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A2A 2006 Report

skatey-mark's picture

My usual disclaimer of my already-fuzzy memory being even fuzzier while skating a long event applies here, but I'll do my best to recall the events of the weekend... :) TermiSkater did a pretty good job of retelling our (mis)adventures getting from Raleigh to Atlanta in his report:



Regarding the car -- I couldn't help but feel somewhat responsible for the damage, since the side that got hit was definitely the one I was due to hit in my vehicle next! (After already trying the experiments of the Canyonero occupying the same space as a mailbox, a deer, and a minivan -- none of which were successful.)


Anyway, the Friday Night Skate was great. The route seemed different than I remembered, but I've only done it a couple times. It was great seeing everyone again -- Brian, Lenny, Marcia, Karin, Erica, Blake, Elizabeth, and many others. Dave W. saved the day with some duct tape when a guy on some rental skates *broke* a skate! Just proves there's nothing duct tape can't fix... :) Burritos from Willies afterwards was great... The bus ride to Athens was uneventful, and I was able to pick up some breskfast foods from the grocery story when we stopped on the way. (Chocolate muffins, bananas, and some bottled water...)


TS & I checked into our room at the Days Inn and got some rest. Saturday was a good day. Brunch (blueberry pancakes) at the vegetarian restaurant was awesome. Although next year I think I need to go someplace that I can eat an animal of some kind... ;) Checked in at the Classic Center and hung out for a while. Chatted with Eddy a bit, as well as Jason McDaniels when he showed up later in the afternoon. Browsed for something to buy, but nothing jumped out at me... Made a trip back to the hotel to drop off our registration stuff, then stopped at The Grill (cool diner) for a mid-afternoon snack. (Cheese fries and a beer for me.) Ice cream at Cold Stone followed, then back to the Classic Center for more hanging-out action before Henry's Rant. Decided not to go on the social skate since I was saving my legs for the big event the next day.


Henry's rant was different this year, as TS mentioned... Lots of thank-yous all around, and an award presented to Henry for all his work over the years. Then the more typical stuff. Grabbed some italian food afterwards (cheese lasagna -- looks like it was an animal-free day for me.) Went back to the hotel and got the gear ready for Sunday. Weather report was saying a chance of rain now, which was certainly up from the 0% chance they reported earlier in the day.


Didn't sleep well at all Saturday night. Tossed and turned, which is quite unusual for me. Normally I had no trouble sleeping the night before an event. This was certainly going to test the theory that it's 2 nights before that really counts, and it doesn't matter how well you sleep the night before... Hmmm...


Alarm went off and I grudgingly got up... Then begins the ritual of getting ready, practiced many times. Choke down some breakfast (2 muffins, a banana, some sport beans). Took a mega-does of ibuprofen. Got dressed, pinned my numbers on, and packed up everything I didn't need so that it could go on the luggage truck.


Skated to the start, dropped off the bag, and started warming up. Felt pretty good. Saw Danny & Bethany while I was skating around (saw them very briefly on Saturday, just before registration closed.) Soon, it was getting close to the start time and I made my way to the starting line. I planned on starting on in the lead pack, so I made my way near the front. I didn't expect to stay with the leaders very long, but it's a good place to start, then pick up another pack if/when I drop. Eddy was in costume, of course. Henry had a microphone and was talking, but the sound system was messed up so noone could hear him. Then I saw him raise his hand and start counting down (on his fingers) 5-4-3-2-1-GO!!!!


======== THE RACE ========

And just like -that-, we were off! I saw Danny and Dave nearby, and we were all in the chaos of the start. Multiple pacelines going down the road, merging and unmerging. I saw Marcia and Karin and decided I was going to follow them. I figured they knew what they were doing more than I did, so why not? :) I'd catch Dave out of the corner of my eye every now and then. Things settled down a little bit after a turn or two, and there was basically one giant paceline going down the road. (A few exceptions here and there, like Eddy skating effortlessly beside us, outside of the draft!) My heart rate was a little high, but I felt great! Here I was, hanging with the lead pack in A2A, cruising down the road. I was having an absolute BLAST!


