Monday, September 30, 2013

My Right Foot is a Drama Queen and Has A Terrible Sense of Timing

I am having a problem with my right foot and it's not looking good for me being able to walk much during this year's 3-Day.

Many of you who have been with me from the beginning of this journey may remember that the first year I walked, I struggled with Plantar Fascitis in my left foot during training. Luckily, over the counter orthotics and lots of physical therapy, got me to where I completed 51 miles that year. In year 2 and year 3, I was thankfully not plagued by any feet issues, but here I am in year four and my right foot has decided that it wanted to get in on the giving-me-trouble game.

A few months ago, I started having pain in the ball of my right foot when I would walk distances. It pretty consistently wouldn't start hurting until I hit about a mile. As many of us are prone to do, I ignored it at first as it really wasn't that painful and I could walk through it. I found that I experienced some numbness when I would keep going and it didn't seem to get better, so I took a break from training, hoping that whatever it was would clear up with rest.  I so wish I'd gone to the doctor then, as by now I might be ready to take on this walk.

But that's the past and I am where I am. I saw my regular doctor on my birthday earlier this month and she sent me to physical therapy and got a referral started to see a podiatrist as she was not sure what was going on with it. They physical therapy has been good, and I finally got in to the podiatrist today. His news, while not earth shattering, was not quite what I'd hoped.

So here's the rundown on what the issue is as best I understand it. I do not have any knowledge of anatomy, so forgive me if a detail isn't quite right. My second toe (in technical terms, the "stayed home" piggy) is longer than my first toe (the "went to market" piggy). This is just genetic and normal for some people. As a result, when I walk, more pressure is put on the ball of my foot at the second, third and fourth toes, than the first or fifth. Callouses on the ball of my foot bear this out. This hasn't been a problem most of my life, but apparently something happened this year and if I have it right, the ligament on that second toe in the ball of my foot has gotten stretched out and is not providing the support it used to in that joint. The second toe has curled up a little as a result (mild hammertoe?) and I'm having ball of foot pain. The occasional numbness indicates that at times pressure is being put on one of the nerves there as well and so I also have a mild nueroma or swelling/irritation/pinching of the nerve.

So here's what the doctor said. He likes that I'm doing physical therapy and wants me to continue that, and he likes my shoes, and that I've been wearing superfeet (over the counter orthotics). However, he thinks that what I need is a custom orthotic that will take some of the pressure off that second toe and help redistribute it to the first toe. This requires insurance authorization, which takes time, and then the orthotic needs to be made, which takes time. In the meantime he has me taping that second toe so that it lies down flat instead of being curled up and he thinks about 6 weeks of that may help improve things as well. The tape is in the shape of a ribbon.

My longer "stayed home" piggy
Ribbon shaped toe taping to keep it from curling
So now I wait for the insurance authorization (or find out it's not covered and we get to pay for it) and then wait for the orthotic to be made. As I've mentioned before I'm not good at waiting.

What does all of this mean for my walk? We are only 7 weeks from the San Diego 3-Day at this point. The podiatrist is not that hopeful that I'll be able to do much during the walk, although he said the taping and physical therapy may help me get more than that mile in. Even if the orthotics get authorized and made quickly, it takes time to get used to them and time for them to help with things. So worst case is that I do a few miles each day and then sweep and bus the rest of the walk. Best case is that the taping and physical therapy help so much that I'm able to do more, but probably under no scenario is anywhere near all 60 miles going to happen this year.

My thoughts and emotions are all over the place right now. I have contemplated trying to get a knee scooter (kind of a cool, but far more expensive alternative to crutches) to allow me to go more of the distance, but having never used one, I'm not sure how doable that would be. I'm researching that right now. My biggest disappointment in all of this is not getting to spend as much time over the course of the walk with my teammate, who is coming in from North Carolina to walk with me this year!

So my lesson is still about being able to accept the situation as it is and work with what I have. Acceptance is key. I'm sure those of you reading this are far more likely to support whatever I need to do to keep myself healthy than I am. I need to spend some time working on that, but at the same time I'm going to work hard on physical therapy and do what I can to give me the best possible chance of doing more without putting myself in danger of injuring further an already irritated foot. I'm going to the walk, even if I can't do much. I may contact the coaches and see what my options are from their point of view.

So please send healing and acceptance my way. I'll keep you posted on how all my piggies are doing.

