Great Saunter, Almost Made It

When I got home from walking 29.5 miles around Manhattan, I took off my sneakers and went straight into the shower. My feet burned bright red. They looked like two huge sausages, and my toes looked like plump little sausages weening off the huge foot sausages. Pretty gross, right? I thought I’d destroyed them for good.

The human body is uh. may. ZING! My feet were not ruined, but I did have a blister the size of a small child attached to one of my heels. That also healed quickly.

All worth it! S, R, and I met up at Fraunces Tavern along with lots of other Shorewalkers and got started right away. The overcast sky and drizzle here and there were helpful. They didn’t allow for over-heating and dehydrating, which is what happened to me last year. Last year, I thought I was going to die when we found civilization in Harlem on the way up and across, so I went home when I found a 1 train. Starting out this year in much cooler weather was the way to go. Thanks, Mother Nature.

R asked me how fast I thought we walk. I was like, between 3 and 3.5 mph. He decided there was no reason we couldn’t bang this thing out before dinnertime. So off we went. We did stop to stretch a few times and for some bathroom breaks. Because we stayed with the pack, fears of getting lost in the Magical Forest of Inwood faded. Or maybe it’s the fear that kept us mid-pack. We simply didn’t want to get sidelined by a birding experience again.

In keeping up with the pack, we got to take advantage of the snacks along the way. I. Was. In. Heaven.

I was super psyched to see some of the same places we saw last year. I was the same amount of psyched to see new places I’d missed out on when I left at mile 18ish last time. There’s so much more to see after mile 18.

Still, when your feet start to hurt, like really really hurt, there’s nothing you can do. It’s not like a hurt shoulder that you can sort of keep immobile. If you have to walk and your feet throb with every step, you have yourself a serious problem.

As we walked out onto 1st Ave nearing the home stretch, there was a hill. We’d encountered many hills before this hill. I’d met those hills with laughter. The long stretches of bridge after bridge and the paths along the highway that offered nowhere to go but forwards or back to see more highway–these spaces I took in stride, smiling, happy, gushing about how lucky we were to see such sights. This 1st Ave hill nearing the home stretch? I did not meet with such jubilance.

There was a lot of grunting and muttering. I mentioned to S that we’d climbed this hill on our wave walk, and that made me feel better for a few seconds because I’d conquered this hill in 100 degree sweat. But again, hurt feet are hurt feet. I told S I might not finish. She gave me a pep talk. Like a really great pep talk. It almost convinced me.

Then we got into the 30s, and when the map and a volunteer told us to take a left, I was like, I have to Saunter right instead. S and R went off to complete the Saunter, and I went across town to catch a train home. I caught sight of myself in a window, and I looked like an injured hobbit. Going home was a good decision.

Saunter 2019 (11)

I was supposed to teach two yoga classes the next day, but jacked up feet don’t allow for much namaste-ing. I got those covered and spent Sunday limping around. With almost double the distance I completed last year, I was in good shape. Plus, it didn’t get worse. Last year, the pain set in midday on Sunday and lasted well into Tuesday. This year, I wore Fitflops to work on Monday because of the blister but then everything went back to normal. That’s an accomplishment for sure.

Maybe one day I’ll complete the whole thing. Or one day I’ll head back to the place where I veered off and simply complete those last three miles. I’m thankful I was able to do so much more this year. I got to see so many more places along Manhattan’s perimeter, and I’m looking forward to seeing even more.

 

Sauntering (More Than) A Few Miles

S was like, Hey wanna walk with me and R around Manhattan? And I was like, Sure, that sounds like fun.

I work out usually six days a week, but none of those workouts are endurance training. I figured walking the perimeter of Manhattan would be a challenge, but I’d be up for most of it.

S and R walk a lot in their daily lives. I walk a little but there’s a lot of standing in place and sitting for me, especially since many of the computers in the classrooms at work are in tiny metal boxes that I have to sit at (with my back to the classroom, but this is becoming a whole other post, so more on that another time).

