Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Breast Cancer 3Day Walk in Dallas/Fort Worth

One word to describe the past weekend...  Amazing! But since that may leave most people in the dark, allow me to describe in more detail what made this weekend not only so amazing, but fierce, extraordinary, and uplifting.


Lesson Learned: Poor Preparation = Extremely Stressful and Sleepless Nights

Okay. Blake and I had spent maybe 20 hours combined training for this thing. We have a treadmill sitting in our living room that would have been perfect for us to use to make sure that when the 3-Day arrived we would be ready to take this thing on without hesitation. However, the treadmill became more of a deterrent when vacuuming than anything else. With that being said, we were a little nervous / anxious / scared out of our wits that we were going to die. 

However, by the time it came for us to leave our cozy Houston home and head to Blake's parents' house in Fort Worth, we were packed and ready to make this journey... mentally ready, at least


Lesson Learned: 20 Miles is a Whole Lot Longer than You Think

Too bad we didn't get to leave Houston until 8 p.m. the night before the 3-Day. After a 4 and 1/2 drive, we dove into bed, only to jump into the shower and get dressed two hours later. So much for a good night's rest before walking the longest distance we had ever attempted in our lives. 

Blake and I joined forces with the rest of our team, Real Men Wear Pink, to walk a course of 60 miles. Our trip began with the Opening Ceremony at the Plano Centre. We arrived ready to walk. Filled with What-A-Burger taquitos, hash browns, and Diet Coke (the breakfast of champions, right?) and anxious as to what the next few days would hold, our trip began with the Opening Ceremony at the Plano Centre. Flags paraded across the stage held by people who have been directly affected by breast cancer. For my MOTHERFor my SISTERFor my DAUGHTERFor my GRANDMOTHER, For my WIFE, For my PARTNERFor my HUSBANDFor my NEIGHBOR... After watching several hundred people pull out the tissues to dab at watery eyes, we set out amongst the 3,000+ other participants. We skipped the crowds by avoiding getting lost within the corral of the ceremony, and we were amongst the first few hundred to set out along the open road. 

The morning began with a plethora of laughter, chatter, and excitement as the crowds at the starting line cheered us onto the streets of Plano. The weather could not have been more perfect. It was crisp and cool as the sun began to peek over the horizon, allowing the light to spill over everything within sight. 

Our team, Real Men Wear Pink, consisted of John, Tyler, Laura (all pictured below), Blake and myself. Our enthusiasm for the upcoming days was high as we began our journey. There was pink EVERYWHERE! And not only that, but there were boob references EVERYWHERE! I have never seen three guys blush more in my life than when women walk past us randomly saying, "Boobs, boobs, boobies.", over and over and over. 

We were welcomed warmly by rush hour traffic honking and cheering us on at every stop light. We felt like rock stars with our very own fan club. It was such a great feeling being part of the sea of pink that flooded the streets throughout Plano and the surrounding community. Neighbors stood in their driveways and sat on their front porches in their robes and coffee cups, cheering us on. Before we knew it we'd arrived at our very first Pit Stop.

At each stop, walkers are encouraged to drink about 4 to 5 ounces of fluids per mile, so the Pit Stops are stocked up with Gatorade and water coolers for us to fill up our water bottles. Drink, Pee, No IV! was the mantra that day. There are also snacks galore: animal crackers, pretzels, chips, string cheese, bananas, sliced oranges, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Blake and John's personal favorite*) -- you name it. So we stretched and refueled and headed back on our trail. 

*Every time I lost John or Blake in the crowd, I simply had to search for two, tall guys walking around with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich shoved in their mouths (which was not difficult in a sea of women).

One of the highlights on Day One included the several elementary schools that took precious time out of their busy day to show us support. (I'm sure the teachers were just devastated to lose that time in the classroom, especially when there are literally THOUSANDS of people marching outside the window.)

So... By the time lunch rolls around, or more accurately, by the time we crawl into lunch, the whole team is starting to feel the effects of walking 12 miles. At this time we are all thinking, "And we still have 48 more miles to go?!?!?" But, for the sake of the other team members, we all smile and change our socks. Secretly, though, we are all studying the cards that tell us how many more miles until camp. Only 8 miles... Smile. 

At this point in time I'd like to point out that Blake and I, as well as the rest of our team has gotten past the rush we felt at the Opening Ceremony. The remaining miles of Day One were not recorded with photos simply because I didn't have the strength to reach into Blake's bag to pull out my camera.** We reached what we will politely refer to as "painful exhaustion." For me, my hips and feet ached with an intensity that should only come after the age of 90. Somehow, by the grace of God, we all made it into camp after eight straight hours of walking. 20.2 miles down...

**I would have worn the camera around my wrist, but I was afraid that there might have been an incident in the port-a-potty.


Lesson Learned: Putting Up a Tent with Your Significant Other After Walking 20+ Miles is an Excellent Test of Patience

After a long day of walking, we gathered at Brookhaven Community College, our home away from home for the weekend. Blake and I barely stumbled into the chairs under the dining tent to gather enough strength to carry our bags and a disassembled tent to our designated spot in the field swimming with pink tents. 

Walkers are encouraged to decorate and personalize their tents. They did a great job although I am still in awe of how these women were able to fit Christmas lights, flowers, flag poles, floor mats, and other decorations in an already overstuffed bag. Take a look at the tent that was one row over from ours...                   

Blake and I attached a generic Kentucky flag to our tent, but, really, how did they pack those buckets?!?!

