25th Athens-to-Atlanta 2006
Ok roadskater people - here goes my very first blog entry. If you think A2A is long, just wait...
We're talking about the 25 anniversary of Athens-to-Atlanta. As far as I know, this is the world's longest running point-to-point outdoor roadskate anywhere in the world. For me it's also served as an annual pilgrimage to a place of better mental and physical well-being in almost every year since 1992. If you haven't heard of Athens-to-Atlanta (A2A), then either you're not an outdoor skater or you've been living under a rock. Visit http://www.a2a.net at your earliest convenience. A2A is not your typical athletic event. I'd say it's rather unique among even skating events though honestly I'm probably not as well qualified as many other skaters to make that judgement. But before I bias your reading of what follows by telling you about me, let me relate this year's A2A event as I experienced it...
Driving from Raleigh to Atlanta on Friday with Skatey-Mark had it's little adventures. First I decided to test the physics theory that states that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. I can attest to the fact that, at least when one object is a VW Passat and the other is a Honda Accord, the theory appears to be true. If anyone is still in doubt, I have an official form from the SC Department of Public Safety that will confirm my conclusion. My physics experiment cost us about 50 minutes of travel time, still leaving us ample time to stop by Athens to check in and leave some luggage before continuing on to Atlanta in time for the Friday Night Skate (FNS) through downtown.
However, the travel gods had another plan in mind, and before too long we encountered a long line of red taillights leading to a detour that took us off the highway and onto a lovely rural route that would have been quite pleasant but for the fact that our skates were in the trunk instead of on our feet. Nevertheless, we diligently practiced our pack drafting techniques in slow motion by following a line of cars for as far as the eye could see. Eventually we returned to the highway after passing by what we can only assume was a hazardous chemical spill or some other form of another physics experiment gone horribly wrong.
Needless to say, with this additional delay it was starting to look like our plans to stop in Athens on the way to Atlanta for the FNS were quickly evaporating. We opted to skip the side trip to Athens, and before too long we got confirmation that this was a good decision in the form of more lines of cars ahead of us. Eventually the traffic opened up somewhat and we made our way to the top deck of the Wyndham Midtown parking deck where we rendezvoused with Dave Wyso around 6pm as I recall. The three of us donned our skates and carried our gear the 6-8 blocks to the Skate Escape where the baggage truck was parked. We ditched our bags in the truck and pre-ordered our post-FNS Willie's meal and then milled around visiting with the other skaters that were collecting for the Friday Night Skate.
Originally scheduled to depart at 7pm, the FNS was delayed as we waited for our motorcycle escort to arrive. I think it was closer to 7:30 when we actually headed up the hill beside the Skate Escape. Before we departed I re-connected with skaters from year's past, and met some new skaters including two women who were attending A2A for the first time. Not only that, but they were strictly off-road/trail skaters, and had never (repeat - never!) skated on the road, and certainly not in downtown Atlanta! Several of us reassured them that their prior experience would translate pretty well, but I too can still remember my first year at A2A, and no amount of reassurance eliminated the anxiety that I felt about the unknowns that were in store for me. During the FNS skate we stopped several times to regroup, and these two continued to express some concern, but it was also clear that they weren't really having any difficulty with the actual skate - only with the thought that it was all so new and unfamiliar.
I feel compelled to report that during the Friday Night Skate I saw several women with the most amazing legs! In fact, it might be fun to have a special award category for this attribute as it turned out to be a reasonable predictor of what would play out during the skate on Sunday. I want to be clear that we're talking amazing women's legs and amazing skater's legs - on the same person! I made a point of complimenting one skater who was unknown to me, and mentioned another to my companions. As it turned out on Sunday, both of these women placed within the top 5 women overall for the 87-mile event. But I digress...
