Time for outdoor skating! Here’s some tips!

With spring FINALLY arriving in my neck of the woods, I managed to get out for my first outdoor skate. I thought I would take some time to share my outdoor tips (and I encourage you to share as well) because this is how most of us Dames got our training last summer when we had no access to venue space.

Be aware of moisture

Be aware of wet areas on the paths and roadways. Not only does wet pavement cause your wheels to slide out when you push, moisture can ruin your boots and wreck havoc on bearings. Moisture inside your bearings can cause them to rust and stop spinning effectively. Avoid puddles at all cost and if you happen to hit the odd splatter, dry off your skates and bearings as soon as you are done your skate.

Get some outdoor wheels

When buying wheels at any time, look at these three characteristics…

Durometer (the “A” rating): Ranges from 74A to 105A. The lower the number, the softer the wheel. Wheel durometer affects durability, shock absorption and grip on surfaces. For outdoor wheels having a lower durometer helps absorb the little bumps in the pavement and also kicks little rocks out from under your skate. Ever hit a peddle on a harder wheel? Not fun. Lower is best.

Size or Diameter: This is the height of your wheel. Shorter wheels are slower and more maneuverable while taller wheels give a smoother ride and are a faster. Choose a size based on how fast you’d like to skate outside.

Love, love, LOVE these wheels! And I use them in bouts too

Width: The narrower the wheel, the more maneuverable it is. Also keep in mind narrow wheels are less stable for new skaters, so don’t choose something that’s too narrow for your skill level.

My favourite outdoor wheels:

Radar Pure
78A durometer
66mm high
37mm width

These glide SO smooth on rough asphalt and can handle minor gravel. These are wicked fast too.

Check out the Rollergirl.ca website, for many options of outdoor wheels.

Get some outdoor bearings

Switching bearings between your indoor and outdoor wheels can be a pain and you also risk damaging them over time. A second set of bearings to leave in your outdoor wheels is highly recommended. Some gals use their old bearings for outdoor skating so they don’t really care if they get them dirty or wet. But there are some bearings on the market that are fully encased, making it more difficult to for dirt and moisture to get in. These are pricey, but if you don’t like taking apart your bearings and cleaning them, it may be worth the money.

If you don’t have a roller skate shop near you, you can go to your local skateboard shop and talk to the crew there. Skateboarders are just as hard on their bearings (even harder because they almost exclusively skate outside) and they should know which ones will be best. Don’t forget, if you get your bearings from a skateboard shop, you’ll have to buy 2 boxes worth.

You can also buy bearing guards which can help keep dirt and debris from entering your bearings. Google that to find available options.

My oldest bearings go in my outdoor wheels and I wear them until they lose their spin. You can also purchase wholesale industrial 8mm bearings for a decent price. Surf the interwebs for a dealer near you.

When you go out… protect yourself…

Yes, you will get second glances when you go out skating in full gear. You might even get laughed at. Who cares! You are not skating on a smooth, predictable surface anymore. As some gals can attest it only takes a rock, a pedestrian or even a curb to get in your way outside. There is nothing worse than bashing your knee during a pleasure skate that keeps you from practice or injuring yourself in a way that keeps you from your job.

Don’t be stupid. Gear up. Especially if you’re going out to get your sweat on. But do your league a favour and wear your team shirt. You may drum up some new recruits or fans while you’re out and about.

Recommended: I have a summer set of knee, elbow and wrist guards. They are a bit lighter than my derby set so it’s not so hot to wear when it’s +30. I use these for casual skates. I often go without elbow pads for casual skates as well and on rare occasions, sans helmet. On days when I’m skating for training, I will do full derby gear, as I have had some pretty awesome spills when I get my speed on. You’ll get tan lines from wearing your gear in the summer. Just accept it.

Staying upright

Rookie mistake when skating outdoors (and in derby): coasting on two feet and locking your knees. There is nothing worse than face-planting in public. The best way to avoid falling is to always have your feet in motion by step skating. Why? If you’re on one foot and lose your balance or hit a rock that jostles you, you can put your other foot down to regain your balance. If you’re afraid to pick up your feet and coast down trails with intermittent pushing, your face will break your fall if you lose it. For the love of derby gods, pick up your feet!

