Friday, July 08, 2016

City Walk (Breakin' it down) - Canada Day Edition

Bri, David, Henry, and Me

11:59pm - Sleep

I wanted to get to bed early, but if all of you who know me are aware that The Planning is not strong within me. I spent the early evening packing my gear: bandaids, granola bars, water, sports drinks. I spent the late evening changing my mind about which pack I was going to take, packed and unpacked each of my 3 cameras, charged batteries, etc... Finally, at 10:30, I was ready to go to sleep. That's when one of my daughters asked me to read them to sleep. What Daddy could say no to that?

3:45am - Breakfast

Coffee, black & toasted bagel, dry

4:15-4:25am - Arrivals

My friend, Jim, dropped his 13-year-old son, Henry, off. While we chatted and got ready to leave, David and Bri arrived.

4:30am - departure

David Photobombs the Sunrise. Thanks, Dave, much improved!
Even with the 4am wake time, the departure really is the best time of the whole day. I always feel like Frodo at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Gandalf has just told me my inheritance, the ring, is the remnant of an ancient and malignant evil. In a split second I've grabbed my cloak, some food, and a walking stick. I'm off to Mordor!

As we walked South on Clarence Ave, the sunrise was exquisite. Turning West, we skirted The Willows golf course. We saw deer tracks, then deer, found golf balls, climbed hay bales, debated the merits of trying to make a hay bale roll with 3 men on top, and invented several games... mostly involving the throwing, rolling and bouncing of golf balls.* 

*Note: golf was not one of these games. It predates my city walk by a number of years.

At 7:30am we experienced brief, but worrisome showers. These would recur off and on for several hours, but ultimately amounted to nothing more than a refreshing mist.

8am - Coffee & Bri Departs

Wendy skillfully avoids the group photo... again ;)
Dry soil, my friend... you are most welcome!
We stopped for our first stretch and break of the day. Wendy came by the Tim Hortons in the Blairmore neighbourhood (near the end of 22nd St). 

After coffee and a breakfast sandwich, Bri went home so she could spend Canada Day with other family members, although she did return for the picnic on the riverbank. Two years ago, Bri captured the distance record for non-finishers... 55km! I'm so glad that she has come on the walk for the last 3 years. She is the only person that doesn't change as the walk goes on. She smiles and converses as if it were 8am on Christmas morning.

Weather was the opposite of last year... perfect! We had lots of clouds, with sunny breaks, refreshing mist/rain and most importantly, the ground was DRY. Last year (evermore known as the year of Mud) was a real work out. Every time we crossed a field it seemed that we added 3kg of soil to our shoes.
Boundless Energy

Henry's boundless energy was a real kick in the pants. When it is just a bunch of middle aged folk walking for hours, it is easy to think that you have a lot of get up and go. Adding a 13-year-old to the mix really helps put things in perspective. While I did climb hay bales, I did no pole vaulting.

11am - David Departs

Despite awesome shoes, a hi-tec camel pack and doubled up $30 socks, David managed to get a rather large blister on his rather large big toe. Apparently, it is his favourite blister point. It didn't seem to be painful at 9:30 and he pressed on for several more hours. He eventually called it quits on account of a nagging hip pain that had mysteriously popped up the day before. Discretion being the better part of valour, he called Bri to pick him up just as we were passing behind the airport. He will be doing a hike to Grey Owls Cabin in a couple of weeks and stopping while he could still walk well was possibly the smartest move I've ever seen in a fellow City Walker ;) I loved to have David along for his 4th attempt (the first time he was only 12). He has a practical and proactive approach to the walk. More importantly, he will talk endlessly about my favourite technology subjects (and both he and Bri have Apple Watches).

Henry and I continued on around the airport. The dry spring meant that we were able to take a scenic route through a cattail infested area that would have been impassable most years. In fact it is the 1st time since the first City Walk (in the 90's) that I have taken that particular route.

12pm - Husky Snack

R.I.P. 3 balls who gave their lives to our morning road-bounce game
Brother James was dropped off just before arriving at the Husky near the North Battleford turn off. Wendy and her crew brought chairs for a sit down and a tide-me-over lunch. James bought me coffee at the nearby Tim's and we undertook the long paved line of 71st St. It is a very boring 3 1/2km stretch. It is made bearable by being followed by some of the most beautiful parts of the riverbank. James had other plans for the day and only had time for a total of 5km, but it is always symbolically powerful to have one of the original participants of City Walk for any amount of the journey.

