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Athens to Atlanta A2A Road Skate Absolute First Timer

Cat Brother's picture


OK, this will be my first A2A, my first road race, period. Pretend I just flew in from Venus or something, y'all, and be patient. My fitness is high, got my new speed skates and am busy building ankle calluses after years of high-boot inlines.A few questions -

1. Apparently, you can send your own food/snacks ahead to various rest checkpoints. How does this work? Did I mention this was my first race?

2. How to meet up with the other Roadskater racers at the race? And, er, money's tight, yo, so do I need a Roadskater jersey to do so? Is there a place we all meet the night befo', or after the race?



JonathanS's picture

I did last year what you are

I did last year what you are doing this year. 2008 was my first A2A, and my first road race. I got lucky and ended up in a pack with Roadskater and eebee, and learned a huge amount as we rolled down the road. I had never even skated with other skaters before, so I got the crash course in pack skating. So my first advice is if possible find some other experianced skaters and learn pack skating. If not it is not the end of the world, just be honest with your fellow skaters about being a novice. Most are very willing to offer advice. To answer your questions: 1. There are boxes set out at the start line Sunday morning numbered with the checkpoints. You place your stuff in ( I put mine in ziplocks and labled them) and then after the start they take the boxes and leave them at the different checkpoints. When you roll through that checkpoint, you can stop and get your own stuff out. If you decided to skip that checkpoint, the boxes are taken to the finish line so you could get your stuff back out. I left GU's and gatorade mix at each stop. There is water at the stops, but I don't remember if there is gatorade at the stops. 2. I'll let Roadskater handle the meet up stuff, and while I know that he would love for you to wear a jersey, I don't know that it is required. Do you have an estimated speed/time you hope to finish in. That might better help to find someone on here of a similar ability that you might be able to skate with. Just my 2 cents. Jonathan S
timv's picture

Not required

> And, er, money's tight, yo, so do I need a Roadskater jersey to do so?

Roadskater can certainly speak for himself, but as this has gone unanswered for three days, I'll venture to say: By no means is a Roadskater.net jersey required for anyone under any circumstances. If you would like to have one, then we would like you to have one--and in fact they are very nice jerseys. But no, you don't need one to be part of the team. I'm not the last word on that but I'm pretty well sure of it

Best of luck at A2A! Maybe I'll make it down there myself one of these years.

(To be clear, Jonathon did offer a tentative answer to this question in his reply and said pretty much the same thing. I wanted to be a little more emphatic about it in the absence of an official policy statement.)


Cat Brother's picture

Thank you, both Jonathan and

Thank you, both Jonathan and Tim. Ziplocs it is. It will be my first experience skating in packs,also; I've never seen a competitive skater here in Charleston, never, so pack skating's just not something I can practice in advance. I'm seriously wondering, trying out my new speed skates, whether or not to do it on my old K2's; 4 wheels, but man I like that brake, and I KNOW that ankle chafing won't be a problem...I was just in GA for a dragon boat race - man, living in Charleston, you start to think that the world's flat. Well, driving to Gainsville, some of those hills looked mighty steep. I would have no prob going down them on my regular skates, not sure how much easier speed skates would make going up them. How much are the jerseys, again? Endurance-wise, if the course were as flat as Chas, I'd feel ready to do it tomorrow. There are absolutely no hills to practice on here, I'm doing stationary bike sprints with max resistance 2x a week on non-skate days, hope that'll pull me through.
eebee's picture

K2s are good!