Friday, March 8, 2013

2012 Susan G. Komen, San Diego, 3-Day, 60-Mile Walk November 16-18, 2012

This was my third year walking in San Diego, the best event yet for me, and I’m thoroughly excited that I’m signed up for a fourth year in 2013.

Day 0, Thursday, November 15, 2012
Packing gets easier and easier every year. It still probably took me about 4 hours to put everything together.  As usual I packed it all in zippered plastic bags of various sizes and put stickers with my name, participant ID and my cell phone number on them in case anything got lost.  This is the first year I’ve had a smart phone for the walk, so I also took a picture of my credential and made it it’s own folder, figuring if I lost it and someone found it, they could look up my info there to return it to me on the walk.  It was suggested to me that I should also make that photo my phone background.  I plan to do that next year.  I actually did most of my packing earlier in the week, but there’s always something that has to be added on Thursday.  I waited for Frank to get home from work to get going so he could take over the kids and then headed down to the Del Mar area.  Got all settled and went to bed early to get a good start the next day!

Day 1, Friday, November 16, 2012
Mileage: 20 miles on the route, 1.7 in camp or at opening.  Total: 21.7

I woke up early, got all my stuff together and headed to Del Mar.  Arrived about 10 minutes to 6 and went and had my picture taken at the opening ceremony photo spot.  I added a name to the remembrance flag used during opening ceremonies for a friend of mine who’d just lost her Aunt.  

This is the first year that I have not had a teammate to walk with, and I admit that I was a bit nervous about walking “alone”.  However, I was blessed to end up being able to walk the whole walk with an awesome couple.  I met Lauren in a tap dance class almost 4 years ago.  That was the same year I walked for the first time in the San Diego 3-Day and I quickly found out that Lauren and her husband, Jerry, had been crewing for the San Diego 3-Day on the gear and tent team for several years already.  Well, it was just my luck that this year, the year I didn’t have a teammate, was the same year they decided to walk again (they’d walked San Diego once before).  So the plan was to meet up during or just after opening ceremonies. She had the honor of carrying the “Futures” flag in the opening ceremony.

I ran into them randomly before the ceremonies started and got to meet Jerry for the first time and they had to run off to get ready for the flag gig and we agreed that if I couldn’t find Jerry in the crowd during opening, we’d meet in the area right after they scanned us out on to the route.

The opening ceremony was very inspirational.  Dr. Sheri Phillips is such a fantastic speaker.  I was extra weepy. It had been a hard year of loss for me (I attended 6 funerals from Dec 2011-Nov 2012), and while none of those I lost this year were breast cancer related, all that emotion just came to the surface.  The weather was lovely and dotted with fluffy clouds and I love the photo I took of the clouds showing through one of the side panels on the stage.

They finally released us to be scanned out onto the route and I still hadn’t found Jerry.  I scanned out at 7:22 AM and expected them both to be out there before me, but I didn’t see them. I texted. I called. No answer. I started walking a little wondering if they’d gone up the road a bit.  Finally Lauren called me and they’d just been scanned out. Somehow I’d gotten ahead of them!  We met up and started our journey together and it was an awesome start to an awesome day!

The first day always seems to be one where everyone is in super high spirits, things don’t get you down and even the Torrey Pines Hill looks doable because you get to it so early in the day.  I always feel a little invincible on Day 1. It was awesome to see many familiar faces along the route.  The safety crew, the folks manning all of the sweep vans, the walker-stalkers who become such a welcome sight when you see them over and over, several years in a row!

There were far fewer walkers in 2012 than in previous years.  According to, for San Diego, in 2010, there were approximately 4,000 walkers with $10.6 million raised, in 2011 it went down to 3,600 walkers with $9.2 million raised, and in 2012 it dropped drastically to 2,500 walkers with $6.5 million raised.  The walks all over the country were down significantly in 2012. 

I could tell there were fewer walkers. The lines at the port-o-potties weren’t quite as long in most places, which was a bonus.  There were not as many people out cheering us on either.  But those of us who were there had plenty of energy and determination.

Day 1 was beautiful and uneventful. It seemed a little warmer than previous years.  I ate constantly and we stopped at every pit stop and every grab and go.  Lunch was delicious -- I just love the Panera bread on the sandwiches.  We talked and laughed and did what we could as the day wore on to take our minds off our achey feet.  By 4:28 PM we were in camp and sooooo ready to get settled, take a hot shower in a semi-truck (yes, you read that right!) and eat!  20 miles down on the route!

