Monday, August 09, 2010

The 2010 3-Day: The Day After Chicago ...

Note: Every year, I write a recap of the 3-Day and mail copies to all those who contributed to my fundraising. Those will go in the mail tomorrow. I also post the text here. So some of you may be seeing it twice.

Family and friends:

It began, as it does every year, on Thursday.

I spent the first part of the day packing and the latter part of the day heading up to Northbrook to spend the night. (The walk kicks off from Northbrook Court.)

My lovely friends Sue and Gary (all of my friends are lovely, of course) swung by the hotel to pick me up and we headed off to a pre-walk dinner of pizza. And brownies. Topped with chocolate sauce and ice cream. Because on the eve of walking 60 miles, it’s pretty easy to shrug and say, “Why not?”

Later, at the entrance to the hotel, they said goodbye and wished me well with “launch hugs,” a concept I adore. I headed up to my room and rang the front desk for a 4 a.m. wake-up call.

Yup, 4 a.m. Which, somehow, arrived in what felt like only a couple of hours.

I was on the shuttle shortly after 5 a.m. For the event, I used my phone to send text updates to Twitter. On the shuttle, I sent, “On the coach on the way to Opening Ceremonies. I have been up for more than an hour. I’ve not had coffee. ’Cause hotel-room coffee is awful.”

Little did I know. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

I arrived at the Opening Ceremony as I have many times now – this event was my seventh – and within about 5 minutes had met and started chatting with Erin and Kristy. They asked me to take their picture in front of one of the 3-Day, um, giant inflatable thingees. (How’s that for a technical description?) Sassy gals that they are, they wanted a picture to serve as proof that they were there, in case they decided to ditch the event. They’d made a pact not to tell anyone if they didn’t walk. (And their secret was safe with me. I can tell you about it now because they finished the event. But there I go again, skipping ahead.)

As part of this year’s Opening Ceremony, walkers were invited to write names on lengths of wide white ribbon, the names of those for whom we were walking. All the ribbons were joined together and raised as this year’s Opening Ceremony flag. 

On one of the ribbons, I wrote:

Leah
John
Sally
Richard


As we embarked on our journey, their names fluttered in the sky.

We hadn’t been walking more than 15 minutes when we happened upon our first cheerleader of the weekend. A Pace bus driver – who had no passengers at the time, I presume – pulled over, put on his hazard lights, got off of the bus and double-high-fived each walker as they passed, saying, “Thank you for walking. God bless you.”

Such is the spirit of the 3-Day.

I walked with Kristy and Erin, who were walking for the first time, who were walking, as many do, as personal challenges. 

On the route, we found ourselves walking behind one of the 60-Mile Men. The 60-Mile Men are amazing. Some walk every event every year. Some crew. But all of them pose for the 60-Mile Men calendars, which are sold as part of their fundraising efforts. And as such, each wears a sash, a la a beauty pageant, declaring what month and year they posed. We were walking behind Mr. August 2009.

“Sixty Mile Man?”, I called out.

“Yes, darling?”, he called over his shoulder.

“What size bra do you wear?”

“Fifty double-D.”

Mr. August 2009’s name is Michael. Michael walks the route in a very rockin’, feathered pink hat that can best be described as pimp-tastic, a very pink bra (over a sleeveless T-shirt) and a flouncy skirt, which, that day, was pink and grey and white camouflage. He walks with walking sticks decorated with pennants that sport the logos of all of his sponsors. (He very kindly granted permission for me to use one of his photos, because really, words don't do the man or the man's outfit justice. Click on it for a larger version.)

He is quite the 3-Day celebrity. Everyone wants their picture taken with Michael. We had been walking together and I stepped off to the side as he posed for some pictures.

“You waited for me?”, he asked. (Usually, walkers keep walking.)

“We were in the middle of a conversation,” I said. “It seemed rude to leave.”

So we walked together to lunch. Someone offered him a chair under one of the crew’s tents, which he opted to accept. He hugged me and said, “I love you.”

Such is the spirit of the 3-Day.

I couldn’t find Erin and Kristy, so I settled in – at a table ... in the shade! – with two women whose names I wish I could remember and wish I would have written down. But they were very cool, in town from Wisconsin. We had a good chat. And as I was heading back to the route, I spied Erin and Kristy in the medical tent. Erin was tending to blisters. They walked for a good part of the afternoon. At Pit Stop 4, their pain having gotten the better of them, they hopped a coach back to camp. I kept walking, knowing I could always sweep on the route. I didn’t know most of the remainder of the route would have restricted sweep access. So, I walked. Because I really had no choice.

