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Foolhardy Skaters Finish Four Miles of Sixty-Two at Dusk on Silver Comet Trail

roadskater's picture

Elizabeth and I missed the chance to travel to Winston-Salem for the T2T training ride last weekend, but we did a couple of fun things instead.

On Saturday we went out to Tribble Mill Park, near a great intersection non-town named New Hope (as the GPS map and church names nearby confirm) which we had been to before, but some time ago. It is now a nice place to skate if you don't mind some twisty hills on multiuse pathway! We made our way fine going counterclockwise, but think we'll try clockwise next time to see if it might be better due to the route and elevations. If you're willing to brake or scrub wheels, it's an awesome 3.2 miles, in fact. There is some roadway there that might be interesting too, particularly a way hilly loop, but we'd need to look at it again to see if it's safe enough to try. I'm sure we'll have more on this later.

On Sunday, we got up later and did everything later because we could, as we often do so happily. But we still had tons of time and no need for the headlamps in our Camelbaks with all the other gear we were toting along. But then a nasty trailhead restroom (not the usual) led us to go back out to CVS (a bit better, thank you). Back at the trail, we saw Scott J of A2A note and talked with him, waiting just a bit to skate with him for awhile, still feeling no need for hurry. If all went well, we'd have plenty of daylight. Yay!

I immediately noticed how easily Elizabeth was scorching the pave while I was airswimming to less effect. She was oblivious at first to how easily this was going for her vis a vis moi, but we started comparing HRM readings and I was working 14 beats per minute harder in almost all terrain. Bummer!

Well the usual excuses apply (extra gravity, poor sleep) but what was odd was she was supposed to be a bit sick and I was supposedly well, and the last time out, for almost exactly half, Elizabeth had been the one with about the same differential in the other direction. I had found it easier going out, and she recovered after the turn back nicely, about which, more later.

So today, we both probably had reasons why this might not be a good day to get into any deep or vital discussions, so we did that. We got in to some of that. Or should I say, I got into some of that. I know this much: I was ornery at being unable to slow down enough to get below what I perceive to by my anaerobic threshold (vaguely, the heart rate at which I should be able to go and go and go as long as I average there or below and manage water, calories and minerals well). I felt great, really, or plenty good, but believed (correctly I think) that I would not last but an hour or so with those numbers. Visions of an embryo (me) curled up in the ditch floated in my head, with the voice of Moses or some other tablet toter: "I have SEEN the future and it is YOU writhing by the road, you toad!" 

So at one point about 11 miles out, we parked our carcasses to see if it might help, and for some minimalistic communication along the trail. Some folk we had passed before asked if we were OK, particularly myself, looking ever more like the stranded walrus as I lay upon the earth wrapped in stretchy cyclothing and indecision. So it was that we passed much time, noticing the cracks in the bridge above, and slowly bridging ourselves enough to go away from, not back toward, the car.

And finally we climbed over the humpbacked trail bridge just past 11 and rolled all the way to the water stop, another couple inquired of us about skating, pulling the propellor just enough to crank the sputtering airplane again--blast the brain alight and shift the focus--with the wind picking up to say, "You know, it's hot, and above us and beyond are forces electric, waiting for you to enter."

By this time we were ready to skate rotations again into the wind and get to Dallas (GA) at least, at the bridge just past 20, or to Rambo at 22, but honestly I still had my heart and soul flowing through the cool-winded tunnel at Brushy Mountain, a perfect 31 just on the other side, with flowers and a gnome in the spring by the rock, if we could make it.

By now we were back to our usual mode that the one with the lower heart rate takes more if not all rotations until we level, Elizabeth was on the lead, and since 13 miles this all on corrugated concrete rather than Cobb County's posh pavement. All this time, mind you, even resting, my heart was about 14 or more over what might be expected for me on a good day after good rest.

Out at 17 we crossed the bridge at the bottom, underneath it a parked train, and looked beyond for what we dreaded: the memorial for Jennifer Ewing, for whom water bottles and plush animals were left in homage. And we looked right and below to see the field of kudzu, usually beautiful in its way, such a sign of southern woods overtaken by abundance and entanglement, in this case rightly or wrongly to us the spot where the woman was hidden after her struggle.

Just past 18 we shunned the bench that has looked so necessary sometimes, and as light rain was upon us, sometimes moderate, I was cooling and calming and recovering perhaps, but definitely not taking the usual ritual chances to stop as I knew I had to be stranded as quickly as possible at mile 31 if we were going to make 62 before dark.

Things always seem to get better when electrons crackle in the air and some ominous clouds hover above and beyond where we plan to go, so as we got to Rambo's 22, where thankfully there is a portapalace, we felt a few sprinkles and knew from our cell phone radar images that no matter which way we went, we'd be getting wet anyway. So with acknowledgment of Elizabeth's calculations about our time being late, we headed forth for the Pumpkinvine Trestle at least, at 23 or so, a long, smooth, somewhat high marvel supported by its riveted peeling-paint-layered crossmembers, and exciting especially when flashes haven't begun but wind and sky say they will soon, so move along.

Had I not felt some signs of recovery mixed with single-minded idiocy, we would have turned around in fear of not making it back in time.

