Monday, October 31, 2011

You're Only as Old as You Feel

You're only as old as you feel, they say (whoever "they" are). That is probably true to some extent. For me, that is usually about 40 or maybe 45, despite my chronological age of 60. But recently, I've had some back pain on my left lower back. Usually, it is not so bad, but a few times it has litterally almost driven me to my knees! During those times, I can barely walk for a short time, and I feel like I am about 90, not 40 or 60.

I am not sure what caused it. My wife says it must have been the Komen 3-Day. I guess that is possible, because I can't remember when it started. I just remember it was mild at first, and that the first really bad day of it was Monday, October 10. It has come and gone since then. I've applied ice and had a few chiropractic adjustments, and sometimes done some stretching. A few times, my stretches - especially side planks - has made it a lot worse.

I ran and walked a 5K the other day - more about that when I can get some photos downloaded - and my back wasn't too bad. Maybe I felt around 50 or 55. So like everything else, I will take it a day at a time and see what develops with it. For now, I'll just hope that how I feel is no older than 60 most of the time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Now What?

Every time I complete an event, especially since I started blogging about it three years ago, I come to this same question: now what? There is always a little feeling of downer, not exactly a depression, as those are apparently pretty all consuming from what I understand of depressions. More of a "I've worked my ass off for five months and accomplished what I said I would do and there is a little hole in my life now that the event is over" kind of a feeling.

So what should I do now? Should I take next year off? 2012 is the 10 year anniversary for me of surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma, so I feel like I should be preparing for something. Should I start thinking seriously about (and saving my dollars seriously for) the Honolulu Marathon on December 9, 2012 - my exact 10 year remission date? Should I fundraise for another Team in Training event, or help in some other capacity - like maybe as a coach's assistant? And until any of that happens, what, if anything should I write about in this blog? I don't have a ton of readership from what I can tell. If I stopped blogging for a while, would anyone but me notice?

My plantar fasciitis still continues. It is a fraction of where it was even two or three months ago, but I still have pain in that left heel, especially if I start walking. I have to somehow get that completely over with, but I don't want to be a lazy couch potato - that is not me, and it would drive me crazy. I know that I want to do a lot more hiking between now and the spring. There is a lot to think about right now, as I mull things over. Any thoughts?

Oh - I am in a 5K Zombie run next Saturday - just for fun. More about that later!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Photos for the Livestrong 10K

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote how I walked and ran the Livestrong Dolphin Challenge 10K at Sandbridge in Virginia Beach. It was a lot of fun, and my first time in running in five months, both because of the plantar fasciitis and because I had been training for the long Susan G. Komen walk.

They had a professional photographer there, and I found these two photos of me on the internet. The first one is a few meters from the finish of the 10K, and I look like I am enjoying myself - which I was. The second one was me being presented my dolphin trophy for finishing second place in my age cohort by the Livestrong representative. Never mind that there were not very many people in my age group. If some other old geezer had wanted my little dolphin, he should have been out there running instead of sitting on the couch watching TV and stuffing his face, or sleeping in on a beautiful October day. Don't you agree? Now, the only way he is getting that dolphin is to pry it out of my cold, stiff, dead fingers!

By the way, I had gone for a workout with a friend last night after work, and I was still wearing my Livestrong shirt when I hit the super market on the way home. On the back of the shirt, it asks "We Fight Cancer. What do You do?" A man in line asked me what it meant, and I explained. He said "My wife and I just came from the MCV Oncology Center. She has two months to live." It turns out that she has liver cancer that has metastasized all over. It is so sad. What can you even say to something like that that doesn't sound trite?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Komen 3-Day Walk Report

Walking in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure was an amazing experience, and also a big experience. It has taken me three weeks to post the pictures and write the accounts. And now, you can access all of them easier from this single blog post!

How did I get interested in walking the 3-Day in the first place? Well, my walk this September was the culmination of several years of wanting to do this event. The terminal breast cancer of my sister made it imperative to do it this year.

Poised to race for a cure again, I display photos of my special honoree race shirt.

What should I do the day before walking for three days? Well, near Washington DC, I took a hike on Theodore Roosevelt Island, a bit of wilderness in the big city.

Like numbers? My account of my 3-Day walk by the numbers will scratch that itch!

