It’s Wednesday after as I write this, so I’ll try to remember best I can . . .
We started in Gaston right on time at 6:00 a.m. It was very dark (clouds, no moon, etc.), and chilly - around 37 degrees. With my headlamp lighting the way, we began walking south through a sparsely-populated area. Which is good, because there was this nagging fear of getting shot by a nervous landowner who didn’t like strangers walking behind his property at night.
Since it was dark, there wasn’t much to see, but at one point I did see the reflection of two eyes looking back at me from the trees—two beady, reflective eyes about 6 inches apart. Then the animal ran away. I thought it might have been a fox, or possibly a big cat. Charlie thought it was a bear or centaur or something. But he didn’t see the eyes, so he only had the sound of it running away to go on.
We met Cindy at the first stop not long after sunrise. Although, to be fair, I’m not sure the sun ever completely rose that day. It was grey and overcast all day (which was fine with us). She had hot coffee (yum!), and I refilled my water.
We then started on the leg which took us through Muncie. We walked by the airport and crossed Riggin Road, then crossed McGalliard. Both of us wished Chick-Fil-A was open on Sunday, because it was RIGHT THERE, and a chicken biscuit sounded really good! We walked past Wysor Depot, the headquarters of the Cardinal Greenway. Ironically, it’s closed on the weekends, when (I would guess) the majority of people USE the Greenway.
Being a former railroad line, the Greenway runs behind some interesting places. From a train, you see a different side of a city, and the Greenway is similar. Abandoned houses, former industrial parks, strange “education” sites, and the occasional nature area.
We next met Cindy at Mansfield Park. Matthew drove with as well, and it was nice to see him! We had walked 13 miles, and everything was fine. We’d had good conversations, the “grumpy old man” meter was staying down near 2 or 3, not the 8 we were expecting (“GET OFF MY LAWN!”). Anyway, at this stop, Cindy brought us hot chicken broth (well, Cup of Soup), which was AMAZING!! JUST what we needed! (Served in our commemorative metal Ball State tumblers we got at the premiere of the BSU documentary.)
From here, for the next 20 miles or so, we would be on stretches of the Greenway that I had used when I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon. There are some looooooong straightaways, where you see the trail go on for three miles with nothing to look at. Then you make a little turn, and there’s ANOTHER loooooooong straightaway. Charlie was amazed I had done long runs on here (alone!), because they are really soul-sucking stretches of asphalt. At the time I just thought it was because training for a marathon sucks. Now, having a bit more experience, I realize it’s just NOT a good place to do those runs!
Benches. Occasionally, there would be a bench. A nice bench. Built by the Greenway organization. In no particular location. Perhaps they are uniform distances apart, but I don’t think so. I think they just said, “let’s put a bench here.” Maybe they got a grant. One bench was on the east side of the trail looking at US-35, and an old house with a collapsed porch. Maybe they said, “let’s put a bench here so people can rest and look at the house.” It got really weird in the southern, completely barren parts of the trail. There would be a bench. I guess it’s better than NOT having a bench.
However, as we were walking close to Prairie Creek Reservoir (near the Red-Tail Preserve), we saw two figures walking toward us. As I said, it was a long straightaway, so when we first saw them, we thought it was a person and a dog. Then it totally looked like an adult with a child on a bike. Or maybe a scooter. As they got closer, we realized it was Cindy and Christina! They had parked at the next stop and walked back to meet us! They got a bit more than they expected, though, because they walked 2 miles before they found us, so they ended up doing a surprise 4-mile walk! But it was fun walking and talking with them.
So the reason for all of this nonsense was my birthday. At the next stop (19.5 miles), Cindy brought us birthday cake! And not just any old birthday cake - her amazing 4-layer, 3-chocolate cake! Basically, layers of chocolate cake with chocolate mousse between the layers, coated with an amazing chocolate ganache!
Around 17 miles, Charlie and I realized, that felt like the fastest 17 miles either of us had ever done! It wasn’t, of course, but between the company and the pace, it was nice and comfortable, and time really did fly by.
Temperatures were in the low 40s. When walking, we were both comfortable. When we stopped, we quickly got chilly, so we tried not to stop for too long. Or we sat in the heated van.
