Day 3 “The Final Act”
Actually 5:30a.m. wasn’t much of a shock. We had been told that the route would close at 3:30 in the afternoon (closing ceremonies were scheduled for 4:30) and everyone left on the route when it closed would be picked up and driven to the closing ceremonies. We were determined not to be driven the final miles so once it started to get even barely light we were getting ready to go.
Laurie had registered, on some level, that I had gotten back the night before so she wasn’t surprised to wake up and find me in the tent. Since Steph was in a different tent, she was a bit shocked to walk around a corner and find me standing in line waiting to brush my teeth.
We got breakfast, ate, and went to get our stuff packed up. All three of us ran up against a snag in getting our walking shoes back on though. Our feet were so swollen that we had to completely unlace our shoes before our feet would fit in them.
The route opened at 6:30a.m., we were walking by 6:40. We had only about 15 miles to cover on Sunday but we wanted to ensure that we weren’t picked up at the end of the day. At that point we were walking on stubborn pride which quickly changed to exhaustion and endorphins again and we started to enjoy ourselves.
The south end of Bellevue is very quiet early on Sunday morning. There was barely any traffic, we were walking along the lake and in and out of the business parks down that way. It was cool, the path was empty except for walkers and except for the hills it was quite pleasant. For the record, after 40 odd miles, going down a hill is as strenuous as going up one. We were excited, too, about crossing the lake and walking along the freeway. I was sure that we were going to be crossing the 520 bridge. We were so close to I-90 that I thought there weren’t going to be enough miles if we crossed at I-90. I underestimated the twining path the walk planners had for us through south Bellevue. I’ve lived in and around Bellevue for most of my life and still wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly how it took us nearly 3 hours to walk from Newport High School to the pedestrian walkway at the east channel bridge.
They were kind and managed to find us a spot to get on the bridge that didn’t involve taking stairs. We wandered up a gradual spiral, got one last blast of Gatorade from the volunteers standing at the top of the pathway with pitchers (it was nearly 5 miles between pit stops, they wanted to be sure we had plenty to drink) and were once again out in traffic. The difference between being on I-90 and being on a backwoods two lane highway, however, is terrific. On the plus side, there was a waist high concrete barrier between us and the cars and the view was spectacular. It was bright, clear and warm and you could see a LONG way. On the down side, however, people drive like freaking maniacs. We spent a lot of time walking single file and hugging the rail and were glad to get off on Mercer Island.
People on Mercer Island weren’t exactly sure of what the hell we were doing. I guess they hadn’t watched or listened to any of the news reports over the weekend, but we got a LOT of weird looks walking through Mercer Island. It’s not a bad area to go walking through, lots of wide sidewalks, nice shade, way too many damn hills. Going downhill really started to hurt.
At the crosswalk before our pit stop at Luther Burbank Park, Grampa was directing traffic again. I have this mental snapshot, sadly I didn’t get an actual photo, of him from behind holding up traffic for a group of us to cross. Once again, jeans, bright orange t-shirt and safety vest. Once again, the blue baseball cap, the white mustache, and the whistle. Only this time, imagine Sousa marches and this portly older gentleman standing in the middle of the crosswalk waving his rear end, shooting his arms up in the air in time with the whistle, and a Mercer Island matron in a Lexus giving him an absolutely foul dirty look. I kind of got the impression that while she didn’t approve of what we were doing, she could at least accept the fact we were doing it for a good cause. What he was doing, however, was thoroughly undignified for a gentleman of his age. The giggles kept me going for miles.
About half a mile before the last pit stop for the island (a parklet on the northeast end of the I-90 bridge) we were able to see through the trees and get a first glimpse of the downtown skyline. I don’t think I’ve ever been more happy to see the Space Needle. Everyone was pointing it out, but what really got us going was the sign that someone had placed there –6 more miles. We were ecstatic. Six miles is so short a distance and we were further buoyed by the fact that we knew the walking was going to be interesting. The slog through Boeing the previous day had us a little wary, your feet tend to hurt a lot more if you have time to think about what you’re doing. Everyone stopped and took pictures at the six mile point.
