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A2A Athens to Atlanta Road Skate Survival Strategy

roadskater's picture

OK here come some thoughts on Athens to Atlanta for the over six hour set, with a few nods here and there to speedsters. I hope to have some other goodies but may not be able to get to it before this year's event! Here are some tips:

  • I use a waterpack which holds 3 litres or quarts, with 3 big (6 small) scoops of Gatorade, 3 packs of Electromix (find at a health food store), and 1 teaspoon of salt. I often pick the flavor to match my jersey!
  • If you have a loud whistle, consider carrying it along and using it only when necessary, and then politely where possible, to let police know you're coming into an intersection if they have not seen you. Use it sparingly but whenever you need a car to know you're coming their way, as when they're about to turn onto the road or cross your line of travel.
  • If your skates have extra mounting holes in the sole of the boots that you never use, consider caulking those holes with silicone or RTV black gasket maker to keep the tootsies a bit drier.
  • If you know your anaerobic threshold (AT) or the average heart rate (as recorded by your heart rate monitor not by your guesses and observations when in pain) you've been able to sustain in races of an hour or more at pretty much full effort, check your heart rate monitor beforehand to see if it provides a running average heart rate which you can view as you go. If you get above this figure, you may want to choose to back off or your body will choose a long rest stop later in the day, or some time emulating an embryo by the road.

a2a provides a nice logistics support feature in that it ports items to rest stops for you if you like. Since a2a rest stops are nothing as elaborate as Tour to Tanglewood ones, this is especially useful. When you get to the start area there are boxes with the rest stop numbers on them. Put your stuff in the appropriate box with your name on it bigtime. I send a bag to the rest stop at Dacula at 38 miles with:

  • an extra waterbag of my skaterade mix (just the bladder), because a2a offers bottles usually and it's a hassle to fill a camel from bottles (I wish I could do without my pack but it's not likely to happen with the stuff I want or need to carry and with my need for electrolytes);
  • an extra pair or two of skate socks in a ziplock (it seems silly but if it's really wet, you might like doing the 49 miles left with dry socks);
  • perhaps an extra camera battery (just in case, ha);
  • extra gels or goos;
  • salt (or light salt, which is half salt and half potassium, calcium and magnesium methinks) and Electromix;
  • any special food that might make me wish to keep living after all;
  • anything i might need if things are not going well but which weighs a bit.

You can also leave items at rest stops to be taken back to the awards ceremony location. I use this to lighten up when I can, especially at the last stop at Steel Inc. Please ask if it's OK and understand if they're too swamped to help. Stop 6 deals with some toasted cornflakes at the end of the day, especially if it is a warm one.

Leaving Athens, it's important to get in front of everyone who is scared of the over the hump then right then left downhill into a stoplight heading out of historic Athens. Get behind the pros unless you're going to win, but in front of everyone who looks the least bit scared of the start. They can all pass you if they're so fast, but on the way out, you don't want people in front of you braking and flailing their arms (either is ok, just not both). Stick with the steady folk during this part, and after the first downhill to the light at the bottom of the hill, things will sort out rather quickly.

If you're going to skate with a pack or paceline, which you should seriously try for as long as you can without redlining too many seconds, pay attention after the left at the Naval Supply facility onto Oglethorpe. There's a very small and brief hill there that is a good spank spot for the spunky and they will catch you asleep if you're not ready to crank it there if need be. I'm a believer in watching your heart rate monitor and not blowing it over 90% of your reserve (from resting to max) for many dozens of seconds at a time this early, and at this point you're only barely into it. But pay attention at that little hill.

If you get in a very long paceline, you'll likely get slinkified if you stay at the back. As Mark often says, stay in the top six to ten. And don't be a hero unless you want others to use you and toss you out like an orange peel. Get up there, don't spank (unless you're in a competitive sprinty bunch way up front), and count strokes or time yourself but don't stay up more than a minute. Don't worry about the losers at the back sucking wheel because they're getting the slink too, so they're sprinting just to get what they perceive to be free wheel. Remind others not to stay up front too long, and if they ignore you, let them burn their toast if they insist.

