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Athens to Atlanta 2010 Roadskater’s Report: Always an Epic Struggle Before During and After A2A

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We passed a church about 20 miles in, whose sign spoke brilliantly for the day and our group taking the epic journey: THE HARVEST IS RIPE. BUT THE NUMBERS ARE FEW. What joy in seeing our friends...if for sweet bright flashes only...what flickering sadness in those not there...with a breath cloud of sorrow for some we never quite had time to closely know, who can never be with us again, mixed with happiness to be so lucky to miss them.  

This year I had one goal, and I’m not sure about eebee, but I know for me it was to not do anything to keep eebee from getting to the finish at Atlanta, whether I finished or not. But I was pretty determined to be there skating too so I could see her cross the line. Why?  

There’s a little non-race I’ll never win my gender group in (and if I do I will be sad for what that means). It’s a non-race most people won’t know about, and if they do, they won’t care about it. But it’s the non-race for having skated the most official miles at A2A. And if I didn’t mess it up, it looked like eebee would move into first place in this little non-race.

So it’s not a race. It’s an achievement. It’s an expression of humanity. But first, you have to get to Athens, ready to skate. Then, you have to get up, ready to skate. Then, you have to skate, ready or not, all the way to Piedmont Park!  

The Friday Not Skate

I love the idea of the Friday night social skate in downtown Atlanta, followed by a day off, then the timed non-race on Sunday. But the reality of the Friday skate has been almost always great for the skate itself, sometimes not so much for other reasons. One year I rode the bus to Athens with northinsouth; that was fun but we ended up walking a lot uncomfortably to get something not in the downtown area. One year, I bent a frame on a chunky city street. One year, we had a bad time drain on Saturday due to someone breaking into the car while we were eating dinner on the way home after the Friday night skate; that was a major bummer.

I wondered what would be the major bummer this year. So I was eager for the company but felt I needed to focus on rest, mostly. We conferred and both agreed we could use the time and energy we’d expend on Friday night, and we’d take our chances dropping a car in Atlanta Saturday. In typical pre-crisis fashion, we did not stay up getting ready as much as we could have Friday night. OK. Rest. We’ll make up for it.

Except I could not rest no matter how little I tried to think, no matter how little I let myself do. So no rest but no prep yet either. Maybe I should have upstayed.  

Saturday Morning Hardware Summit

Saturday dawned without me and when I awoke it still hadn’t dawned on me. We were already late for our fictitiously optimistic schedule. But we dropped expectations out of the list and eventually let people down who had gone out of their way, and voila, we were again on schedule.

It wasn’t looking good for Athena or the people who wait at her feet (where we try to meet for pics at the statue; now in the shade of the big hotel, in Athens).

The next silly thing was eebee sitting on the floor changing bearings and wheels so happily. It was not silly for her to do it, but in a silly way it looked happy for me to do it too. It was not so happy for my lower back as I tried to unfold and refold while doing all the wheel stuff in search of similar happy wheelness on the carpet. It was not a sharp pain but a Wild Horses kind of dull, aching. Another fear to add to the A2A 2010 list! Would it come along to hurt me in Athens or on the road?

All the wheels stuff went great. I put on the new teal wheels with black hubs. I shook the old gold bearings in a PowerAde bottle with some carb cleaner, drained, shook them again with some WD-40, then shieldcrack lubed them with Triflow. Hmm. Felt good. I was forsaking my newer bearings and white wheels that had left me wanting off the back of the draft more than once in Tanglewood. We’ll figure out the why later. Eebee selected the whites and picked among the bearings in her kit for some goodies, then got a couple from my used but alive batch.

We were both smug and content. But we wondered what effect T2T being only a WEEK before A2A this year would have. We skated relatively hard for some of Tanglewood, especially day one we might have overdone it a little, without our data. We had not skated during the week. I was OK about that, but eebee was troubled. 

Driving and Shopping Into Atlanta

We headed down US78 toward Atlanta and stopped at Wal-Mart in Stone Mountain, not far from where the course passes over US78, for some more essential items, spending too long, but thinking we had plenty of time in the revised underachievement schedule.

We made it to downtown Atlanta, but I blew a few minutes on the one way streets around Ansley looking for our parking spot. The one bad turn took ten to fifteen minutes to go around due to traffic. Still no big deal. I impatiently put some mildly valuables in the trunk and off we went for REI for goo and to look for an extra waterpack bladder. [We had attempted a repair the night before using an underwater plastic repair epoxy stick (water mend or some similar name).]

