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

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Silver Hill to the End of A2A 2006

We made it to Silver Hill and many of us were together again for moments, but at mile 69, the crest of the first climb on Silver Hill, we knew everything would blow apart. Yong and some others were off the front again by this point, I believe, and we got a great note from him later explaining he had a flight to catch to his new home in San Francisco, I believe it is. He was stronger all day anyway!

Elizabeth and I didn't think we or many of the others were ready to be in a pack of this speed at this point, so the two of us went on, taking this trip down much more conservatively than most times, but still getting some screaming speeds where my helmet would have flown off if not chinstrapped. We both had 3x100+84 setups and this was her first time down Silver Hill with the new frames, and I was not feeling as stable as with 5x84 due to the shorter frame, perhaps. But we pretty much blasted it after all, it seemed, as no one came upon us on the way down or before the next stop, as I recall.

In any case we agreed we should blow by stop 5 if we could and proceed to Lickety Split's cool interior at the top of the 1.1 mile climb after the .75 mile downhill. But Silver Hill's downhill can take a bit out of your legs first, then the uphill can take the rest. So by the time we hit 5 we were both ready to stop, and I had cramps.

Elizabeth was in search of ice, and I literally walked on hands and knees around behind the table to sit in a volunteer's chair (after asking if this was ok).

We drank some water, played in the ice, ate some calories, then we found the glitter! Kim had asked about it and Dan and Jenny had exclaimed over it the night before, as they remembered it is the secret source of strength, after all. So we glittered up at Stop 5, and we drank lots of water after having thought when we arrived that 5 was out of water (it had been but they had gotten more). And I had proof that I was fully hydrated, making a quick visit to portaland praises be.

We could tell some folk were wanting to hook up with us there so we grouped and skated up to tiny five points in Stone Mountain Village, passing Lickety Split for ice cream another day.

An Atomic Fireball made things well again in its own small way, too. A nice kick for the road.

Note that there are very few photos from the 60 mile point on. It's tough going. But after the crest into Stone Mountain Village and a slight climb to cross GA 10, Central Ave gives some relatively miseryfree rolling until the last little push up to left on Rays quick right onto Norman. Then it's nice until down into Clarkston not long afterward, when the last hateful hill of the course is that Escher left up onto Rogers St climbing to Market St.

And can anyone tell me why there is a College Avenue there, a block long, in this relatively quiet group of homes?

Soon after this is the union of the course with the railway line that runs into Atlanta, rolling up and down along through lots of little stop signs and some more serious stop lights, and by the time we were through there, we were once again IN LOVE WITH THE DEKALB COUNTY POLICE!

Wow. I hate to say anything good about traffic handling in athletic events, but this was amazing. Whereas Gwinnett seemed to sit in the car until we got there then try to race us (bounding along with all their gear like on bad boys bad boys) to the intersection, losing often, Dekalb was there and not only that, they knew what to do. (I should point out that the Gwinnett woman officer at Rockbridge was excellent, right there in plenty of time, and complimented us on having the whistle, saying that was helpful. We always started short and quiet with the whistle, ramping it up only when absolutely necessary so I don't have to join Pete Townsend in the line of lost eared ones too early.)

The Dekalb guys and gals must have had some training or some meetings, because they were the best! They would be there in time to stop traffic (and this was late in the day for them), then let the traffic in front of us going in our direction go ahead. It was amazing! They even yelled at rude or lethargic motorists, notably at Sam's Crossing! You go guys! At one intersection, Elizabeth and I were so thrilled we spanked out our compadres a bit and had to calm down again. Sweet.

As we saw the concrete lumps on the road we knew 6 was near, and we got a fright when we didn't see the stop at the Steel, Inc. gravel lot, but then saw the white tent just beyond the normal place. I had numerous problems and I was ready to attack them, or them me!

First, I sat down! Next I pulled out the leather from my Camelbak and asked if they had scissors. They did! I pulled out the insole from the right boot and used it as a template for cutting an extra leather front half insole. Elizabeth helped me put it all back together.

Next, I dropped the pack into the Piedmont Park box after getting my cel phone, car key and money.

Then I waited to meet my doughnut maker. OK. I was ready for closeted prayer--as in water closet. I had been holding in my self-expression so much that I think was getting more workout from my stomach than my legs. So with great trepidation I made it to the roadside portavision. I had to wait. This increased my anxiety. I wondered, “if a tree falls in the woods and everybody hears it, does everyone laugh out loud?” In any case I made it to the most important but time consuming part of Stop 6, and spent enough time in there to ensure that I would not best my worst time ever for A2A (as in amount of time). It was a horrifying experience, the details of which very few will ever fully know, I hope. I should point out that the facility was great and the problems were all mine.

Alas, poor Peter, caught up with us and was next, I believe, in portahell. We rolled out sheepishly and I mentioned that Peter was still in there, but no one took up the thought. I felt Peter would catch up, and I did my part to see that happen on my turn up front.

So Peter caught up with us and we were five, with Elizabeth, Clarence, Jason (Atlantan who had skated bits with us since Stop 4) and Peter...but we hadn't seen Michael, and I had no clue how or when he vanished, and I felt badly for not having conversed with him before continuing, whenever it happened. We saw Michael later, and he seemed very happy!

As we headed into town, Elizabeth and myself each five or ten pounds lighter without our packs. (I had carried 3 quarts all the way from 38 and 2 quarts of that were still in the pack at Stop 6; arrgh!) We felt really refreshed. And not one of us wanted more pain, because I asked and offered the front to anyone who did!

