Endless Mile 24 Hour – October 20, 2018 (Alabaster, AL)

This turned out to be my real comeback race. After the debacle at Southern Discomfort in July, where I was fearful of pushing too hard because of my continuing battle with stress fractures, I was uncertain whether I could handle even a marathon distance. I was determined to try for a 50k, even if it took me all 24 hours.

Weather in central Alabama is unpredictable. Two years ago I had expected mild autumn temperatures and was blindsided by freezing cold. Last year – when I did the 48 hour – I came prepared for the cold but instead enjoyed mild summer like temps during the day and cool clear but not frigid nights. On both occasions I was plagued by blisters on the balls of my feet. Between weather and foot problems, I never stayed on the course the entire time and left early before the race officially ended.

Well, I had the same experience this year. The weather on Saturday morning was rainy and overcast and then warmed up to 65 under cloudy skies. Since persistent rain was predicted for the entire morning, I felt relieved when the wet weather failed to show up. Instead we had just brief intermittent showers until early afternoon. By 6 pm, however, the wind picked up and the cold began in earnest. This time I was ready and began layering on my jackets (6 of them), scarf, cowl, hat, and mittens. For most of Saturday evening and the early hours on Sunday I was fine.

However, while I didn’t suffer from blisters this year, I did feel pain in my feet. Ever fearful of the threat of stress fractures recurring, I wanted to take frequent rest breaks, but I held off on my first chance to sit down until I had reached 24 miles. Around 4 pm Darcy brought me some coffee (at my request – I needed the caffeine to keep me going all night long) and that gave me a chance to change into long pants for the evening and rest my aching legs and feet.

I can’t remember exactly what time it was when I got to 32 laps but once I reached that goal, I was relieved. At that point, my plan was to push on until I just couldn’t go any further. I wasn’t sleepy at all and knew I could make it to the end of the race at 9 am on Sunday if everything continued as it was. However, that was not to be. Soon, my feet began to hurt and I very much wanted the chance to put my legs up and rest. The only problem was that the music from the aid station was extremely loud and I found it impossible to lie still with the pounding from the constant noise. At one point, I found a pavilion at the opposite end of the course where it was relatively quiet and I lay down on the extremely narrow bench, with my legs on the picnic table. Uncomfortable? Definitely! But it did give me a chance to rest a little in peace.

I also experienced some digestive problems, probably due to a lack of real food. There was no pizza for the 6, 12, and 24 hour options and that was a disappointment. I tried some soup, grilled cheese, and peanut butter sandwiches, but nothing seemed to help. Next time, I will ask Darcy to provide me a burger or egg sandwich from McDonald’s or Dunkin.

By 3 am, the wind picked up and began to chill me, right through my multiple layers. Specks of something (dirt? grass?) were blowing into my eyes, despite my glasses. I waited until 4:30 before I gave up and decided to call Darcy to come get me. Once again, I just couldn’t last at Endless Mile, but at least this time I did 57 miles, one more than my other 24 hour venture here. Just being able to do that 50k was a major accomplishment so I was pleased.

My previous posts about this race give detailed information about the course and the race choices so I won’t repeat that stuff here. Suffice it to say that the course is paved, easy to follow, partially shaded, and has only 2 inclines. The timing system was a little different this year and – for the most part – worked well. We stayed at a new Holiday Inn right in Alabaster (in previous years, we had stayed at a so-so Hampton Inn in neighboring Calera). The Holiday Inn was clean, quiet, and closer to the race site. It was also surrounded by restaurants like Olive Garden, convenience stores like Target and Walmart, and groceries like Publix.

My advice to walkers who want to try this race would be to come prepared for all kinds of weather, bring any essential food and drink, set up your personal aid station far away from the timing mat/aid station (if loud music is not your thing), and enjoy the people and the atmosphere.

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Walking and Knitting – My Latest Pursuit

I know there are people out there who walk and read. That never interested me because I would inevitably walk into a wall or utility pole or car while immersed in my book. Of course, with my proclivity to fall even when I pay close attention to my surroundings, I could easily envision breaking several bones as well. I never took seriously the challenge of walking while reading.

However, in a recent class given by physical therapist and knitter Carson Demers, I learned about the extensive history of knitters who walked while doing chores, minding children, or working on farms. According to Demers, it was only since the Industrial Revolution that people had the leisure and luxury to sit and just knit. This piqued my interest, since I seldom look down at my handwork unless I am following a difficult pattern or concentrating on a new technique. I can crochet and knit while watching television – in fact, I have a problem sitting and watching a program without something in my hands to occupy me. When I was younger, I often read while I knitted; unfortunately, my eyesight doesn’t allow me to do that anymore. But walking and knitting? Why not?

In researching knitting and walking, I also learned about relay races that involve teams of knitters who walk an established course, often on dirt or grass, use double-pointed needles to knit (harder to do, in my estimation, than using circular needles), and who hand off their knitting to the next team member as they complete their turn. These races are mostly in European countries and that may be why here in America we have not adopted this practice. Maybe there just isn’t enough interest here either. But the whole concept intrigued me.

I began my experiment by carefully reviewing the common-sense tips offered by Demers for knitters who wanted to try knitting and walking. He suggests paying careful attention to the environment (practice in your home first and don’t try crossing streets while knitting), use blunt tipped needles, inexpensive yarn, and an easy pattern, wear comfortable shoes, and waist pack or cross-body bag to carry the yarn.

I took these suggestions to heart and began thinking about how I could try out this new challenge. At first, I thought that an old fanny pack or apron with pockets would work well to put my yarn in. However, I found that a small lightweight keyhole bag with a comfortably wide cotton strap was perfect. I had made three of these when I was in a recent sewing mood but had not used any of them. They were too small to use as purses, but each one can easily hold a ball of cotton yarn and lightweight plastic Denise circular needles. The plastic needles are essential; if I fell with them, they wouldn’t break or puncture my skin.

Next, I had to decide on a pattern. I wanted something easy so I chose a plain garter stitch dishcloth. I usually make these following charted designs or elaborate patterns, but for walking, simple seemed best, so I cast on about 35 stitches, did a few rows while walking around my house to test it out, and then hit the streets in my neighborhood. Wonder of wonders, I found that walking while knitting was a piece of cake. Even wearing my distance glasses, I had no trouble watching the road, only occasionally glancing down at my fingers to check my work. Of course, I chose a time during the middle of the day when traffic was light. My neighborhood does not have sidewalks so I have to use the road, but this is a good thing since there are not uneven pavements or tree roots interfering with cement walkways.

So far, the only really difficult thing about knitting and walking is enduring the strange stares from my neighbors and the delivery persons as they watch me, a somewhat eccentric older woman, who walks around knitting.  I’m not yet ready to enter a relay race but maybe after practicing a bit more – who knows?