SKATING AN INDOOR RACE


Who this is for

 

This explanation is primarily for beginning skaters who want an explanation of indoor racing, but also for anyone, skater, spectator, or parent, who wants a better understanding of indoor racing.

 

You know how to skate indoors, such as at a rink. You are fairly good at crossing over to turn corners. You can start quickly from a motionless position. Perhaps you skate the races at your local session skates, and often win them.  You are ready to see how you compare to better skaters elsewhere, and you want to learn from them.

 

But you aren’t part of a team, and don’t know anyone to work with who is an experienced competitive skater. Or perhaps you have done some competitive skating, but yet have some basic questions.

 

This guide is for you. It’s for indoor skating as generally done in the USA, which is similar to the indoor skating done many other places. The goal of this guide is to allow you to compete at an inline speed skating meet, just as the world’s best indoor skaters do.  When you do that, you’ll see and meet other skaters.  You’ll learn from watching them, and you can get advice and contact information which will let you learn much more.

 

Finding and registering for a meet

 

Many meets can be found via http://www.growinlinespeed.com/skatingevents.htm .  You can also post on a forum (a list is at http://www.growinlinespeed.com/discussiongroups.htm), where you can ask what meets are near a place and time you prefer.  Perhaps you’ll not find a meet in your vicinity, but meets are often in locations you’ll enjoy a trip to with family/friends who would enjoy the meet and the other attractions in that location.  When you skate your first meet, you can ask about others which skaters recommend.

 

To skate a meet, you must complete an entry form which is available on the web site, or from the contact person. The form asks your age, because you’ll race against skaters of similar age.  The form also asks you to sign agreement that you skate at your own risk, which is true of almost anything you do.  If you have questions about the form, be sure to ask the contact person; do let them know this is your first meet so they can provide the help you need, and try to put you in the appropriate competitive group.

 

There’s a fee to compete in a meet; this cost varies among meets, but it’s generally less than the travel costs for the meet.  Meets have registration deadlines, but it’s good, especially for the first-time skater, to register early to allow extra time to resolve any difficulties.

 

What-to-wear suggestions are in http://www.growinlinespeed.com/Downloads/Attire.htm

 

Getting to the rink

 

Skate meets generally start early in the morning, so you’ll benefit from a nearby hotel/motel room the night before.  Meets often have an official hotel, or you can ask the contact person where skaters are likely to stay.  Staying here will let you meet other skaters, listen to their skating stories, share their excitement, and ask questions about skating and the meet.

 

Meets often have a practice session the afternoon or evening before the meet. Don’t miss it! This will let you meet people, get familiar with the floor in that particular rink, find out where bathrooms are, and generally make you much more comfortable on race day.  Even if there isn’t a formal practice session, at least drive to the rink so you know the route (and can travel it in the early-morning dark before the actual meet); if the rink is open, go in and look around, and ask if any speed skaters are there.

 

While you are at the rink, find out what food and drink they offer, and their policy about carry-ins (often not allowed, although sports drinks are often OK).  Try to learn what the rink temperature will be so you’ll know what to wear when you are watching.

 

Skaters in a meet are usually guided by a coach, and skaters who have questions during a meet generally ask the coach, who will ask the appropriate official for the skater, if the coach doesn’t know. If you don’t have a coach at the meet, ask another meet official, during the practice session or early the morning of the meet,  who should handle coaching duties for you. Perhaps you’ll be told to act as your own coach, and which meet official will answer your questions. Or perhaps a coach for another team will also be your coach during this meet (if you know another coach, you are welcome to ask him to do this).

 

Schedule/Program

 

Get a schedule or program; this may cost a couple of dollars.  Often they are available at the practice session; get one as soon as you can, or you may need to wait until race day.  The schedule shows which races you’ll compete in; ask if you don’t understand how it’s organized.  When you see the schedule, you’ll realize that most skaters watch while others compete.  Be aware that schedules aren’t exact; your race may be sooner or later than planned. So be aware, throughout the day, which races are actually running, and when your race is likely to actually occur.

 

The program will also show which group you will skate with, such as Master Men or Senior Ladies.  If you are unsure, ask.  Most instructions to skaters are given to a group, such as “Senior ladies check in”.

 

The program will also show the distance of each race.  Races are multiples of 100 meters, which is one lap of the skating floor.  Remember this number of laps when you come to the start line, for each race.

 

 

Race Day!

 

Meets generally have a “doors open” time. You’ll want to arrive then, to have the most time to learn. If you are early, there are many places you can pick to watch others skate, so pick one that’s comfortable.  You can leave your spare clothing and supplies here.  Introduce yourself to others nearby, and share your skating experiences and dreams with them.

 

Each skater must register as having arrived at the meet, ask if you need to find where to do this. (Sometimes you can do this at the practice session the day before the meet.)  You’ll be given an identification number and told where to place it, such as on the left hand side of your helmet.  You may want to write your number on your arm so if someone given an instruction to “Skater 123” when you are busy, you’ll know whether they are talking to you.

 

Find out when practices, or warm-ups, will be. You’ll probably only be allowed a few minutes; each group has their own turn. Generally, your group’s exact time to practice will be announced, such as the time for Master Men. You’ll want to have your skates on, and be near the entrance to the floor, when it’s your time to practice, and you many want to take off your skates while you wait for your next time to skate (practice or race).

