Snakes & Inline

If you have ever had a snake as a pet, you have likely seen in the last few days before it sheds its skin, it’s eyes become milky and cloudy. It’s the last step before it shrugs off its old dirty scales, and struggles outward into new growth.

Maybe that is what I have been feeling for the last month, last year was SO intense, so purposeful, so clear in its focus towards Olympic trials & racing in Europe afterwards. Maybe I don’t want to leave that skin, but it’s old, and clouding my senses with a depressive anesthesia.

Enough mopery! my brother sings of the joy of the texas breakfast taco, and if I lived nearer, we could eat them together and he would pick on me and I would smile & feel better.

Snakes, before they shed their skin, will rub their noses against something, to make the break in the armor that they will wriggle through. In that light, I did something different last night, I went along with the Salt Lake City Friday night skate.

It was a blast, 7 other good souls, on a wide variety of skates, bopping though the traffic of downtown Salt Lake. The sun dipped behind the hills, and the air became that perfect warmth, that urban summer evening energy of a lively town just awakening to Friday night.

There was no destination set, no training mission, nothing other than the joy of skating. That is the root of how I got into this sport, goofing around on my inlines, and I needed to remind myself of it. We whizzed through the streets of Salt Lake with agile abandon, and finally ended up at a bakery for cookies!

There is such essential joy in this simple sensation of flight, in all the senses being awake & your life as clear as the cars 3 feet from your left shoulder (& the pretty girls in the sports car telling us we were cute was a bonus!).

Complications fall away when you touch base with that one thing you were truly meant to do. For me in this life it seems to be skating, and in the humid dark, gliding back to the car, I was smiling again.

Zen 10 Questions: Peter Doucet

Imagine a large reddish whirlwind, with crackling energy and boundless eccentric enthusiasm. This individual has been involved in many well-known skating websites, and is one of the most recognized faces on the INLINE circuit.

I knew a lot about Peter from his own personal website before I met the real person at an inline race in 2001. I clearly remember walking up to him at a race in New York City, and awkwardly saying “uhh, hey, you don’t know me, but I love your online stuff”. We started chatting, and the words-per-minute count quickly reached epic levels!

I quickly discovered that Peter has been on the front lines of speedskating as a competitor, webmaster, coach in the Toronto Inline Skate club, race promoter, encourager, chief beatnik goofball, the list simply goes on & on. Even after I moved out west, we have stayed in touch.

I have been looking for a good excuse to interview Peter for a while, he just set the Canadian inline 10k inline track record. That seemed to be excuse enough!

Q: First of all, CONGRADULATIONS on your record! Has your training, focus, or diet been different this year?

Thanks a ton. I really wanted to beat the 10k national record. I feel I skated strong.

Firstly, I’ve really tried to change my diet- I always thought that I could ‘shut off’ my chocolate eating habits. I haven’t shut it off, but I’ve slowed it down. The good thing about training more is that I need more food to meet my caloric needs. I’ve been eating a ton of vegetables, fruits, and nuts. My weight has gone down from 185lbs to 171lbs, and I still have another 10-15 lbs to lose.

My training approach has completely changed in the last 9 months. At the 2005 world championships in China, I felt as if I was staring down the barrel of a gun in terms of I need to train well now and not later. Thankfully, Mike Murray- the legend- a great skater and coach, decided to take me under his wings and coach me.

You know the pain of training; it’s something I never experienced before. This year, I’ve been racing tired because of weights, cycling, and other training activities. At this point, I’m stronger in terms of fitness and technique than any point in my skating career.

I guess the main thing is that the goal is to develop more power, so I am skating much less now - 2 days a week, but I’m in the gym way more and using the bike for sprinting and recovery.

Q: I think you are one of the most qualified in North America to answer this question: Assess the health of the inline-racing scene right now, what are the next steps for the sport?

In general, I think some parts are weak and some parts are strong. I don’t have any exact numbers here, but I’ve spoken with a few dealers, vendors, and distributors, and there’s not a lot of money to be made, and when there’s no money being made, I think that can hurt the sport in a few different ways.

