Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 76: 2011 San Diego SGK 3-Day recap (Day 3)

Day 3! It was finally here! I woke up not-bright and early (4:30 am early), and walked over to the dining tent to eat. I'd pulled almost everything out of the tent already (including my sneakers!) and left it out while we ate.

Then, when we were sitting in the dining tent I heard the sound I'd been dreading hearing all weekend. Rain drops. My heart sank. And then I remembered my shoes. Sitting outside the tent, getting wet. I jumped up, hobbled back to the tent (keep in mind I hadn't had my blisters popped yet so was walking tenderly). Thankfully the thick plastic tarps that made up the dining tent roof amplified the rain, making it sound much worse than it was. My shoes were barely damp, and the rain let up, at least for the time being.

We packed up the rest of our gear and handed it off to a Gear and Tent crew member, then went to medical for one last round of physical therapy and a blister session. I had about half a dozen blisters lanced and wrapped. The medic I had that morning cautioned me that they would just fill up again (which I knew. Come on lady, I am a VETERAN 3-DAY WALKER HERE). I told her that was fine, just wrap them as tight as she could so I could get my foot in my shoe.

We lined up to get scanned out. The atmosphere was already a party. We were dancing in line, laughing, taking picture after picture and ready to kill the last leg of it. The physical therapist I had Sunday morning sucked. I would like to have nothing but good things to say about everyone on the event, but she was wretched. I told her my issue - 2 different leg lengths, the short one was really sore, and that I needed it massaged with bio-freeze for at least 10 minutes because I couldn't get in a good enough position to really work the knot out of it myself. She patted some bio-freeze on, half-assedly wrapped my calf with an ace bandage and sent me on my way. While we were still INSIDE CAMP the wrap came loose. After taking this picture I just took it off. I am still angry at that PT. Don't volunteer for this event, especially as a PT unless you're willing to work with people who are exhausted, sore and desperately trying to finish strong. Don't half-ass your job.

Anyway. On our way out of camp one of the SJPD officers stopped me, told me that he was so inspired by the way I pushed to get up that hill on day 2 and gave me a bracelet. He made me cry, and I am bummed I didn't take a picture with him. I hate that the SJPD doesn't have the funding to allow the San Jose cops to come down again next year. I'm so thankful Jeff and I are doing San Francisco next year and that the San Jose cops will be there. The San Diego cops are great too, but they're quite a bit more Stiff-Upper-Lippy than SJ. Regardless, I know I speak for many members of the 3-Day community when I say that the support of the police departments is amazing. These men and women are with us every step of the way, it's just as personal for them as it is for us, and they are one of the highlights of the event.

I was handed the "My Hero" flag before we got too far out of camp. I have been dying to be a flag-bearer. It is certainly no secret! I'm hoping to participate in opening and closing ceremonies in San Francisco next year carrying the "My Grandmother" flag. So getting to carry a flag, even just for a couple miles was a huge honor. Shortly after I took up the flag San Diego threw us a tiny loop and it started to rain again. Ponchos came out of bags for the first time all weekend, but smiles never wavered!  It rained for a mile or so, more drizzle than actual rain, then ponchos came off. I didn't want to throw it away and risk ACTUAL rain starting again, so we tucked them onto the straps of our CamelBaks.

My leg was giving me hell. We got to pit stop 2 and I went straight to medical where an AMAZING physical therapist worked on me for half an hour -- well after the "official" closing of the pit. She used The Stick on me and it was like hearing a choir of angels sing. I also had 1000 milligrams of Vicodin on board (thanks Mom!), and had my back iced and wrapped. The bad part of being at medical so long? The caboose showed up. The caboose is a 3-Day staff member who rides behind all the walkers. So when he gets to a pit or lunch he closes it up. It's for walker safety and to keep things on schedule. The caboose will also sweep you if you're straggling. So Janae and I were officially last walkers, and pretty early in the days. She was sore and in pain, I was fighting tears because the pain in my leg was excruciating. The caboose followed us for about a mile, keeping quiet. Then he started talking to me -- asked me about my 3-Day history, told me about his, asked how much money I'd raised. Then he told me "you've already done the important part. Why don't you girls sweep a few miles? It'll make the rest of your day better, and you'll finish strong."

Janae was about 30 yards ahead of me, and I didn't want to scream at her so I texted her (and I quote) "fuck it, let's sweep to pit 3." (yes, yes, texting on the route is forbidden blah blah) Janae heard her phone, read the text and turned around and gave me two thumbs up. We continued down the route about a quarter mile to where there was pit access and waited with a handful of other walkers for the next sweep van. We swept 3.5 miles to pit stop 3, passing the Day 3 hill on Juan Street (I have not conquered that beast yet, 2012 I'm coming for you!). It was far and away the best decision I made all weekend. We hopped out of the van, went to medical so Janae could have a blister looked at and so I could put a bag of ice on each ankle, knee and 2 on my back. After 20 minutes of laying around I noticed that my phone was missing. Never fear on the 3-Day though. I flagged down a crew captain and asked if they would radio sweep van H (I happened to notice the sticker when we were in it) to let them know I'd left my phone in the sweep van, and that it had a return address label stuck on it with my info. Only in 3-Dayville can you lose your phone and have it returned to you 20 minutes later.

