The friend I’m about to feature is one of my nearest and dearest. Jenn and I met many moons ago, at my first “real” job at a little local book shop, and I recently realized we’ve been friends for more than half my life.
Jenn has the kind of talent that makes me feel like Will Ferrell in Elf when he realizes Santa is coming to Gimbel’s.
So, how was your weekend? Do anything fun? Have a good Mother’s Day?
Huh? What? No, I’m not just asking so I can tell you about my weekend. Geesh. I thought we were friends.
Oh, well, okay, if you insist.
I walked 32 miles on Saturday.
That’s how far it is, apparently, around the perimeter of Manhattan.
Even though I’d taken a break from running due to 30 extra pounds and a complete lack of natural running ability injury, I still fantasized about the Next Big Thing: ultra-distances (races greater than 26.2 miles, the length of a marathon).
Several months ago, someone mentioned to me that you could actually walk around the island of Manhattan. As in, there’s a continual path (more or less) that’s pedestrian-friendly (more or less) that circles the perimeter of New York City’s most famous borough. Upon Google searching, I found an event called The Great Saunter, hosted by the Shorewalkers club, where roughly 1,500 people gather annually to do just that.
Half sightseeing tour, half endurance test, the journey at Manhattan’s edge takes you into the shadows of 19 bridges, through as many parks and past art installations, city landmarks and 360 degrees of ever-changing views. – New York Times
The Great Saunter isn’t a race or a fundraiser, and is in fact meant to be a saunter at 3 miles per hour, but seemed like the perfect opportunity to test my limits. Besides, even if I changed my mind, the registration fee was only $20.
I knew it was unlikely I’d find anyone equally eager to walk 32 miles, so I mentally prepared to go alone.
In the days leading up to the event, the forecast was doom and gloom. Most people assumed I would bail, but clearly they had forgotten about my pride and boastfulness commitment to greatness. On Friday night, I borrowed a proper windbreaker and put everything I thought I’d need in Ziploc bags: Band-Aids, ibuprofen, Band-Aids, vodka, Band-Aids.
I was probably more nervous about driving from New Jersey into New York City than walking around it. It was drizzling slightly, but stopped by the time I arrived. I found a nearby parking garage and headed to the starting point, a pub near Battery Park at the southernmost part of Manhattan. I saw more people than I expected, conspicuously outfitted in hiking boots and backpacks.
The official start time was 7:30 am, but dozens of walkers began early, including me, around 7:15 am. I was feeling anxious, antisocial, and eager to get to that evening’s Cinco de Mayo party.
As I told my father the night before, it wasn’t a matter of wanting to quit along the way, but rather, how quickly that feeling would arrive. I knew I would suffer. I might not make it. I walked quickly, passing many Saunterers along the way. No one said hello. Eventually, I had nothing but my overstuffed backpack to keep me company.
My legs started feeling stiff by mile 8, which is when I conveniently remembered I hadn’t trained at all for this. I promised myself a quick stop at mile 10 to pop some ibuprofen. The first of many.
Around mile 18, still feeling optimistic that I would finish, and nursing only one blister, I met a woman named Grace, who was walk-jogging the entire distance. Grace had the inside scoop on the fastest walkers.
“Did you see the woman in pink?” she asked me.
I stared back blankly.
“Holding a plastic bag?” she probed.
“Ah! Yes! Bag lady!” I exclaimed. I tried not to sound out of breath trying to keep up with Grace. “How could she hold a plastic grocery bag for 32 miles? Why didn’t she use a backpack? And she was so fast! I couldn’t catch her!”
“I know! Me either!”
I thought I’d been enjoying my solo trek, but by mile 25, I was eternally grateful for Grace’s company. It turned out we had a lot in common, and she shared kind words that had an effect more powerful than 6 months of therapy: she thought I was 22.
“I just turned 34,” I told her. “And lemme tell ya, I feel it right now.”
“When I signed up for this, I thought it would be so easy,” she said.
I looked at her incredulously.
“I can’t believe you’re holding up this well if you came into it with that mindset. I knew it would be awful.”
We shared an “I just want to finish” mentality and held our pace for as long as possible, our conversation wandering between divorce, dating, food, and spirituality. You can cover a lot of ground (pun intended) when you walk with someone for 4 hours.
We stumbled through the remaining few miles, feeling sheer delight when the numbered streets turned to names – that meant we were getting close. The last mile was the hardest physically, but by then we could already taste the beer victory.
We started celebrating as soon as we saw Fraunces Tavern, the [starting and] finishing point.
It was 4:30 pm, 9 hours later, when we crab-walked up the stairs and met a very cheerful woman, who took our names and presented us with certificates. We immediately asked about the plastic bag-holding woman in pink.
“Everyone keeps talking about her!” she replied. “I haven’t seen her. Only one guy finished the whole thing before you two.”
Grace and I let out a collective squeal and hugged. Sure, it wasn’t a race, but…
After our single celebratory hefeweizen, Grace, who’d found street parking, drove me the 4 blocks to my parking garage, where the attendant said,
“You took a long time.”
“Huh?” I replied, suddenly remembering that I’d told him I’d be back by 5 o’clock. It was only 5:30! And did it really matter?
“That’ll be $45.00,” he continued.
“Huh?” I said again. “I must’ve misread the sign.”
“You went over 10 hours,” he explained.
“So that was a $55.00 beer,” I grumbled, reluctantly handing him a wad of cash.
But I’d done what I’d come to do. I quickly recovered and drank patted myself on the back for the rest of the weekend.
I’m already looking for the Next Big Thing. Any ideas?? Have you ever done anything like this?
