Three days. 60 miles. Blisters to last a lifetime.

All of us Hotties on day one!

It was August of 2010 when I committed to walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day event as part of the Hotties-4-Hooters team. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I only knew that I wanted to walk to support my friend Tanya who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in May and also for my coworker Gloria who had been diagnosed in July and died a couple of days after I committed to the walk. I had a year to train and raise the required $2,300. No worries, right?

I should have learned in my 42 years that anytime I think something this big is going to be a piece of cake, that it won’t be. It’s usually quite the opposite. Three days of non-stop walking would have been much easier if I actually stopped to think that it might be really, really difficult. It may have been easier if I had stopped to think that my aging, overweight body might not sail through it like I was still 20. Why follow the recommended training schedule, because really, how bad could it be? We’re just walking, right? Piece of cake.

Day One:

We stayed in a luxury hotel, you know, the kind with white, fluffy robes, the night before the opening ceremonies. Knowing that we were going to be sleeping in tents for the next two nights and using port-a-potties for three days made the stay extra special.

Up way before sunrise, we set out for the opening festivities–  a bit anxious for what was to come. There were a few in our group that had walked before but most of us were newbies to the event. Excitement filled the air as thousands of walkers in pink lined the sidewalks as we set out on our journey. Our group of 20 quickly separated and grouped off according to our collective paces. I was lucky enough to “collect” with a group that was content on finding a steady pace, taking in the sights, and resting quite frequently. In other words? We were the “slow, but fun” group.

Oh yeah, we had fun!

The route on day one was spectacular! We walked through some beautiful residential areas, the Lake of the Isles, around Lake Calhoun, through the sculpture park, historic downtown Minneapolis, and along the Mississippi. We even got to see the 35W Bridge Memorial which had recently been unveiled.

Rest stops every couple of miles provided food, water, band-aids, Gatorade, and the glorious mini-biffs. There were sweep vans along the route to pick up walkers that were struggling and also to move the stragglers along as there was a time schedule every day.  We moved through day one rather uneventfully. By the time we reached camp we were sore and tired but feeling alright.

Wanting to feel clean and refreshed before supper, I grabbed my change of clothes and shower gear and headed for the showers. I had been told to make sure to eat before showering, horror stories of people passing out in the showers had been told, but I felt just fine. I could wait. Lots of walkers were. Piece of cake.

The shower line was only about 15-20 minutes long but a funny thing happened the longer I waited. I began to feel warm, then a little woozy, then a little warmer and a little more woozy. Finally, it was my turn for the showers. I walked up the steps and suddenly the steamy confines of the shower room hit me like a brick wall. A few expletives no doubt flew out of my mouth as I was sure I was heading for faint city.

I quickly found my stall, leaned up against the wall and repeated to myself over and over and over– I will not pass out and be hauled out of here naked, I will not pass out and be hauled out of here naked, I will not pass out and be hauled out of here naked… It took about five minutes but I finally managed to turn the shower on COLD and hopped in. It was only by sheer will and the grace of God that I stayed on my feet and was able to walk (barely) out of there fully clothed and not lying flat, naked on a stretcher.

I had found out the hard way that dehydration is a beast, I vowed to drink incessantly the rest of the weekend, and by the end of day one I had crossed “running a marathon” off my bucket list. After just walking 20 miles and nearly passing out, I decided that anybody that would want to run that far and more, willingly, had to be crazy.

Day Two:

Was there a day two? Quite frankly, the whole morning of day two is actually quite a blur to me. Our group was definitely feeling the pain of day one, most had several blisters and one member had developed a very painful foot (we found out later that night that some bones in her foot had separated, yikes!) But, we made it to lunch and we were happy to be half way through the day. A few miles after lunch though, the miles caught up with us and we decided it was in the best interest of the group to cut our losses, hop the bus back to camp, and regroup for the final day. This was a decision that none of us regretted even though it meant we’d be a few miles short of the full 60 miles. We made it back to camp, got in line for mini massages, and psyched ourselves up for the final day.

Mini massages after day two. Ahhhh….

Day Three:

My worst (yes, worse than the shower incident) physical struggles came early that morning. I fell behind my group and actually thought at one point that I wasn’t going to make it– literally. While passing out on the sidewalk didn’t sound like fun, it was definitely not as horrifying as passing out in the shower so I decided to somehow push through it and keep going. Finally, about a half mile before rest stop number two, I hailed the sweep van ready to give it up. I had walked by somebody being hauled away in an ambulance and I decided that’s not how I wanted my morning or the end of my three days to go.

A funny thing happened at the rest stop though, I discovered that Bio-freeze is not just a pain-relieving gel in a tube, it’s actually a pain-relieving gel sent from heaven. I iced my throbbing knees, legs, and feet, slathered on the freeze, and downed a handful of ibuprofen. A salty snack and some Gatorade and I was starting to feel like I might live. Only 13 more miles to go! Whoo hoo! Bring it on! By this time I had also put “running a marathon” back on my bucket list because running 26 miles at one shot had to be a piece of cake compared to this, right?

At the lunch stop a few miles later, I reconnected with my walking partners and we successfully completed the remaining nine miles or so of the walk. I popped ibuprofen like candy and re-Biofreezed every chance I could but I made it. We made it. There is no way I would have finished without the support of the wonderful women I was walking with. I still get the giggles when I think of some of our conversations that lifted us through the tough spots and kept us focused on the finish line.

Most of us went home with blisters and pain in places we didn’t know possible. One teammate actually did pass out on day two and spent a couple of hours in the med tent being re-hydrated with IV fluids. Another was sure she would be losing a few toenails at some point and others had the absolute biggest blisters that I have ever seen. My dear friend, who incidentally was the one that passed out, was examining her blisters on the way home when her son leaned over to me and said, “I can see the sunlight through mom’s blister.” That said it all.

As for me, my legs from the knees on down were swollen for over three weeks. Last weekend at a 5k walk/run I discovered that I had a couple of blisters that still haven’t completely healed. It’s been two months! Also, unfortunately by the looks of it, I may still lose a toenail. Luckily, it’s not sandal season.

For all of us, the 3-Day was an experience we’ll never forget. Besides our survivors, a few in our group made some pretty big personal sacrifices to go to the 3-Day. We all had our own personal reasons for participating in such an important event. Some will walk again, some won’t, but I think we’ll all somehow stay involved in the fight against breast cancer.

We also all knew that the temporary aches and pains we felt were nothing compared to the battles that cancer patients face. Survivors and their families lined the trails of the 3-day cheering us on, thanking us for walking and for supporting them. Sometimes, it was just the families with pictures of their lost loved ones- that’s when you had to choke back the tears. Their spirit made it easy to keep going despite the physical pain we were feeling at the moment.

Besides our new-found appreciation for indoor plumbing, we all took away our own experiences from the walk that have no doubt forever changed us for the better some how. For that, I will always be grateful.

To the Hotties of 2012, piece of cake! To the Hotties of 2011, thanks for the fun and memories. Our journey will be with me for a lifetime. So will my blisters.

After a MUCH need cold beverage at a St. Paul restaurant just before we crossed the finish line.


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