I’ve recently been in touch with Peter Doucet who is a very well known and respected inline speed skater, and he graciously accepted an online interview regarding speed skating and social media. Looking back, I asked some marketing questions that might be difficult to answer. He answered them, and then some! Big thanks to Peter, and here’s the interview:
Paul: First of all, thank you Peter for the interview. You grew up playing hockey, won ice marathons, and started inline speed skating in the mid 90’s. You finished 2nd overall in the 1997 New York 100k inline race and have only flourished since then, including finishing 3rd in the grueling 87-mile Athens to Atlanta (A2A) race in 2006. What are your continued plans going forward?
Peter: Wow, that’s a loaded question!
Seriously though, I like to think I’m in skating for the long-haul. My current plans include thinking long term; I’d like to compete at the highest possible level such as the world championships for the next 4 years until the next Pan American Games.
I reached my ‘career’ goal of qualifying for the games, but I did not skate well at all while at the games. My coach Mike Murray and I are looking at how to get me to my highest and best possible form.
Paul: You just did the NYC 100K race on Saturday, Sept. 29. How was that experience?
Peter: It was tough. The ultra marathons like the NYC 100k, A2A, and Montreal’s Defi take their toll on your body and on your emotions. I skated much better than what I thought I would in the 100k. Going into the 100k, I was weak because I took a long break since the world championships.
I gotta be honest with you; the competition was super tough and the guys I was racing with can go fast and they can do that for a long time. I suffered during the 100k, my legs locked up many times and I thought I was going to die. Not literally of course.
I think this year’s 100k race made me want to come back again next year. That’s what that race does to me every year.
Paul: Who’s that freaking dude that skated the 87-mile 2006 A2A backwards?
Peter: Ahh, his name’s Nicolas, I think his last name is Ratthe. He’s from Quebec, I think Sherbrooke. You know, he did the 24 hours Montreal Inline backwards. It’s pretty hard core. I have a hard time imagining skating A2A, let alone doing it backwards! I’ll let Nicolas take care of that for us and we can live vicariously through him.
You know in skating, there are always special moments that bring a chill to your spine- one of last year’s highlights was when Nicolas came through the finish line after skating the entire A2A backwards. Maybe it’s one of those ‘you had to be there’ deals, but it was awesome being there and sharing the moment.
Paul: Speaking of the A2A, the attendance has been declining. This year they’re adding a 10k event for rec skaters to entice more attendance. What do you think holds in the future for A2A?
Peter: The attendance has been declining? I didn’t know that. That sucks. A2A is such a wonderful event you know. I really think that we, as skaters, need to support these events because, as a race organizer, I am very conscious that each skater matters.
Participants don’t only matter because of entry costs, but more importantly, they matter because they enhance everyone else’s experience- it gives people a chance to make friends, someone to skate with, each person adds more postiveness to the atmosphere.
At the same time, events really need to be built to reflect the reality that surrounds them; they shouldn’t be too big or too small. They should be able to change and adapt, and I think that if A2A’s participation is in decline, the 10k is a good move. I don’t know how many people they will draw from outside of the Atlanta-ish area, but it does give a better opportunity for local skaters to participate, and it gives an incentive for local businesses to support the event because they have a relevant audience.
Paul: In the search marketing world, blogs and other forms of social media have become vital in the last few years. You’ve been doing this in some form back to the Geocities days. How has your Speed Skate World site and blog helped you?
Peter: I’ve made a lot of friends thanks to my site. It’s cool when people come up to me and start talking about my site. There’s been a few times where conversations about my site have led to friendships.
It also helps me because I get to share my experiences with all sorts of people. My skating experiences are not universal; I don’t represent all aspects of skating, let alone all aspects of speed skating. But I think that there is a lot of interest in the sport, in traveling, and in me, and my website allows me to share all three things in one package.
People might think I am a goof or it’s a game when they read my site; maybe they’re right, but I think that whatever people might think of me, there is value in keeping my site going.
