Now that I’m able to walk again – literally – it’s time to put to pen and paper what happened on Saturday September 17, 2011.
It was the 10th Annual Great Lake Walk around Cowichan Lake here on Vancouver Island. At 5am, about 325 brave souls (650 soles) set off in the darkness to circumnavigate what is called a “lake” but is more like a long wide river. Very long.
Some memories that stand out:
- Chatting to a very nice 82-year-old lady in the town hall before the race – asked whom she was seeing off and she explained “Oh no, I’m doing the walk, dear.” For the third time.
- About 2 city blocks from the start there’s a gigantic sign “End of Public Road.” Realized that virtually the whole way would be on gravel logging roads, not just a few portions. Braced for pebbles in the shoes.
- About 2 city blocks from the start, I discovered I’m not such a fast walker after all. Braced for humility.
- Up ahead I see a guy lighting a cigarette! For one brief minute I thought there might be someone slower than me – I can beat the smoker to the finish – turned out he was trying to get his headlamp working.
- Only 20K into it and the young couple up ahead of me starts doing a “happy dance” as they walk – bit early to begin the descent into madness.
- To the poor woman in the porta-potty – you need to turn the lever all the way to the left so it shows a red “occupied” sign. And again, sorry.
- Overheard: “Good thing it’s raining – keeps down the dust on the road.” Clearly a copywriter for real estate ads.
- As the walk progresses, the clapping and cheering and noise-making staff at the rest stops become increasingly welcome until near the end I’m writing them into my will.
- BTW, “rest stop” is highly misleading. You barely stop and you certainly don’t rest. “Pee Point” “Grub Grab” – these are far more accurate titles.
- So they mark off 42K as the marathon point (26 miles). For me it marked the start of the pain. Gee, just 17K left to go (a detour this year made the 56K actually 59K – glad they told me after the walk).
- With 12K left to go, every single step hurt. A lot. By 5K I’m phoning Kim every 100ft or so to ask if she and the kids can see me yet…
- I keep seeing ambulances driving by – not sure if these are mirages or bad omens.
- A policeman very kindly stops his car and asks if I need help. Yes, you could have pulled me over and arrested me when I first drove into town this morning.
- I keep asking the people who are now breezing by me – “Are you in pain?” – and they all give me a big smile, say “Of course” and continue on their way. Have I been pulled into some parallel universe where pain is the new pleasure? No, the descent into madness is real.
- Finally, I stumble across the finish line into the arms of my family. Oh wait, I have to ring a bell first. Must… raise… arm… oh, this bell chord makes a very nice crutch – takes the weight off. I think I’ll just hang around here for a while.
- In the basement of the local arena – post-walk ward – and all those smiley breezers are sitting wrapped in bandages or hobbling to the washroom. Ok, I wasn’t imagining this was painful.
- Sitting. Feet in hot water. I’d cry, but it wouldn’t look good in front of all these 82 year old women.
All kidding aside, the walk was largely a lot of fun, and it’s incredibly well organized, especially when you consider all the logistics of setting up rest stops in the back of beyond. So many wonderful wonderful volunteers. And everyone is so encouraging, which means a lot when you’re on your (literally) last legs.
And if you could make a donation to the Arthritis Society on my behalf, that would be much appreciated.
Oh yes, my finish time was about 11 hours and 1 minute from what I could tell.