Ok, folks…over a year ago I announced that I was going to walk in the 2011 Tampa Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure and it’s now over! It was such an amazing experience in so many ways, and here’s my brief (brief as possible, at least) recap:
3 weeks before the event, I was welcomed to join a local team – Team Hope. Here are the ladies of the team shortly after beginning the walk in Clearwater Beach. Looking so fresh and chipper! 20 miles to go til dinner!
If you follow this blog or know me personally, you already know that I have a 7-week old baby. So, being pregnant until September 16th really hindered my ability to complete long-distance training walks. Of course, you’re silly to try to walk 60 miles in 3 days without training…but what choice did I have? I trained hard for the 3 weeks prior to the walk, but I still felt like I was going “0 to 60 in 3 Days.” Here goes nothing!
Since I’m not very outgoing, I baked almost 300 pink ribbon cookies to give out to walkers along the route. I figured, if I give them a free cookie, that will force them to talk to me, and I’ll meet 100 people each day!
What I neglected to consider was that 100 cookies is heavy. After carrying them 3 miles on the first day, I started just handing them out in handfuls to whomever would take them. So much for meeting 100 people! But I enjoy baking (obviously) and I was thrilled to offer something sweet to the walkers who’d already worked so hard to fund raise and were now committed to walking so many miles over the weekend. What’s weird is that by the 3rd day, people had heard of me! When I was handing out cookies, people would say “You’re the cookie girl! I heard about you!” Makes it all feel worthwhile.
But back to the walk…Each day’s route is divided into little walking segments. About every 3 miles, you get a Pit Stop (with food, drinks, potty, and medical help), a Grab & Go (with food, drinks, and potty), or lunch. Breaking up the miles REALLY makes it easier to finish each day. Mentally, you tell yourself you can make it to the next pit stop. Then, you stop and rest and feel like you can make it to the next pit stop 3 miles ahead! And before you know it, you’re at lunch! After a nice rest at lunch, you do it all over again until you arrive at camp for the night.
Here is a shot of a bunch of walkers at the very first Pit Stop on Day 1:
On the first day of the walk, the walkers were very bunched up. We had plenty of room to walk, but what I mean is that it was cool to see the river of pink flow up and down bridges all over town. You could see pink WAY ahead and behind you!
And sprinkled in among the route stops were Cheering Stations. These are designated, published spots where spectators are encouraged to gather and cheer on the walkers. This is the first Cheering Station on the route:
And here I am walking through a Cheering Station on Day 3:
The 3-Day is an amazing event. Not only do you have approximately 1500 people walking (think 1500 times the $2300 fundraising minimum = at least $3.45 million raised!) plus the 3-Day staff and the volunteer crew keeping us safe, fed, and on-route…but you’ve also got the spectators cheering the walkers on! And, as we walked through neighborhoods and communities, people came out of their homes to cheer us on. There were people outside their homes in the cold on Sunday morning at 8am cheering for us. Seriously? They could have been snuggled into their beds still! It really creates a sense of community as we stand up TOGETHER to fight breast cancer. Gives me goosebumps.
At night, all the walkers and crew gather at “Camp.” Camp is where you eat dinner, check for mail, rest for the next day, do some 3-Day shopping, and SLEEP! Camp is another community experience – one I didn’t get to participate in this year, but I’ll get to that later.
Each night, as the last walker approaches camp, they make an announcement. Immediately, everyone drops what they’re doing to walk outside and cheer on the walker! It’s very emotional. The walker is usually crying and the entire camp is cheering them on. They carry a flag into camp and proudly raise it up a flagpole to signify that everyone is safely at home and camp is in session!
At the end of the 3rd day’s route, all the walkers gather in a “holding area.” Then, the 1500 walkers walk together to the Closing Ceremony where they’re cheered on by spectators and their loved ones. Here is my team walking to the Closing Ceremony:
Then, a select few survivors raise the 3-Day flag one last time. The Closing Ceremonies are very emotional for everyone. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone whose life has not been touched by breast cancer in some way so while the Closing Ceremonies are celebrating the funds raised and the progress that has been made in finding a cure, you can’t help but think about those who are fighting or have fought their own battle with breast cancer.