Most of the events that exist are super. They are rich with beautiful scenery, strong skaters with good looking suits. The atmosphere is also positive- skaters know one another and travel to races and get together after the races for drinks and food and parties.

We’re getting to know more and more about how to train, what equipment to use and how to use it, what efficient skating looks like; information is being shared via the net and by coaches and instructors like Barry Publow and Eddy Matzger.

There’s something that worries me a little, it just seems like everyone is doing ‘their own thing’, and there’s no North American version of the Swiss Inline Cup. I mean can you imagine a series of 10 or more races the size of Duluth? I think the SIC concept is worth looking at and adapting to the North American culture and market. I think once this is done, we can say ‘wow, we’ve got a strong sport’.

I think that an indication of the health of inline-racing is how many facilities we have- there are very few. Imagine if there were only 10 basketball courts in North America and basketball players were forced to play on the street in traffic. To have a game, they needed to close roads down- It’s absurd, but that’s a big reality that inline skating faces; we need a lot of space built specifically for us using expensive materials.

Someone needs to figure out how this can be done. How can we get our own exclusive or multi-purpose facilities? How can we have a successful mass-supported continental series? The person(s) who find the answer, I think, will end up being very powerful and influential.

Q: Your inline racing web page was one of the best sites EVER (this is what it looked like). For about 4 years, I visited it pretty much every other day. And you CONSTANTLY updated it. I miss it. You closed it down to focus on your own life. I truly understand that. Will it ever return?

Hahaha, it’s funny because I miss it too. I’ve had a few people tell me that they miss my site and also that they understand my choice. I was surprised that it affected as many people as it did- I received a ton of emails of support and well wishes when I made the announcement that I was going to slow down.

I think it will. I love inline skating. I’m a huge fan of the sport. Making my website as a portal where you can find everything was a way for me to share my love of the sport with everyone.

I think my site served an important purpose. I’m not saying that it was intentional, but I think that it serves as an important archive that you can use to find pictures, results, etc.

I think that down the line, once I back off from training, I would love to return to the website. One of the first things when I do return is to completely re-do the design so that it has a kick-ass look. I’ll probably keep the content philosophy the same- dig everything up ASAP and link up to it. For now, it’s acting as a blog; I think there’s still some stuff that I could share.

Q: You are another example of what I call the “Allskater” concept. You skate EVERYTHING. Why?

Oh man, there’s a few reasons for that one. I’ve never really specialized or focused my training. I also enjoy every type of skating, from indoors to outdoors, long and short, up, flat and down.

I think that’s a dangerous line to walk though when I want to be a top-level skater. It’s ok to be an ‘allskater’ here in Canada and the USA, but when you want to face the world’s best in a field that is very deep, you need to be more specialized. I think that’s where my training is headed right now. With a focus on the world championships, I won’t be skating certain events at certain times in the season.

Q: You have made epic road trips to every inline race on the continent, What one always seems to create exceptional memories?

Every road trip rocks. I think the ones that are great are the ones without speeding tickets. Actually, I have to say the craziest and stupidest one was when Eric ‘Hip Hop’Gee and I drove from Toronto to Orlando and back in one weekend. We left Toronto on Friday at midnight and we were back on Monday at 6:00am. Numerically, a trip of 54 hours broken down into 40 hours of driving 5400km, 1 _ hours of skating, and 5 hours of sleep. The sheer magnitude of what we did makes it #1 on my list. Maybe we’ll do it again? Eric’s been saying no to the idea, but he’s convincible.

Q: I remember once being in a breakaway with you during the Canadian Inline Marathon Championships a number of years ago. It was incredible, your sustained speed made me feel like I was trying to draft a car. What do you feel your strengths & weaknesses are as an athlete?

Weaknesses: Technique for sure. My top-end sprint and starts. Race strategy during the final sprint. My complacency; accepting that where I am at is ok for now even though I know I could be much better. Strengths: My ability to sustain successive breaks and accelerations, my strategy during the races. My desire to continue skating for my whole life. My positive approach to training.