After a couple miles, something went wrong... People started standing up and coasting. There was mumblings about "missing the turn". Some people continued to skate... I had a hard time believing the motorcycle that we were following could possibly be off course. We skated some more and the motorcycle was DEFINITELY acting weird though -- very indecisive. By this time, many have turned back. I'm in a group of maybe 20 with Marcia and Dave (don't remember who else was in there.) We finally figure that we're screwed and need to turn back. I'm still in disbelief that something like that could happen, but we start grinding it out... The pace picks up, as some try to catch up to the others now far ahead. We get back to the turn we missed and start passing all the people that made the turn correctly. The one redeeming thing was I got to see a lot of people (albeit briefly) that I wouldn't have otherwise gotten to see until the finish line.


My heart rate is still a little high (usually around 95% when I'm looking at it, and not recovering as well as it should on the downhills.) I know already that the paceline I'm in is too fast for me, but I had decided before the race that I was going to let my heart rate be high for at least 30-40 minutes before worrying about it. The pack ended up splitting in two, with Dave and most everyone else going off the front with some others and me staying behind. (So I pretty much dropped.) Well, after just more than an hour, we passed checkpoint 1 and my heart rate was still high. I was feeling okay still though, and a few of us had formed a small pack. We were actually making some some ground on Dave's pack too... When we got close enough, I put a little extra effort in and bridged the gap. I don't recall how large the pack was at that point, but it regrew as others caught up, or we overtook people that had dropped.


Now, I don't remember if it happened before Checkpoint 1 or after Checkpoint 1, but there was actually a pretty bad crash in our pack. We had maybe 16-18 people, cruising along. All of a sudden, I felt something hit my right skate - hard! For a split second, I thought I was going down, but managed to stay on my feet. Then - the sound of bodies, lots of bodies, falling behind me. Dave & I fell behind a little as we turned to see that nobody was seriously hurt. Then, when we were reasonably sure, we hustled to catch up to the pack. Unfortunately, Danny and Marcia were back there somewhere, we didn't know what happened exactly. With respect to Danny, that question was answered quickly as he rejoined us not too far down the road. I congratulated him on the hustle and learned that he had been among those that fell, so it was even more impressive.


Dave asked me how my leg was, and it was bad... Not the shin acting up, but rather a hotspot on the footbed of my left skating playing havoc with a nerve. It sucked... I tell him I'm not going to be able to maintain the pace, and he encourages me to stick it out a little longer. We're at maybe 25 miles by this point (not including our detour at the beginning). I decide I'm going to try to hang on until Dacula, so I hang out mostly in the draft, only pulling for 20-30 seconds when I find myself in the front. Around mile 30 (maybe, memory is fuzzy) Marcia catches us. Our pace has slowed on the uphills, and I certainly wasn't going to push for a faster pace at any point. At one point we pass a church that had a very appropriate message on its sign:

What on Earth are you doing, for Heaven's sake?

Yep, I was definitely asking myself that... We continued climbing into Dacula, and eventually pass the 38-mile finish/checkpoint. A few more miles go by and I have to face the cold fact that I have to drop. I say goodbye to my pack-mates as they creep painfully slowly away from me. I second guess my decision and hustle to close the 20-30 meters of gap, enjoy one last downhill, but then reality slaps me in the face again and I drop from the pack again - this time for good...


I skated a bit by myself, as slow as I could stand to, trying to let me legs & heart recover... Before too long (a mile at most) a couple skaters caught up and I joined them for a bit. Then one left us (said he was going to sag at the next stop, so we went on ahead.) Very shortly after that, a pack from the 52-mile start with fresh legs caught us. I wasn't feeling that great, but I couldn't turn down the chance to jump in a nice long (maybe 15 person) paceline and get further down the road. It was a bit of work at first, but I was eventually able to recover a bit in the paceline. The skaters were working well together, but you could tell there was a lot of inexperience too. Most didn't know how long to pull in front or how to rotate off the front when they were done. They'd make mistakes going down hills that would leave people off the back... Stuff like that. But overall, it was very cooperative and really saved my butt. My time would have been much worse if it had not been for that pack.


