skidskins! --Sorry, the company went out of business. LM). Imagine what my time would have been if I'd dared to draft in that crowd of 3050 skaters, or if I wasn't such a speed sissy. Dan just rolls his eyes.

[Deep sigh of relief!] Well, now that I've released my pent-up need to say hi to all of you, I think I'll fix a nice dinner and read for pleasure for awhile! And tomorrow, I've gotta find a new day job!

Oh yes, please stay tuned for more news of Advanced Inline Skating, to be published sometime in Spring 2000.


The Orbit Index

Created April 22, 2000 Updated March 1, 2002

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