At REI we got the goo and were goo to go when we went outside and saw EddyM and ValerieZ walking ahead of us to the parking area near our car. Eddy had some honey-based goo-like stuff and we chatted some about various things, including Carolina Century, Skatefarm Thailand, all that plus some A2A generalities. They remarked they might be late for the rant! I thought, “How?” and reached for my phone.

The Big Oops

Then I realized my biggest mistake so far. My blingyphone was not with my blingyself...and the nice subtle black case it sleeps in was also not there. Oops. I then believed it was in the trunk of the dropped off car and had gotten there when I put in other similarly encased items. But I could not be sure, of course. Visions of blingyphone on the ground near my car in Atlanta danced in my head. Hmm. Email access, check. Possible account information, check. Having phone with, priceless. Losing phone night before A2Amas, disastrous.

So it was off to ATL we go. Sorry anyone who was going to meet at Athena, even at the revised time. Sorry eebee. I could not stand the thought of changing passwords, skating without the phone, lying awake repeating obvious statements, and much more.

But traffic less than an hour ago had not been so bad, so no big deal, methought. While yakking, we made some navigational choices that were not great, and this cost us waiting time on the interstate, but we did OK, considering. We did the ringfind and the phone was screaming “let me out of this trunk so I can shine, blingface.”

So we made it to get our numbers and hear the rant late...listened to the route review...saw Eddy again...gave out some Roadskater.net wrist view mirror whistles to folk who had come to Greensboro for either Tour to Tanglewood or Carolina Century at some point in recent years. [People seemed to like them OK but of course I didn’t expect anyone to try them for the first time at A2A.]

The Night Before A2A

We made another sacrifice to try to rest more by not making it to dinner in downtown Athens, where we would have dear friends and long waits, usually a grand circumstance. We had planned to eat before the rant, but I blew that. So the next choice was to go and actually eat downtown with skatepals instead of just getting a coke and going home. One of the main reasons to be at A2A is to talk to people you don’t often see. We took the car to park it nearer to the restaurant, and quickly realized town was flooded with people who wanted to watch the football game...not at the local stadium as A2A is always an out of town football weekend...but on television, as part of the simulated genetic replication game or as time with buddies or whatever.

This was going to lead to late night no sleep, so we went looking for less rich more selectable food and ended at an almost empty by now Jason’s Deli, near the Walgreens we make part of the A2A ritual. We ate better there than we would have elsewhere. I had salad and was pretty careful what I ate. We heard from TomB and crew as they were heading into town, and as TomB is a two time Carolina Century 102 finisher, it seemed good to wait for them to arrive and say hi and give him a mirror/whistle so I could get those off my mind. eebee wanted to get some candy so went to the 24-hour drug store.

Walgreens was good and simple and for once we didn’t need to repair anything with epoxy, so we got our good’n’plenty reserves, along with other rest stop potentials. I can’t remember what else I got, but eebee went crazy with carbs of the processed sort. I participated in gummicide most of the rest of the night.

At the hotel, cheap, where we stay for very few hours, we put our skates on to make sure all was OK. We did a lot of skating, or rather a few parking lots worth of skating back and forth, not venturing into the road.

We put together our rest stop bags without taking too long. A2A does a great thing we need to offer at Carolina Century if we can: you can put stuff in boxes that go to each rest stop, and after the event is over, they go back to the finish line. This is a great solution to several common desires and problems. We had a 24-oz. “grippy” bottle for each rest stop for me, plus some of them for eebee and some extra bottles for either of us to use at the end. We also had various collections of carbs: good’n’plenty, a few atomic fireballs, at least 2 goo per stop, lemonheads, gummi like stuff, some lite salt (sodium, potassium). We never know what will be “wow” when we look in the bag on skate day, so we just put stuff in and eat leftovers after A2A like Halloween, sort of. Also, I intended to send a jar of Claussen (couldn’t find so got Mt. Olive) kosher dill pickle spears to Stone Mountain 5, mile 71, but I ended up packing it for the Steel Fab 6, mile 78. We left a waterpack bladder of ade at Dacula, 3, mile 38.

All seemed good for both of us. We got the numbers pinned on and put them on shipping tape then on the helmets so the numbers would not be so permanently on them. It was late, but early for us, so good, once again.

I had not slept the night before, or rather I fell asleep at least five times, but was likely awake more than asleep. Reports are, or report is, I slept heartily or nosily or noisily the night before A2A 2010. It’s about time!