Everyone deserves a lifetime! For some, it is too late, but the fact that it is not too late for so many others kept our feet moving for three days. Inspired by the grit of the walkers and the courage, hope, and strength of the survivors as they marched by the end, I just had to create a short verse to commemorate the 3-Day walk experience.

In pre-dawn darkness at Nationals Stadium, we gathered together to walk for three days for this cause.

The Opening Ceremony of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure was a moving start to our walk.

Do you enjoy listening to the sound of rain? Well, you would have loved the first long day of our walk!

To camp out in a pink tent as a manly-man is a challenge, but what about in a whole sea of pink tents?

There was lots of joy in Mudville as we camped out together without complaining about it. And while wet and muddy, it was nowhere as bad as my imagination had been about it!

A freak injury in camp to my previously undamaged foot was going to make the second day of the walk a challenge.

Walking along that second day through Maryland carrying a little bag of dripping ice, I am sure that I presented a sight!

Visiting the Remembrance Tent in camp and reflecting on my sister's recent death was an emotional experience.

Time to break camp, but I lucked out when young women from a local college field hockey team offered to strike my tent for me.

On the third and final day of the walk, I got a lot of inspiration from talking to survivors along the way.

When I crossed the finish line at the National Mall, I fulfilled the promise that I had made my sister in April - that I would walk this walk in her honor.

A special sign for me was somewhere at the finish, but I didn't see it. Even so, I deeply appreciate the gesture.

The last walker arriving each day was a very big deal, and at no time bigger than on the third day of the walk.

Did you ever tell someone that they fight like a girl? Well, in my mind, I think you paid them a complement without meaning to.

Our incredibly hard-working Three Day Crew was not important, unless you like safety, great meals, a well run camp, and good first aid care. Then, they become vital.

The Closing Ceremony was about as inspirational as you can get, seeing all of the breast cancer survivors marching along together at the end, decked out in pink!

60 Miles, Three Days, One Goal - to cure breast cancer! That pretty much sums up the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in a few words.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Everyone Deserves a Lifetime!

One of the slogans you see a lot in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure is "Everyone Deserves a Lifetime!" You see it on tee-shirts, buttons, and signs, and I really liked it. It very succinctly sums up this cause: to cure cancers so that people can live their full lifetime and full potential. To have more birthdays, more of life's celebrations and great moments. To tell your grandchild your life story some day instead of having them read a letter you left them about your life and death. I am all for it.

So I dedicate this humble offering to all breast cancer survivors and victims, especially those whose names were on my shirt and those who walked along with me for nearly 60 miles on September 23-25. The inspiration that I received from them during the three days and at the closing ceremony was immense.

"Everyone Deserves a Lifetime"

Together we walked across our Capital City
Through aches, pains, and blisters, and a cool driving rain
We kept our feet moving, determined and gritty;
"We walk for a cure!" was our proud refrain.

About Maryland we tromped, past parks and through towns
People decked out in pink as we strode down the street
We were focused and upbeat; you never saw frowns
We'll stamp out breast cancer with thousands of feet!

For three days we walked, as sisters and brothers
Among footsore ranks, cheer and broad smiles were rife
We walked united to support many others
In their fight with breast cancer: a fight for their life

We walked for your sister, your mother, your friend,
Your daughter, granddaughter, your cousin, your wife,
Your grandma - and you, because in the end,
Each one deserves more good times in their life

And on that third day, quite worn out and tired
We watched fellow walkers - survivors in pink -
Take their victory lap, and I felt so inspired
When I reflected how close they had been to the brink

They had faced radiation with all that it gives,
And chemo, and cuts from the surgical knife;
But deep in their heart, their survival will lives:
The desire to have more time in their life

Cancer has certain limits to what it can do
Though with these survivors, it gave its best try.
"Take one of my breasts, or even take two,
But you can't crush my spirit!" was their battle cry.

I gazed at their faces, so strong and so proud,
Engendering feelings intense and sublime
"We will find a cure!" I silently vowed,
"Because everyone deserves a lifetime!"

Art Ritter
October 16, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sixty Miles, Three Days, One Goal!

Sixty Miles, Three Days, One Goal! This is one of several slogans that the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure uses. I saw it on buttons and tee-shirts, and I like it. Because that is what thousands of us were doing September 23-25 in the Washington, DC area - walking about 60 miles in three days to ultimately achieve one goal: stamping out incurable breast cancer.

