Walking Through Walls

I'm going to recap just a bit, for new readers and just to remind the old ones. Old ones need all the help they can get with memory stuff.

A lot was going on three years ago, particularly that winter and spring. I suddenly lost a nice gig I'd had for the past few years. I'm not unused to this, but it was a surprise and I've really never recovered; long story.

The film I'd been part of two years before, Winning Dad, was finished, had already received a major accolade, and was about to hit the film festival circuit. I had no idea how this would turn out (it would be minor), but it was on my mind.

I was also in the middle of publishing a book, a book I thought was probably the best I could do, given everything. I had some hope for it, at any rate, and I was counting on my daughter's skills in marketing and other support to see if we couldn't make some noise. My daughter suddenly became otherwise engaged, and truth be told, so did I. It was hard to focus on both of these at the same time, so I didn't.

My grandson was rushed to the hospital at that time in diabetic ketoacidosis, which is usually the way toddlers with Type 1 diabetes present. All of our lives were yanked around, as our reality got a tad more real. This sort of thing will mess with you, as it eventually did with me. I decided to improve my diet and cut out all the casual sugar consumption, and I lost my appetite and eventually nearly 45 pounds before I got assistance.

With the descendant, in September 2015

With the descendant, in September 2015

But before that, I did what I usually do. I walked.

What started in 2007 just as a way to burn a few extra calories, in an effort to lose a lot of weight, turned into a passion. It just changed everything, getting physically active (if in a small way) for the first time in years. Getting outside. Engaging with everything in my path, and letting my thoughts wander where they would. I reached a point three months later when I would routinely walk three or more hours a day, in segments. Sometimes four, and this is how a habit is formed, by the way.

When my wife was having serious medical issues in 2010 and 2011, it was walking that kept me sane and functional, especially hard walking. I live in a hilly area, so I headed for the hills and climbed.

But I'd been doing this anyway; a day when I didn't manage a decent walk of five miles or more was a day wasted, in my opinion. It was controlled compulsion, not the most healthy thing but saved by the fact that it was exercise. I began to think about it as hygiene, like taking a shower; I know it's good for me, I know I'll feel better afterward, I just don't get all that excited about doing it.

That spring I did a lot of it, though. I began pushing myself, not really having anything else to do, and so I picked up a few 10-mile hikes to add to my repertoire, and then I started thinking. As my wife and I made one of our many trips back north from Renton (about 30 miles away, in the south Sound), I got an idea. How long would it take to walk those 30 miles, and what would that be like?

My wife holds choir rehearsals at church on Wednesday nights. They were wrapping up, and in fact were approaching their final Wednesday before summer break. I picked that Wednesday, then, when my wife would be there until 9pm at least. I did a trial walk, about 12 miles along the route, testing my legs and the landscape. I debated about the wisdom of this, right up to the big day.

It was a great day. Sunny and warm, I headed out about 9am, wandered easily through neighborhoods, rounded the north end of Lake Washington and headed south. I walked through farmland and right through downtown Bellevue (across the lake from Seattle, a big hubbub of a city where Microsoft maintains large complexes). I picked up trails and paths that paralleled I-405 for much of my way. I ran out of water at some point and, even though I was in the middle of a city, my track didn't take me past convenient stores and so I got a little dry for a bit. This made me almost quit at about the 24-mile mark, but I finally grabbed some liquid and I made it, in a little over 11 hours (around 9-1/2 hours of walking, but with stops for rest).

People followed me on Facebook. It was fun. I was sore the next day, but it was definitely a sense of accomplishment, of having named the beast and then defeated it.

Incidentally, I weighed about 195 pounds at the time, 30 pounds heavier than today and technically a few pounds overweight. This is what my doctor meant at my physical exam visit the next year, when she noted the weight loss and asked about it. I sort of weakly tried to minimize it, mentioning that I was nowhere being underweight, it was a perfectly acceptable weight, lots of men my age looked like this, etc. Yeah, she said, but you didn't NEED to lose weight. There ya go. A 56-, nearly 57-year-old man walks 30 miles at a nice pace, with 2500 feet of elevation climb, on a warm day and does just fine? Weight is not an issue. Fitness is established.


By that fall, I'd already lost 25 pounds and knew something was up, although I couldn't help thinking of it as a good thing, those numbers dropping, even if unintentional. Even knowing that unintentional weight loss is not a good sign.

But I understood energy. I knew I wasn't taking in enough to keep up with what was going out, so I cut way back on walking. Instead of a couple of hours a day, it was a couple a week, and still I lost weight.

And I lost my routine, and still haven't found it. I have slices of the calendar when I'll get back there, but now I'm less tolerant of weather and so on. It's been a journey. I can still do a six-mile walk with lots of climbing and feel just fine, but it's not the same as doing it every day. The cumulative effect is strong in this area, for me.

I may be getting there, though. The nice weather this week has helped, as has my mood. And suddenly there's a fundraiser going on at church. Which is 30 miles away, as it's always been.

So it's crossed my mind. Get sponsors, say $1 a mile, say even 5 or 6 of them (it's a small church, although a very generous one). Might raise a few bucks, and give me a goal. I'm considering it, although I'm going to have to step up my game considerably to get in shape.


Just considering it, then. No promises. In the meantime, there's another way to raise money, and that's another post. The sun is shining and my feet are itching to pound some pavement, which is a good sign. I'm all about the signs.

Chuck Sigars4 Comments