We completed the FNS late due to the late start, and it seemed to be both a little shorter than I remember from year's past, and also slightly less well organized. Having said that, it was still great fun and something we just don't get to do back home in RTP. So we returned to the Skate Escape were our bags were set out by the baggage truck and exchanged our skates for shoes. A short walk across the street to Willie's got us our pre-ordered food. Some chose to eat it quickly before we boarded the bus for Athens - others took their food to eat on the ride. We loaded our bags and boarded the busses around 9:30 or so as I recall A few minutes after our departure we stopped at a grocery store to stock up on whatever folks needed. I picked up a gallon of water to pre-fill my Camelbak on Saturday night, and a few other goodies to keep me happy on the drive to Athens.
Other than one outburst for a group attempt to sing "happy birthday" to someone the trip to Athens was uneventful with some chatting and others catching a nap. Most of us de-boarded the bus at the Holiday Inn Express. The pleasant evening allowed for a walk to the Days Inn where Mark and I were staying.
With no need for an alarm we just slept until we woke up. Mark and I walked the few blocks to the Holiday Inn where we met up with Dave and continued on to The Grit. I certainly enjoy this restaurant for breakfast, but if you must have meat in the morning then this isn't the place for you since it's all vegetarian. Having said that, I've never been disappointed in my breakfast here but I'll let Mark and Dave speak for themselves.
By now it was getting close to noon so we walked the few blocks to the Classic Center where vendors were getting set up. We picked up our registration packets and perused the booths. Jason McDaniels was taking foot castings for custom boots (Tom got molded later that evening), and there were various frames on display and wheels for sale along with other merchandise. Of course, Eddy was there with his ILQ-9s and workshop materials. I was very happy to find a pair of sliders that fit my hands. I also retrieved registration packets (with 25th anniversary T-shirts) and some pre-paid merchandise for the five pre-registered TSC skaters that I knew would not be attending (if you're one of these folks, contact me for your stuff...) As it turned out we collected more packets for non-attending skaters than for those that were in Athens (Tom, Dave, Mark and myself), though we also had a day-of-event registration from a former TSC skater (Kent Goode) who was back in action this year after taking the past few off to start a family.
We spent a good portion of the afternoon at the Classic center. Before leaving I used all of the packets and merchandise I was carrying to rationalize the purchase of a nice new skate pack! I don't remember the exact sequence of events, but somewhere along here we dropped the collected packets and stuff at our rooms and then returned for some late lunch. We hit The Grill (about in the middle of Athens downtown area, open 24 hours) first, and then Coldstone Creamery next. (For those who don't want to walk two blocks between lunch and dessert there is a Ben and Jerry's just a few doors down from The Grill. :-) We opted to skip the 4pm skate. Again - my memory of the sequence is fuzzy, but somewhere in here Tom arrived in Athens in addition to another RTP skater - Kent Goode - someone who used to skate with us back during the first incarnation of the TSC. Tom retrieved his registration packet and Kent registered on the spot. Blake and Elizabeth also materialized and we mingled with other old and new friends.
At 6pm we sat down in the Classic Center's main theatre for Henry Zuver's traditional pre-event rant. In recognition of the "different character" of last year's event contrasted with the successful accomplishment of this year's, Henry spent a good portion of the rant recognizing the contributions of everyone in making it possible, with special emphasis on the skaters themselves. Skater and vendor sponsors and others were all acknowledged. For those who may not know, Henry and his wife Valerie were largely responsible for promoting and organizing A2A though most of it's successful history, but during the past 5 or so years a group of individuals has stepped in as Henry has had to back off due to other priorities in his life. This group has found it challenging to duplicate Henry's own success, but obviously the outcome for 2006 was favorable, and I had the sense that all in attendance had some appreciation for how we collectively need each other to make the event happen.
Henry moved on to the more traditional presentation describing the course, the rules ("there are no rules", etc.) and other information of interest, but especially to those who were doing the event for the first time. All were reminded that the 6-mile stretch of gatorback pavement near the 20-mile mark was no more - it was repaved in October of 2005. Henry also shared some thoughts of prior years and some A2A history. Skaters were asked to stand in 5-year groupings to show their number of years of prior A2A attendance. Of note was the number of first-time skaters which seemed quite high on a percentage basis (by my estimate perhaps 1/4-1/3 of those at the rant were 1st timers - can we repeat this recruitment success next year?).