Like I mentioned above, I have a 7-week old baby. She’s had some digestive issues and cannot take formula so I am breastfeeding her. Now, let’s think about this for a minute…walking 20 miles a day for 3 days is VERY time consuming so how am I supposed to breastfeed her at the same time?!
Adam & I decided that we’d supplement with soy formula during the walk. Well, apparently the soy didn’t agree with her stomach so the first day of the walk was difficult for Adam and our baby Mikaela. Poor thing! So we decided that we would try to coordinate our schedules enough that Adam & Mikaela would meet me along the route every 2 hours so I could feed her and keep walking. That is no small task since they do not publish the route!
I figured this would be too difficult and we’d never be able to pull this off so I was prepared to either quit the walk or have to take the Sweep Vans to lunch and camp in order to meet them. But, Adam’s amazing! With help from his parents (who are also amazing), they were able to meet me every 2 hours. Mikaela was soon feeling much better and I was able to continue to participate in the walk. Yay!
On Day 1, I walked all but about 4 miles of the route. I wasn’t prepared to be walking so many miles alone so I was emotionally beaten. When you walk alone, you have time to think about all your aches and pains – not good! I took a Sweep Van and skipped the last 4 miles before lunch. I felt somewhat rejuvenated after lunch and continued walking. Adam met me 1 mile before the end, and I told him, “I can’t make it. I’m going to have to take a van for the last mile.” It’s only a mile though! I rested while I fed Mikaela and decided to head back on the route. Well, I did it! I finished that mile and walked a total of about 16 miles that day!
On Day 2, I felt amazing! I was ready to walk alone and was in much better spirits! Mikaela was feeling better so I wasn’t stressed about that either. I met up with Adam, his parents, and Mikaela every 2 hours to feed her (and get emotionally psyched again). I was able to walk all 20 miles! In the last 2 miles, though, I started feeling a lot of pain in my left foot. I met a new friend and she is the ONLY reason I didn’t Sweep to camp that night. She kept me walking, and I’m so glad I did.
On Day 3, I started out with the same pain in my foot. I wasn’t able to get it taped up until lunch so I took one Sweep Van to skip 3 miles in the morning. At lunch, I got taped up and hit the road again. I was still meeting up with Mikaela every 2 hours and I was emotionally energized to finish this thing! By the end of Day 3, the pain in my foot had returned and I was walking at a snail’s pace. But I was determined to WALK across the finish line, not roll across it in a Sweep Van. I did it, and – miraculously – I wasn’t the last walker to finish!
But what got me through the 60 miles that weekend was…
1. My daughter. Meeting up with her every 2 hours really revved me up. This was the first time I was really separated from her since her birth so it was emotional to leave her for the entire day. Seeing her every 2 hours allowed me to love on her a little, touch her, kiss her, and smell her (you know you love that new baby smell). Knowing she was waiting for me just a few miles ahead is what kept me walking…just one foot in front of the other…
2. My personal cheering squad. My family sacrificed so much that weekend so that I could complete the 3-Day. When I signed up to do this, I never thought it would take an entire team to support one walker! Adam and his parents were such troopers running all over town to reunite Mikaela and I throughout the day. Taylor joined them on the last day and she had to be the best cheer leader on the route! And Mom was cheering me on from home while she took care of our puppy Nani. And did I mention that Mom cleaned our whole house by herself? It felt awesome to return to a CLEAN home!
So I started this post saying that I’m hooked on the 3-Day. Yup, hooked! Next year, I’m forming my own team. We’ll walk TOGETHER and have so much fun…like a mobile party! Woot woot! Will you join us? I’ll update this post as soon as we have a team fundraising page. In the meantime, email me if you’re interested!