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Blake's Athens to Atlanta A2A 2006 Journal 3 of 5

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Sunday Morning Prep, the Start, the Crash 

My biggest freak early on Sunday morning was deciding sleeves or no sleeves, so that's a good low freak level. Oatmeal was good. I drank more Electromix and as much water as I could (we had bought 24 half litres from Walgreens and it seemed good stuff). We also had the Anna filter pitcher (for the water filters I sell) and I think we used some of that for our packs the night before.

I stepped outside and it was warm, as if it had been cloudy overnight, and I thought I saw rain on the car, but didn't really believe it too much. Warm enough before we start is really not good, so despite wanting to show the logo on each arm, I knew I had better go sleeveless being sweatyblake as well as skateyblake.

Out to the car and ready to pack things in, it was clear it had rained for real, and the roads might be a bit slick before the sun hit them. It turned out not to be that slick that often, but only one slick spot can really hurt if you hit it wrong.

Things went remarkably well getting to the parking deck and into a prime spot. It seems that if no one is at the city deck when you leave, your parking was free. It also seems that at night somewhat late either on Sunday or Monday, no one is there, which is pretty sweet.

We could have used a bit more time, but we had enough, and we took our bags to the truck near the Athena statue, then I was dying to roll a bit because I was feeling tense. We saw Jay M from Atlanta and he introduced us to two people he thought would want to join us. We were not trying to avoid them but needed to roll a bit and I thought they might roll with us but they didn't so we missed them at the line.

Jay had been talking of joining us again as he had enjoyed our orderly one minute rotations and controlled pace in previous years, once we finished spanking the first right and left and down to the right bend under the traffic light on Prince Ave at the bottom of first hill. Jonathan from Atlanta was enthused about staying with us too, so we had four who seemed ready to pace it 38 miles.

But you never know who'll get out of town quickly with you.

We lined up and it was off we go before we were totally ready but that's fine. I remember thinking Eddy just left his giant box costume in the middle of the road, but it really wasn't much of a problem I don't think.

So it was up and over by the city hall (gorgeous!), then watch the bus lane on the right, turn right, go two blocks to the T and left, and down fast to the light at the bottom, bend right, then ease into a pace you can sustain. Elizabeth had zipped right out with me and Jay and Jonathan and Yong and Clarence were with us, among others, all along Prince.

Before long, we were at the brick red Normal Hardware and knew we had to turn left in front of the royal blue Naval Supply Corps sign.

As we turned left onto Oglethorpe, Elizabeth said, “Hey watch it, there are guys coming in from the other direction! They must have missed the turn!” We didn't realize then how MANY people muffed their way out of Athens, or that it was the lead pack! AMAZING!

So we made that tiny hill on Oglethorpe, but some of our pack was feeling frisky and we were tempted to chase. However, Elizabeth, who is usually exactly at my heart rate, or when she's slept and I haven't, 12-14 below mine, was actually well over my heart rate. It seems she'd gotten in a bit of a panic or otherwise cranked up and had not settled in...or she was unwell and we didn't really know it yet.

Our max rates are about 190 and our resting is roughly the same at around 50 (this is a convenient rough estimate we use as we are close). So using 90% heart rate reserve meaning 90% from min (50) to max (190), our 90% is 176, and what we call 80% is 162. (This as opposed to a raw .9 x 190 = 171 and .8 x 190 = 152.)

We also have number we call our AT (anaerobic threshold) and there are complicated ways of figuring that, but we don't use them. We use the average heart rate that we've been able to sustain on strenuous efforts of over an hour. For us we find that number to be 156; sometimes we've found 158 to be achievable.

In any case, we know that if we keep our HR average at 156-158 or below, we won't feel too much need for rest stops unless there's an issue with calories, electrolytes or equipment--or perhaps undertraining if we're facing huge hills. My HR monitor (Polar 720i) shows a running average in addition to other data, on screens that are easy to swap through without losing data.

We don't go over 176 for but a few seconds at a time, hopefully, and at most a minute. We stay in the 162-176 range often, and most of our conscious effort is made in this zone.

So how does the average ever end up around 156-158? Well if we're skating smart, the average dips on downhills, where we crouch until we see our HR has bottomed out and is starting to rise again from being in a squat. And it goes below 156 during other times of relative rest.

If we are not skating smart, it averages out in the minutes we are then forced to recover along the road or at rest stops! But no matter what, without better training and fitness, we'll not raise that AT that we can produce over long periods. This may be all wrong, of course, but it IS what we believe.

So one of the things we say when we rotate is, “no spanking,” or don't speed up now that you're in front unless you want to skate alone. It's very tempting, and sometimes necessary, but if you want to maintain your pack advantage, you can't spank every rotation because the pack will splinter.