Are we any closer to attaining this long-dreamed of goal? It is too late for my sister, my immense inspiration for me to walk this walk in the first place. But it is not too late for many others. Consider this fact that I learned during the closing ceremony: that the five year survival rate for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients in the United States stands at 98%! That is astounding! Just in the last week, I read about two amazing progress reports in the fight against breast cancer. In one, scientists at Penn State had discovered a virus that was annihilating breast cancer cells in the lab. It was so effective that they assumed that all the samples were contaminated, and redid all the work - and got the same results. In the other study, making an antibody from breast cancer cells in a person that was tailored to that person's proteins and cells was really effective if the cancer occurred again, and especially so it if was used early in the reoccurrance.

We are closer than we have ever been, but it is still not enough. For example, if you are 40 or 50 with breast cancer and have a 98% chance of living five years, but then die after six or seven, that is entirely too much of your lifetime to lose. The goal has to be to either make these cancers totally curable, or at least make them a chronic disease that people can survive for decades with minimal misery or impact on their lives. And with someone dying every 69 seconds somewhere in the world from breast cancer, we still have a long way to go.

Sixty Miles, Three Days, One Goal! It felt great to be a part of this in 2011, and I am really glad I did it. But I will be even more glad when they report, hopefully in the next 10 years: "You know that elusive goal we've been striving for? Mission accomplished! Thanks, everyone, for helping!" Won't that be amazing news? I hope I am here to hear it, but if not, I hope my granddaughter knows that her grandpa helped make it happen in his own tiny way.

Friday, October 14, 2011

3-Day Closing Ceremony

After the last walker came in, and after we cheered for our hard working crew, it was time for the final part of our three day long adventure - the closing ceremony. All the walkers were told to line up 10 abreast (no pun this time), with all breast cancer survivors in the back. Although everyone struggled with this, somehow we did line up eventually. Then we walked through the Mall towards the stage while spectators on both sides of us cheered us on. It was actually pretty moving. Towards the stage, we divided left and right, and merged into the crowd. It was time for the Survivors' Walk.

When we completed the walk today, we were asked if we were a breast cancer survivor. If not, we got a white shirt, if so, it was pink. Most of the survivors had put on their pink shirt for this final walk. I looked out on the pink mass, seeming to be several hundred strong. They had all survived breast cancer and all of the awful things that happen as a result: disfiguring and painful surgery, chemotherapy, burning radiation. And now they had all walked nearly 60 miles for this great cause, so that one day, others would have an easier time of it. I gazed at the line of pink women, feeling so inspired and so fortunate to be here, a cancer survivor myself, yet still on God's green earth. As I studied the women in pink, and cheered for them, I wished so that my sister Ann could be among the survivors. She was for more than four years, but her cancer was just too relentless, too remorseless.Look at them! Look at their faces! Sometime in the last year, two years, five years, or more, each of these women were given horrible news by a doctor, four words that changed their lives forever: "You have breast cancer!" Their hearts probably nearly stopped with terror. Yet here they are now, strong survivors to inspire us all.As the surviving women stopped before us, speeches were made from the platform about this cause, and about the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. Many of the walkers took off a shoe and raised in in tribute. As a rookie, I didn't know about this, but I, too, removed my right shoe and held it aloft.Then the women in pink continued their walk towards the stage, moving between the two sides of the large crowd. Some of the survivors carried the banners that had inspired us for three days, since the opening ceremony:Just before leaving to grab my duffle and walk to a Metro stop for the trip back to my car, I took one final look around - at the crowd, the banners, all the pink, and to the surviving women on the stage. Doing this walk, being part of this cause these three days, will always be with me as a great memory.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

3-Day Crew

I could not complete my accounts of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure without talking about the amazing and hard working 3-Day Crew. Kind of sounds like a rock band, doesn't it? But without these volunteers, this event would be impossible. Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a charity, and charities have specific rules about how much of their revenues must to to the mission. Each crew member must raise about $500 to cover their direct and indirect expenses for the event, plus volunteer their time. And they have to work their butts off for at least three days. There were about 450 of them, or about one for every five walkers. What did they do?

Well, for starters, they were safety monitors. This walk had only minor police support. At every major, and many minor, intersections was a volunteer to make sure walkers obeyed traffic rules and didn't become roadkill. Many of them were in pink, including the men. They joked with us as we waited to cross. They were out all day in the rain on that first day. They also operated the vans that drove around all day in case someone needed a ride.

