Tuesday, September 30, 2008

San Francisco Breast Cancer 3-Day

It is hard for me to put into words how absolutely amazing the 3-Day Breast Cancer experience was for me, but I will try. And, before I start, I must say that I cannot imagine not participating in this event next year. This is not something you do once and forget. I have a new perspective on everything in my life and it was worth every single step.

Early on Friday morning, we set off for the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Nancy's husband Phil made us some awesome bacon egg bagel sandwiches (thanks again Phil!). Ainsley, their cute 7 year old even set her alarm to wake up at 4 am -- unbenownst to them of course! We arrived to lines of cars, swarms of people and rows of trucks ready to haul off our gear bags. We dropped everything off and found Mary Ann pretty soon after that. While waiting for the opening ceremony, we posed for our pre-walk picture, set our goals and got our six motivational stickers.

My goal was to walk every single mile and to finish with a smile on my face. I am proud to say that I did just that. The six motivational phrases of the weekend were: Grow Community. Kindness Rocks. Cheer a Lot. Strut your Stuff. Stay Positive. Take your Time. So cool to be there and a part of this. :)

"Kindness Rocks" picture from here.

The opening ceremony was powerful and motivating. Words cannot describe. I cannot do it justice. The power of 2,000 people walking for the same purpose, for something more than themselves, makes you believe that there is so much more good in this world than you ever hear of or see in the news. Rather than pictures, I have video - I'm no filmographer, but I figured what better way to tell about this experience than sharing the opening and closing events with everyone. If you would like to watch, please e-mail me. Apparently, the videos are too long to upload on youtube (ten minute limit?? really???) and I'm not so technologically saavy that I actually know of any other video hosting sites!

So back to the walk.... after the ceremony we were off to walk our miles for the day. Nancy, Mary Ann and I figured out rather quickly how to make sure we were near the front of the pack, as we wanted to hold a good pace so that we could finish our first day strong. We had 21 miles to walk on Friday and we think we started walking around 7:30 am that day. We went from the Cow Palace across Daly City toward the ocean, along Bayshore, by Merced Lake, the San Francisco Zoo, across the Sunset District, through Golden Gate Park, across the Pacific Heights District, finally finishing at our home for the weekend, Chrissy Field at the Presidio by the Golden Gate Bridge. Memorable moments from Friday included leaving Mary Ann due to the heat at the Rose Garden in Golden Gate Park (we felt so bad and we were so worried), finding a street vendor that sold Diet Coke (for Nancy) and Izze soda (YUM - for me!), walking by Kara's Cupcakes and stopping to buy some... so TASTY! My poor callused feet held up great until we got to Pacific Heights. The steep downhills finally got to me and by the time we got within sight of Chrissy Field, I was limping and a lot slower. Nancy waited for me and we finished strong. We later found out that we were within a half an hour of the fastest walker when we finished at 3:30 pm that day. Eight hours for 21 miles... Still cannot believe that we did that!

We set up our hot pink tent, fighting the wind the entire time. We tried and failed to get our fabulous cots to fit -- we later discovered it was the wind making our tent smaller and got them to fit later in the evening (thanks to Mary Ann's brilliant observation that our tent was tiny compared to hers!!!). We hiked what seemed like a mile across camp to get our towels and hit to mobile showers. Sue, one of Nancy's best friends, was working as a volunteer RN in the Medical tent in the camp, so we finally got to meet and hang out while we checked out our feet. So I have to give kudos to Allen the EMT who fixed my callus problem enough for me to get through the three days with moleskin pads for them. Going into the walk, I have had difficulties with calluses on the balls of my feet. Even the podiatrist said there was nothing I could do about them. Lovely. I actually ended up cutting so much moleskin in three days for the calluses and the blisters, I got a blister on my thumb from using the scissors! :)

Our pasta dinner was good the first night and by 8 pm we were ready to crash for the night. We celebrated Mary Ann's birthday in our tent with a cupcake we bought earlier and went to sleep pretty early. About 21 miles down, about 39 to go.... we really were nuts to do this! :)

Saturday began with waking up at 5 am to see absolutely no fog around the bay or even the Golden Gate Bridge. That meant it was going to be really HOT where we were walking! We got off to a little bit of a late start, leaving an hour behind the opening of the course. That just meant long lines at the rest stops and lots more people along the course than we had experienced on the first day. Nancy and I both were a little nervous to walk over the Golden Gate Bridge -- it sways in the wind... the whole heights thing.... it was all about conquering our fears! Our goal for the 24 miles that day was 10 hours. We left at 8 am and I am happy to report that we made it back by 6 pm! :) Our course went from Chrissy Field, up and over the Golden Gate Bridge, along the coast through Sausolito, up to Mill Valley and back. It was scortching hot, but absolutely beautiful.

I think the lowest point for both of us was on Saturday in the last couple of miles to lunch. We were both having issues with our feet and spent at least a mile debating whether or not to flag down one of the "sweeper" vans patrolling the course all day long. We talked ourselves out of it and it was really the only time during the whole walk that I seriously debated catching the sweeper! Even despite feeling much, much more pain on Sunday and limping the entire day. :) We were certainly lagging today and Mary Ann succombed to the heat after lunch. So proud of her for making more than half of the 60 miles!