Q: You are a regular contributor to many inline speedskating discussion forums. What ones do you read and contribute to regularly:

I love forums because the are so rich with information. I haven’t been contributing much in the last year or so. I used to contribute a lot, but with the training and work, I don’t have a lot of time to be engaged in different topics.

I always read up on the big ones for sure, like Hyper, Bont,, the Inline Planet, Skatelog, and Skater’s Refuge.

There’s a whole whack of club ones to that I’ll surf, like the Toronto Inline Skating Club, Ottawa Inline Skating Club, Roller Montreal, and Emerald Coast.

Q: How many times have you represented Canada at inline worlds? And what are some of your favorite memories from worlds?

I’ve represented Canada at the 2000 (Colombia), 2002 (Belgium), 2003 (Venezuela), 2004 (Italy), and 2005 (China) world championships. Hopefully we can add 2006 (Korea). I also competed at the Pan American Championships in 1997 (Ecuador), 2002 (Colombia), and 2005 (Argentina)

I can spend paragraphs writing the memories, but I won’t. Aaron Arndt winning a bronze medal at the 1997 Pan Am Champs was a great moment for Canadian racing. He forgot the medal in the hotel room, but we never forgot that he earned it.

I’ve always loved being in breakaway or at least in the lead in the marathons, and I’ve done so at each worlds. I got clobbered each time, but nobody needs to know that, right?

Of course, the parties are out of control. You’re there with your club and country mates and you get the chance to be let lose the night after the championships- it’s a recipe for break-ups, jokes, and things that you can’t remember.

Q: What is the single most impressive thing you have ever seen a human being do on skates:

Wow, tough one to answer. I’m always impressed by every skater, but I have to say that just watching the top-level skaters during track races always gives me a reason why I compete in this sport- it’s impressingly beautiful.

I’ll break it down like this:
Ultra Marathon: Randy Bowman attacking like a crazy mother ****** at the 2003 A2A. I hated him after that race.
Eddy Matzger and his attacks going up the hill in Prospect Park during the 100k- he somehow always caught the pack by surprise even though everyone knew he was going to attack.
World Championships: Chris Creveling during the 2004 worlds road relay; I think he’s got a beautiful skating style, and he moved up at the end of the race into the top position while looking so relaxed and smooth.
10k points race at 2002 Worlds- Arjan Smit and Diego Rosero- these guys went at it from the gun, and the world record was set.

Q: You would probably be one of the athletes representing Canada if Inline speedskating were an Olympic sport. Top inliner skaters like you are just as dedicated as ice Olympians. How much does it hurt that inline has been repeatedly turned down?

Honestly, I love inline so much, and I think that with or without the Olympics, I am a happy skater. I’ve never had any expectations that inline skating would become an Olympic sport. Sure, it would be nice, it would certainly help inline skating a heck of a lot, but this is the sport that I love and that I’ve chosen, and I am willing to accept the fact that there are no Olympics for me.

Don’t forget, we have the world championships, the Pan American Games, and the World Inline Cup just to name a few. We’ve got our beautiful races and our glory events.

Q: Who are the people who have always been there for you? Who have been in your corner 100% and are part of every step you take on asphalt, ice, or hardwood.

Mom & family, Wayne Burrett, Eric Gee, Mike Murray, girlfriends, and friends (Gero, Dave, Jay, Paul). They’ve all had a part to play in helping me continue being the me I want and strive to be. They’ve respected my choices and encouraged me along my paths. I thank them and I love them all for that.

Zen Haiku speed round:

Q: Favorite post-inline marathon road trip food?

Subway and chocolate.

Q: How many pairs of skates are in your closet?

Four complete: 2 inline, 1 long track, 1 short track, and 4 boots.

Q: Translate your exclamation “whoot! whoot!” into American English for me.

I ‘stole’ it from a friend Shannon Hegarty. I think it means like yeah! yeah! or woo hoo!

Q: Best thing about being a proud Canadian

The different cultures that share this nation.

Q: Most difficult thing about being a Canadian

That Canadian inline skating is beginning to be well developed in some areas, but gains are slow. It’s frustrating because I’ve see the world’s best and I know Canadians can one day get there, there’s just a lot of work to be done.

