Blades: They range from 40 to 48cm in length and are approximately 1.1mm thick. The high tempered, carbon steel blade has very little rocker, or curve compared to hockey or figure skates and permits speed skaters to glide in long, straight lines.
Long track speed skaters use clap skates. The blade on a clap skate detaches at the heel. There is a spring-loaded hinge under the ball of the foot, which serves to snap the blade back into its original position. This allows the skater’s blade to discharge a greater amount of energy on the ice with a resulting increase in traction and, therefore, acceleration.
Over time, the angles get rounded off causing the skate to lose sharpness, thus causing slips during the push. The type of ice that the skater races on affects the sharpness of the blade. Natural outdoor ice dulls the blades more quickly than artificial indoor ice. High performance skaters hand sharpen their blades after every race using a specially designed jig. The procedure takes at least 15-20 minutes per pair. For maximum efficiency during the push, the edges of the blades must be at perfect 90-degree angles.
Boot: The speed skate boot is made of leather and a carbon graphite base. The upper part of the boot is less rigid than a short track boot and it is cut lower on the ankle. Many skaters have gone to a custom boot that has been designed from a mold taken from the athlete’s actual foot. To increase the feel of the skates on the ice, many skaters refrain from wearing socks.
Skin suit: To minimize air resistance, speed skaters wear tight fitting spandex suits with an aerodynamic hood and thumb loops. Aerodynamic strips are also placed on the legs and arms to reduce friction caused while skating. Most skaters use eyewear to enhance vision or to prevent their eyes from tearing caused by the wind. Some sprinters will opt to wear a glove for the start.
ISU: The ISU (International Skating Union) is the international governing body for competitive ice skating disciplines, including figure skating, synchronized skating, speed skating, and short track speed skating. Founded in 1892, it is one of the oldest international sport federations. The ISU was formed to establish standardized international rules and regulations for the skating disciplines that it governs, and to organize international competitions in these disciplines.
Distances: The traditional distances include 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m, 3,000m, 5,000m and 10,000m.
500m – One and a quarter laps
1,000m – Two and a half laps
1,500m – Three and three quarter laps
3,000m – Seven and a half laps
5,000m – Twelve and a half laps
10,000m – Twenty five laps (Not raced at the Canada Games)
There are two newer events: the 100m and Team Pursuit.
100m – One quarter of the track on the straightaway
Men’s Team Pursuit – 8 laps
Ladies Team Pursuit – 6 laps
Team Pursuit: The Team Pursuit has brought a team event to long track speed skating and it is raced in two formats: head to head elimination events or a time trial. At the Canada Winter Games it will be raced as a time trial. The pursuit involves three or four skater teams (four for Canada Winter Games), racing at the same time on the same 400 meter ice surface. The teams start on opposite sides of the Oval starting at a line in the middle of the straightaway. When the gun goes, each team begins the race skating in a train or single file. This allows the skaters in the back to conserve energy until it is their turn to lead. Only the inner lane is used. The finish time is taken as the third skater crosses the line. In pursuit style racing, it is extremely important that the skaters work as a team communicating to each other as they race.
100m Sprint: The 100m sprint is not a time trial. Instead, the skaters race in a series of elimination events with the winner advancing to the next round. At the Canada Winter Games all skaters will advance to the elimination rounds. They will all be ranked in these rounds but only the top nine skaters will be in the medal semi finals and finals.
Oval: The racing track used for long track speed skating is a two lane 400m oval and the skaters race counterclockwise.
Order of Racing - Group: The skaters are seeded into groups based on a performance criteria, usually seed times. This is done in order to have relatively even pairing so the best skaters are not racing the skaters who are not as fast.
Order of Racing - Draw: The night before the races begin, a random draw is held within each group to determine the lane the skaters will race in and the order of the pairs within the groups. Normally the better group of skaters races in the last pairs.
Inner and Outer Lanes: The skaters race in pairs with one starting in the inner lane and the other in the outer lane. Each skater wears an arm band. If the skater starts inner they wear a white arm band; if they start outer they wear a red arm band. Sometimes the skaters race in quartets or quads (see below) and in this case the second pair inner wears a yellow arm band and the second pair outer wears a blue or green arm band.
Crossover: The skaters race in pairs in their own lanes. In each full lap the skaters race one corner in the inner lane and one corner in the outer lane. They change from inner to outer and from outer to inner on the back stretch which is also called the crossover straight.
Staggered Starts: Because all the races except the 500m and the 10,000m are at least one half lap longer than full laps, one skater will skate only the inner lane for the first lap, so the start lines are staggered in order for both skaters to skate the proper distance.
Quartets: Also known as quads, they have two pairs of skaters in the lanes at the same time. The second pair is started when the first pair has completed one half of the first lap. Quartets are usually used for longer distances and have two main advantages: they can accommodate large numbers of skaters and in outdoor weather minimize the effect of weather changes.
Coaching: In Long Track Speed Skating coaching is permitted from a specific area on the back stretch – the coach’s box. Coaches communicate with their athletes while they skate telling them their lap times and giving them technical advice.
Crossover Interference: The most frequent cause of obstruction is on the crossovers where the two skaters are changing lanes. At the crossover the skater going from outer to inner actually has skated further when they enter the cross over straight, therefore they have the right away. Unless the outer skater acts inappropriately, the inner skater is disqualified for crossover interference.
False Starts: In Long Track Speed Skating only one false start is allowed per pair. Therefore if there is a second false start in a pair, the skater responsible for it is disqualified.
Pace Making: The skaters are required to race on their own and if they receive pace making from a teammate or follow directly behind another skater they may be disqualified for this infraction.
Poor Sportsmanship: This is a very rare event in speed skating but if a skater behaves inappropriately they may be disqualified from the distance or the entire event.
Fresh Starts: These are more commonly known as reskates. If a skater is interfered with through no fault of his own he is entitled to another attempt at the distance known as a fresh start. The skater must have at least 30 minutes rest and he gets the better of the two times he posts.