Sunday Arrives Barely In Time

The next morning neither of us could face our traditional and successful concoction of oatmeal and dried cranberries (did you have to, did you have to, did you have to quote the singer) and decided to do goo instead. I did two instantly, as I knew I would not want to for a while once skating.

We were a bit late but not much and no worries. We got everything in the car and rolled out for the parking garage at the start line. When we got there we thought briefly that we might have missed the start, as there was nobody warming up and no one in the parking deck.

No. We were just cutting it close and it was way less crowded. We skated with our rest stop bags over to the truck and saw Mark of the flying squirrels and hoped to talk more with him later. We found lots of RoadSkater.Net jerseys and the people in them and rolled up to the line or reasonably close to avoid the newbies who were not there. So far, good enough! 

I took photos I knew would be blurry but didn’t want to burn the batteries on flash.

Rolling Out for Atlanta on Skates This Time

We always roll out as fast as we can, or as fast as we both can, up the hill past the city hall, then a right, left downhill to veer right at the traffic light on Prince. After that we back it down a bit and let everyone have their sprinty fun. We have found we are still going too hard for 87 miles of it when we back off, or at least too hard to sustain for long. We want to get through the first turns, out to the left uphill by the Naval Supply School, and under GA10 where Oglethorpe becomes Tallassee and traffic comes in from the right and left. With all that done, you can climb up to the train track crossing and breathe a bit for the day that follows, now in the countryside for a while.

We had a pack of nine for a good while and it was a pretty good group. Things were only a heartbeat fast for me, at 157 average. I probably could do 160 all day this time of year, but can only be sure of 156 from data, lacking some data recently in the times of trouble (speaking words of wisdom) with the Garmin Forerunner 305. [Eebee and I both replaced our GF305s the same day at Tanglewood, Saturday; this is testament to how much they mean to us both, but more on all that later, $151 at BestBuy in the store, where they matched the online price.] So 156 was my number and better yet, 154. Eebee was a notch or two high for her this year, too, so I told everyone the two of us needed to back it off a notch and we understood if they left. As I recall none did, or if they did, they came back later. One of them, young Chris, 15 years old, literally skated back toward us later to get back to the pack. One of the highlights of A2A this year was meeting him and his family.

When we crossed the county line (fast section, sweeping right, with a stream crossing defining the county as I recall) we picked up or regathered a skater who joined in and learned quickly how we were doing things and seemed to like it OK. I think we still had around nine or ten with us. At the left turn onto GA330 we saw Donn who was providing (probably at his own expense) rolling rest stops with water or ade, your choice. This was awesome and inspiring. Skate free or die! OK. Skate free! So, out to the left then a long straight and some fast stuff and the reservoir, we were all good, having fun.

I had a pack of ade and was good for that but got some water or ade. I had bought some bottle holders to snap on the pack belt for holding the empties at least. This worked well. WallofChinaMart. $1.38. Mine worked when I worked it well. I dropped a bottle once near a rest stop. I think Yukio picked it up for me. He seemed strong early on, wanting to drift off the front. But later he had fallen it seems and was not feeling as well, of course.

At the resevoir we had Ben, Terry, Yukio, Chris, Mark, John Spongebob, JonathanS, Elizabeth, and me.

By RS1, just after GA82 joins from the right, and where we take GA211 to the right for the first time, we were all good, not stressed, and I got my grippyade out of the yellow bag...sweet. I like that 24 oz. Gatorade bottle best, as it fits in the hand well and has a twisty top. For 32 oz. I like the Powerade bottles (but note they use corn syrup sweetner). I was not sure how much goo I had done. I usually keep the gootrash in the right outside leg of my shorts so I can keep count, but may have offloaded it at RS1. But I am certain I had plenty of ade and goo at this point.

Some were concerned about the left hand sort of ninety degree turn on Rockwell Church Road, so we split up there into various delegations, to regroup after the turn. I think someone in the group had taken a fall there once or some such. It’s not long after you cross Jefferson Highway, GA11, where GA211 goes left, which latter road you will turn right again to join again later at RS2. (Another deja vu or Escherlike repetition in the course.)

We went to RS2 in great shape, and Donn was coming along amazingly often. He must have made it his job to help the back of the field since the front gets the best of everything and needs it less! That is the spirit of skateylove indeed.

At RS2, we saw Chris’ little bro and his mom handing out drinks and taking photos with a worried proud look. We were feeling good, and maybe someone mentioned speed there, but it was OK of course, being so early. I try not to hear distance and time together, or speed, but of course others like to say it, so OK. Today it would end up oddly that after this point I would not have any idea of our speed or time...only heart rate and how I felt muscularly.