Along the route, there were lots of pit stops and "grab and go" stops. Every one of these had a staff to pass out food and drink, and a good sized volunteer medical crew - doctors and nurses. At the lunch stops, the crew served lunch, like these guys on the first day serving us in a driving rain. And at all of the stops, they collected trash and recyclables. In camp, the crew transported our luggage from the start (and back to the finish). They staffed the shower area, cooked and cleaned up from two great meals a day. The organized the lines to the buses, and manned the camp post office. They put up and took down all of the Remembrance Tents. They worked incredibly hard putting down mulch pathways in our pink tent city so that after the first muddy day, there were relatively dry areas to walk. They also camped out, like the rest of us, in their own camping area. Yesterday, I talked about how tough "girls"are. Well, the crew was plenty tough, too. One "lucky guy" had the job of patrolling the stinky porta-potty area all night while everyone else slept. He was a kind of security to make sure that women were safe in camp. Talk about a tough job!

At the end, during the closing ceremony, the crew walked through a double line of us walkers as we cheered them. Thank you, 3-Day Crew, for a difficult job well done!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fight Like a Girl!

"Fight Like a Girl!" many of the tee shirts along the 3-Day route said. When I was a lad, to be told you fight like a girl or run like a girl would have been an ultimate insult. But now, older and (perhaps) wiser, having seen how tough many "girls" are - and how well they run - I would take it as a complement. I think many of the women wearing these shirts were breast cancer survivors, and when you get in a fight with cancer, it does not care if you are male or female; black, white, or Asian; young or old; rich or poor. Cancer does not care in the least, and you will be in for the fight of your life. As tough as walking for three days is - and it is tough, trust me - it is nothing compared to a fight with cancer. So you'd better be able to fight like a girl.

So I rejoiced each time I saw this tee shirt, and for each survivor. It was inspirational. They proved how tough they were by surviving, by being out here walking, by giving back. By fighting like a girl.

I'm guessing that some of the women were not cancer survivors, but just liked the shirt, and that's OK too. Because they went through a lot to do this walk, not even counting the hundreds of miles of training that most of us did. I saw much suffering over the three days. The wet day Friday (September 23) raised hell with people's feet, causing many, many blisters. I saw people with tape all over their feet. I saw a woman on the third day walking in flip flops, carrying her running shoes! At each pit stop, there was a medical tent, and every one of them after the first few miles of the walk had lots of people getting treatment - most of them for blisters. Walking on bad blisters mile after mile is pretty painful, yet I saw people doing it over and over. Because of my own injury Friday night, I had plenty of opportunity on Saturday each time I iced my foot to study what people were having treated. It wasn't pretty. There are some tough people out there, women - and some men - that just kept on going, determined to finish.

I also saw some people that if you saw them, you would think that no way this person could walk even five miles. Maybe they were overweight or looked out of shape. Yet they walked nearly 60 miles, found a way to do it, found a way to take that next step over and over again until it was time to take the last step. It was amazing to see such toughness and determination. Because when you get to those last few miles, every moving part from the hips down to the toes hurts with every step. And I am going to guess if you are carrying an extra 30 or 40 pounds, then that pain is greatly magnified.

The one thing I did not see was any whining or complaining. People knew this would not be easy ahead of time, and they sucked it up. I hear a little complaining about nasty porta-potties, but not pain.

So guys, if you are ever tempted to insult someone by saying they fight like a girl or run like a girl, be advised. That girl may be tougher than you are.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Last Walker

Each of the two nights in 3-Day camp, we had a pretty cool ceremony. At some point, usually around 6:30 or 7PM, an announcement would take place: "Attention everyone! The last walker is arriving!" Everyone, or at least many people, would get up and leave what they were doing and form a double row coming into the dining area. The last walker would walk through the people with music blaring and people cheering her. Then she would raise a banner, and everyone would give a final cheer and get back to dinner. Think about this - the last walker has been out there walking 11 or 12 hours! And Friday, it would have been that long walking in the rain. By the time she arrived, I'd had a shower, put on fresh clothing, relaxed a bit, and gotten something to eat. She was just getting into camp, nearly at dark, and still had all of these things to do.

