I haven't written much about my upcoming 3-Day walk, because frankly, training for it has sucked up all of my time, energy, and words. I am training every morning with my neighbor, Vicki, who gets up way earlier than she has to because she knows I need the help. We walk 2-3 miles, beginning at 5:30 am, or as my best friend says, "the butt crack of dawn." Amen, sister.
I've thrown in a handful of 5 or 6 mile treks at the gym on the treadmill, and I almost always do hill intervals when I'm there. So it's not just five miles of flat boredom. I've also done some random 3-5 mile trips on my own around our neighborhood.
Yesterday, I took it to a new level. One of the local teams held a training walk - 14 miles. The group meets in a city north of me and the walk started at 5:45 am. Butt crack of dawn indeed, since I had to get up, get myself fed and dressed, and across town in time to walk with very perky people for much longer than I've ever walked at one time on purpose. One of them sang a team song. Egad. Another one brought an MP3 player speaker thingie, so everyone around her got to listen to her music. Cat rocks while she walks!
The first seven miles went extremely well, with the exception of a very steep hill at about mile 6.5. Once we crested the hill and my heart stopped feeling like it was going to burst out of my chest, my body calmed down, and I felt pretty good by the time we got to the halfway mark.
We rested for awhile, rehydrated, and carb loaded for the trip back. On the return leg, that nice steep hill was a lot better going down than it was coming up, but my body was challenged in other ways by trying to slow down the forward momentum.
I did just fine until about mile 10, and at that point, I was pretty sure someone was going to have to come pick me up and take me back to my car. My bag, which previously felt so light, began to weigh me down, and I could not find a comfortable way to carry it. The sun, all 82 degrees of it, felt white hot on my exposed skin, and I felt like it was laughing at my feeble attempt to shield myself with only SPF 85. I was sweating - honest to God sweating - my clothes soaked through, and sweat running into my eyes. I was decidedly feeling not so fresh.
And that's when I started to feel the dreaded "hot spot" which indicates a blister is forming. On the top edge of my right heel, an excruciating little burn grew bigger with every few steps.
In the dark of the morning, I had failed to notice that we were walking downhill for about the first mile.You guessed it; that means the last mile was uphill. And a damn long last mile it was. I fell further and further behind the front of the pack and had to stop more than once to cool off.
But I made it.... 5 hours and 45 minutes later... hot and sweaty, sunburned and pale, somehow both at the same time. My heart was racing, I had sweat running into places I didn't know I owned. But I made it. And I wasn't the last person to make it to the finish line.
I was a rickety mess for the rest of the day as the lactic acid moved in and out of various muscles. Physically, I was exhausted, but mentally, I was doing jumping jacks and push ups. I took only a brief nap, about an hour, while LittleG enjoyed some time with a friend. After that, I felt like I ought to at least be awake and in the same room with her, even if I was being still and quiet.
I dreaded how I would feel this morning, but as morning dawned and I began to stretch into my day, nothing really hurt. I've been up about three hours now, and my shoulders are sore, but my legs and back feel pretty good. My blister still hurts like a mo-fo, but I think I'll live.
So while that last four miles felt like torture and I was so sure I would never recover, today I don't feel so bad. I'm so glad I took the time and made the effort to make this walk, and hung in there even when I thought I couldn't make it. It showed me that not only can I do it, but the morning after is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
But Lady Steele, you might say, you only walked 14 miles, and just two months from now, you'll be walking 20 miles a day, three days in a row. Well, dear reader, some things will be different on the actual walk.
I will not have a heavy pack to deal with. That one thing, more than any other, affected how well I walked and how I feel this morning. I learned my lesson about what I need to carry, and what I don't. I do not need an entire day's worth of calories in various varieties. Power bars, carb bites, electrolyte jelly beans and gooey packs on their own don't weigh much, but an entire side bag filled with them is total overkill. We stop every three miles, so carrying an additional 24 ounces of water is a waste of energy. My BFF will be at all the stops, and if I need to jettison jackets or pants, she'll be there to take them from me so I don't have to wag them around with me.
I will prepare better for blisters - I will be moleskinned, band-aided, padded, and protected. A blister will not be the reason I don't finish.
I know that whatever pain I'm feeling while I'm feeling it is short term and will pass.
Finally, my sister will be there with me. And while she is in much better physical shape than I am, she has said she will walk beside me at my pace for as long as it takes. So even if we are the last ones to make it in, by God, we are going to make it together.
I have four requests, dear reader. First, please donate to my cause if you can. It's easy...just click the "Donate" button on the 3-day widget to the right. You can pay online with a credit card, or print a donation form to mail in with a check.
Second, if you have been touched by breast cancer, whether you've fought it yourself, or loved someone who has, I will walk for you or your loved one. Even if you don't donate! Put the name of the person in the comments below, and let me know if this person is a survivor or not. I'll have these names on ribbons, hanging from my pack, so others will see them as I walk, and so they are a constant source of encouragement to me.
Third, any time you're driving and you see a group of people walking together, such as might happen when they are training for a walk, please please please honk your horn, wave like crazy and shout words of encouragement. You cannot believe how much the simple acts, like these, of total strangers, makes a difference to those who might be thinking that they just won't be able to make it. And if you're the couple in the silver Honda CRV who passed me yesterday when I was just about to throw in the towel, thank you. You might be the reason I made it.
Fourth, if you've not done so this year, please go get a mammogram. Yeah, it sucks. It is embarrassing, uncomfortable, and can be expensive without good insurance. It was a regular screening mammogram that caught my cancer. Mine was caught early, and consequently, my life was never in danger. Had I waited or skipped the mammogram altogether, the outcome might have been very, very different.
I have just two months to go until the event begins. I need $1,400 to get to my fundraising goal, and at least three more good training walks. For more information, go to www.the3day.org/goto/StephanieGarcia. Keep those cards and letters coming, friends..