Your knees are your shock absorbers and if you hit debris while your knees are bent, your body is in the perfect position to absorb and/or react if you stumble. Locking your knees or standing up straight impedes your ability to react and will cause your body to ‘tip’ instead of ‘absorb’ if you hit a rouge pine cone. Keeping fluid by bending your knees will keep your upper body relaxed as well. But remember to keep your hips and shoulders square and core tight to maintain your balance.

Your feet will feel “weird”

The vibration from skating on a bumpy surface will reverberate into your feet and up into your legs. It may cause your feet and/or shins to get tingly or even burn. Softer wheels will lessen the sensation. But the more you skate outside, the more you will get used you it!

Momentum is your friend

Skating slow on a bumpy surface will have your upper body lurching forward every time you hit a larger crack or debris because you don’t have enough speed to go over it smoothly. Always skate within your skill level, but understand that a sidewalk crack may cause you to stumble forward if you don’t have the momentum to go over it – like a car needing momentum to go over a speed bump. If you have a stable skating stance with bent knees and are picking up your feet, recovering from those stumbles will be easier.

As you skate on different outdoor surfaces, you will learn how to adjust your momentum to  surface with little lurching.

If curbs and sidewalk transitions make you nervous

Stop. Then step down/up from them using your toe stops to help stabilize yourself, then continue skating. Build your confidence in stepping on/off curbs at a stand still and work up to navigating them while rolling. Remember that roads are curved toward sidewalks so water runs off into storm drains. Be sure to compensate your body position to keep your balance. No matter your skating ability, always slow before entering an intersection so you can stop quickly if oncoming traffic doesn’t give you the right of way.

Finding places to skate

For the beginner, skating outside can be pretty intimidating. But I found my stability increased much faster by skating lots outside. Learning to negotiate gravel, pine cones and road intersections forces you to be aware of your surroundings and makes you pick up your feet… both good skills for a beginner. Plus navigating curbs makes you do little hops and steps that are common in pack work.

If you can find a clean parking lot or abandoned stretch of road to skate around on, that’s fabulous. For me, I really enjoy skating for endurance. The longer the path the better.

Try this: Map your favourite routes using a Google map or use an app on your smart device to record distance and speed of your outdoor skates. If you have kids, push them in a stroller/chariot or push them while they ride a bike to add fun and fitness.

Here are some of my favourite trails around Lethbridge. But there are many, many more. You can access the Lethbridge pathway map by clicking here.

My favourite skate routes. Google will map the distance as you draw the routes. Or use a fitness/motion app that tracks your speed and distance as you skate.

Orange route: Westside bike path loop – 3.16 mi or 5.08 km
Great for beginners. Very few intersections to navigate through. Gradual hill climbs and good opportunities for fast skating.

Blue route: Indian Battle Park riverbottom – loops range from .5 mi or .7 km to 3.55 mi or 5.71 km. Also has stairs for dryland training.
Great area for variety – lots of paths to choose from. Good for beginner/intermediate. Some short hills, but are easily avoidable if you’re not comfortable with speed. Surfaces vary from super smooth to bumpy. Lots of pedestrians, dogs and kids to watch out for. Debris from trees can cause hazards on windy days and is prone to flooding during rainy season. Great on hot summer days because of the shade from trees.

Red route: Pt 1 – Green strip to Henderson – 3 mi or 4.82 km
A nice cruise. Good for beginner/intermediate. Road intersections should be handled with caution, as some don’t have smooth transitions. Paths are generally clear but watch for gravel and pine cones. There are some sections where the path is terrible, but they are short-lived. Some short hills and opportunities for speed.

Red route: Pt 2 – Henderson loop – 1.76 mi or 2.84 km
A fun trail if you want to be seen by everyone! Make sure you take the trail furthest from the north side of the lake for the best ride (avoids most of the cobblestone path). Adjust your speed based on pedestrian traffic. These trails tend to be very busy. Keep to the right and announce to pedestrians what side you are passing on when you come up behind them. Cool air from the lake keeps you cool on the hottest of days.

Green route: Industrial trail – 3 mi or 4.83 km
Flat, smooth and few intersections. Great for a beginner. Very little debris except at intersections. Better on weekends due to decreased industrial traffic. Very little shade. Not recommended on hot days, great for early morning skates! This leads to new trails in the far north side of the city.

