Walk the walk: My Komen 3-Day Experience, Day 1

When I signed up to do the 3-Day, I had two big hurdles to clear; the first, fundraising $2,300, and the second, preparing my body and mind to walk 20 miles three days in a row. While the fundraising initially made me nervous, I was so grateful to see there were plenty of people who were willing to support me. I surpassed $2,300, and today, am hovering at an incredible $3,300 — a number that I KNOW is making a difference for those diagnosed with breast cancer. The next big challenge? Walking. Plenty of people will say, “Oh, it’s just walking.” Sure, it’s just walking, but this isn’t a quick walk through the super market or around the local park. The average person walks less than two miles a day after all their steps have added up. If you’re active, you walk maybe five miles a day. But to walk 10 miles? Amazing. Make it 20? Incredible.

I started adding small daily walks to my routine. I’d walk on my lunch break to the grocery store to buy myself a turkey sandwich, or things to make dinner. I’d walk to the post office with a stack of Thank You notes ready to mail to my donors. I’d walk the block at night, dodging spiderwebs as my husband ran circles around me, laughing as we exchanged sweaty high fives. Slowly, walking became easier. I remember very clearly a 5k I walked last November. During the final mile, my feet were hurting, I was out of breath, and I wanted to quit. My first big accomplishment with training this year was a 6.2 mile walk I did with my friend Jason, and then later, a ten mile walk I did with Jason and Matt. I started tackling longer distances, at one point walking from my house to Michael’s Crafts, five miles up and three towns north. The longest walk I ended up doing was 12 miles, which was a few short of what the 3-Day training program recommends, but I felt confident that I could do at least ten miles each day. So I took that confidence and ran with it (errr, walked with it), and before I knew it, me and my team were boarding a bus in the rain to go to the Opening Ceremony in Del Mar.

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The Opening Ceremony of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day San Diego at Del Mar Fairgrounds

The rain stopped just in time for the sun to burst through the clouds, and as my team stood in a sea of pink, we listened to people share their reasons for doing the walk. People walked for their mothers. Their sisters. Their aunts. Their daughters. As I held up a picture of my mother-in-law surrounded by thousands of other people holding pictures of loved ones lost, I was overcome with a sense of grief and anger. This was too many people. Too many lives cut short. However, that anger fueled reminders of why I was here; to make a difference for somebody else facing cancer, and to honor the memory of so many wonderful people that have since moved on. Our first steps out of Del Mar, we were greeted with a magnificent rainbow, glistening in the sky. I felt in that moment that everybody had just received a special reminder that loss is physical, but memories will always live on.

Photo via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook

Photo via Susan G. Komen 3-Day Facebook

We walked along the coast, marveling at the waves lapping the shore, the sea breeze crisp on our cheeks. Soon, we made it to the first pit stop, where we used the glamorous porta-potties and prepared for the first major hill up Torrey Pines, a nature reserve. I had been hearing about this hill all year long, so I was nervous. However, as I put one foot in front of the other, I realized my body could do a lot more than I thought it could. We climbed up slowly but steadily, turning every now and then to see the San Diego valley in birds eye view. When we made it to the top, we posed for this picture, feeling victorious. Our first major hill: DONE!

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Alyssa, Monique and April victorious after Torrey Pines!

From there, we walked through neighborhoods and business parks, and we began to scatter a little bit as we talked with the women and men around us. I met a 76-year-old woman who had walked eight times, and walked for her husband and son she had lost to cancer in the same year. I met a girl my age from Wisconsin, and twin sisters from Arizona who walked for their mom. Everybody at the 3-Day is there for the same reason; cancer. It’s an unpleasant thing to bond over, but at the same time, something pretty special to realize you’re part of a community of people dedicated to making a change. We arrived at the mile 10 marker for lunch, and we were all pretty darn excited to sit and take off our shoes! One thing really cool about the 3-Day is that each official stop, be it Lunch or a Pit Stop, is themed. Lunch was pirate themed, and all the Crew volunteers were in full costume. It’s things like these that made my first 3-Day experience so special: being handed a turkey sandwich by Jack Sparrow, walking past men in bras with miniature watermelons in them with signs that said “Squeeze my melons”, the people that come out to cheer you on as you walk by. I laid on the grass for what felt like a good, long 10 minutes, and then hobbled over to the medical tent. I felt some hot spots and blisters popping up on the fleshy pad of my foot right beneath my toes, and I wanted those suckers wrapped up before they progressed further.