When I'd packed my stuff up Sunday morning I hooked my flip flops to my camelbak, knowing I'd want to change into them at closing. While we were at the pit stop I changed my socks and left my shoes off for a few minutes. 53 miles of walking in 3 days was not kind to them. My feet (and the blisters attached to them) swelled up immediately. I think I mentioned that I switched to toe socks this year, and the prospect of working my swollen, blistered feet back into shoes was not appealing. I checked my route card and saw that we only had 5 miles to go from that pit. Then I told Janae I was finishing the walk in my flip-flops. Her feet were also swollen, so she cut the pinkies out of her shoes. These changes made such a difference! We practically skipped out of the pit stop!

The last 5 miles of the walk are electric. Everyone is giddy, there is a ton of cheer traffic and a lot of walker stalkers who are happy to give out "adult blister healers." Yes, there is a ton of booze on the route. Especially day 3. Cheers! That smile on my face is the most pain-free smile I'd rocked all weekend. Now that my feet were free of the nylon prison of my shoes I felt so good, and so did my blisters (despite the fact that now that they weren't constricted the were able to swell like crazy -- and I actually had one even pop on it's own while I was walking. Not my favorite feeling, but still relief!). We were super close to holding, and San Diego really goes all out for us. The community support is a huge part of the 3-Day. If you're just walking all day without anyone cheering you on it feels like 600 miles, not 60. We were about a half mile away from the lunch spot for day 3 when we passed a Chipotle. Somehow a hot burrito sounded better than a cold sandwich, so we elected to duck in and sit on a seat, not the ground while we ate. We were not the only walkers who made that decision! :) Who doesn't love Chipotle?

I am lucky to have such a huge pink family. I'd tweeted a couple times over the weekend that I needed support and encouragement, and Team Twitter came through in the best way! Every time I looked at my phone at a pit stop I was greeted with tons of texts filled with support and love. It made every step a little easier!

We finally wound our way into downtown, and the streets were now LINED with pink people. The last mile or so before holding is a NON-STOP cheering station. Hugs from strangers? Check. Five Hour Energy booth, handing out free samples? Check. People high-fiving you like it is their job? Double check. Janae and I were laughing giddily the whole time. I am so happy to have shared this experience with someone I love so much. I've been talking about it for years and having somebody to share it with made it so much better. Every 3-Day experience this year was phenomenal. Volunteering with my best friend who just happens to be my boyfriend in San Francisco was awesome. I made friends I will have for LIFE being a part of Team Twitter ATL and walking San Diego this year was beyond amazing. It was my best 3-Day year yet.

We finally (finally!) got to holding. I thought I would be in tears (given that it was the theme of my weekend!) but I was SO happy and proud of myself for doing ALL BUT 3.5 MILES OF THE WALK! that I just grinned non-stop.

I was so happy that I managed to find Jim and get a picture with him! Saying he was a highlight of the walks this year would be an understatement. I will link to Jim's Facebook and website later so you can read about his 3-Day story, it's an amazing one! He is a testament to the human spirit and to the 3-Day spirit.

3-Days, 60 miles and memories that will last a lifetime! We buzzed through holding, got our victory t-shirts and took a few pictures before closing ceremonies started.

It started to drizzle as we walked into closing, and as our survivors walked in darkness was falling. The rain, cold and twilight couldn't keep us quiet. Walkers, crew, staff and spectators alike cheered like our lives depended on it for our 533 survivors who participated (either as walkers or crew members). We also raised our shoes in their honor, one of my favorite 3-Day traditions. It's such a beautiful moment.

I listened to Sheri for the last time that year, she shared our fundraising numbers with us -- together the 4175 walkers and crew in San Diego raised 9.2 million dollars. The 2011 3-Day series had over 34,000 participants who raised a total of 74.5 million dollars for breast cancer research, treatment, prevention and eventual eradication. Saying I am honored to be a part of it is such an understatement. I am indebted to this event, and this community. It introduced me to the version of myself that I want to be -- am capable of becoming. And really, that's what this blog is all about.

Thank you for coming along with me on this extraordinary journey. It's a life-changer. :) I'll be back tomorrow with my last 3-Day recap for 2011 -- Day 4 and Beyond, AKA the post-3-Day Hangover.

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