After James left, Henry and I walked alone through the Silverwood Golf Course and managed to collect more golf balls out of bounds than I ever would have imagined.

3:30 Picnic 

Back: Henry, David, Bri, Anwyn, Jodi
Front: Me, Back of Jim's head, Back of Wendy's head
By far, this is my favourite part of the City Walk. I love the laughing, and camaraderie of the group. The walk can get lonely--even with 3 or 4 people--and this is a wonderful break and some delicious food to mark the halfway point of the journey. 

Ryan (a second time participant) joined the walk for 5.5km. It's always nice to have a few friends come for even short parts of the journey. It gives me a chance to talk about something new and to feel like I'm on a journey that is in some way more than the sum of it's parts. In that way, the City Walk is like a microcosm of life. I start out in the dark, leave my home. I lose friends and gain new ones. And through it all, my family is helping me along with physical necessities and emotional support just when I need it the most.

This year, I also added a brand new City Walker. Jim Drake (a.k.a. Pooh Corner "Classic"), my friend from work (and Henry's Dad), put in a serious 12.5km effort, from Lenore drive all the way around to Fedoruk Rd.

I would be remiss at this point not to mention Wendy, Anwyn and Jodi. They were the grease that kept all the walkers moving smoothly along throughout the day. Wendy and her support team drove across the city 5 times, dropping off food and dry clothes, taking the fallen home, bringing fresh walkers to buoy spirits and being whatever was needed... as needed.

Thanks, Jodi for the encouragement, coffee and driving.

Finally, Anwyn was an angel on the support crew. Coming to every stop, setting up seating, preparing food and offering massage and a customized stretch regime for each participant based on areas of discomfort. Wow!

The Northeast Swale

I've been through this part of Saskatoon, many times, but this is the earliest I can remember it. What a difference. The number of flowering plants and birds and insects (fortunately not the bite-y kind) was amazing. The cloud cover as we strolled along was rewarding us with constant fingers of "God Light" streaming from the clouds. I didn't have a "good" camera with me on the walk, so Wendy and I went back the next day to take pictures and enjoy the beauty at a more leisurely pace.

Rest Stop

6:38pm - Goodbye Jim, Hello Wendy

The smoke signals that Jim thoughtfully (and near continually) provided were critical in helping the road crew find us on the edge of the relatively new neighbourhood of Evergreen. Here Jim said "good" [pant, pant] "bye" and Wendy joined Henry and I for the most Easterly leg of the journey. Henry was looking pretty tired, but swore that he just needed to find his 3rd or 4th wind. 

On this portion of the walk, Henry surpassed the previous record in the City Walk (held by Bri) of 55km! We said brief 'hip, hip, hoorays' and journeyed on.

8:45pm - Hello Leora

Leo really wanted to come for the 4:30am departure, but she is now working full time and trying to save money for her 1st year of University in New Brunswick. If she has to move, Sackville(map link) sounds like a pretty awesome choice (at least in the short term).

It was plain to see that Henry was done for. It took several minutes to change from shorts to pants and involved laying on the ground and groaning :) But after breaking the distance record on his first outing, I figured he had earned the right to succeed or fail according to his own rules (and his parents knew he would die hard), so I tolerated a substantial slowing of our pace as Henry battled with his body's outer limits.

9:27pm - Goodbye Henry

Amazing. Tremendous first effort. It is impossible to call walking for 17 hours and covering 66.22km anything but a resounding sucess. Pretty sure Henry will be back for more punishment in the future... assuming he isn't off doing something even cooler, like swimming across Waskesiu.

Thanks to Jim and Gwen for being such awesome parents, dropping him off, picking him up, snarking via social media and allowing me to drag Henry along on my little adventure.

10-10:45pm - Fireworks

One of my personal goals for this year was to try and finish while it was still light. Clearly, I did not make that one. Oh, well. Hard to complain when your failure is heralded by an edge of the city light show that lasted (off and on) for about 45min.

11:30pm - Utter Darkness

Ug. The fun of wearing a head lamp is small comfort when all you really want is to be in bed. Knowing you can call for a ride and achieve the dream of a steaming hot bath and tea with honey followed by a soft bed is pretty deadly. Fortunately, I had my secret travel weapon.When Leora was not trying to sleep in the soft-as-a-kittens-paw horsetails she is an excellent distraction and motivator. She asks me questions, sings an endless stream of inspirational songs and challenges me to run or walk as necessary. 

12:30am - Complete 

103,094 steps

All of my photos from 2016s walk are stored here!
Beacon in the Darkness