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A2A 2003 report

skatey-mark's picture

(posted on my website a long time ago, reposted here for Blake's A2A History project.)

 

 

Wow - I've been so swamped the last few days, that I'm just now to the point where I can write something of substance... Let's see now, where to begin.

Well, our adventure starts with Dave, Garth, Melanie and myself dragging our butts out of bed early on Saturday morning. We all hop in the Canyonero and head for Georgia. Conversation is pretty light on the way down. I was *very* excited about the upcoming race. I had trained so hard this year and couldn't wait to see what the results of that training would be. At the same time, I kept reminding myself of what happened last year (bonking at mile 60) and that being overconfident can only lead to disaster.

Nevertheless, at some point, someone starts asking what time everyone is shooting for. I half jokingly make the proclamation that I can do 7 hours even if I don't draft off anyone. Now I surely didn't realize there would be 20 mph headwinds on Sunday! And in retrospect, 7 hours would probably be ambitious anyway... It's really hard to say. Fortunately, I was able to stay in packs most of the race, but more on that later...

We arrive in Athens around 3pm, and find out the Howard Johnson is *much* further away than I thought it was! (Damn you Expedia.com!) I was thinking we'd be able to walk to the Classic Center Saturday evening, then skate there Sunday morning. No way that was going to happen with us being so far away. (Although Lisa skated from the Hampton Inn on Saturday, which is almost as far as HoJo!)

So we check in, then head over to the Classic Center to pick up our packets, socialize, etc. I head over to the "Eddy Booth" and catch Barrie there, trying to make her see that she & Eddy really really want to come back to Greensboro to put on another workshop. :) There wasn't really much in the way of vendors there, although there were more than last year. It would certainly be nice to see the "expo" grow much more. I'd love to see booths from the boot & frame manufacturers, showing off their latest & greatest stuff. We also met up with other InlineNC'ers, including Blake & Elizabeth...

So then we sit through the annual Henry speech. Afterward, I tried to convince the newcomers that the course isn't really as bad as Henry makes it sound... (I remember my first year I was really concerned after hearing Henry's description of the course!) Afterwards, we headed to Barbarito's for some damn good burritos. I think that will definitely be an annual tradition!

Stop to fill up the gas tank on the way back to the hotel. (Garth was going to drive the truck to Atlanta for us, so I didn't want him to run out!) Ran over the curb going into the gas station and gashed the sidewall of the tire. Damn! It didn't blow, but it was definitely weakened. So I decide I better put the spare on -- don't want Garth getting a flat tire either! Of course Chevy changes the way the spare tire mounts every damn year, so it takes us like 20 minutes to figure out how to get the spare tire out from underneath the truck. Finally, we get the spare out and change the tire...

Then back to the hotel to sleep. As if I could sleep... Somehow I managed to catch some Z's, despite being totally pumped for the race. I was paranoid (as usual) about the alarm clock not going off... So I set an alarm on my cell phone, set the alarm clock in the room, and called for a wakeup call. All3 worked, of course...

So now I'm up and it's still dark out. Time to get ready. Fill the Camelbak, load up the Gu. Put on the skinsuit. Pin on the numbers. So much to do. I left myself plenty of time to get it all done, but still a lot to do first thing in the morning. Eat breakfast even though I'm not hungry. 2 barfits ought to do the trick... Take some ibuprofen... Everyone else in the crew is also getting ready. Dave reminds me not to forget the chip transceiver thingie. (Which I totally would have forgotten.) Put that on before my still-asleep brain forgets...

Everyone piles in the truck and we head for the parking deck by the Classic Center. Put on the skates, double check everything. Lock up the truck, give the keys to Garth... Start skating around to warm up. Adjust the laces and the buckles on the boots at least 3 times. Gotta get them just right -- don't want to have to adjust them during the race if I don't have to...

No idea who I'm going to skate with. Haven't seen Blake or anyone else I know, aside from Dave, Garth, and Melanie... It starts getting close to the start so I bid farewell to my skating buddies. I wander through the crowd of skaters and find Blake and Elizabeth. Okay, I decide, I'll start out with them and see how it goes. All of a sudden, things are moving. I didn't hear the start, but we were definitely underway! Before long, I find myself in a paceline with Lisa, Blake, Elizabeth, and several more skaters. Unlike last year, my heart isn't pounding through my chest. Somehow this seems much more natural. I'm able to stay in the paceline and I'm not redlining! What a concept...