I did my first A2A event in 1999 on K2 Kinetics (80mm). Ok it was 'only' the 38 miler, but even in the pouring rain my feet felt cushy the whole way. A friend of mine had her best A2A 87 mile distance time on her fitness boots, as opposed to her speed boots. Many people find their feet have turned to hamburger by mile 60 in speed boots because those boots are obviously harder and less padded than most fitness skates. My K2 frame was plenty long enough to handle the downhills without much fishtailing and wobbling. One key to staying steady on the downhills - even if you're going faster than you're comfy with - is to keep your weight back towards your heel wheels. In the beginning it's easy to confuse 'going in to a tuck' with leaning way forwards over your toe wheels. If too much of your body weight is over your toe wheels on a downhill, your skates will start to fishtail in & out a bit, you'll be really unsteady, and may very well fall. It might be a good idea to practice on a parking deck ramp somewhere (with a run out!), getting the feel of having your weight back over your heels on a downhill. Not too much to where you go over backwards, of course. I'd say practice on the flat first, then try a hill. I think that'll really help your confidence on the A2A downhills. If this doesn't make any sense, it's easier to get the feel for shifting your weight back and forth over your skates if you are 'sitting in the air chair' and have a decent knee-bend. When I say keep your weight back over your heels, I don't mean lean backwards, but instead be in somewhat of a squat. I think at the speed clinics they suggest a 90 to 110 degree knee bend. This is good for the purpose of getting balanced, but probably not feasible over 87 miles :-) I had been training on moderate hills before my first A2A and I did brake down a few of the first hills during the event, but honestly after about 5 miles I got over the fear pretty fast, realizing I had a few hours and many miles to go. Might as well capitalize on all that momentum on the downhills, eh? If you love the brake, wear the skates with the brake (your K2s, right?). I have speed skates AND a brake! Not going brakeless any time soon :-) One more thing about pacelines...if you need to touch the person in front of you (happens a lot because you're getting the benefit of the draft and are gaining on them), use the BACK of your hand - usually to the small of their back or just above the tailbone. Don't push on them with your palm. And the big reason for this is our natural instinct to grab something if we start falling. It's a split-second reaction to grab the jersey of the person in front of you if you start to fall. If you have the back of your hand there instead, that doesn't happen.
JonathanS's picture

When I did the A2A last

When I did the A2A last year, it was in a pair of k2 radical 100's, which is a fitness boot with 100mm wheels. And they were comfy the whole way. And I can't imagine skating without a brake. I know some do, but for my peace of mind, I have got to have one. Jonathan S
skatey-mark's picture

k2 rec skates are fine

Like many others, I did my first A2A in rec skates. (K2 Kinetics, 4x80mm.) For hills, remember to start controlling your speed from the top of the hill. Once you're going faster than you're comfortable, it's too late. I'd stay upright for the first part, then tuck as you get closer to the bottom. Most everyone that does A2A is very helpful. I've never had a paceline pass me that didn't ask me to join them. If you tell them you haven't skated in a paceline before, I'm sure most groups would still be accommodating. If you don't have one already, a heart rate monitor is very useful. In the few weeks you have left, learn what heart rate you can skate at and sustain indefinitely. Then, at A2A, try to keep below that threshold. (You probably won't be able to on the hard climbs, but otherwise you should be able to.) Then there's the old advice: drink before you're thirsty, eat before you're hungry. Hopefully you've determined what your stomach can tolerate as far as food & drink go. Finally, respect the distance. That's usually not a problem for first-timers. But the second year I was a bit overconfident and bonked at 60 miles. - SM -
Danielle's picture

Hi, first timer too

Hello Skater community.. I am a first time A2A skater.. How about a few questions??? I am scared or more like intimidated- I have skated for about 10 years on/off, more 'off' 1) Are there a lot of hills? or mostly flat? (plz say flat) 2) How's the asphalt? Smooth or old and rough? 3)I have K2 Texas "sport" skates not speed skates- is this OK? 4) I have skated in 8-12 mile intervals, 3 times a week, never 30 or even 38, am I WAY in over my head? I have skated over 10 years more like 20; first roller then blades.. I am scared, up for a challenge, but scared... Should I do this or am I going to die? I've been a professional at a desk job for 20 years now venturing back out.. Yikes! Hmmm,
skatey-mark's picture

hills? what hills?

