Well, That Was Unexpected

Real life is stranger than fiction...depending on which authors you read, of course.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The 3-Day recap. Red wine, success!

This is the summary I sent to all my supporters, but so many of you are m y supporters I thought I should just post the same thing here:
Thank you all so much for your support for me and for the cause of breast cancer research. My feet are in extraordinary pain and I question the rationality of the endeavor, but, as many of the signs said when we were walking "blisters don't need chemo" and I will heal up and be fine :) I am going to write a summary of the walk here for you, but I also have a link to my photos which tell the story, probably more succinctly than I will :)

http://picasaweb.google.com/julie.hartle/BreastCancer3DaySanDiego2008#

Overall the walk was incredibly long and difficult (probably the most difficult physical endeavor of my life) but also inspirational in both a communal way and a personal way. The San Diego walk raised over 11.2 million dollars for breast cancer research, and by supporting me financially and by walking with me and praying for me, you were all a part of that. Thank you!

Pre-walk:
As always seems to happen, my intentions and well-laid plans were slightly askew as I dealt with my job crisis. I still managed to walk consistently every week, at least 5 miles 3 times a week, and also for the last 2 months at least one 9+ mile walk per week. This, as you might imagine, was woefully insufficient. As were the two 10 mile walks I did back to back. C'est la vie. Ultimately I flew back from a triumphant week at work (yay!) to san diego thursday and packed for the walk on friday.

Day 1:
My mother graciously dropped me and Karina off in Del Mar at 5:30am where we unloaded our stuff and I saw perhaps the best slogan of the day on one of the crew loading luggage in the trucks "breaking our backs to save your racks." And the visual delights started here. As you might imagine there was lots of boob talk. Every euphemism for breast that you can imagine was present in many variations: rack, melons, cans, jugs, titties--the Titty Committee was a favorite team name, Ta-tas (which I had never heard before but was quite popular), hooters, etc. There were also some standard slogans like "save second base" and "stop the war in my rack". Nearly everyone had pink on some part of their body, if not encasing their whole body. There was also a goodly amount of cross-dressing from the 557 men taking part. All of this made for a lot of laughter and good cheer, which was incredibly important as the days went on. Because the crying also started pretty immediately. People had pictures of loved ones who had died on their shirts and backpacks. The one that made me cry the most was just a picture of a girl and her mom and it said "miss you mom, everyday". You had families walking for one or more family members and many teams were walking both for survivors and for people who had passed away. So of course this makes the whole cause very personal, which made me feel very connected to all of these women and men and reinforced the worthiness of the cause. That reinforcement was highly necessary as the miles went on.
The first day we walked 24 miles. Our route safety crew was hysterical--a bunch of male and female harley davidson riders with bras all over their Harley's. and tutus over their leather chaps. We were also escorted along the route by the lovable and slightly smarmy San Jose bike cops who had radios on their bikes and were often shouting something encouraging. The first hill we came up on was Torrey Pines which is 1.5 miles and seemed to never end. We were unlucky, getting out of the opening ceremony in the last group, and therefore hit the Torrey Pines hill right at the heat of midday. If you had asked me to pass a resolution to raze the hill and all its sacred trees I would have signed it immediately. The ocean might be beautiful, but it is not as beautiful as the sight of flat land. They kill you that first day to try and have lighter walks the second and third days. At about mile 19 all Karina and I could think about was laying down. Our tent became our prime motivating factor.
Luckily around this time we were also walking in PB and the community there was good fun in their cheering and in offering lots of interesting treats on the route--breast shaped cheesecake bites, for example. These things distracted me from the thought that kept coming into my head "why did i raise money so that i could do this? this makes no logical sense." I told Karina that if I were to write a paper about the 3-day it would be called "The Breast Cancer 3-day: An Assault on Reason." we already knew our feet were shot. As you will see in the pictures we had blisters galore--both of us had crazy blisters on our pinky toes that looked like aliens who have brains on their exoskeletons. And Karina knew day one that her big toenail was going down.
When we entered camp, we saw thousands and thousands of pink tents all grouped together, a visual I tried unsuccessfully to capture on film. The showers and port-a-potties were far more pleasant than I had expected, which was a nice surprise, and felt luxurious after that first day. Our team captain lived up to our team name (Walk now, Wine later) and greeted us with gourmet chocolates and also provided red wine--a delicious zin-- for whomever should want it (which I did, of course.) We went to sleep at 9 p.m. which, for me, is some kind of record within the last 15 years excepting hospital stays.