Around 9 p.m. at night all that could be heard around our campsite was crickets. 

There were just over 3,000 walkers who attended the event and every last one of us were sleeping like babies. Walkers with blisters, sore backs, aches and pains were treated by the medical team when they arrived back at camp and then we all enjoyed a spaghetti dinner and local entertainment. Those who could muster enough energy to walk around still browsed the shops set up in tent, with 3-Day gear, athletic wear, etc. We had hot showers in trucks with large portable shower facilities and then it was off to bed.


Lesson Learned: Lunch is Very, Very Important!

The first morning waking up in camp came SO soon. Blake and I would have preferred to have woken up to singing birds or a gentle wind brushing against the side of our tent, but instead, we woke to a team leader practically yelling for her team to get up and start stretching. Thank the Lord that our team leader, John, was simply thrilled that we hadn't died during the night and was ecstatic that we were emerging from our tents at all.  

As we began our journey to complete the 2nd set of 20 miles, we focused on making it to the cheering station after the first Pit Stop. 

To explain, a cheering station is where family, friends, and community members are able to come to cheer on the 3-Day walkers. There were a total of six stations throughout the whole event, and each time Blake and I passed through one, I would get choked up. It baffled me to see the sheer number of people who were supporting us. They brought candy, stickers, popsicles, and posters with pictures and names of people who were either walking or have/had breast cancer. 

This particular cheering station was important to Blake, John, and I because Heather was going to be there to cheer us on. I was on pins and needles to see my sister-in-law. (I was a tad excited to see the little bump growing under her "Real Men Wear Pink" t-shirt.) 


Soon after we left Heather behind, our team began to break apart, and Blake and I found ourselves walking together. At this point we found ourselves reflecting on the reasons why we were walking 60 miles... Amidst the fun and light-hearted atmosphere that surrounded us with every step, we didn't want to lose focus on why we were taking these steps in the first place.


We were walking for two extremely incredible and brave women. It was only a coincidence that on the most difficult day of the 3-Day (in our opinion) that we were wearing shirts that stated the following:

Mine read: "I'm walking for my mom and his mom."
Blake's read: "I'm walking for my mom and her mom."

Blake and I arrived back to camp after another 20 miles under our belts. I inspected my feet to find one blister on my middle toe. Blake, of course, was perfectly fine. Curse his natural athleticism! 

After dinner, we crawled into our tent and snuggled into our sleeping bag. (Yes, singular bag, not bags.) More than 40 miles down... One more day to go!


Lesson Learned: Fried Pickles and Beer are Excellent Motivational Ploys

On Day Three we took a bus to our starting point in Highland Park. Everyone was feeling the excitement of crossing the finish line at the end of the day, and everyone packed up their gear extra early to be able to line up for the buses. Blake and I woke up at 4 a.m. We secretly thought that if we needed to crawl for 5 or so miles, we needed to make sure we got a head start on everyone. 

As Blake and I exited the bus, we began to beg one of our team members, Laura, to lead us for the day. Laura is a big time marathon runner, and she had been walking circles around us for the past two days. We figured that if we could get her to simply walk ahead of us, we would faithfully follow her. By doing this, we only had to focus on two things: 1. Putting one foot in front of the other. 2. Staring at the back of Laura's head. 

Our final day of walking included not only the gorgeous homes like the home above, but it also included the beautiful route along Turtle Creek, the Historic West End, the Grassy Knoll and JFK Memorial, and the Pioneer Plaza with its bronze cattle drive. We traveled the remaining mileage in under 6 HOURS. We actually got so far ahead of everyone that the security and safety crews were no where to be found. We were crossing streets left and right without guards, which is more dangerous than you might imagine considering how slow we were going at this point. If a car was coming right at us, there was no way for us to run to get out of the way. Seriously... It was the most incredible moment when the three of us reached the cheering station at West End. There were people lined up further than you could see. Blake, Laura, and I walked right through the station to the deafening sounds of cheers and applause. The moment caught my breath because I turned around to see the walkers behind us only to discover that there was ONLY us. The walkers in front of and behind us were so gapped that we were the inly walkers in the cheering station. These hundreds of people were cheering for us. Wow.When we were 1.5 miles away from the finish line, we all decided that since we were so far ahead, and since we were only going to have to sit around to wait for the Closing Ceremony, we might as well make a little side trip...


After a couple of beers and some fried pickles, we finished the remaining 1.5 miles. Success!

Good Lord, I love my husband. 

I wrapped my toes and the balls of feet as a preventative measure. I only had the one blister that I managed to get on Day Two.

Blake, on the other hand, was perfectly fine.  Geez.


Lesson Learned: I am a Better Person Because of the Effort I Made to Find a Cure for Breast Cancer

As expected, the Closing Ceremony was extremely emotional. We all lined up and linked arms as we marched past family and friends. 


The crowd included my mom and dad, who drove all the way down from Edmond, OK, and Blake's parents, who found sleeping mats for our tent and got up at 4:30 a.m. to drive us to Plano on Day One.

As the crowds cheered, we honored the simple truth that we did something great! We honored the survivors who walked with us over the past three days. We honored the survivors that we had walked for, including my mom and Blake's mom, who stood amongst the crowds of people. We honored that one day no one will walk to find a cure for breast cancer because there will be a cure for breast cancer.

For all that, I'll raise my shoe and stand on my tired, aching feet.


Don't let our story be the only story you know!

Go to the following website to make a donation or to sign up yourself for the 2010 Breast Cancer 3-Day.