Wandering Around

A few days ago, I felt like taking a walk. It was late in the afternoon and I needed some fresh air.

I live across the street from the high school. There is always something going on there and I attend a lot of field hockey, softball, and lacrosse games, as well as going to swim meets in the winter. This day, though, it was quiet – late enough that everyone had gone home. So I decided to walk all the way around the building.

The school is like many others – it started off in one coherent plan and then, through additions and renovations, took on a rambling personality. Lots of areas to wander. I traveled around the playing fields by the road, crossed the parking lot, and ended up about a quarter-mile away at the back of the school.

I was in a contemplative mood and just felt like poking around. Here are a few things I saw, nothing important, but then again, pretty interesting to me. I’ve lived in this town for more than two decades and my son went to school here. I use the track for exercise. I’ve taken classes in the building myself. So I have memories for every part of this site.


They’ve been doing construction in a section behind the football field. It’s cleared up now but the signs of it remain. I walked through the parking lot toward the area. I thought this poor grate has really had enough to handle, with the wood scraps and the thickened holes from dropped concrete.

Grate and debris and shadow 5-19-16 small

While I was here, I picked up three tennis balls – escaped from the nearby courts. It seemed wrong to let them wander around aimlessly until a car ran them over, so I threw them back on the courts. You might be able to see a couple of them in this picture.

Tennis Courts CHS 5-19-16 small

They recently added numbers to the teachers’ parking lot. There is something really attractive to me about numbers painted on a parking lot surface. I find the look appealing and I don’t know why.

CHS parking lot number 5-19-16 small

The sidewalks around the school are 60 years old – the school was built in 1956. Naturally they are showing some age. This scene reminded me of the sidewalks in front of my house, which was built in 1957. It’s each homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalks in front of the residence – when the township decides it’s time for repairs, they come around and spray white dots on the blocks needing replacement. Our street has recently been notified and the white dots have appeared. I think that if this block had been on the street – well, you know what it would have been wearing.

CHS sidewalk crack 5-19-16 small

A little further on, I noticed this stray bedraggled mitten lying next to the curb. Lost during the winter and it probably spent some time under a plowed-up mound of snow, given its location. I have lived here long enough to know that this is just the spot where the plows build up a good solid hill of icy snow. If you are a mitten lying on the ground, well, you’re trapped for quite a while, long enough to be forgotten. I’m feeling sorry for this mitten because pretty soon, it will get swept up and taken to the dump.

CHS forgotten mitten 5-19-16 small

On my way back toward home, I passed the softball field. I saw the two pencils lying on the ground next to the trash bin. Never mind computers, kids still need pencils in school. I like to think about that.

CHS two pencils near trash can 5-19-16 small

OK, all done. I went on down the road and crossed to my house, feeling quite satisfied with the state of things in my neighborhood.

it was little wonder that

it was little wonder that

it was little wonder that

it was useless

it was useless

it was useless

personal particulars

personal particulars

personal particulars

became clear

became clear

became clear

Walk This Way

Today was the final leg of my Senior Games odyssey – the timed walk.

I’ll start by saying that I have never in my entire life been timed as I walked. I knew nothing about the event other than watching race-walking on TV, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to pick up that kind of technique any time soon. But, I did practice walking fast, several times a week, for the distance that we would be doing in the Games, 1.5 miles. And I studied race-walking a little to see if there were any tips I could adapt for my own use.

Because I’ll tell you, I wanted to win my age group. There. Now you know.

All right. My husband and I drove over to Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, PA, about 25 minutes from home. We planned that I would do my event and then we would continue on to Doylestown to set up for the Tile Festival this weekend. This was nice – I had a cheering section and photographer.

The course was the blacktop walk around the central quadrangle of buildings, starting at College Hall.

Here’s the view from the start.

The event was scheduled as a drop-in event, meaning that contestants could arrive anytime during those hours to compete. A group was assembled and set off on its way. Once those people finished, another group would do the same. Since I arrived before 9 AM, you can see I was eager to get going. A few others felt the same – our initial group was a small one, which was nice. Later groups were larger – more than 100 people competed in this event.

So we lined up, got our instructions, and took off. I am wearing the pink shirt and purple shoes.

The course was said to be 1.5 miles, but everyone agreed it was at least 1.75 miles, given our times. Everyone also agreed it didn’t matter. In any case, we went around 6 times plus 1 leg of the quadrangle plus 1/2 of the next. It was possible to lose count but the officials helped us out with splits and lap counts.

I have found walking fast takes focus. It’s easy to drop off in pace if you lose attention. Being in the competition with other people walking as well as the college students who occasionally wandered in was a little distracting. I tried to keep my mind on my feet.

Here I am in action at various points.

And at the finish. I did the course in 24:22.

finish walk 5-16 small

Then I waited and watched the next groups. Over the week I have met quite a few people and some of them competed today. I also ran into a friend I haven’t seen in some time, so I watched her race. And — I did want to see if I could achieve my goal of winning the event. I admit it!

At the end of it all, I did win. Both my age group, and – I was the fastest woman, as well. Now, let’s remember, I was also one of the youngest competitors in the race, so I had an advantage. Still, I was happy. I felt my planning and training had paid off in something I hadn’t done before.

I like this kind of walking and I think I’ll keep doing it as part of my exercise from now on. I’m glad I was introduced to the idea of trying it.

So, now the Senior Games are over for this year. I am thinking already about what I’d like to compete in next May. Guess I enjoyed myself, didn’t I?

I Run As Fast As I Can On A Track

Well, the title says it all. Senior Games, event #2 on my list – the running session. I did the 800 meters and the mile. Here’s what happened.

