Walking in Circles

Today is the last day of the Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Senior Games, and that means it is time to walk.

This year, my plan was to accompany my husband on the course and go at his speed. We are celebrating his continuing recovery from his accident and knee surgery.

We arrived at Montgomery County Community College nice and early, about 8:15 AM. The day was cool but sunny, with clouds coming in for the rain tomorrow, but no precipitation today at all.

Montco, as it is nicknamed, is maybe 20 minutes from home and set on a spacious campus. I remember when the school was way out in the middle of nowhere, but 35+ years since I first saw it, it is now surrounded by houses and apartments. The event was taking place at the health sciences building, AKA the gym/fitness center. It’s recently been updated and it is beautiful.

We went inside for a few minutes, where the vendors for the expo were setting up.

Then we went back outside and got our names in for the event. The way things work, a group of contestants assembles at the start.

You take off down the walk, go out a bit (past the guy in the blue jacket to that lady in the green shirt, you’ll see her, just keep going), turn at the orange cone, come back, pass the start, go some more, follow that loop in the back of the building, and come back. Do that three times and the race is done. You went 1.5 miles. Oh, and to get your time, listen as you pass the finish line – the timer will call out the time. Remember that number and tell the scorer.

It’s all pretty casual, but it works. Here is my husband (left) waiting to start as a volunteer explains the deal to a latecomer.

Well, we got started on our way. I took this picture pretty near the beginning.

I am so happy and proud of my husband. All the hard work he has been putting in in therapy and in exercising on his own really shows. He was able to walk at a 17 or 18-minute mile pace, which I think is great. It is hard for me to believe that less than five months ago he was getting around with crutches and a brace, if he was able to move at all. Determination pays off.

Well, we finished. And then…you knew this story did not end here, didn’t you?

I had no intention of doing this, but I got to Montco and my competitive instincts kicked in. I can’t pass up a race. So before we went out on our joint tour of the course, I asked the officials if I could go around with my husband and then do one on my own. Sure, they said.

All right. My husband took these pictures. Here’s a quick commentary.

I went out with Group #2. Right from the start I identified my competition. And I don’t mean, for medals – there is no telling if these ladies are even in my age group. I just mean, right here, on this course. Let’s go. Here at the start it’s Pink Shirt, Blue Shorts, and me, in the black, behind them.

We zipped around the course. In Lap 2 Pink Shirt and I lost Blue Shorts. Here we are in Lap 3.

Well, I felt I could take this race and I planned my strategy. Soon as we came out of the loop, I put on some speed.

The drama builds. I’m ahead, but can I hold on? So much is at stake! The crowd is on its feet (there are only a few benches and they are filled up) and paying rapt attention (to the football throw going on in the next field, to the registration table, to the free shopping bags they picked up at the expo…you get the atmosphere). All right, my husband was paying rapt attention, and really, that’s all I needed.

At the finish, I prevailed. I have to tell you, I felt happy about it out of all proportion to the importance of the event.

Now, last year I practiced for this race. I had done none of that this year. Well, so what? It’s just walking. Now think about that and what a different context “just walking” is for me and for my husband. I have a lot of gratitude for what each of us can do in our individual ways.

Well, that’s the end of this year’s games. I have a lot of enthusiasm for next year, already!

(Take a look here for my other event in 2017, orienteering.)

 

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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?

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