Thursday, July 30, 2009

The 3-Day: Get Ready, Get Set ...

Greetings, Chicago walkers! It’s almost our turn!

This event will be my sixth 3-Day. I’m truly excited about walking this year, more so than in years past. I always look forward to it, but this year, I’m really eager to lace up and hit the route. That’s because I’ll be walking with Amy this year. I met Amy on last year’s event and she’s become one of my dearest friends. There are thousands of wonderful things about the 3-Day (beginning with all the walkers and crew; everyone starts off at “amazing” in my book, just for showing up, and they become even more awesome to me over the ensuing three days) but one of the best things about the 3-Day is forming friendships. A year ago, I didn’t know Amy. Today, she’s an important part of my life.

But lately, I’ve also been thinking about my first 3-Day: Atlanta. October. 2001. Three weeks after September 11th, I had to get on a plane. And I did. And I was fine. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it.

In the end, of course, it was an amazing experience. So why I waited until 2005 to return to the 3-Day fold, I couldn’t tell you.

But I’ve been there, that mental place of being a week away from embarking on my first-ever 3-Day and being nervous, the need for air travel aside.

The 3-Day was unlike anything I’d ever done before. I had a friend who’d done one before me, and her advice and assurance was invaluable to me. But still, I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d gotten myself into.

Would I meet anyone? Would I be able to walk the whole route? What would it be like, camping?

Did I meet anyone? You bet. I met walkers at the gate at O’Hare. And then we met more people at Hartsfield. And then we met more people at the Marta station. And then we met people on the coach to Day 0. (There used to be a Day 0, before computers became such an integral part of the 3-Day process.) And then we met more people at the hotel. Getting the picture? You’ll meet people. Lots of people. On that event, I walked into Closing Ceremonies with the first three women I met at O’Hare, Hartsfield, and on the coach, Sherri, Shannon, and Pat. We spent the whole weekend together. Fast friends.

Was I able to walk the whole route? Unfortunately, no. Some of the terrain on Day 1 was unlevel and I have knee issues that decide to flare up at the most inopportune times. Pat and I were tentmates and walked at the same pace. Her hip was giving her trouble. My knee was very displeased. So we set out on Day 2 determined to complete the day’s miles, but about five miles in, as our pace slowed and our limping became more evident, we admitted to ourselves that we needed to sweep. Our strategy was to rest for the remainder of Day 2 so that we could walk all of Day 3. We swept to the next stop and hopped a coach back to camp. Pat went to the medical tent to get some help for her hip. I was feeling guilty about not walking, so to assuage my guilt, I set up a dozen tents. Tents are very easy to set up, but it’s a little bit of luxury to arrive in camp and discover that someone has taken care of setting up your tent. We were able to complete all of Day 3.

So, two words about sweeping: Do it. Don’t injure yourself. Listen to your body. If you really can’t continue, don’t. Lots of people sweep at some point during the 3-Day. LOTS. There is no shame in it. By the time you step onto the route, you’re already a hero. You’ve already trained and raised funds, and, even more importantly in my book, raised awareness. Everyone is proud of you for being bold and becoming a part of the 3-Day. Remember that.

And learn from my stubborn streak: During Day 3 of the 2006 3-Day, I was in a world of hurt. I should have swept. But each time I arrived a pit stop, I took one look at the coach and kept walking. In my mind, I couldn't sweep from a pit stop or lunch. If I had to sweep, I told myself, I had to be on the route. I had to at least be trying. I finished the event. I walked every step. And for several days after, I could barely move. Do not put your body through that. It will tell you what it needs. Listen to it.

As for the camping? First of all, let me say that I don’t camp. Before my first 3-Day, the last time I’d been camping was sometime when my age was in the single digits. But I remembered very clearly, even all those years later, that I hadn’t liked it. My idea of “camping” is a three-star hotel. But “camping” on the 3-Day is hardly camping. Yes, you sleep in a tent, but that’s about where the any similarity to real camping ends. The 3-Day “camp” is more like a city. But when you arrive in camp, I highly recommend that you make your first stop the dining tent. It will most likely be set up very near the entrance to camp. Go grab dinner then sit down and eat. Don’t worry about your tent and your gear. It’s not going anywhere. Eat. Drink. Refuel.

Let me stress this in bold, capital letters: DO NOT SHOWER BEFORE YOU’VE EATEN DINNER.