Then there was the final grab and go before the bridge. Occupying both sides of the pedestrian path that crosses the bridge we were zigging and zagging between other walkers, random pedestrians, and people on bicycles. Some of the cyclists were the sweep riders who had graduated (I’m not sure that’s the right word for this particular metamorphosis, but it works) to bicycles and were patrolling the bridge for walkers in distress. The rest were the serious cyclists out for their serious exercise on the weekend and they resented the hell out of us taking up the lion’s share of their cycling path. At that point none of us were walking in what could be called a straight line. The muscle power to stay moving was about all we had left and the cyclists were extremely resentful of the fact that we were weaving side to side across the path. Now to be fair about it, they had as much right to the space as we did, they were traveling at much higher speeds than we were and a collision with a wobbling walker could have been disastrous for both parties. That having been said, however, I heartily resented the attitude of the woman that decided that screaming at us was an appropriate method of expressing her displeasure.
The I-90 bridge is a helluva lot longer when you walk it than when you drive it.
It was nice because it was cool, the water was pretty to look at, there were spider webs strung between nearly every upright on the railing, the view of Mt. Ranier and the city were first rate and the facing of the tunnel on the west side of the bridge is really quite attractive if you have the leisure to stop and look at it.
It is, however, an extremely long bridge.
And then we were in south Seattle. There’s a pedestrian and bicycle tunnel that parallels the I-90 tunnel which has some really slick artwork along the walls and ceiling. We blazed through the tunnel, knowing that lunch was on the other side and there it was, we were in the city. We could see it, we could hear it, we could smell it (diesel fumes! Yum!). Up along the northern edge of the freeway, through a small section of residential neighborhood and we were waltzing with the lunch greeters whose faces were entirely obscured by the Italian flag (for the record, the guy in the wheelchair wasn’t waltzing in the strictest sense of the word. He had a boom box on his lap that was playing horrible plonky bad Italian restaurant music for his more mobile partner to waltz to.)
Lunch, hmn, lemme see. Lunch –chicken sandwich, fruit cocktail and bandaids. Flattened cardboard boxes to soften the asphalt, the shade of a random semi-truck to park our carcasses in (all the soft spots, the spots on the grassy hill, were too sunny for our tastes), and a woman claiming to represent the company that was responsible for the food service asking us odd questions about the food while we were busy stuffing ourselves. I had some blisters that were acting up and so when I went to change my socks, a procedure that absolutely required a chair (if I had tried to change my socks while sitting on the ground the involved bending would have put me into a cramp I’d only just be recovering from) I went over to the nurses’ tent so I could pilfer blister supplies, get my feet stuck back together and get my socks changed in comfort. I honestly did ask one of the volunteer nurses whether or not she thought my toes would fall off when I took my socks off. She laughed and walked on, but I was mostly serious when I asked the question. Endorphins seem to be getting a lot of the blame for some of the more bizarre behaviour we exhibited on this trek, but I really do think that a prolonged consistent endorphin high can make you just as loopy as some of the non-endogenous opioid compounds can.
We left lunch, again well in the vanguard of the crowd, and started trailing through the tail end of the industrial district. Places I have always driven by, but had never stopped at. The Oh Boy Oberto and Schilling spice factories smelled really good. We headed west towards downtown ending up facing the new Seahawks’ stadium. Workers on the roof were waving at us, seemed to be cheering too, but they were up so high that there was no way we could have heard them. I was struck by just how blase they were, waving and jumping around up there. I was too far away to see the safety lines that I know must have tethered them, but it sure did seem to me like they were capering around up there with very little regard for the fact that they were WAY UP IN THE AIR.
One of the pit stops in the industrial south end, the parking lot of some nondescript business, had a little table with a huge sign advertising “TEMPORARY TATTOOS”. We were all enchanted with the idea, but they were out by the time we got there. That was the same pit stop where there were women near the exit making a tunnel of spray bottles and fans through which we were delighted to walk (pavement and buildings increases the ambient temperature a bunch). At another of the pit stops along that end of the city there were a couple of volunteers by the exit with spray bottles full of some lovely herbal body mist.
Then we turned right and were walking right through the heart of downtown. We were headed north up 4th Ave. as I recall. Closed office buildings, the county court house, and whole bunch of those trendy little downtown bistro and bar combinations out of which we were getting some really strange looks, a lot of applause, and not a few offers of free beer. I hesitate to think of what the effect of alcohol would have been on our systems at that point. Talk about being a cheap date.