ValerieZ and HenryZ came by at RS2. We caught them later on the artist formerly known as Gatorback stretch by the gravitational force vs. wind resistance of our more populated pack. They passed us again somewhere, then we saw them again at the uphill four-way (Dee Kennedy onto Harmony Grove Rd, I think) first Escher up-left-up turn. By the top of that hill we knew more about the rest of the day, and this is often the case at this hill.

Also just after RS2, one of our group said they were going ahead for a bathroom break, but this was on that long downhill after the right turn back onto GA211. So we had the fun of watching him skating against the wind as we sat in a tuck slowly gaining on him. At the left onto Dee Kennedy I think some took their break as we soft pedaled it to make it easy to regroup.

I felt great. Our average heart rate to that point had been constantly going down since we consciously backed off long before. I knew heart rate was not going to be a problem, or was not likely to be a problem, for the rest of the day. I only had to worry about muscles in the miles fom about 55 to about 78. Why not go harder?

There were several reasons for not pressing. When my heart rate had been 1 over my normal sustainable number (cheap version of VO2Max), eebee was not over hers for last year, but was a bit over hers for this year. But more importantly, at about RS2 and before, she was talking of huge pains at a point in the day where she usually has warmed up and is not yet in muscular or foot pain. This was all different pain, related to food or drink, sugar or acids or digestion of something. I gave what suggestions I could and offered to take her pack and bottle, and got the bottle but never got the pack, as we were rolling.

By the time we got to the last rolling straight before the left climb to Dacula, my average heart rate was actually down by 7 to 150, so I had 6 heart beats to spare averaged over multiple hours...that’s good...and no cramps so far. I have had first cramping start many years going into Dacula.

On Bailey Road, before turning left on Old Auburn Road to go up toward Dacula, I had come out of the draft through briefly picking what I thought was a better path, and got my lesson, missing some of the fun. But as we went by the chicken coop near the subdivision after the turn, I was feeling grand. Supergodlike for a slow guy. Totally comfortable. Better than most of the last half decade, I’d say, at this point. This was because much of the time I was waiting in one form or another. But would the legs last all day as it got warmer, and if we took longer, and it got harder, would that affect me? And what about that wind. It has been going all day but is supposed to get stronger around 1pm. How’s it gonna be?

Dacula Provides Some Relief

We climbed up to Dacula and I knew eebee had been in pain for twenty miles at least, at a hard place on the course. I knew we’d take a while at Dacula to figure things out and pack for the long spot with no rest stops. After we dropped right into 2nd Street by the tracks, I looked at the numbers on the clock but didn’t read them. Jaime was there cheering us on and giving us help as we needed it.

Eebee went to the rest room and I staggerolled into the porta. I said hi to John the Spongebob skater (this year with another cool jersey) who was doing 38 who said something about us looking great doing our 87 and I could not believe he was talking about us but said thanks, because he looked totally comfortable and relaxed finishing the 38! I know he could have done the rest with us and told him so.

38 Miles Down, 49 Miles to Go

So we rolled out of Dacula and we had a great group with a new guy, Steve, along, and another guy, Scott, who we picked up along the way. We made it past the church either early or late or something because we didn’t have help and didn’t need it. (Amazingly, I still didn’t look at time here, but this would have been a clue that we were late; but I figured we might be early, based on cars in the parking lot.) We did wait at one light at the uphill left in front of the church near the Dacula post office. That took a long time.

We now had two guys in the pack who were great guys and really nice, but seemingly not such fans of single line pack skating. As long as there is one they’ll usually be careful enough and predictable. But when things come loose in a pack they usually come very loose. The rest of the day things were pretty loose, and I am not saying my way is right and theirs wrong, just that they don’t mix too well together. This difference takes energy and ultimately time. One guy had already fallen so he may not have felt comfortable around others, which could happen if someone had just pulled you down (and I don’t know that this happened). The entire pack for the rest of the day were great guys all, but we did have different needs and philosophies and skills. So be it. Time to adjust.

After we got through Dacula, on the road with several flat four-ways which have changed a bit lately, where there are lots of subdivisions along the way, we had a scare. A car passed, then put on their left turn signal and slowed to make the left in front of us, with traffic coming the other way. (I hope none of our pack waved them on, because I think we should let them decide that, and just wave Hi so they know we know they’re there.)

The car driver didn’t leave much room on the far right and it would have taken some swerving to get there, and the timing was very bad for trying to pass them on the yellow line, plus someone in our group had grabbed my pack or me and I was trying not to fall while figuring out all the rest. We all made it safely and that is all that matters, but this took a while as we coasted a bit to get out of the death daze.

