0 to 60 in 3 days

13 Oct

First and foremost, the breast cancer 3-day is so far one of the best things I have ever done. I am so happy that I finally decided to do it, and even happier that Paul was there with me.

When we met the team on Thursday night before the walk started, Paul was the man of the hour. All of the ladies on the team kept coming up and saying, “You’re the guy! The boyfriend who surprised his girlfriend! That’s so cute!”. That sentiment continued throughout the walk when other walkers noticed us holding hands most of the time and always walking together and wanted to take a picture of the romantic couple or know what the story was of why he came to support me. I’m so happy he was there with me, in support of my wanting to do the walk but I’m also happy that he was there for himself and in support of his grandmothers and the other people in his life affected by breast cancer.

Day 1

4:30am on Day 1 came ridiculously fast. I’ve never been a morning person so 4:30 was an ungodly hour to be awake. But we managed to get up and pack everything up and take the Metro over to Nationals Park for opening ceremonies. We saw lots of people on the Metro with us with their duffels and dressed in pink so we knew we were headed in the right direction. When we got to the site crew members were there welcoming everyone and handing out Energizer pink bunny ears and stickers. And wouldn’t you know, the first sticker I get is one that says: “Cheer a lot – The best way to cheer yourself is to try and cheer someone else up. -Mark Twain” OF COURSE Mark Twain finds a way to make it into my “vacation”, as he does every single time. It was dark and cold for about the first hour or so that we were there, and we waited for the rest of Ms. America Tata’s to show up. Once everyone was there they started the opening ceremonies. The national spokeswoman (whose name I can’t remember, anyone?) was AMAZING and got every psyched to start the walk! The survivor circle was beautiful and reminded everyone exactly why we were there.
The walk started and took us up and down the streets of D.C. It was an amazing first day of meeting people, seeing our moto crew for the first time and seeing the support around the city. It was exciting to be experiencing the 3-day for the first time and to be testing my muscles. It was pretty overwhelming at first to be surrounded by so many people in an enclosed space. 2000 people leaving the same place at the same time and walking on the same 5 foot sidewalk doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for one’s personal space. If you know me, you know that I don’t do well in large groups of people. So this is one more reason why I am glad that Paul was there with me.

The first day of miles was wonderfully exhausting. It was one of the hardest things I have done. It was the first time I walked 20 miles in one day. Camp was a welcome sight for very sore legs. We found our bags, pitched both of our tents (that was a first for me too! You’d think growing up in Maine I would have gone camping even once, but no) and went down for dinner. As we were in the tent getting dinner, the wind was picking up and the clouds were rolling in. At 9pm the lights shut down and the wind started ripping through the plastic liner we clipped to the top of the tent to keep the rain out. And seeing as I left my earplugs in my bag in Paul’s tent, I listened to the wind for a good hour before exhaustion took over and I fell asleep.

I knew that I was fueled on that first day by adrenaline and enthusiasm for what I was doing, and I knew that Saturday would be so much harder.

Day 2
When I read in the underground guide that you can hear everything that goes on in the tents around you, I didn’t quote realize just how serious that was until I was woken up at 5am by the two ladies in the tent across the way having a conversation. They weren’t talking very loudly but it was loud enough to keep me from going back to sleep. So I got out of my tent and decided that if I was awake, Paul would be too. The route opened at 7:15am and we got out at about 7:45 after a nice hearty breakfast. Me with my eggs and biscuit and Paul with his oatmeal and double order of bacon. I must say that Paul was a trooper that morning. I work up cranky and tired and stayed that way for at least a few hours. Paul walked next to me the whole time, holding my hand and trying to keep my spirits up.

The route on Day 2 took us through some beautiful Maryland neighborhoods; giant houses and extensive lawns. We walked through Chevy Chase and downtown Bethesda. It rained on and off all morning; going cold to warm and back again which meant a lot of taking sweatshirts and ponchos on and off and on. And I was right about Day 2 being that much harder than Day 1. There wasn’t the same amount of adrenaline as there was on Day 1 or there would be on Day 3, and we already had a full day of walking in us. I really felt each mile as we were walking. Thank goodness for the cheering stations along the way! Never underestimate the power of someone telling you good work and thanks for walking. There was a serious spike in energy as we passed through the groups and it lasted about another mile before my feet started to hurt and my legs wanted to stop again. There were times when it literally felt like Paul was pulling me along. Lots of people commented that it was cute how we held hands as we were walking, it was really just so I wouldn’t lay down where I was and take a nap.

