In this segment, NorthShore interviews a select, exclusive group of skaters who have completed every single NorthShore Inline Marathon since the inaugural race in 1996.
Today, we talk to Denise Deboer-Stutelberg from Minnetonka, Minnesota. She helps run an ice rink in Minnetonka that supports youth and high school hockey.
NorthShore (NS): What is your history with inline skating and how were you introduced to the sport?
Denise Deboer-Stutelberg (DD): Well, I’ve always been in athletics. All kinds… anything. Skating always looked like fun. I had a girlfriend who I borrowed skates from and did a race in St. Paul, just about killed myself because I had no training and just went! After that, my kids started playing hockey at a young age. I went from hockey skates from figure skates. Inline skates were a natural transition from there and once I put them on, I couldn’t find enough events to go to.
For many years, did the Sun 75 as a training route before the marathon started. That was inline’s hey-day… got introduced to the inline marathon, and so we said “let’s go do a marathon!”.
NS: Do you skate with a group? Do you have a coach or anything like that?
DD: We used to have a large group to skate with. I could make any number of phone calls and we’d have all kinds of people to go out an train anywhere. From the days of Sun 75, most of our training was done around Baker. We’d skate roads, we’d skate any sort of paved trail we could get on.
I’ve never had a coach. I’ve picked up some hints online and and from people who have done the race.
NS: For those who aren’t familiar, what is the Sun 75?
DD: That was a fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and it was a skate from Hinckley to Duluth over two days. 45 miles one day and 30 miles the next day. And we would camp overnight, usually in Moose Lake. It was a great training route because you had to pound out a big skate, there was a big party and a huge, huge deal!
I really miss it. We used to go with a large group of people and that’s where we got to know a lot of friends who also did the marathon. It was a neat event.
NS: What about the 1996 race… the very first one. Where did you hear about the NorthShore Inline Marathon and why did you sign up?
DD: I believe it went back to the Sun 75 and it was advertised there. I thought that’s where I heard it from. I asked people from my team if anybody wanted to do it with me and got a girlfriend to join me. We just wanted to just go do it and have fun. We were waiting at the top of hills and waving, having a good time and we actually placed in the top 10 or something. Afterwards we said we could have put our heads down and really gone, but it was fun!
We were just overwhelmed by the number of people. It was huge. I remember the buses were panicking a little bit and thought they needed more! The sea of people was endless. You had to wait in line to get a chair and for the toilet. I do remember that the race went on really well even in its first year.
NS: What makes you come back year after year?
DD: First of all is the love of inline skating. I love being with friends and family. I love the joy that I got out of doing the race with long time friends that were with me for years and those who have skated with me just once or a couple of times.
Also, it’s the commitment to exercise. That is a lot of it. Coming back year after year, it is that good of an event. You remember the feeling of crossing that finish line and celebrating with your family and friends and fellow skaters, because you’re all best friends when you finish because you’ve skated together for the whole race… everybody is high-fiving and talking about the race.
Maybe it’s a euphemism, but there is definitely a big “high”, and it’s just plain a very doable race.
NS: When did you realize doing every race is your “thing”?
DD: After a while you start getting the pins: the five-year pin and the ten-year pin. My goal was to do it for 20 years and then after that, I just wanted to finish one year at a time! (laughs) I can only commit to the next year!
It always gives us a great excuse to go to Duluth because Duluth is a great town. After doing 5 years in a row, 10 years in a row, 15 years, I just said let’s just keep the commitment! Let’s see how many years I can do this!
NS: Do you have a favorite NSIM moment?
DD: I’m skating along and a guy is helping pull our train. Conversations happen, blah blah blah, and it turns out the guy’s name I was talking to was Scott, and he invented Rollerblades! I said “oh my gosh you’re like a celebrity!” but he was very humble and shrugged it off (laughs) I told him he was really the reason that we were all in on this. I took a picture with Scott [Olson] at the finish line because we skated together. It was a cool experience.
NS: What is your favorite aspect of the NSIM? What makes the race unique to you?
DD: The finish line couldn’t be more fun. It doesn’t matter who is around you, you just want to beat the person in front of you. To be able to come around the corner… everyone is out and cheering you on. The volunteers and spectators all along the route make the race really, really fun. The food at the end… the athletes are treated well.
NS: What is your best advice for someone who has never done an inline marathon or doesn’t think they can complete 26 miles on skates?
DD: You can ABSOLUTELY do a marathon. I tried running a marathon and that is for the birds! (laughs) A marathon on skates is very doable. You just need to get on the skates. You need to get comfortable on skates and its tough to do on, like hockey rink inline skates. There are easier ways to get there and get it done with the right equipment. It’s easier with recreational or race skates.
Get on a routine, get comfortable on your skates and you can get it done. I would encourage anybody to give it a try. But you do need to be comfortable on skates, so find a place where you can get out and practice.
One last thought: practice going fast because fast is fun!
NS: What is your equipment setup?
DD: Back in 2005, I bought a NorthShore Inline Marathon shirt and now I wear it for every NSIM race. I wear slide-guard wrist guards but I don’t recommend it for everyone because you have to know that you’ll slide if you fall. You have to wear a helmet. Always wear a helmet.
Right now the skates I have are Powerslide. I really like these… they are 100mm wheels. They’re a couple years old but working really well for me. They are the lower boot style. The race skates took a little while to get used to but not too bad.
NS: What is your training like?
DD: What I used to do is grab any piece of pavement I could find. Over the years, one consistent training area that I go to is Baker Park. It’s a 6.25 mile loop, it has hills, it has turns. I always say “one more lap around Baker”. The terrain at Baker is much more difficult than the actual NorthShore, so if you can get around Baker two times, you can finish it. Three times you can finish it stronger, and four times you can COMPETE in this race. Back in the day, we’d put on anywhere from 800-1,200 miles on our skates each summer. Now, I do a lot of cross-training, mountain biking on trails and up at Cuyuna Park. I’ll do anything! I’ll water ski, I’ll run… well I should say “jog”. Walking, snowshoeing, spin classes, anything to get it done. When you know that you have a race that you’re going to, you have a bigger priority.
NS: Do you have any favorite workouts or training tips?
DD: My favorite workout, again, is going around Baker. Nothing has been better for getting me in shape for the race. My biggest training tip is to just get out there!
Side note: for anyone who wants to check out Baker Park Reserve in Maple Plain, MN, visit https://www.threeriversparks.org/location/baker-park-reserve for more information.