Scott Jones (the current President of GIRSA - the non-profit organization that is now responsible for this event) took the podium to second Henry's words of appreciation to all. Eddy Matzger also took a turn at the podium and spoke for several minutes about his feelings towards this event. He addressed himself to the audience but also to Henry, and made it clear that he would always be an A2A participant. Eddy recognized Henry's years of service to the skating community in his stewardship of A2A, and also the support of Henry's wife Valerie and their two children (who have grown up along with A2A and have always been present in one way or another each year.) Eddy's comments concluded with the presentation of a plaque to Henry for his years of service to A2A.
Following the rant Tom returned to Jason McDaniel's booth to get his feet molded before catching up to us, while the rest of our group went on to find a place to eat dinner. I don't recall where we ate, but I definitely enjoyed my baked pasta dish! Unfortunately, Dave was not feeling well and he retired early rather than join us for dinner. Eventually we departed the restaurant and went our separate ways to make final preparations and get some sleep.
At 5:20 my alarm went off and I hit the shower. A short while later Mark was awake and the TV was on the weather channel. To our surprise, there was rain in the morning forecast and a look outside showed a rain puddle! :-( We realized that something unprecedented had happened (or rather had *not* hap penned) during the Saturday night rant. Namely, no mention whatsoever was made of the weather for Sunday! I cannot recall a year when weather wasn't mentioned. Either there is gleeful excitement at a great weather forecast, or playful banter about the possibility (or certainty!) of rain. But no mention of weather at all? So I figured we had jinxed ourselves. However, as it turned out the most we saw was just a bit of dampness in some spots on the course over the first 30 minutes or so.
We skated our bags to the Classic Center shortly before 7am and loaded them on the baggage truck. At 7:30am sharp we were off. I started easy, giving priority to staying clear of other skaters through the first two turns before reaching the second downhill. Here I opened it up just a bit as the field spread out. Of course, the Daves and Marks (and Eddys!) were long gone by now. For a few minutes I thought I might pair up with Brian (Shicoff) but he didn't seem quite as comfortable on the downhills as I was, and I was feeling frisky with my new Vaypors. I skated with a couple of small packs for the first few miles, and was quite surprised when Mark and Dave passed me! It turns out that the lead pack had been lead astray by the pace motorcycle. So they were behind us when the got back on course. I jumped out of my pack with the idea of skating with Mark and Dave's pack for just a few minutes, but quickly thought better of it.
Somewhere in here I skated a while with Blake and Elizabeth. However, I forgot to ask Blake what he had decided with regard to his bent frame that he had discovered the previous afternoon. (I later found out that he decided to use it, giving rise to interesting wheel wear patterns by the end of the day.) As I recall, somewhere around the 10-mile point a couple of skaters passed us and I decided to see if I could join them. The lead skater was 6'1", and he was looking strong. I was able to pick up his draft and enjoyed it for a few minutes before I offered to take my turn at the front. However, he indicated that he "was fine" and we continued like that for more than a few miles. If memory serves, we continued like that through the repaved 6-mile (former gatorback) section before he began to tire. I thanked him profusely and pulled ahead as he eventually lost his spunk on the uphill climbs. After clearing the repaved 6-mile (former gatorback) section, the next section of pavement (which used to seem like heaven itself) was rougher than I'd remembered. Once you've had steak...
