First and foremost, I want to kiss the salesman at Run On full on the lips for hooking me up with shoes that really took a beating and pushing me to buy lots of synthetic socks. (Cotton? She dun lyk the long-hauls.) I *did* get a blister, but it was from my CAMP SHOES. Which sucks and made me laugh at the ridiculousness. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Today's forecast: cloudy, WINDY, and cold. (We had people from Detroit here, and they admitted it was cold, too.) 30 mph winds, with gusts to 45. Um, yay? We get started and it's a bottleneck through a neighborhood, so I made my way through the pack to get to where I could have a more comfortable stride. (I don't know about you, but the thought of taking little mincing steps for 20 miles seems like torture to me.) I chat with some folks on my way through the throngs, but it seemed like most people were just wanting to talk with their teammates this morning. I got a little down about that, but channeled that frustration into really pushing myself with speed, etc. (Disclaimer: It's a Walk, not a race. Yeah, yeah - I can't help my competitive nature. :D)
Since Mother Nature is croo-elle, I make a point to stop at every pit stop. Here's the bonus of being towards the front of a pack - you're one of the first (if not THE first) to use the porta-potties. NICE. The crew that's signed on (volunteers from all over the country!) are all dressed up in crazy costumes cheering you on and rushing to get you anything you need - sports drink, water, bananas, etc. Some are in vans that they've decorated ("Forget the whales. SAVE THE BOOBS!" and the like) and drive up and down the route checking to make sure people are okay, cheering you on, etc. Here's a drawback to being at the front of pack - you outstrip the support vans. There were times when I didn't see a single van for an hour. Yikes. But walking in strong wind like that? I didn't want to stop, I wanted to be DONE.
Miles 9 - 13.1 (we have route cards that tell us how long everything is) were done on a single stretch of road through an industrial section of the city. Straight into the wind. Incline. I can't tell you how much I wanted to give up. There were times that the wind literally knocked me back. This was when I didn't see a single support van. There were lots of semi-trucks driving alongside, and they figured out what we were doing. (I had a pod of about four walkers behind me a ways back, and there were two people I could see way out in front of me) They started honking their horns and waving, and that helped. We FINALLY got to a left turn which meant the wind wouldn't be blasting my face any more, and I was so discouraged at that point... Right around the corner was a group of women from a local shoe store with CHAPSTICK. But more importantly, one of them brought her Weimaraner, with a pink "You Go, Girl!" t-shirt on. You know how some dogs get so happy, their whole body wriggles from side to side, not just their tail? Heee! This pup was all wriggles and licks and I dropped to my haunches and hugged the stuffing out of that sweetheart.
I finally met up with the couple I saw way out in front of me at one of the pit stops towards the end of the day (I was pretty much a solo walker on Day 1) and learned they were a retired couple in their 60s who decided to "check out this walk thing." The husband had BACK SURGERY earlier this year. I can't stress how much they did NOT look like fit people. They looked like folks who eat a lot of fried foods, if you know what I mean. They SMOKED my ass, and almost everyone in the whole Walk. Fun, positive go-getters were Glenn and Cora. (Hee! How perfect are those names?) I tried my best to keep up with them, and they gave me a smile and said, "Okay kiddo. We're gonna pour it on. See ya back at camp." And they FLEW. I can tell there's a woman a ways back from me, give her a friendly wave, and push on the last mile. Which was actually 3. (They cheated. It was a mile to the camp's ENTRANCE, but 2.1 miles to the actual tent site, meaning we walked 22.1 miles for this day.) This last stretch was through a wooded park with a gorgeous suspension bridge over the Trinity River (I took pics.) The best part about that was NO MORE WIND. I finally crossed the "finish line" and they told me "10."
10 what? "You're number 10." I... Huh??? "You're the tenth person, congratulations!" You could have knocked me over with a feather. There were 2500 participants, and I was the 10th. I knew I was a fast walker, but HOLY SMOKES. (Glenn and Cora were 8 and 9, and they kept that position ALL THREE DAYS.) Here's the bonus for being at the front of the pack - you're the first in the shower. But first, I tracked down my tent site, set up the tent - helped a few others (I continue to be amazed at how few people have ever set up a tent/slept in a sleeping bag before. Really?? Huh.) - get my shower stuff and SWEET MOTHER OF CHEESE DOODLES, THERE IS NO HOT WATER YET ARRRRRGGGGGHHH! That's not a bonus. Kee-rist, that was an eye opener. The hot water kicked in about half-way through.