It wasn't long before I looked back only to find that I had lost Blake & Elizabeth... Lisa and I chatted a little bit while we zoomed out of Athens. Other packs joined and split off from us. Soon I found myself in another pack, minus Lisa. But there was another familiar face. Couldn't quite put a name to it though... Introduce myself and find out his name is Jay. Of course it is... Brain must still be asleep...

I'd say there were about 4-5 'core' members of this pack, including myself. We gained & dropped people along the way, and we were usually right at 7 people total. Someone got the idea that we were the seven dwarves, except all of us claimed to be 'sleepy'... I started thinking we were the 'lucky seven', because I couldn't believe how fast I was getting down the road, and my heart rate wasn't through the roof like it was last year.

Before I knew it, we were at the first checkpoint. We all agree upon approaching it that we're not stopping. (Why would we?!?!) So we grab water on the run, turn the corner, and keep going. We collect another skater who had never skated in a pack before - I happened to be in front, so I draft off him for a while, then tell him to rotatet back and take a break. When I rotate back a few minutes later, I give him a few tips. (Stay close to get the full benefit, etc.) All the while, we're zooming along on gatorback that doesn't seem NEARLY as bad as it did in previous years! Maybe I'm just getting used to it now -- I certainly skated on much worse surfaces this past year!

We eventually come to the dirt road. Some people start out walking through the dirt/mud. I (and some others) elect to scooter-push along the curbs. The guys in front of me didn't seem very coordinated at it, but there wasn't a huge rush. A minute later, we were scrambling over the cement barriers and skating again. We skate slowly for a bit while the pack reforms, then head off down the road again.

I think checkpoint 2 came after the dirt road. We didn't stop there either. Rolled through, grabbed water... Same old routine. I did notice that my bladder was starting to feel pretty full though. Better that than to be dehydrated though. I'm sure that I wasn't drinking enough in 2002 and that contributed to my bonking...

Climbing the hills into Dacula we lost some people out of the pack. I'm seriously considering stopping to use a porta-john when I get to Dacula... We finally get to the checkpoint and the whole pack disperses. Odd... nobody mentioned anything about stopping. My heart rate had been running slightly high on the hills, so I was thinking of slowing down anyway. But wait -- there's a small pack just up ahead, and they seem to be going a bit slower. I figure I'll skate with them a while and see how it goes. Grab water on the way out... Sorry bladder, you're going to have to wait a bit longer.

The pack I joined had 3 people in it. So with me, that made 4. But one person dropped pretty soon after I joined. So we were down to 3... I find out one guy, Danny, is from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I ask if he's a Wolverine fan, which he is. I went to school at Michigan State, and Wolverines are my sworn enemy, but I decide I'll let it slide... ;) The other guy was from Germany, and I didn't catch his name when Danny asked, but I thought I heard him start spelling it, and thought I heard a "G"... Okay, so it's me, Danny, and Mr. Germany...

Our small pack cruised down the road pretty efficiently. We never saw any of the guys from my old pack, and I don't really remember us passing anyone else. Although we might have -- some details are a little foggy. I do remember my left leg starting to hurt though. I thought it was a cramp, which I've never had to deal with before. It would get wobbly if I tried to put too much weight on it. I could still skate, but it wasn't very pleasant. I down a packet of salt from Wendys and take 4 ibuprofen, hoping that will do the trick.

We skate on through checkpoint 4, and my leg still hurts... Bladder feels like it's going to explode... But my pack is making great time. Don't want to drop... I keep hearing Eddy's words in my brain... "Heaven is drafting. Drafting is heaven." Don't lose the draft, I keep telling myself. Eventually, the pain in my leg decreases to a more manageable level, though it still flares up on the occasional hill. Okay, I can deal with that. We pass the water stattion at mile 50. We're making damn good time...

