For the 48th daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Peter Doucet. Peter is a 42-year-old inline skater and elementary school teacher living in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. He has been running the website speedskateworld.com since 1999 and is the President of the Toronto Inline Skating Club.
What is the current situation with COVID-19 in Canada?
Sadly COVID-19 is burrowed deeply in Long-Term Care homes. This is a tragedy and is super challenging for those involved to get a handle of and control. A lot of businesses and City services are closed, including schools, daycares, gyms, and many retailers. Some businesses are allowed to offer curbside pick-up and delivery.
Thankfully leaders at the City, Regional (county), Provincial (State), and Federal levels have been sensible and are taking this seriously and are heeding advice from Health agencies and professionals. Wage subsidies have been promptly deposited into bank accounts, insurance rates have been lowered, and cable companies have offered channels free of charge. It’s not all perfect or ideal, but we’ve come together to manage and cope.
I think there’s a serious effort by Canadians to help mitigate the spread and impact of COVID-19 even in the face of very difficult financial hardship for many. There’s an approach of “We’re all in this together” so we do what we can.
Are you still skating?
I’m not skating very much these days. I roll around the neighborhood here and there with my daughter who I am trying to pass the joy of freedom on to. I’m motivated to skate but don’t need to right now.
This is a great time to take care of old injuries and heal up. I am also taking this time to review my approach to training and I’m leaning towards keeping things simple: I will focus mostly on technique, which isn’t quite simple, and aim to correct many imperfections and inefficiencies with how I skate. I have tons of power but I either don’t access it or I delete my own power with incorrect movements and improper timing and parasitical & extraneous movements.
For the last 8 years, the majority of my on-skate training volume has been while I coach at the Toronto Inline Skating Club and skate to practice. I throw in a few sprints here and there, and lead certain intervals because I still tend to be one of the faster skaters and am really good at hitting given lap times and keeping skaters on target. With practices off the schedule for the foreseeable future, skating as training is pretty much off the table. Now I’m training and spending time on the bike.
Where are you going out to skate?
When I skate while my daughter is on her tricycle, I stay near her on the sidewalk. Otherwise, I’ll do a couple of laps around the block once in a while or I’ll head over to a store to pick up a one-off item such as 2-stroke engine oil for my leaf blower.
I love that there is much less traffic on the streets and maybe I should take advantage of this. Except the streets around my neighborhood and in Mississauga still have a buzz- there’s fairly heavily used roads and I feel like motorists are now driving faster that usual and are less attentive than they would normally be because there is less traffic to deal with. I don’t feel like having my skate run over! But still, there are a couple of roads-one in particular is a 5km loop that I use to prepare for the fall North American races- Duluth, the 100k, and A2A. It has 3 traffic lights and 7 stop signs, so if I want, I can hop on there and get some decent training volume.
If you haven’t stopped skating, what would make you stop?
My skates exploding is the only thing that will make me stop skating. That and rain. And maybe snow. I don’t know if you saw the video I produced for my website SpeedSkateWorld.com, but I created a tutorial for skating in the snow. It’s brilliantly done and probably one of the best videos out there. I’m not training on skates very much these days, but I do doodle around the neighborhood and even played roller hockey on the street and driveway a couple of times.
Are you doing any cross training?
I’m spending a lot of time on the bike. Over the last 10 years, and more so since 2014, bike racing has crept up as the place where I currently place most of my competitive urges. It’s not cross training per se, but there are some benefits of what I am doing that will positively impact skating, including weight loss (or at least not letting myself balloon and become heavy) and aerobic capacity. Being heavy in the New York 100k or Athens to Atlanta is punishing. I’m sure if I laid off chocolate Yohoos and M&M’s I would win everything because I’d be light as a feather! I’d float up the hills past Francisco Ramirez and Eddy Matzger, humiliating them and beating them by 1 hour. Sonic, Kent, and Trenter would have no hope of even drafting me. Of course I’m joking…
I’m using weights in a very light program to help retain some muscle mass, and hopefully develop a bit of strength.
All my work can only be helpful for skating if I work on and apply proper training, speed work, and a solid interval training program. For now, it’ll be technique, and when there’s clear reopening of events, I’ll put in speed work and interval training to adapt and reinforce and integrate and merge the skating movement with intensity.
Every year, my goal is to be ready for the big three fall events: Northshore Inline Marathon, New York 100k, and Athens to Atlanta. The aim is to skate well and be as competitive as possible in those events. I’ve been in the lead pack and medaled in each of those three events – first time in the New York 100k as 2nd in 1997 and most recently 3rd in 2015, Northshore Inline Marathon 3rd overall in Pro/ Elite in 2003 & 8th overall in World Cup, and several times at Athens to Atlanta starting in 2006 and most recently I 2019, and I’ve also suffered and been dropped from the field in those races But I’ve always done my best and I always dream of performances that are better than I am.