There are tons of new path systems in newer neighbourhoods that aren’t on this map. Go and explore!

Get skating!

So for those who are about to venture into the out-of-doors, I hope this helps a bit. I would love to hear from others about your favourite wheels, bearings or gear you use outside. No more excuses, freshies! Get out there and skate your asses off!

A quick roll over lunch…

Went for 2 rounds around Henderson Lake today. Nothing too exuberant, since I had the boy in tow, but here’s the stats…

Distance: 5.83 kms
Average Speed: 11.6 km
Max Speed: 16.8 km
Total time: 30 minutes

Then I mowed the lawn for 2 Goddamn hours which gave me my upper body workout LOL

I finally loosened the trucks on my skates which has made cornering much easier, smoother and more fun. Getting cross cutting down is next on my list.

Hit me, dammit!

Writing this as I eat my after-practice Wendy’s burger. I seem to have built in that little tradition on Sundays.

I’m typing on my phone while watching hockey playoffs and wouldn’t you know it… Just lost my entire fucking post during an exciting moment. So here’s the short version.

Big moment for me; did some blocks; took some blocks; fell lots; never been better.

Ran some different drills tonight which was awesome. Plus I got to play jammer! But instead of 4 girls in the pack helping and 4 girls trying to stop me, we played ‘Everybody get the jammer.’

So I had to move through a group of 8 (I think that’s how many there were) all who were out to get me. Sliding through that many tightly-packed girls on a 5ft wide track was challenging, and a little intimidating, I admit.

I made it through once somewhat unscathed and tried to maneuver through an opening right in the middle of the pack on my second round. I got sandwiched pretty good and made it about halfway through the pack before I got shut down completely.

I feel really sorry for the other team’s jammers. I’m no expert, but I feel we’re pretty good for a first go. We can only get better from here.

Other notes…
Tried a new sock combination. Instead of 2 trouser socks I used a lightly padded sole ankle sock and a trouser sock. My feet felt way better.

While I’m really confident in my speed; I now realize I need to work on my core strength so if someone bumps me or knocks my skate, I’m not going down so easy. Situps. Ugh. It’s gotta be done.

Excited to hopefully start organizing some early morning outdoor workouts this week! All will be welcome to that, blades and skates, so watch our Deathbridge Derby Dames facebook group for announcements.

Shout out to my friend Joey, who gave me a pair of Sugai Reinforcing sweatpants. They are big and beautiful and fit perfectly over my derby gear, particularly my knee pads. Thanks!

Pretty sure I have to trim up my mouthguard. I keep coming away with a weird blister at the back of my mouth at the end of practice.

That’s all I got for now. Ball is starting for my kids which means running them to games 4x a week and less opportunity for evening skating. I’ll have to figure something out.

If you’re a reader wanting to join derby, feel free to throw questions my way. Not only am I doing this to track my own progress, but to give others an idea of what the sport is about before deciding to get into it. Let’s be honest, derby gear is expensive. Some fear that if they get the gear and then realize they can’t take a hit (totally could happen; I was worried about that too) or can’t keep up with the pack, they will be stuck with some pretty awesome but pricey recreational skates.

This is going to take some dedication. Formal practice is once a week, but there is an expectation to do some endurance training on our own time. It’s not just about hitting girls, but a game of strategy, position and protecting your own girl every time the jammers round the track. It’s a pretty cool sport so far from what I’ve experienced! I havent played a bout yet and I’m no expert, but I welcome questions. 🙂

April 9-10

April 9
I got tired of waiting for the wind to calm down so I did a jaunt first thing in the morning. I didn’t even bother cataloging the distance because it was a quick one.

Once I hit the bike path and headed east, I took one push and was literally carried 2 blocks by the wind. On the way home I suffered from watering eyes, windburned cheeks and people walking their dogs passing me (yes, passing me) as I struggled against the ‘gentle’ breeze.

I tried. And people who walked past me, laughed.

I was laughing at me too.

April 10
Skated over to the bowling alley this morning to watch the kids bowl in their leagues. While I was motivated to go, once I hit the streets my feet were sluggish and I was tripping over myself the entire way. Not my best performance.

