Friday, October 22, 2010

The Big Walk DAY 3

Me at Greenlake in the rain.
Downtown Seattle isn’t easy to walk in even when not going too far. It is all up and down. We met at camp in Everett, got scanned in after waiting 20 minutes in pouring rain to get onto busses, and then were dropped off at Northgate at the hospital there. Still a little confusion on finding all our team together, but we finally did find each other and began walking in the downpour. It rained hard for fifteen minutes or so and then slowed to that soft misty familiar Seattle rain for most of the morning.

It was hard to talk because rain hood muffle sound. Also, when in pain, I get quiet or chatty. I spent the first half of the day trying to mask what I was really feeling by being stupid chatty about nothing really. I was just trying to stay positive for something I felt pretty negative about. Not the cause, but the idea of walking all those miles---I just wanted to quit and go home and forget all this non-sense. I really was hating it.

I kept telling Kelly and Heather to enjoy it, because I wasn’t ever doing this again. I really don’t feel the need to or want to. I know to some people that sounds awful, but I don’t think you have to go to that extreme to make a point or get healthy. I now know I can walk 5 or 10 miles and feel good. I don’t need to walk 20 three days in a row. I can give money to breast cancer or cancer research without walking. I think there are many reasons people do this walk and for some it is their life and that’s fine, I have too many other things that are also important in my life and causes without training for something like this over and over.

I know many of you are reading this to know what it is like. People ask me questions like “Did you have fun?” That is a hard question to answer. I find it interesting and some people and moments “fun” and the feeling of accomplishment is wonderful. So in that I am proud of what I did, but…

We went from Northgate down to Greenlake to the Wallingford steps. We ran into the Oktoberfest 5K run and had to wait a while. We eventually hit Gas Works Park as one of the pit stops, but we were having to make up time so I didn’t get a picture of that foggy morning. It was really beautiful as the rain had just cleared and the fog was starting to clear, but the light was gorgeous!
Picture of us crossing Mountlake Bridge.
After Gasworks we headed towards that big Greek Orthodox Church and up Capitol Hill up 10th that winds up to Volunteer Park. Now, at this point we had the choice of riding a van or walking it. They were shuttling people up in vans to lunch that didn’t want to walk the mile and a half climb straight up, but this was my last day and I was determined to walk the entire thing. See? This is the mentality everyone gets in and how injuries happen. Your pride gets the better of you. But I am proud to say I made it all the way up! Picture of me hugging one of our joy filled 3 Day Stalkers. I was so happy to see a happy face at the entrance to Volunteer Park. When we got to lunch we only had 10 minutes to spare though to make it back on the trail in order to walk the planned route to the Seattle Center that day.

From there we headed down to Pike Place Market and the waterfront.
My knees really were screaming at this part. Picture of Heather with Hammering Man by the SAM. She kept me going at this point as my knees were screaming loudly. You were pulled along by gravity mostly. After a pit stop at the waterfront the course turned back up a steady climb up to the Seattle Center through the new Sculpture Park. Picture of Kelly at the waterfront pit stop at this point she was ready for it to be over too. Me at sculpture park saying to myself only a mile and a half to go!

I do like the last day as I don’t get to see Seattle by foot much and you do see a lot more. The weather held and we got to walk the last bit in the dry. I walked or hobbled the last couple of miles with a gal in a walking boot (cast). She had a stress fracture she got on the first day and had insisted she wanted to walk the majority of this day. I shudder to think how she felt after it was all over. I had met another gal on crutches who sustained an injury on the second day as a lady behind her grabbed her backpack on the way down a hill as she fell. The grabber was fine as her fall was broken by the grabbee. The grabbee unfortunately had torn ligaments and muscle because of it, but she decided to crutch the last mile or so. Ouch! Our lovely drum lady that stalked us all 3 days. She kept me going with her infectious smile and energy!

When we all walked in and down the stairs into holding, that is when I broke down. I sobbed because we were done and the pain was overwhelming. I sobbed out of exhaustion. I sobbed because we made it. I sobbed because it is emotional with a huge crowd of people cheering you on and deep down you feel like “what have I done to deserve this praise?”

When we got into closing ceremonies after they gave us our t-shirts and roses. It is always overwhelming the sheer numbers of people and how loud everything is. We stand there waiting to finish. Stand and stand and stand. Not the thing you desire to do after walking all that way. Some people are energized by the emotion of it all. I wasn’t this time. Me at the closing ceremony.