At some point, Danny is pulling and the pace is a little to tough for me. It's getting near the point where I bonked last year, and I certainly don't want a repeat. I had been worrying about that throughout the skate. Paranoid about letting my heart rate get too high... Eating when I'm not hungry. Drinking when I'm not thirsty... So I tell them it's a little too fast and I think I'm gonna drop. Danny says it was a little too fast for him too, so he'd rather slow down -- funny, since he was pulling! No complaint from Mr. Germany, so I stick with them...

Germany starts to fall off the back and says he needs to take a break... We're getting close to Checkpoint 5, so I convince him to stick it out a little longer... As we get closer, my bladder will no longer be denied and I tell my skating buddies I'm going to need to stop for a pee break. (I had been really really close to just going out on the road...) So we finally make it there -- I make a beeline for the portajohn. Afterward, I felt so much better it was like getting a second wind! :) So while my buddies took their turns, I went over and refilled my Camelbak, which was almost empty. I get done just as they're ready to go, so I grab a bottle of water and we start down the road again. Total time on the pit stop -- 3 minutes...

Danny & I chat a bit more, as we make out way to Silver Hill. Turns out, this is his first race - ever! I tell him he's skating like a veteran, which is true... Germany is pretty quiet, and probably pulls a little longer than he should before rotating back into the draft... I don't think much of it at the time...

Now we're passing landmarks I recognize from my hellish skate-after-i-bonked experience last year. It's definitely a good feeling to fly by the places that I remember having to stop so often to rest. I see the fire station this time too. We didn't need to stop for water though. I do notice there's nobody outside, so I'm sure lots of skaters missed that stop, just like last year.

Danny is pulling as we get to Silver Hill. I ask him if he's comfortable being in front, and he says he is. (I really would have preferred to be in front instead, since I don't know how he's going to handle the hill.) But we keep the order - Danny, me, and Germany, and keep our momentum going as we start down the hill. And we're flying... Danny seems to be stable enough. My skates are wobbling a little bit, but nothing I can't handle. We stay tucked the whole way down. When we start to slow down, I look back and Germany hasn't made it to the bottom yet. I figure he must have gotten worried about the speed and stood up to catch some air. Well, I didn't want to lose our momentum waiting for him, and drafting doesn't help on the uphills, so I tell Danny that we'll wait at the top. Oh - we hit 39 mph on the downhill, according to the GPS... :)

So we get to checkpoint 7 and Danny grabs some oranges. Germany makes it up a couple minutes later and starts removing equipment. Looks like he's going to be a while. So I tell Danny we should get moving. Turns out, Danny is fried as well. I could hear him struggling up that hill... Well, I'm not feeling great by any means, but it's time to get going. I tell Danny he can just draft off me -- I'd just be skating by myself anyway. And we start off... No need to grab a water bottle this time. I know I have enough left in the Camelbak to get to Piedmont Park. I check the elapsed time and do soem quick figuring. I can hardly believe that a 6.5 hour time is possible if I can maintain a good pace.

Having Danny draft off me proved to have some advantages. For one, it gave a definite boost on the downhills, which there were still significant hills left to do. Plus, it gave some moral support. Just having someone else there helped alot. Danny was definitely a trooper. He was gasping pretty hard on all the hills, but he stuck in there. On the flats, where I still had the legs to maintain a pretty good pace, he still hung in there. As we passed landmarks I recognized, I'd tell him we were getting close.

We soon got to checkpoint 8 and rolled right past it. 8 miles to go Danny! I'm not sure who I was trying to encourage more -- him or me... Danny's really struggling now, but is still hanging in there... I see a mile marker from last year -- mile 83! Only 4 more miles!!! I can see the finish line in my mind now... I'm barely aware of my legs anymore. They're tired, but they're still pushing... Tricky turn coming up -- watch the curbs! So close... So close... Danny is still hanging in there. I see the park entrance. We're in the home stretch... We're here Danny!

I muster a little more energy and pick up the pace in the park. I don't know if Danny is still behind me or not... I'm skating as hard as I can at this point, but it really isn't *that* fast... I see the finish line, this time for real... 6:27 and change... I'm gonna make it... Time to pull out all the stops, though there isn't much left. I tell my legs to push a little harder, then I notice Danny is *still* with me. Damn - what a trooper! Not only that, but he's beside me and picking up the pace! So I try to match him, and we come up on the finish line side by side. Danny backs off at the last minute to make sure I cross first -- not necessary, but I appreciated the gesture.