Day 1 is always the longest day, mileage-wise. As I tweeted, “Finished the day, 22.1 miles. Komen miles are longer, tho. Just when you think you’ve walked the listed mileage, there’s another mile to go.”

But I was in camp. And there was steak for dinner.

No, really. The 3-Day hired a new catering company. Gone is the Day 1 dinner of spaghetti. Behind the dining tent was a massive grill, billowing smoke and the aroma of sizzling beef, and some very dedicated men wielding barbecue tongs.

So I had dinner (which also consisted of roasted new potatoes and green beans and a rosemary roll and salad and apple pie, if you were wondering) then headed to the tent area to retrieve my gear and set up my tent.

I ran into Barry along the way. Barry, known for his pink beard, and therefore referred to as Pink-Beard Barry, was part of the crew this year. Barry is Mr. April 2009, a calendar-mate of Michael’s. In years past, he has walked every event. Yes, every event in one year. I can’t fathom being able to walk weekend after weekend. But Barry is pretty amazing.

A lovely woman stopped to help me set up my tent. I crawled in and collapsed. I thought about showering. I really needed a shower. But I was too tired to get up. And I had a tent to myself, so the only one I could offend was me. I fell asleep in my clothes.

I won’t bore you with the details of trying to sleep and getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. 

Morning arrives early on the 3-Day. Once one person starts stirring, a chain reaction kicks off and you’re up whether you want to be or not. So I found myself eating breakfast very early and tweeting, “Breakfast, Day 2. But more important than breakfast: COFFEE. Today's mileage is 19, I hear.”

Um, hold the phone there, bub. Yes, there was coffee.

But it was the worst coffee I had ever tasted. It was coffee in appearance and nothing more. So my Friday-morning tweet about hotel-room coffee being awful? My hotel-room coffee would have tasted like a gourmet brew compared to the stuff in camp.

I love the 3-Day food folks. They do a bang-up job of preparing food for thousands of people. In years past, the coffee has been bad, but this year, with the new catering people, it was even worse. 

Uh oh. Three days without coffee? I hoped to walk past a Starbucks.

I headed for the beginning of the route. I was so early that I had to wait, along with a couple hundred others, for the route to open. I wasn’t sure how much of the day’s mileage I would be able to cover, but as in years past, I was going to take the day one leg at a time.

I tweeted: “Pit Stop 2, 4.8 miles. Those who have my cell number, text me a little boost, please!”

I was tired. I contemplated taking the bus to lunch, and then I realized that if I did that, I would miss walking through Mt. Prospect.

So I got back on the route.

Words cannot begin to convey how much the 3-Day loves Mt. Prospect. No other city goes through so much effort. The cops wear pink shirts and roll out the pink-hooded squad car. The firemen wear pink and pose with walkers in front of a fire truck. Everywhere you turn, folks cluster in impromptu cheering stations or appear in front of their homes to offer water and treats. They tie ribbons around trees. They fly balloons from mailboxes, porches, you name it. They write messages on their driveway aprons in colorful chalk in letters 5 feet tall. It’s magnificent! As I told one of the first cops who helped us to cross a major intersection, “You need to teach the other towns how to do this!” He smiled and said, “Ah, we just make up for all of them here!”

Boy, do they.

Barry and a crop of the crew popped up along the route, too. He high-fived me and clasped my hand. “It’s really good to see you,” I said. And it was. Walkers and crew become like members of your family.

We walked past one home where the most adorable older woman had set up a card table and had put loops of tape on the back of pink silk rose petals. “Take a rose petal,” she said, in her cute little voice. “Because roses mean ‘I love you’ and we love you for walking!”

(Are you crying now? I am.)

Another stand of Mt. Prospect’s finest set up just before Pit Stop 3, offering wedges of rind-free watermelon (brilliant idea). As I neared, they cheered, and I said, “Have we told you lately that we love you?!”

“We love you, too!”, said one of the men, who may have been the mayor. I heard he was out, greeting walkers.

Mt. Prospect: From the bottom of my 3-Day heart, I thank you. What an amazing community of people you are, a very integral part of the 3-Day Universe.

Later in the day, I tweeted, “On a coach, cooling off. 13.6 so far today, 35.7 total so far. 60 miles is a long way.”

I saw Michael walk by the coach, heading back out onto the route. I thought about getting off the coach and walking with him. But I opted to stay on. I had embarked on the day not sure how far I would walk. It was hot and sunny and from previous years, I knew the rest of the route lacked for shade. Having logged about 14 miles for the day, I decided to ride back to camp.