I got my tent set up, went and showered and hit the dining tent.  I’m always amazed that the food is so good.  This was pasta night and the mac and cheese and pasta and sausage and meatballs tasted so good. I managed to get my iPhone charged up, wandered around the “wellness village” and did some stretching before calling it a night. I have never managed to stay up to see the entertainment they provide in the evenings. I’m always so wiped I just want to sleep.  I was in bed by 8 PM.

Day 2, Saturday, November 17, 2012
Mileage: 18.9 on the route, 1.7 in camp.  Total for day: 20.6
Total for Day 1 & 2: 42.3

I was up at 5 AM and got myself ready. Ate like a pig at breakfast (how do you get so hungry just sleeping?) and then met up with Lauren and Jerry.  There were rainbows in the sky We got out onto the route around 7:20 AM.  


Day 2 always seems harder than the other two days.  This year was no exception.  Everything hurt, my energy felt depleted and they kept running out of string cheese at the pit stops right before I’d walk up.  Seriously, that may seem small, but I get tired of the sweetness of peanut butter pretty much after day 1, and when I need a protein fix while walking, the string cheese is my food of choice.  Having Lauren and Jerry there was awesome.  It really almost becomes a game of finding things that will distract you from what you’re feeling and thinking.  Because if you think too much about how you feel, you start looking for that sweep van.  I was determined to walk all the mileage on day 2 and if that meant I had nothing left for day 3, that was OK.  I knew if I didn’t do all of day 2, I couldn’t make all 60, and while I was OK with not making all 60, I wanted to use everything up in the beginning this year and see if it could be done.

So about 3 miles out from lunch, I was tired, I was in pain, and I was grumbling about lack of string cheese.  Along the route, there are often people offering beer or wine to the walkers.  This is not generally something I partake of as I’m not much of a drinker, and I was really working hard to stay hydrated which alcohol can work against.  However, as I came up to someone offering wine, I felt like I needed something to take my mind off of things so I accepted a paper cup with wine in it.  Probably no more than about 3 or 4 oz, but it was on an empty stomach.  I was glad I was walking and not driving, because I felt the effects almost immediately.  It took the edge off.  Shortly after that, we came across someone with one of my favorite foods of all time: dill pickles!  And almost immediately after that was someone handing out string cheese and then to top it off, another offering diet coke!!!  So wine, cheese, pickles and diet coke completely turned my mood around.  I doubt those folks handing out all of these things know how much we walkers truly appreciate it.  It really can be the difference between continuing on and not at times.

We made it to lunch, and Lauren was starting to have problems and said she might take the SAG bus back to camp after we were done eating.  Lunch is always rejuvenating.  I am never quite sure if it is because of the food or the sitting down, but most likely the combination of the two.  Even Lauren decided to go ahead and see how much further she could go.  I felt completely capable of continuing on for the rest of the mileage after we’d rested. We walked on!

At about 15 or 16 miles, Lauren really was done, and caught a ride back to camp.  Jerry and I kept going.  The last part of the walk into camp on day 2 is a long one that winds along the water.  It looks shorter than it is.  We were joking about how short it looked, but we both knew it was longer than it seemed.  We happened to look down and saw a spot where gum was stuck to the ground.  Instead of looking ahead at where we were going, we kept thinking about how far away from the gum we’d gotten.  That sticks out for me, as it really made a difference to how we felt.  We were making significant progress, but it was far more beneficial to our mental state to think about how far we’d come, than how much more we had to go.  I think there’s a life lesson in that somewhere.

We arrived in camp around 4:22 PM.  I headed off to shower and eat dinner. I wasn’t as thrilled with the food on the second day.  It was chicken with a mango salsa and the meat was very dry, but the vegetarian tostada type thing was pretty good.  I still ate a ton, and then spent time stretching while I charged my phone back up.  I was in bed by 8 pm and asleep before I knew it.

Day 3, Sunday, November 18, 2012
Mileage: 16.2 on the route, 1.5 in camp and walking to closing.  Total for day: 17.7
Total Walked Day 1, 2 & 3: 60 Miles!

