Monday, May 7, 2012

I did it.

This is going to be a long one.  Go get a drink first.  I have lots to say and I want to get it all out before I forget things.

First, I did it.  Wow.  I was really afraid there for a while I'd have to say I tried but didn't do it.  So this is a relief.  But what a journey this has been.

When I started this, I had all sorts of thoughts and delusions about it.  I thought I would walk 39.3 miles and everything would be okay.  I thought Ruth would be there with Mike and the girls and all would be fine.  Before we signed on, Amanda asked if I would be able to do this if Ruth didn't live to see it.  Yes, of course I would (because she wasn't going to die, but I didn't say that).  Then she died. And I was the only one who was surprised.

Still, I walked.  I thought walking would make it all okay.  It didn't.  It gave me purpose, a goal, but it didn't make everything okay.  I'm really not sure why I thought it would.

I had a lot of money to raise.  People who never met me donated.  Lots of Ruth's friends and family donated, which was not a total surprise.  But friends from high school, coworkers, acquaintances - they donated, too.  Each donation made me excited and scared.  These people believed in me even when I didn't.

So, fast forward to walk eve.  The girls and I went to the hotel to meet Amanda and register.  There was excitement in the air.  The girls were fascinated - the big chandeliers in the hotel, the huge bouquets of flowers in the lobby, the vendors selling anything and everything with pink ribbons on it - it was overwhelming!  But it was also exciting.

Mike and the girls made Amanda and me shirts.  The both said Signs of Hope - our team name.  Mine had a picture of Ruth on the back (which made me cry).  Amanda's had the list of family members she's lost.  We both got teary eyed at that.

The Marriott downtown is a nice hotel, certainly nicer than most places I stay.  I was sitting in the window (not leaning on the glass and tempting fate!) watching the theater goers walk down the street, the drunk girls woo-hooing out the sunroof of limos - the general energy of the city.  I don't often stay in the city so this was nice and very comforting to me.  Still, I couldn't sleep.  I was really afraid of not being able to do this.

We had to be on the shuttle at 5:30 in the morning!!  I still don't know why this was true.  The opening ceremonies started around 6:30 or 7.  It was .4 miles away.  But whatever, rules are rules. And we followed those rules.  We put our luggage on the bus so it could drive us to our destination.  As we got off the bus, some of the youth crew was there cheering for us.  I really didn't understand how important the cheering would be until later but it was a great way to start the day.

It's a very different thing to say there are X number of people who are fighting/surviving/supporting people with breast cancer and having all those folks in one place.  It's kind of overwhelming - especially seeing the survivors.  There were inflatable pillars welcoming us that people signed as they got to the staging area.  We each took our turn signing the "wall" and as I turned to look at the stage, I saw they were running text messages that people were texting in to be played on the screen.  All I saw was A & M's names.  That was awesome.  Mike texted it in again so we could both see it. 

That was a great start to the day.  After opening ceremonies, we were off.  We walked around the tidal basin, past the MLK monument (I hadn't seen that before so that was cool), up the mall to Capitol Hill.  I knew it was going to be a rough day by the humidity and the grumpiness of walkers at the first pit stop.  

This was more of a struggle than I expected.  First, I didn't know I couldn't use my ipod - no headphones.  I really wouldn't inflict my playlist on the other walkers - they'd beat me up for the stuff I listen to.  I also hadn't trained in humidity.  That was enough to kill me.  By mile 5 I knew I was in trouble.  From mile 5-13, I thought I was going to throw up.  I didn't know that was a sign of dehydration.  I don't normally drink much so having bottle after bottle of water and Propel seemed like overkill to me.  It wasn't.  It wasn't enough.  

Amanda wanted to do the full 26.2 on the first day and I wanted that for her.  She took off at the lunch pit stop and I waited to see if my cheering section appeared. Getting up and walking again was tough.

I hate everything about Georgetown.  There was hill after hill.  I knew I looked bad - other walkers and pit stop crew were asking if I was okay.  I couldn't pee.  I was ready to puke.  I wasn't okay.  But there was no way in hell I was getting picked up by the sweep bus so I kept walking.  There were  no cheering people in Georgetown.  A few folks clapped but nothing inspirational.  That was such a hard part of the walk.  Uphill, quiet and feeling sick.  Then I got to Georgetown hospital.  I thought of all the hours I had spent there with various patients.  And I was grateful for the down hill part of the route.  Just past the hospital I saw two people sitting in chairs.  One sort of looked like Mike and one had a pink hat on.  That didn't make sense - he wouldn't come without both girls.  As I approached, I saw the other girl - my girl!  I burst into tears.  They had signs that said I rocked.  I didn't feel very rocking at that moment.  I thought I was ready to end it.  They were just past mile 12 so I knew I didn't have far to go to reach 13.1.  Mike offered to take my backpack and was surprised at the weight of it.  I don't even know what was in it but it weighed at least 20 pounds.  It was so heavy and it hurt.  He took most of the stuff out, leaving only the necessities.  That was awesome.  Lesson learned.  Andrew met us there and walked me to the 13.1 pit stop.  I was done. Thankfully he took me to the Wellness Village (camp site) so I didn't have to go on the bus.