So on Sunday, September 25, we got an announcement at the National Mall about 4:30: "Attention everybody! The last walker is arriving!" Everyone, thousands of people, walkers and spectators, got to their feet and started cheering her as she walked those last few hundred meters. It was pretty neat! We celebrated this person who, although slower than everyone else, never quit, never gave up, just kept on plugging away until she finished. And at the end, everyone cheered her and her persistence.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cheering for Art

Donna, a woman from my wife's office, is a breast cancer survivor of several years, and has made a habit of going up to cheer for the end of the Komen race. When she learned that I would be in the walk, she made me a sign and was going to hold it for me. I was looking forward to seeing it. I finished the walk about 2PM, and didn't see the sign. I rested for a while and then walked back to the finish area to see if I could find Donna. Despite looking all over and waiting, I couldn't, so eventually I went back to the Mall to await the closing ceremony. No one had ever made a sign for me before, and I really wanted to see it. As it turns out, Donna had arrived about 3:30 and afterwards, walked all over holding the sign up and looking for me. Neither of us saw each other among the thousands of people there, and we were both disappointed. Later, Donna gave my wife the sign for me, pictured here. It was a very clever and artistic ign. Thank you so much, Donna! I so much appreciate you taking the time to make me a sign and to come up all the way to Washington to cheer for us participants, and to look for me.
As it turned out, Donna wasn't the only one there cheering for me. The US Government also put out two signs for me. Much appreciated, people of the United States of America!

Finishing the Komen 3-Day

I'd taken to walking the last few miles of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure with three woman, all about my pace, all wearing shirts with pictures of their collective little girls, with "I'm Walking so They Won't Have To" written on their shirts. One of them ran the San Diego Marathon in 2007, the year after I was in that race for Team in Training, so we chatted about that. We passed some of the places pictured in my last post - Cafe Mozart and the White House - and then finally caught sight of the Washington Monument, which was near our final destination. Soon enough, we'd passed down along the Mall and made the final turn to see the finish gate:
I asked the three friends if they wanted a photo of them at the finish, which of course they did. After that, I passed through the finish gate and, and was overwhelmed by the noise of the people lined up on both sides cheering. It was very moving. The doctor who was the master of ceremonies was there - she is a breast cancer survivor and one of the most dynamic people I'd ever met. She cheered me and gave me a hug. Being there by myself, it felt good to have someone to celebrate with, if only for a second. Then, I got my 3-Day shirt and walked through a narrow area where I stopped for a few seconds. I looked down at the photo of Ann on my shirt and touched her face. "I did it, Ann. I did it, just the way I told you would." I was fighting back tears, and so badly wished I could call my sister and give her the news. But since I could not, I lined up to have a photo taken in front of the Day Three poster instead:
I went back around to the finish to look for someone who was supposed to be there to cheer for me - more about that later - and cheered for some of the finishers for a while.
Then I asked a man to take a picture of me with my new 3-Day shirt and the finish in the background.
After that, I wandered back around to the Mall to wait for the closing ceremony.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day Three of the 3-Day: Inspiration!

It is always hard to believe that something you have worked so hard for is about to be over, and that was true on September 25 as I finished packing my gear, loaded it on the truck, and headed for the line to get on the bus that would take us about 15 minutes to start the final day of my quest. This would be the shortest day of walking at about 15 miles, but I am sure that everyone walking today was already tired. It would be a very inspirational and sometime emotional day. Inspirational because of the many conversations I would have today with breast cancer survivors - one as recently as four months ago, and now out walking nearly 60 miles. Emotional, because so many times, I wished that I could call my sister and tell her that I was on track to complete this walk. At times, I tried talking to her. I'd say "Ann, I told you five months ago that I would do this walk, and now, I am nearly finished. This is for you, with love."