What all this adds up to is that none of us trained for this particular walk but they were more ready for it than I was, and remember I have a labral tear that’s always lurking even if I forget about it. Labral tear, I laugh at your lurking.

The Great Saunter began at 7:30 AM in Fraunces Tavern on Pearl St. I took a 6:03 to Penn and then hopped on an express 1 all the way to the end, which gave me plenty of time to eat the turkey and lettuce on whole wheat that I’d packed for breakfast. Then I followed a man already in his walking bib to find the tavern. I stood on line quite chilly, waiting to get my own bib. Then I taught myself how to pin a bib to a backpack in very low light (Fraunces has mood lighting, perhaps in honor of GWash and lamplight–that’s history, y’all).

We first stopped at the SI Ferry terminal for bathrooms and water and then headed up the path along the shoreline where it was chilly and bright. This is what a lot of the morning was like. Walking near the water. This whole thing was quite simple!

At mile five, there was a volunteer cheering us on and showing us the way to go. I wasn’t exactly appreciative for the mile five cheer since I felt like I’d walked more than that already and the entire thing is 32 miles, so with a labral tear tweaking, mile five was nothing to really feel accomplished about. OR MAYBE it’s positive attitude Saturday and being able to even walk is an accomplishment! Or not. Whichever you choose.

On this leg of the walk, there were a lot of opportunities for bathroom breaks and seeing civilization. We ran into another walk, one that was for charity, and so we realized that there are many reasons to walk. A few minutes later, enter Lady Who Likes To Ask Me Questions. I knew the least about the walk we were on, so she asked me specifically why we were walking. I explained about Shore Walkers and said we were raising awareness about the shore. I figured that would suffice. It did not. She asked for more specifics about the kind of awareness. I answered something like, That it’s there and we should appreciate it. She asked further, For sustainability? I was like, Yes. She finally power-walked away, wishing us a good walk.

We walked alongside parks. We passed other walkers, whom S called bibbers because we were all wearing racing/walking bibs. Other bibbers passed us. One woman in particular passed us as if she were on a mission and then almost walked straight into a tree. Like it was a moment when I wanted to yell out, Hey watch where you’re going!, but it all happened too quickly. She narrowly escaped the tree collision and then a few feet later practically skidded to a halt to take pictures of children playing sports in the park. So that happened.

At a water stop–or I should say The Official Water Stop–we met some Shore Walker organizers. S introduced herself as the baker who donated cookies, and the one guy reacted how people always react when they find out S is the cookie-maker. He was pretty overjoyed by the whole thing. After the water, we followed a group of people along a more dirt-like path with rocks to the side instead of any kind of barrier between us and the water, and there was a girl in front of us kicking along a ball. Because the walk itself wasn’t a challenge enough I suppose.

We saw public art. We saw bridges and overpasses from underneath. We saw trees and docks and boats. We ate bananas and nuts and KIND bars and I ate Larabars, too.  We navigated around cyclers, some of whom could learn to use a bell. Then we saw the George Washington Bridge and figured, oooh, the Little Red Lighthouse is there. Then the GWB disappeared. It was like a mirage. It reappeared. We’d head for it. It disappeared. We wondered why we were walking. Over and over until finally it stood right in front of us and the lighthouse came into view. We’d made it a little over 12 miles!

Then there was a hill. I’ve never seen so many cyclists ride up such a steep hill. I don’t remember climbing a hill that steep since I was an undergrad at Oneonta (aka The City Of Hills) or maybe when I visited San Francisco. Or maybe it seemed steep because my legs were jelly and my joints were on fire. That could be it. I wasn’t the only one feeling something. We all were feeling something.

Between miles 13 and 14 stood a Grecian Temple. Because, you know, why not? This is where we took a sitting break. I changed my socks, which was heavenly.

We headed north still towards Inwood Park where we’d find a rock and walk over railroad tracks on a footbridge. It got a little confusing, not knowing if we’d found where we needed to go. This is where we could have used a volunteer cheering us on and pointing us in the right direction. There was no one so we simply kept at it, walking and not veering too far.

