|Athens to Atlanta|
Athens, GA - Oct. 10, 1999
From San Diego Street Elite a group of 5 determined skaters ventured out
to the East Coast to be part of this extraordinary event. The group
consisted of Andy Pele, Joe Prescott, Alice Eads, Debbie Rangel and
myself (Sandra de Bruyn.) After our arrival, all of us participated in the
famed Friday night skate of Atlanta. This was a great opportunity to
mingle with skaters from all over, and catch up with familiar faces from
the past. It was somewhat of a great skating reunion. It was just so
awesome to see so many skating enthusiasts (...or more often referred to
as "skating-freaks") like myself, in one place. After all, it isn't often we get
to hang out in such great force.
By Saturday we all had migrated to
Athens to prepare for the big day on Sunday. We picked up our race
packages, and joined in on the afternoon fun roll through Athens. This is
when every skater's fear became reality and the first sprinkles of rain
started falling from the sky. Later that afternoon the skies completely
opened up and water came down in buckets. Still trying to stay optimistic
we figured better now than tomorrow, hoping that by morning all would
pass and we'd wake up to sunny skies. Not about to let down our festive
spirit, we gathered for a scrumptious meal at The Grit before rushing off
to make the mandatory skaters meeting held at the Civic Center. This
meeting is to inform skaters of race details and rules (basically,
re-iterating that there are no rules). Afterwards, we went back to our hotel to
get a good night sleep. Unfortunately, our room shared by 4 was filled
with skating jitters that kept us tossing, turning and awake most of the
At 6:00AM Sunday it was time to rise and shine and prepare to conquer
the hills on the journey to Atlanta. As we opened our curtains any last bit
of hope for sunshine vanished as water was still pouring down. A bit
intimidated, we headed out to the main lobby of our hotel where breakfast
was served early to accommodate the skaters.
At 7AM Joe and myself put on our skates and started skating towards the
start. Upon arriving there, our socks were soaked and figured we were
At 7:30 sharp (still dark outside) the race begun!
The first few downhill turns were very hairy as many skaters were slipping
and sliding in all directions and attempting to slow down was useless on
the wet pavement. Luckily, everyone seemed to make through the start
safely and soon organized packs formed. I was lucky to become part of a
sizable pack that consisted of experienced and confident skaters. As we
went along, the size of our pack grew and downhills became very fast. At
first this was a little nerve wrecking, but quickly, I became more
comfortable with the skaters around me, and soon I was hollering out of
joy and excitement on the downhills.
As we approached a 6 mile rough
section called Gator Back I became increasingly nervous, (this is where I
crashed a year ago and seriously injured my knee.) To ease the nerves I
decided to pull the pack leading up and trough this part of the course.
This gave me a clear view of the surface ahead and felt much safer in
doing so. After getting back on smooth surface I relaxed towards the
middle of the pack. The next hurdle was a fast down hill with a 90 degree
turn on the bottom. Again, our whole pack made it through safely and
great sighs (screams) of relief could be heard. We continued in a
comfortable to fast pace. The rain continued to come down hard. After
about 40 miles or so, I could feel fatigue and leg cramps setting in. This
is when I decided to let the pack go and relax a bit in order to re-cover
from doing too much pulling earlier. I was afraid that without rest,
finishing the distance wouldn't be possible.
After approximately 10 miles alone, I was caught by Dennis Cummings
from San Francisco, and Charles Beaudoin from Montreal. I found out
that Charles and Dennis had skated and finished A2A together in '96 in
just over 5 hours. Today, Dennis was having terrible leg cramps and
Charles was helping Dennis along. Together we continued and both
Dennis and Charles gave me much needed encouragement to continue
with them. Charles turned out to be an extremely strong skater who was
very nice in waiting for Dennis and myself on top of each hill as we
struggled along. Later, Charles even started pushing Dennis up some of
the hills as Dennis' cramps continued to get worse. Several times he
even considered quitting but Charles became determined to not let this
happen. Together we continued. As we neared Piedmont Park in
Atlanta, we knew we were going to make it together, Yes!!!! After
entering the park we privately hugged and kissed knowing that despite
the difficult conditions we made it! Approaching the finish line we held
hands and crossed together.
Wow! What a race!!!!!
At the award ceremony we learned that in 18 years, these were the worst
weather conditions ever. Both Denis and myself finished 3rd in our age
categories and I ended up finishing 6th overall women at 6:27:43.
Thank you Charles! You made it happen for us!
As a team, San Diego Street Elite did great!
Andy did fantastic, finishing at 5:16:54 after taking up skating only 1 year
Alice Eads finished with an impressive 7:42:47, 2nd place in her age
Debbie Rangel finished 3rd in her age category at 8:37:31.