;-) A2A is seriously hilly... You should be comfortable both going up and going down hills. (Have a heel brake and know how to use it.) There's a rule of thumb that says if you can run/skate/bike a certain distance over the course of a week, then you can do it in a day. I think it's relatively accurate. But your results may vary, of course. A2A used to have a crazy rough patch of pavement about 6 miles long that is now nice and smooth. I can't think of any excessively rough pavement in the first 38 miles. (There is still some towards the end of the 87/52 mile route though.) Recreational/fitness skates are fine. Many people skate A2A in them every year. Most people that skate A2A for the first time do it in rec skates. You've got a few weeks left before A2A. I'd recommend trying a longer skate (maybe 20-25 miles) this weekend and see how you do. One thing about longer distances is you'll need to manage your food & fluid intake. You can get by on a 12-mile skate with nothing. But you'll need to be taking in some calories and some fluids (preferably a sports drink like gatorade) if you want to make it 38 miles. Energy bars or gels are the most popular, but you'll see people eating all kinds of things on the course. It is a challenge, but it's tons of fun and you'll meet a lot of great people. Next year, start training in the spring and do the full 87 miles... :-) - SM -
Cat Brother's picture

2 days ago, I ate it wearing

2 days ago, I ate it wearing my new speed boots, on bumpy gravel. Wanna guess if I was wearing pads? good thing I do this Chinese 'bump and fall medicine.' I think this was a blessing in disguise as now I a. Will be wearing pads. I skated in DC most of the 90's and fell on every second piece of pavement, I think, never hit my head, always hit my hands and knees. b. Pretty damn sure, after reading y'all's feedback, that I'll do it in my K2's. I'm absolutely confident on them in all terrain and conditions, and fear no hills. Which brings me to - I mentioned I drove thru Georgia the other week, and damn, some of it was hilly. So, re SM above, we agree that A2A is damn hilly? Def going on the K2's, yessirreee. I can skate 25 miles on them flat, never get out of breath. Guess we'll see how it goes in Hillville...
Cat Brother's picture

Ok, now I just need to find

Ok, now I just need to find a brake set for my new Powerslide 5-wheel frames, for next year or something. How much are the jerseys, again? I may have to get back in the escort business, maybe for a weekend, to afford one. Kidding.
eebee's picture

Getting all the rain over and done with

Well I'm working on getting all the rain over and done with down here in Floodlanta. I think I'm a skater...I used to do it once, earlier in the year :-). It took me three hours to drive my 18 mile commute this evening. I would have been better off skating, except it was a deluge the whole time. I'm excited for you first timers! Here's a link to info about the jerseys, with order forms and some pricing. I'm not sure what all is left available right now though, but Roadskater can tell you. http://roadskater.net/get-your-roadskaternet-2009-inline-skating-and-cyc... I second what Skatey-Mark says about the hills, Danielle! Plus I wrote something about them further up in the thread.
roadskater's picture

Sorry for the delay! Thanks to others for answering!

