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John Silker's Over-Fifty 24 Hour Record
July 2002 - Illinois, United States

John Silker
Copyright © John Silker

Longest Distance Skated in a 24 Hour Period by a Solo Skater Over 50 Years of Age, Outdoor Road Skating
DATE - Noon July 12th to Noon July 13th 2002
LOCATION - Huntley, Illinois, USA

On July 13, 2002, 50 year old John Silker established a world's record for longest distance skated in a 24 hour period by a solo skater over 50 years of age, outdoor road skating. John skated 282 miles in just under 24 hours and the event took place at Del Webb's Sun City in Huntley, Illinois, United States.

As a 6 feet 2 inch, 220 pound teacher, John is not your typical endurance athlete. He did not even start skating until age 46, four years before his attempt to establish a world's record. The purpose of the record-setting event was to raise money for the Gaver's Community Cancer Foundation (John's mother died of cancer when he was age 19). Another purpose was to encourage and inspire older athletes and establish a higher standard and expectation for what those athletes can achieve.

For more information contact:

John Silker, 13212 Route 14
Woodstock, Illinois 60098 USA
Email - silker2000@stans.com

John's Story

This event was one of the toughest ordeals I have ever gotten myself into. In 1983 I finished 5th in the Race Across America, a 3,250 mile transcontienal bicycle race, and I have competed in numerous other events throughout the years. But I have always competed against distance and never against time, which is a different animal altogether.

I started ice speed skating 4 years ago in 1998, and for what ver reason just fell in love with it. By the end of the 2002 season I will have skated approximately 5,000 miles. Amazingly, I do have a life as a husband, father, and teacher.

Nothing in Moderation
Moderation is something I ve never done very well. Recently I was watching the movie "Michael", starring Jon Travolta, where he pours huge amounts of sugar on everything. He comments, "You can never eat too much sugar". I understood. My mother tried to practice moderation with me at meals in high school. I left the table hungry and was back at the refrigerator 15 minutes later making a snack. And it wasn t just food, it was sports too.

John Skated 86 Miles from Athens to Atlanta
The longer the race, the better I like it. I've never been fast. There are hundreds of skaters who can beat me, and have. But for some reason I have the ability to go slow for a very long time. My first bicycle race was 800 miles and I finished 10th. The second was 3,250 miles and I finished 5th. The longest race I could find in inline skating was the 86 mile Athens to Atlanta Road Skate. I finished the skate, but due to some equipment problems I was pretty well beat up. Still, just completing A2A gave me enough confidence to set myself a goal of establishing a Men's age 50+ twenty-four hour inline skating world record, since I was going to turn fifty in January of 2002.

Any Distance Would be a Record
Because there was no established "over-50 24 hour record" any distance I covered would be a world's record. However, everyone has their pride and I wanted to set a challenging mark for other, more talented skaters to shoot for. Many people have asked me why there was no current record for the 50+ age group and I really didn't know. Now I understand. It is one of the most difficult challenges I have ever undertaken.

John Was the Skater and the Organizer
I had to wear a multitude of different hats. I was the event director, volunteer coordinator, publicist, promoter, and last but not least, the athlete. I was on the phone or the computer at least two hours a night trying to get everything set up and organized. Setting a world record is extremely complex. A venue must be secured, the course distance has to be certified, insurance must be purchased, and officials and a USOC-level drug test must be arranged for. Volunteers, all family and friends, must be organized. It required over 20 volunteers, 7 of whom were with me for the entire 24 hours. The costs ran into several thousand dollars, to say nothing of the cost of skating equipment and clothing.

Why John Did It
When the logistics got overwhelming I would put on my skates and try to remember the two reasons why I was doing this in the first place. First, when I was 19 my mother had died of cancer. My 24 hour attempt would help to raise money for the Gaver s Community Cancer Foundation. Second, skating is a passion that gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction. I love to skate. Since 2001 I have skated almost 5000 miles to prepare for this event. Maybe the simple rhythm is good for my simple mind.