Paul: Your YouTube videos for inline skating events are both cool and hilarious. Has this been a good vehicle for you? It seems like they would go pretty viral.
Peter: The YouTube videos are really cool. The videos have been another good avenue to share skating and put it together with music that I like. Each time I make a video, I always try to relay my experiences, and the best thing is when what I put up matches other people’s experience.
When someone says to me ‘hey man, that video was cool, you really got the essence of the event’. I think when that happens, it’s the way I wanted it to be viewed. I put the videos out there, not for myself, but for whatever audience views them.
But you know what I like most? When I forget about a video I made, and some months later, I look back and watch it and I find myself ammused and entertained.
Paul: How did you pull off the video during the actual Northshore race? Is it a helmet cam?
Peter: My friend Mike Lin lent me his camera. I think I thanked him; my camera is pretty much dead right now, so you can thank Mike for the Duluth video. His camera was small enough to put into the back pocket of my costume.
Paul: As you probably know, I’m a big fan of fellow rec skaters that just want to challenge themselves by skating a marathon. Many can be intimidated by all the pros out there. Do you have any advice for these rec skaters?
Peter: You know, the first thing I say to any skater is skate how you skate because that is fine.
The advice that I have first goes out to the pros. You need to understand that the rec skaters carry an important element to the sport. They are important because they support the industry. I am somewhat concerned about how and where the money goes from the industry back into the sport.
Treat rec skaters nicely; give them room when you pass them, talk to them, because there’s a good chance that some of those rec skaters will either become serious racers, race organizers, officials, industry people media, etc.
My message to rec skaters is that the pros have different needs than rec skaters. The pros need races; it’s what they train for and it’s what they travel weekend after weekend for. The pros aren’t making money and they need help and support.
We all share a common love and passion for skating. Sometimes where we are going and how we get there is what we share.
Not everyone is a racer, not everyone is going to place top-20 or break 1:35 for a marathon, and that’s ok. Not everyone belongs in a speed club and not everyone enjoys Friday night skates through traffic.
Find what you like and don’t be afraid to try something new. I’ve spoken to and coached many skaters who, for years were intimitated of joining the Toronto Inline Skating Club. I don’t understand why they’d be intimidated, but they eventually came out and became hooked skate addicts! How cool is that?!
Paul: There’s literally little or no press to entice rec skaters to sign up for these events. I was convinced to do the 2006 St. Paul inline marathon from word of mouth, and not from the Internet even though I pretty much work and live online. My slow self has been long hooked, but what do you think can be done to entice more rec skaters to register?
Peter: I don’t know. I think we can reach fitness skaters fairly easliy because I think they have a tendency to gravitate towards organized groups and things such as events, websites, skates, and they network.
To me, a recreational skater is someone who hops onto the side-walk for some 15-30 minutes. They don’t care that you can race or skate a 42km marathon or do sprints. They don’t necessarily feel a need to be part of something organized.
I think the best way to reach them is drawing them into a skate for charity, say something like a 24-hour relay against cancer or something.
I should have said this first, but I think that when we answer or ask a question like this, we need to define pro, fitness, recreational, beginner, etc.
Paul: I’ll be doing the November Houston marathon. Any advice for this slowpoke? 😉 Would you like me to say hello to anyone?
Peter: My advice should had been seeked long ago! In terms of training, you’ve got one month left, and there’s not much you’re going to change in a month.
Think long term, plan ahead, set some goals, and go for it!
Have fun even when you’re not having fun. I remember you once told me something like ‘I had the slowest time, but I won because I got to skate the longest’. That’s a great philosophy.
Say hi to everyone and tell them about my site!
Paul: Thanks again Peter for taking the time. You’re a true competitor that goes out of your way to root on all the rec skaters. You’ve got my full support, all the best to you, Speed Skate World, and I’m sure we’ll cross paths in the future (I’ll be the slowpoke!).