Our next stop was going to be Losantville. Not too long before that, I got a text from Jim Garringer saying he’s going to join us for a bit! I hear a car on 35 honk as it goes by, and there goes Jim! He parked at Losantville, then walked back to meet us, and walked with us to Losantville (where Cindy had hot subs for us!), then walked a couple more miles after that stop! It was a great visit, and I always love it when my various worlds connect. Charlie and Jim had nice runner conversations.
Finally, we got to Economy. Walking into town, we saw a couple of donkeys on a farm who were very social. One saw us and walked up to the fence, wanting to say hi! Of course, I stopped to talk to him. As we kept moving, he tried to keep up. When the other donkey tried to say hi, the first one moved in front. He’s the jealous type.
Things were getting a bit tough. We were sore and the sun was starting to set. I had the beginnings of two blisters on my left foot, and some unexpected aches in my right leg. None of this was a surprise, but still, it gets tougher. We were 34.5 miles in. Farther than I’ve ever gone on foot in one outing. This was new territory for me (and Charlie).
Unfortunately, the Cardinal Greenway trailhead in Economy is not near the main road (35). You have to turn and drive down a half mile or so. Also unfortunately, there is no sign on 35 for the trailhead. So we arrived, and there was no Cindy. I knew she was o.k., of course, and I figured she wasn’t sure where the trailhead was. I felt bad, though, because I knew she would be frustrated that she wasn’t there, and she would start to get worried about me. Also, cell service was spotty at best. Eventually, we were able to text a bit, and she would meet us at the next available trailhead.
Cindy met us at Newman Road, a paltry 2 miles further. Charlie found a walking stick. It helped him walk, and also made him feel more rustic. I was starting to hobble because of my blisters, so he graciously let me use his walking stick. He eventually got another for himself. It DID help with the walking. And, yes, it DID feel kind of bad ass. Kind of a cross between “let my people go” and “you shall not pass!!!”. Plus, we truly were in the middle of nowhere, so it was good to have them. (Who am I kidding? If anything happened, we’d run away, and Charlie runs a lot faster than me, so…)
This stop was really tough. Sitting was tough. Standing was tough. Walking was like standing, but sort of leaning so you moved forward. The van was nice and warm. Things are looking iffy.
We started on our way. Our next scheduled stop was Webster. Just 7.5 miles ahead. No big deal. Of course, at this pace, that’s a couple of hours. It was dark. We were back to headlamp mode. My foot was not getting worse, but it was annoying me greatly. It hurt to breathe. My right quad and hip were starting to seize. After a couple hundred feet, I stopped for a minute or two. I was a little light-headed. I was really tempted to just turn around and just go back to the car.
We started moving forward again, but I texted Cindy to ask her to meet us at Williamsburg, which was the next trailhead, 3.5 miles ahead. It was decision time, and I would make it at Williamsburg.
It’s a shame the sun was down (I told Charlie), because this is one of the prettier spots on the trail. Nice trees, pretty fields, and Williamsburg itself is classic Americana, with a developed depot, sports fields, and a picnic area. But it was dark, so he had to take my word for it.
I hobbled to the van at Williamsburg and got in, just to sit for a bit. We had walked exactly 40 miles. A marathon PLUS a half marathon. Plus a little bit. I had to weigh the costs and benefits. The benefit of continuing? Meeting my goal. I said I was going to walk 51.5 miles. I rarely miss goals. It’s kind of a thing with me. The cost? Well, as things stood, it was going to be a couple of days of recovery, depending on the blister situation. If I continued to the end, how bad would things get? Like Charlie said, I was capable of finishing - my body was capable, because our bodies are capable of doing more than our minds say, because our minds are programmed for conservation and safety.
The thing of it is, it’s not like it was an actual event—it was something I came up with, for myself (and Charlie, the idiot). I decided that there was no dishonor in stopping at 40 miles, in order to keep myself a bit healthier than if I finished the whole difference.
Yeah, who am I kidding? I was completely disappointed in myself. I set a goal, and I didn’t make it. I felt like I let down Charlie. I felt like I let down Cindy. They had given so much of themselves.
The thing is, THEY didn’t feel that way. They supported me no matter what I decided. They weren’t disappointed in the least. They were my biggest fans.
[Hey, I didn’t say I was thinking logically at this point; things can get a bit raw when you push it.]
So we walked 40 miles in about 14 hours. I didn’t track it on Garmin. I don’t know my splits. I don’t have mile-by-mile pace. Because I didn’t care about any of that. I just wanted to take a walk with a friend. And it was a very nice walk.