Naomi Grigg’s Skating Years – Part 14 by Naomi Grigg


There were twelve per team, and each team was split into three shifts of four skaters, so four skaters would rotate the baton, and then another shift would take over. Of the last shift, one skater had to do the final two laps, as the change over lane was shut fifteen minutes before the end (each lap was 10-14 minutes for us). Of the first shift, one skater had to start the race. Starting the race involved standing on one side of the track, in your socks, whilst your skates lay across the other side of the track. The race starts and you sprint across, put your skates on and go. Once you arrive back to your team’s pit, you pass on your baton and the next member of your shift goes out. Each lap was 4.35 km, starting with a soul destroying uphill. It was fine the first time you did it, but after the 2nd time it became what you dreaded before getting the baton – ‘will I last it? Will I keep skating all the way? Will I crack this time? Will this be the time that I finally crack and end up flagging up it?’. The ‘oh god, not again’ vibe infected us all.

The siren went, and Christophe ran, put his skates on, and skated off. Soon it was Steve’s turn, and then mine. I received the baton with all the good intentions in the world of having a good time, chilling out and laughing smugly at all those lycra clad speed skating geeks taking it seriously, but I figured that I may as well look good in front of the rest of the team for the start of the lap, so sprinted off with the baton, trying to look relaxed and careless. As I exited the pit lane, I peered up to The Hill as it loomed up ahead of me ‘I’d better get some momentum before the incline steepens’ I thought to myself. And so I put my head down and started up the hill. About half way up I realised something was seriously amiss. Something was very very wrong. It was like some alternate universe where everyone else was wearing rusted aggressive skates and I had jet power – I was cruising past almost everyone I saw. I was surrounded by puffing and wheezing skaters wearing lycra skin suits and five wheeler speed skates. And I was caning them. Occasionally someone would skate past me, but they were very few and far between on that hill.

When I got to the top most of the skaters seemed to be standing up and relaxing as if the hard work was over. I just saw the top of the hill as a way of getting more speed for ‘the well’ – the long, fast downhill after The Hill. So I sprinted as the hill allowed, got up as much speed as I could, and tucked really small to reduce the air resistance as I sped down the hill. NeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwWHATTHE*********???????!!!!!!!!!OHMYGODINEARLYDIED!!!!!!!!!! Someone had heel braked in front of me. Why, oh why, would they do that. Firstly, I didn’t know that speed skaters actually wore heel brakes, and secondly, why would you brake in a race?? I was confused, really confused. This was weird. Firstly I was cruising by all the people who were supposed to be caning me, and now there are people actually electing to slow themselves down during a race. Very strange.


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