I was moved by seeing all the pink shirts of how many survivors walked. I am grateful they are here and can participate and that is moving to an extent. Everyone is instructed to take their shoe off and hold it up to the survivors and kneel. I felt bad, but I didn’t do this out of sheer practicality. I didn’t think I would be able to get my swollen foot back in a shoe or get down and up from the ground. I held up my roses instead and still felt very grateful that they were there. The survivors that walked at closing ceremony.

I am grateful to this organization that they raise so much money for the cause. They said a little over 6 million dollars was raised by Seattle walker this year alone. There are something like 25 cities this walk takes place in and San Diego is the largest with twice the walkers we have here. This all came from a promise a sister gave another sister. Now men, women, and I saw a few teens walk in these every year honoring those that didn’t make it through this disease it is a way to work out grief. Honoring those that did make it and those still walking through it. It is a walk to remind all us women to get healthier habits, get checked regularly, and to lift up those along the way no matter where they are on this road.

I decided I will do this walk again if I need it or someone close to me needs it as the symbol that it is to empower you to walk on in this fight. It has a power to it. But, until then I’ll gladly cheer those on that need to walk and walk and walk.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Walking the BIG Walk DAY 1

It has been a little over a week since I walked in the Susan G. Korman 3 Day Breast Cancer Walk in Seattle. September 24-26, 2,300 people including myself walked a lot of miles.

I trained better this time for this walk then I did 2 years ago when I walked (see 2008 blog post). Mainly due to this time Kelly, my teammate, trained with me and was dedicated to seeing us succeed. I was walking the last 2 months on average 30 miles or more a week. Still it is a huge commitment to train for this as I still didn't hit the goal that the 3 Day coaches set for you.

An average week the 3 day coaches ask you to: Mon. rest, Tues. walk 5-7 miles, Wed. cross train for 2 hours, Thurs. walk an easy 10-12 miles, Fri. walk 8 miles hills, Sat. walk 15 miles, Sun. walk 18-20 miles and then do it all over again the next week. You build up to this of course, walking 2 miles several times a week, then 5 and so on. But the last couple of months that is a typical schedule they want you to hit because you are walking 3 marathons three days in a row is what you are training to do.

The thing is the time commitment along with the constant soar feet and blisters that gets to me. Someone asked me how long it takes to walk 20 miles in a day. Even at a brisk pace it is at least 6 hours and if you are a slow walker like me (my pace never got much faster) it is 2.5 miles an hour on average, so it takes me about 8 hours with very short breaks to get it all in. So, once you walk, that is your day and I couldn't sacrifice every weekend to this.

Life gets in the way and I don't know one person that can actually do this schedule except "the lifers" as I call them. Those are the people that sacrifice everything and this is their purpose, they do this walk every year no matter what. They must train on the schedule or have great genetics or both. Yeah for them! Go lifers go! Raise that money! Walk those miles! Hopefully, some day, because of their diligence a cure for cancer will be found.

Don't get me wrong, I did my part too. And I didn't completely fail in the walking either. I am proud to say my cardio and lungs are much better then they were when I began this process and I hope to keep it up and not fall completely back to my couch potato ways.

The first day we began in Redmond at 60 Acres Park walked through Woodinville/Bothell and walked up to South Everett. The goal was 22.5 miles and I walked a solid 19 of it and took the van from there to camp as my feet and knees had given up. It is hard for me to sleep before something like this and I was running on little sleep too. We had to be at Opening Ceremonies to check-in between 5:30-6 a.m. which means we all had to be up and out of the house by 5 a.m. at the latest. When you wake up nearly every hour it doesn't make good sleep even if you went to bed early (11 pm). I didn't feel rested.

I think Opening and Closing Ceremonies are some of the best part of this walk where you really can feel the energy and numbers of solidarity. It is a good time to be standing side by side with people who care about getting rid of cancer. It isn't about the miles or the walk really at that point, but the cause. It is a good cause.

I arrived to Opening Ceremonies and found one of my teammates, Kelly, whom I had mostly trained with for this walk. She is the reason I'd gotten involved both times I did this walk as I'd seen the ads for it and been interested, but Kelly once she sets a goal wants to be a woman of action. I can say she is just that.

They did the very moving survivors, circle on the platform with the flags proclaiming all the types of people this cancer effects: Mothers, Fathers, Children, Aunts, Sisters, and Brothers. It was good to reminded that men do get this cancer in a small percentage, but they do. I met one in grad school; he was only 22 and was pronounced with stage 3 breast cancer. That was the first time I'd heard of a man suffering with it. He was devastated and quite shocked. I'd just cast him in a show I'd written and he had to pull out to have surgery. I wonder where he is today? Anyway, the survivors stood before us and many of us bawled like babies looking at these strong women about to embark on this walk.