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Cookie as big as my head? Don’t mind if I do!

Then, we were off again, and before I knew it, it was back to the glorious coast. At one point we walked through a patch of coast that smelled awful — garbage-like and just rank, when one of the walkers ahead of us said we were nearing a sea lion colony. Sure enough, we came down a hill to see a big rock formation covered in velvety sea lions, barking and frolicking in the water. It was so cool! We ended up meeting my parents along the route shortly after, and it was super fun to see them and get hugs and support at mile 15.

The Double Chin Diary in front of Sea Lion rock!

The Double Chin Diary in front of Sea Lion rock!

It was shortly after we met up with my parents that I encountered my first big hurdle: an exploding blister. Now, I’ve had plenty of blisters in my adult life. However, the experience of a blister exploding from the sheer weight of all your body, on the fleshy pad of your foot, at mile 16? Totally new and not so awesome experience. At first I didn’t know what it was, other than the fact that my foot suddenly had this searing pain ripping through it. Then as my sock felt squishy, I realized with horror that my giant foot pad blister had popped. GROSS! I ripped off my sock with the enthusiasm of a kid at Christmas, both grossed out and fascinated, and confirmed that sure enough, my blister had called it quits. I decided I’d flag down a sweep van (the 3-Day has nifty themed vans that drive the route to pick up anyone who’s tired, not feeling well, or just wants a break). I hobbled along tentatively, until I got a second wind. Blister? Who cares! That attitude served me well for two more miles, until the broken skin started to feel raw. This was around mile 17, so I took a van for another mile and waited at the pit stop for my sister and Monique to arrive.

The kind medical volunteers tending to my nasty Texas sized blister.

The kind medical volunteers tending to my nasty Texas sized blister. (Don’t worry, you can’t see it here. I’d like to keep some of my readers!)

Once they showed up, we got more Gatorade and continued our trek. It was dusk and those last few miles were feeling like they would never end, and we were teased along the way by chalk notes on the sidewalk of what the Garmin miles were. Toward the end we saw a Garmin 22 mile mark, so I decided right then and there that despite my quick van ride, I had very much walked 20 miles that day! Finally, we walked into camp — exhausted and stinky, and very much wanting to SIT and never move, ever again. We got dinner, enjoyed the plushy bean bags, massage chairs, trail mix bar, and snacks, and then collected our camp mail. Camp mail is an awesome invention where your loved ones can send you snail mail to pick up during your 60 mile journey. After our relaxation time, we watched an amazing show in the giant dining tent, where we got to hear from moving speakers and hear updates about the day on the route and the next day to come.

20 MILES!

20 MILES!

Even though at this point I was too exhausted to process anything more than “Macaroni and cheese. Hungry. Tired. Stink. Sleep,” I was able to process the fact that this girl had damn near walked 20 miles in one day. 20 frickin’ miles. That’s no small beans. That’s no laughing matter. That’s a HUGE, GINORMOUS, MASSIVE, LONG distance to walk. That’s only 6.2 less than a marathon, and granted, I wasn’t running (if you see me running, you better run too, ‘cuz something’s chasing me), but ain’t no thang. I walked 20 miles. That’s a lot.

I went to bed that night thinking about some of the things people had sent to me in so many wonderful cards, letters, and notes. Things like, “When it gets hard, remember… your body can do amazing things. Your legs are strong, your hips are flexing, and your heart will carry through.” Or, “Thank you for walking, thank you for making a difference, thank you for being my friend.” Or, “You inspire me every day to love myself just as I am.” With sentiments like that, how could I not close my teary eyes and glow with gratitude?

I drifted into a deep sleep, heart full of the amazing things I had seen and felt that day. Vibrant. Alive. Proud. Thankful. These feelings carry you far and wide, as beautiful and inspiring as the rainbow, as vivid and real as the blister, as simple and profound as the smile of a survivor cheering from the sidelines. These things were Day 1 of the 3-Day.

We walk.

We walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making the most of what you’ve got

I had been planning on writing a nice blog about how to stay fit while on vacation.  My weekend was to be filled in the beautiful Lake Tahoe with my two best girl friends, Kristin and Aya.  Kristin is next up in line to celebrate her birthday (which is today, the 26th!  Happy birthday, Kiki!) and the three of us were looking forward to making our first trip up there in ten years.  I imagined us drinking mimosas down in the hot tub, surrounded by a light coating of snow as we sat beneath the towering pine trees with waves of crisp mountain air filling our bodies.  I have been pining for those pine trees all week knowing that as soon as I got up there, my brain would be able to calm down from all  the stress of the school semester coming to an end.  Maybe then, I would have been able to forget about all my choices I need to make regarding my future… but no…

Today life decided to throw me a curve ball and unfortunately, my typically swift catching abilities failed and caused me to get hit in the face HARD by this particular throw.

It started out early this afternoon when I went to the doctor on campus about my ears hurting, suspecting either hardcore allergies or the potential of a rare adult ear infection.  Turns out it was the ear infection and I have not just a single ear infection, but a double.  That’s right, one in each ear.  YEAH!  I was grateful that it wasn’t just allergies because this would have sucked to live out the next few months in the kind of pain I am in.  My college is incredibly awesome and gave me the amoxicillin I needed to get better for free and sent me on my way to my math class.

Unfortunately math didn’t bring me any better news as I found out the test I studied hours for still resulted in me failing.  Lame.

I spent the drive home crying about the failure because I have somehow bombed all three of the tests I’ve been given in that class.   I’m not even in calculus or something hard like that either.  I’m in basic algebra and often when I look up math problems on Youtube, it’s junior high level math.  I can write a four page essay in an hour and get an A.  I can walk into my science classes without even knowing I had a test and get an A.  But for some reason when I see numbers with tinier numbers above them and a line separating them from MORE numbers combined with letters that are asking them where to find their friend “X”, my brain and heart start a mosh pit in my body that results in total shut down.  Uck.  Even just writing that horrible sentence gave me anxiety and I bet those of you who share my fear of math will understand.

I’m just bad at math.

I go to ecology and get home, prepping out something I wanted to do for Kristin’s birthday.  The time comes for me to continue my mission and I go to start my always reliable Toyota Matrix.  I turn the key, nothing.    I take a deep breath, try again.  Still nothing.  Radio is working.  Lights are working.  It’s not my battery.  It’s my starter.  Awesome.  How am I supposed to drive to Lake Tahoe now?

After spending a giant chunk of time on the phone with Aya about my situation, we decide that is probably best that I avoid the mountains with my ear infection and hope that Kristin would understand having to change up our Lake Tahoe plans.  I was so worried about letting Kristin down on her birthday that I would’ve tried to go anyway but life just had a different idea.  After talking to Kristin and immediately seeing right away that she understood, I felt much better.

I started to do a reflection on my day and although I had a lot of crappy things happen, I’m still grateful for many things.   I am fortunate that I am able to go to such a great college, receive financial aide,  plus that awesome bonus of having that my current medical needs covered. I’m grateful that I have a car, even if it doesn’t currently work.  I’m grateful that it’s gone 230,000 miles almost without giving me any issues but needing a new clutch.   I’m upset at myself for doing poorly in math but I am proud of myself for still being brave enough to try.  I’ve avoided math since high school and it’s been the one big thing holding me back from a degree.  I may not be performing at a passing level, but at least I’m still up there on that academic stage giving it my all.

The love and support that I have gotten from my friends and family as I have complained to them about my circumstances have truly helped me know and accept that “this too shall pass.”  My new and wonderful friend Silviu was so sweet and even though I was being so negative to every single encouraging  text he would send, he wouldn’t accept my pessimism and continued to boost up my confidence about math throughout the day.  After talking with Aya and Kristin about us not being able to do our trip, I was so touched because they didn’t care that we wouldn’t be able to have our mimosa’s under pine trees, their main concern was my health and biggest wish was for us just to be together, even if it was just under an oak tree in a park.

Through all of this I have been reminded that the bad grade you get on a test, the amount of revisions you must do on a paper, and the number that boldly stares at you on a scale do not determine the amount of happiness we can hold for ourselves.  I spent my Thursday depressed and throwing a personal pity party but by talking with my friends and through writing out this blog, I realize that even these “bad things” are still reasons to be grateful because they are all just opportunities for positive change.

grateful

 

To help boost happiness levels for both myself and my sister, who has been having a hard week as well, I ask of you:

What are you grateful for and in your times of stress, are you able to keep your gratitude?

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and please, try to remember to appreciate what you in life because surely it is more than someone else out there.

Lots of love,

AprilSignatur