Clean, dressed in comfy clothes, stinky shoes and socks stored in a zip-lock bag, I wander around the campsite looking to meet up with people. Chit-chat with various teams and crew members, then head back to the tent to see if my tent mate's shown up yet. Nope. Get dinner (which was actually meh but tasted OHMYGODSOGOOD because I was hongray) and bow out of the "Karaoke night" in favor of sleep. I swear to the god of your choice, some woman sang a forty-seven minute rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" and if I ever hear "fllllllyyyyyyy, FLLLLYYYYYYYYY!" again, I may pull out a sling shot and put my own eye out. I fell asleep at about 7:30 (the day started at 5 am) and woke up at 10pm when my tentmate arrived. She was just getting to the shower and started telling me all about herself, how she'd never been away from home before (EVER), had never had to pack an overnight bag, had never slept in a tent, and wasn't this all so amazing? And .... Dude, let's talk at breakfast. So sleepy is me. She goes to the shower and didn't finish until 12:30 AM. I am not making this up. She kept mentioning this as she climbed back in to the tent "Can you believe how late it is? Isn't this a wonderful experience? I'm so homesick. Why are you here? I miss my husband. Should I sleep on top of my sleeping bag? I've never done this be-" Me: Zzzzzzzzzzzz.
I would have preferred the older Polish bed farter, truth be told. :| Every time I shifted in my sleep (and next year I'll bring a foam pad - no rain in Texas means HARD GROUND) she would pop up "Is it time to get up?" "No, I'm just turning over. Sorry if I woke you?" "Oh, no, I'm just excited and can't sleep. I've never-" Me: Zzzzzzzzzz. I'm uh... I'm an efficient camper. I've done it enough that I know I don't need full bottles of toiletries, there are no OUTLETS so I don't need hair dryers, etc. (Sue: I've just described hell, huh?) Everything goes in a bag for the day so you can just whip out Day 2 and all your stuff is there. She was... she wasn't efficient. I didn't want to wait around for her to get some coffee and breakfast, so I took off. (Oh, and I had forgotten how hard it is to climb out of a warm bag and hit the porta-potty in the middle of the night...) She seemed to really enjoy being a novice and mentioned how this was her first for everything, so... Okay, you know how some Kindergarten teachers keep talking to grownups like they talk to their students? Yeah.
Good god, I'm verbose today. The best thing? NO WIND. Sun sun sun. I started off towards the front of the pack today, so I wouldn't have to work my way through the throngs and met up with Glenn and Cora again. I knew I wouldn't be able to pace with them, so I held out as long as I could, then settled into a good stride. There were loads of people lining the route cheering us on, and I can't tell you how awesome that feels. It's always right when you're feeling tired or achy and then there's forty people with sparkly signs and music pumping from their cars' stereos, and it's just fantastic. I mean, a THRONG of people telling you "thank you" and "you're terrific!" Who wouldn't love that? This was the first day I saw a breast cancer survivor in the cheering stations, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't start tearing up. She gave me a hug and kissed my cheek and it became all that more important for me to not quit. I mean, I raised the money. The money is there. But the mental commitment to DO something, to make a difference (if only for myself) was reaffirmed right then.
The next cheering station was where I saw a husband and his kids. His wife had died earlier that year. He held a sign that told us we were walking for his daughter, so she could grow up and be with her children. I barely stopped at the pit stops after that. Nothing was going to slow me down. I got a Charley horse in my right calf at mile 18 - I still had 3 miles to go. I ended up pulling my Achilles heel on my left leg through over-compensating, but walking through it heated my muscles back up enough to work it out. This was when I changed the words (in my head) to the Simon and Garfunkle staple:
Hello leg cramp my old friend
I've come to rub you out again
Because the muscle it i-is seizing
And the Ben-Gay is so-o pleasing...
I came in 34th on Saturday. I set my goal for finishing in the top 50 on Sunday.
That night they had a disco cover band that was really funny and actually pretty good: "Le Freak." At first I was eye-rolly, I'm not gonna lie, but when they pulled up a few cancer survivors onstage and were getting down with them, then took someone's camera and the lead singer took a camera shot a picture down his incredibly tight pants, I cracked up and had fun. I made a pit stop at the Medical tent to grab some Bio-Freeze in case my leg cramped up again, and saw that they had the HOTTEST GUYS IN THE WORLD massaging sore walkers. What the WHAT?! AND OF COURSE, I got a medical intern (chick) that decided I was fine and could just go back to camp. !!! But! But! Dr. Dreamy over there in triage (I swear, I could NOT answer his questions - he was SO PRETTY I could do nothing but stammer) said I could have my "soft tissues manipulated!" Uhhhhhhhh *dies*
I hung out at the "Cafe" with some of the crew from Detroit - this was their 7th Walk, and they were just so cool. This was one of the best parts of the Walk - meeting people from all over, hearing their stories and how POSITIVE they all were. Everyone I met up with had a humorous/positive outlook on life, and they had ENORMOUS challenges. Believe me when I say that I'm going to curb my complaining. Women who had had surgery and were walking months afterwards, women who had never exercised before they signed up, men who had lost mothers just months before, sisters... All positive, all involved in making a change, all with a sense of humor and joy just radiated from them all.
Back to bed, still no tentmate, I'm asleep by 8:30 tonight. (She shows up at 10ish and I just "mm hmm" her rambling until I fall asleep. Which sounds awful. But I'd just walked over 20 miles that day and was TIRED! I'm being polite to her, just not encouraging lots of chit-chat in the wee hours.) I reminded her that she might not want to leave her shoes outside the tent (if not in a bag) because they'll get wet, but she didn't listen. *shrugs* And I should take a moment to mention how much I love my clip-on flashlight - pitch black porta-potties at 3am would be a nightmare.