Joe Prescott hampered by excruciating cramps forcing him to stop
somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 times. One time sitting down in a
field of red fire ants who were trying to escape the soggy ground. Despite
this, Joe still finished with an impressive time of 6:13:03.
Dana Eads from San Diego, former team member, who is now sponsored
by Bont, finished in 16th place overall with a time of 5:10:45. Way to go
And finally, Vicki Heagerty from Minneapolis, a friend who has skated
with the San Diego crew on various occasions, skated the 38 mile
distance. Vicki came to this race with a purpose, and that was to win first
place in the half distance. Vicki made this goal reality and left Atlanta
with this impressive title.
What makes A2A a race unlike any others is the tremendous camaraderie
that can be felt among all skaters out there! There is nothing like it!
What a great weekend and what a great race!
I loved the race, rain and all. Although I had great
traction with the 83a Explore Wheels that Denise Kraus
gave me before the race (thanks Denise), it took me a
while to realize this, so I wasn't confident enough to
chase the pro pack from the very start. I watched them
rather quickly pull away and then settled into my own
pack with Tom Ashton (Chicago), Paul O'Blenes (Miller
Canada), Scott Swaney (Florida) and my teammate Joe
Prescot, among others. Our pack was about 8 strong and
we settled into a steady rhythm of rotating pulls.
I took hard pulls while still trying to conserve
energy up the hills, and then pulled off the front
before I got too tired. I learned my lesson at Duluth,
MN. I noticed Joe was having a little trouble but
figured he'd get stronger as the race progressed. But
before I realized it, we had dropped him. Sorry Joe. I
need to look back more often and learn how to
communicate with my pack.
Every time I dropped back to the end of the pack,
I'd put on a huge smile and just rest, awakening to
the fact that it's so much easier to skate in a pack.
The gator back section came and went with hardly a
change in stroke. It wasn't as rough as I had feared.
Many had been talking about how it numbed your feet,
but I think we all found it relatively smooth this
year. At the end of the half distance race (38 miles),
we dropped Tom Ashton and we were caught by a pack of
about 7. Here, Nicole Marsh supplied me with my next
bottle of cytomax, another Cliff Shot (I think I ate
8 throughout the race), and a mystery bag (oooh,
yuck, what's that??!! many asked her). It was filled
with mashed banana so I just had to squeeze and
Many thanks to Nicole for all her help before,
during and after the race. She was invaluable not only
to me but the whole San Diego crew. She stood at the
finish line for hours waiting for everyone to cross so
that she could get a picture of us all. She helped us
haul luggage, check into hotels, get to the race on
time, and all the other logistics of organizing our
Back at the race, we had a larger more disorganized
pack by now, but faster on the downhills. On one hill,
Paul Swaney, skating in front of me, started to get
out of line to the left. I tried to bring him back
into line, but ended up going out of line myself to
the right. I got some speed wobbles, tried to control
them, but I failed and went down for a 100 foot slide
on my butt and wrist guards. It was like a slip and
slide so I barely got a scratch. I rolled once onto
the grass and dirt, jumped up and went to catch my
pack. A quarter mile later, where they had to slow for
a turn, I rejoined them, so happy not to have been
dropped. This must have happened after checkpoint 4
Shortly after that I got antsy while one young
skater kept taking weak pulls and then dropping back
only 2 or 3 spots. I skated to the front, told him to
drop back, and then started to take a hard pull. When
I looked back, I discovered I had a gap on them and
decided to keep on going. Skating at my own pace felt
good but it took it's toll after the miles racked up.
One support car saw me out alone and told me I had a
group of 3 ahead by about one minute (they also found
a water bottle for me because I had lost mine in the
fall - I lost this one too after a few sips because I
didn't know how badly my suit and pocket had been
torn). I worked hard to close the gap and caught 2 of
them (one was Dennis Humphrey from Albany NY) shortly
after Silver Hill (mile 69), lengthening the gap I had
on my original pack by 1.5 minutes.
I spent a moment to recover then went out after the
skater that got away from them. But the hills seemed
to get steeper, to the point where I felt like I was
walking up a couple of them. Before long, I looked
back and saw 2 skaters ahead of a pack of 5 closing on
me. It was a sight that made me want to cry. But I
remembered what Dana Eads had coached me about, took a
rest and waited for them so that I could hook up.
Scott Swaney and Antonio Marxauch (Wild Oats) tried
to pull me along for a while but I was too tired and
starting to cramp finally. So I let them drop me and
hooked up with the next group of 5, including Dennis
Humphrey, Corbett Griffith (Atlanta Peachtree Rollers),
Paul O'Blenes, Miguel Patino (Empire Speed), and
Donald Jagel (Frenchtown Speed Team). We skated
together to the end, where I finished 4th in the
sprint. Taking the last curve cautiously cost me but
at least I stayed upright. I skated pretty
conservatively after my fall because I had lost both
wrist guards out of my gloves during the first fall.