Hey Cat Brother and Danielle. I'll add quick ones. I usually like to go on and on. Busy now with Tour to Tanglewood. Come up and skate this weekend! It's for a good cause, but a bit pricey late, at $240 (because you have to pony up the fundraising at registration if you don't reg early). I used K2 Flight 76s that were hopped up to 80mm my first A2A. It rained. Others were blistered and bleeding when we came in soggy and happy head to feet. First A2A I think K2s or similar are perfect as long as they're not new to you. It's hilly and you need to be able to stop at intersections, but the countryside hills have nice runouts. Still you want to catch some air to slow down, don't get anywhere near too scary fast. You can go back later and go down the hills faster. The first time, just be safe and finish if you can! If you're in a paceline and start to freak, raise your left hand and say somthing like "I'M OUT" and come out of the paceline BEFORE you brake or some folk in the packback will be snarly with you for making them get dropped. A good thing to do is get to the back of the pack on the big downs so you can drift off when you need to, but get some of the benefit before that. In Charleston you might try skating that big bridge, if they let you. It'd be practice slowing coming off of that puppy too. So I say K2s with a brake first year at least, and many of us would be better off this way for longer, maybe forever. At some point you become better with the speed skates than the rec skates, and the rec skates might even rub your shins or whatever, but for now, use skates you know, K2s are great, and a new brake pad (or carry a new one with you with whatever tool you'd need). We find that oatmeal with dried cranberries about an hour before starting works pretty well. Drink electrolytes early on before you need them. Keep drinking them as long as you can. It's too late once you need them. Don't use any new food items in general. Test everything beforehand on your regular skate trips. First time we did Tanglewood (90 mils in 2 days) we had only done 32 miles in one day I think. Do half the total ahead of time or maybe a bit more and the adrenaline of the day will take you there. Wear a heart rate monitor if you have one and practice ahead of time with that. Learn what heart rate you average over an hour or longer, and try to stay at or below that average heart rate as you go, getting above it briefly, but getting below it enough to make the average OK. Don't redline (skate so hard you can't say a sentence without breathing in the middle, and I mean something longer than "Jesus wept.") for more than a minute or two max, especially early, if you're new to all this. You can have your pain early and suffer the rest of the day, or enjoy the day and suffer in a sprint to the finish. You pick. You can leave stuff at a rest stop and they'll bring it back to ATL, so you can even drop a big Camelbak at the last stop if you think you don't need the weight...but bring your keys and money and ID along. Ask questions when you meet skaters who've done A2A when you go to the Friday skate if you go, and on the bus to Athens if you take that Friday night. Get out to see what's going on Saturday and ask questions, make some potential friends. In the event, stick with at least one other person whenever you can without exhausting yourself. You may have to trade down to a slower person, but you both may pass that faster one before the finish, hanging out by a ditch somewhere. Being in the wind HALF as much is TWICE as good and conversation can really pass the time nicely. Search this site for a speed map of A2A and look at the speeds you can expect on the section you plan to skate. I hope to clean all this up later, ha! STUDY THIS MAP...CLICK IN CLOSER...COLOR SHOWS SPEEDS...THIS IS THE BEST THING I HAVE TO SHOW YOU WHAT TO EXPECT...use the dropdown to see other map styles... http://roadskater.net/photos/athens-to-atlanta-roadskate-a2a-2008-87-mil... STUDY THE SATELLITE MAP IN 3D..."play" the route if you know how to in Google Earth... http://roadskater.net/photos/athens-to-atlanta-roadskate-a2a-2008-87-mil... COMMENTS ON 2008 87-miler... http://roadskater.net/athens-atlanta-ga-roadskate-2008-87-mile-a2a-road-... THE FRIDAY NT SKATE http://roadskater.net/athens-atlanta-ga-roadskate-2008-friday-night-skat... CHECK THIS SEARCH and the "Similar Entries" section of the sidebar... http://roadskater.net/search/node/%22athens+to+atlanta%22 OK I need to sleeeeeeep!
roadskater's picture

On the Matter of Roadskater.net Jerseys

Oh yeah no pressure to wear a Roadskater.net jersey or to put us down as your team, but we love it when you do. Right now I have a few Tangerine jerseys left in sleeveless, and I think the numbers are accurate on the page eebee referred to. We do Tour to Tanglewood this weekend and if someone doesn't want the jersey they ordered, there may be one for sale. Nobody knows the color yet, other than me, and I still haven't seen it in the daylight on a real jersey. Friday early evening is when we find out if anyone wants them! After T2T I should know what I have available if Tangerine isn't your fave or if I don't have a color or style you like in that color. I wasn't able to buy extras this year, but we might do some reprints once we've seen this year's version and have tried them.