The next spot to watch for is the long downhill that goes under the 10 Loop and which may or may not have someone watching for traffic off of the highway. Just keep your senses on that first really long downhill. There is a runout so that part is safe, but the runout might have traffic just past the bridge at the bottom, and there's a traffic light a just a bit after you go under that bridge as well. So LOOK for police or other marshaling (last year Henry was out there for the Outlaw skaters!) before you blast through.

Quickly out in the country and before the next turn, there's a really sweet, beautiful, exciting section that starts out somewhat slowly down but then picks up to a nice fast speed as sweep right and cross into Jackson County. It's great fun so let it hang out and don't get left out of the pack there by defeating gravity voluntarily. You can do this one and stick with the pack if you keep your nerve! There's a runout and it's smooth skating.

The first stop is at a right turn and as I recall there are rumble strips there. Be ready to grab water bottles and bananas on the roll. This is where the gatorback used to begin. Now it's not gator, but we've yet to really see how smooth or hard it is. Don't get left here if you can help it. It's early and if you have goo with you use that instead of losing the pack over a banana (my opinion, and this is if you still have a nice group with which to skate).

The same with stop 2. Toward the end of that section there is a rise in elevation, but the next section is rolling until you get near Dacula and the uphill section just before the brief downhill 38 finish. When you see the Dacula school on the right, you've finished climbing in the 38, and it's a left at a stop sign, then quickly right and down sweeping to the right but keep honking it if you're finishing (and don't back off if you're not); there's a run out into the downtown of historic Dacula where you'll stay right and push like your demons are following if you're finishing.

If continuing, stay to the middle/left and go straight through the intersection where you'll see a small rise and on the right will be stop 3.

Much later, when you see the beautiful serpentine road with black fencing on the left, that's Lebanon Road. It's the last gorgeous section for a few congested miles to come. You need to survive from the right out of there to the left onto Atkinson Road at Discover Mills. It's tight, congested, and the last half is uphill. Some years police support there has been incredible, and we got an escort up that hill one year. There's a Shell station at that left, but unless you need WD-40 or something like that, the rest stop is within sight.

When you get to Cruse Road (Kroger on the right) you'll turn right and go down a little hill. There's a nasty stoplight at Club Drive where traffic will come in from the right. It used to be a quick light and it's a tougher spot than it looks. Just keep an eye on your speed and control, and watch for people in a hurry. Cruse Road takes you to the SIX-LANE Pleasant Hill Road. It's important to be awake and attentive for this short section, which has a difficult little rise up to Lowe's Hardware, then a church on the right, followed by a bridge you will pass under, where the two right lanes can BOTH go right. You want to survive to the next right, so be very careful how you navigate Pleasant Hill Road. There is new and recent devastation there (construction so we have more places to buy stuff).

A bit later you'll make a right onto Old Rosser Rd. This is the beginning of a four mile or so section of climbing to get to the 69 mile crest of Silver Hill Rd. Old Rosser and Silver Hill entrances are almost exactly alike, right turn, watch the rumble strips (one or both places) then a relatively short uphill to a crest within view. After the 69 point, Silver Hill is .75 miles down, but then 1.1 miles up to the Lickety Split Food Store and Gas Station at Stone Mountain's tiny five points intersection, so don't burn your legs up going down Silver Hill if you don't have extra legs to spare.

For touring types and some slower racers, this may mean staying up and cycling the legs longer instead of tucking at the top. Silver Hill is three downhills in a row with no uphill, and unless you sit in a crouch for minutes at a time in training while, say, watching Cheaters, you may want to keep the legs moving until you're scared. Also, if you think you may want to brake on Silver Hill, do it at the top. In my car, a small one, I coasted from 10 mph up to 52 mph. You can get to about 42-45 I say, if you try. Ask yourself, "What will I do if a car backs out of a driveway here?"