These are all super good events where we as a skating community converge and skate & party it up! I love those races and I am so grateful to those putting the events together and brining them back year after year. They are providing an incredible experience to skaters. All the people who put those races together and volunteer and support them give us the opportunity to experience the world in a unique way. I’ve had great times like crashing Sonic’s place and him waking me up at 5:30am, eating pizza in Athens with Jay Morgan, walking around the Duluth Convention Centre and chatting with Tony Muse and containing my excitement of chatting up with one of my skating idols! Skating events close to home allowed my family to come and be with me during competitive events, I’ve woken up in Korea and gone to sleep in Canada. None of this is possible without all who give and put in time and energy in making events possible.
What other activities are you doing to occupy your time?
The two most important foci are family and work.. I love spending valuable hours with my partner in crime Morgane and our wild almost 4 year old daughter Sophie. And then there’s work. Teaching remotely has its own intensity and pace, and migrating classrooms into the virtual realm poses its own challenges.
A mantra that one of my best friends Eric Gee slipped my way is “Not enough hours in the day”. This is so true! I have several interests and commitments that make it that I have a lot to do. And a lot of it is meaningful and with purpose.
I volunteer as head of speed for Roller Sports Canada and Toronto Inline Skating Club, and even if they’re not very active, there is still plenty of administrative work that needs to be addressed. We’re facing a chronically underdeveloped sport and we’re anemic in clubs, events, officials, and volunteers. The challenges are great and we’re doing our best to move things along. Simple administrative work such as updating policies, translating them into French, dealing with insurance challenges is incredibly resource intensive in terms of volunteer hours. I would rather do less and be more, but I understand that do be, you sometimes have to do.
I love composing and making and playing music. I liked to pick up my guitar or sit at the piano and work on scales, neat progressions, or work on covering a song I like.
I spend time of course training on the bike and racing on Zwift, which is an online virtual cycling platform where you can race head-to-head with others in a virtual world while you’re on your bike that is attached to a trainer. It so happens that I bought a smart trainer that I cannot afford; the Tacx Neo T2 and set up 3 fans, speakers, and a table in the basement. I ride 5-6 nights per week after my daughter goes to bed (once it’s clear that she’s asleep and won’t coming waddling out of the bedroom all confused and mixed-up).
I am not doing a heavily structured program on the bike, but there’s method to my riding and my power numbers and performances are slowly getting better and the heart rate required to work at given powers is coming down. I tend to have a higher heart rate; I can average 185bpm in a race and max out at a bmp of 205. Someone asked once “How do you know your maximum heart rate?. The answer is simple: your max heart rate is the highest bmp has reached. Anyways I’m still getting to know my power numbers on the bike so I can understand that data and then apply it to training. I need to buy a power meter so I can get real-world watts outside on the road because ultimately that’s where training and racing will happen.
There’s a lot of housework that needs to be completed: I’ve declared war on the weeds in my backyard and I think I’m winning. Mind you they’re good at hiding under the grass. I used some Scott’s Weed-B-Gone and I hope it works because my fingers are sore from manually ripping out the darned pesky weeds.
My guilty pleasures in the time of COVID-19 are eating chocolate and playing Risk online! I’m good at and do a lot of both.
How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life?
In some ways, I’ve benefited, in other ways it has had a negative impact, and in other ways, COVID 19’s impact has been neutral. The negative impact is not seeing my friends. Although we play games like Cards Against Humanity via live video and things degenerate quickly and become very… how do I say this… concerning. Hahaha!
Another negative of this situation is not being able to coach, as well as skating and cycling races & events being cancelled. However it’s encouraging to see how skaters have embraced the online world, with Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19, Pascal Briand’s videos and live discussions and John Rogers’ quadrillion interviews- I believe he was recently recognized by USA Roller Sports, and rightfully so! Cyclists also have adapted, with many shifting to racing and riding on online virtual platforms like Zwift, Rouvy and Bkool.
On the most positive side, I am most grateful and thankful for having week after week of uninterrupted time with my daughter and partner. When will we ever have this chance again in our lives?
I haven’t suffered financially unlike many others have. My salary remains the same but a few expenses have gone down due to not spending money on racing, spending less on food and travel. I’m able to chip away at debt I’ve accumulated over years of racing and volunteering at the expense of working and making money. Thankfully interest rates on that debt is lowered, so I can breathe a bit and keep the collectors at bay.
I’ve also been able to take care of projects that would have taken years before I could even start them up such as building a playground for our daughter, building a shed for our skating club to store its equipment. I’m slowly plugging away at more items on my to-do list!
What are your major concerns right now and looking into the future?
I’m concerned for all those impacted by COVID-19, especially vulnerable individuals in long-term care facilities. One of my family members in such a facility has tested positive for COVID-19, and another is in a facility where COVID -19 is not yet on their floor but is expected to slip in, so I understand the fear, the concern, the challenges, and the pain.
I’m also concerned for those who are financially impacted- losing income, salary, business, resources, funds, and retirement.
