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Athens to Atlanta Roadskate A2A 2007 Inline Skate Report (Sunday)

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Oh. Buzz buzz buzz buzz, 4:30 a.m. came so quickly after taking so long to arrive.

We got our jolt of hot water and I pondered whether to do some coffee or not. I think I decided not to, and that it would perhaps upset my stomach.

We had everything packed, got our stuff together, and I'm not sure everything I ate but I know eebee made me a bowl of oats and honey or some such that was pretty great once I finally got to it. I had been drinking ade and veggie juice overnight while unable to sleep, and felt electrolit already, but drank some more ade with lite salt on the way to Athens.

We stopped at the Kangaroo convenience store on the way to Athens. We got some strange looks but it was a worthwhile stop. Most people were either still up, or up to kill deer or go to church. Our bright clothes probably stood out nicely amid the camo clothing. Dressed in violet and lycra, I was OK not to hang around too long on display.

Fuzzy of head still, we were in Athens before too long, really, and we made our way in to town fine. After only a bit of confusion as to the best way to the parking deck, we saw three Roadskater.net guys, David, Dave and Mark, waiting patiently we hoped for us to be a bit late. We signed our waivers and David took them, then they all helped us carry our stuff once we were ready to go. Eebee got the heart rate monitor working and mine looked OK, but I wore our extra one on my right wrist in case (which I forgot later, in fact).

By 7:19 a.m. we were rolling, and by 7:20 we had seen Aaron in his Wal-Mart blanket, of which he was so proud.

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We packed our ATL stuff and dropped our rest stop packages in the numbered boxes in time to catch Eddy in his “Boot Loops” costume. It was still not light enough out to get good no-flash photos, so I did the best I could, not so well, as day came on. We counted 11 folk with Roadskater.net jerseys on (thank you for this insignificant to most thrill for me). We got ahead of the ones who looked like they'd brake on the first downhill and behind the ones who looked like they'd leave us long before then. Dave was looking ready and fit!

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Considering everything, I felt good. But I feared the lack of sleep would wreak havoc on my day. Or something else. I usually do better at Athens to Atlanta than at Tour to Tanglewood, so I was still calm and ready to try not to have any fun for the first hour or way more. Because “fun” often means a heartrate that's too high to sustain for 87 miles.

The streets seemed somewhat sad and empty this year, whether they were or not. There were lots of skaters, but there were many formerly fasties missing and we didn't see too many relative newbies it seemed. Still everyone seemed in a great mood, maybe even in a greater mood than times when it was more crowded, less familial in nature. Every year there are more digital cameras of course!

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The start was great, and we got over the courthouse hill well to the right and left and down the first hill in great shape, to settle in and be passed by the irrationally exuberant and the extremely fit but first-hill timid. We saw David cruising along and knew he was going to have a good day of it, because it's been a fruitful two years for his skating, with excellent diet, new boots and more.

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After the long downhill that took us out of town and past the low point on the course (the saddle just after you go under the loop road, GA 10), the first uphill on the course (other than the little sprint left at the Naval Supply Office) let me know there wasn't much bounce in my legs.

We had made a heartrate plan as usual, but even further out of town we were running a bit hotter than our target. I was in often front of eebee in the rotations at this point for no particular reason, and when I would get out for a rest, that wasn't working too well, as eebee was taking the leads with spunk enough to keep her in the 170s. My heartrate was not going up that high, but I knew this was not sustainable for 87 miles. We'd be writing a check for pain in a ditch later.

We agreed that we'd both better back off, based on our previous A2A experience and this summer's numbers. Checking with Tom verified he didn't need to go any faster, either. Otherwise, we'd be cold toast before Stop 1. So as much as we hated to do it, we dropped off some folk who were going well, thinking most of them would come back to us later, and we'd never keep up with certain ones of them. Regardless, if we didn't skate our race, we'd be regretting skating someone else's.

Tom dropped his glasses and had a tough spank to catch up. We all knew that'd hurt later, but we were impressed he made it back on quickly. Eebee was back in a better HR zone and I was always fine in terms of that on this day. Whatever small cramping hints I had went away as we backed into a reasonable zone based on our average heartrates sustainable over two hours or more during the season. My heartrate was wonderful. Would my muscles ever arrive?

