This year’s long walks

Jackie and I have gotten back to our very long walks.

Last Saturday we went to Lake of the Woods and cobbled together their 5-mile prairie trail and their 3.3-mile bike path (together with a couple of jaunts down maintenance roads) into an 11-mile hike. (My goal had been “more than 10 miles.”)

It was great.

The prairie was full of these bluebird houses that had been occupied by tree swallows.

tree-swallows

The tree swallows daunted me briefly; I don’t remember having seen the species before (although I must have). I spent the whole prairie phase of our walk staring at them, thinking “They’re not bluebirds. They’re not indigo buntings. They’re not purple martins,” over and over again.

I’m sure they weren’t the only interesting species I saw, but they’re the only one that comes to mind now, a week later.

We parked near the Museum of the Grand Prairie, and ate our snack in the botanical garden, which brought to mind the day Steven and I bicycled to Lake of the Woods, which I’d remembered as last year, but which turns out to have been in 2011.

I’d earlier gotten a picture of Jackie and me at the picnic table where we’d later have our snack. I like to think of it as a modern reinterpretation of the Victorian portrait.

jackie-phil-victorian-portrait

Yesterday we did a longer hike. My goal this time was “more than 15 miles,” and we each hit it, although we separated around mile 13, after swinging by the Student Union in time for me to attend my Esperanto meeting. Jackie went on home after drinking some iced coffee. I stayed to speak some Esperanto, then walked on through the water amenities, downtown Champaign, and West Side Park.

Along the way we passed the university’s Agronomy building. We’d passed it a year ago, and I’d neglected to get a picture of the name over the door, and very much regretted it ever since. So this time I made a point of pausing for a photo-op:

agronomy buildingI like the harvest iconography on each side of the name. Very handsome.

To do the whole 33.5 miles during daylight, we’re going to have to set a pretty good pace.

Last summer we did okay when we didn’t have to spend too much time fiddling with things. (It’s surprising how many things need to be fiddled with on a long walk—socks, boot laces, packs and their contents, water bottles and the refilling thereof, intersections both with and without pedestrian walk signals. The list is all but endless, and on more than one hike it seemed like something needed to be fiddled with on virtually every mile, such that we’d get home and look at our speed and remember, “Oh, yes. That mile was slow because we stopped to get a snack, and that mile was slow we had to reapply suntan lotion, and that mile was slow because we stopped to use the restroom. . . .”) When we didn’t stop to fiddle with something, we often finished a mile in not much over 18 minutes, even late in a hike. However, even when we hustled right along, we never broke 18 minutes all summer long.

Last week we did do a sub-18 minute mile, and when we started out yesterday, our first mile came in under 18 minutes again. We were pleased with ourselves and decided to pick up the pace a bit more, and managed to beat our time for the second mile, and then again for the third. By then we were all warmed up and covering a stretch of the route where there was almost no interaction with traffic, so we decided to push the pace a bit more, and managed to do a sub-17 minute mile, which is pretty darned fast walking.

Here’s the Endomondo track of my version of the walk (Jackie’s is the same until we separated along about mile 13):

Up to now, we’ve pushed the distance rather quickly, since we’re just recovering distance that we were doing easily enough last summer. Our next walk, which will be around 20 miles, will be a new “longest walk ever” for each of us. After that, we’ll want to do perhaps 25 miles in late May and then the same (perhaps slightly more) in early June. I think that’s as long of a training walk as we’ll need to do. The whole point is to make 33.5 miles a special effort, something that would be undermined by doing the whole distance in training.