Q: You are quite the skinsuit collector, what countries/teams are in your collection:

Canada (2 versions), CDA-Pro (an old team), Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Italy, Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain, Korea (from 2002), K2/ Empire (2 versions), Mogema (2 versions), New Zealand, Pyro-Apparel, Toronto Inline Skating Club (2 versions)

Q: Music is important to you, what songs do you associate with good hard days of skating.

I listen to all sort of music; punk, ska, reggae, bluegrass, electronic, jungle, rock, acoustic, blues, alternative-rock; Here’s some songs and artists I’ll be happy listening to: Jean LeLoup (Je Joue de la Guitare), !!! (Me And Guliani Down By The Schoolyard), Cake (Jolene- live version), Arcade Fire (Power Out), Bob Marley (One Cup of Coffey), Coldplay (The Scientist), anything by DJ Shadow, Doves (Caught by the River), Gandharvas (Down Time), Goldfinger (Superman), I Mother Earth (When Did you get back from Mars), JB Lenoir (I Want to go), Les Cowboys Fringants (En Berne), Linkin Park (Faint), Lowest of the Low (Subversives), any thing by Modest Mouse, any thing by Muse, Oasis’ live acoustic songs, Our Lady Peace (Innocent), Peter Tosh (Jumbie Jamboree), anything by Placebo, any songs by Rage Against the Machine, lots of songs by Skip James, Sublime- anything by them, The Dears are super good, a give me a few Weezer songs.

Q: Make a choice – rock & roll hit record or inline world championship??

Rock & roll hit: I’ll get enough cash from it so I don’t have to work and I can finance my training for the world championships. I can also sponsor teams and events.

Q: What was more nerve wracking? A race at inline worlds, or auditioning for “Canadian Idol”?

Inline worlds for sure. Both are fun, but there’s way more on the line and more pressure at worlds than at Canadian Idol. At worlds, everyone is watching you. There’s 2 judges and 4 contestants in the room at the Canadian Idol audition, so you can lie that you freaken rocked the audition, but you can’t lie about your performance at worlds; you’re accountable.

Q: Magically borrow one ability from another top skater for your own, what would you take, and from whom?

Harry Vogel’s agility, Keith Turner’s leg speed, Derek Downing’s 1000-meter, Chad Hedrick’s double push, Arjan Smit and Tristan Loy’s staying power, Chile’s Felipe Mora’s left foot set-down in the corner, Diego Rosero’s basic position- I think this creates a beast of a skater!

Q: Do you dream in French? English? Or both at once?

Nobody talks usually. I do a lot of flying about 20 feet up. The cool thing is that I know that I am dreaming, and I can control them sometimes, so I know what it feels like to fly. It’s awesome! I fly doing the breast stroke!


I have been training so hard this past week, my muscles, brain (& back) are complete toast.

I don’t mean tasty toast, I mean that kind of toast that instead of melting in your mouth in perfect harmonies of butter & jam, crumbles into cardboardy tasteless scattered burnt bits of sharp crust.

Posting blogworthy ramblings does require at least two brain cells acting in concert, I can’t find a quorum.

Hmmm, toast is just a pretty metaphor… Here is an actuality, my brain feels as worn out as my current pair of dryland shoes. Damm, These were new just a few months ago!

I am not overtrained, in systematically-applied doses this is what June-July-August-September should be like for an October-February competitive season.

It’s scientifically possible to quantify the effects of training physiologically, but emotionally?? Intellectually?? Only metaphor will do. So I am shredded shoes on burnt toast.

I will return you to your regularly scheduled, half-thoughtful blogger shortly. Right now I am going to crawl to work, and try not to fall asleep face first on the keyboard.

Speedskaters & Musicians

This a joint blog post my brother and I cooked up together. It appears on his blog as well.

Currently David is a professional Musician in Austin, Texas, and I am a national caliber Speedskater in Salt Lake City. We both have moved to the towns that attract & focus the top of our professions.