The entire trip through downtown was really kind of a blur. We were enjoying ourselves to be sure, there were plenty of people to cheer us on, but I really only remember being in the south end near the court house, being offered a beer by a woman in a bar we were walking past, and then being at Westlake. There was an enormous crowd at Westlake. Balloons, bubbles, confetti, spray bottles, the expected pit stop (and the last, the very LAST bottle of Gatorade), a podium with people shouting support into a microphone, a high school band fer’ pete’s sake……. It was a zoo. We bypassed most of it, not wanting to stand in line at the Ben & Jerry’s cart that was giving away ice cream to people with walker credentials since at that point the line for the portapotties was about the only one we were willing to tolerate.
And we kept walking. Skirting Belltown, we walked past the Cinerama (at each landmark we got more and more excited) and past the Seattle Fire Station that’s at the north end of 4th. The firefighters that were in residence at that point were all out clapping and waving. They also had a mist nozzle going on one of the hoses so we got another little dampening before we ended up facing the northeast gates of the Seattle Center.
Jubilant can’t even begin to describe it. We were done. Actually we weren’t and we knew it, we still had to walk across the center and check in at the final check point in the Northwest Rooms, but when we crossed through that gate we knew that even if one of us fell down and broke a leg at that point, we’d all three be able to finish. Exhaustion and pain and stupid, dogged, pig headed determination gave over to mounting excitement with each step and with each cheering supporter. I remember every single step.
We walked past the Science Center, down past the food court, through the crowd of people clapping, waving balloons, and throwing confetti around the International Fountain. A man, just some random guy, bounced out of the crowd lining the sidewalk at that point, gave me a big hug and said “You’ll be glad to know that it’s all downhill from here!”. I appreciated his enthusiasm (although he may have regretted the hug, at that point I was pretty soggy), and he was right, it was all downhill from there but he OBVIOUSLY didn’t know the rule about downhill being as bad as uphill. Then the crowd that was lining the sidewalks turned into finished walkers and they were the best crowd of all.
Seattle F.D. had sent one of their chemical decontamination units (I was amused by the implication) so the very last steps were taken through a misting tunnel. We and everything we were carrying ended up soggy again, but at least some cleaner than before. There was a woman with a camera, I don’t know if she was official or casual, taking photos as we came out of the tunnel and there was the walk official with the bar code reader and a little tally counter. She read the bar codes off our credentials, clicked her tally counter three times and we were officially done. 1:30p.m. and we were officially finished as numbers 643, 644, and 645 out of 3000.
The finale of the whole event wasn’t scheduled to begin until 4:30 so we had a bit of a wait. We checked in at the last pit stop (inside one of the Northwest rooms) to see if there was anything worth eating and decided that we were bored with bagels and PB&J graham crackers. We got our official “I Finished” t-shirts, had a ball enjoying actual honest to goodness flush toilets and then we just sacked out. Lying flat on the floor with our feet propped up on the chairs I know at least I slept a little despite the chaos surrounding us. Unique perspective from that angle, the ceiling was an interesting thing to stare at while our feet deflated. Another little trick that I’ll remember when I do this again. On the last day, I’ll remember to pack a pair of loose sandals so that when I finish I can take off my walking shoes and let my feet free. There were women who had brought slippers with them and their feet must have been singing their praises.
Lying prone, however, makes drinking from a squirt bottle an interesting challenge. Since we knew we’d cramp if we stopped drinking abruptly, we were faithfully emptying our water bottles (so thoughtfully and continuously filled by volunteers patrolling the piles of bodies with pitchers) and since we were tired of having to lever ourselves up every half hour or so to find the restrooms, our collapse didn’t last long. We were not, by any means, willing to actually stand anywhere for any length of time, but we did manage to find ourselves an open spot in the line of people greeting the finishing walkers and had a lot of fun hooting and hollering for a while. Laurie and Steph actually had the flexibility to sit while doing this, but I was convinced that if I sat crosslegged on the ground that I’d never get up again so I was standing behind them thinking daggers at the guy next to us who hadn’t done the walk and was occupying one of the available chairs so he could stand above the crowd and take pictures. The amusement of this activity wore off rather quickly, however, so we wandered off and found ourselves a nice sunny spot with a bike rack to lean against and just sat. It’s amazing how satisfying just not moving can be.