Everything is Ready for the Skate
Finally, one week before the event, all the loose ends came together and the event was ready to proceed. We were blessed. The summer had been a series of scorching hot days and muggy nights. The weekend of July 12th and 13th, 2002 bought a break in the heat. Friday's high temperature was predicted to be only 80. The event would start at noon at Del Webb sa Sun City complex in Huntley, IL. 45 miles NW of Chicago. The sky was blue and the 2.6 miles course was flat with only a slight rise over bridge crossing a small creek. The road surface had been perfect just weeks before the event but recent construction traffic had dropped a considerable amount of debris on the road. The Del Webb folks set out 2 street sweepers to clean up the mess but several hours of manual sweeping by volunteers was required to make the course safe and skateable.

The Skate Begins
After my equipment nightmares at A2A I resolved myself to get the right skates to allow me the best chance to establish a respectable age group record. Through the years I had become good friends with Andy Lundstrom from Denver, CO. Andy designs and manufactures the Xenan brand custom skates the most recent version sporting 100 mm wheels. The larger wheels, lightness of the boot and the tremendous fit would all be critical factors when skating for 24 continuous hours. I bit the bullet and invested in the custom Xenan skates. This was probably the best decision I could have made.

The First 6 Hours
The start of any event is kind of a grace period. The expectations are high and the adrenaline is flowing. Just 6 hours into the event, however, the realization hit me; Geez, what the heck were you thinking? What did you get yourself into this time? We had already covered 84 miles. The skating had been effortless, but my mind kept thinking 18 hours to go. Normally when I do events I m able to get into a zone, an altered state of consciousness that allows you to put aside the task at hand and focus on other things. But at that time I kept focusing on the clock, how much time left. The positive side was that I was skating without effort. The thousands of miles I had logged in training this year served me well as a base and my muscles were performing without conscious thought.

Originally Hoped to Skate 300 Miles
When I had first considered setting a 24 hours record, I had thought that 300 miles would be a reasonable goal. The more I learned and trained and the more I talked to other skaters the more that original goal started to creep down. By the time we started at noon I was hoping to do at least 240 miles. 10 miles and hour pace wouldn t be that bad for a 50 year old man.

8 hours and 111 Miles Into the Skate
At the 1st 8-hour point we had covered 111 miles, which put us on pace to break the men s overall world record of 331 miles. However, I had figured, whatever I was able to do the 1st 8 hours I could do about 80% of that the second 8 hours and 80% of that the last 8 hours. But still that meant a 280 - 290 mile 24 hour was a very good possibility.

John's Support Crew
All contact with my support crew, consisting of my wife, Deb, my children, Doran and Kate, Bruce Taira, (Medical staff) and Jerry Miceli, (Head timer) could only occur at the home base by Wild Flower Lake. Through running handoffs they kept me fed with liquid nutrition and hydrated, occasionally supplementing the fluids with a sandwich and fruit throughout the day. Now as night fell it was time to come in for the first real break of the event. Well, not so much of a break as getting ready for the dark hours ahead. The lighting system was put on and within 3 minutes I as back out on the course. Up until this point I had only been off the course for several washroom breaks. I can remember thinking how good my feet felt and how little effort I had to exert when skating.

12 Hours and 158 Miles
I didn t tell my crew but I had never actually skated at night before. One of those little details you just don t get to when dealing with all the other tasks. But with the road surface having had the construction traffic on it I was a little concerned. Several laps with the helmet light and the lights from the follow vehicle that carried the officials and there was no problem. I just had to be careful to pick the right line. With the darkness also came much cooler temperatures and a total lack of any wind. I settled into a steady pace and by midnight, the 12-hour point, we hit 158 miles. At this point we took a 16-minute break to get a massage.

The greatest thing about taking the break was not being off the skates but rather, talking to other human being. They seemed really excited about what was going on. I had, several hours ago, decided that this was a little crazy, although I never told them, and I was just hoping they didn t hate me for getting them into this. But they seem genuinely into the event and I just kept my mouth shut. Besides I was actually enjoying the skating and what a great adventure, I mean how many people have ever tried this?

