Man, I feel great. I was a little stiff on Sunday after my husband picked us up from the Closing Ceremonies, but other than that, no aches, pains, nothing. Far different from last year when I partially tore my Achilles. It pays to NOT have Saucony on your feet. Ptoo, Ptoo on those shoes. (Too much padding in the heel = hyper extending your Achilles = OUCH.) For the record, Ascics and New Balance this year, and they were great. Most important were the socks: Balega. I cannot stress enough the glory of those socks. Arch support in a SOCK? Yes, please!
So, we started off at the world famous South Fork Ranch. (A little show called "Dallas" was filmed there, maybe you've heard of it?) We didn't know that later that day a 30 year reunion would be happening. *shrug* I haven't been there since I was a kid and the show was still on the air. Yep, still looks the same. It was nice, though, to have all the horses run alongside the fence, wondering what we two-legs were up to.
Here I am at 5am, being completely dorky and rocking out to the theme song to "The Greatest American Hero." Who wants to hear that sh*t at 5am? Evidently every one but Chrissy and me. Incidentally, the event was sponsored by the local "lite adult contemporary" music station. What has two thumbs and hates that music? This gal! Jackson Browne is not going to get you going in the morning, I'm just saying. We kept joking and saying they should play "Smack My Bitch Up." Um, not loud enough for anyone to hear us, of course. :D
My eyes are red because I'm Satan. Next is a shot we got someone to take of the both of us (the only one, whoops!) and I am a mastodon in comparison to her. She's itty bitty. Also, please understand that I don't give a sh*t how I look at 5 am. Also, I have a Chihuahua head on a Great Dane body, which is why you will normally only see me with my hair down and out. Again: we were up at 4am to get there by 5am.
Here's Chrissy wishing that Billy Ocean wasn't playing in the background, because she didn't want to get out of his dream and into his car because she learned about Stranger Danger as a kid.
Opening Ceremonies have started, the sun is up, and the women standing on the platform are all breast cancer survivors that are doing the walk. 5 of them are still undergoing chemo, incidentally. Don't ever try and tell me you can't do something. I'll just point you to these women. (Note the flags around them. They'll become important.)
Here's the actual ranch as we're negotiating our way through the crowd to get up front so we can stretch our legs and hustle.
(Can't you just hear the theme song? Well, all 4000+ participants were singing it, so we sure could.)
On the first morning, we passed an elementary school where the teachers let a bunch of the kids out to cheer us on. So cool! They were screaming and jumping and cheering, and the teachers were applauding, and we were applauding them. Great way to start your day. (Oh, and after we passed the school, we went through a small town's town square where the businesses came out to cheer us on. Men in suits, women that ran boutiques... Awesome. Plus? They gave us DONUTS. <3) It's seriously a 60 mile buffet.
We got to "lunch" which is slightly over halfway for the day, 12.1 miles of the 22.3 planned, and you'll notice 7 other peeps there. The bonus of being up front? You're the first to the porta potties and the showers. PRICELESS.
We get back to camp by 1:30, immediately set up our tent, stow our gear, and get our toiletries. Shower = relief. They have nurses that stand outside the showers that won't let you in unless you eat something. We each had carrots, so they let us in. A lot of women, we found out, lied about eating so they could get clean and as soon as the hot water hit them, they passed out. Which meant the nurses had to drag their naked, wet bodies out of the shower and put them on stretchers outside. Guess what? Don't lie to a nurse. Eat a damn apple or something. And can I just stress how freaking good hot water feels when you've walked over 20 miles and are dusty and tired? OMG so groooood.
Nice things: there were almost 400 men that participated this year. They walked for their wives, daughters, nieces, or they walked in their place because they didn't make it. Hooo, there were some hard moments when you caught up with someone to pass, and you saw the back of their t-shirt "I walk for [___]" and a date below that. The ones that ended in 2008 were the most painful to see, I have to tell you. There were lots of emotional hugs on this walk, let me tell you. Lots of back clapping and "I'm so proud to be here with you." Pretty spectacular. (And heartbreaking.)