Two guys caught us there again and joined our pack for a long time. They were struggling a bit but doing a great job of keeping on, and obviously were making our pace as we erratically moved along. As eebee said, we were maybe at best like geese flying rather than a paceline.

Part of the problem is that some might have been faster by a bit but we knew the course. That is why some didn’t leave us who might have. We’d catch them by pack gravity several times, they would swim to catch up, get to the front, off the front, not be sure, maybe wait, maybe make a last minute save, then we’d pass them there or later with pack momentum again.

But it repeated all day, and we never quite got everyone to stay in the pack without shotgunning. At points I expected to witness an accident, which would not be as hard to take if we were a competent professional looking bunch (I don’t mean we really look like skinny pro racers, but that we look predictable and competent, aware of and respectful of traffic, even if we are going to keep going in the right tire track, barring major amounts of cars behind).

So there’s some slinkying but we had different kinds of unpredictability, and I am sure at times I was part of it as the day wore on and my muscles wore out. But my coffee was draining out leaving me with grounds.

So between RS3 Dacula and RS4 Atkinson Rd at Discover Mills, we did OK once we regrouped, and I still felt great as we made it along. In Gwinnett we had to wait some at major roads, like GA124 and GA20. It was a sign that we’d be waiting some later.

We got great help at Lawrenceville-Suwanee, and that would have been a tough one without it. Also we got help at Rockbridge Road. The storm whistle came in handy again in letting police know we were on the way...not blasting it so much. We blasted it some when needed to let traffic know we were around, but again tried not to do this as a response to anything. I say we tried.

Let the Cramps Begin!

So sometimes we had one or two off the front who didn’t know the way, but I decided to relax about that, or try to, because I could not yell coherently up to them anyway. If they missed a turn, OK, we’d try to let them know.

We climbed up to N Brown Rd, dipped down left and back up to Sever Rd, and I felt my first quad cramps there. This is where we passed Mark of the flying squirrels that year that was pretty hot. We rolled through one of my favorite spots at Lebanon Road and I felt good. We came to the saddle crossing at Sugarloaf with the big hill up to Discover Mills and I was pretty good, but not one to be smart and back off, I sort of sprinted up that one and felt it. Sometimes it just feels better to go up faster, but I pay for it in my current configuration.

RS4 was a bit different this year, but still great. I think there were just fewer volunteers this time. There were chairs and this is the first time I sat down, as I did at RS5 and RS6. We forgot to tell people to use the porta first if you’re going to, and not to wait until we are ready to go, so we got caught by that a bit and waited some, and got rejoined and waited some for those guys, and did not resent it, but knew it was taking some time. It may have helped my cramps come on later rather than sooner, too, so no complaints about anyone else.

I need to find a longer and maybe steeper hill setup to train on in Greensboro. Country Park is great as long as the course looks like Country Park.

Our RS bags were working great. I swapped out my light to medium shades for the dark ones I had stashed at one RS, maybe Dacula, and grabbed goos and other treats that struck my fancy. We rolled out of RS4 knowing it was again a long way to the next one, with a lot of climbing and potential trouble between them.

We came to the point where the detour left last year and I was glad we rolled straight on. On Herrington Road before the angled right onto Cruse Road I had sermonized everyone with help from eebee about the downhill stop light on Cruse at Club Road. When you can see a traffic light just above the road it’s obviously downhill there, and this light is a rapid changer. We got through that OK. At Pleasant Hill it was similar, but we had police support (thanks, Gwinnett Police, thanks, whistle) and it was done perfectly. We rolled through there in great fashion.

What a shock to look over at the Lowe’s Hardware and see that it was shut down, logos gone, made commercially neutered! Atlanta’s deathly expansion ring expands. This year I did not need to do the Thinker pose on the rock at the stoplight there. I was feeling good again and probably up front too much. We got under the RR Parkway OK in those tricky double-right lanes and turned left into calmer streets, ready for hills and more hills leading up to Silver Hill and RS 5 beyond. We looked back to see two of our group had made it OK even if not quite with us now. That had been one of their main objectives.

We were many of us hurting by now. I could hear one skater breathing and he mentioned high heart rates and sometimes was wanting a moment. Actually on some hills i could hear him doing a pretty rapid breath cycle and I wondered if it was some secret I should learn about. I was again feeling great. I could tell on the climbs that eebee never felt very good, even if feeling way better than the worst before Dacula.

