What a fantastic experience! You know how sometimes life starts out pretty uncertain and ends up grand? That was how this weekend went for me! I find each year that this journey has a different lessons and achievements for me. This year, it was about making friends and hearing stories.
Friday started out hopeful…. I met a new friend online the day before who helped us with transportation help so my husband could get back to work. What a blessing! The day dawned overcast but dry…. And the opening ceremony was exciting and emotional, as always! There is something incredibly powerful about seeing our survivors and remembering why we walk in the first place.
The first few miles were fun.. and then the mist started… which felt pretty nice. We were all working up a bit of a sweat already. But then, just before lunch, the heavens opened.. and the real challenge began. Seriously, it was pouring! So our restful lunch interlude in a grassy field turned into a grab, eat and go exercise. It’s hard to get the rest and stretching you need while you are in the pouring rain. Still and all, the people at the 3Day events are the BEST! We plowed through and finished the day’s allotted mileage (only to arrive at a very muddy camp. Recuing soggy luggage and setting up my tent was an experience for me. I never thought of myself as particularly fastidious, so I was surprised at how much the muck bothered me. Fortunately I followed advice I heard before my first 3Day – pack everything (EVERYTHING) in plastic bags within the suitcase… so I escaped with dry clothing and sleeping bag. Another mixed blessing is that I did this one on my own and had no tentmate….. I no longer have much experience being alone… but it WAS nice to have that tiny tent all to myself…. Kind of a dry side and damp side… so it all worked out. And I did get back to camp in time to handle all the things I needed to handle before dark fell.. which made me a bit more comfortable about things.
Saturday dawned early for me… my cell phone died Friday night so I had no way to judge time. I tossed and turned and tossed and turned on the hard ground….. and the person in the next tent over began to snore. It’s funny, really in retrospect, but an attitudinal challenge on the event…. (I am allowed to say this because I know that I snore and it was payback for me) But then the whispers began… another tent nearby had friends whispering to each other about the time. One said it was 5am…. Okay – well I am one of those despised morning people…. And the coffee is ready by 4:30 so I decided to get up and go be somewhere else since I wasn’t sleeping any more. The funny part is that I ran into a sleepy crew member who couldn’t sleep and was heading out to make coffee (it was actually THREE am… not FIVE). But since I was pretty much finished with my sleeping bag, I cleaned up and headed for the coffee anyway. There I joined several people who couldn’t sleep either… so we had a bit of a middle of the night party. Already, my day began to take on the tone of this year’s adventure.
Before I was ready to walk, I had to hose off my feet to judge the damage from the day before… a bit of a blister from not being able to change socks.. so I patched that up and headed out as soon as the course opened.
Right away, my ankles began talking to me.. I found a walking partner for the first few miles but decided to rest a little longer at the first pit stop. I felt a bit dizzy and my ankles were a little swollen so I thought resting a bit with ice on them was a good idea. I spent that time talking with several people… I am amazed this year at how many very young survivors there are. I ran into many women under the age of 30… so ladies…. Be aware and do those monthly exams. Men…. Talk to your women….. Breast cancer does not wait for age 45!
I started out again and made it about a mile when I decided that I shouldn’t stress my legs and ankles so much, so I grabbed a passing sweep van and headed on toward lunch. Saturday was a beautiful sunshiney day so lunch in the open field was a blessing! I ran into my friends from the day before as well as new ones and spent a nice restful time chatting and deciding how to proceed the rest of the day. I finally decided to forego the rest of the walk that day and got on the bus for camp. Again, I pulled out my crocheting (oh yeah, I forgot to mention a pink ribbon afghan project I brought along – but those of you who know me well will not be surprised that I sat and crocheted while I listened!) The stories on the bus are always pretty interesting because the bus is filled with people who set out to walk all those miles but, for various reasons, couldn’t. It is an emotional place, that bus…. And full of hurting people who needed solace. I was graced to be there with them.
And camp was a restful place on Saturday evening. Mulch had been laid in the muddiest walkways so we were much more comfortable. I was settled in the dining tent in time to see something I had never experienced before – the welcoming home of the last walker. That was tremendously powerful! I was able to borrow a phone to call home to let my husband know that my phone had died and I had no idea what to tell him about how to find me at the end of the event. All we knew is that it would end at the Washington Monument. I couldn’t even contact my local friend because her number was in my phone! I didn’t write it down…. We are surely dependent on technology, aren’t we?
It was tough starting out Sunday morning… weather was good but my attitude was flagging. At the first pit, I stopped at medical and got my feet taped up again…. Between blisters on the ball of my foot and the wet socks rubbing on Day 1, they were a mess. After that, I was blessed to wind up walking with another new friend who was also travelling solo. We wound up pushing each other onward and made it through the day all the way to the end. You can bet I was in tears as I reached the Finish. I had called my husband and told him that we could meet at my luggage… I figured that would be the most intelligent thought..so after we took our victory photos, we went to find where that was…. and there he was! A super end to a challenging, but victorious weekend!
I have to say a BIG thank you to the volunteer crew…. These events are huge. You can imagine with 3-4,000 walkers….. how many people are needed to support them with food, entertainment, traffic safety and medical. The needs at each location for volunteers are tremendous. I still have visions of the poor volunteer with the luggage who was up to her ankles (literally) in mud Friday night…. And the beautiful mulch pathways did not lay themselves…. They were put there bag by bag, by volunteers. It is a HUGE job.
And I thank you.. for your prayers and support, for your cards, for your patience all year with my chatter.. and for your financial donations. This year, I started fundraising a month before the Washington event and, with your help, made it over halfway to my goal. If you’ve read this far, and you didn’t get the chance to donate, my site will be able to accept donations for this event until Octobet 20. After that?.... hmm….. I will probably have registered for my 5th event…. Atlanta 2012.
Thanks again for your kindness and God bless you and your families! Oh yeah – for those who are interested…. Photos are up on Facebook and will be made into a photo book the next time Snapfish has a sale!