This is the big day -- the last day. They have buses that take us to the starting point today which was a great way to meet more people. We start off at another beautiful park and I set my stride and meet up with a woman who spent last year in Nepal, acclimating to Mt. Everest's base camp. COOL. Also, she and her husband are moving to Utah (Park City) so we have loads to talk about. She's a hiker, so she knew a lot of the trails that I loved out there, but we split up at the first Pit Stop. That was also when I noticed a blister forming. (I should mention that I wore "sport sandals" at camp - the kinds with the massaging nubs on them? Bad idea. I felt a hot spot Saturday night, but just chalked it up to tired feet.) I pull in to a medical stop and get Kelvin to wrap my foot. Dude, I had a CUSHION attached to my foot and it was awesome. Antibiotic + Second Skin + big bandage + donut of moleskin + foot wrap = STONEY CAN KEEP ON KEEPING ON.
I fall behind while getting my foot wrapped and remind myself that it's a WALK not a race. (Whatever, I'm super competitive. I wanna PLOW.) I set my pace with a couple of guys, one is a dad who's walking for his 16 year old daughter (she doesn't have cancer; he's hoping she never does) and Marty, who I crossed the finish line with, who just was awesome and wanted to help the cause. Marty had back surgery on FOUR SLIPPED DISKS 10 months prior. One thing I learned: I don't care how bad you think your medical condition is. If you train your body to endure and keep a postive attitude, you can do anything. Don't try and argue this with me: I saw women who were STILL ON CHEMO walking. They were getting their blood/vitals checked at every station. They had no hair. They were wan and grey and they walked 60 miles in one weekend. I saw a woman who had BLOWN OUT HER SHINS. She was wrapped from knee to toes on both legs. I cried and hugged her when she crossed the line. (She was the lone walker behind me on day 1. She came in 104th on Day 3. Out of 2500!!)
So. If you believe you can do something, you can do it. Yeah, that sounds schmaltzy. So I sound schmaltzy. It's totally and completely true, however.
I kept pace with a Hispanic woman for a few miles - she said she had worked her butt off to catch up with me, so I enjoyed not pushing myself for a bit to visit. She was turning 48 on this Tuesday and wanted to say that she's done SOMETHING major before the big day. Um, this is pretty major. :) She had never exercised a day in her life before she signed up in March. She was overweight, had high cholesterol, and had bad knees. She came in 87th on Day 3. I cried and hugged her at the finish line, too.
Oh, I came in 47th on Sunday. I kept my goal of the top 50, but it so wasn't about that. At the end, the last people to cross the finish line were people that had been "swept." (The vans picked up the people who were in distress, that sort of thing.) EVERYONE walks in at the last. Everyone. Even if that means four people surround you and hold you up. You walk in. Everyone gets to have that experience. It's so amazing to see people crying, their legs wrapped, their faces sweaty, their fists pumped high as they cross that line. Come hell or high water. We all walk in to the final ceremony together in one solid block, hands held. It's pretty cool. (Glenn and Cora found me and brought me up with them. Aww.) While we stand there, the final walkers are the survivors that participated. They make a circle in the middle of us and raise a 3 Day flag. Women with double mastectomies, no hair, and to look at them, not much strength. And all ten of them did the full 60 miles. Talk about beautiful.
I carried your names with me. For those who gave me names of those that didn't make it, I hope you don't mind that I put their names in the Remembrance Book. There's a white tent for each of the cities that hosts this event where people write the names of those that have passed, so they're there with us in spirit. I wrote them there as well, and I hope you know I did it with love.
One man (in his 60s) was here after signing up for the first walk this year in Boston. He met a young woman there that was 21 and going through chemo. She was a junior in college and had to drop out because she was so ill. Her best friend dropped out of school, too, to help her through chemo - and shaved her head, too. Her best friend was doing the walk, and the girl had come to camp to support her. That man decided to walk ALL TWELVE 3-DAYS this year and every year until he could no longer walk, or they found a cure. Whichever came first. 720 miles. Mind boggling.
For the record: Dallas/Ft. Worth raised 6.5 MILLION DOLLARS that directly goes to the "front lines." (translation: medical costs for people going through treatment and research on a cure.) I can't thank you enough for donating. I can't thank you enough for cheering me on. But let me try: THANK YOU.
I'm doing this again next year. And the year after. It was absolutely life-changing.
[ETA] I almost forgot!! Our youngest walker was 16. She was walking with her Grandpa. Her mother (his daughter) was newly diagnosed and undergoing treatment. She left Friday night and went to her HOMECOMING (her date picked her up at camp) and came back later that night. Isn't that fantastic? Talk about a story to tell your kids...
[ETA#2] Gah. I forgot to mention that I cam home to MOON CAKES ALL THE WAY FROM SHANGHAI, CHINA from my lovely lovely cherusha!! Dammit, I have the best friends in the world. And everytime I go to my user info page, I have a lovely rose from entrenous88 to remind me of how much of a support she's been, too. I LOVE MY LIFE AND FRIENDS! *hugs you all*