The level of support everywhere we went was amazing! Signs on people’s doors, on their mailboxes, on their cars. People would sit on their front steps clapping and waving pink flags or shirts or whatever they owned that was pink. People put water near the sidewalk for us, there was even a woman who stood in her driveway offering her bathroom or a glass of water to the 3-dayers walking by. People who came to support a person or a team that was walking would drive around the route and stop and different places and cheer for a while before moving on to another location. It was amazing how every time we turned a corner there was another person clapping, saying thank you for walking.

Day 2 finished back at camp where all I wanted to do was sit down, so we went and got dinner. There we got to sit and AND eat, it was a win-win. We ate, we picked up our $3,000 legacy pins, which went nicely with our largest team pin (at 62 people, I think) and the largest fundraising team pin ($156,000 as of this morning!). That night was less windy, and I remembered my earplugs, so I fell asleep almost instantly.

Day 3

Yay for Day 3!! I woke up energized and excited for having gone completed the past two days and to be starting the final day of the journey. It was a bittersweet feeling, excited to complete the 60 miles and at the same time wishing it would go on. I got comfortable with the large group of people, with seeing a new face every time I turned around, with Paul saying good morning to everyone we passed. The first 8 miles flew by. We barely hit the first pit stop and went right on to the next. Lunch came at 10:45; Paul ate and I saved my sandwich for a later time which never came. The next few miles were a bit harder for us. Paul’s shins started to hurt and my knee started to ache. We pushed and pulled each other through, right into the National Equality March! THOUSANDS of people were marching towards the Capitol with signs and flags and chanting “This is what Democracy looks like!”. It was an amazing sight to see. I heard a lot of people saying that it was sad for the focus to be pulled off of the breast cancer walk, but I actually felt happy to see two major events happening in the same city for two amazing causes. Our route had to be re-routed slightly so we weren’t walking against the grain of the NEM march, and we were held up for a few minutes so we took that opportunity to watch from the sidelines. When we were finally able to continue we got to walk directly through the line of marchers, I felt like I was able to participate in that walk, if even for a minute. We were cheering for them in their rainbow and they were cheering for us in our pink! There was a lot of support coming from both groups.
We were re-routed by the National Mall and the Washington Monument, up through one of the universities and back down toward the Lincoln Memorial. We saw the “Holding – 1 Mile” sign and talked about how the 3-day mile is different from an actual mile. It’s a mile-ish. So we were 1 mile-ish from the finish line! We knew we were close when we were walking down the hill and we could see walkers who had already finished with their luggage heading to their hotels and airports.
Crossing the finish line I was trying to hold back tears and the huge crowd that had gathered to welcome us back. Paul was holding my hand so tightly and we were giving high fives and saying thank you to everyone who was there to welcome us home, as they called it. We got scanned in and I was told that Paul and I were 304 and 305 to return. We got our victory shirts, a rose, a few more high fives… and then we got to sit down.
And we fell asleep.
With all the people around and the blaring music I have no idea how we managed to fall asleep, but we were both out.
The closing ceremony was so bittersweet. Holding back tears, knowing that if I started crying I wasn’t going to be able to stop because I had been feeling the tears well up for the past three days. We walked ceremoniously through the crowd of family and friends past the Lincoln Memorial and beside the Reflecting Pool to the bottom of the stairs and waited for the whole group to gather. At that point we cheered on our crew; the group that had kept us going for three days. Fed us, entertained us, cheered us on and supported us through 60 miles. The 3-day crew is an amazing group of people, I have no idea how they all had so much energy right until the last moment. I read in someone else’s blog about the DC 3-day that it was the moto crew and the safety crew who were at most of the intersections that kept her going, and I physically nodded when I read that. They had so much energy it seemed to transfer itself onto us each time we passed one of them. They are a wonderful group of people.
And then came the survivors. The group for whom we walk for. The group of strong women and men who have already been through so much who came out and participated in this event.
Thank you to everyone who supported me, who donated, who sent words of encouragement – I would not have been there without you.
There were roughly 2000 Washington D.C. 3-day walkers, and together we raised over $5.5 million for breast cancer. Congratulations to us! Thank you everyone for a wonderful experience. Paul and I are already thinking about next year!
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One Response to “0 to 60 in 3 days”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Countdown Begins! « The Komen Experience - July 13, 2010

    […] memories of last year’s walk keep flooding back as I’m thinking about packing my overnight bag, as I’m packing and […]

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