On we went into the rolling trackside streets, with maddening repetitions for those in a hurry to finish, broken only by keeping an eye for when MARTA goes upward to the right beside the road, our key for the downhill underbridge right left at Rockyford Rd/Dekalb Pl onto Dekalb Ave, which is usually not policed, as it is no longer Dekalb but within Atlanta City jurisdiction.

This is the new gatorback, Dekalb Ave, chunky and crumbling yet unforgiving as the drivers caught in just one available lane of this configurable-direction section of road. Most were fine with us skating along, but I believe one driver made others mad by staying behind us instead of safely but illegally passing.

We were rotating fine and we made it off the ramp onto Moreland Ave, two lights, skate left over the curb onto the sidewalk and off the sidewalk and don't hit the grates, and there was Eddy M skating back to cheer us as is his way always, and a nice thing for a former A2A champion to do!

Cresting at the Coca-Cola wallside ad on Highlands is always a promise of sweetness to come and the signal that all but the most minor hills are gone...only the right onto park and the sweep around at the finish are up at all, that I can recall.

We almost crashed, especially Peter, making a great save, when we got out of line and didn't touch properly down on Highlands. (I had made a save earlier in the day when I must have hopped to get it back, with a solid assist from Elizabeth as well methinks, illegal touching as I must have done.)

We were in a pact to tie by now I believe, and we took the left onto Virginia carefully and navigated the bumps down to Park Drive, over speed humps, through to and across Monroe, into the park, avoiding the concrete anti-terrorist flower planters (as if) and around to the right, holding hands all five, not having a method in the madness and not looking nearly as strong as we all felt by then!

I later realized we should have motored around that curve in a pack, blazing to the line in our worst ever time, right hand in front person connected to left hand of person behind, then fanned out at the finish like an accordion humming out its last gasp. Alas we had no brain for such grandeur, but we had finished our 87 after weeks of challenges and fears, and I had a good strong day for 82 degrees at finish time.

Reports from the finish were lots of cramps and lots of slower times. Eddy had been a full 30 minutes off his best, and not all of this from any missed turns, which, for Eduardo can not have been much (please instruct me if I am wrong). Jared said the only personal best recorded was Colleen B, who seemed very happy at the end of her route.

Dave W and Jared doffed our skates for us and brought us food and drink (though by this time of day the food was a bit lacking), and Erica came by and quietly and smilingly squatted down to show me a number 1 index finger to let me know she had won, and I was so happy I forgot to take a photo.

We also learned quickly that Dan Burger had taken third in the 52! Amazing, after the injuries he suffered doing downhill inline speedskating! 

We missed seeing Marcia and many others who no doubt had spent hours watching finishers, but we got to see many others finish, including the backward skater, who had frankly annoyed me on the course because I correctly felt like I wasn't going very fast...I loved him but wanted to love him from a distance, behind me! What he did was amazing. But hey, what we all did was too by jingo by golly by gum by gee! But by the time he finished I was very happy to see him and to see how happy he was.

There were several tears on salty faces at the finish, and I can say that it was awe-inspiring to see our double braced skater come in with an emotional finish into the arms of a beloved who showed all of the amazement and love and pride one could ever see at the end of 87.

After our finish many came in, including some of our T2T pals, and we lingered around the grass. Katherine came in looking well but took a turn for the worse as she drank more water, we think, eventually to make a brief stay at the hospital we believe, but not overnight. I was thinking she needed salt and electrolytes but my stuff was all on a truck from 6 to the awards location, and we could not find any salt or lite salt (half salt, the rest potassium, magnesium and calcium, mostly). We called Katherine later, to no avail of course, but figured her crew was taking very loving care of her. We made it to the awards late, then borrowed Tom's hotel room's shower, and joined several at Cowtippers, which was plenty good yumness. We delivered Tom and Jared back to their rooms and headed for Grayson only moderately late, and plenty happy.

We had seen Michael and his wife at the awards ceremony, and apologized for losing track of him and not at least saying we're going on. He was gracious in his reply and seemed to feel the day was every bit as good for him as for us. I hope so!

After the awards I became fully aware that in a full day of skating on a front boot bolt, I had made my right big toe and part of the ball of that foot numb, which was to last for a couple of days with reminders at times later, especially after a 20 mile skate on th Silver Comet the next Sunday. So it was and will be back to the razor knives, sand paper, epoxy and other tools of the boot repair trade it seems. I've already epoxied some USPS Tyvek on the boot heel block section and will have to peel back some of the footbed in the front half if I want a more comfortable and solid feel.

After we slept in on Monday (the day after A2A) David K, Mark S and Tom W called from Athens but we couldn't make it there for lunch, so we had pizza at Mellow Mushroom closer to Elizabeth's, then traveled to Athens, getting an Americano at a bookstore, where I edited several hundred photos while Elizabeth found books to read and one to buy.

Then we headed for Bombay Cafe in downtown Athens for more forbidden food, which was a real treat. We got the car and rode back as a caravan duo through different countryside back to Grayson, and all matters A2A were complete, except for the posting of photos and writing of our accounts of the events.

We had enjoyed a great day in the sun, however slow, at a safe pace, with companionship and teamwork and individual efforts, morphing through the day of waxing and waning prospects for finishing the full course. We had enjoyed and suffered through a a whole year of preparation, starting with my injury in February and tons of challenges, but always knowing we had to do 87 miles on the first day of October, and we were going to.

As we rounded the turn by the curved rock wall into sight of the clock, five of us trying to push as hard as we could without falling, Peter said that we could have no idea what this meant to him, and you can have no idea what that meant to me, to hear this and know we now had a new worst time but some new friends and one of the best times of our life achieving it all.

Skateylove, y'all...


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