This is in great respect because Mom & Dad did something incredibly right in raising us: they always encouraged us to follow our passions with 100% commitment, and also taught with the example of their own amazing lives.

This has had tremendous positive effects on us.. Thanks Mom & Dad! Really… thanks! We were very lucky kids! and now happy adults.

This photo is the two of us at our happiest, myself skating a painful 1000m personal best during Olympic trials (1:13.22), and David bringing a crowd to its feet with a blistering blues solo. (David’s note: Actually, there wasn’t a crowd. I discussed this gig here)

We often talk about the challenges of our occupations; recently we made up a list of the similarities & differences for your enjoyment.

Frostbite on the face is rarely an occupational hazard for musicians

In Speedskating, if you have a bad race, or just aren’t very good at it, most people will still politely cheer your effort. In Music, you are greeted with, at best, polite indifference, and at worst, shouts of “You Suck! Get off the stage!”

Effort is no guarantee of success, however it does usually help.

There are few groupies following speedskaters around, and the few groupies there are, are only interested in medal winners… Many crappy bands have starry-eyed groupies… Although to get the hot ones you need to be pretty good.

Speedskaters never get full glasses of beer chucked at their heads by rowdy members of the crowd…

Speedskaters will never be accomplices in the horror that is Muszak.

Being a Gearslut is a common side effect of being a musician and speedskater, and neither is ever completely happy with their gear.

Speedskaters never get free drinks from the bar. Nor would most want them.

Both Skaters & musicians have problems with their reputation & drugs, however no musician was ever asked to “pass” a drug test after a great gig…

Speedskaters are often up waaaay too early to train, Musicians are often out waaaay too late after gigs.

Speedskaters will usually have one main pair of skates, they may try different stuff from time to time, and maybe even find that elusive perfect pair of skates but really only use one primary pair at a time. Musicians often will own several different instruments. (Note from David: I should know. I have 11 guitars. But I need more.)

Good co-ordination is important for both occupations.. however, most speedskaters don’t skate better after a free drink or two from the bar…

Musicians get heckled by spectators: there isn’t much speedskater heckling. (What would that sound like? How about “You skate like a Flamingo on crack!)

If you’re world class at speedskating, you’ll can make some money being sponsored by a Dutch bank, win a medal, stuff like that. Being world class at music is no guarantee of anything.

Speedskaters only play to sold out arenas once very 4 years, but for those concerts, a measurable percentage of the world is watching..

Musicians are usually quite desirable by members of the opposite sex… and can be in AWFUL shape with a great “moontan” -and it makes no difference.

No musician will ever be on a Wheaties box. But then again, no Speedskater will ever be on the cover of Rolling Stone. And if he/she was, it wouldn’t be because of skating. It would be because they were skaters who acted like rock stars.

Both drummers and marathon speedskaters tend to end gigs covered in drool…

Many Speedskaters move live & train in exotic places like Salt Lake, Calgary, Hamar, and Milwaukee. Musicians can be anywhere, but are often in cool towns like Austin, LA, New York, or San Francisco. No one was ever excited about Milwaukee during the winter.

Musicians have to haul a LOT more stuff to gigs, unless you are a singer.

No Speedskater ever smashed his skates to bits in celebration during a good gig (or set them on fire ‘a la Jimi Hendrix)

To improve the aerodynamics of a musician’s car, remove the “pizza hut” sign on top. Ask a speedskater how to improve the aerodynamics on their car, and they will stop and think about it seriously for a few seconds (however a triathlete would spend multiple thousands of dollars actually doing it)…

It’s rare to see cheesy, mindless commercialization of speedskating, and the skaters are pissed about that!!

If the Rock band Kiss ever made up a short track relay team, they would win every race on intimidation factor alone!! Would you throw a tight pass against someone with who looks like one of these guys???

Being “smooth” is a desirable goal for both groups….

There is no MTV for speedskating, except in Holland…..

Of course MTV doesn’t actually play music any more anyway.

An excess of snotty attitude usually covers lack of talent or poor self-image in both occupations…

In both occupations, the best have fantastic technique…

There has never been a mosh-pit during a world cup… except the celebrations in Holland when a Dutch guy wins….