What it Was Like
Music has always relaxed me. Throughout the event I listened to the stereo. Normally, the music takes me places, but tonight while I enjoyed the tunes I was constantly aware of the time element. The other factor that started to affect me was the loneliness. I really felt alone. During the day there had been lots of people out walking and exercising but now the loneliness of the night set in. I constantly had to resist the urge to go in for a break, not because I needed a physical break, but because I wanted to take my mind off the damn clock and talk to someone.

16 Hour Break
Finally at 4:00 am I decided to take a break. The eastern sky was just starting to brighten up, but I kept thinking about the fact that I had 8 hours to go. I needed to talk to someone. I had a small blister that was starting to form on my left foot and I figured it was as any excuse to take a break.

Moral Support from Friends
Just as I pulled in some skating buddies from Rockford, pull into the rest stop. They had driven over at what they thought might be a low spot mentally and were there to help pull me through. Their timing was great. I had 4 people massaging my legs, shoulders and arms while Bruce patched up my blister. Bruce then stretched out a tight hamstring and I just lay there for about 5 minutes. I felt silly just lying there but I really didn t want to leave the people.

Back out on the course, after 14 minutes of break, I was extremely chilly. I spent the whole 1st lap shivering. It didn t take long to get into the rhythm. The blister patch really helped the foot and every thing seemed to be going well.

I saw my friends van and waved as I thought they were heading home. A minute later I heard some honking and looked over to see the van passing me with two huge moons in thongs hanging out the back. By the time I got to the Wild Flower home base they were standing behind a sign that said No Drafting. They had their shirts off and rolled up their pants so it looked like they had no clothes on. As I rolled by I gave them a large squirt of water. They jumped and I rolled on down the course laughing to myself.

At this point my plan was to skate for a few hours and take another break. Not that I needed it physically, but the fact that I had to keep going for the 7 more hours was weighing on me. Every other event I have ever done was based on distance. When you get it done your finished. But in a 24 timed event you have to keep going regardless of how far you go. It requires a different mindset. One I was not prepared for.

I had resolved myself to the fact that we would probably hit about 250 miles. But my crew kept talking about 280. When I wanted to come in and take a break, Jerry would say you can t come in. You got to keep going. Oprah did 280, you got to beat that. (Later I asked Jerry what that meant, he said Oprah ran the Chicago Marathon and every one wanted to see if they beat Oprah s time.) Personally I just think he was just getting slaphappy from no sleep. Well, no matter, it worked.

21 Hours
About 9:00 am one of the crew was holding up a sign. It read 25 miles. Meaning we had 25 miles to go to break 280. Now I know the men s overall World Record is 331 miles but for an old guy who just started skating a couple of years ago that s pretty respectable mark.

24 Hours!
The crowd started to grow at Wild Flower Lake. With just over 15 minutes left I had had enough and I pulled off the course and into Wild flower home base and called it a day, literally 24 hours. The total distance covered was 282 miles. It was a very emotional moment. When you work so very hard with other people to reach a goal that has a great cause it s pretty easy to get choked up. Not to let me get too sentimental my daughter and a friend dump a cooler of ice water over my head. (No Gatorade, this was a low budget operation.) I almost jumped up out of the chair but I couldn t. It brought laughter to the moment and reminded me to keep it light.

Looking Back
The culmination of a goal can be like the loss of a good friend. While I definitely enjoyed the whole process I did not like the loneliness associated with the solo, nose against the wind feature of the world record rules. Next time I will find an event that is already set up and you can socialize during the event. Did I say next time? What am I thinking? Maybe I ll practice some moderation? No, you can never eat too much sugar.

24 Hour Record Attempts by Other Skaters
2002 Cyril Carcano's 24 Hour Skate (Paced) Mogema USA
2001 Kent Baake's 24 Hour Skate NRGbars.com
2000 Anthony Rondel's 24 Hour Skate OceanetLemans.com
1999 Sandy Snakenberg's 24 Hour Skate FaSST.com
1999 Kent Baake's Story About.com
1997 Uwe Brockmann's 24 Hour Skate Use Net

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