Danny and I come to a stop and are swarmed by two volunteers. One grabs my tear tag and one grabs my chip transceiver thingie before I even know what's happening. I give Danny a high-five and congratulate him on a gutsy performance. I know how tough those last 15 miles were on him. We get called back to the finish line - apparently there was a problem. Turns out Danny didn't have a chip thingie. Didn't matter since he crossed the line a fraction of a second after me...

I can hardly believe it. Not only did I break my goal of 7 hours, but I shaved another 30 minutes off as well. I check around the finish line area, but don't see anyone else I recognize... I make my way over to the food booth and grab a sub. I hang around the finish line to see others come in. Eventually I see Blake & Elizabeth coming in, hand-in-hand. Very cool... Others familiar faces start coming in... Jared, Lisa, Dave, Todd, Larry, and others... It was great to see everyone made it back okay...

Still no sign of Garth... Figured he'd be there with the truck by now. Hoping he made it to the 38-mile finish okay...

Get a call from Melanie. She's on the sag vehicle. Got picked up at mile 53. Great accomplishment for her first year. She was apparently doing great, keeping on pace, but was the last skater out there and the driver convinced her to sag. Sadly, there were more skaters not far up the road that she would have passed eventually... But in any case, it's relieving to know she's okay, despite having some road rash from earlier in the day... She also says she saw Garth just before Dacula, so I know he's okay now...

Garth shows up finally. Buses were running a little slow. No big deal. Didn't seem to be a big fan of driving the Canyonero though... ;)

Eventually, we head over to the awards ceremony. I treat myself to two beers right away... :) Or I should say Melanie treated me to two beers, since I didn't have any cash on me... Doh! Awards went pretty much as expected, although it would have been nice if they were in a room with more seating -- way too many people sitting on the floor! Eventually some couch space freed up and Dave, Melanie,and I moved up to claim it. :) Not only that, but that put us closer to the prize table. In past years, the leftover prizes are up for grabs to anyone quick enough to get up there, so we were in good position now... :)

Sure enough, the awards ended and we were able to grab some swag. Spiffy Rollerblade EVO knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards. I had wanted to get some pads for the next Eddy clinic I got to, since I got some pretty bad road rash at the last one. So that worked out really well.

Dave, Garth, Melanie, and I make our way back to the truck and get into some fresh clothes. Then we meet up with Blake and company for dinner at "Cow Tippers" -- a great steakhouse that's close by. We pig out and chat...

Finally, it comes time to leave so we say goodbye to all our skater friends and hop in the truck back to Athens. The drive seemed really long... I was definitely ready for sleep! We finally get back to the hotel and I'm sure I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow! I slept like a rock!!!

Monday morning we all slept in... :) On the trip back to NC, we stopped for another eating frenzy at Cracker Barrel... The trip home was without incident. I definitely had a warm fuzzy feeling inside though. What a great weekend...

One last thing... I think the guy from Germany that was in my pack-of-3 was Joern Mueller. According to the results, he came in about 15 minutes behind me & Danny. (Somehow I missed it -- might have been getting food or something.) He came in just behind a Roller-Montreal skater, so I'm guessing he met up with that guy at checkpoint 7 and skated in with him.

 

Wow -- that was much longer than I thought it would be. I guess I just had such a great time that the words came easily. This was definitely one of the best times I've had all year. And I'm not talking about my finishing time in Piedmont Park, although that's part of it... I've met so many great people skating -- most of them are just super nice... It's such a privilege to spend a whole weekend hanging out with so many wonderful people! This is definitely what it's all about.

 


Comments

eebee's picture

SkateyMark's 2003 A2A Report

"It wasn't long before I looked back only to find that I had lost Blake & Elizabeth"

 

I remember turning left onto Oglethorpe, NOT doing crossovers, thereby creating a gap, and the headwind hitting me like a ton of bricks! I watched your red, white and blue self skate off into the distance whilst hearing Blake behind me, urging me to catch back up again! So that pack-losing episode was my fault.

 

It has haunted me ever since :-)

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