The walk was… amazing. I can’t describe it any other way. It ran the gamut of extremes- joy, grief, pain, nerves, and more.
Day One dawned bright and early as we were asked to be at the park by 5:30 in order to process our late check-in. We arrived between 5 and 5:30 and were done with check-in within, no joke, five minutes. Opening ceremonies didn’t begin until 6:30. Whew, that was a long, cold wait.
Finally, after a delay, opening ceremonies began and it didn’t take long to bring me to tears. All it took was a chain of breast cancer survivors walking slowly up to the stage, hand in hand. Yup, there went the waterworks.
When us walkers set off on our course, it was one of the most incredible experiences ever. I felt like a rockstar. They had us walk down a gated path and people were lined along both sides, clapping and giving high fives and waving signs that said, “Thank you for walking.” They were so appreciative of what we were doing that it almost brought me to tears- again. Sense a theme here?
The first day went pretty quickly. The pit stops were ridiculously fun. They were themed and handed out stickers as well as whatever snacks and liquid you needed. By the end of the walk, my originally plain name badge was adorned in stickers and charms and buttons. The pit stops also had the increasingly popular medical tents. By the end of Day One, Kim and I were hurting. Kim was developing a lovely case of heat rash and I was, embarassingly, chafing my thighs to shreds. Literally, raw skin. Lovely. TMI, much? We quit at 18 miles with 1.8 left to go for the day. We would have made it, but the last 1.8 was alllll uphill. In our conditions, it wasn’t going to happen. Flat surface? Maybe. Not a hill, though.
Day Two was another early one with the route opening at 6:30 and closing by 8. We had every intention of being on the route by 7:00, but we took longer than planned at breakfast and boy were we moving slowly. Our muscles were SO cramped and tight, it was painful to move. Despite the pain, we made it another 10 miles before we had to call it quits. Kim’s heat rash was literally blistering and I’m just a baby who had really achy muscles.
Back at camp we indulged in some much needed rest. We lounged in the large dining tent and “rented” a game from “3 Day Cafe.” We ate dinner and then sat for the entertainment of the evening. The Seattle SeaGals came and led some stretching sessions and then performed some dances for us and then, after some emotional speeches and announcements, a live band came on. It was insane how many people were up and dancing on their blistered and sore feet. They had everybody who wasn’t already asleep moving.
Day Three started out wondefully. My muscles were sore, but definitely less so than the day previous. Kim and I set off at a comfortable pace, taking pictures along the way that you can see (along with others) over at my Flickr account (click on the photo badge in the sidebar).
We were plugging along, but somehow along the way we ended up way at the back of the pack. Of course, when there’s 2700 people walking, back of the pack tends to be in the last, you know, 500 people or so. I think it came from my sister having to wait at a medical tent for a good while at one pit stop to have her knee wrapped and then from me taking some time at the next stop to wrap up my feet and rebandage the blisters. Let me tell you, I know more about blister treatment now, than I ever needed to know.
We kept plodding on, but a 3 mile stretch between pit stops was the death of us. We ran out of water on the way and the ridiculous amount of up and down hills just about destroyed my sister’s knee. That’s not to blame all the quitting on her- she was in considerably more pain than I was, but if I had wanted to continue really badly, she would have kept on. I just felt that by that time, she was in so much pain she wasn’t having fun anymore and, to be honest, I wasn’t having any fun listening to her sniffle her way down hills. I hurt just enough that I wasn’t really comfortable with going on by myself, either.
So, sadly, we were not able to complete any of the three days in their entirety, however, we still managed what I consider to be a pretty decent job of 40 out of the 60 miles. I consider it a great feat especially considering that we, uhm, didn’t train at all. Next year… next year we’ll make it.
Closing ceremonies were shorter than I expected, which, by the time they came around, was a relief. We were tired and ready to get off of our feet. The most touching moment of the entire weekend was after walking into the gates (being cheered and applauded all the way- I’m telling you, rockstar) we all crowded around a gated off section in the middle of the walkers. Then in walked the survivors who were not only, well, survivors, but who were also walkers. When they came in, all of the other walkers took off a shoe and raised it in the air in their honor. I was sobbing. All around me, as far as I could see, were hot, sweaty, and tired people with a shoe raised in the air to show their support for the amazing women grouped in the center. At that moment, I could have walked indefinitely, if that’s what it would take. (Just a side note, I’m not usually a big cryer, so all these tears are actually abnormal!)
There were several highlights along the way- some emotional, some funny, and others just.. well… random.
One online friend of mine, a fellow Jennifer Crusie Fan (or Cherry as we’re called), was walking and we had tentative plans to meet at dinner. We’d seen pictures of each other, but you all know how pictures versus the reality tend to be. On the first day, my sister and I were walking downhill and from behind us, I hear this voice asking if one of us is named Courtney. I turned around, hesitant, and admit that yeah, I am Courtney. Sara, my Cherry friend, had recognized my mother’s name from the back of my shirt and found me out of the crowd of 2700. How crazy is that?
Another highlight of Day One was the bird who decided my sister’s hair would make a most excellent toilet. Hee. I laugh just thinking about it She was so horrified.
One of the most amazing things about the walk was the incredible support from the community. My favorite supporters were the three old men that showed up along the route several times during all three days. As far as I know, they weren’t in any way affiliated with the walk- just local supporters. My sister and I had our picture taken with them that’s over with the rest of the pics at Flickr. People honked and cheered you on at street corners and crew members drove past you constantly yelling encouragement. Kids held up signs in their front yards at 7am on a Saturday morning and held spray bottles to mist you down along your way. It was such an amazing feeling for people to feel so grateful to YOU.
I’m sure that I’m forgetting things so you might expect another 3 Day post to follow. Now, I have a proposal for you. My sister and I are going to try to organize a full-sized team for next year. Yes, the fundraising is an obstacle, but we feel that if we start early enough (like.. in two months? Or less?) and if we have enough people, that we can come up with some fun fundraising ideas and pull the funds together for more people, in a more simple way. For example, we could hold a team garage sale. With two people, activities like that become more difficult.
If you are interested in joining our team and walking with us, please please please let me know so we can get an idea of what our fundraising goal will be. We’ll be walking under the name of Mom’s Little Super Troopers and have every intention of wearing goofy t-shirts or some other goofy costume along the way. We want to make sure that we have a blast next year. Not that we didn’t this year, we did, but we could have done more.
I’d love to have my friends not only supporting me and the cause, but also walking beside me and experiencing the intense miracle that is the 3 Day.