The other motto, and one I need to heed, is “don't chase; let them come back to us.” If you keep your pack together and learn from each other and agree on how you'll handle certain things (this with newbies in the group), you can actually improve along the way, and if you keep a pack of 8 together, that pack of 4 will come back to you eventually on a downhill most of the time, or somewhere by the end of the day if it is a long one.

So when some of those peaches came off the front I really didn't want to lose them, but Elizabeth, who is always game for a chase, was rightly keeping me informed that she was up around 174-176 a lot, so we gathered up our hearts instead of chasing.

Not too long after, one or two dropped back at a time to reform our coalition of the thrilling, and we were adding more as we went. We also saw Don D go past us and he seemed on a mission to catch someone and not to have deliberated the least in taking shelter with us slowbies. I think he was looking for ICB skinsuits in his future!

We headed out to where the road is called Tallassee, where things get really sweet in terms of scenery and and there's nice downhill with little or no traffic. It was along this stretch that we saw a fleet of really fine horses running the opposite direction from us, just at the setup for our pack tuck. What a sweet moment for us all! Gorgeous!

We hit that first outside of town downer and our pack splintered as some caught air and others had to back off due to wheel or brain wobble, but at the bottom we were none the worse and we gathered it up again for the gentle slog after that.

The only problem was we obviously had about half a pack of seasoned roadskaters used to packs and hills, and another half who had done tons of skating but not much touching and screaming (down hills). So we had some talks about different ways of touching without grabbing, and touching in the center of mass and on the person not the pack for stability, and lots more, as we rotated along very happily in the countryside from Athens toward Winder, then Auburn, GA.

Along the way we met, and I misinterpreted the motives of, Number 7. Trying for the fear not love reactions, I still could not for the life of me understand this guy repeatedly spanking out our group on the ups, only to have us pass him on the downs. This guy was like a recurring dream of my own inadequacy, in that most of the better skaters had already left me behind by now. Why must I face this reapeated outspankgegetting from Sir Seven? It was like, join us, Siebenmeister, or fie upon thee! Later we learned more. For now, I was pondering.

We gathered up a really positive spirit in the form of a woman who had passed us, then realized we were taking it easy and still going just as fast, so she jumped in with us. Near County Line Elementary, I think, we heard an extended thud of a few seconds. I thought it sounded like an open bed trailer behind a pickup truck rattling to a stop with skids on the end of the bittersweet symphony. It turns out it was humans piling on, swerving, crashing, sliding.

Yong is a doctor of medicine, so he went back to check things out. We stood by the road with Lisa B, who had joined our group in her orange and grey tones (we had seen her heading out of town on Prince Ave, but our group caught her later solo in the country). We adjusted our skates and tried to do anything useful to the group effort upon their rejoining...the kinds of things we wouldn't stop the group to do.

Jay and Jonathan and Clarence had been with us pretty much from the start, and they were back there, and we knew we could not help any more than they were already helping. It must have been three minutes by this time.

Super Seven Dude came by and was helping with his cel phone to get some emergency support, and we could see Jay on his cel as well. We had formed a sweet group with Jay and Jonathan and Yong (and others), and we knew Yong would stay but did not know if Jay and Jonathan might start up again soon. Clarence was in there, too, and I think our new friend, Michael, perhaps (not sure). Lisa left us a bit after Katherine, Vivian and Alex cruised by (these latter three having not been part of our group but somewhere slightly behind at the time), asking if we were OK.

Four minutes. Beep beep beep. Five. Six. Somewhere we just couldn't stand there any more, and I felt the first little evil grin of cramps in my legs. Rather, in my right leg. It would be hours before I figured why: remember that curved frame? Later I'd have a matching set, but for now I was just avoiding cramps in general, and specifically in the right quadricep.

When we had the pack clicking along, we had been on one-minute rotations, so most of the folk who had gotten mildly out of whack were back in the safe zone again and we were just cruising along very nicely. Our group had gotten up to around 11 consistent members and had been getting ever more efficient.

Jonathan had enough positivity for all of us, with Jay definitely in the plan for 38, and I was bossy enough for everyone to have somebody easy to get mad at. Yong was covering the front perhaps too much, but enthusiastically, and the rest of us contributed as our condition allowed. The new guys were getting lined up better, not getting dropped as easily on the downs, touching instead of passing, and we were saving tons of energy.

A few miles before the crash, we had picked up Myrna R, and also Yukio M (from Tokyo, Japan). But where was Larry H from the T2T Roadskater.net team? We had not seen him all day, and we love skating with Larry, and it is tradition at T2T and A2A at some point. He had been faster than us at T2T (where I was the slower and Elizabeth was waiting on me). We just assumed he was ahead of us!

How nice to meet Kanako as we cruised along before her crash. I remember being pleased that another smiling spirit had joined our coalition. Things were just too beautiful to last on this given day.



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