Chris Ponteri deserves credit, or curses, for inventing another new way to challenge endurance athletes.
The organizer of the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon – 95.5 laps of running around the track inside the Pettit International Ice Center – teamed with the USA Speedskating to create the BladeRunner Challenge. Probably the only duathlon of its kind in the U.S., the race combines a 25-kilometer speedskating marathon with a half-marathon run.
Ponteri added the BladeRunner to his already unique indoor Icebreaker to help draw attention to the USA Speedskating Marathon National and North American Championships, in the Pettit the same weekend as the Icebreaker, Jan. 19-20.
With nearly 1,000 runners and dozens of skaters turning hundreds of laps inside the Pettit, it will be a dizzying spectacle of endurance sports.
Multi-sport athletes who struggle to get their legs running after a hard effort on the bike will find the challenge magnified by the muscular demands of speedskating, according to Albertus Rohling.
"The first five to 10 laps, you're muscles are completely locked up," he said.
Rohling, a 36-year-old native of the Netherlands, has the unique athletic skills the BladeRunner demands. He skated on his homeland's national team, moved to West Allis in 1999 and has become a top-level runner and cyclist in the region.
He won the 2011 Icebreaker Indoor Marathon, with a time of 2:45:58.
"Most endurance athletes like to try new things just to see how far they can push their bodies," said Rohling, an engineer with Jahnke & Jahnke Associates. "This is something different. I think a lot of skaters are worried they can't run the half marathon; their bodies aren't use to it. I say 'just try it.' I'm up for anything."
That might be an understatement.
On the Icebreaker/BladeRunner weekend, he plans to start the 25K skate race at 8 a.m. Saturday, follow that with the half marathon (48 laps) starting at 9:30, then return on Sunday for the full marathon and another 95.5 laps in the Pettit. His total will be 205.5 laps on skate and foot.
To prepare for the BladeRunner, Rohling has ramped up his time on the ice, from the once or twice a year that followed his career in the Netherlands. Recently, he skated for an hour, then ran 90 minutes, a relatively close match to the times expected in the unusual duathlon.
And, he has done a triathlon with a skate element, back home.
Olusegun Sijuwade fully appreciates the significant physiological difference between skating and running. The organizer of the USA Speedskating Marathon National Championships has skated competitively since the early 1990s, and housed Olympic gold medalist Shani Davis during his time training in Milwaukee.
Sijuwade also runs to stay in shape.
The lower body position on the ice, and the need to generate maximum power with each stride, stresses the core and hip muscles much differently than running, he said. He likened a skate marathon to staying in a downhill skier's tuck for an hour.
Like Ponteri, Sijuwade hopes that the BladeRunner will help draw a bit more attention to the national championships, which he estimates will draw 50 to 60 participants.
Memories of running cross-country for the Slinger Owls motivated Tom Held to get his body moving again when he turned 30. Almost two decades later, he's still on the move. The 49-year-old bikes, runs and skis, and covers news for similarly active people as a freelance writer and blogger.
He spent 26 years as a daily news reporter, and applies that experience to dig out stories about athletes, races, endurance sports, fitness and self-propelled transportation. His work has appeared in Silent Sports Magazine, Wisconsin Trails and Cross-Country Skier.
Held lives in the Bay View neighborhood, where he counts being Dad to twin daughters part of his daily workout.