I also worry about those who don’t have a good living arrangement with access to outdoor space and interesting & meaningful activities. I lived in a 36-story building from 2010 to 2014, and that would be a terrible place to be right now, especially with out daughter, dog, and cat. Although if we lived there now, we would not have the dog. He’s too big. He’s a good boy. A bit silly, but definitely good.
I am concerned that all the work and sacrifice we’ve put in to limit the spread will be undone, either by accident or deliberately by poor decisions. It’s difficult for me to judge others’ decisions, especially when those making the decisions are doing so because they are negatively impacted by lock downs. I say this because I am not in a bad situation when it comes to finances or social situation, so I’m in no position to judge or question. I am more judgmental and upset with those who don’t follow advice or protocol but are in a position to do so, but chose this not out of necessity, but out of disregard and disdain.
I’m concerned with the closure of roller rinks. I think that could really impact USA’s indoor scene. But at the same time, I think skaters, coaches, teams, and volunteers are versatile and knowledgeable and we’ll adapt, react, adjust, and grow. We haven’t disappeared and we’re invested and committed. We’re just on pause and it might take some work to get back and then excel, but we will get there.
How is your local skate community responding?
The local skating community is self-isolating and not getting together in any formal way. All the training I have seen others do is either solo or virtually online via group chats on Skype and Zoom. For example, Francisco Ramirez has a bunch of skaters getting together and racing. I’ve been invited but haven’t joined yet because I am handling my daughter Sophie and have to work. Victor Wilking promoted races for skates on Skaters Occupy Watopia that draw in world champions like Bart Swings and Quebec’s Jérôme Comtois-Urbain. I took part in a few but my computer or network was glitching because I was doing a 2TB file back-up to Carbonite. I did two of those races and all kinds of weird stuff was happening- bikes with no racers on them, racers suddenly turning into buildings or bushes, bikes moving sideways, everyone suddenly disappearing… wild bugs!!
Given I am the President of the Toronto Inline Skating Club (TISC), I have influence over its operations. The decision to open up will be made as a Board of Directors, and will be based on City, Provincial, and National authorities and will take safety for members, volunteers, and all others as the primary consideration. I can’t wait to continue to grow the youth program at TISC. The kids are committed, come from super nice families, and are really fun to be around at practice, and they listen well and do their best! The grown ups are intense in a good way, smart, kind, and motivated. I look forward to seeing them, including Candy Wong and the food and enthusiasm she brings. I also look forward to seeing Larry Magloire who’s been around TISC since the early 1990’s and coaches short track speed skating in Brampton. And Scott Pauley who needs to come out to set blazing lap times, especially on the slippery floor at indoors where going sub-10 is a feat unto its own.
I’m also leading the Speed Committee on behalf of Roller Sports Canada, and am thereby embedded in the decisions about running the Canadian Championships planned for Halifax in early August and the Canada Roller Marathon 2020 for mid-September. We’re all hoping these events could be held this year. Halifax is really interesting to me as a location for the Canadian Championships. Montreal, thanks to VRL and its awesome volunteers including Pierre Laurent, Pascal Dubreuil, Pierra Vernex, Olivier Jean Baptiste and Carole Dumas to name a few, has done a great job elevating skating in their area, and thereby in Canada. The Speedy Kidz, out of Halifax-ish area, has so many young skaters, it’s inspiring. They came to the Canadian Championships for the first time in 2019 and looked like they’d been doing this forever. I was really impressed by their team attitude- they were a real team, a real community and they knew what to do. That’s a sign of good leadership, solid coaching, and athletes & families who take things seriously and do it well. And they were really easy to talk with and get along with. For that reason and for their good leadership, I predict really good things for them. I love that skating is alive there. Between Montreal-area, Halifax-area, and Toronto-area skaters, there’s light for Canada!
To be honest with you though, I am not worried if the Canadian events won’t happen this year because each of the clubs, event organizers, coaches, and promoters are passionate, dedicated, and are on-board for the long run. I have complete trust in everyone and we have been communicating and are looking beyond to when COVID-19 is no more.
Do you have anything you’d like to add?
My message to everyone involved in skating: coaches, volunteers, event organizers, athletes, sport administrators, officials, media, vendors, writers, video makers, page and group hosts- thank you for your ongoing commitment is deeply impactful and appreciated. Please hold on.
To all of you hurting and suffering, please reach out and connect. We’re not in the same boat, but we’re in the same storm and there are kind people out there who are willing to let you on to help you shelter and make it out of the storm. Whatever position you’re in, reach out.
- Follow Peter Doucet on Instagram.
- Visit speedskateworld.com to keep up with everything in the world of inline and ice speed skating.
- Follow Speed Skate World on Facebook and and join their Facebook Group.
- Visit torontoinlinespeed.com to find out more about the Toronto Inline Skating Club.
- Follow the Toronto Inline Skating Club on Facebook.
- Go to Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 to read more interviews from skaters from around the world.
- Go to Essential Workers – Inline Skaters on the Front Lines of COVID-19 to read about inline skaters from around the world who are considered Essential Workers.
- For our full COVID-19 coverage go here.
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