Must hustle, can’t slow: Chronicle of a second-place finisher

April 20, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 20, 2016

I did a bunch of walking last week, thanks in no small part to wearable technology.

My niece, A—, issued a Workweek Hustle challenge through Fitbit, marking the second time she, my Parental Unit and I had engaged in a competition since my niece got a Fitbit this year. Once again, the metric was simple: The winner would be the person who got the most steps over the course of five days. Because of time-zone issues, the challenge began at 2 a.m. Eastern Time on Monday and ended at 2 a.m. E.T. on Saturday of this past week.

I fell behind both of my rivals relatively early. This was, alas, not terribly surprising. My niece averages about 12,000 steps a day; my parent, 16,000. My own daily step count is much more modest — about 9,000 or 10,000 entering the challenge.

I walked 11,460 steps on Monday, April 11, and 11,681 steps on the 12th. I started to take extended walks in earnest on Wednesday afternoon, when I parked in the western portion of the Streets at Southpoint mall lot and walked along Renaissance Parkway in Southern Durham to a big box retailer before doubling back en route to my destination, a pizza joint where my friends and I have been playing trivia night of late. (Our team name last week was Alfred Butts Club, because (a) he invented Scrabble and (b) April 13 was National Scrabble Day.)

(April 13, incidentally, is the day that Butts was born in 1899 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.)

After trivia ended, a bit before 10 p.m., I walked back toward the Southpoint parking lot — and I kept on going. I crossed over to the south side of Renaissance Parkway and passed a pond, near which lay the body of a Canada goose. When I reached the parkway’s eastern terminus, at Fayetteville Street, I turned north and began skirting the perimeter of the Southpoint property. I walked the outer edges of the parking lot until I’d passed the western side of the mall, whereupon I turned south and rendezvoused with my car. The walk spanned just shy of 2 miles and took a little more than 32 minutes (average pace: 16 minutes, 10 seconds per mile).

That was good, but I had a lot of catching up to do. After returning to my house and noodling around there for a bit, I headed out around a quarter to midnight and began walking toward Duke University’s East Campus. I headed west on West Markham Avenue, which runs along the East Campus’s northern border, and kept on going — for a good long while. I got home at 12:36 a.m. after having traveled 3.5 miles. My total steps for Wednesday, not including the post-midnight part of my ramble, came to 13,386.

Around 11:20 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, I’d put in about that number of steps when I headed out for another evening walk. I turned north on Broad Street and walked farther than I’d gone on my late-night March ramble, continuing all the way to the junction of Broad and Stadium Drive.

Mainly because I didn’t think that the eastern stretch of Stadium has a sidewalk and, somewhat to my surprise, the western stretch does, I turned left and began walking west. When I got to the intersection of Stadium and Carver Street, I consulted my smartphone map, because although I’ve driven that way before, I honestly couldn’t remember the fastest way to get home. (It was a good thing I did, because Stadium from that spot heads pretty much the opposite of where I wanted to go.)

All told, I covered some 4.1 miles in 65 or so minutes. I finished Thursday with 16,066 steps, again not counting my travels after midnight.

I checked the stats on the Workweek Hustle shortly after returning home and found that I trailed my parent by a bit more than 10,000 steps. That deficit grew over the course of Friday, to the point where I believe my parent’s lead was some 14,000 to 16,000 steps. That simply would not do.

A—’s stats were slow to update, for some reason, so while I seemed to be comfortably ahead of her, it was always possible that the next time I looked, I might find myself trailing her by a significant margin as well.

Those two factors motivated me to get walking on Friday — and I do mean walking. That afternoon, I parked near Durham Athletic Park and walked nearly three-quarters of a mile to the post office on East Chapel Hill Street in downtown Durham, where I mailed some tax stuff. Then it was back to my car by a roundabout route; this time, I traveled nearly a full mile in 16 minutes and 30 seconds.

Later that afternoon, I walked another full mile, this time from the vicinity of DAP to a spot around Brightleaf Square. That time, it took me a little under 16 minutes to travel a hair over a mile.

Later still on Friday, I took an extremely indirect path to return to my car. Chalk up another 2.1 miles in a little less than 35 minutes.

I drove home and had dinner. And then, around 10:35 p.m., I went out again.

I walked over to Club Boulevard and headed west to where it ends at Hillandale Road. From there, I turned north and walked a while before I got to Hillandale Golf Club. I pivoted to my right and wound my way through a residential neighborhood until I got back to Guess Road, at which point it was almost a straight shot back to the house. That accounted for 3.7 miles in just under an hour.

When I got home, I realized that I was only a few hundred steps from hitting 20,000 for the day. Having looked at A—’s publicly available Fitbit stats, I knew that that was a milestone that she had already hit multiple times in just a few months. Despite having had my gadget for around six months, I’d never gotten to that level.

I didn’t want to head outside (at least not yet), but I did want a badge for reaching 20,000 steps. So I began roaming around my house, back and forth, forth and back, back and forth…

I set an alarm to ring right around midnight. When it did, I was very pleased to see that I’d ended Friday with 20,111 steps.

But there were nearly two hours left in the Workweek Hustle challenge, and I still trailed my parent by a hefty margin. I rested for about 15 minutes and then hit the pavement one more time.

This time, I combined parts of my long walks from Wednesday evening and hours before: I went down to Markham and headed west before working my way over to Hillandale and threading through a quiet residential development on my way back home.

It wasn’t easy. By the time I got down to Markham, about a third of the way through the walk, my thighs were burning. As I navigated the final third, I occupied my mind by just listing what parts of my body hurt the most, in descending order: Thighs, ankles, feet, knees. Thighs, feet, ankle, knees. Thighs, ankles, feet…

As I passed the walk’s one-hour mark, I knew I had plenty more time before the challenge ended, but I also knew that I was physically spent. I arrived home around 1:30 a.m. having completed a nearly 4.8-mile long circuit in 75 minutes, with an average pace — somewhat impressively, to my mind — of 15 minutes, 42 seconds per mile.

I rested up a bit and then found I had the energy and ability to walk just a little more. I trudged around my house for 10 or 15 minutes until 2 a.m. came and went.

I completed the Workweek Hustle in second place, with 78,432 steps — about 3,800 steps behind my parent, who finished with 82,248 steps.

Reader, I was a little sore the next couple of days. But it wasn’t too bad. (Honest!)

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