Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day Two-13.1 Miles

Whoever thought it was a good idea to start long walks early in the morning is half right. It's a good IDEA, in practice, it could use some work.

With the waking up at 5:45 the next day, and general denial about how early it was and the distance facing me that day, it was all I could do to walk. As in stand up. My knees had swelled, my legs (even with the stretching throughout the evening) were stiff, and my head couldn't quite understand why anyone would get up this friggen early in the morning.

But get up we did. Packed the stuff, got dressed, took down our tent, took the bags up to the truck, then were faced with an issue. It was nearly 7:15, and the breakfast lines were loooooong. About 100+ people were in each line. Luckily, for those who didn't want eggs (ew) and sausage (yum) there was a much shorter cereal line, where oatmeal was served. Oatmeal is a great breakfast, sticks to the ribs, so that's the line I hobbled up to. There was a great tradition that I learned while eating. About 10 bicycle officers from San Jose were riding along with the walkers (some with speakers and music on the back of their bikes). My favorite was the gentleman who acquired a lady's pink tutu and wore for the duration of the Sunday walk. Every time a group of officers came into the hall to eat their breakfast, they received a round of applause. I learned from an officer the day before that some were on duty, some took vacation days, others came in on their days off to help out on the walk. Thanks, San Jose Police-you guys are awesome!

After stretching for a few minutes, I hit the road about 7:50. The first part of the walk was up the hill to the top of McLaren park. There were stairs and hills and every single person there complained of aches and pains and hills. Oh, the hills! We had more hills on the second day then the first, keeping in mind on the first day we walked from the shore up the hill to the Golden Gate Bridge. Easily the first mile was uphill. Traumatic experience.

The cheering stations on the second day were a lot of fun. My favorite group was the "Hookers for Hooters" group-a collection of ladies dressed sexily who patted all the men on the butt as they walked by. There was a van decorated as a yacht whose driver was a cruise director. Another was the Mystery Van with Velma and Wilma dancing in their 70's gear. Two SUVs of women as butterflies had handiwipes along the way-a welcome cleaning item! And then there were the people who randomly came out to cheer us on. The family on the stoop with a little girl holding a sign saying "Go walkers!" The man holding a baby who waved at us as we went by. People in windows, smiling and waving. The man by his front window playing the ukulele and singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". And the people at the cheering stations who yelled "thank you walkers!" Every time I heard thank you, I teared.

The route was different on day 2, though we went through some same neighborhoods. We passed Rich W.'s house (hi Rich and Shelly!) by a block. Spent time walking up the Guerrero hill because Mission was closed off for Sunday City Streets. Thought long and hard about dropping in at Tartine for a croissant, until I saw the line was halfway down the block. Ate more of the graham cracker peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (super-yum). We went up the Duboce hill and then up onto Haight by the new Mint. Passed by Dwayne's place, and then up to Alamo Square. Great place to stop for lunch, horrible hill to walk up. Lunch was at the 7.3 mile mark-only 5.8 miles left!

And those 5.8 miles were amazing. As in, it was amazing that I was able to continue walking for that much longer. My feet hurt. I could feel the toenails bumping the front of my shoe with each step. The bottoms of my feet felt like they were being peeled off. My knees complained with each step up and down the curb. Numb would have been a relief. Advil-almost cut out the pain, but more dulled it to a soft knifing. We walked down Market for a long time. Here's what's great about Market-the most interesting things are said by people walking past you. Here's what's disturbing about Market-you don't want to hear what the people are saying.

And there are lights. Every friggin' light was red. So I would have to stop and forget how to walk until the light turned green, when the only thought in my head was "are you serious? I'm not there yet?"

Then there is the Embarcadero. LOVE the Embarcadero. No lights. People move (if you know how to make them). And I have walked that route so many times, I know how far it is to the end. Just had to get to Beach St., then past the Aquatic Park and up that last hill to the end.

I nearly gave up.

There was a sweeper van that stopped ahead of me on the Embarcadero to cheer with a group. I saw the van. I could have waved it down and gotten in and listened to my body and been done with the whole thing. The temptation was so strong, I was so tired and sore, it nearly broke me.

Then, as I'm walking down Beach St., my mom called. She was at the end and wanted to know if I needed someone to walk the last part with. Mom met me at the Aquatic Park. Seeing her, knowing she was there for me, having her hold my hand up the last hill, was the best feeling that weekend. She was there when others couldn't make it, and the thing I needed most at that point was a familiar face who could love me and help me make it through to the end.

I made it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day One- 26.2 Miles

Woke up to the alarm at 5:oo am. On a Saturday. 5:00. During Summer Break. I was tired. And nervous. Still. Ran around the house, getting the last few things together, putting on my walking gear, filling water bottles. Good thing I made a to do list the night before-post-its and the bedroom mirror are a great combo! Woke mom up, and we drove through the fog into the Marina.

When arriving before 6:00am at a large walk, here are a few things to know:
1. Where to get dropped off (look for large inflatables).
2. Where to deposit your luggage.
3. Where is the mother-loving coffee.

Then join the group in front of the stage and stretch while waiting to see what is going to happen next.