Got that? You will have just completed more than 20 miles. You will need fuel. And you will need to let your body acclimate to not moving. You do not want to faint in the shower. And trust me, those around you do not want you to faint in the shower either. We 3-Dayers are a loving bunch, but when it comes to picking up naked strangers, we have our limits. (You should be laughing now. Are you laughing? Good. Then I’ve made my point. Let’s move on.)

But once you’ve eaten and retrieved your gear and set up house for the evening and then showered (right?!), by all means, head back to the dining tent to hear the day’s announcements and hear stories from fellow walkers and participate in whatever entertainment is on tap for the evening.

And then head for your tent. Do bring something to attach to the top of your tent to make it easier to identify in the near-endless sea of hot pink. Personally, I make a huge streamer of curling ribbon and use a clothespin to clip that to my tent. But bring a windsock or colorful towel or whatever you have handy that you’ll be able to spot with ease.

You’ll sleep, regardless, because you’ll be tired, but I highly recommend bringing some sort of sleeping pad or air mattress. The ground is hard. It will also suck the heat out of your body. I’ve seen people blow up inflatable pool floats, which seem like a pretty good idea.

I also recommend ear plugs.

But most of all, I recommend just having fun. The 3-Day is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. It is emotional on every level. You will laugh, a lot. If you’re anything like me, you will cry, a lot. You will witness the best that humankind has to offer. You will be a part of the best that humankind has to offer. You will walk into Closing Ceremonies forever changed.

YOU, first-time walker, are about to do something amazing. I’m really proud of you. I’ll see you at Opening Ceremonies next week.

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13 Comments:

Blogger as2 said...

I'm really glad you encouraged sweeping. I feel like walkers sometime "need permission" to be swept and you're giving it here.

Best wishes for an awesome 3-day in Chicago (my hometown; now live in Boston where I wrapped up my 2nd walk).

Signed,

Two time walker (proud to have been swept)

10:52 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Congrats on walking Boston! And good for you for sweeping!

You've just made me remember something I need to add to the post!

10:55 AM  
Blogger as2 said...

Thanks! I too felt guilty for sweeping but then I remembered - - I raised a lot of $ ($4600 in '07 & $3800 in '09) and raised awareness! I also cheered other walkers on.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Absolutely! By the time you get to the walk, you've already done so much, feeling guilty is not allowed!

In 2007, I had to sweep to the "finish line." But cheered until I was hoarse for all the walkers who were nearing the end of the route. And when my friends came into view, we all walked into the holding area together.

11:05 AM  
Blogger klynch said...

THANS FOR THE TIPS LOOKING FORWARD TO THE DC WALK IN OCTOBER!

11:48 AM  
Blogger adriane said...

thank you so much for posting this!
i'm doing my first 3-Day walk in Chicago next weekend! i'm beyond excited and i've been positive during the whole fundraising/training/preparation, and now i'm starting to get nervous! but this was definitely encouraging and i'm even more excited.

maybe i'll see you during the walk! :)

11:51 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Ooh, walking DC should be amazing, klynch! Such a beautiful part of our country.

And adriane, look for me at Opening Ceremonies or on the route and say "Hi"! I'm tall and will be wearing a Cubs hat from 2003 spring training.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Kerry from Texas said...

Thank you so much, I really needed to hear all of this...see you in Chicago next weekend! : )

1:57 PM  
Blogger Barbara Bryant said...

I cried and laughed the whole time while reading your post. Thanks for the encouragement and the permission to sweep without guilt.

Barbara

2:40 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

To all of you who are walking this year, good luck and enjoy! Please invite as many people as you can to meet you at the finish line on the last day and the closing ceremonies. I portray myself as a tough guy, but on that day when I crossed the finish line and saw my wife and two boys along with my aunt who is a cancer survivor, I became a blubbering baby. I composed myself only to walk arm in arm with my group (Erin, Shel, and Beth) to the closing ceremonies and once again completely lose it! I won't spoil all the cool things that happen for the first timers, but as Beth said it will move and forever change you! Peace out B%^&h! Love ya! Mike

3:12 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

It's my pleasure, Kerry and Barbara!

And Mike! It's so good to hear from you! I was just thinking about 2007, when you found me on the route! Annnnnd cue the waterworks! You and Erin and Shel kept me going that bad day in 2006. Love and miss you all!

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouragment. I am a first timer walking in Tampa. I have bad knees and may not make it each day. I am proud to be walking with the women in my family regardless. Thanks again

Debbie

5:00 PM  
Blogger Just Jen said...

Thank you for the great advice and words of encouragment! I am walking in Philly but live in Chicago. I volunteered to help with closing here in Chicago so I will be cheering you on as you cross the finish!

7:41 PM  

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