We saw DavidK at various points, memorably at the top of Burns Road at Indian Trail. He looked calm and well within himself, and I hoped but didn’t expect he’d join a pack as large as we had. I felt maybe were it 2 or 3 he might, but thought at this point if he had caught us he had no benefit really since he looked in good shape and only had one person to watch out for...and one he could predict...himself. We caught him some, but at the stops we waited long enough to get everyone together and out of the porta that he was off before we were.

One of the guys in our remaining pack was strong on the uphills, and I calculated he’d not be with us at the finish. I was still feeling strong and I believe I was staying up front more than I should have, and reports from the field were that I was sprinting up the climbs. We made it over the train tracks with only minor drama, and at Old Rosser as we prepared for the four miles of mostly climbing, I was starting to feel the cramps coming back, but was still optimistic. I was glad others wanted to stop some, as I would have wanted to soon if I didn’t already. Brief stops can help.

A Very Fast Somewhat Crampy Roll In Front

At almost the top of Silver Hill Donn had caught us again. He had been taking care of others further back. He actually apologized for not being there more! Huh?

We talked about everyone’s plan for Silver Hill and three of us went down together...eebee, JonathanS and myself. I think going down Silver Hill is more difficult with the 3x100mm+84mm 12.8-inch frame than it was with 5x84mm 13.2-inch frame, the longer, perhaps lower frame being more stable. We were flying down at about (38, 41 or 42 depending on whose data you believe). I was up front, as usually I am willing to keep going no matter what, so they don’t always like me pushing from behind when they feel like bailing.

I was not tucking much, as we had plenty of mass and there’s plenty in the road and beside the road to watch for on Silver Hill Road now. I may have been up too far, not sure, but my hips and legs started minicramping or tensing with two people pushing on me at 35 plus on a not totally smooth road. There was not much to do but grit it out and try to stay stable, but I agree that any real gains here could be given up without tears because the price of failure would be so bad.

Next year if I still have the same frame, I think a pack of one or two may be a wise limit.

Having said that, we were flying! It felt faster than I’ve ever gone, though I know empirically this is not true at all. I’ve done 43 elsewhere and it was less traumatic. Part of it was that there were two or three or more cars that passed us coming up the hill, and that leaves less room for visibility, error, surprises. So there’s my note to future self, which I won’t read before next A2A, probably! Remind me to put up the video!

After the second daze of the day we skated up to RS5 and really as I recall it, I felt great. But I think the setup for more cramps was in the downhill tension on Silver Hill. ColleenCandyGirl was at RS5, 71 miles, halfway up the 1.1-mile climb to Lickety-Split convenience store and ice cream shop in Stone Mountain Village (where we waited a long time for the lights). Colleen had a superduper rest stop and she spent money on individuals. She had atomic fireballs which made me perk up and offer to no takers.

Colleen mentioned pickle juice and I remembered my kosher dills but I had sent them to the wrong spot or stop. I never investigated her stock of pickle juice, and later wondered what brand, sweet or salty, and spears or halves or whole or no pickles. Pickle juice is the old time remedy for crampage, with lots of sodium and potassium. It is one of the few salty snacks that are fat free, and it has tons of water in it, too. Colleen also had cuteycokes that were kapow sparkups...little caffeine bomb cokes in little hand grenade cans...yumyum. She had other stuff in her cooler that didn’t apply to me, but I can imagine some folk pulling up a chair and abandoning to stay with Colleen and the Cooler by the road, deadening the pain. To heck with Dacula, give me da coolah! Donn was there at RS5 in view of Stone Mountain, continuing his heroic duties as a rolling rest stop for the endurance packs.

Climbing up to Lickety-Split I can’t recall how it all happened but I recall we were a bit strung about. We waited there a long time, and at GA10 where we’ve had help before for a long time. There was help after the demoralizing little hill on Central Drive up to cracked holey road and a CVS at Hairston. JonathanS said something about them holding me up but I knew better from my major muscle group. I wasn’t so demoralized except there were police waiting up there and they closed the intersection kind of early, so we felt slow. I was causing myself later pains sprinting up that mess, while the others were going along reasonably, preserving their springs. We had seen a sign earlier, Payne Springs, and I thought that might be my quads later in the day. Now it was almost later.

Hanging On to the Green Post of a Red Sign When a Pirate on a Bike Says Hi

So the payment for all of my irrational exuberance was that when we got to Clarkston there are some more hills. Nothing huge, but hills. There’s a little painful uphill on Central Drive, left flat wait on Rays Road, downhill right onto Norman Road, shaky saddle, then uphill left Escher turn up off of Norman Road onto steep Rogers Street. That first block of Rogers is the last really hard uphill on the course. Once I get through that, my quads are going to be OK. Not easy, but OK.