What happened next changed my entire perspective on the walk.

Six people stood on the stage and told their personal stories. The first lady told about a woman she met while working in a clinic who beat cancer once then passed away this April. The second was a man whose mother has fought and lost to cancer. The one that stuck with me was the single mother who was 23 when she found out she had cancer. She was hardly able to finish her story, which left none of us with a dry eye. By the time the group finished their stories, there wasn't a dry eye in the place.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but was surprised by the number of people who attended. There was a reported 3,200 people on the walk. Most were older women, a few men with their partners, and groups of families-fathers with their adult daughters walking with picture of deceased mothers on their shirts. Touching were the people who listed the people on whose behalf they were walking. Parents, friends, grandparents, sisters, aunts, cousins, the list went on.

That was the time when what I was doing changed. It went from something about me to more then me. That is, I started out with some pretty self involved, though totally reasonable. I wanted to see if I could go from couch potato to distance walker in just 4 months. After listening to the stories, and empathizing with people who had been through far more then I have experienced thus far, this went beyond just me and became about the people who need treatment and support with a disease which fundamentally affects people at the deepest level.

The walk itself was a beautiful route-across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Sausilito, lunch at the 9.3 mile spot, walking back along the waterfront to the bridge, crossing with the tourists and into the wind, along Lincoln Blvd. to the Inner Richmond, down across the park, out the panhandle, through the Haight, down the Castro, past Dolores Park, into Excelsior and then to McLaren Park. I couldn't tell you the exact streets we walked, or even articulate each scenic view we took in. I can tell you I should have sat down a little more often, drank an amazing amount of water, and talked with a few people along the way. I didn't find one person to keep pace with, which was a little disappointing. The last 10 miles were tough-the hills on Guerrero, walking seemingly forever across the Excelsior and not knowing the area well enough to judge how much further. Four things made it sustainable-Mom joining me for a few blocks in the Richmond, Heather with her shiny sun balloon on the way into Golden Gate Park, Sarah and Sarah in Dolores Park, and the group waiting in the cold, windy, exposed Crocker Amazon Playground at the end of the route. Charlotte, who has been my walking companion on some serious walks, Ka Yun who has been the best cheerleader ever, Christine who planned her entire San Fran trip around my walk (ok-that's not true, but it sounds good!), Edna, who wouldn't let me slack off on our East Bay jaunts, and Marcie, who always expresses her support and amazement that anyone would want to walk this far (I believe the exact words were to the effect of "That's just crazy to walk that far!")

Yes, I made it across the finish line. Personal time-well, I didn't do a great job with the stop watch. The walk started at 7:00 am, I was on the trail about 7:07 (it took that long to get everyone out onto the course), and got into the end around 5:20ish. We'll call that an even 10 hour day of walking. Just a little bit over my 18 minute pace, which I'm going to keep as a goal. But it's going to take a few more tries to get to that level.

After the BEST shower of my life, I found my tent-mate, and we headed into sleep. My body was so tired I yawned wide enough to dislocate my jaw. Only on the left side-and my mouth was stuck open for a few minutes. A panicked walk towards the medical tent got me relaxed enough for the jaw to click back into place, thank goodness. Walking with TMJ was not on my list of fun things to do. I fell asleep around 9:30, and after a few wake-up to roll over episodes, heard people around me waking at 5:45. But that's Day 2, and another story.

Prequel: day -0.5

Prequel: Day -0.5

Friday night my Mom came up to the city and we cooked a dinner of pasta with meat sauce and a big salad. Char came over and we shared a yummy dinner. It was nice to sit and chat and finish re-organizing the furniture in my room. (I moved out the desk and a little bookcase in favor of a long, low shelf and more space. Now I am thinking about painting my room, though it's a bigger project then I expect. Maybe I should get more framed pictures.) It was great to have someone there, as I started to get nervous. As is NERVOUS-there aren't words to describe the panic-what if I forgot how to walk? What if I can't make it? What if I get a bad tent-mate? What if there's no one to talk to?

It was hard to get calmed down to fall asleep. But I finally fell asleep. After 11. Oh, boy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

14.5 hours

There are 14.5 hours until the start of the walk. Tomorrow by this time, I should be headed toward or crossing the finish line. The group at the end who will be waiting for me is amazing to consider-at the end of 26.2 miles, a contingency of friends will be there to tell me "you made it 2/3 of the way to the end!"

I'm nervous and excited all at once. I've been working this week, trying to get my bedroom cleaned up/organized enough to get rid of my desk (no more home office!), and avoiding the assigned 2 mile walks. On the other hand, I just cartwheeled a 72 pound box up the front steps. Oh, and the kid I worked with today and I had a race, and I only lost to him by 3 seconds ( in flip flops, not that I could have run faster).

So tonight will be a nice pasta dinner with Mom and Char and Anne. Mom is going to stay over and drive me over to Fort Mason in the morning ( way to go mom-5:30/6:00 arrival time!). Gotta remember to cut the toenails and pack the extra pair of shoes.

I love you guys. Keep me in your thoughts this weekend-I'm going to finish the first day in under 8.5 hours! That's the goal, and I'm sticking with it.