3.46 mi (5.57 km) in about 1/2 hour

Later in the afternoon I met up with some Dames at the westside school. The weather was surprisingly calm and sunny. We were all happy to be out there and I even met a couple new girls I haven’t skated with before.

I passed off a walkie talkie to my kids so we could keep tabs on each other and sent them off to go biking in the area. The group practiced some pack skating, some weaving and perfecting crossovers since most of us have new skates and are getting accustomed to them. It was nice and relaxing and I really enjoyed everyone’s company.

I’m so excited to have crossed another benchmark off the list… Jumping! Skunky brought her man who is a manic on a pair of inlines. Greg, as well as new skater-friend Shannon, coached us through some jumping techniques.

I’m definitely a watcher if I want to learn something new, so after watching Shannon do some jumps and some tips on proper landings from Greg, I was clearing the 3 inch benchmark.

This is a big deal for me, as I have never jumped in figure skates, let alone while skating on wheels and on concrete 🙂 My technique isn’t great, but that will come.

In other news, my skates are breaking in nicely. I think I’m starting to feel the more wiggle room that comes with breaking them in. I don’t really like it and I’m pretty sure some new inserts are necessary.

I particularly felt it when practicing starts by running on the toe stops (which I suck, gotta work on that next). I may try taking a hair dryer to my skates to tighten them up around the heel as well (under rollergirl.ca’s close supervision, of course).

Tomorrow is indoor practice! Yay! Can’t wait to run some drills!

April 2

It’s been a long time since I’ve put on skates… well at least it feels like a long time (Sunday). The good new is I laced up these bad girls today…

Sexy Riedels with Radar Pure outdoor wheels

Lisa and Chelsea from Rollergirl.ca are my heroes and if you desire to purchase skates, I totally recommend going through them. I had questions on the fit and between emails and phone calls, we decided these skates were the best for me. But I may have to purchase an extra insert for my left foot since it’s a half size smaller than my right. For a first run out, I’m VERY happy.

I have Red Flatouts for indoor wheels and Radar Pure for outdoor wheels. I gotta say, after skating on crappy 20-year-old bearings, these outdoor skates roll like a dream. My first outing today was with my 6-year-old and after a couple of pushes I was far ahead of him on the bike path at Henderson Lake.

Realizing I’d have to go sans children to really test these babies out, I arranged for some alone-skating-time later in the afternoon.

I REALLY like skating the paths at the riverbottom. The loops are large enough to keep the roll interesting, enough debris and cracks to help practice balance, enough people wandering around to practice control and a good variety of hills, corners and straightaways to practice a wide variety of speeds and turns.

Here’s the skating stats…
Henderson Loop – 1.76 mi (2.84 km)
5 Large Riverbottom Loops – 6.35 mi (10.2 km)
Loop to past Helen Schuler to Hwy 3 & back – 2.92 mi (4.7 km)
Total distance 11.03 mi (17.74 km)
(That’s the distance from Lethbridge to Coalhurst! I don’t think I would ever be able to do that on my old skates.)

I started timing my loops and I’m really happy with the results for my first go.

1 loop = 1.27 mi (2.04 km)
Loop 1 – warmup
Loop 2 – 9:21
Loop 3 – 8:58
Loop 4 – 8:27
Loop 5 – Cool down

Path to hwy 3 route = 2.92 mi (4.7 km)
About 13 min

Including warmup and cooldown, I’d say I skated for about 1 hour, in between water breaks. Seventeen kilometres in one hour seems like a pretty decent speed, but I have nothing to compare it to.

I’ve started a Google Map outlining my routes with distances. If anyone wants to use it for reference, feel free to click here! You’ll be able to view the bike routes and the distances are listed. If you want to add your own stuff to it, just let me know and I can add you as a collaborator.

I’ve already missed the first half of the first period of the hockey game. Gotta run!!!! Go Habs!

The story of my skates

When I was little I was fascinated with roller skating. I think my love first came from when I watched Facts of Life and marvelled at how Tootie whipped around her dorm. I instantly wanted a pair.

My mom, however, was less than supportive; stating it seemed pointless to own a pair of roller skates while living on a farm, plus roller skates were way out of our family budget.