For those who don't know, my biggest unknown this year was the new Bont Vaypors on my feet. With over a dozen A2A trips in my trusty 1991-vintage Aeroblades under my feet, traversing the course in a set of custom molded racing boots was a completely new adventure. A few weeks earlier I'd skated about 90 miles over the two days of the Tour to Tanglewood in these same boots. While there were no show stopper issues, I was still having minor problems with the tongues slipping down and first gently, and then not so gently crushing my toes! In addition, the vibration on gatorback surfaces was not well-received by my feet. The week before A2A I brought my boots to a local cobbler to have additional velcro fastened to the boots and tongues. I'm happy to report that this did resolve the tongue movement issues. As to the gatorback, the A2A course no longer has much of it. The worst surfaces can now be found just a few miles from the 87-mile finish line. Thankfully once you've gotten that far there isn't much that's going to prevent you from reaching Piedmont Park. Or perhaps you're just so tapped out that you don't care about anything any more! Either way I'm happy to report that at the end of the 87-mile day my feet were about as happy as the are spending the same trip in my Aeroblades. I had no blisters whatsoever. Cramps was another matter however, but I'm getting ahead of myself...
So, following the repaved gatorback section I think it was mostly solo skating up to the 38-mile finish line. I paired up with few skaters briefly during this interval, but they didn't seem to have pack experience and so it was more for the company than any significant performance benefits and I decided to press on solo. After a while I recognized a Roadskater.net jersey in the distance ahead, and a few minutes later I recognized it was Tom who was also skating solo. I knew there was a long downhill stretch just ahead so I poured on the coal and made the effort to catch Tom at the crest of the hill just in time to pick up on his wonderful draft! We had a good downhill ride, but the strenuous climb moments before was enough to push me into the "I think I feel some leg cramps coming on" zone. Historically I can never make it to the 38-mile finish without having cramps somewhere (I think Tom and I were perhaps around 30 miles out at this point.) So I went with a shorter stroke and higher cadence than my typical one as we climbed the next hill. This seemed to hold off the cramps and over the next couple of minutes I was able to revert to my more typical long, slow stroke and thus gain a bit on Tom as we continued up the next few hills.
During the last five miles or so before the 38-mile finish a few now-familiar skaters came from behind in a pack. The last one (John?) called out to me "this is a good pack" and so I hopped on as they climbed beside me. This pack worked well for me for a few minutes, but the effort required to keep up on the uphill stretches just before Dracula pushed me back into the cramp zone once again and I was forced to drop back. About this time another skater (Chuck?) I had paired with and then passed caught up to me once again. As I continued to ease up the hills and massage my quads he overtook me. Finally that last turn before Dracula was in sight. Chuck skated to the left of the half-distance chute about 50 feet ahead of me as I held my Forerunner in one hand and my camera in the other, preparing to take a video of my mid-course time. I didn't realize it until Chuck and I spoke in Piedmont Park, but just as I turned my attention to the camera's viewfinder, Chuck went down directly beside the timing clock. Fortunately he wasn't badly hurt - I just sailed right on by completely oblivious to him and everything else except the viewfinder of my camera... My 38-mile time was about 2:58, giving me an average thus far of about 12.9mph. Needless to say I was pretty pleased. A few weeks earlier Tom and I had completed the 21-mile Greenwood Commons skate at 13mph, but I wasn't sure if there was any more where that came from until Dracula.
After capturing the 38-mile clock on video - and missing Chuck's crash - I kept on rolling for another mile or two before I finally acknowledged that my tootsies were not completely happy. Even with extra velcro to keep the tongues in place things were still not perfect in boot land. My legs were also still trying to cramp up, so I pulled off the roadway and loosened my laces and then massaged my quads for a few minutes. Over the past months I've tried to manage unwanted tongue movement with different lacing tensions. However, with the addition of velcro in the right places, I was beginning to figure out that "less might be more". At this particular stop I made a concerted effort to re-lace with less tension that before. As it turned out this was the right decision. I believe I finished the remainder of the day without any need to relace, nor any of the discomfort I had been feeling up to that point.
While massaging my quads and relacing I was passed by a handful of solo and paired skaters. I might have seen a pack of three as well, but no larger pace lines were in evidence. I got myself back on the road and settled into a long slow cadence and kept the effort down to give my legs a chance to more fully recover. I've found that cramps seem to dissipate faster if I keep skating, albeit at a slow and easy pace! The elevation profile over the next few miles was a little more forgiving and this also aided my recovery.
