Okay, so now that I’ve had a few days to let the swelling in my feet go down…..
Well, not really. Getting up for work at 0530 for the last 3 days my feet haven’t been swollen, but by the time I’ve been getting home feet, ankles, and knees have all been pretty dang puffy. I ended up having to wear my Birkenstocks to work on Monday and Tuesday because my feet were so swollen my regular work shoes (carbon copies of my walking shoes) wouldn’t fit.
So where were we? Oh yes, they’d just opened the flood gates and let us loose on the BCC campus.
Gorgeous, STUNNING morning. Clear and cool with the sun just coming up, the sky all pink, and PRAISE ZEUS A PORTA-POTTY! Two cups of tea and enough water to slug down my morning handful of vitamins combined with about an hour of standing around in the cool combined to make it necessary. Shortest danged line I’d see for a potty all weekend to tell the truth.
We wound our way across the BCC campus and over I-90 (I got a great photo of the sun coming up over the Cascades and the highway all pink and empty). I was walking with no one in particular and then I fell in with a pair of sisters with whom I chatted for a while. We overtook Sue, wearing a bright green “Breast Buddies” T-shirt, and they walked on while I slowed down to talk with Sue.
I walked the first three miles or so with her (there’s a photo of her and one of her Breast Buddies teammates in the Day 1 photos). She was walking a little slower than my normal healthy pace, but she was interesting to talk to so I kept pace with her. We were walking west along the south side of the freeway when the first casualty of the day occurred. A metal plate in the sidewalk was dew slick and someone went down and skinned her knee. It was fortunate timing as it turned out since, as Sue pointed out, we were right in front of Group Health and one of our ambulance sweeps had just passed us. The EMTs were out in nanoseconds and patching her up much to general applause.
Sue was walking, especially on the down hills, with an odd stiff legged gait and while I didn’t want to ask why she was walking like this, she broached the subject herself when she asked me what my connection to the 3 Day was. For the first time of many that weekend I answered that I’d first done it as a challenge to myself and then continued to do it as a tribute to my grandmother who had died on the third day of my first 3 Day. Sue said that she didn’t have any personal connection to breast cancer either, but that she’d had bone cancer and had had most of her right femur, her right knee, and a good deal of her right tibia excised and replaced with titanium implants. Sue has a friend who had walked the 2006 3 Day and the friend had approached Sue for that walk, but since she was so recently out of surgery and chemotherapy she could not. Sue went on to say that she was unlikely to be able to complete anything but the first three miles but that if she could do that she’d consider it a triumph.
And she did. We walked down past Factoria, down into the swampy bits where the south end of Bellevue meets the east shore of Lake Washington. The walking was stunning. Bright sunshine but a nice breeze, wide trails with lots of wildlife, and one of the route marking crew that had come through with a piece of chalk and pointed an arrow at each and every bench along the way with the words “REST STOP” in front. Along the trail and then amazingly soon a stop at Enetai Beach Park for our first pit stop. Sue was limping pretty badly by the time we got to the pit, but she was so jazzed that she’d managed to walk that far. She caught up with the rest of her team, told them what she was doing, found herself a sweep van and I didn’t see her for the rest of the weekend. It is possible that she did all that fundraising and did all the training walks with her team and walked her three miles and went home.
But it was still pretty dang inspiring.
We left the pit stop and walked UP for our first taste of freeway walking. Caught the pedestrian walkway along the East Channel bridge and had a very bad effect on morning traffic. At that point we were getting more blank stares than anything else (early Friday morning daze on the part of the drivers), but pretty soon people started catching on and we were getting honked at a LOT. We crossed the east channel and started walking through Mercer Island which was pretty, clean, and really really really dull. I guess people were worried about disturbing their neighbors or something, but for all that we had a lot of traffic passing us we sure didn’t seem to attract any attention. The woman from the King 5 News van got more attention from passing motorists than we did.
I hooked up for a while with a woman named Judy. She didn’t have any direct link to breast cancer either, but she said she was walking mostly because she figured that any research into cancer was a good thing. She seemed earnest but also seemed to get a lot of her information on health and health care issues from the internet or from her local health food and incense store employees. I say this because she spent a LOT of time talking about environmental toxins and how one day you’re not supposed to cook in aluminum and then you’re not supposed to use anti-perspirants but then it’s okay to use anti-perspirants, but you absolutely had to avoid trans fats. She seemed a little confused.