I gave Dana and Nicole a big hug, then discovered
that my skinsuit was torn in a revealing place and
Nicole was nice enough to safety pin it closed for me,
making me decent again. Thank you Dana for your last
minute advice on skating in the rain. I couldn't have
done as well as I did without all your coaching and
support. And that goes for the rest of the team too.
You've all inspired me.
Well our trip started out great. The flight wasn't too delayed and the
weather was not wet when we got to Atlanta for the Friday night fun skate.
We all had lotsa fun. Saturday in Athens was also fun. We got to see old
friends and make new ones and just talk "skate stuff ". We had the short
little fun skate and did some shopping (who would have known that I
would find a 4 CD collection of Alice Cooper classics!!).
THEN it started
to rain. In the morning we weren't surprised to see it raining buckets.
Sandra and I skated the short distance to the starting area. Andy and the
rest of the San Diego crew soon followed. The meeting hall was wall to
wall with skaters of all ages, all abilities and all hoping not to crash.
Plastic bags were the building blocks for all kinds of creative skate
protectors, but most of the experienced skaters knew better and let it all in.
My strategy was to start fast and then look for a comfortable pace line.
The streets in the city were the worst as far as being slippery. I took the
first down hill with a 90 degree right turn cautiously and after that just
tried to catch up. There was a fast down hill a mile or two into the course
and remembering how slippery the other street was didn't push it down. I
was hanging in there in the second pace line for a while and Dana and
Andy were in the first pack and they were pulling away. After a few miles
the pack that I was in started to gain on the last half of what used to be the
lead pack. Andy was in there and was looking much stronger than I was. I
had to struggle to catch them and knew that I had no strength to take my
pull. Andy had the pack right where he wanted them and would pull hard
to try to shake off the dead wood.
After a few miles I shook off with a case
of the worst leg cramps that I ever had. This was the end of the race for
me. I had to stop and stretch my legs. The cramps (from hell) would occur
on just about every up hill after that. I had my good cruising speed and my
down hilling worked OK but the up hills would find me down on the
ground trying to untie my legs. This makes it very hard to stay with a pack
for very long. I was in and out of just about every pack that went by but
only until the first up hill. I found it heartening to find out that so many
people knew my name. I lost count of how many times I heard " Are you
OK Joe?? " as I was stopped on the side of the road stretching.
I had to skate at my own pace to try to keep the cramps at bay but no
matter what technique I tried they would come right back. I was alone
most of the way and found some fun by asking the many police officers
"AM I WINNING?? ". All of this time it was still raining. I started eating
as many bananas as I could (sorry about the banana peel in the middle of
the course just past the 1/2 way point!). I coasted past the half way finish
at a time of 2:22. Over the next uncounted miles I had to stop many times
to stretch my legs. Some times I would find a pace line with similarly
disadvantaged skaters and hang with them for a while or do the leap frog
thing throughout the whole course.
At the 71mile checkpoint I had to stop
to adjust my skates. I skidded in and sat down on the curb. Every one there
was very friendly and we talked about the race and my troubles while I
took off my skates. I was feeling a little relieved after taking off my left
skate when I noticed that I had sat on a flooded fire ant nest and the last
thing that they appreciated was my big but on top of them. They had a
strong offensive against me before I knew it and had finally gotten my
attention off of my feet. I had many checkpoint workers slapping ants off
of my butt and other parts. I think some of them enjoyed it, or maybe it
I still thought Sandra was behind me and I was considering
waiting for her but I knew that she would blow past me on the first up hill.
I think that the only reason that she didn't pass me was because I had such
a big lead before I cramped. I skated along as best as I could. There was
this one very short but steep hill with a signal at the top. As I was skating
up the hill, the officer stopped the traffic very well for me but just then I
cramped and had to stretch on the ground again. I waved to the officer to
let the traffic through but I thing he thought I was dyeing and hastily came
down to see if I was OK. I said that I didn't much appreciate the placement
of such a steep hill so far into the race and politely asked if he could have
it moved somewhere else for the next race (it's a done deal).
At the last
water stand I caught up to Mark Matthews who was going just the right
speed . He was a great encouragement to me and worked with me through
one of my cramping spells. we skated the last leg of the race together even
though I think he could have dropped me on any of the up hills. We had an
intentional Tie at the finish. Thank you Mark for making the race that
much more fun! Our time was 6:13:03. 68/69th place overall. The rain
continued up until the last skater finished, and then so did the rain. Will I
ever do this again?? Time will tell.
I'll leave it to the others to tell their story.