I had dinner (grilled chicken, rice pilaf, assorted vegetables, a breadstick, salad, and chocolate cake, if you were wondering) and the last walker was announced.

Being the last walker into camp is a very big deal. The sound guys fire up the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” and those who are done with dinner head out to the route to clap. Those who are still eating stay put but stop to clap, too. 

Of course, a few walkers precede the last walker, one of whom was Michael, moving rather slowly. Barry ran up and hugged him. And, sap that I am, for the umpteenth time that weekend, I started crying.

Later, I ran into Erin and Kristy, whom I hadn’t seen all day. Kristy was sporting a taped ankle and Erin had her share of bandages on her feet. But they planned to walk the next day. 

I took my much-needed shower, and waited for it to be time for bed. There’s no point trying to sleep while camp is still buzzing.

Sunday morning, I debated. My left hip was displeased with me for sleeping on the ground. I thought I might try the first part of the route and sweep as necessary. But sanity prevailed and I hopped the coach to lunch with plans to walk the second half of the day. Turned out, Michael got on the coach, too.

When we arrived at lunch, just south of Belmont, just west of Lake Shore Drive, he hit the route as soon as it opened. I stayed behind for a bit. But we met up at Pit Stop 3, at North Avenue. And the rain decided to join us.

We continued on the route together, which continued along the lakefront. The rain became more persistent, but given the option of walking along the lake – read: no shade – in the blazing-hot sun like last year or the overcast raininess of this year, I was happy for the rain.

As we arrived at Pit Stop 4, the wind had picked up. It was quite a mess. So we paused for just a few minutes under a tent and kept going.

Next stop, last stop: Soldier Field.

Michael had been telling me about his wife, Monica, who was on crew and who met him in the concourse of Soldier Field. With her recently shaved head, she reminds me of Sinead O’Connor and Demi Moore’s G.I. Jane. Michael had told me that she applied to be on “Chopped,” the cooking competition on Food Network. 

When we got to where she was standing, she announced that she’d gotten on the show.

Michael scooped her up and hugged her. She should be on in January, she thinks. Tune in.

She went ahead of us to get a picture as we walked in. Michael took my hand and we made our grand entrance to music blaring and walkers and crew cheering. It is impossible to make anything but a grand entrance when walking with a man wearing a pimp hat, bra, and skirt. Everyone cheers for everyone. Which is one of the best parts of the 3-Day.

We scanned in at the end of the route and hugged goodbye, trading business cards so we can keep in touch. I saw Barry and we hugged, too. I like being a veteran walker, as it were. It’s nice seeing people year after year.

I added myself to the folks who were cheering for walkers. I asked the woman next to me for the time. It was 1:05 p.m. The Closing Ceremony was scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. So I scrunched up a couple of pink pompoms and cheered arriving walkers. For about three hours. In the mix of songs, I heard Earth Wind & Fire’s “September,” which I associate with L.A. Dave. I was wearing the Cubs hat his family gave to me. He was one of my biggest 3-Day cheerleaders. I took the song as a sign that he was there.

I saw Kristy and Erin arrive and hugged them as they made their way through the cheering crowd. I saw other walkers I’d walked with during the three days and hugged them, too. It’s good to have someone to hug at the end.

The Closing Ceremony was both rousing and moving, as it always is. There were many walkers. There were many crew members. There were many survivors. And there were so many memories of those we love and have lost.

This year’s Chicago Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure raised $4.2 million, a very large sum that will enable Komen to do many good things. Thank you for being a part of that number. And thank you for your boundless love and support. As we say on the 3-Day, “We will never give up.” Together, we will find a cure.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Rick Hamrick said...

You left out one important one when creating yesterday's list of those which ROCK, Beth.

Special K? ROCKS.

Congratulations on finishing another 3-day, spreading love and tears across 60 miles of Chicagoland!

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you for walking, especially walking in memory of my friend and colleague Leah Siegel. And as somebody who grew up in Arlington Heights and relished racing around Mount Prospect as a rowdy teen, I say: Mt. Prospect cops and firefighters ROCK!

8:49 AM  
Blogger Kristen Sager Cincotta said...

Great, great letter! It sounds like a wonderful walk, peppered with great characters!

I was curious about Barry and if he was walking this year. I didn't hear anything about him in Boston, so I thought maybe he decided to skip this year. So thanks for filling me in.

Congrats on another 3 Day successfully in the books!

~ Kristen

12:34 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

@Rick: You're so sweet. As always.

@"Anon": You're very welcome. And yep, Mt. Prospect ROCKS!

@Kristen: Barry's walking Michigan this weekend! So he's still at it, just not doing every event this year.

12:43 PM  

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