When she learned that I was a veterinarian she spent at least 10 minutes telling me a long and involved story about how her cat had died because of some sort of intestinal mass or maybe it was an intestinal obstruction that had been caused by a mass that had grown up around some plastic and that the cat had been perfectly normal one day and then really sick and jaundiced when they took it to their veterinarian the next day and and and and and….. Nothing annoys me more than having someone bring a pet to me that has obviously been profoundly ill for a good deal of time and exclaim “She was perfectly normal yesterday Doc!”. I’ve always wanted to follow that with “REALLY?! Do I have the word STUPID tattooed on my forehead or did you really expect me to believe that?”
Judy and I didn’t walk together for very long.
The last pit stop before the I-90 floating bridge was at a GORGEOUS little park just above the east highrise. Water clear and sparkling, sky bright blue with a few little wispy clouds. Enough dew on the grass to make stretching in any aggressive way a little bit damp, but we’d only gone about 5 miles at that point and at least I didn’t really need to stretch TOO much. I saw the Breastie Boys for the first time at that stop. Fell to talking with two of them, Todd and Troy, both wearing pink shirts emblazoned with their team name across the front. I didn’t realize until later (i.e. until they were walking in front of me) that they were all walking in honor of Todd’s wife Tana who had died of complications of breast cancer. All of their shirts read “WALKING FOR TANA” across the back.
I was really astonished at the number of men walking this year. In 2002 there were maybe a handful of guys. In 2005 there were a few more, this year there were a LOT of guys walking. Guys walking with their wives, guys walking solo, guys walking in all guy teams. One guy (I’ll get to him later) walking with the woman that he married Friday evening. It is a rare pleasure to see this sort of dedication to a disease that most people think as a female only problem.
The floating bridge was a hoot. Nice breeze, sparkly water, everyone in the entire freakin’ world honking at us, and someone in a small (pink) pleasure boat cruising between the east highrise and the west highrise blowing an airhorn and hooting and hollering. I was sort of loosely walking with a group of power walking women who were all wearing shirts emblazoned across the back with the lyrics of the Melissa Ethridge song about breast cancer. I was familiar with the song (thanks Robbie!), but not the artist and when I asked the team leader who had written the lyrics she said “Melissa Ethridge….who’s probably going to sue us for copyright violation or something!”
I was feeling great, probably too great, and making fantastic time which was eventually my downfall. We crested the west highrise, did a 270 degree turn along the pedestrian path and then headed down along Seward Park. Just as we were getting off the bridge I noticed an older guy in front of me wearing his pink ‘bub’ (a semi-elastic pink tube bandanna that they handed out before the opening ceremonies) on his head. That wasn’t the most notable thing about his appearance, however, there were a lot of guys wearing pink that weekend and the bub was a good way to keep your hair from flying around. No, what I found most charming about this guy, sadly I never did get his name, was that he had dyed his white beard pink. As in freaking neon pink. Glow in the dark (probably not literally), NEON pink. One woman behind me said to no-one in particular when she saw him “You know, it takes a real man to wear a pink beard!” a comment that I couldn’t help but pass on to him when I met him at lunch the next day. He was very flattered, but at the time it made me snort Gatorade out my nose (don’t try it, it hurts).
The first major crossing on Seward Park Avenue (drive, place, whatever) was manned by Polly the Dinosaur Lady! I was thrilled! Polly, for those to whom I haven’t raved about her, is a short stout little tough lady who rides a HUGE Harley that’s decked out in various 3 Day paraphenalia. Polly does safety crew for every west coast 3 Day every summer and she always has a little squeaky dinosaur that encourages us across crosswalks. If you get too close to the squeaky dinosaur as you’re crossing the crosswalk you get a little squeaky dinosaur kiss. Polly’s a hoot and, as I was to learn on Sunday, she takes her responsibilities extremely seriously (more on that later too).
Seward Park is an extremely pleasant place to walk first thing in the morning. Lake is blue, sky is blue, ducks are quacking, ambulances blow past blasting the most NOXIOUS music across their PA systems. You round a curve or two and you can see the I-90 bridge again, far in the distance with a huge long line of little teeny people dressed in pink and white. If you get the wind in the right direction you can still even catch the honks of the passing semi-trucks.
Breathtaking pit stop right on the beach with PEANUT BUTTER GRAHAM CRACKER SANDWICHES! Laurie will remember how hideously addictive these things are. The ones they handed out in 2002 were fabulous, the ones they handed out this year were better. Especially if they were refrigerated and the peanut butter was cold. MMMMMmmmm! Peanut butter. I swear they put something addictive in those things because you’d think the least appealing thing you could feed people doing heavy exercise would be peanut butter, but there’s something about the combination of protein, fat, and sugar that makes these bloody things……well, the peanut butter graham crackers were always the snacks that ran out first. It pays to walk in the first thousand or so otherwise you’ll never get any.