First Time Advice

I did A2A, 87 miles, for the first time last year. (I did the 10k in 2007.) My advice? 1. Practice hills. You can always rest and catch your breath. But you can't get your legs back when they've turned to rubber after too many hills. Better to do 10 mile practice skates with many hills than 50+ mile skates that are flat. 2. Know what your body needs in terms of electrolytes, water, and food. This would be one exception to the practice advice above--you might need one long skate to try out what electrolytes you need. I was lucky and had a good group to skate with, but our group dwindled to just two of us at the finish. It goes without saying that you need skates that you'll be comfortable in the whole way. -Tom
roadskater's picture

Get your training for A2A in BEFORE 7-10 days BEFORE A2A

There'll be little training effect and maybe damage if you do lots of training in the last week to ten days before A2A. Authorities (and the rest of us) disagree on this and maybe some more knowledgeable can comment, but get your training in BEFORE that last week, then do some recovery skating and walking, maybe some brief fun skate sprints, and leave it at that. Get lots of SLEEP if you can for as many days before the event, and ideally, get yourself on the time zone you need to be in to wake up and be ready. (I usually opt for 12 hours off of this ideal schedule.) Drink plenty of fluids in the last week, get some good protein during the week, and yes, I think carbohydrates do help in the last days too. But mostly, make sure you take carbohydrates on the road (some of us find gu or powergels to be the easiest, quickest, most convenient road food, but many prefer other items...find out what works for you ahead of time). If you will be skating over 4 hours especially, be sure to drink fluids with electrolytes instead of only water (water's good, but on a 4+ hour skate it can thin the sodium or potassium or other electrolytes in your system dangerously). Take in electrolytes all day, avoiding fat where you can during the event. For some of us, this means adding a half teaspoon of Morton Lite Salt to our skaterade mixes we put into zips and carry or send to the stops. Secret dead mouth weapon: Atomic Fireballs, larger size. These marvels of sugar and cinnamon provide a sugar-drip to wake up your mouth and give you a constant carbo kick and for some, another kind of pain to think about besides the legs, heart, lungs and psyche!
Cat Brother's picture

Since deciding to do the

Since deciding to do the race in K2's, I've felt much better. Chafing just won't be an issue, nor will braking or maneuvering. I'm staying off the bridge, as it's not skate-friendly (maybe I'll try a midnite skate tonight), but am doing bursts of 1-leg squats while skating on my normal flat route. Here's one I meant to ask - besides a wrench to tighten screws, what's on your list of stuff to have on you, the whole race? I've heard vinegar to clean wheels, and I figured a cell phone in case of catastrophe, and whatever munchies I pick (currently skating on a mix of maltodextrin + protein powder I make myself, with some lemonade mix tossed in). So, what to have in a fanny pack/small backpack?
skatey-mark's picture

pack light

Vinegar? I've never heard of that one... Take whatever tools you need to tighten your axles and brake pad. If you have a spare axle, take that. A spare brake pad couldn't hurt. Put your cellphone in a ziploc bag, just in case. Take whatever food you want to eat during the event. You also have the option of having a bag taken to a specific rest stop on the course. But it may take some time to locate your bag when you get there. Take some money just in case you need to stop at a convenience store along the way. For myself, I start out with gatorade and switch to water on the course. (Since that's what they hand out at the rest stops.) I carry Gu gels to eat. They usually have bananas on the course, so I'll grab a banana when they're available and save my gels. I think the longest you have to go between rest stops is 15 miles (at the very beginning, then later in the course.) So you don't need to carry any more water than what it takes to go 15 miles, assuming you refill at each stop. You might want to have a little more as a "reserve". But carrying much more than that is just extra weight. The turn sheet says there is a water station at 66 miles, but I've never seen anyone there. It's a fire station, so I'm sure they'd give you water if you asked, but I'd plan on getting all the way to the 71 mile checkpoint. I used to carry all kinds of other stuff -- extra wheels, bearings, etc... It's not necessary and is just extra weight. In the very unlikely event that you lose a wheel, you can always move your remaining wheels around and skate (if necessary) and skate with one less wheel on that skate. It may not seem like much, but every little bit adds up over 87 miles. The less stuff you carry along the way, the easier it will be. - SM -
Cat Brother's picture