Some miles later a solo skater (Lizzy Loeb) came moving along at a pretty good clip. She was skating in the event with her team from the west coast, but had made the mistake of mounting new wheels for Sunday. I don't know exactly what the problem was, but by the time she reached the 38-mile finish she had to drop out of her team pack (who were long gone by the time she caught up with me.) Fortunately a generous half-distance skater who had finished was willing to let Lizzy use his wheels and bearings, and so she was able to get back on the road before too long. She and I took 1-2 minute rotations for about 30-45 minutes. However, I could tell that she had more to give, while I was moving once again to the verge of cramps. I decided to back off a bit, thanked her for the draft and suggested that she should take off.
From here my memory gets a little fuzzy until Silver Hill. At some point Tom caught - and subsequently passed me. And Chuck (from earlier in the day) and I found ourselves skating at about the same speed though at some distance apart. Eventually we paired up (loosely, he didn't seem to have any pack experience and never seemed comfortable enough to get in my draft) and kept each other company as we began gaining altitude. If memory serves, Chuck hadn't done A2A before, and he was using racing skates without a brake. We hit Leather Stocking (I think that might be my favorite downhill on the entire route) and he did ok with the T-stop to control his speed. Before too long we were at the top of Silver Hill. I suggested that he would probably want to control his speed from the top and mentioned that the only "expected" hazard on Silver Hill was the possiblity that a car might pull out of a driveway. I started down first and Chuck followed at an increasingly respectful distance. This turned out to be not a bad thing because about the time I hit the second yellow diamond I saw a car in the distance backing out of a driveway. In all the years I've done this event I think this is the first time ever that's happenned to me on Silver Hill. However, it wasn't a problem as the car kept moving and was out of the way by the time we got there. Still, it reminded me of what can happen, and the importance of being able to slow and brake if necessary. (I skate these downhills with a whistle in my mouth, but I don't have much expectation that blowing it would be very effective in clearing the roadway ahead...)
As we coasted past the last few driveways at the bottom of Silver Hill a skater appeared from one of the driveways on the left side of the road. I never did figure out what he was doing there, but he must have stopped partway down the hill - or climbed back up to get there. Regardless, he passed Chuck and I as we made the post Silver Hill climb. By the time we reached the Stone Mountain view he was out of sight. From here on to shortly before the last checkpoint Chuck and I remained together. I took the lead and he gradually got more comfortable following me. We skated tight down numerous hills, and carried some momentum from them onto the next climb. I remained on the verge of cramps, and so I pushed the hardest on level and downhill spots, and took it real easy on the uphills. Chuck wasn't feeling crampy at all, so about a mile before the last checkpoint I urged him to take off if he could. He seemed to be hesitant, but I assured him that before too long I would be doing my best to leave him behind - which seemed to do the trick for a few minutes. However, as the course flattenned out beyond that last checkpoint, I was able to gradually crank it up a bit and soon I made good on my word and passed Chuck as the cramps eased off.
From here on out it was just a matter of working with - and through the cramps. I'd drank and eaten about all I could handle. Occasional sips of water was about all I could tolerate. Chuck remained behind me, sometimes closer and sometimes farther. I think he passed me a couple of times but I always returned the favor a few minutes later. Eventually the Marta came in sight and a tiny bit of extra energy materalized with it. I kept scanning my mirror and using Chuck as my motivation to keep pushing. Suddenly another skater appeared behind me in a Roadskater.net jersey (Mark Carpenter?). If memory serves, Mark finished well ahead of me at Tanglewood. However, I was determined to defend my position on this particular day, yet I knew we had a good 20-30 minutes of skating to go. As quickly as he appeared in my rear view mirror, it seemed unlikely that I would be able to hold him off. If I had any advantage I figured it was my familiarity with the course. Fortunately the elevation profile from this point to the finish was something I could work with even with my leg cramps. I continued to push my hardest on level and downhill stretches, and eased off during the climbs. After what seemed like an eternity my rearward view cleared up, and I was finally alone. I do think it really helps when you know exactly how much farther you have to go. Though I was still 2-3 miles from the finish line I could see the rest of the course clearly in my mind's eye.
