Friday, November 27, 2009

cancer sucks

With months of training and anticipation behind me, last weekend I participated in a cancer charity 3-day walk in San Diego. Thousands of people signed up to walk 60 miles over a 3-day weekend and by doing so raise funds for breast cancer research. A veteran participant and friend encouraged me to join the small team she formed with another friend, so the three of us became Team Rack Pack. We arrived at 6am at the starting point for a quick pep talk and a photo op.

The starting point was the fairgrounds in Del Mar and from there we headed south, along the coast and up some steep hills and into La Jolla (I think).

Ever since I agreed to do this I wondered if I'd be adequately prepared. In some ways I was, and in some ways I wasn't. For instance, I really had no idea that other walkers would be wearing such interesting outfits.

There were all kinds of crazy hats and sashes and necklaces and buttons and wings and custom team shirts and leggings and tutus and such. I didn't get nearly as many photos of those outfits as I should have. We weren't allowed to wear any headphones so people carried small mp3 players to play their music aloud as they walked. As we passed different people we listened to everything from hip hop to classic rock to disco to 80's favorites.

I didn't bring a music player or a costume, I was concerned about only bringing what I needed to ensure I could make it to the end of each day. Such a glaring oversight.

The other aspect I didn't expect were all the spectators and encouragement we received from people in the San Diego community through every one of the 60 miles. I think on average we couldn't go for more than a 100 yards or so without running into someone stationed along the way to cheer us on, give us snacks and drinks, stickers, beads, pins, all kinds of things.

Many people just held "thank you" signs or had names and photos and birth and death dates of friends or family who passed away from breast cancer. Many, many people repositioned themselves along the route several times in a day each one of the three days, so we'd pass by the same people cheering 3 or 4 times each day. Some of these more frequent spectators came to be known by all of us.

The melon guys:

The ballerinas:

The hippie chicks:

And the guy that we just called "pink beard":

Not only did we see him several times each day, but there were signs featuring him sporadically along the route each day too:

And as was immediately obvious, no one was going to lose any weight by walking these 60 miles. We were offered halloween candy in mass quantities, shots of pink beer, mimosas, tequila, cheese and crackers, cookies, and cupcakes every time we turned a corner. There were official pit stops about every 3 miles with food, drink refills, and bathrooms. It was hard to resist all the sugary and baked goods along the way in order to take advantage of the fruit and more wholesome snacks at the pit stops.

I also saw many San Diego sights along the way:

As it turns out, the mileage estimated to us each day varied too. According to my teammates' pedometers, we walked 23 miles the first day. Out of the 3800 walkers, I finished the first day around around 200th place. One teammate was #134. After our first day we set up camp and slept in an enormous sea of pink tents. Here are some shots of just our section of the campground. There were sections labeled A to Z, these photos are only my section, section I.

In the evening we took showers in huge semi trucks converted to locker rooms, we ate a big hot meal served by volunteers and crashed early. The combination of having to be up at 5am and all the exercise in the sun all day meant we were all exhausted by 8:30 pm. After dinner a live band played in the dining tent and many people were dancing and partying until I'm not sure how late, but most people opted for sleep.

The view from my tent at sunrise the next morning:

We set out bright and early again for day two, 24 miles to be done that day. We found some new friends and encouraging signs along the route.

And we had something else to look forward to. My teammate Nacole's husband and another friend flew into town and rented a car for the day, and they met up with us at several points all along that day's route. They also persuaded us to duck into a bar at about mile 18 and have a beer with them. Needless to say, we weren't as quick to camp as we had been the previous day.

On the third morning we were newly energized, knowing that we were almost to the end of the journey and we would have the shortest walk to complete. We were all up extra early to pack up our tents and we posed for a photo with some of our tent neighbors on a very cold early sunday morning.

We walked southward toward downtown.

Several San Jose police bike cops had been volunteering for the entire event:

And Nacole and I finally got a picture with pink beard man:

And after 17 short miles we only had one more to go to get to our endpoint, the pro ball stadium, Petco Park, in downtown San Diego.

A few more photos and Team Rack Pack was done. We had a few blisters between us but we all walked the entire journey, which turned out to be 65 miles in all, and we made pretty good time each day. This was Nacole's (black hat) second time walking and our first time. Jill proclaimed that this was a one-time thing for her and though she enjoyed it, she won't be back again.

I found time to speak to the enormous volunteer medical staff over the weekend and I am interested in joining their crew next year. I'd also consider being a walker again.


Anonymous said...

What a great posting! Thanks for telling a great story, walking all that way, and watching out for our boobies!!

Laura Freeman

Nacole said...

You have to walk again -- you're a great photographer and writer/blogger. Plus you get to hang out with all those guys in pink!

Trish said...

GREAT posting!

Makes me even want to consider joining next year!