*GIVEAWAY WINNER UPDATE: Many thanks for your hilarious entries in the latest Go Jules Go giveaway! Babs (my mother) had a hard time picking a winner, but chose Misty from Misty’s Laws! Congratulations, Misty – your copy of Jen Kirkman’s memoir, I Know What I’m Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself is in the mail!*
I’m sorry I haven’t posted in so long, but I wanted you to believe running my first half marathon last month actually killed me.
Actually, it did something far, far worse.
It hooked me.
Me. The blogger with a penchant for vodka and chocolate-covered bacon everything.
This is my life now:
Oh and see those little silver packets on the lower right? Those are GU brand energy gels. I don’t even like Gatorade, let alone creepy pudding packs with space-agey Nutrition Facts.
Finally, though, I listened to the advice of 10,273,047 seasoned runners and tried one during a recent training session, around mile 8, when I felt particularly sluggish. I went with the least offensive flavor I could find: Tri-berry. (Named so because GU berries run triathlons. Obviously.) Sure enough, 20 minutes later, I felt a sudden pep in my step that lasted the entire remaining 5 miles.
Speaking of winners, the rumors are true: I completed my first half marathon, The Wild Half, on Sunday, May 18th, in Wildwood, New Jersey!
I chose the course because it ran alongside the coastline, i.e., it was FLAT. After 8 weeks of training, I still had no idea what I was doing, but my sister, a race veteran, was there to guide me every step of the way.
Her calming presence didn’t stop me from asking the obvious questions.
I was also careful not to disrupt my normal routine the day before the race.
The morning of, I lined up with the 10-minute mile pace group. My goal was simply to finish without walking, but I knew the faster I finished, the faster I could drink “celebrate.”
I programmed the 80’s cardio mix on my Pandora app and got ready to rock and roll.
I was feeling great until about mile 7, when the sun and endless stretch of pavement started to sear my soul. By mile 9, I hit the low point usually reserved for mile 10. Then, miraculously, I saw the mile 11 banner. I had missed the 10-mile marker altogether.
Despite that mental boost, by mile 12, I was ready to stop running. Two of my oldest friends, shame and pride, pulled me through.
With a stitch forming in my right side, I grimace-grinned down the home stretch.
I passed through a string of enthusiastic volunteers to claim my snazzy finisher’s medal.
So, not only have I become one of “those” people, I’ve also become one of THESE people:
To add insult to [inevitable knee] injury, what am I up to now?
If you were forced at gunpoint to run 26.2 miles, who would you drag with you?
***As promised, one commenter from my last post receives a Vosges Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon bar! The lucky winner is: WTF Elsewhere! Congrats, Lorien – I’ll be in touch via email to award your prize!***
You’ve heard of the Body Mass Index (BMI), right? A handy dandy formula for figuring out just how many bacon strips past healthy you are?
Well, then, I’m glad you put down your vodka and Valium long enough to read this post, because: I know. That shiz is unforgiving.
This past summer, I felt compelled to finally take note. I’d been struggling with a 2 year-long weight loss plateau, and even hiking every mountain in New Jersey wasn’t helping.
Thanks to 1 FitBit (my pedometer on steroids) and 6 months, I realized vodka does, in fact, have calories…
…and have gone from “obese” to “normal.”
And you know what that means for Go Jules Go…
In all seriousness, this blog has changed my life. I’m 100+ pounds lighter than when I started GoJulesGo.com in February 2011, and while weight may just be a number, I’m also lighter in spirit in ways that cannot be measured.
And that is invaluable.
So thank you.
P.S. – I can totally still celebrate with vodka, right?
And we’re making up for lost time, because I forgot to celebrate getting a new job on Monday! I know. After a 2 week-long interview process, you’d think a bit ‘o pink bubbly would be first and foremost on this Project Manager’s agenda. But no. I was so busy on Monday, it wasn’t until the following day, when Husband #3 asked how I planned to celebrate, that it dawned on me: For once, I had a valid excuse for the cheap champagne I already drink daily in moderation.
And that’s not all we’re celebrating – today I’ve been “Freshly Pegged”! My friend, the hilarious and multi-talented Peg, of Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings, is featuring a post I wrote in December about my writing process, and I’m thrilled – I really, really want to keep this conversation going.
When they contacted me on Halloween, I leapt out of my hard, plastic seat. I was waiting for Chinese take-out with my family, obsessively checking my phone, like any good bloggette who hadn’t had power for a week [thanks to Hurricane Sandy] would do when she realized she had free wi-fi.
I attempted to explain to my parents, sister, niece and nephew why I was so excited.
“It’s WordPress’ blog!”
“They like me! They really like me!” I tried.
A little drool. Eyelids drooping.
I finally resorted to shamelessness: “This is a BIG. DEAL.”
Babs offered a confused smile. The rest of the family was already back to talking about Dancing with the Stars.
Lackluster familial support understanding aside, I eagerly answered all of The Daily Post’s thought-provoking questions – all except one. There was one question I really didn’t want to answer. Because they wanted me to name my top 5 blogs.
Top 5 blogs? Have you seen my Blogroll? Even that’s incomplete.
I could no sooner name a favorite Hot Pocket variety.
I hate knowing I left so many wonderful bloggers and friends off that list, but it got me thinking:
I’d really like to know which bloggers inspire you. Not just the ones you ‘like’ regularly, or the ones who make you laugh, but the ones who move you. Was there a particular post that really spoke to you? Or caused you to take some sort of real-life action?
I hope you’ll share stories and links in the comments section below, and I look forward to hopefully meeting some new bloggers!
Thank you to Michelle and The Daily Post for making my dayweekmonth year, and to you, Chipmunks, a source of never-ending fulfillment and inspiration. I said in the interview that blogging changed my life. And I meant it.