I got to the top yay slightly ahead of most but uhoh had to hold on to the STOP sign at Market Street. I was mishearing the Monkees wishing for the last train from Clarkston there. I think without the stop sign I might have simply fallen over somehow, but most of the grass was taken, so I held on.

Some person with a pirate shirt on riding a bike came along into my photo frame as I was about to take a photo of a red building, wanting to be really nice, and we could hardly respond. I have and had a really strange memory of the same friendly person (who in my memory used to be a skater but now bicycles, so it makes sense they might come find people here to say hi to and to encourage) in the same spot being similarly nice. It is a horror movie kind of memory because I was in some kind of daze both times, if they in fact were both times. I am thinking the other time was the unofficial Outlaw 87 in 2005. Not sure. But...Ooooh. Strange when things repeat themselves, or you think they might have, especially on the repeat itself several ways A2A course!

So we moved on along Rogers and with no help at the right on Indian Creek downhill left on Rowland it went fine and I shot photos behind me. Nice easy roll on Rowland. Legs toast, though. I knew we had a long flat section and I was looking for peace and to find out who my legs were.

I was worried about our twitchy pack and now worried about my legs and any ability to react to erratic events in front of me. I knew I would finish, but the superhero feeling was gone, replaced with the antagonistic muscle movements of my legs skating without my permission.

We had help from police, aroused from their discussion by the whistle, as we crossed the saddle at Scottdale on Church Street where it crosses North Decatur Road. They cruised up the hill to North Clarendon Ave and RS6 at the Steel Fabrication Plant. Here there were chairs and pickles that matched the jerseys due to yellow dye and a bag of stuff including goo and grippy ade.  

But we forgot to drop our packs and skate free to the finish. We also didn’t look at our watches. We also were not in a real hurry. We thought we wanted peace and predictability more than anything. We forgot to see if that was true by looking at our time!

So we left with JonathanS and were just Roadskater.net three for a while. Just when we got to the tricky parts of town, we caught some of our previous pack, the stronger upskater having gone, the other guys, perhaps uncertain of the route, we caught.

I was not looking forward to the reversible lane confusion and hole-filled gatorback two miles of DeKalb Avenue, and was especially irritable to try it with five of us not looking so much like a team. This is no slam on the other guys, as the three of us would have looked scattered anyway. It’s just that I have lots of miles with eebee and JonathanS and we know each other and what to expect. With these other guys I was learning but still didn’t know fully what to expect.

Anyway we went along with no Police help, despite DeKalb usually being great, except they were there at the really important Sam’s Crossing and they did a super job. They probably wondered why we were at the rest stop so long! They were the last we saw. Atlanta Police were probably off to more important things, literally.

This should have registered with me of course, that DeKalb police were not where they often are, and that this meant we were late. But honestly I was watching out for moving objects at this point.

We caught up to the other two, went under the MARTA without help, and skated the rest of the way with no intersection help.

The state of DeKalb Ave is hard to imagine because it has lots of traffic, so you would think it would be slated for repairs, unless it is considered a not so important piece of road being along the tracks. But it gets lots of use, so I can’t understand why this has not been repaired.

Has anyone tried Rocky Ford to Howard Cir to McLendon Ave as an alternative, not during A2A? This comes in very close to Little Five Points and should be about the same distance.

So I’ll leave out a lot of concerning moments with traffic and post-war bomb craters along DeKalb Ave...and we went down the ramp to Moreland Ave NE and came into Little Five Points 20 gauge. Any semblance of being a pack was vague at best, and to add insult from without to that within, we are called “stragglers” by a hypercalorizing Hindenburg spread out in the sidewalk cafe as we cruised through.

I’m thinking this is nutty and have decided to be either way back or up front and finally ask all if they want to sprint or hold hands, because the last thing I want is to have a pseudopack into the park duke it out for nothingness incarnate. The guys all said yeah we came this far together let’s go for a tie. Somehow that relaxed me some, and I was remembering that this year’s goal was just to get there or at least make sure I didn’t hinder eebee from getting there.

JonathanS put on a minisprint after some Porshe that tested his glasspack racing to each next stop light. We spent many many many painful minutes waiting at lights as there were enough of us I didn’t feel good picking through, and we didn’t have any police on Highland Ave at Freedom Drive, North Ave, Ponce de Leon, left onto Virginia, right onto Park Drive, no crazy screaming Paul in tye dye at Moreland (not a complaint), at the four-way outside the gate, gate barely open by the way, kids weaving around on small vehicles of some sort near the finish (almost cleaned a miniature clock there), trouble getting everyone together for the handholding, but I am incredibly wonderfully happy and satisfied as we finish! Before I know our time, ha.