But every year for Christmas and my birthday, I would ask for a pair. After many years of asking, my mom finally agreed that once my feet stopped growing, she would get me some. I was around 10 at the time and it was agony that I was going to have to wait a couple more years.

But I waited.

Somewhere around the time I was 12 or 13, my mom, brother and I were at the locally owned sports store in High River looking to get my brother geared up for another season of hockey. Up high on a shelf, perched perfectly on the box they came in, were a pair of white figure skating boots, with cherry-red wheels attached to the sole.

My beloved wheels

I was in love.

I pulled my mom in the direction of the skates, telling her THESE were the skates I wanted when my feet stopped growing. My mom checked the price tag and she grimaced a bit. I don’t recall the price exactly, but I do remember they were over $50, but below $100. By today’s standards, that’s a decent price for a figure skating boot & wheels. But this was the mid 1980’s; we were just coming out of a recession and farmers were hit hard. Paying between $50 and $100 for a pair or roller skates that I would only be able to use in the house still seemed a little ridiculous to my mom.

Like an old-fashioned Canadian Tire commercial, I visited the skates every time we went to town. I don’t know if my mom got tired of my constant badgering or if she felt sorry for me looking all doe-eyed at a pair of roller skates, but one day while in the store she gave permission to try them on.

I remember my mom wanting me to go a size up just in case my feet grew. So I slipped my size 7 feet into the size 8 skates and instantly felt diva. I had no idea how to roller skate, so I clumsily shuffled around the store to try and guage the fit. We took them home that day as an early birthday present.

The rest of my summer consisted of me rolling from one end of the house to the other. Eventually dad poured concrete into the machine shop so my rolling opened up a bit. I had zero technique, zero training. I ate in them; I watched TV in them. Eventually my feet grew into a perfect size 8 and the boot formed around my foot.

My skates followed me for many years. Any opportunity to visit grandparents who lived in town meant a chance for me to skate around the neighbourhood on streets and sidewalks. Unfortunately, my outdoor skills sucked, never having to navigate gravel, debris and curbs. As I moved into high school, I still held onto my skates even after the fad of roller skating turned into inline skating.

My toes are getting a little more than scuffed

I moved away for college and my skates stayed safely tucked away at my parent’s farm in still relatively pristine condition, short of wear on the rubber toe-stop.

During my college years, friends all around me were inline skating. I tried inline skating sometime after graduating from college… and hated it.

Sad and lonely in storage at the farm but not forgotten, I pulled my skates out of storage a few years ago and started skating again. My technique was and still is still sketchy, but I’m happy to be skating with a purpose now.

The downside is after only a few weeks of training, the beloved skates I’ve owned for over 20 years are finally starting to show their wear. Scuffs and scrapes are quicklyappearing on the toes of my leather boots from skidding

Veeeeerrrrryyyyy sexy and tempting.

over concrete and I’m afraid to ruin one of the few items I’ve kept from my childhood. Soon I’ll be faced with the decision to either duct tape the crap out of them to avoid further shredding, or bite the $200+ bullet and get a sexy new pair of Riedells.

Tough choice.

Shopping for safety

The weather turned kind of crappy when I got home so thoughts of skating after work were kiboshed. Instead I took my oldest boy out to the 2 skate shops in town, Bert and Macs, then Walmart for shopping for new pads.

My current knee and elbow pads are pretty cheap (they’re my kid’s actually) and don’t fit me well so wanted something a bit better.

Thanks to a tip from one of the girl’s on Sunday, she saw some Tony Hawk pads at Walmart for $20. After coming up empty handed at the other stores (one didn’t have their stock in yet and the other recommended to check some product on http://www.redprotection.com which they can order in) I decided to go with the $20 set until I really know what I want and need.

I decided my current wrist guards will suit me until I talk to one of the girls to see if they will be okay.

I consider myself lucky because I already have the skates and helmet. A lot of these girls are having to put a huge amount of coin for equipment before getting started. Wheels and bearings, however, I may have to invest in.

The knee pads are great! Very comfy and they fit my skinny legs. My elbow pad straps will need to be altered a bit so they fit tighter. I’m very happy with my purchase, but debating if I should rip off the Tony Hawk label and customize the knee pads with something more fun.

Snow is in the forecast. Ugh. I just want to SKATE!