We took the nice sweeping right downhill well (837 ft. to 696 ft. at the Jackson County line) and our little group caught up to some others, shuffling the coalitions a bit. [The sweeping right apparently came about because of diverting the road away from the river, as the old Tallassee Road curved left and curled inside an extension in the county line, arriving at a small dam there.] I think we saw Yong here as we made the switchback left onto 330, we met some other folk to make a group of 6 or 7. The switchback takes the route back to the Tallassee River bridge, which is grooved concrete, after a sweet right and down bend. The drop from Tallassee at 330 to the bridge is about 813 ft to 659 ft.

We met up with Clarence along in here one of several times.

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Then the yearly photo op at the reservoir arrived and I had only one person in front of me, so I took a shot toward the back of the group as well.

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At this point it was Paula, Yong, a guy in a yellow Tour de France jersey I hadn't met yet, eebee, Jason, and me.

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Well before Stop 1, which we planned to finesse, I was hearing training mice in my bearings. It was driving me pretty crazy to depression thinking how that sound was going to increase the whole day, ever and ever worse until I couldn't hear the road for the little mouse wheel spinning in the night of my brain. Eebee tried to calm me which made me rebel and be less calm of course, but eventually helped. I asked what she thought about a WD-40 stop, and she said sure. Had we brought our packs, we'd've had the little can timv gave us at Tour to Tanglewood!

I think the WD-40 stop was at Stop 1 (there was a royal blue color on the awning or the building, I remember that...about the color of a WD-40 can). I sneaked in a restroom visit while acquiring the precious can of liquid silence, and I knew I was well hydrated, and that meant I was electrolit as well, considering what I'd been drinking.

I juiced the bearings (and wheels and my new frame decorations) with some over-four-dollars a can WD-40 to get whatever water might be in there out, and to provide some inexpensive sanity I hoped. Memories of Le Defi in the rain flooded my mind because of the WD-40 smell, but I knew, no rain today, only sweat. And hopefully not the flood of sweat I lost at the Friday night skate...notably similar to the Albert Brooks newscaster big break scene in Broadcast News. For eebee it was a memory of Atkinson Road, where one year (2004 I believe) a cyclist riding behind one in our group went in for some WD for eebee's bearings, a nice and thoughtful gift!

Back on the road with a nice group, we moved along well and had good time on what used to be the gatorback section. This all went well and I had been calling out one minute rotations, which spreads the load and generates "a self-regulating pack." Those who aren't as fast get up front and let others know that, silently, and those who are eager to go faster let that be known silently, and either go ahead or dial back, usually making a vocal note that they wish to remain in the group. When the rotations get longer, it is actually harder for the group to stay together, because the faster control the pace longer, and the slower get even more tired. Considering the benefits of a pack in rolling country like most of A2A, one minute rotations are important for good communication and even pacing. Of course, you need to be in a pack that will be at a good pace, and one minute rotations let you know quickly whether it's too slow. I could make a case for even more frequent rotations like in the Tour de France, but without much practice together, this would be too tough, I think.

At stop 2, Stephanie was there and had noticed our bag and gave us a bright welcome and told us our bottles were there, and it was good to get the personal skaterade mix in. My first bottle had been a standard Gatorade I think, bought at the convenience store, so this tasted better to me now that I'm used to it.

We were now well within ourselves and we were still calling out one minute rotations. At some point either headphones or the will to keep leading took over some, and they either pulled away or pulled extra, but the core of our group held well. But we could see seeds of the separation to follow when we went through the downhill right angle left on Dee Kennedy Rd where Moon Bridge Road comes in [sometimes called Moons or Moon's Bridge Road, you can see this old road has been split where perhaps old man Moon's bridge was washed away]. We hit that curve at 9:14 according to my photos.

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We hit the sharp left with Tom still with us, and our group splintered there somewhat, but regathered quickly. Still, I knew the ones who couldn't keep with the pack on the downs would run out of sprint eventually in this rolling country. We had many gentle, straight, roller coaster hills before Dacula. It was great to see the old red truck again, in the barn on the right, where the gorgeous tree stands watch over the section of new road that was missing one year, at the little white church with a red roof and no steeple (see the photos for the tree and church).