As I waited for the bus, I asked a lady to snap a photo of me wearing the special shirt that I had had made for today.
While waiting in the bus line, everyone seemed happy that the earlier rain had stopped.
This banner was at the bus line. As I had lost my sister in May, so had my nephew lost his mom.
At the start of the walk, these two women were honoring a loved one in the US Marine Corps. Semper Fi!
There were a number of support vans that continually drove by us. This one had really cool decorations.
We were all moving along pretty good, happy to be here, happy to have a second dry day in a row.
Of all the sentaments and emotions of the three day, I think that nothing trumps love.
I had followed this woman and her lemur for many miles in the rain on the first day of the walk, and finally got a photo of them in dry weather. I told her to keep an eye on the lemur once we got near the zoo.
We had passed this same restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland yesterday on the second day of the walk, and I thought it looked beautiful. I would love to come back and try it another day.
I had conversations with many survivors during the three days - including several on the third day. But this lady was the most inspirational. 28 years ago, she had metastasized breast cancer in her bones, always lethal. She was pregnant, and doctors refused to treat her until she got an abortion. The lady to her right is her 28 year old daughter, so you can see that she refused to follow that advice. How amazing to survive something like that, and walk 60 miles with that daughter 28 years later as a survivor.
We saw this girl several times doing the hula-hoop to entertain us.
As we walked up a steep hill in Washington, this little girl in pink blew bubbles for us.
I am indicating that I am on my third day of this little adventure, one that I am honored to have.
Our lunch spot today was comfortable and dry, unlike the first day. Everyone was in a festive mood.
We had supporters showing their pink all over the place.I love going to the National Zoo, and would have enjoyed a little stop here, but still had miles to go at this point. Another time...
One of our many supporters along the way.
I love Mozart's music, and couldn't resist snapping a picture of a cafe named after him in a city that didn't even exist at the time of this musical genius's life.
Here I am just a mile or so from the finish near the White House. It would have been so cool to see the President. It was feeling more and more emotional with each step, realizing that I was close to fulfilling my promise to my sister.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Breaking Camp at the 3-Day

On September 25, I awoke at 4AM, having to take a pee. It was drizzling and I could hear the rain pattering on my little pink tent. I had slept through the night, very comfortably, and felt pretty good. My new compression socks had really helped with knocking out some of the soreness I had felt the evening before. My newly injured toes even felt less painful. I put on my running shoes, went out to the porta-potty, and quietly walked back to my tent.

Snug in my sleeping bag, renewed sleep would not come. I could hear the women all around starting to stir about 5AM, and about 5:30, I decided to get up. I walked the third of a mile in a light rain to the shower area, and used one of the outdoor sinks to shave and brush my teeth. A woman at the sink next to me was applying makeup in the rain, which seemed fruitless. I took my gear back to my tent, and went to breakfast. I had some great conversations at breakfast with several women about the walk and why we were doing this - really nice people, as were the folks I'd eaten dinner with the night before. It is tough to be totally by yourself at something like this. Most of the people, all but a handful, were there with a team. But I had found most people to be open and friendly.

After breakfast, I grabbed a couple of napkins and walked back to the sink area. There, I wet the napkins and used them to apply the temporary 3-Day tatoos I had bought at the Komen store last night. I wanted to do something a little special for this last day, the culmination of following through with what I told my sister Ann I would do in her honor - and now her memory. Now, it was time to pack up my stuff and strike the tent. I was not looking forward to packing a wet tent in the rain and somehow stuffing it back in the ridiculously small pink bag. But again, I lucked out. Several young women from a local college field hockey team had volunteered to take down and pack up the tents. I changed into my walking clothes for the day, including my special shirt with my sister's photo on it. I packed my duffle, and stepped outside. "Anyone need help packing their tent?" called out one of the college women. "Sure!" I said. I introduced myself and we shook hands. She peered at my shirt in the pre-dawn darkness. "Ah, your sister," she said. "Oh, and she died just a few months ago. I am so sorry. She's beautiful." I told her a few things about my sister, and could feel tears welling up. I thanked the two young women, and hoped that their field hockey team goes undefeated. I grabbed my duffle and started the walk towards the bus that would transport us to the starting point of the day's walk. What a huge help not having to pack up my tent!

I took my duffle to a truck for loading, and walked slowly to the line of people waiting to get on a bus. It was now about 6:40AM, still pretty dark, and I looked around fondly at the camp that had been my home for two nights, bustling with activity as people ate, packed, cleaned up, and worked (our hard-working and dedicated crew, that is). But it was time to move on, to complete my tribute to my sister using my feet and legs. It was time to complete the 3-Day!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Remembrance Tent

At camp during the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure was a really moving feature: the Remembrance Tent. This was an area with white - not pink - tents set up to remember those who have passed on due to breast cancer.

Outside on a little knoll was a row of small white tents set up as a semicircle. Each tent represented a city that holds a 3-Day Walk: Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and so forth. On each tent is written messages to someone who participated in a 3-Day Walk in that city who has since died from breast cancer.

The Remembrance Tent itself was set up with its front facing the semi-circle of small white tents. This tent was much larger and did not have messages written on it.

