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.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

playing catch up

A couple of weeks ago I came along on the twins' first field trip to a local natural science museum/small native wildlife zoo. It was K&A's first time on a school bus, and they were thrilled about the experience. Allison was seated with Alison, a friend from her class.

Aside: I volunteer in the kids' classes every week. One day in Allison's class her teacher called my Allison up to the board help demonstrate something and the teacher asked the class, "How can we tell this Allison apart from our other Alison? That's right, this Allison's name has two L's." Mkay.

Allison and Kate's whole village (3 classes = 60 kids) were on the trip together but I had to pick one class to be assigned to, so I volunteered to be a chaperone for Allison's class. Erin and Kate were each less than thrilled with this decision. Erin already had her first field trip and I couldn't go withher because it fell on a workday for me. I told Kate I'd chaperone for her class as soon as I could (I hope they have another field trip on a thursday!)

After a "relaxing" bus ride, for which I forget to take along John's earplugs, again, we assembled out front for a few class photos. Allison's class is first, then Kate's.

Here is my assigned group of kids to supervise for the day. We all had a snack before entering the museum and getting started.

We broke up into small groups and listened to lectures about some of the insects. The kids got to touch giant millipeds and cockroaches and all sorts of similarly cuddly things:

Then they looked at some other insects in another room and dug for earthworms, and inspected the earthworms they found with these magnifying viewers:

And then my group and I set out around the museum, checking out the displays and animals and answering some questions about them on a worksheet that I was given by their teacher. This was the first field trip for probably all of the kindergartners and Allison and the rest were SO excited the entire time. I mean, I took my kids to this museum just earlier this year but that obviously paled in comparison to visiting it with their school. The kids were running and yelling and jumping and running some more and it was so hard to keep track of my particular hyperactive orange-shirted 4 kids in the sea of so many other hyperactive orange-shirted kids. At least I could always spot Allison's blonde hair.

So I was forever struggling to corral the right kids much less have a conversation with them about what we were seeing and what they should be learning from the displays.

Every now and again Kate's group would pass by us and Kate always ran over and hugged me but then she went pretty willingly back to her group.

After an exhausting 3 or so hours we assembled outside at a nearby park & picnic area and had lunch together with the teachers. Kate's teacher is on the left and Allison's on the right and the third teacher in the village, in the middle, has K&A every day for math.

And after lunch the whole village assembled for a picture in less than ideal lighting. At least they took my advice and shifted the whole group to a different position when I pointed out that they had the restrooms in the background. My skills in setting up a good shot pretty much ends there, and if I were really talented I'd had left them alone and photoshopped the restrooms out.

Back at school, I was pretty wiped out but the girls reported a fantastic time when we met up with Erin and went home for the day. All 3 wanted to know when they would take another field trip, and whether I'd be coming along. I hope I get a chance to go with Kate's and Erin's classes sometime this year, though I'm a little field tripped out for now.