The Breast Cancer 3 Day is this upcoming weekend. Most of you will have figured out that I’m not walking this year.
While I’m sorry for it I still think it was a good decision considering three weeks in Great Britain in May and a week in Hawaii in July would have made a significant impact on my training schedule. And even my plans of remaining involved by being a crew member fell by the wayside because of my horrendous work responsibilities over the summer.
I have every intention of training hard over the fall and winter and walking again next summer. Sounds loony I know, especially considering that I hurt myself badly last year. I peeled most of the skin off the top of my left foot. I blistered the living crap, the dead crap, and the crap of the living dead out of both of my feet. I mildly sprained both knees and one ankle. So why do it?
Some people are dedicated to these three day walks because of personal or family involvement with breast cancer. My blood family are some of the lucky few to be free of that particular problem, although my immediate family is not. Andrew’s Gramma Kay is starting on 20+ years of being a breast cancer survivor which means that his mother, three sisters and two neices are at risk. So that’s one enticement.
Part of my reasons for walking are tied up in my own grandmother. I walked my first 3 Day in 2002. Gram (my father’s mother) was in failing health that spring and the family were on death watch (although I didn’t know it until later) for the few days before the three day. I rushed out of camp at the end of the second day that year and got some really weird looks from the ladies at the retirement home where Gram was living by coming in to sit my vigil at her bedside with my hair wet and unrestrained, in shorts, disreputable sandals, and my legs covered with various unguents designed to treat prickly heat. Gram died of complications of old age while I was at lunch on the third day trying to figure out if my toes would really fall off if I took my shoes off to change my socks.
I had spent the previous 15 or so years sharing my adventures and my life with Gram via photos and journals. I had one adventure in which she never got to share so that’s another enticement for me. I walk because it’s a memorial to a remarkable lady.
Maybe these are enough reasons. Maybe it still sounds nuts for me to put out a huge amount of effort, beg, plead, and borrow $2200, and face injury, blisters, sunburn, and chafing.
So why do it? I’ll try to explain.
On the first day you get up at a completely unreasonable hour (somewhere around 4 a.m.) because you have to be at the opening ceremonies at 6. You need to eat breakfast, about 1000 calories, at a disgusting hour of the morning. If you’re like me, your metabolism refuses to accept that it’s really daytime and so breakfast is shovelled in, tamped down, and then just sits.
But then you get to the opening ceremonies and the infectious enthusiasm hits. They feed the crew members some *special* gatorade so that by the time you drop your bags off you’re awake and jumpy just from the contact high.
You stand in a crowd, there were 3000 of us last year, waiting and waiting and waiting. People talk, announcments are made, the music starts and you push forward to go because if you were to wait any longer you’d explode.
The first check point is two miles out. You find it hard to believe that you’ve gone two miles already. No sweat! This is going to be a cake walk!
At five miles you’ve settled down and found your pace. Breakfast has ceased to be an immovable lump in your gut and you’re disturbed by the fact that you’re getting hungry again. Thankfully you have the opportunity to snack every two miles.
At ten miles you get to lunch. Your feet are tired and maybe a bit sore, but sitting down, letting your feet air out and your shoes cool off while you eat and change your socks makes all the difference in the world. You’re half done with the first day and ready to blast on with the next 50 miles!
By mile 20 you’re tired. You’re hot, sticky, and dying for a shower, a flush toilet, and some place to be horizontal. Two out of three ain’t bad. Camp is a nice place to be, even with the portapotties. The water in the showers is always hot and the dinner is relatively decent. The ground may be hard, but it is, without a doubt, horizontal. Collapse good. Sleep goooooooood!
On the morning of the second day you’re sore. Stiff, chilled, and creaky. You wake up and you do NOT want to put any pressure on your feet. But it’s morning and you’ve got a lot of ground to cover and they open the route at 0630 so you’ve got to get going. For the first few miles you feel like you’re running on square wheels then your blood gets circulating again and you’re good to go.
At 30 miles you’re definately pooped. It’s lunch time again and your blisters are starting to blister. Talk at the rest stops and especially at the lunch stop starts to revolve around body glide, baby powder vs. foot powder, Molefoam, Gel blister kits, dry socks, where to find the softest, shadiest spot to sit, and where people are finding cardboard on which to sit to pad their butts from the ground. You’re done with lunch and, oh god, have to go on.
Somewhere around mile 35 the endorphins and the innate silliness hits again and you’re bouncy (although not very because bouncing hurts). Talk turns to the relative softness of concrete vs. asphalt vs. painted asphalt (for the record painted asphalt is more padded and softer to walk on). Longing looks are directed towards nice soft things to walk on like grass and bark beds. The silliness lasts you through the next five miles but gets a little forced towards the 40 mile mark when it becomes obvious that your feet, knees, and ankles are seriously pissed.
At the beginning of the third day you wake feeling like you’ve been run over by a big, ugly bus. A big, dirty, ugly bus. Your feet are swollen and stiff, some people have to unlace their shoes to get them on, and your muscles are definately protesting. You think about a second (or third) shower before you start, but the route opens at 0630 and you’ve got to go. Ibuprofen, clean, dry clothes, and the intensely sweet breakfast they serve on the third day (blintzes with fruit or blintzes with chocolate chips and whipped cream) kicks you up and you go anyway.
At 45 miles you’re sore but you’re feeling good. People start laughing again. Silly things and silly people start getting considerably sillier and you start to realize that you’ve done 45 miles so another 15 is small potatoes.
Lunch at 50 miles is a hoot. You’re eager to gulp and go so you can get walking again and even the slam against the wall that hits when you sit down with your food isn’t enough to keep you resting when you’re done eating.
55 miles and you hurt. Walking uphill actually is less painful and takes less effort than walking downhill, and stepping on and off of curbs becomes a distinct chore. You start to have new appreciation for the wheelchair easements. But at 55 miles you can’t stop and you start to realize that you’re almost done. Another 5 miles is seriously nothing.
In 2002 the last 5 miles were through downtown Seattle towards Seattle Center. In 2005 the last 5 miles were through Freemont, Gasworks Park and on to Magnuson Park. In 2002 people in the bars that lined the streets we were walking were waving and clapping and offering beer. The last rest stop had the marching band from one of the high schools and Ben & Jerry’s free for anyone who had walker credentials. In 2005 there was the fact that the Waiting for the Interurban sculpture had been tricked out in 3 Day gear. There was the one of the safety crew who was acting as a crossing guard that, as we crossed from Ballard into Freemont shouted “WELCOME TO FREEMONT, HOME OF (and here she lifted her shirt and bra and flashed her boobs at us) NAKED PEOPLE!”. There were the trees along the UW campus that were festooned with pink balloons and ribbons. And there was the group of women with whom I was walking who started singing old disco songs and when they didn’t know the correct words to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, were more than thrilled to take each line from me and shout it out as we were walking.
The last 5 miles is narcotic.
And then it ends. The closing ceremonies are accompanied by bouncy music, a lifted shoe tribute from the crew to the walkers and from the walkers to the crew, a lot of tears (especially from those who try to take off their shoes for the tributes), and the realization that you get to sleep in a bed and have a toilet that flushes that night. Also that you’re ready to sign up and do it all again next year.
So why do it? How can I not? Once you do it it becomes addictive. Blisters, prickly heat, portapotties, gatorade and all. So fair warning for next year. Team Eccentrica will walk again and anyone who wants to participate in some bad ass craziness is welcome.
Best wishes to all those that are walking this year. Be careful, keep stretching, and don’t forget to change your socks.