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The Phenomenal Athens-to-Atlanta Roadskate 2006

eebee's picture

Once again I sorta had my head in the sand about training for A2A, and once again I got through it somehow, securing another 87 sense-defying Georgia hilly miles. What a blast! Ah I'm still on such a high 2 days later, and still having recurring delirium each time I doze off, that I'm out there stumbling endlessly along the A2A course, looking for the finish line.


Last year after skating the A2A course, I felt I truly lived Donn Baumgartner's "Skate Free or Die" slogan. This year I am simply in proud awe of the overwhelming number of participants (friends) who had not trained as intensely as they did 2 years ago, but signed up anyway. I think we all dug way deep and amazed ourselves. I'm convinced that more finishers had a much bigger, happy post-A2A-glow than 2 years ago.


In case anybody is interested, here are my most meaningful experiences from this year's A2A...


Friday Night Skate: Blake and I lived up to Blake's imaginary Superhero name: 'Last Minute Man'. There we were in the Dick's Sporting Goods parking lot at the Mall of Georgia, 1 hour before the FNS, doing what else but skate repairs. One of my frame bolt threads was mangled, and thankfully Blake simply rethreaded it with a 6mmx1.0 tap. After much sweating and dropping of bolts into the black hole between the center console and driver's seat in my car, where french fries and money like to fall, I finally got my new 3x100mm+84mm frames back on to my boots in a way that would enable me to find my outside edges once again. Frankenskate no more. We got to Atlanta 15 minutes late (traffic! Allow an extra 30 mins at least! Or just take Marta), parked the car in Ansley somewhere up the (Piedmont Ave) road, booted up, skated down and tagged on the very end of the FNS that was headed up that nice 12th Street hill beside Skate Escape. We left one car downtown for Sunday night after skating into Atlanta.


Saturday: We made sure we got plenty of sleep because we knew we would probably find a reason to be awake at 3am the Sunday morning of A2A. We drove up to Athens in the 2nd car. We checked into the Travelodge and went to the ever-entertaining 'Henry's Rant', and spent a few hours dizzily greeting happy skater friends from all over the place. After a dinner with friends and the customary A2A eve freak out (this time trying to decide what would be best for Blake's newly bent skate frame), and several hours getting absolutely everything ready for the next morning, even down to pinning the 'race' numbers on our shorts, we tried to sleep.


Sunday: When I opened the hotel room door at 6.30am and peered down to Blake's car, I thought in my haze: Hmm, those are some huge dew drops they get here in Athens. Well, actually it was rain. Of course! Just because Accuweather says 1% chance of rain, doesn't mean it's not going to fall on me. The A2A start line was an electrifying buzz of wired skaters ready to just get going. My heart rate was abnormally high, because I had made a pact with myself not to chicken out, worry about or panic on the first major downhill out of town. But the panic was still there - the heart rate monitor never lies (well unless you're skating under power lines or wearing a Holter Monitor!) . Blake's plan was to be behind the speedies but in front of the wobblies, to keep us safe and swift on those important first roads out of Athens. This was a great plan and I'm glad I trusted him, tucked in and rode it out.  My heart rate remained over 90% until about 5 miles into the event. I started eating out of nerves and just to make sure my HR wasn't high due to hunger (my brain and body were hopelessly out of touch with each other at this point). The sight of a silently passing fast pack containing SkateyMark, Erica and Marcia, and the dawning in my head that these speedsters must've drastically missed a turn somewhere, got me to relax some. If I had been witnessing a paceline of aliens or unicorns passing by, I could not have been more astonished.