Inside the Remembrance Tent was one last small white tent - the one dedicated to Washington, DC's walk. It, too, was covered in written messages. At the far end of the tent was a long table with several notebooks and pens, some flowers and little lamps, and a box of tissues. Four or five chairs were placed at the table. On all four walls of the tent were hung pictures of women who had participated in various walks who were now dead. I spent some time quietly looking at each picture. Then, I sat at the table and wrote a message to my sister Ann in one of the books, thinking of her last months and how much I wish things were different. I wondered if somehow the words that I wrote in the book were being relayed to her spirit. There is no way to know. After writing my note, I sat solemnly for a few moments, deep in thought. Then I stood up, took a tissue from the box, and quietly left the Remebrance Tent.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day Two of the 3-Day: Ice!

Before getting started on the second day of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, I checked my feet carefully. I was lucky not to have gotten any blisters despite the very wet conditions on the first day of the walk. I did have a couple of spots that felt "hot", so I put on some moleskin and coated my feet in Body Glide, then put on my socks and my new (and dry) shoes. It was going to be a 21 mile day, and I needed to get my injured toes checked out as early as possible. They were sore and looked even worse then they felt. I got my foot checked out at the first pit stop at the medical tent. The nurse felt it looked pretty bad and gave me packets of antibiotic and a bag of ice. She told me to ice my toes at every stop for about 10 minutes. So for most of the walk, I carried a slowly melting bag of ice. I'd get ice added at each stop, sit on the ground, and put the bag on my toes. It definitely helped with the swelling, and made the pain lessen. Compared to the many terrible blisters I saw on people's feet, not to mention the guy walking the walk with a prothesis from the hip down, my toe injury seemed fairly minor.

While I feel like I am walking this walk for anyone with breast cancer, or any type of cancer, there is one person in particular I am doing this for:
As I left the camp, I turned and snapped a shot of walkers coming through the row of banners.
A lot of the route went along parks and other open areas on paved paths. It was a very pleasant walk, with nice scenery a lot of the way. Plus, even though it got warm, it was not raining, which put everyone in a festive mood.
I saw more interesting decorations about and depictions of breasts today than I think I'd ever seen, including this truck:
These two buxom gals were at one of the pit stops. I wanted a photo and they insisted I get in the picture with them, at boob level. It would have been rude not to comply, don't you think?
Part of our route went through downtown Bethesda, where I had never been before. It seemed like a nice city, with some great looking restaurants and pubs. It was also the one spot on the route this day with a lot of people cheering, which made us move our tired legs just a bit faster.

I walked with this group for a few minutes and decided to take a photo of them.
At the end of the walk, I decided to pose with the day's poster back in camp. I'd survived 21 miles, my longest distance since the Arizona Marathon in 2008, with plantar fasciitis in one foot and bashed toes on the other. I knew that I could get through another day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Freak Injury in 3-Day Camp

When you are training for an endurance event, such as the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure or a marathon, one of the things in the back of your mind is a freak injury. I got two of these last year just before my half marathon in Seattle - a rolled ankle and a slight tear to a calf muscle. I was lucky, because had either been a little more severe, it could have knocked me out of the race. I had a similar incident the first night, Friday, in our muddy camp.

I had eaten dinner and returned to my pink tent to rest a bit and read. After a while, I decided to go back to the main tent to watch the camp show. It turned out that I was too late, but as I walked down the mulch path that the crew had put down, my left heel stepped on a large chuck of mulch, like a piece of a branch. The force lifted the opposite end into the air and pivoted it backwards. A fraction of a second later, my right foot swung, toes first, into the piece of wood made immobile by my weight. I was wearing my open toes crocs because of the muddy conditions, and I drove two toes right into the wood. The pain was such that I nearly said a very bad word. Maybe I did. In any event, I knew I had done some damage.

I got up a couple of times during the night to take a pee, and each time, my right foot hurt a good bit as I limped along. In the morning, I could see that my toes were bruised and there was a slight cut. Then I worried about getting an infection from having mud all over my feet and tried to remember when my last tetanus shot had been. I washed my feet using my water bottle and put on my running shoes. I could walk okay, although the 21 miles that day would not be pain-free. But I decided that at the first aid station of the day, I would stop and see if they had any antibiotic.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

There Was Lots of Joy in Mudville

"No Whining!" That is one of the mantras of Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure participants. After all, you are not going to walk 60 miles in three days and sleep out in a tent without some pain and discomfort, and that is under the best of circumstances. And with an almost all day rainfall which turned parts of our campground into a sea of mud, our circumstances were no where near the best. But it didn't matter. I heard no whining. People were upbeat and happy, and choose to be inspired and grateful that we were all doing this.