Remember those flags I mentioned? yeah. The organizers thought it would be super awesome and symbolic to have walkers carry them, and that way you could "give some other walker Courage." *head thunk* I'm not a fan of forced emotional response, first off. Big anti-that. It's like, you are preaching to the choir, people! We're here because we're believers in the cause, because it means something to us, and now you want to make it harder? Try carrying one of those big flags for 20 miles. Chrissy got saddled with "Dreams." There were lots of jokes at the flag's expense. I'm sure you can imagine some of them. We finally passed "Dreams" on to some schlep coming out of a porta-potty. NICE! hahahaha, that's terrible. But come on, I can't stand that maudlin stuff. Just let me talk to people on my own without forcing the topic, you know? I'm awful, we know this.
I like her "oh, great" face there. Hahahaha.
Now. This I support, because of what it means. This next picture is the remembrance tent, where you can write messages to both walkers that didn't make it back (*cries*) or to loved ones that you are walking for. If you will indulge me for a minute, I would like to list the names that I wrote on the white tent (symbolizing their spirit) each with a message that they were loved and missed very much.
Lois Geraldine Martin
Lisa Knapman-Smith (with words of hope for her little boy)
No pictures are allowed (nor would that be appropriate) inside, but there is a view of the site. I thought there might be some of you that would want to see that. <3
Right before we went to bed (we were seriously in our tents, jim-jammed and toof brushed by 8pm every night)
This is a poor picture, but it's the only one I got. This is the Last Walker. The thing I love most about this event is how supportive of each other we are. It's not about being first (I have to remind myself of that, I know, I'm awful) but what a cool thing to be the last person in. You didn't give up, you didn't stop, you kept on even though you may be out of shape, hurting, injured, tired, deflated. Everyone lines up and cheers her on, and she gets to raise the camp flag for the night. I have a lot of respect for someone that doesn't give up, I have to tell you. (More on that later. Hem.) She's in the black leggings behind the sign, btw.
The last night in camp (this is the eating tent.) A local drill team came out to entertain us, and while I'm not a drill team kinda gal, I was really touched by these girls. It was COOOOOLD and they never stopped smiling, even though some of them were crying. Some of them had mothers that were walking, and it was really sweet.
Hoo, were we tired come Sunday. It was the coldest morning by far (started out at 42 degrees) and standing in shorts and a tee shirt for a half hour, waiting to get going isn't fun. We passed the longest cheering station I've ever seen (two city blocks!!) and more people came out with their dogs and their kids and shoved candy and stickers and beads in our hands, and it was just over powering. How do you tell someone thank you? I felt like I was the one that needed to thank them, because I don't know if most of them understand how cheering it is to see people happy, their families, the survivors, when you are wondering what the hell you're doing out on a cold morning, hitting your 56th mile in less than 55 hours. And there was one woman who clearly had been a walker in the past, because she gave us frozen grapes, and man oh man, is that the perfect treat when you're hot, tired, and dusty.
I don't even know how to talk about the survivors standing on the side of the road, crying and smiling and thanking us. Or the men who had lost their wives or daughters that just wanted to hold our hands. I mean... I'm out there for THEM. They're the ones that deserve the praise, you know? I'm just some schlep pounding the pavement, they're the ones-
I'm getting choked up remembering it. It's pretty overpowering, pretty awe-inspiring, and yes, I'm doing this again next year.
We round a corner and THERE IT IS! The freaking finish line, and they're playing "She's a Bad Mama Jamma!" so I freaking rocked out over the finish line, because some on! Just as fine as she can be! There's hugs and tears and tee shirts and roses and every one congratulating themselves, and the people you met along the way come across the line and there's cheers for them, and it's just awesome.
(Seriously, look at her legs! It's almost sickening, except for how awesome it is. People were walking behind her marveling at her calves. Hahahaha. All it takes is to run 10 -12 miles 6 days a week and use a bike as your main mode of transportation and... *falls asleep*)
Things to remember for next time, and a little commentary on what I like to call CHEATERS.