Around 3:30 or so they started to round us up, asking us to get our finish shirts on and make our way towards the walkway that leads towards Memorial Stadium. We were pretty close to the front of the crowd again, but all that that meant was that we were behind a bunch of tired, sore, WARM women and we had to wait, standing up, while they herded a whole bunch more tired, sore, warm women in behind us. The long sleeved, dark blue t-shirts that were to be our communal flag of victory started to get distinctly uncomfortable and there was considerable squirming while people stripped off layers of clothing underneath them.
From somewhere near the gates of the stadium they started to play some good thumpy music. People started to move, at first just weaving to the beat, then walking. In a gleeful, sweaty, pink and blue clad wave we filed into the stadium, filling the field with shoulder to shoulder triumph. We were near the front, but there were hundreds of women on the field when we got there. We turned to stand and watch while the rest of the field filled with bouncing, dancing women.
The closing ceremonies were, mercifully, brief. Realizing that once the music stopped they were unlikely to be able to hold our attention, and we were unlikely to hold our upright posture for long, the walk organizers were short in their thanks to us. The cancer survivors were celebrated, and one of the researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (who was the first recipient of some of the grant money raised by our efforts) got up to offer his personal thanks. All told 2688 walkers raised, after the costs of the walk were met, nearly 4.5 million dollars.
There was a moment of silence. I closed my eyes and was touched by the spirit of a powerful woman that I know felt my triumph.
I was sad, of course, to hear the news that Mom had for me when she and Andrew and I met up a few minutes later. But not surprised. I wish I had been able to tell Gram about it, to show her the photos and give her a running dialog (even if she hadn’t been able to hear it). I’m sorry she wasn’t around to hug and show my oddly decorated feet and calves to.
I am glad she had, at the last, a part in my determination to finish and I will cherish her memory as part of my determination to do it again.
I had to work the next morning. Andrew drove me home where I had a prolonged, HOT, shower and tub. For the first time in three days I was able to walk barefoot which was a distinct sensation in and of itself considering that the bare feet in question were more than a little upset with my care over the previous 3 days.
I ate an enormous dinner, fell into bed and slept the sleep of the exhausted. A bed is a distinct improvement over the ground, a Thermarest pad and a slightly damp sleeping bag.
Monday morning I hobbled to work in my thickest, softest socks and my widest Birkenstocks. Only a few clients noticed my, to say the least, odd gait. It was strange to have other things to talk to people about besides feet (although through some odd quirk of fate I did see mostly lame dogs that day).
I have a massage therapist who I see quite regularly and she had been following along with (and massaging the results of) my training for several months. During my appointment the Tuesday before the walk, she worked on my calves and feet telling me that she was going to be sure I was in the best shape possible for the walk. I also had an appointment the Tuesday after the walk having thought, correctly, that I would probably need a massage after something like that. When she started to work on my calves on that Tuesday after the walk her exact comment, as I recall, was “Oh my God, WHAT did you do to yourself?”. Apparently my muscle tone was something quite unexpected.
And then there was the appetite. As much as we ate all weekend, for about the next 2 weeks all three of us noticed that our metabolisms were working overtime. Veterinary medicine is, by no means, a sedentary profession, however the usual amount of exercise to which we are subjected on a daily basis was leaving us ABSOLUTELY STARVED. Weird.
Yes, I do plan on doing this again some day. The management company that was in charge of logistical support for the walk got into some big falling out with Avon in the fall of 2002 so several of the late year 2002 3-Days and almost all of the 2003 3-Days were canceled. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is the new sponsor and the new recipient. The management company has reorganized financially and has had to decrease the number of events offered for late 2003 and 2004. Currently Laurie, my partner in lunacy (Stephanie having traitorously packed up and moved to Colorado), and I are debating whether to walk the San Diego or the Chicago 2004 3-Day. If it ends up happening, be assured you’ll be notified of my return descent into the depths of insanity in the 3-Day Part II.