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A2A 2010. Shoulda Woulda Coulda! Eebee's Athens to Atlanta Roadskate Inline Skate Report

eebee's picture

 

For the majority of my past eleven A2As, I have set the goal of enjoying those bizarre 87 miles, to skate to the finish line happily and healthily, and never to be the paceline charity case. This year I fell far short of those ideals.

Each year since 1999, something typically happens mid-August to throw me off my training grove. Sometimes it’s a cross-training related injury, a trip abroad, or good old perfectionism resulting in self-sabotage. This year’s spanner in the works came in the form of a family member needing my immediate vigilance and efforts for a month. No contest!

Missing two or three Tanglewood training rides in August really set me back a notch, yet during both days of the 90-mile Tanglewood event I felt great! Too bad it was only a week before A2A this year…

During the week between Tanglewood and A2A, my recovery/taper became outright inactivity, and carb-loading consisted of frozen pizza and chocolate. I told myself I had skated many times before from Athens to Atlanta carrying a good 5 lb more than this year, with far less training and in worse weather. I had forgotten just how BAD that felt, however.

Other than the sneaking suspicion that my feet didn’t quite fit my boots somehow this month, I was happy with my skate set-up. I had new wheels with beautifully comfortable bearings, spinning liberally.

Pre-A2A Saturday, I was ready to drive up to Athens after Roadskater and I dropped off a vehicle first in Atlanta. But a string of unplanned events prevented us from first making the InlineNC/Roadskater.net annual Athena Statue photo, as well as the ensuing postponed photo time, plus the first half hour of Henry’s Rant. But: always look on the bright side of life! To quell the quiet desperation, my objective by this time was to ‘just get to the start line by 7.30am tomorrow!’

Saturday night dinner at a sparsely-populated Jason’s Deli hit the spot, and we chatted a bit with Tomb & family.

Back at our regular A2A Cheap Hotel, we got to bed pretty early - around 1am. As luck would have it, I found myself wide awake again between 3 am and 4 am. I grappled my way to the bathroom, to find a colony of roaches of all sizes in there partying down. I thought to myself ‘Oh, they look happy!’, and crawled back to bed. Next morning I wondered if I had dreamed the roaches. The answer came in an instant as I caught one of them out the corner of my eye, scuttling into one of our prepacked rest-stop bags. However, I was so freaked out about the impending 87 miles I decided not to worry about it. Next year: get one of the 1st floor interior rooms!

We made it to the start line with about ten minutes to spare. There was a moment of silence for our dear Austrian A2A-friend Gernot, who passed away earlier this summer during a hiking accident, and dear Empire-skater Max, who passed away a few days ago from a serious illness.

I think Eddy was an elephant at this year’s start line. I saw him for about five seconds.

The skaters took off and quickly I realized I had mush for quads. Nothing in the tank. I left it on the hills of Clemmons, NC, the week before!

We maneuvered out of town safely and settled in to enjoying the countryside between Athens and Dacula. I think Jonathan stayed with us the whole way! Poor soul. Bless you Jonathan. You are a glutton for punishment ;-). But the three of us looked cool in our yellow jerseys!

Why do I do things I know I shouldn’t? I grabbed not one, but TWO bananas at checkpoints one and two, as well as not one, but TWO Gatorades from Skate-Free-Or-Die Donn. Earlier that morning, Roadskater and I had abandoned our pre-skate custom of instant oatmeal and I was feeling weak. I needed the palatable Gatorade calories. A few miles later I remembered bonking and cramping before even reaching Dacula back in 2002, after having eaten a banana. By about mile 15 of this year’s A2A I had begun to have such bad stomach and chest pains that I couldn’t even bend at the waist to reduce wind-resistance. The best I could manage at that point was simply to keep rolling somehow. There’s a big difference between nibbling on one quarter of a daintily-chopped training ride banana when your heart rate is barely in the 130s, and consuming 2 whole bananas when you’re up near your sustainable heart rate maximum (150s). To make things worse, I had wicked lace-bite from my right skate. I never did fix it the whole 87 miles. My foot looks like a Stegosaurus.

Honestly, I don’t remember ever feeling this bad twenty miles in to A2A. I wanted to quit already. But the thought of my Duraskater miles kept me going.

First rule of A2A: if you feel that bad at 20 miles, you’re going to be in tears by mile 70.

In the first 25 miles or so we had the pleasure of getting to know 15 year old Chris from Birmingham, AL, who reminded me of my own 15 year old son. Mothering instincts and panic distracted me each time he dropped back to nurse his already-developing blisters, and all I could think about was how there was no way I’d could let him skate alone up Pleasant Hill Road. But he dropped back pretty far, and his Mother was on stand-by at rest stops 2 and 4. I hoped he could achieve his goal of finishing the full 87 miles, but if not, that we’d at least see him again at the finish.

 

We picked up a new comrade at Dacula, but we weren’t all necessarily able to coordinate ourselves into a paceline the rest of the way. I think three or four of us were in survival mode from pretty early on – maybe mile 40 or so. The forecast 18 mph wind gusts kicked up right on schedule after we’d been on the road for about five hours.

After the Atkinson Road rest stop at mile 56, we grouped back up with Father and son team Ben and Terry, who really didn’t want to tackle the Pleasant Hill Road traffic alone. Quite rightly so. I think we were only able to hang with them for about half of it though. 

One of these years we’ll be so fast, we’ll be one of those luckily cursed pacelines that gets stopped by the train across the bottom of Harmony Grove Road. This year, however, as Roadskater and I started off down the hill towards the RR Xing, an insistent SUV driver passed us and of course braked hard right in front of us for the RR Xing.