I awoke at 4:30 AM and started packing all my stuff up.  Around 5:30, it started sprinkling, but I’m good with rain on day 3. Walking in the rain is not bad, but camping in the rain I’m not a huge fan of.  I didn’t have to worry though, as it stopped raining by about 6:30 or so.  We did get an amazing rainbow as we left camp.

Lauren was suffering from a heat rash and chose to skip walking on day 3.  Jerry and I set off together for the final day of our journey.  This turned out to be a lot of fun as we are both big science fiction fans, so we got to be geeks most of the day. I found I needed my music a bit more -- distraction helps with the pain.  I remember him telling me that he’d never heard anyone playing Rush on a 3-Day before.

I was thrilled to see my friend Shannon, cheering us all on shortly before I got to the old town hill.  

It felt warmer to me than any other day on any of the 3 days I’ve walked in before.  I was sweating a lot more and I probably should have changed my socks out sooner.  I got to the hill in old town San Diego and Jerry took off as he does hills as quickly as he can and I tend to take them in small steps at a pretty slow pace.  He said he’d wait for me at the top.  On the way up, I ran into a woman dressed in a Princess Leia costume and I stopped for a picture with her.  She remembered me from last year when I ran ahead of a bunch of people to get a photo with her because I was so excited to see someone dressed as something from Star Wars!  The Force was with me, so I kept going up the hill. I saw Smile Guy and Little Grin. They’d been out to support us all three days.

I got to the top and could tell that one of my toes was having a problem.  It was either a hot spot or a blister.  The next pit stop was just a little beyond the top of the hill, so I didn’t stop to look at it, but just kept going.  When we got there, I kind of knew that it was a blister.  Sitting and taking the sock off, confirmed that I had a small blister on the pad of one of my smaller toes.  I was about to stand up to go to medical to find out what I needed to do to deal with it, because believe it or not, this was my first blister in all of my training and all three of my walks, when one of the medical crew came and sat down next to me with her blister kit. She put some kind of gel patch over it and bandaged it up and amazingly, it felt great and didn’t hurt anymore to walk on it.

We kept going.  The next part of the walk winds through downtown San Diego.  There are stop lights every block and the stopping and starting is never fun.  We finally made it to lunch and took a long rest and enjoyed more yummy sandwiches.  Lauren was there and as we got ready to keep walking, she said she was taking the bus and would meet us at holding.  She offered to pick up caffeinated drinks for us!  Diet Coke awaited me at the end of my journey!  Lunch is late on day 3.  It’s at 14.1 miles and there are only 2.1 miles from there to holding, so by the time you get there, you’re practically done.  I understand they did this to ensure that people were not overly hungry at closing ceremonies.  The nice thing is that after you’ve rested and eaten, those 2.1 miles seem very doable.  I write that thinking back to how I felt at that point the first year I walked.  I felt completely defeated back then. This year while sore and exhausted, I felt good.

Jerry and I walked on and Lauren got on the bus.  There always has been a moment that just up and makes me cry during the walk.  This walk was no different.  We were literally blocks away from the holding area when I spotted this man walking for his wife.  The sign he wore brought me to tears.  He was walking with his daughter, who had a similar sign on her back for her mother.

Right before we reached holding Princess Leia was there again, telling everyone how strong the Force was with them.  That made me smile.

We went in and it felt amazing.  So unlike the first year I walked.  I’d done it.  I actually walked every step of all 60 miles!  I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it was.  It was about 3:13 PM so we had about an hour to rest and recuperate before the closing ceremony would start.

At 4:30 or so we walked to closing ceremonies.  The speakers were inspiring and I was particularly thrilled to hear Norm Bowling speak, as he’d been the one who took the time to call me personally last year and helped to convince me to continue to participate in this event for a third year.  I hope to be able to meet him next year as I understand he plans to walk San Diego again.

We held up one shoe as the survivors entered the closing ceremony.  We were told that we’d helped to raise 6.5 million dollars this year.  It was over, and although exhausted, I felt good.  I hugged Lauren and Jerry goodbye, got on the bus and headed to my hotel after picking up some food.  I had a LONG soak in the tub before going to bed.  

I was delighted to get home the next morning and was greeted by all kinds of awesome signs my kids had made for me.  My husband and kids took great care of me and I rested my feet.  Within a day or two, I felt completely back to normal and have carried my accomplishment with me.  I finished all 60 miles this year!!!