About 1/2 mile before the sidewalk crossover I got a pleasant and unexpected surprise. I heard a yell of encouragement up ahead and saw Eddy skating the course backwards. Our hands met for a moment as we passed and we each continued on without missing a stroke. About two blocks before the sidewalk crossover the traffic was backed up at the light. I crossed over into the oncoming lane and continued moving ahead. Some skaters never get comfortable skating in traffic, but I've never been among them. I still remember the year when I first heard of A2A. Someone gave me the event brochure, and there was something about "38-mile event, intermediate to advanced; 85-mile event, advanced to expert". I had only been skating for a couple of months so I was certain that none of those descriptions applied to me. I called the phone number and Henry Zuver answered. I asked what intermediate, advanced and expert meant? Henry explained that these terms were not intended to describe a skater's physical condition, speed or stamina. Rather, they pertained to one's ability to skate comfortably on the road, with traffic, in rural and ultimately city conditions. Hearing this was a great relief to me since at this point I don't think I had skated more than eight miles at one time! But I was always ok with the road, cars, etc. from day one.
ANYway... When I have momentum I like to conserve it, and so it was as I made my way through those stopped cars and up and over the sidewalk crossing. From here on out it was just "playing from memory". I was lucky with the timing of some lights, and I made my own luck when necessary. It was sweet when that last traffic light turned green for me as I approached the entrance to Piedmont Park! By that last turn to the finish line I was pretty tapped out, but had enough in my legs to keep them moving, and enough in my brain to remember to get out the camera - and stop my Forerunner! But that was it for me. As soon as I crossed the finish line I made it a priority to keep my legs straight, to not point my toes, and to find someplace to sit down! Thanks to Mark and Dave who were a great help to me by removing my skates. I think it was a good thirty minutes or more before I could think about bending my legs without the distinct sensation that they would never unfold again!
--- The Aftermath:
The wrap at the finish line was good (for me - others wanted more!). The shower at the Wyndam was, as always, wonderful. The awards ceremony started in a more timely manner than usual, and finished early too. Dinner at Cowtippers was great, and I still had room to enjoy more than half of a huge piece of chocolate 5-layer cake. (I must confess, I also enjoyed the trip to Coldstone Creamery in Athens on Saturday... :-) Of course the best part was the company; visiting with old and familiar friends and making some new ones each year.
We slept in Monday morning, then gave Tom a ride back to his car in Athens. This gave us an excuse to eat lunch and then make a return trip to Coldstone Creamery, just to make sure that stuff they serve there is really good... :) Then it was back to Raleigh and the real world.
--- The Rest:
"So what have you learned, Grasshopper?"
Well, I've learned that I too can do A2A in racing skates. Thanks to my fellow TSC skaters who encouraged me to consider them a viable alternative to my trusty Aeros - which will continue to be used (twice already since the weekend!) After 87 miles, and 8 hours and 27 minutes I can report absolutely no blisters at all, nor any other discomforts. Sunday evening my feet felt just as good as they always have doing this event in my Aeros. I had no need for any tape, pads or anything other than a pair of Gatorback socks. As previously stated, I did add velcro to keep the tongues in my Vapors from moving. Without the velcro this would have been a disaster (it's now standard equipment in 2006 Vaypors), but with it (and proper lacing that took me a while to figure out) my feet are happy campers.