Past the first cheering station where the Redmond Police department was handing out wristbands in honor of their team members walking in the “Cops For A Cure” team. There was also someone handing out orange popsicles which, at about 10 a.m. and especially after the peanut butter, were pretty hideous. Actually that cheering station was probably where we saw the Breast Friends for the first time too. A pair of women and a pair of young-ish (mid-teens maybe) girls, likely mothers and daughters, had decked out their red Mustang convertible with every pink accessory and frill available and had painted (please let it only have been colored hairspray!) “BREAST FRIENDS FOR EVER” along both sides. The moms took it in turn driving while the daughters hung out the back waving pink pom-poms and cheering their lungs out. These four tailed us all weekend, playing bouncy music, honking shouting, handing out candy and just generally being wonderful.
And then I was at lunch. The very south end of the lake 1045, and someone at the opening of this small park with a counter keeping track of how many people were coming in while someone behind her was handing out little crocheted pink button up armbands. I mean, I guess they were arm bands. I wore mine on my arm for a while. I saw a lot of them on ankles and wrists, some around the crowns of hats, some just hanging off of waist pack straps. I guess if you’ve got the time and a bunch of pink yarn…. Struck me as a little odd though.
11 1/2 miles out and I was ready to sit. Visited the comfort stations, grabbed my lunch, found a sunny patch of grass and sat down. It is almost obscene how good it feels to take your shoes off at that point. I called Andrew and made ecstatic noises at him while I was wiggling my toes in the grass. I engulfed my chicken sandwich and potato chips (here again my hat is off to whoever does the nutritional planning for these things. Potato chips are appealing, an easy source of carbohydrates, a GREAT source of salt, and they make you thirsty as hell so you tend to drink a lot.). I ignored the potato salad, ever since I got salmonella during a week long junior high school trip I’ve been a little leery of commercially prepared potato salad, but dutifully ate my apple. Then I collapsed in the sunshine and let my back stretch out a little. Changed socks, geared up, got up, and was back walking by 1130.
Ooof! Too much lunch!
Even slow and sludgy on a postprandial carbohydrate rush I managed to get caught up with someone I’d been wanting to talk to for two years. There’s a guy that walks the Seattle 3 Day with bright pink dyed hair, wearing a UtiliKilt and knee high, as it turns out, pole climbing boots (minus the spikes). He also carries all his gear with him in a large backpack regardless of the gear trucks being willing and able to carry it for him (weirdo). I’ve only ever known him as UtiliKilt guy, but his name is William and he is walking in honor of his wife. We talked for a while about his somewhat unorthodox choice of foot gear and the odd looks one is likely to get power walking in odd dress through somewhat conservative neighborhoods. William lives in Seattle but does most of his training in Bellevue and Redmond and I can just imagine the looks he gets wandering through Bellevue in a UtiliKilt to say nothing of those boots. I’m surprised he hasn’t been arrested or at least harassed by the Bellevue constabulary.
Dang I was making good time.
I powered past William after a while and spent a lot of time gawking at the gorgeous mansions along Seward Park Drive. There was one in particular that I’m sorry I didn’t get photos of. Gated drive with the obligatory stone lions guarding the gate posts, huge manicured sweeping lawns with, no shit, a statuary garden. Gigantic replica of Michaelangelo’s David, the Venus De Milo, stone elephants, the works. I never thought things like that were real life! I was convinced they were entirely the construct of romance novel authors.
Seward Park Drive eventually intersected with Rainier Avenue where we turned south. Seward Park Drive was a charming place to walk. Rainier Avenue wasn’t so much. It was 1300 or so by that time, it was getting hot and the breeze off the lake was blocked by all the mega-mansions along the east side. Lots of traffic, gritty. Pretty on the east side, pretty depressing along the west side. Dodging sidewalk parked vehicles, garbage and recycling cans. And hot.
It was about at mile 14 that my knee started to hurt. I was still making really good time, passing a lot of people (I just thought they were walking slow, but as it turns out I was walking FAST). Stepping down off of curbs with my left leg started to be moderately uncomfortable so I started using the easement ramps which helped some. So did stopping at the pit stop at mile 15 and eating my snack, drinking, and stretching very, very carefully. By the time I was leaving the pit stop, that was the first “3 Day Tacky Tours” pit and everyone had to get their 3 Day passport stamped with “PARIS”, my knee was feeling pretty good. Pretty normal in fact.
