|The race was conceived by a true
California dreamer, David Miles, a 35-yearold San Franciscan who four years ago founded
the Outdoor Roller Skating Association of America. His organization sponsors various Bay
Area competitions, criterium races, 5K and 10K races, and meets that feature high jumps
and long jumps, all performed on skates. Last year, when the group staged a 95-mile race
from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, Miles got to thinking. "We wanted to do something
with a gigantic exclamation mark," he says. "We wanted everyone to recognize
skating, and I thought people would look at this race and realize that this was an awesome
On April 13, Miles and his 44 entrants, most of them on five-wheel-in-line
skates, were blessed with a beautiful race morning. They rolled out of the parking lot of
a roadside hotel in Fresno at 6:20 a.m., just as the sun, casting a luminous glow on the
vineyards and orchards that lined both sides of the road, crept above the horizon.
No one was emboldened to make an early move, and the skaters traveled in a few small
packs for the first half of the race. At 80 miles, though, as the hills began to wear down
the other competitors, two racers broke away. The duo seemed perfectly well suited to lead
this offbeat event: Sandy Snakenberg, 29, is a chef at a San Diego vegetarian restaurant
that is run by students of meditation; Greg LeVien is a 26-year-old unemployed San
Francisco carpenter who has a lot of free time to work on his skating. Snakenberg and
LeVien skated together for about 30 miles, averaging 15 mph uphill, 24 mph on the flats
and up to 35 mph on the declines.
With 28 miles remaining, LeVien was all in. He dropped back and Snakenberg, realizing
that .he was about to win this great event, was overwhelmed. "What an emotional
experience those last 30 miles were!" he says. "I just started crying, looking
around and experiencing the beauty. It was all so beautiful!" That the last 30 miles
of scenery featured churning oil rigs and taco stands was lost on Snakenberg, who had
apparently achieved some sort of roller nirvana.
Once he had the lead, Snakeberg, a 12-year skating veteran, wasn't going to lose it. He
had been in training for weeks, and he was one of the few racers who had already traveled
more than 138 miles in one stretch. Six years ago, a broken relationship left him
despondent, and to find solace, he packed a knapsack with convenience-store hot dogs and a
jug of water, and skated more than 200 miles, froni San Diego into Arizona. "I
crossed the border into some city and passed out behind a dumpster. That was in my early,
wild days," he says.
Older and professedly more mature, Snakenberg reached the outskirts of Bakersfield well
ahead of his rivals. There, he had to slow his pace considerably in deference to the
traffic. He was forced to a stop by pedestrians in a crosswalk and twice by red lights.
"I always obey traffic rules," he explained later. "I've never had a
driver's license, but I know the rules."
At the finish line in Jastro Park, Snakenberg was greeted by Miles and Miles's wife,
Rose, who was doubling as race statistician and chief cook. In the latter capacity, she
had just finished barbecuing 50 pounds of chicken for the post race party. In her primary
job; she clocked Snakenberg's official winning time at 9:21 :42. Snakenberg, elated but
battered, limped toward the massage table. "I feel like 138 miles of bad road,"
An hour and 35 minutes later Anna Stubbs, 26, a student and sports massage therapist
from San Francisco, crossed the line. The women's winner, who finished seventh overall,
was greeted by a cheering .crowd of six. "The road just ate up my ankles," she
said." "But it feels good to have finished."
Seventeen skaters went the distance, and all showed up for the awards ceremony at a
nearby Days Inn later that evening, At the gathering, Snakenberg said that he hoped his
sport would soon enjoy more prominence. "Winning is not that important," he
said. "But prize money! That's different. That's rent"