Several minutes later I think to consider our time, and am in shock that it could have possibly been our slowest ever, because it was not our worst skate ever, or at least in terms of what we faced and how we did it...but it just didn’t feel we were that slow. I think since I was mostly not in pain and my mind was completely occupied, it seemed faster than it was.

Some said the wind was high and yes it was noticeable...by the records about 12mph in the morning and rising from 12 or 1pm to 4pm at 18mph (not the gusts). That surely made some difference, and maybe enough to get us sub 9. But it was not so much about wind because an awesome pack containing a 61 year old and 3 50-51 year olds and a 17 year old came in at 5 hours 22 minutes! Yowee!

I was and still am utterly stunned that I had managed to skate 9 hours without checking the time or average mph! This is in part due to my training habits and that I trust the Garmin Forerunner 305 to upload all my data. I have begun to look at the 305 less for speed and time and more for heart rate. Even though I had actually been checking a few times for average heart rate and current heart rate, I wasn’t looking at the rest. However, I can say that I certainly never wanted to finish slower than I ever had and didn’t need to post an over 9 hour time.

So there’s another lesson I may not remember to read: if you do have a time you really don’t want to be slower than, keep an eye on the time or average mph!

Looking back on it, even if it caused some pain, we could have pressed some and rested some to get 16 minutes back pretty easily, and may have been much better off to have pressed more in the brief time, if there was one, where JonathanS, eebee and myself all felt good. I am not sure when that would have been, but somewhere after Dacula and before Atkinson, ha, between RS3 and RS4! I am used to having pain from around 56 to around 78, so I would have been OK I think. But who knows.

But what we do know is that now eebee has skated more official miles than some real heroes and friends, and though it matters little or none to anyone, it is fun to say “you’re number one!” to her, though we know it is in a category that only matters to us, maybe. Still it is most of all an expression of her love for Athens to Atlanta and the transformations it has accompanied and engendered in her life (and in so many, including mine). We did email Barrie and Kendra and tried to get them to come skate with or way ahead of us, and it was good to have contact with both (Barrie made a donation to help people with multiple sclerosis by way of the RoadSkater.Net team at Tour to Tanglewood, and Kendra sent along some brake pads from Mark by way of Dave and David).

After we finished and got some food at the finish line and I yakked a bunch and took a few pics. We met with a bunch of skaters and family for steak (same letters as skate) and potatoes or whatever, and we missed everyone not there and all their stories, but we had plenty of stories of our own (and yes I talked so much I missed out on a lot of other). We stayed too long, then drove to Athens (!) to get the car and drive another hour, and JonathanS drove back to his hotel so he could crash entirely and have everything all together, self, car and stuff.

Thanks to ALL who rolled in our pack at any point. I am glad we all made it safely. And to the youngster, Chris, we are all impressed at your completing this event. You are a great skater and we are counting on you to come back for decades to come. With a few more skaters like you, we can keep A2A going for the future. It was high drama seeing your mom go through the day, and watching your little brother playing with cones as he went down to see when you might round the corner, his hero and ours. When you rolled in, he started sprinting for the line to keep up with you. And that guy with you who didn’t get much attention but must have been a real friend by then. Good job no credit guy. Thanks for coming in with Chris!

So this was a bittersweet year, but I remember mostly how happy I felt at the finish line. It is another one off the couch and on the books and we need more people off the couch and on the books for Athens to Atlanta. Please make your plans now! We made some new friends on the day, and the skaters who went with us were all very grateful for the company on the streets. We had different styles, some of us, but the same goals. Together we made it to the finish holding hands, skating badly for it, but with some lessons learned.

If we don’t forget.

And if you want to finish in...
sub 7, just do 12.5 mph average, including your stops, if any.
sub 8 ~ 11 mph.
sub 6 ~ 14.6.

I use 87.5 miles for the calculation because I think the course is about that, and for a tiny bit of wiggle room.

Locations

Classic Center Theatre
300 N Thomas Street
Athens, Georgia
United States
33° 57' 36.36" N, 83° 22' 21.36" W
Piedmont Park
14th Street at Piedmont Ave NE
Atlanta, Georgia
United States
33° 47' 16.2924" N, 84° 22' 29.1504" W
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