 

What do you do when you’re already cramping with 27 miles of hills and headwind to go? Why, you get mad at a driver you can never catch and you burn out what was left of your quads sprinting up the hill after him. In any case, Harmony Grove Soccer Park holds up its games for no-one!

 

Really, by this point I was ready to shoot myself. I wasn’t sure which I feared more: the four mile climb up to Silver Hill or the acute control needed to descend it safely. Our three-skater paceline hit 42.2 mph, according to Jonathan’s GPS. As we bobbed over Silver Hill’s third tier, I noticed video-cameraman Roadskater, who was at the helm of this ship, dangling his left arm down towards his left thigh. I remember thinking ‘Perhaps he’s pointing out debris in the road to avoid’, and ‘Thank God he’s the one up front and not me! I know he’s solid on this hill’. Come to find out afterwards both his thighs had completely locked up and he was making it to the bottom through clenched teeth. The arm-dangling was a balance/distraction. Great job, Roadskater!

One of the biggest challenges – and thrills – of Silver Hill, is holding top speeds for longer than normal. It’s not unusual for us to hit 43+ mph on some of the Tour de Kale or Tanglewood hills, but that 43 mph is usually only for a few seconds. On Silver Hill you pick up speed right when you’re accustomed to slowing down on the typical Piedmont bridge-crossing saddle. And after you’ve picked up even more speed on Silver Hill, the road and your stomach drops once again and you realize you need to hold on longer than you ever have.

Candy Girl’s Stone Mountain rest stop was the sensation of the day, with a legendary cooler containing such goodies as Guinness, Jack Daniels, Coca-Cola, Tomb’s chocolate milk, Nutella and pickles. Nutella on graham crackers is a welcomed rest from GU.

There’s a steep hill in Clarkston, GA, which I have approached over the years to find littered with defeated skaters. As Roadskater and skater Scott hared on up this hill, I decided to step aside a third of the way up, to avoid fainting. I looked behind me down the hill and noticed paceline member Steve, pulled over almost exactly halfway between me and Jonathan, who had wisely decided to take a breather before tackling the hill. For some reason, the neatness of us evenly-spaced skaters up that hill made me laugh. We resembled pins on a map, holding the outline of the road down for dear life. The skaters in our group had long since shelved the pride of not wanting to be first to stop for cramps on a hill.

There are *only* 9 miles between the last rest stop and the finish line. Why, then, does it seem to take hours to finish from there?! The main reason is the full-blown torture of Dekalb Avenue and its gatorback surface dotted with foot-long holes. Sure! They’ve paved over some of those holes and yes I gladly glided over every stretch of smooth tarmac I could find. But the rest of it is simply agony. As an A2A contestant, you can rest assured that every skater feels the pain of this road. If you don’t let this stretch destroy you, you’re as good as home. That is the sole comfort of Dekalb Avenue.

As we approached Piedmont Park I wondered about 15 year old Chris, and hoped he was ok, whether skating or not. A couple of small kids on battery-operated vehicles ran zigzags in front of us inside the park, as we picked up the pace to get the whole thing over with already. And I’m pretty sure a couple of us were sufficiently grouchy to prove a point to their belligerent Dad, who I wonder didn’t instruct the boys to try to make us crash. The finish line seemed way further up the path this year than last, with a couple of holes in the pavement a few feet before it, for an added challenge.

Somehow, five of us managed to cross the finish line, international-style, without tripping each other up. I have never been so happy to finish A2A before – not from some glorious sense of achievement, but because I just wanted to get the hell out of my skates!

Father and son Ben & Terry finished not too long after us. It was great to see them again.

I wish I had felt better. I wish I had trained better. I wish I had molded my boots a few weeks ago. I wish I had stuck to my paleo-diet for athletes. I wish I had been able to find skate shorts with a loose waistband. I wish I had been agile enough, after crossing the finish line and taking off my skates, to walk up to Candy Wong and tell her she had really cool hair, and that I loved reading her training blog, or to stumble over to the Triangle skaters and ask DTG how his A2A went and to meet his girlfriend.

Finally, 15 year old Chris’s Mother showed up in tears at the finish line in her car. My legs almost went out from under me after I caught whispers of the ‘Emergency Room’ a few times on the wind. I went over and talked to her enough to find out that her son was STILL out there skating! That he had company in NY skater Jeff! That he hadn’t quit at rest stop 4 like somebody had told me earlier…But Chris’s Mom had taken another skater to the emergency room, for falling and breaking his wrist on Silver Hill. I’m so sorry to you, whoever you are, for this mishap. I hope you are well on the mend. Chris’s Mom had gotten lost in a bad area of town and was shaken up. But I was so happy that she wasn’t crying about her son.

Ex-Aprr skater Guiggy skated up the chute and completed his journey to roars of applause, and took up residence in a fold-up chair two feet beyond the finish line for the next thirty minutes. No explanation is necessary after skating a journey a big part of you fears will never end.

The temperature dropped, the awards-ceremony began, and there was still no sign of Chris & Jeff. As the ceremony drew to a close the two appeared at the bottom of the finish line chute, and brought it home to a roof-raising cheer.

Chris wasted no time changing into what I have decided was hands-down the best post-race outfit: PacMan pyjamas.

 

 

 

Locations

Classic Center, Athens, GA Athens, Georgia
United States
33° 57' 20.8872" N, 83° 22' 56.5176" W
Piedmont Park, Atlanta, GA
12th Street
Atlanta, Georgia
United States
33° 47' 5.3376" N, 84° 23' 12.5088" W
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