Sunday, October 16, 2011

Number nine, number nine…

I wish I could honestly say I was humming the Beatles “Revolution Number Nine” while skating my ninth A2A but it just didn’t happen. Though I can say that nine times is the charm. What with a 14mph tail wind and a decision to just skate to finish and the clock be damned; I had the easiest time I’ve ever had on the roads of Georgia. OK, in some respects it was the hardest time on the roads of Georgia because man were some of the downhills rough. Now you would think that flats and uphills would kill you when the road if rough, well how do you feel about 30 mph plus downhill and the road surface has you bouncing so your glasses are falling off. OK, so I exaggerate, but that’s why you read my posts, isn’t it?

The race started off in typical fashion, Eddy was wearing a Tai Barn Costume that he raced in for the first 10 yards of the event. This is really my kind of start, the gun goes off and everybody waits for the folks in front, no hurry, no worry. What kills me is that first hill out of town, there are skaters all over the road, too early for pace lines, and we’re going fast, my wheels are humming, I’m not awake and the road keeps getting steeper. About two miles out of town we make a left hand turn to a small climb and I’m starting to breath heavy and I haven’t even started to skate. I’m thinking, “How can I ever do this? I’m already tired!” Then things calm down and we get down to some skating. By this time folks have found their pace lines or are moving a bit faster to catch up to one.

So if you’ve read Larry’s great account of his race you’ll remember that early on there is a two-mile winding downhill where your speed continues to build and you have no clue were it will end. Larry’s description gave me a chuckle because we flat landers have no experience on real downhills and with this one coming so early in the race, with the pace lines long and the speeds high, it sends heart rates soaring and makes most of the other hills (bigger then Big Granite) seem downright manageable. Well I took that hill with plenty of trepidation as my boots this year are not customs, and subsequently fit less snug. I find it takes three or four hills for me to get use to the speeds and relax. Try it sometime you’ll see what I mean.

Funny thing, the miles didn’t seem to affect me this year, sure they hurt but thanks to some talk with Jan I was not cramping. (Thanks Jan!) When parts of my feet started to hurt I changed my foot work, when the pack moved too slowly up hill I found a way to slowdown. I did have to skate a very smart race though. See I’m on 100’s and most everyone else is on 110’s. So they would move slower uphill and faster down. So if I wasn’t in the middle of the pack starting down, I’d be playing catch up on the swing back up. Believe me, I had plenty of time to figure this out.

There were less police at intersections this year, but at the spots were it really mattered they were there. In Atlanta there was some really rough road for a block or so which almost brought me to a complete stop. As always, the finish line is a party of its own with everyone just happy to be still standing. Afterwards the feeling of accomplishment is unparalleled to anything else I do, and the glow emanating off of first time finishers is unmistakable as they enter into an elite family of skaters. Oh, and it always helps to have attractive help with your boots after an event like this. Thanks Jess!

Soon the glow wears off and one notices another unyielding thought. "I’M HUNGRY!" And I knew just what to do about it. Three miles from the finish I was stood up by the smell of Bar-B-Que and the smell did not disappoint. Fox Bros. is along one of the rougher parts of the route and as we sat there lapping up the sauce, skaters continued to struggle by still trying to get to the finish line. I’m not quite sure what they yelled back at me as I sat on the patio with my drink and my sticky fingers. I’m sure it was well wishes.

Finally, as if that wasn't enough, here is a video I shot along the way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A skate with a very wet beginning and end

When John invited us up to his place for a long skate and to “show us the sites” around Woodstock Larry, Margo, Tom and I had no idea that “the sites” included spectacular lightening, torrential rains and puddles deep enough to dwarf our 110 mm wheels. Let me start from the beginning, at 5:30 Saturday morning the radar was not looking promising, though the forecasts called for only a 60 percent chance of rain. One forecaster was calling for early rain clearing by late morning, (Tom Skilling), others were calling for clear skies early and showers late. After a few 6 am calls we all decide to head out to Woodstock for a good long skate; we were aiming for 50 miles. Tom was so up for it that he put in brand new bearings and never looked at a forecast. Good luck with that!