Both Eurovison and the European speedskating championships are prestigious competitions that have launched many to fame, fortune, and renown, and are often greeted by those outside of Europe with “huh?? What is that??”

An old picture

My brother, in commenting on my last post, wrote

I think you need to post the pic of you and Evan on that early (possibly 1st?) ride. You know the one. You in the sweats and Evan in his hat.

ok, for the sake of everyone else’s laughter, I will.

This was our 2nd or 3rd ride, the picture was taken in probably early march of 1990, in Amherst, Massachusets. Evan and I were both barely 19. check out my orange mane! (well, in black and white, you can’t see the fact that I was/am very reddish in coloration).

Gosh, it looks like a picture of mountain bikers from the civil war. This was before suspension, clip in pedals, titanium-carbon whahoozits, or all this fancy-schmacy space age stuff.

We might still be crazy, but don’t ride in sweats, jeans, or old army surplus anymore. However, an unbreakable titanium bike is a great thing, given that we destroyed pretty much every part on those two poor bikes in this picture, and luckily, not ourselves.

Some people drank in college, or engaged in other risky behaviors. Mountain biking & collegiate road racing was our doorway into finding out who we were.

Part of me wishes I had been speedskating then, but if that had meant never meeting Evan, I would not trade one mud-spattered minute of my singletrack youth.

Still crazy after all these years

I fear I’ll do some damage
One fine day
But I would not be convicted
By a jury of my peers
Still crazy after all these years

-Paul Simon, Still crazy after all these years

16 years ago, while mountain biking on slushy Massachusetts February day, on the trails I met one of the most intense athletes, and astonishing persons I have ever had the pleasure to know.

Evan and I were both happy-go-lucky kids just discovering serious cycling, and discovering who we really were. He is my “brother-by-another-mother” and we have gone through a lot over the years.

He stopped into Salt Lake yesterday evening, and this morning, per tradition, we went for one of our usual mountain bike death-marches.

Here is Evan, cresting a climb. You can see rain moving through the valley in the background. Click on the pic for a bigger version.

He is going slow enough while climbing, a camera can actually focus. Trying to take pictures of him as he rides downhill is like trying to photograph an artillery shell whizzing by. Evan rides downhill singletrack with lean angles like a short track speedskater (that is no exaggeration). Chasing him today at velocities approaching ludicrous speed, I ripped dozens of knobs off my rear tire sliding through turns, and I still couldn’t catch him.

I have spent so much time in the gym recently, or bounding/hopping doing skate training but never really going anywhere. Even training at the Utah Olympic speedskating Oval, it sometimes feels like a frozen hamster wheel for lycra covered mammals with knives on their feet.

It takes that best kind of old friends, the most ferocious of old training partners, to pull one out of a rut.

Evan has two kids, a smattering of grey, his own business; we are both married, both with careers, but put us on bikes, and we are whoopin’, hollerin’, muddy nutcake crazy teenagers again!

Wiser, greyer, happier, more in touch with who we are, but still crazy after all these years!

Training Partners

Visible in this picture, my only training partners today:

  • A turncable
  • A weight vest
  • A piece of paper with a gutbusting 3-hour dryland workout written on it.
  • A water bottle on its 3rd refill (it started out with Gatorade in it).
  • A stopwatch (it’s holding down the paper in the breeze).

Not visible in the picture, but equally important, are a few other important things I try to bring to every workout:

  • A good night’s sleep.
  • Good recovery habits between the previous workout and this one.
  • Delayed gratification temperment, (work hard in June, be strong in December).
  • Knowing exactly why dryland workouts are so important.

And most importantly, I brought what a martial artist I respect tremendously, described as “good spirit”.

She swam through some seriously deep oceans of crap, and now runs a thriving dojo. Spirit has everything to do with it.

What is “good spirit” to her? It’s part courageous imagination, part being positive in all types of “bad weather”, and part good ‘ol bushido tradition.

It was hot, I didn’t feel great, my training partners, though reliable, are not great conversation, but good spirit carried me through a hard training day.