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My 1st A2A: 1999 (the Year it POURED)

eebee's picture

I feel like this really only half-counts as an A2A journal, because I only did the 38 miles! At the time I did not deem myself worthy of a write-up, believing I didn't really count compared with people like Eddy, Barrie, Cindy S., Patricia F., and other really proficient skaters. So this is a collection of memories, and comments I posted to the 1999 Team in Training's mailing list.

I could not have asked for a clearer 'sign' from above...or destiny...or a charitable organization. Exasperated at not being able to stick to any fitness plan, and guilt-ridden for shelling out $30 each month on a boring gym membership, the simple yet eye-catching Team In Training postcard just dared me to throw it away. Run? Nah. Walk? Nah. Cycle? Nah. Skate?!? Huh? You mean like Rollerblade?! Hmm, now there's an idea! Do it for myself? Nah. Do it for someone with cancer? Heck yes! I went to the meeting, signed up and scared myself into action with an October 10th deadline.

The alarm clock went off at 4 something, Sunday October 10th 1999, waking me up in my snug Atlanta Sheraton Hotel room bed. The time had come to prove to those, who secretly doubted I would follow through on this particular crazy kick called inline skating, that I would achieve this goal and skate 38 miles of hills. Many friends and co-workers donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through sponsoring me, sometimes out of disbelief and what I was aiming to do: Skate from Athens, GA, to Dacula, GA. And I, in my fear and self-loathing in Lawrenceville, told myself I could rest assured that even if I fell flat on my face and didn't finish, that at least I had reached my fundraising goal, and skated in honor of a child with cancer.

After 4 months since first learning how to stand up, go forward, uphill, downhill and stop on inline skates, it was time for the Grand Finale. Atlanta's Paul K and Cindy S had babied and nurtured us klutzy Team-in-Training adults into rather stable rec skaters. What a brilliant and fun exemplary couple to coach new inline skaters! Boy did I luck out on that one. So many years of potentially bad skating habits eliminated by having Paul and Cindy teach me how to skate. If you're a beginner inline skater - get lessons from a trained and licensed professional!

Settling in next to fellow TNTer Kirsten on the bus from Atlanta to Athens, I chatted nervously, trying to keep my mind from chickening out of skating down strange country roads on all those hills I'd heard about. About halfway to Athens it started to rain, and by the time we drove up to the Classic Center, it was a downright deluge. Skaters gathered, covered strategically by various inadequate plastic bags as booties or ponchos. I remember recognizing Lisa B by the back of her distinguished calf muscles, hauling herself up the hill from the hotel to the start line, and I thought "People are really doing this! They're really going to skate in this torrent!". Consequently I got depressed when I realized there was no way they were going to call the event off, and therefore no way I could legitimately chicken out.

Outdoor Life was filming this particular A2A, and I got my 2 seconds of fame, bustling through the Classic Center, getting my skates on. As a confused and nervous beginner, it took me about fifteen minutes to get all my gear on. Daylight was breaking through, in spite of the clouds, when 7.30am rolled around, and we TNTers started our first ever A2A. For most of us who began training in May 1999 from absolute scratch, we had never skated in the rain before, much less in a steady 1" stream of water.

I have no idea how I got out of Athens, whom I spoke to, if I skated with anybody, but about one hour into the event I remember feeling utterly and completely alone, and not in a peaceful way! Whatever skaters I may have been with up until that point had disappeared either in front of or behind me. The thought never occurred to me to try to work with someone - why would anybody want to skate with a nobody beginner like me? They'd find out that I really didn't know what the hell I was doing, that I really didn't belong, and was nothing but a skater-impostor. My novice's fear of fast, long downhills on roads with, er, vehicles on it, disappeared for good after about 2 hours of trudging through the puddles. My mission was just to get the heck down the next hill with as much speed as I could, given the water resistance, to make it as far up the other side as possible. Let's just get this nightmare over with, please! One particular downhill to a bridge over a creek would normally have had me braking the whole way as the creek was actually on top of the bridge. I was amazed to find I rolled right through it unharmed. After three hours I had eaten four chocolate Power Bars (crazy glue backed with cardboard and colored brown), I had drunk way too much water, and had begun to hate myself for botching up my training out of panic about midway through August. "Great idea!" I berated myself. "Quit your training, eat out of panic and put on ten pounds! Genius! Now you're paying for it". I remember being alarmed at how tempted I was to just keel over and take a nap each time I got down into a tuck and let the patterns on the road mesmerize me. At that point I decided to force myself to read something - anything! - simply to keep myself awake and alert. Any road sign or license plate became a mind game just to keep me from falling over, abandoning hope, and deciding to quit.

During what I would later come to know as the 'Climb into Dacula', a black pick-up truck carrying coach Paul K blew by me, with Paul yelling "Elizabeth!! You're doing awesome!" - and then those torturous words - "Only 5 miles to go!".

5 miles, eh? If it was only 5 miles, why did it seem to take me another hour to finish?!?! About that time I came up on a gentleman with his skates in his hands, walking up the side of the next uphill. This gave me hope! I was strangely encouraged that I wasn't the only one struggling to reach Dacula.

After 4 hours and 18 minutes of paddling through pouring rain on skates, I reached the 38 mile finish. Later I learned that the overall winner finished the whole 86 miles a few minutes after I got to Dacula! I was chuffed that I at least didn't quite have a slower time for the 38 than the winner of the 86. Studying my fellow TNTers' finish times weeks later, I wanted to know how to skate faster, like them. I didn't understand how I could possibly be slower than some people, since I was taller than them. Clearly, I had a lot to learn!


sommemi's picture

"Climb into Dacula"...

You just never appreciate those words until you experience it for the first time, do ya?

Kudos to you for giving it your first shot in a torrential downpour! Glad you made it through those lakes allright!

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