Margo and I drove up together and the windshield wipers were going for only about a third of the drive. The sky was unreadable once at John’s and fireman Larry used his extensive knowledge of the basic elements to declare, “It’s not going to rain.” Well I barely got my feet into my skates before a steady drizzle starts. Only upon our return does John tell us that as we depart a car rolls down his window to tell him we’re skating into a severe storm warning. I guess it didn’t matter because once we were out of town and skating in the severe storm I pretty much knew it. I was blinking so fast that my eyes were closed more than they were open. Pretty interesting skating downhill through a river of water with your eyes closed.

Well the rain did let up and the road pretty much dried up, except Margo then has to comment, “Hey, it’s drying up.” Just then the sky opens up and we’re back in the heavy rain. Though thankfully not torrential like before.

One thing you have to know about a skate from John’s house, you have to go uphill to get back. So no matter how far you skate, we cut our skate to only 28 miles, there is always pain waiting for you in the last miles. Today wasn’t so bad, though the wet pavement made for some tough going. All in all the company made for a really enjoyable skate. What is it about suffering with good friends in good humor? This was one of those skating events that from this writing will continue to grow in length, wind, storm surge and proximity of lightening, but that is what a good story is all about, just enough truth to keep it believable.

A big thanks goes out to John and his wife Deb for the hot tub and the BBQ after the skate, it made the sun coming out for the rest of the day more tolerable. I will always listen to Tommy Skillet from now on. Good skating everyone.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

“What is strong?”
Chicagoland Inline Marathon

If you spent any time at all this year watching the Tour de France you’ll be as tried as I am of this advertising slogan. Over the three weeks of Tour de France telecasts the avid viewer will see the same six commercials hundreds of times. This ad for sportswear being one of them. How sorry I was this month at the Chicagoland Inline Marathon to discover this commercial would be my last mental resort to crossing the finishing line. Let’s start at the beginning.

The week before the race I took a tumble in a pace line. To my good fortune I was a bit hung over so sliding on the asphalt at 20 mph didn’t really hurt. Though the bike that than ran over me after I went down didn’t help. OK, so I seemed fine, the shower afterwards didn’t hurt too much so out I was the next day for team interval training. I did notice my muscles were a bit stiff where the tire marks ran up my back however. On the third interval I was determined to get a good jump so as not to get crowded out of the sprinting. On my second stride after the gun a disk slips out of place in my back and I’m at a stand still trying to quiet it down. I’m able to keep it lose for a half hour of very easy skating to keep the muscles from locking up, but due to the road rash from the day before I’m not able to take a HOT shower.

Well the week goes by and the back doesn’t get any worse and I’m walking upright, albeit gingery. So the morning of the race I’m less then thrilled to be driving to Hoffman Estates in the driving rain. (Oh did I mention the spectacular lightening as well.) Cale lends me four Storm Surge wheels to help with the slippage and off we go. At the gun I combine worry about my back and slipping to get off to one of my worst starts yet, and that turns out to be a high point in my race. Knowing the turns of our course I was able to get into a good pack once onto the frontage road. But when the move came that split the pack my hesitancy kept me from bridging the gap immediately. Suddenly feeling all alone (I failed to look behind me) I took it upon myself to catch up. Catching up I stand up and feel a hand on my back and knew I’d made an amateur’s mistake.

Let it just be said that from that point on pack after pack dropped me, until it got down to individuals dropping me. I have no explanation for it except that something just wasn’t there. As motivation I went into visualizing the Tour. I saw myself as Cadel Evans time trailing. “I can do this, I can do this, I can do...” until I realized I was time trialing more like Andy Schleck and that I wasn’t going to measure up. Really it came to me in a flash, “OMG! I’m not Cadel, I’m Andy.” That took what wind there was out of my sails. Soon after this I’m at the point where I stop to tighten my skates, I change my stride every 20 seconds, I talk to all the course marshals as I crawl by, anything to get through the agony. Then it hits me, “What is strong?” and as the ad says, “Maybe strong is what’s left after you’ve used up all of your weak.” Well I’d used up about all of everything else, why not all of my weak? That somehow kept me going.

I never seriously contemplated giving up, but I sure as hell wanted to be finished. My finishing sprint was only in my mind and I’m not sure I even coasted as far as the chip removal buckets. All in all, if I had been only five or seven minutes slower than my normal time I would have been mad at myself for not trying harder. But this, what was this? A result so different from anything else that I just chalk it up to experience. Experience, and as the answer to that classic advertising slogan, “What is strong?”