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We hit the saddle with nice trees on either side on Dee Kennedy by 9:50 (see the video where our little pack's downhill momentum blows us past someone who's doing great, just not in a pack), and by 9:54 we were up and over a couple of hills to the sweet gentle stretched out S-curve (also on the video) just past the red barns on the right and before the first Escher left uphill, harbinger of more uphill lefts to come. [Offhand the other Escher turns for me are Auburn Rd. into Dacula and Rogers Rd. in Clarkston.]

We were down to three, and as we headed up the first Escher, we passed a group of cyclists enjoying our painful ascent to come and heard Tom say he needed to take a moment and for us to go on. Tom is strong with incredible form (you should see this guy at the Eddy Matzger workshops!) but I had been getting messages he was having an off day and might take things more leisurely. 

As I had no spank on the gentle ups, I was happy to find out there that I was OK slogging up the steep ones, even longer steep grades, as long as there was nothing like a sprint going on. It was going to be an especially turtliffic day for me. Meanwhile, eebee was hitting a peak nicely and while content to do a steady pace, she had a sprint available.

Yong caught us again and we were happy he was with us for a long while. I told eebee he was “doing the Eddy” going up those hills, prancing up with great spirit, and as we flew down into old Dacula's main drag where in days of old the train stopped to pick up crops and leave supplies, Yong was in our trio rolling up the microhill to Stop 3.

We got a great smiling hello from Lisa Myers that gave us some nice energy, and our stuff was there and looking like good stuff to have. We stayed a while there, but not as long as in some years, and even though I was not having a particularly awesome day, it was nowhere near as painful as some years have been, especially in terms of cramping. If I'm in Dacula without cramps being a real fear, that's a good thing, even without my sprint in the kit.

Out of Dacula I think Yong and Clarence were with us, and we did the right, left, then left and down to get by the giant church there. We had an incredibly long wait for the first left turn at the light there, and it was extremely tempting to become a pedestrian, but we waited. The police were there for the church and not for A2A, that was clear, but they helped us when they saw us, and the drivers seemed pretty chill once they knew we were there.

Clarence backed off somewhere along the way, mentioning cramps, and we saw him again when my rear view mirror ripped off somehow, twice, the second time later in the day, with me losing the mirror and my minute repeater watch in the road, so I had to go back for that. 

We were climbing over the high point in the course, just beyond where Old Peachtree comes to a T, where you go right to stay on Old Peachtree. After some lakes on the left there's a little climb to the crossing of GA 124 (Braselton Hwy), and just beyond that there's a crest which I believe is the highest point on the course, though this is hard to believe when you skate it.

The policeman at the major GA 20 crossing between shoppers in Lawrenceville and the Mall of Georgia wins the doughnut award. He may have been working very hard but we couldn't tell. He stayed in his car and made absolutely no effort to do anything as far as we could see, and efforts to speak with him were fruitless at best. We didn't know if we had the right of way because of the blue lights or not, so we burned some time and energy there but stayed alive.

We came upon some Detroit 52ers, including Candygirl and Mike, about the time for the uphill to a traffic light then left-right onto Sever and then Lebanon. Yong was ahead of us and almost missed the turn for Lebanon, but easily caught us as we headed over past the four-way stop into what was once my favorite place on the course, at 11:54.

As we went through we unfortunately discovered Lebanon Road's sweet S-curves had lost most of their rural beauty, now surrounded by construction. It was an amazing place which stayed beautiful somehow far longer than it "should" have, and it was an oasis of green in a desert of asphalt for me. The person who made that road deserved an award for sexy roadness, but now it's hard to see how beautiful it was. Happily, however, we knew it was not far to Stop 4, with only one honking hill to go up just Sugarloaf Parkway (CVS) on Duluth Highway up to Discover Mills and left onto Atkinson Rd and Stop 4.

My feet! My feet really started hurting at least by Stop 4 in 2006. This year, they were still hurting from 8 days before at the 50-mile very hilly Rolling in Randolph, despite or because of my “repairs” earlier in the week. (Time will tell.) I'm not sure when my feet were killing me, but it was even earlier than the year before.

The year before it felt like bolts or pins were digging into my feet. This year it felt like I was skating on river stones under the balls of my feet. The heels felt better than before, at least a bit. So my repairs, if good, were made too late, with my feet not having time to fully repair. This was changing my skating form, bad as it is, I'm sure, to be even worse.