Brian decided to come up and cheer us on. I was so grateful to see him at our second pit stop after lunch. He got us some Starbucks and cheered us on the rest of the day. It was funny to have our usual roles of participant/cheerleader reversed! :) By the afternoon, the heat had caused several more blisters and a weird sun rash on my legs from the combination of sunblock/sweat/sun that hurt only if I touched it. By the end of the day, we were exhausted and tired, but proud of ourselves for making it so far. By the time we got to the end of the 24 miles, I definitely knew that there was NO WAY I wasn't finishing all the miles tomorrow! I was not sure how I would get that far, but I had Nancy there to set a pace for me, so I was able to get through it. I figured that the faster we walked it, the sooner we were done!

Highlights for day two included the beautiful scenery, making it through the lowest point of the walk for us both, not having some of the unbelievable blisters we saw in pit stop medical tents (yuck!), walking in ten hours and conquering my fear of heights + bridges long enough to walk across the Golden Gate twice!

The last day was not easy. I knew when I woke up that my feet were okay, but I was unsure how well they would really do over the course of the day. We were so grateful to have Brian there to help us by taking our bags, breaking down our cots and tents. (Thank you sweetie!!! :) After a quick breakfast, we got out on the course as soon as possible. We met a lot of really nice walkers on the course on Sunday. Our walk was 18 miles long and Nancy's goal was 7 hours. I was just hoping to keep up! :) The course was a large loop that took us past every major landmark in San Francisco and through almost all of the neighborhoods.... we walked up some of the steepest streets in the city, through Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate park (again!), Alamo Square, Washington Square, the Tenderloin, City Hall, downtown, Union Square, Chinatown, little Italy, North Beach and back to the Marina. Thankfully, the weather was finally a little cooler! Brian chased us around to the pit stops and sat with us at lunch. Nancy's husband and kids came out to cheer us on at lunchtime and made Nancy signs, so cute! :)

I spent most of Sunday limping at a rather fast pace for the first half. At lunch, I was so grateful for one of the medics wrapping my right ankle for me. By the time we got to the next pit stop, I had to wrap the other ankle. When we got to the last pit stop, it was a bathroom only stop. Neither one of us wanted to stop any longer. Brian met up with us at the last mile and half and walked it with me. Scarlet walked it too -- the whole way with her tennis ball in her mouth! So funny!

When we got to the last mile, I was having a tough time. I just needed to take my own pace and Nancy needed to keep hers. It would be almost impossible to find someone whose pace is exactly the same as yours for so many miles. She set a great pace for us and I worked hard to keep up with her! :) When I finally got to Marina Green, I could not believe we had to walk down an impossible flight of stairs. The pain from my feet brought tears to my eyes, I couldn't believe it! I was so thrilled to finish. It was truly amazing to walk all sixty miles and accomplish something so big. I always accomplish my goals, but this is a whole new thing to me!

Note the stairs going up the hill behind me to the right... yikes!

We cheered on everyone finishing behind us and celebrated the accomplishment of our goals. The closing ceremony was composed of a victory walk where all the participants linked arms in rows of eight and walked from the hall we finished in to the stage for the closing event. It was another amazing, emotional ceremony and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this event. One way or another I will be out there next year walking or volunteering.

All the walkers in front of us...
....and all the walkers behind us in the victory walk!
My poor swollen feet right after I got in the car on Sunday.... 8 blisters, one burst on the top of my left foot. After the pain of the blisters and calluses wore off a few days later, I realized I had actually aggrevated an old injury in my right foot and I had strained tendons/ligaments in the arch of my foot! OUCH!! Finally getting back to normal now.... :)

And finally, my favorite sign from the whole weekend -- a quote. It reminds me of the two people I walked for, my grandma and my cousin Sue -- both of whom definitely continue to go on in a big way!

Thank you to everyone who made a donation, who walked with me as a trained, who supported me with their words of encouragement. As of today, I have raised over $1,800! :) It's still not too late... if you would like to make a donation, please click here! Thank you to Mary Ann for joining us and embracing this experience with almost no training (awesome!).
Thank you and big hugs to Nancy for doing this with me -- I definitely could not have done any of this without you!! You rock and you know I love ya girl!! :)

And most importantly to Brian.... for all those early morning walks you didn't really want to do, for all the support, for everything that you do for me and for us. Happy Anniversary, I love you!! :)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Time for some big changes

So many things are changing right now.... finally taking some time to clean out old stuff, finish up incomplete projects and get caught up before the holidays hit! I am working hard to finish uploading all my pics and videos of the big walk, so I will be posting those early next week (finally!). In the meantime, we have made significant progress on our big wall project and it's getting the finishing touches right now. We still have to build the second tier in the back, add plants, put sprinkler systems in and lay sod, but for now we're happy to be done with the front wall.

Off to Michelle's wedding this weekend... Brian's working hard, so I'm bummed he is stuck at home, but grateful he is working tonight, tomorrow and Sunday... Get to see my nephew and visit with my family. So excited to get to visit Apple Hill on Sunday morning and go with Creighton for his first time. Been waiting for weeks now! I'm outta here! :)


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