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Athens to Atlanta Roadskate 2007 - Black Holes and Revelations!

eebee's picture

I'm referring to the Muse song "Starlight". Several phrases of the song seem to fit my A2A experience this year, with the Black Holes being the painful gaps in the Gatorback pavement along Dekalb Avenue around mile 82. And the revelations? Well...

I don't care who you are - A2A will kick your butt! It will raise your hopes and expectations, and then punch you in the gut. It's everybody's race, it's nobody's race. We all want to win it, but most of us won't. Fantastic! I love it!

Honorary mention of the Friday Night Skate...fun, more sparse than last year, but a more leisurely, social skate this time. Moment of silence for my stolen skate bag, Camelbak and heart-rate monitors that night. Three cheers for being so disorganized I couldn't fit my skates into my skate bag, so neither they nor my helmet were stolen.

Back to the relevant part of this report: A2A Sunday Oct 7th, 2007. This year I did the whole 87 miles without a Camelbak for the first time. Blake and I doubled-up obsessively on our rest-stop refreshments, and actually froze all our drinks for rest stop 3 onwards. These would already have thawed out by the time we got to drink them. Some kind souls offered me their heart-rate monitors, so I borrowed a strap from somebody and used it with the only heart-rate watch I had left, which has broken display-glass. Borrowing someone else's strap didn't stop my heart rate from being in the red for the first 2 hours of the skate. I didn't feel like I was pushing myself too hard at all, so I have no idea why it was so high, other than the excitement/adrenaline.

The first 38 miles were fun, hilly, challenging, and presented the usual ever-changing pacelines, with people catching us, dropping out, leaving us, or staying with us. No pile-ups for us this year, though! Stopping at the first 2 checkpoints felt weird to me though, since we didn't have our Camelbaks, and I had a couple of mini-panics that our then paceline was wasting precious time relacing skates, fixing things, etc., so early on in the race. No wonder my heart rate was so high. At some point Blake's trusty hand-mirror fell away - on a downhill of course! - and he went back to get it, dropping gels out of his shorts in to the bargain. Panicking on the side of the road I looked at my watch. After we started off again, I noticed it was only a 2 minute stop, which over the course of about 8 hours wouldn't make that big of a difference. This calmed me down a great deal, and I felt it certainly not worth being upset at something so small.

When we got to Dacula our paceline was down to me, Blake and Yong, whom we had somehow caught up to again. The famous Climb into Dacula finished off some people, I think. I remember past A2As at the same point on those pre-Dacula hills, thinking 'Oh God I'll never make it! My quads are already cramping and I feel sick'. Well this year I felt no such pain, no cramps, and no faintness/dizziness. I was very thankful to have been able to labor away once or twice a week from May to September on some mean hills in my local park. This made all the difference to my A2A performance this year. My goal on A2A this year was to have a better time than last year's 8 hrs 50 (ugh!), but above all, to enjoy every mile and get to Piedmont Park with what little sanity I started with in Athens.

Somewhere between Dacula (mile 38) and the Climb up to Silver Hill (mile 69) we picked up Bill from APRR, and leapfrogged 62 year-old Gernot from Vienna about a hundred times. The man is a machine. In comparison with last year and my grassy-knoll bonk just before the chute down Silver Hill, I only had a little amount of Gatorade-Washing-Machine-Belly this time, having ignored my better judgment of carrying as many water bottles as I could stand from back at rest stop 4 (mile 56), to bridge the ever-scorching, hilly gap before rest stop 5 (mile 71). However, I was delighted to find myself not suffering much at all on those pre Stone Mountain climbs. This was so exciting to me, to be able to skate that far on A2A and still not have cramps, that I wanted to get down and kiss the pavement. This is the first year I've actually been able to even loosely stick to a training plan. "It's all or some" is a good philosophy - that is, if you can't follow your training plan perfectly, do what you can instead of abandoning it completely. What a revelation.

The last 17 miles for me provided stereo moans of pain from both Bill and Blake: Bill whose ankle bones were being crushed ("uuuhhhhghh!"), and Blake whose feet-bottoms were being impaled, either by bolts or hard lumps of silicone ("aaarrrgghhh!"). Then we got on to the horrendous Dekalb Avenue...

Now I was still feeling pretty darned great at this point, even with the juddering of that nasty gatorback. But after running directly over several holes about 4 inches deep and 6 inches in diameter, it felt like someone had chopped off my toes! I decided to hang back more during my rotation at the back so that I could see the holes and avoid them, rather than risk toes and hardware so close to the finish. I have to say this is by far the most sane and aware I have ever been on A2A, and I enjoyed those last few traffic- and pedestrian-laden miles into Piedmont Park.

We finished a whole hour and ten minutes faster than last year, at 7 hours 38. Skating Camelbakless was a lot of fun, and I think for me one of the reasons my legs never cramped. I hate carrying that extra weight.

As ever, I am amazed and proud of everybody who finished the 87 miles, especially those who skated mostly on their own. You can train all year, but on the day, you never know what part of you is gonna show up for A2A!

Postscript: The longest mileage I skated this year was only about 50 miles - the weekend before A2A! However, those were 50 very hilly miles. So apparently none of the "skate 80% of the total mileage before the event" warnings really mattered this year to me. Revelation: Train on hills - the biggest ones you can find - and your A2A will be very doable - skates permitting! Go sign up now for next year - Oct 12th 2008. If you can skate 50 hilly miles by September with no major boot or body agony, you'll be good for A2A. 


roadskater's picture

Up and Left

I remember one of the early years, when that climb into Dacula seemed so massive. It is a big climb, but even with less power on the given day I felt the hills were OK. I am sure this is just because I am used to those hills, expect them, and know I have to do them, so I might as well keep going.

Oh yeah I forgot to write about that guy that kept passing us. He was awesome and I hated him in a very friendly and respectful way. OK I didn't hate him, but I hated seeing him catch up. One reason for rolling through Six was so I wouldn't have to see the same people catching me again!

Hills indeed as I have so oft repeated, but this year my hillage was a bit less, in part due to a poorly maintained trail I stopped using that got me climbing more. Hopefully this will be repaired next year and there is new trail past Bur-Mil now to add more incentive.

I have a feeling we may be back on part of the Rolling in Randolph course some time or another when we need some climbing pain. Of course there's Pilot Mountain but I don't want to think about coming down that or Hanging Rock.

Yeah I hated to Stop at 1 but felt the WD would save lots of time and grief, and at 2 the skaterade was worthy, at 3 a yummygood stop, 4 great salty drink veggie juice was great, at 5 drank too much again but a nice sit there in shade, at 6 great to see Keno looking like he didn't need any care at all and rolling through was sweet.

I bet we could have knocked some time off by smarter stops, but I think we did pretty well given our weekend, the heat, and other challenges we faced. The one thing that might have helped would have been if we could keep our excitement down in the very beginning just a bit more, say, once past the 10 Loop road, which is 10 minutes into it. It's hard not to spank when you get up front; almost everyone does it as we're so cranked up at the start!

Cultivating some relaxation early still is a goal for me in such a long event, and I think even in better condition this would be good, just a faster relaxed pace. Certainly some people need to crank it early and get away if they can, but it sure is a long race to be outside your sustainable numbers for very long. It seems you could have your pain early and suffer all day, or have your pain later and suffer it less long or have less of it. Being in the packs, though is an important mitigating factor.

Whatever the case I think we did nearly as well as we could have on that day, and far better than we might have. It makes my feet hurt just to think of it.

eebee's picture

Update: New A2A Date for 2008

The date for A2A 2008 has been changed to Oct 8th, 2008. Go sign up: www.a2a.net

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