We got great police help at the saddle where CVS is, before the climb. We hit the intersection with some speed and as we passed a guy I said "looking good," and he looked at me like, "shut the x up I feel like x and you know it," but I had meant it well, I promise. My feet were moaning and had been for awhile.

There was no help at the top just before Discover Mills at Atkinson, because the policeman was entirely focused (even after a brief whistle) on two jogbra adverfemmes from a nearby workout and genetic replication fantasy facility...some gym trying to pretend all the girls are hotties and they love pasty-skinned overweight geeky dudes with Dorito cheese bits in their navels just like in the beer commercials.

Atkinson Rd sported a porta so I did the Clark Kent coming out feeling super, man, catching up soon at the corner where the prepacked veggie tomato juice hit the spot in a home run way, making me want skaterade again. Our skaterades were still cool but not frozen. Cranberries, no way. Jelly Belly? Yes but please don't call me that. Let me pretend I don't have one. Jelly Bellies? Yeah they were working out OK when the goo was feeling less desirable. But I kept reloading the jersey with the goo (powergels) because I knew in a tough spot I could make myself do that.

When we left 4, we figured Yong would come with, but he seemed so happy and contented I didn't even know if he would finish the event! He was superchill hanging out at this very fun stop, where Jonathan and his parents and Bob N and I'm sure others were handing out sandwiches and other goodies.

Off we went and I don't know if it was there we picked up Bill Brett or not. But when we did I knew that was a good thing. We have many historic miles with Bill (including D2A runs I believe) as we do with Clarence and Yong, and I knew Bill was in a thinking, chill, even mode. I felt he would likely be strong enough to go on his own, and he was, but I felt he wanted some company, not for an advantage, but for the company. Eebee and Bill have been pals for years and since I've know him we've all cruised along well plenty of times.

We made it to the water stop between 4 and 5, which is a great stop, and this year had some awesome smiles of encouragement, and headed into some of the least fun sections for me, where traffic can be tough and the road not so smooth. However, we got great help at Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and nice smiles from the auto passengers, resisted the urge to take the next right and go to Outback Steakhouse or the Cracker Barrel, and we got through Gwinnett as well as one can expect.

Pleasant Hill Road was covered extremely well by Gwinnett Police, and the cars seemed to remember that this was an event all the way to the tough spot where we have to go straight while the cars have two lanes available for the right loop up to Reagan Pkwy. But there aren't many photos from this section because I had safety and survival in mind more than pics.

We picked up another fellow for awhile and he was nice to skate with. We went over Burns and Dickens where I always think and say “it burns like a dickens,” an old mountain phrase from my youth I guess, but usually appropriate to my quads. We lost this guy later off the front or back, I'm not sure.

That nasty insult of a hill at Indian Trail-Lilburn with the shops on the right really hurt, but I got up it OK and a couple of skaters under a shade tree said something really nice that helped. I think I tried to be safe there but eebee was wanting to get through so we blasted (sort of) on. It was after this I dropped my mirror I think.

We got through Rockbridge's down into a traffic light, left, quick right OK but without police, and over on US 29's right-left (where CVS is a good place to stop especially if you turn before US 29 and go in behind the store and around to the left). Across from the fire station we had a brief multipurpose stop and we slogged up and over and down to the train tracks without any major problems.

As we went over Old Rosser, I was needing to gather myself but making it to the tops of hills before doing it, and not needing it for too long. At 1:22 pm, we held up before Leather Stocking in part to get my camera ready, and in part for me to gather my muscles, my heart being still fine. Leather Stocking is a blast! I love that place! It's the beginning of a double-dip of downhill skating excitement. 

We passed some people who had been ahead of us for quite some time, and as much as I felt for them, this was a boost for me. Left on Hugh Howell with great police support and then the Old Rosser-like Silver Hill uphill right [contributing to the Escher madness repetition of the course that I love so much], and up. We stopped there for me, and waited probably longer than I might have alone, but I am sure I benefited from the others' comfort. I was afraid to sit, even as much as my feet hurt.

It seemed like forever, but at 1:30, only eight minutes after Leather Stocking, we started down Silver Hill gently, as I was hurting underfoot enough to not really want to be overtaxed in that area should someone back out of their driveway along there. Heading out I wondered if I had given the whistle to eebee, which I sometimes do when I'm going to be videoing. Nope, it was in my jersey under some other stuff. Arrgh! Got it! We still were screaming down that hill by the end, just as fast as ever, as the video relates.

