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Going the Distance
Last minute tips for a2a
By Kim Perkins
posted Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006

a2a Course Records
(Full distance)

Benoit Perthuis, 26, of Nantes, France
Time: 4 hours, 19 minutes and 24 seconds
Pace: 20.17 mph

Barrie Hartman
, 35, of New York City
Time: 4 hours, 53 minutes and 7 seconds
Pace: 17.85 mph

Both records were set in 2000.

No one ever said it was supposed to be easy. And it's not.

But something seems to happen to skaters on the long hilly road between Athens and Atlanta, Ga. Though they may think about quitting along the way, by the time they reach the finish line (which could take all day) they are, for the most part, converts, firm in their belief that the Athens to Atlanta Road Skate is the greatest event ever.

But of course, it helps to make it to the finish line (whether you opt for the full 87-mile trip or the shorter distances of 38 or 52 miles.)

Here's some advice from a2a veterans to help you on your way:


Marcia Woodfield, a favorite to win this year's women's race, stresses the importance of fueling up the day before the event. "Make sure you eat very well and stay hydrated all day Saturday," she says.

Marcia won't be eating pasta Saturday night. Instead, she plans on having a meal of "well-balanced protein and carbs," such as fish, rice and vegetables.

Breakfast of Champions

Three-time a2a champion and course record holder Barrie Hartman has a proven diet for the day of the race. She starts the morning with three packets of instant oatmeal, then snacks during the race on the bananas handed off to skaters by volunteers. "Even if you're too nervous to feel hungry, you can't skip breakfast," she said.

Break on Through

"Be prepared for some mental battles," says Dennis Cummings, 59, who will be skating in his 14th a2a this Sunday.

"No matter what, there are going to be a few moments out there when you are questioning your sanity. You just have to push through them."

Electrolytes for Body and Soul

Blake Lambert skates the a2a not to win but for his love of road skating. (He runs Roadskater.net and coordinates the two-day, 90-mile Tour to Tanglewood.)

He advises non-racers to take full advantage of the event's support system. All you have to do is ask and event organizers will have your supplies waiting for you at specific checkpoints.

Blake has a full Camelbak of a special Gatorade mix waiting for him at the halfway point and at the finish line.

He also believes in the power of a light heart. "(Wearing) glitter is a secret source of strength," he chuckles.

Rest for the Weary?

So, should you stay off your skates in the days leading up to the event? Absolutely not, says TWINCAM's Dan Burger. "Stay on your skates, even on the day before and the-day-before-the-day-before. Get a little light workout in, and maybe if you're feeling it, a few sprints here and there."

Stretching a lot the day before is also a good idea, he says.

Are We In Kansas, Yet?

Since you'll be nervous at the start and endorphin-high at the end, it pays to preview the course — at least, check out the first half-mile and the last mile from Virginia Highlands to the finish, which often changes year to year.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

One last word of advice: At the pre-race meeting in Athens, you might overhear a lot of the old-timers exchanging hair-raising tales from years past: the Year of the Concrete Wall; the Year of the Massive Downpour; the Year of the Unmarked 6-inch Gap in the Pavement on a Downhill.

Don't panic. They're not trying to scare you. Telling the tales is just part of the a2a tradition; these stories comprise some of skaters' proudest moments on wheels, and next year, you'll be able to scare the newbies with stories of your own. 

Kim Perkins was one of the world's top women ultra-distance skaters before retiring from racing after winning her third straight a2a in 2004. Based in San Francisco, she continues to coach privately and to give skate seminars.

Related reading:
Kim Perkins' guide to outdoor racing
The Ups and Downs of Hill
Kim's web site

a2a web site


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