Which lasted all of about another mile and a half or so when it became acutely obvious even to me in my stupidly enthusiastic state, that SOMETHING was WAY out of order. I was just coming up on the Renton Municipal Airport when I stepped off a curb and my knee went “NOPE! NOT DOING THIS ANYMORE!” and I decided that flagging down a sweep van was probably appropriate.
I was really quite disappointed at having to be swept. I had hoped to walk every single step this year so I was pretty sad to have to grab the van, but it was obvious that I wasn’t going to go much of anywhere without some help. And then I met the inhabitants of the “18 Hour Lift and Support” van and I was a lot more cheerful.
Sweep vans are manned by two people. You have your driver and then you have your navigator cum spotter who hangs out the window shouting and looking for people who need a sweep van. It is obvious that during crew training they emphasize to the sweep crews that people who flag down the vans are likely to be a little disappointed to have to be swept, so the sweep crews try to make it somewhat less of a disappointment. Case in point. The 18 Hour Lift and Support van was crewed by one middle aged stumpy woman from Minnesota who was the driver, and an older leathery woman from Redmond who spent the weekend wearing a gigantic pair of sunglasses and a straw hat with a bright pink bra pinned to the crown. You signal the van, they pull some truly astonishing and doubtless illegal manouvers to get to you and out hops this pink and blond vision with a step stool to escort you into the van. The outside of the van (by the way, all the sweep vans are rented locally for each event. I can’t IMAGINE some of the odd detritus that ends up getting cleaned out of these vans by mystified rental van monkeys after each of these things.) is decked out in a long string of lacy bras with additional bras flying from the side mirrors and the antenna. To each of the passenger side windows is taped a lace encircled pink paper plate which are connected to the roof with “straps” of pink crepe paper. You step inside the van and pinned to the ceiling are a large variety of lacy bras.
I found my seat and was immediately handed a squishy pink foam ribbon –you know all those crossed ribbons that are so popular to show which cause you support — yeah, translate one of those into 3D squishy foam and that’s what I was handed.
“Do you need some water? Do you need some candy? Turn on those vents in the ceiling, those are the AC vents! Are you okay? Next stop is Pit 5, did someone give you a ribbon?” Bouncy music and a hoard (okay eight) other people who needed to be swept. Everyone in pretty good spirits, two husbands and two wives obviously familiar with the sweep crew, giving them shit and getting it right back and then the traffic STOPPED. It was a good thing I didn’t need a potty stop, because driving along the south end of Rainier Ave. on a Friday afternoon you tend to go sssslllloooowwwwwllllyyyy!. To the point where the navigator was sticking her head out the window and having actual conversations with the passing walkers (yes, they were passing us).
That was the first time that someone pointed out Doreen and K.C. to me. He was wearing a shirt that read across the back “SHE WALKED 23.5 MILES TO THE WEDDING” and she had a frilly piece of bridal veil pinned to the back of her waist pack. They were also being tailed by someone in a PC Cruiser that was all decked out in pink and frills with “K.C. AND D.C. SEPTEMBER 7TH, 2007 WALKING TOGETHER FOREVER”. Yes, they walked all day, they got into camp, they ate, showered, changed, and were married. I was sorry to miss the wedding (everyone in camp was invited), but once I got home I went down and wasn’t going to get back up again. After they’d exchanged their vows and the minister said “You may kiss the bride.” he dropped to his knees and started massaging her feet. Apparently there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
But I was in the sweep van and we were creeping along Rainier Avenue to FINALLY make the turn on to Grady Way. The traffic was a little (not much) better. I wanted to be let off at the cheering station at mile 19, but the vans aren’t allowed to discharge people at anything other than a pit stop so they at least let me squish in to one of the seats in front so I could see whether or not there were any people there cheering for me. There weren’t but it was still fun to be a moving road block along Grady Way so I could check. At one point the traffic had stopped and there was a guy a car length behind us on the left who was so stunned at the sight of the van that he neglected to start driving again when the light changed. His mouth was actually hanging open!
We missed the driveway into the Denny’s parking lot that was hosting the last pit stop so we had to make a right just past it and pull a u-turn across a double yellow line so the sweep van could let us out. I gimped across the intersection and right up into the medical tent. There fortunately wasn’t a line so I sat down and said “It hurts, please fix it!”