We made it nicely up to Stop 5, the Silver Hill-Stone Mountain stop, though I did notice the turn keeps going and going and going around right until you get to the stop. I enjoyed sitting there a bit, though I was anxious by the time we left that if I waited more, bad things would happen in my legs.

I thought we were leaving but I left a bit early it turned out, missing a conversation fragment that I would have likely turned into a long exchange. We had great help at the five points in Stone Mountain Village, and that was just part of the incredible coverage by the Dekalb County Police.

Wow. It was wonderful what the Dekalb Police did, and even more wonderful how they did it, intersection after intersection, alert, friendly, encouraging, actually helpful in every way imaginable. They set a high standard and deserve the award for best support, followed closely and surprisingly by the Atlanta Police, who did the best I can ever remember in eight official crossings.

Before we got to the Stop 6 at the Steel Factory, I said to eebee and Bill, how about we just roll on through Stop 6 and grab water on the roll. I'm sure they were surprised, but they said sure. I was asking for more frequent rotations now and then, as I felt it would help me to be in the front more often for less time, but I was not feeling great in a couple of ways, one I was still trying to understand, regarding taking in water and ade.

When we got there, though, they found out I really meant it, and I found out they thought I meant let's stop but not really sit down and get into a conversation. So again I rolled ahead briefly, knowing they'd catch me easily and quickly. But I was feeling stronger, and I think it was from drinking less.

By this time, I felt eebee and Bill could've gone on easily without me, and I suffered those thoughts for a while, but I knew I brought other things to the group, if not this day, on others. But I had figured out somewhere that drinking water was making me feel worse at Stop 4 or 5, after observing this several times, and knowing I had drunk plenty all day and the days before, I made a good change when I started sipping instead of gulping somewhere after 5.

Before we made it to Dekalb Ave, the new gatorback, Eddy had made it out to greet us and the rest of the sub-12mph crowd. (I had no idea until we crossed the line what our time was becoming, though I knew we had crossed Dacula in roughly 3 even, so 2.5x of that would be 7.5ish as I quickestimate it.) Eddy offered vanilla and chocolate cookies I think, which I had no chance of eating but it was a creamy dreamy gesture nonetheless. He had made a rude gesture to entertain us, which I think some drivers may have found either glorious or horrendous, and as we reached the MARTA rails where the course goes under to Dekalb, he was on his way back along the course to cheer others along. This is one thing Eddy does that means a lot to a lot of people.

This was when I realized Bill was in some great pain too. At one point I was audibly groaning with many a footfall, especially when there was some roughness, and I realized that Bill was making some noise too when the road got mean. Among all the groans we were trying to call things out, but eebee hit a hole because we failed to explain the location, and dropped back for a few seconds, not falling, but taking a leg shock I am sure.

We suffered Dekalb. I know I did. But I don't think the traffic was as bad as some times. When we came to the grooved concrete downramp to Moreland I said I never thought grooved concrete could feel so great. Then down at the road we realized the Atlanta Police had made some great preparations for us to get through Little Five Points. I believe they had coned a lane at the bottom of the ramp to make it easier to get onto Moreland. (I hope someday they'll cone the far right lane of Pleasant Hill for us, but that's two counties back.)

This was a huge lift for me. We made it through the plaza (sidewalk) and over the grate and down to Highland where we insisted on sticking to the road, took the right over Freedom Parkway where the police were helpful (and I said “We'd look prettier if we hadn't skated 84 miles already” for some reason). [I had the thought that the people in Virginia Highlands were likely thinking a lot of skaters with really bad form who didn't seem to be as spunky as usual were passing through, not knowing how far we had come since 7:30 a.m.]

When passed the Coca-Cola sign just past Freedom, something beautiful broke out in me and I felt glorious and forgot my pain. The smoothness and the help at most intersections helped. I felt like it was all downhill (except for that little hill after the left by the church onto Park from Virginia, and four speedhumps) and I certainly wasn't in shape to leave my compadres but I was in much better shape to push a bit and even be in the lead through the traffic. I think not drinking was keeping me from feeling bloated and helping me feel lighter and faster.

