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A2A 2009 38-mile race + 51-mile group skate

johnnyChen's picture

After skating Ragbrai 2009, A2A called my name.  My body wasn’t conditioned to go hard for 4+ hrs.  I was uncomfortable on Atlanta’s rough flats without a Chuck.  I signed up for 38-mile. 

The long hills and the number of skaters made time-based goal impractical.  I sought ways to win the 38-mile race, which included Dillon and Chance Martin.  They were among the top skaters of their generation and raced as teammates for Powerslide.  I averaged 1 practice per week, usually short and unfocused.

The 38-mile winner seemed a foregone conclusion.  I had nothing to lose--might as well go down in flames.  I’d skate with the lead pack for a few miles then play by ear.  It’s always fun to watch pros.  I lasted 6 miles in 2007; would try farther this time.  With luck, a small group would peel off for me to work with.  Who knows, the boy wonders could have a bad day.  Their sponsor didn’t have the best wet-wheels.

_Climber and RAAM soloist
The shuttle from the airport to Athens was filled with skaters.  Herb introduced us to Marcy the climb demon.  She made effort to look modest.  I don’t recall anyone else radiating this much confidence at A2A.

I sat next to John Silker, who completed RAAM before aerobars became popular.  I was awe-struck and full of questions.  The math teacher graciously shared personal details: body fat, donuts, lubrication.  Ultra athletes are often people who see the destination as a mean to the journey.

_The poser
Race morning, I lined up next to the giant poker costume.  I was pumped with nervous energy and doubts.  Did I run too much, lose weight too quickly, skate enough hills, choose the right wheels?
I felt each pulse.  I love racing.

I settled into 22nd position.  The lead skater looked tiny; the Martin brothers were pushing the pace.  Luis Carlos and Eddy popped out of the line a lot, minimizing the chance of being taken down by their fans posing as speed skaters.
Carl Yee towered couple spots in front of me.  No wonder Ragbrai cyclists thought the skater shrank in size.  I wanted to chat with Carl but decided to concentrate on task at hand.  Eddy was near the tall guy when interviewed by the camera crew on motorcycle.  I watch Eddy not breathing hard as my heart rate slowly redlined.  The peloton spitted me out at mile 12. 

_Strong chasers
Like 2007, John Charbonneau was there to pick me up.  This time he came much quicker with Marcy, Jessica, and Lenny.  I couldn’t hang on.  I wished I knew K2/Asphalt Beach and Bont’s plan before the start.

2 Flying Fossils materialized a few minutes later.  “Welcome to the 3rd pack!”  Yeah, everyone knew exactly where they stood.  They took me in and were easy to work with.  We stayed together ‘til Dacula.  My Street Fights rolled slower than the other the 2 wheelsets, but aerodynamics negated the disadvantage.  John Garrett and Larry Griffin reached Piedmont Park in 5:44 with modest pack mass.

Race #’s
Distance: 38.5 miles
Avg HR: 170 bpm
Max HR: 185 bpm
Avg speed: 16.2 mph
Max speed: 41.1 mph
Total Ascent: 3359 ft
Total Descent: 2931 ft
Liquid consumed: 15 oz
Traffic stops: 0

My teammate Duane skipped another A2A this year.  He waited at Dacula with Mrs. Duane.  We watched a non-jean wearing Naomi skated by.  She looked beautiful in skinsuit on 100-mm wheels.  Casey came in a few minutes later wearing his I-survived-my-first-A2A smile.  APRR Chuck greeted me.  He didn’t race due to injury.  We discussed future event pretending not to trash talk.

_Cheap out the $10 bus ride
The Dacula-to-Atlanta bus would be a long wait.  No rain in sight.  Skating to Atlanta seemed logical. 

Wondergirl was supporting 3 racers and checkpoint hopping; she informed me of Luke’s progress.  I wanted to skate with my Montreal-24 buddy who helped me during a difficult hour.

I rolled slowly and barely had time to sort out nutrition in a Walmart bag before Luke’s group showed up.  We moved cooperatively and waited for each other.  Herb took a short break from dominating the 52-mile race by joining us.  The top 2 52-mile ladies stayed in the pack a little longer.

_40.0 mph
Someone whined as Silver Hill approached.  The pack agreed the downhill train was optional; we would regroup at the checkpoint.  I took the lead.  The long descent felt slow.  I look between legs and discovered Luke was the only passenger; should’ve sprinted at the top….

_I went to the hill.  The hill was there.
My legs turned jello on the climb after checkpoint 5.  Déjà vu.  I resorted to hip swing and choppy strides, the technique I learned from French skaters.  Probably looked comical, but the quads didn’t melt.

_City skate
Atlanta traffic grew hairier, and road hazards multiplied each time I skated it.  The stop-and-goes took out everyone’s desire to fly.  John Silker stayed at the back behind a big gap.  The football-player’s 200-lb frame was getting minimum draft and was chucking along.  He seemed to have enough in the tank to skate back to Athens.  I fantasized breaking his 24-hour record (http://www.skatelog.com/skaters/john-silker/)

We reached the feared rough flat where Herb and Bob dropped me last year.  The road was paved with black ice now. 

_Quick stop
The group decided to finish together after jumping the curb at the restaurants.  2 skaters started to orchestrate hand-holding details.  Bob Ryan was all by himself in front when he wobbled for no good reason.  The helmet banged against a little tree; branches shook.  Ambulance wasn’t in the script but was all the sudden a very real possibility.  Things were going so well 5 seconds ago.  Fortunately he got up and recovered quickly.  8 of us reached Piedmont Park, hand-in-hand.

Martin brothers took the top 2 spots in 38-mile. 
Herb won 52-mile.  He time trialed the whole way.

Luis Carlos was the top full-distance man in 2009.  He promised to consider coming to Houston next month (http://www.zapevent.com/ListActivities.aspx?eventid=223).
Eddy repeated top-3 performance.
Marcy lived up to expectation and took the title.
Jessica came in a minute later. 
Naomi got 3rd, demonstrating it’s possible to master 2 very different wheel sizes. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS-blZ8jb_Q&NR=1)

I beat the Dacula-Atlanta bus to the park.

Dacula to Atlanta #’s (with missing distance due to GPS issue)
Distance: 49.6 miles
Avg HR: 139 bpm
Max HR: 165 bpm
Avg speed: 13.4 mph
Max speed: 40.0 mph
Total Ascent: 5023 ft
Total Descent: 4980 ft
Liquid consumed: 80 oz
Traffic stops: 12+ minutes
Water break: 1

Bob handed me a cold Guinness at the park.  Beer earned is sweeter than beer bought.


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