Holy crapola, I had no idea that women could snore that loud. Our tent neighbors woke us up so many times, and if it wasn't for the cold outside and the very very warm sleeping bag I was in, I would have stormed out and shook her tent, shouting "TURN OVER OH MY GOD!!" Next year, I'm bringing ear plugs. Sheesh.
Also, i continue to marvel at how out of touch so many people are with camping. Really? Pup tents are, what I thought, intuitive to set up, and we had to help so many people figure it out. Which, I didn't mind, I just marvel. Didn't everyone sleep outside in a tent once?? Huh. Also, the Kindle is EXCELLENT on a camping excursion. I put my head lamp on, laid snuggled in my mummy bag, and read until I fell asleep each night. (When You're Engulfed In Flames, Dave Sedaris. So. Damn. Funny.)
Now, the cheaters. Let me explain to you why I walk, and why I think a lot of people participate in this particular event: you suffer for a few days to honor the suffering of others. Walking 60 miles? That can't compare with chemo, am I right? It's also a camaraderie, a time to meet people, to share stories, to connect. It's also a time to prove something to yourself, that you can overcome the pain you're going to feel on something like this, just as we can overcome this disease. That's not unreasonable, right?
Alright. Clearly not everyone is equipped to pound through 60 miles. I get it. You're going to have people that sprain their ankles, hurt their knees, get blisters, etc. They have "sweep" vans to pick you up and take you to the next stop for medical attention, and hopefully you'll get back on the trail. Guys, there were women that PLANNED on getting picked up because they wanted to "get ahead" of the front pack, or, and I swear to the god of your choice I heard this next one and about came unglued, "it doesn't really matter."
The snoring tent mates? They were laughing at the women that were "walking the whole thing when they don't need to." They hung around camp, got a lift to LUNCH (the just over half-way point) and then walked to the next stop, then got a lift to the next stop after that so they could go to the bathroom faster.
Talk about missing the point. Way to take the shine off the accomplishment of the others. I was hearing women say they never trained, they didn't bother reading the material talking about how to care for your body on this, on and on. That medical staff? I bet they don't want to be swamped with hyponutremia and injuries and women passing out because they couldn't be bothered with preparing. They don't come here to act as an ER, they're SUPPORT. Good lord, the selfishness!! I was really upset by that, as you can tell. The utter self-centeredness. Those nurses dragging multiple bodies out of running showers and trying to lift them down the steps to where a gurney awaited?? Don't you think they have better things to do, like check the vitals of the women undergoing chemo on the walk? Sheesh.
If I hear that you're one of those lazy sorts, I'll shake my fist at you. There were SURVIVORS walking all 60 miles. Women who had so recently finished chemo that they still hadn't gotten more than peach fuzz back, and they can walk it and you can't?? BAH! Shame, shame, shame. I saw women that were morbidly obese, their ankles wrapped within an inch of their life, walking the whole thing. Did they get through quickly? No. But they did it. I was so proud and amazed by their determination. Fantastic stuff. I just thought that it was a slap in the face of those who came out to really prove something, you know? Booo.
Positive thing, because I hate ending on an ugly note: I met a man that decided this year to honor his mother who had died of breast cancer. He lost 50 pounds since February, stopped smoking, got healthy and fit, and signed up. He raised over $3000 in a few months and he came in at number 5. He waved me over for a hug when he saw me cross the line. He was so great. There was a woman that walked with Chrissy and I for a while, doing the walk by herself. Except for how her husband came to EVERY SINGLE PIT STOP to cheer her on and give her a hug. There are usually 9 pit stops a day. On Saturday, he walked with her for four miles, holding her hand the whole time. How freaking cute is that? And he wasn't the only one, he was just my favorite.
When she crossed the finish line, he gave her 2 dozen roses. (This was her FOURTH walk.) I mentioned this to Mr. Stoney, believe me. :D I'm going for a three-peat next year, and I might drag Mr. S along with me, so he can see for himself what his wife gets up to every fall. :)
60 miles. It's hell while you're doing it, but just like childbirth, you don't remember the pain when it's over. <3