Day 2--19 miles:
Waking up was pain. I had no pillow and slept terribly. It was also cold. We were on the ground. The air was thick and everyone seemed to wake up with stuffy noses. Our tent neighbor had laryngitis.
Getting on my feet was far worse pain. My feet were clearly upset. They questioned why I appeared to want to stand on them. The blisters on the sides of my feet and heels were raging. But we got into the groove. We were walking almost exclusively by the waterfront on day 2, which was absolutely gorgeous. We were in so much pain that we couldn't talk much. Actually Karina had a bit more in her, as far as being able to keep up attention around us and conversation. She was also the far more prepared and organized of the 2 of us and without her preparedness and her company I never would have made it.
Every once in a while a cheering vehicle or person by the road would have some tunes that would brighten us up. By mile 3 we were already pining for our tent. By mile 8, which in toto was mile 32, I was not really making coherent sentences. Every time a vehicle passed playing Abba I would say the same thing to Karina--so a good 3 or 4 times, which was "Abba is always a good idea." I believe this was also the day when I came up with the pronouncement "I don't look down enough." this was after hitting a few low-lying things, like cones and barrier poles. Karina says "today?" and i say "no, in general. I don't look down enough." We went up a monster hill, but it wasn't the up that turned out to be devastating, but rather the down. After we came down the hill to our next pit stop Karina was saying that she definitely had a situation with her toes. She was right. One of her blisters had ripped open and her bare new skin was showing. So we were in the med tent at mile 10 until after it closed. They also lanced and bandaged some of my blisters at that station. Then we had to be bussed to lunch.
We walked another 3 miles before Karina was done for and I was feeling bad too. I'm not even kidding that everything seemed bleached out by the sun that day and I really can't remember much, and mostly I was walking in dazed silence. But anyway, we were told that if we were going to finish day either 2 or 3 it had to be day 3, so we ended up not doing about 6 of the miles on day 2 so we could rest and hopefully heal up enough to finish day 3. I passed out on the bus and back at camp. My parents dropped off a pillow, which may, in the end, have been the lifesaver of day 3. Everyone back at camp looked really bad. Lots of limping and looong lines at the med tent.
They had lots of activities in the evening--karaoke competitions, stretching, and dancing for people who could still stand, something I could not fathom. Charity sparked hope and incentive by offering to meet us at one of the cheering stations the next day with starbucks. We were like "well, we will be walking at least as far as cheering station 1! "

Day 3--15 miles:
I woke up with renewed determination to finish no matter what. People did keep saying that the point of course was not to get injured, but to raise money for breast cancer. But I was like "um, I made this irrational decision to ask people to give money to breast cancer on my behalf if I would do something idiotic and dangerous, I sure as heck am going to do it! even if I get injured." you can see the madness had already descended. And I would need every ounce of it.
I think every step was just out of sheer stubbornness and will. Again, not able to do much speaking. Luckily we had cheering station 1 to look forward to. Charity not only brought caffeine drinks but chocolate. She also walked a mile with us and provided some much-needed conversation, as Karina had a few minutes before told me the last story I think we would get out that day. By Day 2 I had exhausted every reserve for conversation and was good for no entertainment whatsoever. We both noted that the Charity-accompanied mile was the fastest mile of the day. Another mile of note was at like mile 49 when we walked with a group of women playing "would you rather." If I ever went nuts and did this again I would be begging for friends to come walk a few miles at various spots. This would be a good point at which to remark on how invaluable the people were who were cheering us on every day. Seriously, when I heard people cheering I was like, okay, okay, I can do a few more steps." There was lots of honking as we crossed streets, random clapping as we all passed by restaurants, and family members cheering us on. We also had daily company: Mr Smile and Little Grin--a man who lost his wife to breast cancer and his young daughter who passed out smiley faced pins; a man who had lost his wife and who wore various costumes--a doctor offering free breast exams and an elephant costume because "he would never forget our sacrifice for breast cancer". We also had Barbies for boobies, the inexplicable statue of liberty ladies with pink wigs, the also inexplicable hookers for hooters van, and a bizarre van full of large women wearing shirts that had silhouettes of skinny women in bikinis. But I did not care how strange they were because they would accompany us on the route and were always cheering and playing some kind of music. Since we weren't allowed to have iPods or anything to obstruct our hearing, those fleeting tunes were very important. Would it be immature that I was upsettedly wondering why exactly there was a whole group of DEAF walkers if I could not have my techno? Not at my classiest, obviously.
Anyway, within the first 3 miles on the last day my mind basically numbed and my feet numbed and I steeled myself to finish. I started making these sweeping analogies in my head about how the walk was like life. You can do the first 15 miles or so no problem, but after that you need people to support you and cheer you on, you need something to look forward to--mom with the pillow, charity with coffee. Or that even when it makes no sense and is difficult and painful you just keep on going because something in you needs to, even if you don't know what that is. Karina and I sang Lean on Me at one point. It was a hot mess.
But we finished. 15 miles that last day. 53 total for me. When we descended into Petco Park and were greeted at the finish line I basically was sobbing for many reasons--because I had finished and because it was so hard, and because it was so touching to be greeted by all these people high fiving you and thanking you for walking and who had all these very personal reasons for doing so. I would be crying again when they gathered the hundreds of breast cancer survivors who had done the walk with us--we had walked behind a 27 year old survivor on day 2-- and they all walked into the closing ceremony together in their pink shirts.

So anyway, there was more to it, but my brain is seizing up even now and that's all I can remember. and my blisters still persist and my feet are too swollen to wear my normal shoes. But my body feels pretty good, thankfully.

1 Comments:

Blogger Amy said...

Wow. What an experience! I'm so stinkin' proud of you, Jules.

2:15 PM  

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