We passed by a group of walkers who were wearing shirts that said You’re Going The Wrong Way. Which made us pause until they assured us we were going the right way, which is explained on the back of their shirts, which would be helpful information at first glance, so I wish they had been walking backwards. There were some more hills but not as steep and we finally came upon the Shorakkopoch Rock. For joy! This is where all we needed to do was bear right to find the break where there were bathrooms and snacks and benches!

Great Saunter 2018 (72)

So we went right with only 16 more miles to go!

Except that in going right, we went into the Enchanted Forest of Inwood. It was literally a forest and there were literally no bibbers around and we literally got lost in the forest, despite my carrying the map and re-reading the instructions. We did bump into a group of birders, so we could have abandoned the walk and taken up birding. Instead, we broke out the GPS and found a way out of the forest up and down hills and to an exit that was not near the exit we were supposed to take. Instead, we took our own detour and somehow figured out how to meet back up with the actual path. So while we had only 16 miles to go, we probably added on a bunch in walking in circles and double-backing.

This next part might be out of order. The leg going south is kind of a blur to me, so these things happened, but maybe not in this order. Not surprisingly, I was sweaty, which makes me sometimes not think too good.

We found, finally, a mini mart to get some water. What surprised us most was the lack of bodegas and cart vendors. S mentioned street meat a bunch of times, but we didn’t see anything of the sort on the way back down. Getting back on track, we bumped into someone S worked with and they told us that up ahead, we’d see a bunch of young people. Which clearly meant we are old and needed to go to bed soon. It was Cinco de Mayo, so young people were everywhere.

Great Saunter 2018 (30)

We walked under the three bridges. Getting to the bridges was another one of those so close yet so far away moments. However, they didn’t do the mirage thing like the GWB did, which was nice.

Great Saunter 2018 (34)

We found a volunteer on the side of a road who told us, Once you walk up this hill, you’ve completed 60% of the walk. The “up this hill” part was not exactly what I wanted to hear, but 60% was a joy.

A woman asked me if we were coming from the game. We were not, but that made me happy knowing that we didn’t look too shabby for walking as far as we had for as long as we had. We simply looked like we were coming from the Yankee game.

We got to 145th and found a Subway (the Eat Fresh kind, not the MTA kind) and sat. S got a sandwich, and I got a cookie. I also got a yearning to go home. I found a Subway (the MTA kind, not the Eat Fresh kind) that was super close. I looked at the map. The next part was called Zig Zag to South Harlem. Through the zigging and zagging, I didn’t see another subway stop that would take me directly to Penn (because the 1 wasn’t running until further down after the zigging and zagging). So I pretty much said, This is where I leave you, and they walked me to the stop which was only one block uphillish and I wished them well and walked down some stairs and the A came right away and took me expressly to Penn where a train home was waiting for me and leaving in two minutes so I got on that and then got to my car and then got to my house and then stretched and iced and got on my couch and sat there in a state of what-did-I-just-do?

S and R finished in the 10 PM hour. They are my heroes this week.

Sunday came. My labral tear that had a good clean burn going the night before wasn’t even a thought. I had some achy feels around my thighs, but nothing really terrible. Ooh, I was feeling fine!

Monday came. My everything hurt. No, seriously, I gimped and limped around. My ankles. My calves. My shins. My knees. My quads. My hamstrings. Just everything. I had to walk between buildings at work and I made little yipping sounds as I went. I was the slowest walker in the universe. Upon being asked what happened, I simply said, I make bad decisions.  This lasted through Tuesday.

The walk was not a bad decision. The last minute decision to walk was the bad decision. But now I’m on a mission. I’m adding endurance to my workouts. That way, next May, I might round the bend at 32 miles instead of conking out at 19 and change.

My wish list for the next saunter:
1. more water stops
2. being cheered on and directed in the more desolate areas and not at mile five
3. food cards and bodegas
4. not getting lost in the enchanted forest of Inwood
5. a hotline for if I do get lost or confused again, which I will
6. foot powder and more sock changes
7. better training beforehand
8. singalongs with other bibbers, or at least a secret handshake or fun wave