Blake and I settled into a steady pace compatible with several others', off and on for the first 20 miles. When the paceline reached about 12 skaters, we picked up another lady, who joined the paceline and suffered a fall about 2 minutes later. I remember hearing that sickening metallic 'scrape-thud' sound of an inline skater falling. I then counted another 'scrape-thud', another, and another until 4 people were down behind me. The first skater to fall, Kanako, sustained a dislocated shoulder. Luckily we had a doctor in the pack, Yong, who made sure she was taken care of before completing his first 87 mile A2A. Blake and I made it to Dacula and swapped out camelbaks of our specific drinks - I couldn't stand the sight of mine already! We talked with Katherine, Vivian and Alex briefly about the cruel ironies of the A2A ever-decreasing mile-per-hour averages by the time one gets to Piedmont Park, and set off down the road again. My personal most-feared section of the course, Pleasant Hill Road, posed less of a problem to me this year as we were in a 9-skater paceline. Safety in numbers. Blake led, peeping loudly on the whistle to gain car drivers' awareness, and I had the courage to 'take the lane' for the pack at the back to make that frightening transition from the Ronald Reagan Parkway access lanes to the main lanes of Pleasant Hill. Big sigh of relief!


I did not fuel up enough at checkpoint 4 and promptly flew off to the funny farm at mile 67. Suddenly somebody's lush, green lawn morphed in my eyes to a cushy mattress at the top of Silver Hill Rd, and I gladly curled up on it in the embryo position. A Raspberry Cream Powergel got me back into the real world - not allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, but definitely cheaper and with less drastic consequences than going to the emergency room. No question there. This helped me hobble to Checkpoint 5 at Stone Mountain, where I was deliriously happy scooping up grimy melted water-bottle-tub ice water onto my head a la Floyd Landis. Ok, I threw it all over my body, actually. By this time we were skating steadily with Clarence and Jason from Atlanta's APRR, and Peter from Poland via South Carolina. Don from Boston and Michael Skaggs from Washington State had skated and helped us until that point. Blake and I dumped our cumbersome Camelbaks at Checkpoint 6 and man, did I feel like I had a new lease on life! In my stupor I checked to make sure I had clothes on, I felt that much lighter!


The roads were slippery and wet for the first 38 miles, and the weather was a steamy 82 deg F later on, with an occasional headwind. This proved to be a challenging combination for us all to hold it together, watch our heart rates, electrolytes, salt and calorie intake.


The last 9 miles were a complete mix of pleasure and pain. As we rolled into Piedmont Park with that A2A disbelief that we've really made it, the five of us coordinated our joint-finish, hand-in-hand chain, and I heard Peter say "Nobody here knows how much this means to me!". That brought a tear to my eye.


Inspite of my slowest-ever A2A 87 mile finish time, I consider it a triumph that I got through it without any roadrash, blisters or bone bruises! Roll on Oct 7th, 2007!



sommemi's picture

Nothing like the last minute...

Wow eebee, I have to admit, I have the utmost respect for those who have made it the full 87 miles. That is my goal, but it seems to keep slipping from my grasp each year... last year because it was cancelled, and this year because... well, I procrastinated and was totally unprepared for 87 miles!

 I'm sorry about mile 67, but glad you made it through! That's determination! Now, I want to make sure I have this right... at the beginning of the event, did you say "wired skaters" or "weird skaters"... cause I personally read that as weird skaters, but that may just be me. No really, I mean you might have been looking at me at the beginning of the event and I'm pretty weird, so I just thought maybe it was a typo...

eebee's picture

Obsessive Spelling Disorder

Now this one I really do have. Nope. Not a typo. No, not me, never. Wired skaters, without a doubt. Weird is one of those, um, weird words that you sort of want to German-ify by typing it wierd so it looks more like wired. Yeah, I have many, many defects but spellin' ain't one of 'em. I was born with a red pen in my hand. I think I go the other way and obsess over it, actually. I never use spell check because spell check doesn't catch it all. Horror!

Weird skaters at the start line, on the other hand, is a very true statement :-) 

Weird for even considering skating 87 hilly, congested miles on inlines, or 38 hilly miles on quad skates! I guess they used to do 87 miles on quad skates back in the day, though. Wow. I had not realized the extra challenges you faced doing 38 on quads until I read your account of A2A 2006. Truly enlightening.

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