Around mile 64, a series of mistakes resulted in the pack being very strung out. I was with 3 others, way out in front. We skated a very easy pace, figuring the pack would eventually reform and catch us. Unfortunately, after a mile or two, it became obvious that the pack was history, so we trudged on as best we could. My legs were starting to get really tired, and my heart rate was of course getting high again. Just in time for the big climbs leading up to Silver Hill. We hit the downhill to the railroad tracks and Sean said we had just hit the 64-mile mark. What he thought was encouraging news was just distressing to me -- that meant we still had 23 miles to go! Ugh... The four of us didn't work very well as a pack -- we kept gapping each other. During the climb up to Silver Hill, Sean and another skater went on ahead, leaving me and a guy from Team Rainbo (can't recall his name). We were able to stick together long enough to go down Silver Hill together and pick up some really good speed. Unfortunately, about halfway down we saw a vehicle up ahead (maybe it was a van - can't remember) going down the hill with its brakes on... So we stood up just a little to make sure we didn't overtake it. When the van got to the bottom of the hill, its brake lights went off, so we knew we were okay then.


My remaining pack-mate was having cramp issues, so he had to go slow on the climb after Silver Hill. So, despite my ever-weakening condition, I ended up dropping him. I continued making my way up... I had run out of water just before Silver Hill, so was reminding myself to grab water at the checkpoint. I finally got there, ditched my empty water bottle and grabbed a new one from a volunteer and saw Danny! Danny apparently had stopped, so I told him to start rolling and we'd limp to the finish line together. We were still climbing that same hill when we came upon Marcia. I yelled some encouragement at her and told her to jump on -- that we were both hurting too... So now we had a pack of 3. And I think the Team Rainbo guy caught back up as well... So for a little while, we had a pack of 4 again. I told everyone that I most certainly did not want to sprint at the finish, so if anyone was up for doing a tie, I was all for it... Didn't get any takers on that though...


As things get when you're all dead tired, we weren't working particularly well as a pack... Gaps kept opening, etc... Probably by mile 76 or so, it was down to Danny & I... Very reminiscent of 2003, except this time I was dead tired and I think Danny did the majority of the leading. We made it to the next checkpoint eventually. We were really crawling at this point -- maybe 10 mph average at most. Duck-walking up the hills... Sometime before the last checkpoint another skater caught us, and we tried hanging with him a bit. But he was a tiny bit too fast, so we let him go. We passed the last checkpoint and got a little mental boost knowing there were only 8 miles left to go...


Danny would gap me every now and then, and I'd eventually catch up a bit later. We passed a Marta station at one point and it occurred to me that for under $2 I could be a couple blocks from Piedmont Park... Seemed crazy to continue on skates, but I kept going... We got to the gatorback and it was very unpleasant. Danny seemed very unhappy on it, and my blisters were bad enough that it was killing me... (I think Danny must have been even worse off though.) Fortunately, Danny's brain was working better than mine and he suggested the sidewalk. The nice, impossibly-smooth sidewalk... Of course, it's not skate-able all the way and we would occasionally have to get back on the nasty, gatorbacky, blister-rubby street. That stretch is always longer than I remember it being! Soon, though, the off-ramp was in sight! Definitely getting close now...


We continued to make our way towards the park... Jumped the sidewalk and heard some cheers... "Only 2 miles to go!" they said... Awesome... We're gonna make it. Not that there was ever any doubt, but it finally felt like it was "in the bag". We get closer and see the infamous motorcycle dude up ahead... It appears he's going to lead us towards the park. I wonder if it was the same guy from the beginning of the race. "Great," I say to Danny, "now we can take another detour before we get to the finish." Fortunately, he did seem to know where he was going now -- not that we needed him anyway since the turns are all marked. But we follow him through the neighborhood and then he zips away from us towards an intersection... The intersection at the entrance to Piedmont Park!


