Badass Butterflies and The Joy of Skating

“I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates, you’ve got a brand new key. I think that we should get together and try them out to see…”
Melanie Safka, circa 1971

Photo courtesy of Google images
Photo courtesy of Google images

When I was little, my sisters and I would strap a pair of these onto our sneakers and tool around the neighborhood.

Photo courtesy of Google images
Photo courtesy of Google images

When I was in middle school, we skated around the gymnasium on Friday nights, lights dimmed, our favorite music playing, and hoping the boy of our dreams would ask us to skate.

Photo courtesy of Google Images
Photo courtesy of Google Images

Though the technology of roller skates has changed dramatically over the years, the joy of skating is alive and well. And it’s more than just a recreational activity. It’s a world-wide phenomenon. A sport unto itself.

And so, when my sister Pamela mentioned that she wanted to skate a marathon, I said I would do it with her. I mean, how hard could it be? Yes, it’s 26.2 miles. But I’ve run that distance several times. I’ve even walked it. How hard could it be to cover the distance with a set of wheels to propel me?

Answer? Much harder than I expected.

I’ll be honest. Before my first training skate, I lumped rollerblading into the same category as Curling, slightly above Dominoes, the national sport of Jamaica (right behind cricket). Not a “real” sport. Not the kind of sport that, if practiced regularly, would increase muscle strength and endurance. Not the kind that would leave you sweaty and breathless and feeling no guilt about the mound of pancakes you might consider having after a long, hard work-out.

Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince
Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Every training skate was harder than the one before. I battled hills (imagine climbing steep hills with little wheels attached to your feet), brutal winds, and behemoth-sized blisters. And at the end of every skate, I was spent. Completely and utterly spent.

Pamela (left) and Suzanne.
Pamela (left) and Suzanne.

But by race day, I was ready! Last Sunday, Pamela and I donned our wings and headed to the beautiful Napa Valley. We skated on the Silverado Trail, surrounded by lush vineyards, on a perfect, cloudy morning. We climbed one hill after another and coasted downhill amidst a generous cross-wind. We ate our Gu, drank our Gatorade and reveled in the cheers of the crowd gathered at the finish line waiting for the last skaters to finish (yes, that’s correct, we finished last).

Badass Butterfly (aka Pamela)
Badass Butterfly (aka Pamela)

I’m proud to say that we finished last. Proud because, unlike all the others behind us (there were three), we didn’t quit. Proud because we skated in recreational skates that have smaller wheels rather than the fitness skates with badass wheels that the others wore. Proud because the others weren’t wearing butterfly wings which, contrary to popular belief, do not actually lift you up and carry you but instead create drag in the wind.

Butterflies before flight. Photo by Howard Yune (Napa Valley Register).  Caption: Butterfly props were among some of the more unusual costumes sported by racers in Sunday's 22nd annual Napa Valley Inline Marathon and Half Marathon. —
Butterflies before flight. Photo by Howard Yune (Napa Valley Register).
Caption: Butterfly props were among some of the more unusual costumes sported by racers in Sunday’s 22nd annual Napa Valley Inline Marathon and Half Marathon. —

And hey, if you’re going to finish last, you might as well look good doing it. And make the front page of the newspaper to boot.

A Note to Curlers:
I’m willing to concede that, because I was so dreadfully wrong about skating being a true sport, I am very likely wrong about curling. In fact, I’ll go one step further and apologize, not only to all the curlers out there, but to their fans as well. In particular, to my friend Missy Simpkins. I mean, curling has done what roller-skating has not been able to do—it has become an Olympic sport!

What do think? Should roller skating be an Olympic sport? Do you think Curling is a “real” sport?

9 comments on… “Badass Butterflies and The Joy of Skating”

  1. You should be proud of your accomplishment. Finishing is something to celebrate, and it matters more than where you finished.

    I’ve wanted a pair of rollerblades for a long time, but we just don’t have a lot of safe paved roads around our house to skate on. We live in the country, so it’s mostly gravel roads and the roads that are paved are too busy.

    • Hi Marcy! Definitely proud of the accomplishment. And of my sister! It was her first endurance event and she rocked it. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Your story sounds like so much fun. Years ago, my athlete sister thought completing a sprint triathlon was easy. She listened to my training but still thought “how hard can it be”. She thought that right up until you completed one (with me) and was second to last. She ended the race feeling good she attempted it and with a new respect for how hard it is to mix all those sports together in one race (even if it’s a short race!). I love your story and that you said “yes” when the idea was presented. I roller blade around our neighborhood but can’t imagine a marathon!! Well done!

    • LOL. I know, how hard could a sprint triathlon be, right? It’s all a matter of perspective. The skate marathon was fun. At least as much fun as one can have while pushing themselves hard for 3 hours. I’d forgotten what it was like to push myself that hard. It felt good.

  3. No, curling is not a real sport and it never will be in my book. I’m sure there’s some “skill” to it, but I’m pretty sure just about anyone could do it.

    Good for you for participating in this event. It’s so nice that you got an opportunity to spend time with your sister and do something new and different. Gives you a new appreciation, which always keeps me humble.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • It really is wonderful to see my sister revel in her accomplishments. I spent a decade doing crazy endurance stuff and I forgot what it feels like to do something amazing for the first time. There’s nothing like you’re first time 😉


  4. mx simpkins


    Congrats on your accomplishment! I wish you lived in Illinois because id love to have you come out and try curling with us this Monday. You’d be amazed at the workout. Sure not like a marathon but short intense bursts of energy. Plus its done on ice and falling is never pretty. I challenge you to try curling.

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