The Opening was shorter then I remember last time, but it was easier getting started as we were basically on a soccer field. We were routed through one gate so that everyone's tags could be "scanned in" and we began to walk. Kelly was really keyed up and wanted to go really fast. I was surprised considering we'd trained together and I wasn't particularly fast paced ever. She kept getting ahead of me until eventually within the first mile and a half she took off and never turned back. I didn't think this said a whole lot for team work, but there wasn't anything I could do about it, but look more diligently for our other teammate Heather.

You have to understand we did have our phones with us, but you aren't allowed to use them while walking for safety's sake. You can pull over to the side and stand and call someone, but time is of the essence. We'd called Heather, but the Opening Ceremonies is so loud (music) that it is difficult to hear or find people. Staying together is a challenge. Walking on the path isn't so quiet either with traffic noise and that many people's voices. I never heard my phone ring once.

The first year I did the walk I wondered why all the crazy outfits, especially the teams, but I soon understood. Unless you were wearing something that stood out in the sea of pink, you'd never find your teammates if separated in 2300 walkers. Plus all the volunteers in crazy outfits makes you smile and laugh along the way. I really got a kick out of some of them. In the picture is a safety crossing gaurd that got more and more ridiculous each day. Here is on the last day. I had brought fairy wings and star wands for us as a team. It's the only thing I had that was pink. Also, I put pink roses in my hair in order to feel somewhat pretty as I feel gross being all sweaty the entire weekend. Kelly and I soon learned the wings straps were too tight and so she wound hers into her ponytail and I taped mine to my pack. I had three wands and we all put those in our hair pointing straight up in the air so we could find one another. I'm a bit rebellious too in that I hate pink, so I don't wear pink so I'm a little easier to find.

So as Kelly's wings were getting further and further in the distance ahead until I couldn't see them anymore, I began to search harder for Heather, hoping to give her the wand I'd brought. Miracously, I found her at the first pit stop.

Pit stops are places with port-a-potties, food, water, and gater-aid. You are supposed to stop, replenish, relieve yourself, rest, and stretch for on average 10 minutes and then get walking again. From that pit stop Heather and I walked together the first day. She knew I'd be slower and yet she stuck with me as we'd met and walked together as solo walkers the last time. She even offered from the beginning if I need to take a van, it is something she wanted to experience at least once this time as she walked all 60 miles last time.

It rained pretty steady for an hour or so of the walk this first day. I was surprised so many people were unprepared not even having any cheap rain ponchos with them. At the pit stop we were at when it began to rain hard they did have one small box of cheap ponchos they gave out until they were all gone. I kept thinking, people it's Seattle---expect rain.

Many people on the walk are local, but a lot come from all over the US to walk in another city as this organization walks in 15 cities around the country. Many walkers are repeat teams and choose to walk in other cities. Sightseeing with a cause or "vacation" as one mother of 7 put it to me. She said this is her only vacation. I commend her, but I would want a different vacation without all the pain involved.

Speaking of pain, I thought I'd make the first day, but fatigue and past injuries kept talking to me after about 10 miles. I struggled to make the next 9, but put up a good fight. I thought if I took the bus into camp today I'd make the rest of the walk. I only took one picture that first day as I was concentrating on standing upright putting one foot in front of the other. The last straw being I forgot my knee brace so onto the bus we went and rode the last 3.5 miles back to camp.

At camp we reunited with Kelly, who'd been there for hours. She was in the top 200 people into camp. Which was an accomplishment that she wanted to do, but it isn’t a race, but some people take it as such? It seemed to make her feel great, but I wasn't happy at not seeing her all day as I'd embarked on this journey again because she wanted a teammate who would walk with her. Heather got her tent as she'd elected to stay in camp and get a tent to herself. We made sure she was all set and then headed out for the night.

Kelly's very supportive husband Armin came and picked her and me up and we went home for the evening. I say supportive as he showed up at nearly every cheering station with their 2 year old son cheering us all on. He waited even when Kelly blew past for Heather and me to show up an hour or so behind just to say "Go Hey Sole Sisters!" I found that very sweet and endearing plus he ferried Kelly and I to and from camp every day. He was an important part of out team. Thanks Armin!

I had stayed in camp last time and I'm glad I did it once. Being in camp you feel more a part of this huge thing and part of the community. You meet a lot of great people, hear some good information that you don't out on the trail, like how many people are participating, who are the top fundraisers, and you hear people's stories of how this cancer has touched them or their families. Many heroic and inspiring souls. It helps you to focus on the task at hand to be away from home and in this constructed community for a couple of days. It feels like you've been away for a long time by the end.