Along the way we'd seen some other Atlanta skaters and both parties had been a bit rushed for time to converse other than the surprised and happy "hey!" But then we saw a familiar cyclist who turned about to easily catch us, and realized it was Jim C of this year's Roadskater.net T2T team. He rode along, agreeing how easily Elizabeth was cruising and politely not mentioning the same about me, as I had already confessed what he could so easily discern. But I was feeling a bit better, and Jim's company diverted focus away from pain, which is evergood.

So down through the little smooth concrete ramps into a small underpass and up and along and Jim gave us a nice welcome and warm conversation until it was time for him to turn back, having done 75 mountain miles the day before, we think.

Now it was mostly completely alone in those miles up in gorgeous rock and tree country, alive and lonely, from the time of railroad rather than superhighway, the trail etched through rocks to save the locomotive having to pull too much, the trestles above at passes and below in valleys, to level the route. And before this last climb, the usually redmuddy small lake was dark bluegreen clean, not stirred up by enough rain perhaps over the weeks before.

And around every bend to the left I thought this was the one.

We passed a father and young son, climbing up and back toward home at Rockmart. And finally the tunnel, strangely dry, as it is usually very wet...easy with the echo of whirring wheels and accomplishment. And just beyond and back into the world of the other side, the small spring, the gnome, someone careful's flowers, a gift to all, a milepost to kiss as the pope kisses carpet and tarmac when finally there, at his distant destination.

And snacks. And wringing the water out of two layers of soaked socks. And wondering if I'd make it back to water at 11.6, as no water was available at Hiram (where usually there is), Rambo or Brushy Mountain (where the makeshift clean water source was dry).

As we waited at the Brushy Mountain Railroad Tunnel, we had the great pleasure of listening in on other people's silliness, as the father and son came through the tunnel making joyful noises, not knowing us to be around, or not caring. They found it incredible that we had been 31 with 31 to go, and we did too, with our calculations, knowing sunset from the GPS to be about 30 minutes earlier than our best hope.

Immediately on the turnaround my heart was settled. This was oddly as it had been for Elizabeth once lately before, but turning at the Dallas bridge instead. We both feel that there is some anxiety factor here, perhaps, where once we knew we had turned around we were somehow able to relax.

However, my turnaround coincided with the rain more properly, perhaps, and cooler temperatures before the turnaround, and some relaxation by rocks and water and happy noises. But it was consistently better, and matching Elizabeth's uphill heart rates often, though still not going down as quickly on the descents, as is often the case.

Back at Rambo we wrung out our socks again, as by now it looked the rain had passed altogether. With 22 to go it felt very manageable, though the time was pressing. We clicked along nicely and I was able to help some, but there was really no need. We began to see lights on and noticed stoplights we had never seen before, they seemed so bright. And the trail was almost entirely ours, as we rolled through the damp dusk to mile 4, at Floyd Road, where our plan was to choose taxi or flashlights, in part depending on our arrival time.

We reached Floyd and almost asked a couple for a ride, but they walked off in a make out direction rather than a get in the car and go one, so we spun along to the convenience store, knowing they were about be in far more trouble than we were. at the store, the gent seemed to recall us from Gatorades past, and he looked to make sure he was right, the flashlights were sold out. Of course we had plenty of light in our headlamps back at the car in the parking lot. So we asked for a taxi number and I asked, thinking no way, did Elizabeth wish to carry on even though it was after sundown and the last four miles are in the woods, largely, and mostly downhill?


So we started out to see, to come back if we felt we should. And we got our cell phones, blinky and GPS out so we'd be seen if not see, as we felt our way back in almost darkness. Out of the woods, there was still light in the sky, as Atlanta's orange sherbet clouds hung above and beyond. In the woods, we could see the reflective paint by cell phone light, but could not honestly see far enough to avoid smaller objects that might be there. It helped us feel better that we had been along this path hours before.

But this ramble in the dark, foolhardy as it may have been, had its rewards. When we crossed the last river, we heard the roar from the earlier rains, as we glided through a monochromatic mist and bluegrey fog of quietly dripping treetops. And we felt as dumb as the high schoolers we had been long ago, and just as lucky.

Knowing the trail, the curves, the extent of it, the flow, we felt careful but unworried, our last real fear being the wooden planks on the bridge over a highway. Gently down, look for the drain cap on the left that signals the last bottom, then gently up to the lights at the trailhead restroom.

Arriving back at mile zero, we vaguely saw another couple working on their fresh romance, and I heard my voice say, "Now that was quite an adventure." As we carefully spundown along by the car, we were happy to be back safely. Then not in much of a hurry, we peeled off the layers of skating and rinsed our roadgrimed calves in halflight from the townhouses above. With quiet echoes, we knew we had not been so smart, no perfect embodiments of any pure principles, not fast, not first, not wise, but we finished, feeling so much better than when we started, finishing another fine day out on the exquisitely healing Silver Comet Trail.


eebee's picture

How to still skate low after 60 miles

Funny how my mind was still able to convince my quads to bend as much as possible, even after 60 miles, so I could dangle my cell phone about a foot from the ground to try to shed some light on the skate path after dark! That's the kind of single-minded trick that works well on things like A2A ("My feet feel like they're bleeding to death, but no way am I gonna get a 'DNF', or let insert name here beat me!).

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