I’m Walking Again in 2013!

I am looking forward to another year of walking in 2013.  I will be joined by my childhood friend, Susie, who lost her aunt to breast cancer last year.  Her uncle requested that in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to Komen and Susie immediately contacted me to ask if I had my account set up yet for the 2013 walk as she wanted to make the donation her uncle requested and support my walk at the same time.  I told her I should have it set up shortly, but that she should consider coming to join me and walk with me in San Diego.  I really didn’t think that she’d take me up on it, as she lives in North Carolina, but she loved the idea and pretty quickly said she would join my team.  It is going to be an amazing experience to do this walk with her. I’m so looking forward to November!

If you’d like to help get me to my $2,300 minimum so I can take this journey for a fourth time, please consider making a donation today.  Every donation helps.  Bigger donations help more!

To donate online, go to and click on the bright pink “Donate to Margie in 2013” button on the left of the screen.  

If you prefer to donate with a check, go to and download my donation form, fill it out, and mail it to the address on the form.

If you donate, be sure to check to see if your company does matching funds, as you can double your donation if they do.  Information on that can be found at:

Thank you to everyone who has supported my journey so far!  I could not do this without your help and I am grateful to each and every one of you for your part in helping to create a world without breast cancer.

To read my other two experiences walking in the 3-Day go to:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thoughts on 3-Day Training

The obvious part about training is to get your body in shape to be able to handle three straight days of walking almost 20 miles each day.  Everyone understands that.  However, there are some people who feel "I run on a regular basis", "I work out every day", "I'm in great shape" and they think they can get away with little or no training and still do OK on the walk.  The truth is that physically they may do fine, but there's so much of the walk that has nothing to do with your physical ability.

Let's stick to the physical for a minute though.  First, running is not walking.  Working out, is not walking.  Walking 5 miles every day is NOT the same as walking 10 miles.  Walking 10 miles is not like walking 18 or 20  All of these other activities can contribute to it being easier to do the 20 miles, but if you don't train for walking, and you don't train for walking long distances, you really won't learn what you need to know to make it through the 3-Days.  I remember, the first year I trained.  Getting to the point where doing a 10 mile walk seemed kind of easy -- I had it in my head that all I needed to do was do that twice to get through each day!  I then was astounded to find that adding two miles to that, made it exponentially harder.  Later, 18 miles seemed doable.  But adding a 15 mile walk on the day after I did an 18 mile walk was tough.  My point is, that the more you are able to follow the rough pattern of the training program that Komen has laid out (either the 24 week or 16 week program), the better off you will be on event.  I've never followed it 100%.  Life gets in the way of training.  But each year I've done a better job of training harder and sticking to the schedule better, and each year, the actual even has been easier for me.

I recommend starting informal training as soon as you can in the year.  I was in pretty bad shape when I first started doing these walks and so I would start with one mile.  I gradually increased that until doing 3 miles was almost as easy as the one mile had initially been.  I then got to where 5 miles felt like a piece of cake.  I tend to sustain that -- trying to do 5 mile walks at least 3-4 times a week throughout the year, until the formal training program starts.

But lets say you are already a walker.  Let's say that part of it is easy.  Here's the other, and in some ways more important reason that you should spend time training.  Training is the only way you can figure out what gear will work for you.  Do you have the right shoes, the right socks, the right clothing, the right bag to carry your water and sports drink?  What other items are crucial for you to be able to carry with you to get through a long walk?  Training is the only way you will know if your feet are prone to blisters, if changing gear can change that, and if not, how you cope with, prevent and care for blisters so you can keep going.  Training is the only way to learn how you need to hydrate and how to get your body used to going about 3 miles in between bathroom breaks.  Training also lets you learn what keeps you going when you don't feel like going anymore.  It's a difficult rule that they do not allow you to wear headphones on the walk, but music makes all the difference for me when I feel like I want to give up, so I carry speakers that I can clip to my bag and I save the music for those times when I absolutely need it on the event.  (I do admit that I train wearing headphones quite often -- but I usually only put one in so that I can still hear what is going on around me and keep myself safe.)

I hope that this gives some insight into why we want to devote a significant amount of time to training.  The more you do, the more you are able to work out what works for you and what doesn't.  What your body is capable of and what your mind is capable of.

May your new year be filled with walking and may you never get a blister.