That being said, there was a lot of mud. I had two pairs of running shoes with me, one of which could not have been wetter. I had a pair of crocs, which I wore as shower shoes. I also wore them around the camp that night rather than risk coating my remaining pair of shoes with mud. But as a consequence, my feet got coated in mud over and over. There was no way to get them clean. The race crew did yeoman's duty putting down paths of mulch (more on that later) so we could walk in relative dryness in parts of the camp. But other areas, especially the low area between our tents and the latrines, were like walking through a swamp. You would litterally sink several inches into the mud. Mud would ooze between my toes. The floors of the portapotties were coated in mud and slimy water. It was like the beginning of my thoughts on the worst thing that could happen on the walk. I stuffed napkins into my wet pair of shoes, and they helped to dry them over the next 24 hours so that I could wear them Saturday night instead of my crocs. Thus my feet didn't get muddy the next night.

When I would get back to the tent after a trip to the portapotties or the dining area, I would use one of the towels left behind to wipe the worst of the mud off my feet. Even so, my feet were coated in mud by morning. It stopped raining about 7PM Friday, and so at least the mud didn't get worse. On Saturday morning, I walked to the sink area with one of the muddy towels and my water bottle. I also took some napkins. I would fill the water bottle over and over and squirt my feet with it, then wipe my feet with the towel. Eventually they got clean enough that I could wipe my feet with the napkins and finally dry my feet pretty well. Then I put on my socks and running shoes for the day's long walk, and was good to go.

Would I, and everyone else, have preferred dry conditions and no mud? Absolutely! Did we let the muddy conditions dampen our spirits? Absolutely not! There was no lack of joy in Mudville.

The Land of the Pink Tents

Have you ever slept in a pink tent? How about you, fellow manly men - have you ever slept in a pink tent?

After a very wet and tiring day of walking the bus dropped us off at our camp. The rain was still coming down, and I was not looking forward to setting up my tent. This is when I got two lucky breaks. I walked around camp getting oriented, and found the area of camp where my row of tents - Row I - would be. I walked down the row, and lo and behold, my tent was up. A young man came up to me, and said "Are you Art?" "Sure am," I said, extending my hand. His name was Devon, my tent mate, and he had already put up our tent. Then I got my second stroke of luck for the day.

The two women who had the tent next to us had decided they had had enough rain and discomfort, and had decided staying in a hotel would be better for them. They had told Devon that he could use their tent. Thus, we each had a tent to ourselves, which given all the wet geat to spread out, was great. As a third stroke of luck, there was water in the tent, and they had left two towels in there - towels I used over and over to mop up water and semi-clean mud off my feet.

I located my gear - very lucky because it was in the middle of the pile for "Row I" and thus not wet and muddy like some of the bags towards the edges of the pile - and lugged it up the rise to my tent. I crawled in and unpacked some of my stuff, sopping up water with the towels. The rain beat down on the tent and it was stuffy in there, so I didn't linger long. I grabbed some clean (and dry) clothing and headed down for a shower. It was about a third of a mile each way. The smartest thing I have ever done is pay $12 for two days of towel service. I got two big towels for each shower and didn't have a wet towel to use the next day stinking up my tent. The showers were set up in these big portable shower trucks, one for men, the rest for women. The water was piping hot and felt great. There were also some outdoor sinks for brushing one's teeth, shaving, and so forth.The camp was very comfortable, even in the rain and mud. There were banks of portapotties, two big tenting areas on rises so they were fairly dry, and a huge dining tent. There was also a food serving area, and a bank of smaller tents for getting messages, relaxing, and checking out displays. A Komen 3-Day store was also set up, and a Bank of America area where you could sit in a massage chair for a few minutes. There was also a remembrance area, which I will discuss later. This is a view of the food serving area (right) and a small part of the huge dining tent (left).Here I am on Saturday evening outside my tent. Inside, it looks like a running store and an REI store had a couple of sticks of dynamite go off. And it smelled like something crawled into the tent, vomited, and died! I couldn't figure it out until I got home and got a good whiff of my Friday running shoes! OMG!