The event was held at Gwynedd-Mercy University in Lower Gwynedd, PA, about 15 or twenty minutes from my house. We arrived on time, 6 PM.

I checked in and looked around. There was a nice crowd gathered – runners from age 50 to 85+, and fans ready to cheer. One man’s family had all dressed in green (to match his running outfit) and carried a sign with his name, Tony, on it. As for me, I had my husband there to encourage me.

The first events were the 100 and 400, and there were quite a few heats. Six people ran at a time, from youngest to oldest, women and then men, filling the lanes in this order. Awards were given by age group but the actual races were run in mixed ages.

We stood by the side of the track, in the middle of one of the straight stretches. We fell into conversation with several women, one I knew from another competition, and others I just met. It turned out nicely because we could cheer for each other.

I noticed many more men competing than women. This fits in with my experiences with 5K’s – after age 50, men really outnumber women, though I think it’s the opposite in younger age groups. I don’t know why this is and I offer no opinions other than to say, I don’t plan on giving up until I give out, so I’ll do my part to keep the numbers up.

All right. Finally it was time for the 800. Only three women ran it along with 10 or so men, I think. So our heat included men and women.

I’ll tell you now, I haven’t run these distances since high school in the 1970’s. I am a 5K+ runner, and I had no idea how to do the race. So I just tried to start out strong and stay with it.

All right. I made it. I had hoped to be faster than 4:30 and I was – 4:20. So I was happy. I will say that it’s darn hard to start out running fast, though. I’m used to getting an easier start and building up! I ended up second in my age group (all the runners were in my age group) and that pleased me, too.

After a rest while the men finished, it was time for the mile. Once again, there were three women and more men. I had a better idea how to manage this race, since it was longer. I started off easier; my first three laps were virtually the same split. I was going along in 3rd place. By the 4th lap I had warmed up and I could see the second place runner was flagging a bit. I thought I could pass her – decided to make my move on the straight stretch before the final curve, so I didn’t have the extra effort of passing her on the outside and making things harder for myself.

The strategy worked and I felt very pleased with myself for thinking it through! My final lap was 15 seconds faster than the first three. That’s what training for 5K’s will do for you, I guess. My time was 9:31, meeting my goal of 9:30 or so. I ended up in second place and once again I was pleased.

Here I am finishing the mile.

I felt quite a bit of relief now that it was all over. All that remained was getting our awards.

And here I am, triumphant.

claudia sr games 2 5-16 small

Oops, let’s try that again.

claudia sr games 3 5-16 small

Now all that remains is the timed walk, tomorrow, at Montgomery County Community College. Until then…

But events had moved too quickly

But events had moved too quickly

But events had moved too quickly

Orienteering Myself

Senior Games, first event: orienteering.

This is the first year for this activity. No one knew what to expect. I drove over to the park, getting lost only twice. Please remember, I have lived in this area for 35+ years and have been to the park as recently as one month ago. This getting lost business is relevant, I think, when you remember I am planning to do an event that relies on me reading a map and interpreting terrain in order to arrive at designated points. Let’s just say that orienteering doesn’t play to my strengths, but I’m going to do it anyway.

I made it to the park and followed the signs to the picnic pavilion where the event was organizing itself.

Senior games sign small 5-16

About thirty of us were assembled. Most had no experience of the sport at all. But – that had been provided for – an explanation and demonstration was given. I was pleased to find myself a relative veteran.

Group explanation 5-16 NFP small

I got my map, went to the start, and I was the second one off onto the course. It was cloudy and cool, with a little bit of rain falling every now and then. The course consisted of eleven controls – I needed to hit each one in order while being aware of the time. The course was pretty straightforward, as the organizers wanted to make sure the first-year event was something people could find interesting while also being successful.

This park has a history. Norristown Farm Park, as it is called, used to be the farm attached to Norristown State Hospital, a mental institution. In the past, patients worked on the farm in various capacities as they were able. The hospital depended on the farm for food and for therapy. This arrangement was common before the era of medication – it was thought that the patients would be helped by being outdoors and occupying their minds. Patients also worked in other areas,  such as the kitchen, sewing, wood shop, etc. The hospital functioned as a somewhat self-sustaining community, in an era when people went into the hospital for extended periods of time rather than the limited stays of today. Changes to this treatment philosophy occurred with the advent of drugs and other therapies, with the different way mental patients came to be viewed, and in how funding for treatment was allocated.

Today the hospital still exists but the farm is a park. Crops are still grown on the grounds and the agricultural buildings are scattered around. There is even the remains of a fish hatchery, but we didn’t go in that area today.

Here is the park office of today. One of the controls was set near this area.

Park office area NFP 5-16 small

Much of the course went through fields waiting to be planted. It was also quite hilly. Most of it could be done on the farm roads.

NFP hill 5-16 small

At the end, I took a course across this field rather than taking the road.

field NFP 5-16 small

Here’s the finish area, back at the picnic pavilion.

finish NFP 5-16 small

I think this course played to my strengths. I am a good runner and with the unambiguous course I could make time. I also realized that while I am pretty good at reading a map, I am not good at translating it to the actual ground, something I’ve known in other contexts, such as trail running, and getting to the park today! For example, when I went through the field, I was not exactly where I thought I was, though I did realize it later and make adjustments. But, I didn’t get all the advantage I could have by taking that route. I plan to focus on this map/ground relationship next time I try an event.

Still, I have good news. I did the course in 38.02 minutes and I won my age group. Yes, there were two of us in it, so it was not by default! And I got my T-shirt.

Tshirt small 5-16

Tomorrow, I’ll be running on the track at Gwynedd-Mercy University. Until then…

seemed as if they had forgotten

seemed as if they had forgotten

seemed as if they had forgotten

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