What about performance? I guess the objective verdict isn't in yet. This year I finished in about 8:27. That's an overall average of about 10.3mph. (FYI, I don't stop at checkpoints; only when I must stop for things like cramps, relacing, etc.) Last year in my Aeroblades I had overall averages of 10.3mph (with Blake and Don), 10.6mph (solo) and 9.0mph (with Aileen and Tom). However, I know I was in better shape last year. So I'm not prepared to draw a conclusion about how these skates affect my performance compared to the Aeros, especially considering that my fastest time for these four 87-mile skates was: a) on the Aeros, b) carrying 100% of my supplies on my back, c) completely solo with no drafting, and d) skated conservatively (since I had no support).
I can say that the stability at speed is clearly better with the Vaypors. However neither has it been a problem in my Aeros (top speed in Vaypors this year = 35mph, top speed in Aeros last year = 38mph). But at the highest speeds I don't want to lift the Aeros off the roadway, whereas doing so with the Vaypors is not uncomfortable.
As to hill climbing, I expected it to be more difficult in the Vaypors than it seemed. Clearly this is a subjective impression for which I have no objective supporting evidence. However, when I wasn't limited by cramps I often found it more comfortable to overtake skaters on hills that I seemed pace-matched with otherwise. (Sadly I was dealing with cramps during more than half of the event... :( ) I continue to find that longer strokes and a slower cadence "feels" better climbing hills, and paridoxically I have the sense of getting even more uphill glide out of the Vaypors then I do with the Aeroblades. Again - all subjective impressions...
Skating in a pace line seems to take just a tiny more concentration due to the longer wheelbase. With the Aeros I don't worry about tapping skates with my neighbors. The distance that feels comfortable at the upper body level seems to give adequate clearance at the skate level. However, with the 13-inch S-Frame I feel the need to add an inch or two of extra separation, and end up holding my hand out to enforce that separation much more often. Keep in mind that I'm dealing with about 15 years of learned reflexes here. Not a big deal - just something I'm aware of (no, I haven't yet tapped skates with anyone I'm following, but twice now a skater following me has tapped my skates.)
What about braking? I'm quite happy with the braking performance of my setup - a Gatorbrake and leash (thanks Mark). Given the physics of the 13-inch frames I think these add-on components are quite effective. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll say that I find it to be inferior to the brake setup on my Aeroblades. But this is an expected and unavoidable consequence of the longer racing frames - not any fault of the braking components. I am accustomed to being able to "stop on a (relative!) dime" without any need to manage my torso or arm position. With the racing skate setup it just isn't possible to stop on that dime - it's more like a dollar. Furthermore, maximum braking requires proper management of the torso and arm/hand. Under unexpected emergency braking conditions it's not hard to see how braking might be "too little, too late". Again, I'm used to the Aero setup; I just need to recondition my reflexes. But the braking setup is effective and I don't recommend doing A2A or similar events without it.
As to the event overall, I am of course pleased that at the end of the day there were 401 skaters registered for the event! This is about fifty more than the last "fully funded" 2004 running of A2A. Thanks to everyone who made it happen, and I hope we'll have an even better turnout next year. I'm sorry that several of our local skaters were unable to be there. We missed you - and you missed out! But there's always next year - and perhaps other opportunities as well. 2006 didn't go quite like I'd expected for me, but I intend to return to Georgia to skate this route sometime before next year's event and I hope a few of you will join me. I'm also hatching another A2A skate variation that's been on my mind for a few years. But that's for another day...
So, there you have my 6,000+ word monologue on my favorite skating event of the past 15 years! Anyone who knows me knows that its more than a skate for me, but it wouldn't be anything at all if it wasn't for the skating. To anyone within the "sound of my voice" who hasn't done this event, please consider putting it on your calendar for next year (Oct 7th, 2007). Most skaters who skate A2A find it to be a life-changing event, as much for what it gets you to do throughout the year in preparation for it as for what you experience on the event weekend itself. I and many other seasoned skaters are more than happy to help anyone who has doubts to dispel them, and to help you train for this (and other) events. *You* can do A2A! Choose 38, 52 or 87 miles. It's A2A any way you measure it.