 

Checking in

 

Before each of your several races, you check in.  This generally is at a table near an entrance to the skating floor; find out early how to get to the check-in location.  During the meet, listen for announcements instructing your group to check in. Come to the check-in location ready to skate with laces tight, helmet buckled, no warm-up clothes, etc.  Tell the check-in person that this is your first meet, and ask what you should do next.

 

Generally, all skaters assigned to a specific race go to a waiting area on the skating floor.  In the waiting area, you’ll be told your starting position.  This may be “wall”, which means you will be the skater closest to the wall, or the right hand side of the track. Or your position may be “cone”, which is closest to the inside of the track, or to the left-hand side; this is also known as position One. Position Two is to the right of One, Three is right of Two, etc., Then, when it’s time for their race, skaters are told to go to the start area.

 

Starting

 

In the start area, line up in the position you were assigned.  Watch other skaters to see which line to be on. If all skaters from the preceding race haven’t finished, be sure to stay out of their way.  If you aren’t sure where to line up, stay a little behind other skaters, and wait for a referee’s instructions.

 

After skaters are ready, a referee will say “To your mark” or similar. Each skater moves forward to the next line, which is about 4 feet (or 1+ meter) ahead.  Then the referee will say “Set” or similar.  Each skater must immediately take their final starting position, with nothing on the floor on or ahead of the start line (but leaning over the line is OK). 

 

A skater who moves, even a hand twitch, after he has taken his start position, and before the starting gun shot, can be charged with a violation called false start. If this is considered significant by a referee, a whistle is blown, and all skaters move back to the first line they were on.  The violating skater is notified; at the next “To your mark”, that skater must remain on the back line so he starts behind other skaters.  A skater who false starts twice in the same race is not allowed to race, and must leave the floor.

 

After, very soon after, all skaters are set, a gun will be shot.  Go fast! But, in your first race, you may want to use some caution, better to start the race a little behind others, rather than on the floor because you got tangled up with another skater.

 

If a skater has false started, but a referee doesn’t know that until after the gun shot, then a whistle is blown and all skaters return to the first pre-start line.

 

Racing

 

The basic racing principle is that skaters must not interfere with other skaters. If you bump another skater, or swerve in front of someone, you may be “disqualified”, which means the same as if you didn’t race. Sometimes you’ll be told that after the race, such as an announcement that “Skater 123 was disqualified for blocking.”  Sometimes you’ll be told that during a race by a referee pointing a finger at you, and blowing one long whistle; in this case, skate to the end of the floor as quickly as you can without getting in the way of other skaters, and wait there until the end of the race.

 

Sometimes a referee may whistle twice at you, with his arm pointing towards you, and the palm of his hand open, upright, and facing you, like a policeman at an intersection telling you to stop.  In this case, the referee is telling you that a faster skater is about to pass and lap you. In this case, the faster skater has the right to the inside track, so you must move out, to your right, to clear the path for the faster skater.  Do this quickly and carefully. Sometimes more than one other faster skater will be passing, so be sure the path is clear before returning to your normal path.

 

In some races, a skater who has been lapped will be asked to leave the race, either by the referee’s pointed finger and long whistle, or by an announcement that a skater with a certain number has been eliminated. This is done for race safety, and so slower skaters don’t impede faster ones.

 

Think of the normal path or track you are most comfortable skating, and try to do this consistently every lap in every race. Skaters who weave or skate inconsistently confuse others, and are dangerous. Watch the skating paths of other nearby skaters in your race so you can anticipate where they will go.

 

Being aware of the paths of other skaters is especially important when passing. Be sure you stay well clear of whomever you pass.

 

Skaters in a group often keep from crashing into a skater in front by gently pushing on the center of their back, at about the belt line, so do this if/when you want.  Expect that other skaters may do this; if you’re not comfortable, just coast with both feet on the ground. Any other contact with another racer may mean disqualification, so try to avoid it.  Also be aware that other skaters may bump you; do your best to continue skating your own race.

 

Finishing

 

You have finished the race when you have skated the race’s number of laps.  The first skater in the race, and skaters close behind, see a display board showing the number of laps they have yet to complete.  When they have one lap to skate, a bell is rung. When they have finished, a checkered flag is waved.  You should count your own number of laps, and also be guided by how far you are behind the leaders.

 

After you finish, it’s generally good to skate a cool-down lap, being careful not to get in the way of skaters yet racing.  Then leave the skating floor. You must leave your helmet fastened until after you are off the skating floor, and it’s best to keep it fastened until your skates are off.

 

After the race

 

Feel free to congratulate other skaters in your race on how well they did, regardless of what position they finished in.  You may also want to ask some of your new friends as the meet for suggestions on what you did well, and should continue to do, and for suggestions what you can work on for improvements.

 

Awards are generally given soon after the last race, so you are welcome to stay and cheer those who receive awards.  This is also a good time to ask any questions; many people are more relaxed and have more time available than when before or during races.

 

Skaters often go out to eat after a meet, and welcome new skaters who are eager to learn, so ask others of their plans.

 

Now that you’ve completed your first meet, relax, enjoy the area you are visiting, and think about your next meet when you’ll know so much more!

 

Further information

 

Probably no need to mention, but overall good conduct is expected.  Clothing shouldn’t be offensive to anyone, nor should the language used. Teasing and rough-housing is not appropriate. Show respect to officials.

 

Good skating information comes from coaches and experienced skaters. Other information is available from various Internet sites, including www.growinlinespeed.com .  Sources of rule books are listed on http://www.growinlinespeed.com/rules.htm ; the USARS Speed Rules book is especially relevant.

 

If you have questions or suggestions, please contact growinlinespeed@yahoo.com .