Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The 2011 Susan G Komen San Diego 3-Day for the Cure

By Margie Dowens
Mileage Possible Over All Three Days: 60; on route: 56.8; in camp: 3.2; My actual mileage: 51.8

Day 0, November 17, 2011

Packing went way more smoothly for me this year.  Having done it once, getting everything bagged up into ziplocs (to protect from wet and also to make it easy to find a particular day’s clothing) went far faster and more smoothly. I bought a new sleeping bag that squishes down more than my old one and was able to fit everything into a wheeled duffle.  Having the wheels made toting the bag much easier. I also liked that my bag had a thin profile, as this made keeping it in the tent with my teammate easier.  The night before the event I drove down to the hotel and got some Chinese food for dinner.  My fortune read, “Your path may be difficult, but will be rewarding.”  It seemed pretty appropriate to me!  My teammate, Nancy arrived and we worked out some last minute issues.   She’d been dealing with a major emergency at work all week and had packed in a super short time frame.  Between the two of us, we both ended up having everything we needed, so it all worked out.

Day 1, November 18, 2011
Mileage possible: 21.5, on route: 20.5, in camp: 1.0, My actual mileage: 21.5

We woke up at 4:15 am, got ready, and headed out arriving at the Del Mar fairgrounds around 5:30 am.  We got our bags checked in to the truck that would take it to the camp and headed over to the fairgrounds.  I was under the impression from information we’d been given by the organizers that the only place we would get the walker’s badge for this year was there at opening ceremonies, but they were handing them out at the extreme opposite end from where we’d come in.  So we walked a lot extra to get that little badge.  Turns out that we could have picked it up in camp that evening and I *will* remember that for next year and save my energy for the actual walk.  We got our picture taken with the opening ceremony sign and by that time the opening ceremony was about to start.

Opening ceremonies is a relatively short presentation, but very moving.   I always have to get tissue out.  The new national spokesperson, Dr. Sheri Phillips (pictured here), is an incredibly inspiring speaker.  She clearly has a passion for this cause.  I got a high five from her on the way out of the opening ceremony holding area.

It was awesome to see all the police officers out.  San Jose and San Diego PD have officers who volunteer their time over the three days to keep us safe and they are often quite entertaining.  There’s serious talk that San Jose will not be allowed to come back next year.  I only really saw them at opening ceremonies this year, most of the officers on the route that we ran into were San Diego.  But I will not forget that as we were almost to the point where they scan us out onto the route, one of the (very good looking) San Jose officers pointed at me and said, “Whoa, she looks like she might be dangerous.  Need to check you for weapons, ma’am.” and gave me a brief pat down to hoots and hollers from the ladies around us.  Made me (and many others) laugh and smile.

I was scanned out onto the route right around 7:25 AM.  I arrived at camp that afternoon at around 4:26 PM.  We walked the full mileage for the day, which was 20.5, so we were out on the route for roughly 9 hours.  It was an easier first day than last year (you can read my write up of last year, which goes into a lot more detail about the setup of the event, how things run, and what the route is like at http://margiesmagentamiles.blogspot.com/2011/01/susan-g-komen-san-diego-3-day-walk.html).  I put the walking feeling easier down partially to the fact that I was able to train more and that I was in better shape this year than I was last year.  Some of it is probably that I knew what to expect as well.

I know part of it is because of my awesome teammate.  I cannot express how valuable it was to have Nancy with me.  She has a quiet demeanor, but was not put off by my loud boisterous enthusiasm at times.  She is wonderful company and easy to get along with.  I’d start slowing down and she’d just continue to go and it inspired me to pick up my pace to stay with her.  Once again, I am convinced I could not have done as much as I did without her there.  Everything seems better with a friend.  In particular, I remember going up the Torrey Pines Hill on Day 1.  I turned my music on to keep my mind off of how steep it is and I trudged along.  I kept wanting to slow down and she just kept going, and I found I had the strength and the will to catch up and stay with her.  This played out several times over the weekend.  We laughed a lot together.  Thank you, Nancy, for being an amazing teammate!

One thing that was kind of cool was that people recognized my hat.  Several walkers stopped me at various points throughout the weekend to thank me for the write up I did of my first walk, and many of them told me that they passed my blog on to all their teammates.  It felt good to know that my experience had helped them be more prepared for their walks.