Danny & I enter the park and he picks up the pace almost immediately... I increase speed too, but he gaps me right away. He sees this and backs off a little bit. Then we make our way around the turn and hear the people at the finish line. Danny takes off, and I dig a little deeper... Danny crosses the line at exactly 6:21:00, and I get there 7 seconds later. As I cross the line, someone shouts my name -- I'm pretty sure it was Eddy, standing near the finish cheering with everyone else.


I'm totally dazed and someone comes by for my tear-tag. After giving that up, I find a clear patch of grass to collapse on. Someone asks me if I need anything and hands me a cold bottle of water. I dump half down my neck & back to cool off, and try to wash the sweat off my face with the rest. I lay on the grass for a couple minutes before sitting up, just in time to see Marcia cross the line. Then lay back down for a while, skates still on my feet.


One of my inner-thigh muscles kept wanting to cramp up, so I would periodically have to beat on it or massage it... I spot Dave before too long and I learn of his great finishing time. I also learn that Erica won the women's race. I finally take my skates off and have a banana, a sandwich, and a soda, which does wonders for me. I retrieved my bag from the luggage so I could put on my sandals, then was finally feeling good enough to socialize a bit and cheer as other skaters finished. A steady infusion of tootsie rolls and sodas kept me going... :)


========= POST RACE =========

We hung out at the finish until all the RSN people were in, then made our way to the awards. (A quick stop at the hotel to drop off our bags first.) The awards went faster this year than I ever remember. Then, back to the hotel for a GREAT shower and then dinner at Cowtippers... Food was awesome, although just about anything would taste good, as hungry as I was! I can't remember being that hungry - ever!


After dinner, TS & I said our goodbyes to Elizabeth, Blake, & Jared. (Tom too, but we were going to see him in the morning...) Back to the hotel and got some sleep. We picked up Tom in the morning to take him back to Athens (where his car was) and stopped for some lunch. The Grill proved a good choice again, followed by Cold Stone. We spotted a skating paceline on the Athens newspaper so we bought a few copies. Then, the long drive back to Raleigh.


I had hoped to write all this during the ride back (TS graciously did all the driving) but my stomach was a bit 'off' and I'm prone to being carsick, so I knew it was a bad idea. Instead, we just chilled out and chatted. We weren't in any particular hurry, but the time went by fairly quickly anyway. Soon, we were back and another A2A was successfully behind us.


Despite the extra 3 miles that our detour added, I still beat my prior personal best from 2003. (By about 6 minutes.) Still, I had higher expectations for my time this year, so I'm a little disappointed in my performance. I think I may have let myself get a little dehydrated, so I think I need to carry more water, and drink more often. Many times, I was working so hard I would forget to drink -- especially at the beginning. I think that having to take some time off skating to let my leg heal may have hurt my performance. I'm sure getting so little sleep the night before didn't help either. Fortunately, my shin muscle that was bothering me for so many weeks after NYC did not bother me at all during A2A -- so the rest was definitely the right way to go.


And I will, without any doubt whatsoever, be at the start line October 7th 2007, 7:30 am.... I'll be training again next year and try to improve my time once again. And if I ever get to the point where I can't race A2A, I'll still be there and do an 87-mile social skate...


- SM -


eebee's picture

That church sign on A2A

Oh yeah! Funny! "What on earth are you doing, for heaven's sake"! I saw that along the A2A route too. I had totally forgotten about it until you mentioned it, SkateyMark. I think I was rather disgruntled when I read it, myself. My reaction was something like "Huh. They think they're so witty...try skating 87 miles after 2 hours of sleep...slick roads..." grumble, mumble.

Great write ups, SkateyMark and TermiSkater.  

sommemi's picture

Church sign

I haven't had a chance to post everything on my own personal site yet, but for now I thought you all might appreciate the picture that my sister actually took of that sign. :-)

Click here to see it...


p.s. I put this link at the bottom of my journal entry, but totally forgot to point out WHY I put it there...

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