2007 a2a 38-mile race + 49-mile cool down skate
Duane and I signed up for the 38 mile event toward end of the season. We had fond memory of the smooth pavement, chain-towing puppy, missing road, and gator back from our 2003 Texas Flyer team skate. I had vague recollection of the last 49 miles: insufficient hills, rough pavement, and a lot of traffic-basically things I can find in north Texas.
My original plan was to keep Duane (aka the cardio animal) in contact with the lead pack until he finds his rhythm. Duane's mom passed away and had to cancel. My new goals became: 1. Skate hard. 2. Have fun.
Tom Welsh and I consolidated hotel reservations to keep me under budget. Tom knows way too much about boot making and equipment in general.
Only other A2A Texas Flyer this year was Danny who had all kinda car problem on the way to Georgia. H and wife Hillary came close to buy a car during the jouney.
_Expected slow start.
5 minutes into the race, the lead pack was oscillating between 18 and 23 mph. Only at A2A. I was a little start-struck in the same pack as the big names: Matzger, Arndt, Doucet, Gayle. Dan Burger wore a weird brace wrapping his left calf. After the initial set of turns, skaters started taking seemingly unnecessary chances fighting for position. Pace lines reshuffled so often it felt like a 26-mile advanced men race. Several skaters stood up and refused to be part of the chaos.
Each climb took me a little longer to recover. 20 minutes and 6.5 miles into the start, I evaluated my chances of keeping up with the big boys. I decided to shut it down and wait for the chase pack. Man, I wished I were in better shape to do this. I wished Duane were in that pack to represent us.
I didn't see anther soul for minutes ‘til a lone skater passed me stealthily. Did he want to A2A all by himself? A few minutes later, a Boston John came by and invited me in. He did the lion's share of the work; my job was to buy him recovery time and provide additional mass going downhill. I didn't see how 2 of us could fend off the big chase pack, but we skated so well together I decided just to enjoy the moment.
Mile 17, we finally got caught by the big chase pack with Brian McKenney's 80 mm wheels in it. It's good to see Brian out of retirement. The pack wasn't well organized: 2 of the skaters had big back kick and no one wanted to stay behind them. We also had a few sub-100 skaters unaccustomed to all the pushing. The long down hills made it impossible for anyone to get away. Couple skaters in the pack were panting hard after each climb. My heart rate was in zone 2 but legs were full of sour milk. Maybe they're smokers. I led the pack for a few pulls and reached 36 mph feeling the big push on my back. What a rush!
The 87 milers were supposed to wear number on the left while 38-miler on the right thigh. I didn't have much faith in this system. 2 miles to go. I still had no clear idea whom I was racing against other than Herb Gayle. Big Herb was probably already taking shower. 4 of us acted like 38 milers and looked each other. No one wanted to lead. An 87 miler laughed at us and volunteered to pull for a few minutes. 1 guy started taking the smaller circle against traffic. I followed but chickened out after the first blind curve. All the sudden he accelerated and had 10-second lead. The bastard studied the course like I was supposed to. I let him go and watched his lead grow. If I weren't fighting to win, I wasn't risking towing others to the lead. I kept track of the 2 shadows behind me while anticipating attacks from the big pack of supposedly 87-milers. I started going hard before last turn with no one to chase after.
_Long Cool Down Skate
The moment I crossed the line, I stopped caring about the result. I skated hard and felt good and tired. Off-season started now. I craved protein with salty fat. I wished there were an all-you-can-eat restaurant at finish line. I'd been hungry for 2 months.
The reality of 2.5 hr bus wait started to sink in. Hillary told me Danny should be in Dacula real soon. "Good. Did he pack any bacon?" I wanted to ask her.
The Atlanta bound bus would leave at 12:30p; it's probably 1-hour drive. 49 miles at 13 mph was < 4 hrs. I had brand new bearings; no wind, no rain; the course was marked; 190 of my best friends were still skating. It was an easy decision. I took gels, axle wrench, and the ATM card from my skate bag. A volunteer assured me the bag would arrive Piedmont Park with the bus. "Just make sure you drink enough. It's hot today." Excellent advice for any skater who didn't spend the summer preparing for Hotter n Hell.
I made rules for my Georgian edition of Pegasus Sunday Morning Stroll: no drafting, no hammering, must have fun. Several small packs asked me to join in; only 1 skater begged when I politely declined to be part of the Collective. It had been a long time since I skated just to enjoy the scenery. I took my time rolling the hills among the trees. The sky contained just right number of clouds. I was surprised to see so many streets without "peachtree" as part of their names.
_Sunday Afternoon Stroll
Mile 55. Left frame came loose. I didn't pack that wrench. "Why did I buy carbon frames with weird size axle bolt!?" I decided to adopt the presidential foreign policy: "ignore the problem; it'll go away."
Miles 60. I was in a bush as the direct result of taking the hot weather advice when a smiling Christina skated by. She claimed to be suffering when walking the grass on a hill. We passed each other a few more times due to my failed attempts to rectify my frame issue. She eventually won the 52-mile race.
Climbing became difficult around mile 65. I had no leg left after Silver Hill. The pavements were as rough as I remembered but with more inclines. At some points I hopped on and off the curbs looking for smooth surface and prayed the mounting bolt would hold. But I was in no rush. I got good looks of the stores and buildings that were a big blur in 2003. I missed my team.
I highfived Eddy who skated toward the start. The pavement turned nice for the final miles. A few skaters passed me shouting encouraging words. I had no urge to chase. The park came into view. I heard cowbells. I heard Cindy announcing the finishers. She's so nice.
The big clock said 6 hour something. I don't remember.
Brian and Renee sat on grass, looking comfortable and well rested.
_Nice Day at the Park
I think a few people came to say hi, but hunger overtook me and I don't have clear recollection of the event right after crossing the line. I consuming sandwiches and sugar water. At least 2 of those guys warned my frame was making weird clicking sound.
Hillary, whom I saw through out the day, came over and said Danny was doing well at their last meeting. Another skater also told me my teammate was skating relaxed and confident.
Danny came in, arms swinging, looking great. His wife got the camera out just in time for a clear shot of the other side. Danny might have to skate the course again just for the photo. I was so proud and happy for our boy. 87 is a tough distance, especially considering his short preparation.
Many skaters remembered the 2003 TX Flyer team. A skater actually thanked me for the draft from 4 yrs ago.
3pm, still no sign of my skate bag. No shoes, no cell phone, no problem. The hotel was paid for and I had the ID to fly home. I was surprised how little it bothered me. I checked into the hotel Duane booked. It had an indoor lap pool with hot tub. This was the best day.
Our Austin friend Richard Littrell relaxed on grass, looking much better than his 2003 finish. Shortly before the 6pm awards, the last skater completed his 10-hour adventure. I went over to congratulate him. He attempted to raise his right hand. I patted his back, admiring his determination.
My skate bag miraculously appeared with my shoes in it. It felt good to be out of skates. I talked to old friends and made new ones. Danny and Hillary were all smiles. The world was perfect.
The Toronto skaters dominated the day. Stream of familiar faces claimed their awards. Mostly I saw many tireless people devote a big part of their lives to make this event possible. I was grateful.