We had one dicey intersection where I backed off then took encouragement and went on and the drivers were patient and kind and safe, which I really loved! We cruised down through the I'm so pretty part of Virginia Highlands and came to that tricky left at the intersection of Highland and Virginia with no help! I think we saw the policeman leave on his motorbike and point back to the left as if to say, oh yeah, it's that way, but this could be a dream. I remember kicking around that turn on the outside of a sturdy exclusive automobile with wheels open enough to see the brake pads, and avoiding some "I'm so me" kids zoning out on themselves, wondering "what was that wind that whooshed by."

Heading down to the right at the church onto Park Drive, we were taking it pretty easy I think, but moving along nicely. The cones there helped and we took that microhill in great shape, and I was really digging hitting those speed bumps, just a bit worried on the fourth one because there was no coverage at Monroe into the park!

We got through with courtesy from drivers and the help of the trusty whistle, which helped so much all day just to calmly let others, including police at intersections, know we were coming along...not that we were going through no matter what, but we'd love some help if they had it to share. I think everyone would benefit from having a whistle when doing A2A especially, and most other roadskates. Most people don't want to run over a skater, or back out of a driveway on a downhill in front of you.

So we slid along into the park with some trepidation with some cars braking in front of us for the police down at that last four-way, then over the bridge, watch those huge concrete flower pots, around to the right, hold hands and try to skate great without any practice doing this holding hands, and what do I do with this water bottle and camera? Hmm.

Oh we're done and an hour and ten minutes better than last year's record worst time, and at a very nice pound-miles/hour rate for me, thank you very much! Our time was roughly 7 hours, 39 minutes, or a few seconds less. It was time for a sweaty-lensed photo of our finishing trio:

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After we finished I remember not much but I do remember Dave asking what I wanted and I said, “I've been dreaming of my Jalapeño Potato Chips in the top of my luggage bag on the truck for some time now.” Dave kindly retrieved them and we all chowed on them, mixing with several Cokes retrieved by eebee or Mark to make sure I didn't suffer any weight loss and was sufficiently prepared for dinner at Cowtippers.

I fell down on my photo-taking for over and hour and am sad that I missed some shots while I simply enjoyed being finished and how grass feels better than asphalt and pals all around and stuff like that.

We saw Marcia and Jesse and met Oliver from Brooklyn and that was great, then we missed some of our group as it splintered on the issue of meat-eating and perhaps other issues, but we had great fun missing the others, with Larry, Johnny, Tom, Mark, Eebee and me hanging out with the Brooklyn Three (hope I didn't forget anyone who ate dinner with us).

Athens to Atlanta is one of the long term goals that gets me going in the Spring, along with the Tour to Tanglewood. The T2T training rides help a ton, making it safe and affordable to get in some long miles on the road.

I know it matters to almost nobody but me, but I should be breaking into the top twenty of official miles skated and unfortunately higher than that in minutes skated!

While it's so long until next year, I was thinking that breaking my PR seems a reasonable goal for next year if several good things come together, including some equipment improvements, not putting on as much mass over the winter and getting some kind of reduction next year, hopefully some trail repairs so I end up going to Bur-Mil from Country Park more next year (the southern part of the Old Battleground section of the trail is not good; or some scouting for better hill workout routes), and more fast skating in general.

And if it doesn't happen, the big goal is to finish and to have a wonderful day of it no matter what. The best part is that after eight years of T2T and A2A I am still loving it, and I'm sure I am a lot lighter than I would have been without getting off the couch and getting on the streets on inlines.

You can do it too. You can say yes I'm doing A2A no matter what. You can start in a rink over the winter, get outdoors in the spring, and just keep going to your park or trail and doing minutes. Your distances will increase naturally. Then it's just a matter of getting out to the training rides or other skateable bike rides and building up your strength over the summer. Then the Tour to Tanglewood is a great bridge to Athens to Atlanta, because it is somewhat like doing A2A over two days instead of one.

A2A 2007 was a bit smaller this year and we need to make sure we support it by signing up early and training to be there in the fall. It's great if A2A is huge, but I can also say that it is every bit as great if fewer people are there, just different. And yes we missed friends not there, but we always meet new ones, and strengthen friendships on the road, and in the grass, after a great day of skating!

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