Amanda kept going.  I'm so proud of her.  She texted me a various points - that was so hard for her.  But she rocked it.  Did I mention how proud I am of her?

The Wellness Village was fun.  They had foot/back massager machines for the walkers.  There were drinks, food, places to relax.  I needed to wait for Amanda.  She needed someone to cheer her across the finish line.

Another lesson: pack things for all sorts of weather. It was quite chilly in the evening and I had nothing to wear.  After some discussion, Amanda and I decided I'd be oh so much happier in my own bed. I needed to freak out and didn't want to do that in front of anyone.  Luckily, Mike was taking the girls to a birthday party nearby and could get me.  Being in my bed was good.  I soaked my feet, showered, cried.  And lucky for me I found a replacement for my job on Monday morning at 8:30 am in DC.  Yeah, I was that naive about it all.  But I was able to find a replacement by 6:45 am.  Boo-yah for me!

I got back to the Wellness Village shortly after 7am.  There was no bru-ha-ha, nothing.  Just a standard camp breakfast.  Oh, and cupcakes left over from the evening before.  Score!

Walking on Sunday was better.  There was more downhill than uphill.  The humidity was lower.  I felt better.  I had done it once before so I was pretty sure I could 13.1 again.

The one thing I didn't realize was the importance of the folks who came out to cheer for us.  I hadn't really thought of it before.  There were so many more people out cheering us on Sunday - and it helped so much.  

We walked through embassy row.  That was cool - but we were late (my fault!) so we were booking through it.  Mike and the girls found a spot near the Italian embassy.  It was so comforting to hear my girls chant "Let's beat cancer!  Beat it!" at the walkers.  The walkers were happy to see them and the girls were excited to be part of this.  This walk had a healing affect on us all.

Oh, somewhere on Wisconsin Ave, near Tenley Circle, were lion dancers (the chinese new year dragon looking things) and cheering people all along Wisconsin Avenue.  Once we got to George Washington University, there was a sorority that came to cheer for us.  Lots of places had water, gum, candy - and support.  To hear people say "Thank You!" was awesome.

The people who volunteer to work the walk clearly have a mission.  They cheered us at every stop light.  They were fun.  Most importantly to me, they made me laugh when I needed it most.

So, what did I learn from all of this?  Here's what I've come up with so far:

1.  Setting goals is good.  It's helpful to have a clear idea of reality when setting those goals.  Though if I really knew what I was in for I might not have done it.

2.  Less is more.  No one needs to carry as much crap as I did.  And no one needs "clothing choices" on walk days.  Just pack what you need.

3.  Train better.  Yes, I walked 13 miles before.  But I stopped and smelled a lot of flowers, looked in store windows, got lunch, etc.  I need to walk 13 (or more!) 20 minute miles - without shopping.

4.  Don't think walking will make everything better.  It helps but at the end of the day, things that make you sad will still make you sad.

5.  Good shoes are important.  The definition of "good shoes" is more important.  Same goes for socks.

6.  When committing to something of this size, realize it affects the entire family.  None of us had any idea what we were really signing up for - and it was tough on everyone.

7.  Don't train with music.  That was tough.  When I walked alone I always had music, which I depended on to get me past the hard times.  Not having it (against Avon Walk rules) was tough.

8.  It's okay to cry.

9.  Having people cheer you on is amazing.  And by amazing, I mean AMAZING!!  I had no idea how important all those facebook comments, private emails and messages and phone calls would mean to me.  I am truly humbled by all the love.

10.  My friends rock.  Amanda is awesome.  My family is amazing.  I am loved.

Thank you all who supported me in so many ways.  


  1. Sooooo proud of you, rough road and all...

    Also, who needs headphones? I once drove all night to the outer banks with no radio (7 hours) singing S&P's "Push it" to myself. Heeheehee.

    Again, I think you are pretty amazing. Thanks for sharing the story.

  2. You so rocked this. I am SO proud of you . . . . .

  3. I know it's been said, but I'm proud of you too! It was great to have the opportunity to be involved, support, and cheer for you. Thank you for doing this!