The 1.1 mile climb is interrupted pleasantly by rest stop 5 on the right just after you cross Highway 78 and see Stone Mountain on the left. If you're climbing well you may want to push through this and do the climb in one piece. There's a dinky rest room on the right side of the building at Lickety Split. There's also a rest room at the laundry across the street to the left. There's ice cream and goodies in the Lickety Split!

When you see cement lumps in the road you are very near stop 6 at Steel Inc. This is a great place to lighten your load of things you don't really need and could live without if they were lost or stolen. If your pack feels too heavy, maybe you could ask if they'd take it to the finish for you, but please be nice if they have too much to do already. This is a stop that deals with some pretty toasted cornflakes.

There's not much to say about strategy from a touring perspective after stop 6, except be safe, because if you're late in the day, the police may have left their spots if they were ever there in the first place. Remember you don't get credit for miles if you die or get hurt badly enough to be carted off to a hospital with a life-threatening injury. One especially tight right-left is when you've been skating along beside the rails for a long time with the tracks on your right. After passing under a couple of overhead walkways note that the MARTA rails are elevated above a bit and you are near the turn you must make to go under the tracks. It's a downhill into a right turn under a bridge that may have traffic hidden underneath, then a left onto less than perfect pavement (when it was new).

There's more but most of it is either slogging along miserably by the tracks on sometimes crumbled streets or feeling liberated as you coast along through Virginia-Highlands and down to a right onto Park, then to the finish. There you'll find others waiting to celebrate your victory with you and to help you get the medical attention you need, even if for just being crazy to do such a wonderful thing.




roadskater's picture

Some things have changed but here are some tips

Thanks to Gustavo for reminding me of this. I use a CamelBak brand waist pack that holds about 48 oz I think it is. I really like this pack and am generally glad I've dropped the m.u.l.e. 100 oz. I used to use. If you have tried fanny packs but not a recent model of the CamelBak, give it a look. One great feature is you can loosen the side straps when you fill it, then as you drink the contents, just pull forward on the straps and it keeps it all tight and not sloshing. I got the optic yellow version and I think it can't hurt and probably helps people see me. I have a second pack of the same style and will likely leave it at 38 to pick up, either the pack or just the bladder. Not sure but it's an idea.
roadskater's picture

Those Pesky A2A Numbers

I always get annoyed at the A2A race numbers and have suggested in the past to no avail that they be made of vinyl instead of paper. This would last longer, look better, be a great souvenir, and then come off gracefully should one wish to remove it if it is not pretty or say A2A on it or is not such a great souvenir! This year I think I will apply shipping tape to my helmet first, then put the number on that. This should make it easier to remove gracefully. We'll see if it works out any better. I know they have plenty to do and run on volunteers and all of that, so this is not so much a complaint as a solution to share with everyone. Skateylove, Blake
sommemi's picture

Duh! Shipping tape! great idea!

I really should have read all this BEFORE this year's A2A, my sister and I were just talking about that right before the race. That is an AWESOME idea!
roadskater's picture

A2A Athens to Atlanta Rest Stop Distances

Modified from my response at another good thread by Katherine and Elizabeth:


Water stops are at

  1. 15,
  2. 27,
  3. 38,
  4. 56,
  5. 71,
  6. 78.

So in terms of miles between stops counting start and finish, if you hit them all, it's

  1. 15,
  2. 12,
  3. 11,
  4. 18,
  5. 15, 
  6. 7,
  7. 9 to the finish.

Dacula is a big one since it's 18 to the next one.

If in good shape going up the climb after Silver Hill I say skip 5 and keep going to 6 as it is only 7 miles and I think the Silver Hill climb is easier if you don't stop in the middle of it.

If you are not in awesome shape at 6 I think it's good to take a minute to tank up and lighten your load a bit.



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