A passing sadist named May who was remarkably talented with white medical tape poked and prodded, flexed and extended, then made me stand up and walk back and forth so she could see what I’d done. She told me that I’d been walking too fast and that I’d hyperextended my knee and bruised the lateral meniscus. She said that I’d have to keep my knee flexed for the rest of the weekend and ice it when I wasn’t walking. She stood me up with my heel resting on a lift so that my knee was bent, took out a roll of foam wrap and a roll of 2 inch white medical tape and proceeded to turn my left leg into something vaguely resembling a mummy. When she was done I couldn’t extend my knee the whole way, but it didn’t hurt. At least, it didn’t hurt when I was walking on the flat or walking uphill. Downhill was another story, but I wasn’t to learn that until later. Lots of ibuprofen and I was good (or good enough) for the final 3 1/2 miles.
Down past Southcenter then up through Tukwilla. We were essentially following the tracks for the new light rail service that will be open to the airport in another 18 months or so. Since we live close Andrew and I have been following the progress of this project with great anticipation and it was really cool to see it in slow motion and close up. As we crested the top of the hill we crossed Pacific Highway, a major arterial that runs from south of the airport to far into Seattle. Pac Highway is, at least in that area, a local haven for cheap sleazy hotels, tire and body shops, smoke shops, and prostitutes. It’s not the nicest area to be walking through and I was glad for a group of women who were walking slowly, to say nothing of the tough leathery looking dude on the motorcycle with the boobs strapped to the wind screen who was the crossing guard at that intersection. We were waiting for the light and the crossing guard was directing us in stretching which I must say I was not particularly enthusiastic about, when a tow truck pulled up at the light next to us. Out pokes the head of a guy who is the epitome of the term “grease monkey”. Every stereotype that comes to mind when someone uses that phrase was personified from the filthy backwards baseball cap to the stubbly grease stained cheeks, to the cigarette hanging out of his mouth, to the grungy blue coverall with his name on the chest.
“Hey! How long you guys been walking?”
“Oh, about 20 miles!”
“WHOA! Where’d you start?”
“Bellevue Community College at 6:30 this morning!”
“DUDE! GOOD LUCK!”
And then they roared off.
It was odd and wonderfully complimentary to get an honest, an astonished and heartfelt wish from a guy who looked like he hadn’t been impressed by anything any woman in his life had ever done.
So we walked past the airport and just a wee bit west of the airport there was a woman who was off the sidewalk messing with her knee. Any sign of distress and there’s immediately a crowd. Someone handed her an ace bandage, someone else gave her some ibuprofen and since her knee was doing a lot of what my knee was doing (and since I needed someone to walk with who would SLOW ME THE HECK DOWN) I said to her “Gimp buddies?”
She grinned and we fell into step, she limping heavily on her right leg, me on my left.
I walked with Keisha all the way into camp. Underneath what will be the third runway, along some remarkably pretty and extremely noisy wetlands (limp, limp, limp, limp, limp, limp, limp….do you know that walking downhill hurts more than walking up hill?). People passing us asking if we were okay, both of us acknowledging that we’d been better but we’d do, and me speculating wildly about where camp was going to be. We crossed Des Moines Memorial Drive, gimped a little ways up the hill on 156th and we were home.
Keisha headed for the medical tents, I checked in at the camp master station, told them I wasn’t going to be camping and then headed for the cafe where they weren’t serving dinner yet but where I could at least get a couple of peanut butter graham crackers.
I sat, CAREFULLY, in a folding camp chair and called Andrew to come and get me.
Postscript: May the Sadist had told me that I needed to keep my knee flexed for the rest of the weekend. I couldn’t see having to wait twice, or even three times a day at the medical tent for someone to strap my knee up with tape, and I had a very bad experience with white medical tape and skin in 2005 so I thought that getting some sort of neoprene (heh! kneeoprene?) support brace would be a good idea. Andrew showed up and we headed for our local pharmacy. Manhattan Pharmacy is kind of a throwback. It’s small, family owned, and everyone who works there knows everyone in the neighborhood. Its variety store items are reminiscent of those that I purchased obsessively during trips to the Ben Franklin in Eureka Illinois on summer visits to the Illinois family, and I find it a quite pleasant addition to the neighborhood. So in I limp, covered in white medical tape wearing a loud t-shirt, bright pink beads and an ID tag around my neck with stickers on my hat, a pink crocheted arm band, and a rose stuck through my hair. I got a lot of odd looks.