We saw a lot of the same people as I saw last year out cheering us on.  Smile Guy and Little Grin   were seen several times each day.  The woman in her convertible who wore a pink fuzzy coat last year was out there.  The gentleman with crazy clothing and a pink beard was out with his pink buffont-haired ladies.  The guys wearing bras with small watermelons in them were there.  The Barbie Twins were there.  And many, many others.  There were some young teenage boys wearing bras.  There was a woman dressed as Princess Leia (one of my personal favorites).  There was a pregnant woman with a hole cut in her shirt so her big belly stuck out, and she painted different saying on her belly each day of the walk.  There were families out with their kids.  Lots of Girl Scout troops provided treats, or drinks, or coffee.  I wish I could list them all.  The supporters on this walk are as much a part of it as the walkers and crew are.  I can’t imagine doing the walk without them there to cheer me on.

I did not see and very much missed the older couple (I always picture them in green) from last year who just stood by the route and quietly said thank you to us as we passed.  I had hoped to be able to stop and tell them how much they had meant to me last year.  I get weepy wondering what their connection to the event is and why they were not there this year.

It was wonderful having my phone in a little pouch around my neck that kept it easy to access.  A big thanks to my best friend (who also happens to be my sister-in-law) for making it for me.  It made it easy to get it out to update our progress and keep everyone in Facebook-land appraised of where we were and how we were doing.  I set up the phone to receive the Facebook comments that people left and that was incredibly valuable!  It was like having my own personal cheering squad of all of the people who mean the most to me in my pocket.

I figured out how to manage the downhills this year so they were not so hard on me.  It took a lot of concentration, but basically involved adjusting so that I could still put my heel down first and then roll from my heel to the ball of my foot with each step.  Last year, I mostly did downhill on the balls of my feet which was super hard on my knees and my feet.  It made a huge difference to concentrate on that stride.

We stopped for lunch and then kept going.  The 20.5 miles was long, but didn’t seem so hard this year.  It was the longest walk I’ve ever done and I actually felt pretty good at the end of it!

When we got back to camp, we set up our tent, got our gear in it and then headed over to the showers in semi-trucks.  A hot shower is still one of the highlights of the day after the walking.  We visited the village, went to dinner, got our stuff organized for the next day and pretty much called it a night.

Day 2, November 19, 2011
Mileage possible: 20.8, on route: 19.6, in camp: 1.2, My actual mileage: 12.6

We got up and headed over to have breakfast.  Last year, they had sodas (including my morning drink of choice, diet Coke) available at breakfast. This year they didn’t.  Had I known, I would have saved a diet Coke from the evening to have with breakfast.  I had coffee for my morning caffeine infusion.  Breakfast was yummy.  Of course, food in general is yummy when you’re walking 20 miles in a single day.  I’m always impressed that they can feed so many people with pretty high quality food.

We hit the route a little after 6:45 AM and within just a little while, I was feeling a lot of pain in the soles of my feet.  I hoped that walking would ease it, but it started getting worse.  I was kind of slow going for the first several miles.  Finally, when I hit 5.3 miles at one of the Grab and Go’s I decided that I needed a break.  So I jumped on the “Boobie Lift” sweep van which took me the next 2.2 miles to the next Pit Stop.  Nancy decided to keep walking and I told her I would wait for her to arrive at the Pit Stop.

As I waited, I discovered that I’d lost my camera.  I was pretty bummed, but figured the most likely scenario was that it had been left in the Sweep Van.  So I got someone in one of the other vans to radio to “Boobie Lift” to check and see if it was there, and it was!  I was so relieved.  They were on their way back, so I waited and thanked them all profusely for delivering my camera to me.  It wasn’t too long after that when Nancy arrived at the Pit Stop and we continued on.

One of the most moving moments for me in this year’s walk happened at one of the cheering stations before lunch.  There was one lone woman standing on the side of the route.  She wore a baseball cap and I could tell she had no hair under her hat.  As I passed by, she reached out, took my hand in both of hers, looked deep into my eyes and just quietly said “Thank you for walking.”  Tears fell down my face for a while after that.

Got to lunch around 2:00 PM (13.6 miles along the route) and we decided to take the SAG bus back to camp, skipping the last 6 miles.  The total mileage that I skipped on day two was 8.2.

Another semi-truck shower and a lot of stretching and resting is how we spent most of the afternoon.  Eventually we went to dinner.  We realized that the weather report was calling for rain on Sunday --- which is way better than last year’s downpour – at least the camping part would be over and at the end of Sunday a hotel room or home is where we’d be able to warm up and rest.  I repacked things a little bit to keep electronic items safe from the water and to take a few more of the things I’d need for rain in my pack that I carry with me.  Felt really good for having taken some time off during the afternoon and I was feeling rested and ready to face day 3!