You also get fed and pampered a little, but you do have to sleep on the ground and can't bring a lot of stuff with you. You are only allowed 35 lbs. tops in your suitcase and all your camping stuff, sleeping bag included, has to be in your suitcase. When I camped before I was in pretty rough shape because of the cold damp and sleeping on the ground after walking a lot of miles. It didn't help me accomplish the task. So, this time I went home nightly and took an Epson salt bath, ate my own food, hugged my son and hubby, and slept in my own bed. That helped me a lot. First night I fell asleep at barely 8:30 pm from exhaustion.

Walking the BIG Walk DAY 2

Me & Kelly at the overlook the bay in Everett.

The next morning came early as we had to be there by 7 pm at the latest. Armin came to pick me up at 6:15 am. Kelly was in a world of hurt from pushing herself the day before and she said she didn't think she could do a whole lot today. I thought she was joking or would work out the soreness after we got going, but she was really hurting. Kelly and I somewhere by a pretty fountain up a bill hill in Everett silly stupid with pain.

We began at camp. Armin waved us on and we scanned in to start the next day. We walked up the long road to camp to scan in along with all the others that either stayed in hotels or at home. It's ironic that you can't be dropped right at camp, but they make you walk-in. The sacrifice we made for our luxury, I suppose.

We found Heather and we all three began this day together, which was an improvement over the day before. Kelly has lower back issues stemming from the birth of her child and was really not enjoying the walk. Heather has hip issues and was struggling and trying to walk it out. I have multiple issues that I call “a girdle of pain” plus knee, back, and neck issues, so any distance walking on concrete is a huge challenge. We all were beginning to struggle more. This day was all about hills in Everett. I never knew Everett was so pretty, but I’d never gone up to the park at the top of a very big hill that overlooks the bay.

Picture of our team "Hey Sole Sister" at a pit stop. L-R. Kelly, Me, Heather

There were blocks and blocks of supporters out on Sat. Some blocks even had their own cheering sections lined up. We had official cheering stops, but many blocks had party after party. Picture below of a spectacular cheering block! It was really something. It was fun to see those “3 Day stalkers” as I call them that set up their own cheering spots with a theme and just follow the walk around all weekend. A crazy way to spend your weekend, but there were times I was truly happy to see those somewhat familiar happy faces handing me a cold shot of gateraid or little smoked sausage to keep me going.

Picture of our team with the "Sole Sister" relief van.
Kelly and I road the vans and walked a lot too, but took a van to the last pit stop and walked into camp from there. So for the planned walk of 21.7 miles we walked about 16.5 or so. It is hard to calculate when you jump on and off vans, but I tried to keep track of where we did and what the mileage markers were. Kelly thought we walked more, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t. I felt a lot better this day and thought I could have walked more, but considering how I felt at the end of the next day was glad I didn’t.

By the end of this day I had a right foot with many blisters. Especially my whole pinky toe and right heel were nothing but one big blister. There really wasn’t much to be done for them but drain and let them air out. This is another reason we hopped vans as the blisters make it hard to walk. I went to medical and they put second skin on the blisters to help them. I certainly saw people’s feet there that were much worse than mine. One lady, who regularly walks 10 miles a day she said, nearly her whole pad of the foot was nothing but a blister.

20 miles back to back is brutal on everyone. Kelly had no blisters, but other things bothered her. Heather was with me in the blister department, but she had taken off out front and we hadn’t seen her since lunch. She was headed out of lunch and we were headed in. It’s like they’d had some silent agreement to trade places from the day before.

Picture taken part way up that last hill into camp. Very muddy!

The last hill into camp was cruel and unusual punishment. We took the van to the last pit stop, but elected to walk the 3.5 or so miles into camp. It was a hill. A muddy path really straight up into the back side of camp. Mickey and Minnie Mouse were waiting for us to take pictures with us at the end. I guess that was the prize for making it up that hill?

When I got home, my husband had heroically spent the day entertaining our 5 year old and had purposely not been there when I got home so I could do whatever I needed to do. Our little boy didn’t understand what I was doing and it was best he was out having a good time with Papa. I did get a 10 minute massage in camp and was very grateful for that, but enjoyed the space to do what I needed to rest. I was in a world of hurt and needed to try to gear up for the next day. I was in bed by 9 pm after I said hello to my family and heard about their day as I knew the next day would be the hardest of all.