I'm doing the double

I'm doing the double marathon this year, not the 87, but 15 miles can still be awhile. As far as how to carry liquids, I have both a Camelbak and various Nalgene-type bottles. Does anyone skate with a small backpack?
roadskater's picture

Racing or Touring

If you're racing, you'll likely want to stay light, but I've seen some of the fastest skaters wearing hydropacks under their skinsuits, still grabbing water at every chance. The fanny packs are great if you practice getting them open and filled in good order. I usually bring my own mix in zip bags. For the 48 oz. I use a couple of scoops of ade with 1/2 tsp. of Morton Lite Salt (sodium, potassium). I drink water along the way with that. Later in the day I mix it a bit lighter sometimes, depending on how hot it is and how soaked my jersey is. Sometimes I squeeze the air out of the empty water bottles and put them in the back of my jersey or even in the front if not worried about the Santa Claus effect too much! You might leave a pack at the stop before the longest gap between stops. Also the longer I skate the less I bother with any other food other than gels/goo. I can make myself eat that almost regardless of the situation (by force sometimes, but at least the calories go in). Then I look at stuff on the tables and if it strikes me and doesn't have fat in it, I eat it. I'm fond of carrying dried cranberries many tens of miles only to not eat them, though I did eat the ones on day 2 of T2T this year. I've found them to be most excellent along with oatmeal an hour or more before the start. I've also written a comment on some old strategy notes here... http://roadskater.net/a2a-athens-to-atlanta-road-skate-survival-strategy
skatey-mark's picture

carrying liquids

You'll see all manner of liquid carrying. The minimalist approach is to simply grab a water bottle from each rest stop. Some will carry the bottle in their hand, or put it in a jersey pocket. I have a water bottle holder that I wear like a fanny-pack. I always have two water bottles - one in the water bottle holder and another in a jersey pocket. This is in case I miss a handoff at a rest stop, or in case I run out. Like you said, 15 miles is pushing it for 12 oz of water. You can find a bottle holder like this at any sporting goods store. (I like the selection at REI...) They also have double bottle holders too. Camelbaks are very popular, they're just a little difficult to fill while you're rolling down the road. If you don't mind stopping to refill it, go for it. But keep in mind that the other skaters in your pack might not stop. I'd say that 1-liter (32oz) should be plenty big enough for just about anyone. Anything over 48oz is overkill, and just extra weight you'll be lugging up the hills. Of course, the tradeoff is you won't have to stop to refill it as much. Be sure to take in some electrolytes when you drink. You can either mix a sport drink (like gatorade) on the go or just add some electrolyte mix. I use a concentrated electrolyte mix from http://www.eletewater.com/ and just squirt it into the water bottles when I grab them. Others might carry gatorade mix and use it when they refill their camelbaks. - SM -
Cat Brother's picture

Just made hotel

Just made hotel reservations, also....yep, decided to be there Friday night, also. Will we have a cell phone # swap or something, so the whole Roadskater gang can meet up, or what?
roadskater's picture

Cell phone numbers off line

Hey Cat Brother. We'll likely meet at the statue of Athena in front of the Classic Center in the mid to late afternoon. I am thinking I'd like to eat dinner before the rant (Henry's route and other notes, very important this year after the flooding), but I haven't checked with others on this. You can use the contact form for a member to send a message to them. Also you might want to join the InlineNC group on yahoogroups.com. You can reach me by sending to my user name at the website name. I'll post here and on InlineNC what I hope to do about getting together for a photo and some hanging out, food or not. Every year I try to get more sleep than before, and usually, my plan fails, but I'm doing better sometimes! I think I got more sleep at T2T this year than ever, especially the night before. It still wasn't much, but lots more than usual. I think this helped my heart rates and performance both days.
Cat Brother's picture

The statue of Athena meet is

The statue of Athena meet is on Saturday, right? Just saw the list of registered skaters, nobody else from Charleston. I lieu of a Roadskater jersey, looks like I'll be wearing my Charleston Dragon Boat jersey, which is bright red and at least easy to spot.

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