Day 3, November 20, 2011
Mileage possible: 17.7, on route: 16.7, in camp: 1.0, My actual mileage: 17.7

We awoke at 5:40 AM to the sound of rain on the tent.  We got dressed and packed the last of our stuff up and then started to dismantle the tent.  Luckily it had stopped raining while we did that and we got our gear and tent turned in and headed to breakfast.

We found some seats and sat down to eat and after a little bit, a woman who was sitting a few seats down and across from me asked “Is your name Margie?”  I smiled and answered yes.  She probably recognized my hat.  Well, it was the hat that helped her recognize me, but it was more than that.  Turns out that she knows a very good friend of mine named Caroline.  Laurie and I took a couple pics together to be able to post for Caroline to see.  Of the 3,600-ish walkers that were there, what were the odds that the only two women Caroline knew who were walking the San Diego 3-Day would sit down together at the same table for breakfast on Sunday morning?  It was a fun coincidence to start the day with.

We got out onto the route around 7:15-ish and while a little stiff, I felt pretty good.  Much better than I had felt on day 2 at the beginning of the day.  Within a short period of time, it started raining.  Not a lot, not really heavy, but enough that I wondered how cold and wet the day might be.  It let up relatively quickly and we made good time and were in very good spirits.

I knew this time to limit my drinks on the 4 mile stretch that they have right before the big hill in old town.  So it was a much more pleasant day for me than the previous year when I needed a restroom so badly.  I had promised my son that I would do the final hill on day 3, and I was actually feeling pretty good.  Nancy does hills faster than I do, so she took off and we agreed to meet at the top.  It’s steep.  It’s longer than it looks from the bottom.  But it’s doable.  There are tons of people on the hill cheering us on and I made it to the top without a problem.  Nancy was waiting for me and continued on.

We had a relatively uneventful day and it was such a different experience doing that last day with a positive mood rather than the miserable one I had last year.  We were making good time, so we stopped at a cafĂ© for lunch and had some sandwiches and used a real flushing toilet.

We made it to holding around 3:40 PM (according to my tweets) and this time the gauntlet of people cheering us on as we entered was welcome and not painful for me.

We picked up our shirts, found a place to sit and just relaxed for a little while.  I took off my shoes and just rested my feet on the cold concrete.  It felt almost as good as ice packs on my sore feet.  Around 4 pm it started to lightly rain.  We got our rain ponchos out and moved to a covered area.  It was almost time to head out for the closing ceremonies so we made one last pit stop at the real bathrooms in the stadium and then joined everyone to the short walk to closing.

The closing ceremony was moving.  Again I was impressed at the passion with which Sheri Philips spoke.  We learned that 9.2 million dollars were raised.  I heard from someone that we had roughly 3,600 walkers (down 400 from the previous year).  We raised our shoes in salute as the survivors joined us and there were lots of people with tissues out.

It started to rain in earnest as we walked across to where the buses were.  We found our luggage and carried it to the bus.  We got on and it really started pouring.  Once we got to long term parking, we got drenched as we took our bags to the cars, Nancy and I gave each other one final hug in the pouring rain, and then we each drove off.  She actually drove all the way home.  I stayed in a hotel overnight to relax and recover before driving home the next morning.

As always, no write up of the 3-Day would be complete without giving a hearty round of applause to the volunteer crew.  They clean, they cook, they serve, they drive, they make sure the walkers are well taken care of, safe and healthy.  They get up before the walkers and they go to bed after us.  The event could not happen without their dedication. 

Overall, it was a good experience this year.  Far fewer really down times.  I like to think that’s because I was in better shape, but it could have been lack of being soaking wet and so many other things.  I’m just glad to report that I liked it enough to sign up for 2012!

Yup, I am walking again in November 2012.  However, this will be the first year I will be walking without a teammate.  I hope that the lessons I learned with Joanne in my first year and with Nancy in my second year stick with me.  It’ll be a very different experience to not have that second person to bounce ideas off of, to laugh with, and to help pull me along when my energy is flagging.  But it’s not like there won’t be another 3,000 or more folks out there with me to keep me company.

If you would like to donate to my walk this year, please go to my donation page and click on the “Donate to Margie in 2012” button!