Monday, October 10, 2011

A2A 2011

I skated A2A (Athens to Atlanta) for the fourth time, yesterday. It was a tough day for me. But, hey, that's the nature of the event.

Weather was cool and overcast, so overheating was not a problem. Winds were mixed, swirling sometimes, maybe even more time spent with a slight tailwind than fighting the wind. Overall, the weather conditions were very favorable.


I didn't have "it" yesterday. Legs were tired, didn't have that spring in my step. (Had a very tough hockey game on Thursday, plus inline skating on Wednesday and Friday--looks like my legs don't bounce back as quickly as they used to.) That affected me in a specific way. In order to have a good time, you need to skate in a pack, so you don't have to fight wind resistance nearly as much. My problem was that I wasn't able to keep up with the packs I wanted to. Some packs speed up and slow down at different times, depending on who is leading. And let's face it, people want to get moving. Bottom line is that when the packs sped up, I wasn't able to keep pace--even with people that I believe I could have kept up with on an average speed basis (I tend to be a little better going up hills--that is, I don't have the top speed they do on flat ground but I don't get slowed down by hills as much as they do).

I almost forgot one other problem with skating alone. At one point, after checkpoint #4, I didn't remember the course. And when I didn't see an arrow painted on the road in a little while I actually stopped and turned around! Before long I saw some other skaters heading towards me, so it was a mistake to have turned around. Naturally, there was an arrow just past the intersection where I turned around. If I had just kept going a little further I would have gotten confirmation that I was on the right track. Maybe that cost me a mile. It was a mistake that a pack doesn't make, because someone in the group would know the course well enough to keep going. Very frustrating.

This is where I lost track of where I was, on Herrington Road as I was crossing Hwy 316.,-84.077511&spn=0.021392,0.032659

And, just to be complete, here is an A2A map in Google Maps.
Anyway, because I wasn't able to hang with a couple packs I wanted to, I ended up skating more than half the skate completely on my own. Which is really tough, and really slows you down. End result is that I did it in 6:50:26. Which is about how fast I usually do, regardless of conditions. Really, it's amazing how many different obstacles you have to overcome from year to year. But it appears as though I haven't run into all of them in the same year, nor have I had a year where everything has gone right, although I have had things that have helped me in every year. So I end up skating about about the same speed year after year.

2011 87-Mile Results:

Summary of past years--different challenges but similar results:

87 miles, 6:46:20, 12.85 mph
This was my first time doing this event, but I found a great skater (Tom Grosspietsch) to work with almost the whole way, and that made all the difference.

89.4 miles, 7:02:32, 12.69 mph
I learned all about sciatic nerve pain early in the skate but later found some good partners to skate with including one guy (Bill Zinser) who I skated with more than half the distance--he carried me in the middle of the skate and I carried him towards the end of the skate. Note: They needed to add a detour for road construction hence the distance change.

87 miles, 6:44:46, 12.90 mph
I had some great packs to skate with most of the way, but we fought headwinds most of the way. More importantly, I "hit the wall" between checkpoints #4 and #5 when I had to stop for 5-10 minutes and lost my GREAT pack I was skating with at the time.

87 miles, 6:50:26, 12.7 mph
I got hooked up with some good packs, just like I had hoped, but couldn't "stick" with them. I struggled on my own about half the way. The weather was favorable, otherwise my time could have been a lot worse. I got into a great group of three (Patrick Thompson, Lisa Bongiorno) after Checkpoint #5 to finish strong.

Here is a picture of the group just prior to take-off:

Here is a picture early in the skate, when I was still part of a strong paceline.  You never know how the day will turn out.  I was feeling good at this point but most of this group later dropped me when I couldn't keep up when they put the hammer down.  However, I passed a number of these people later in the skate with my slow but steady approach.  You just never know; it's a long skate.

And here is a picture of me in the early to middle part of the skate, not sure exactly where, maybe staggering into Checkpoint #2. This picture pretty much sums up my day.

Grabbing water at a checkpoint:

In closing, I would like to quote from another skater. I couldn't have said it better than Greg did: "This really is a special event that I think I enjoy more each year." I agree totally.