I believe I mentioned a while back that I was planning on participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (AWBC) this April. It is a 39.3 mile walk - 26.2 miles the first day, 13.1 miles the second day. There is also the fundraising component, where each participant is required to raise at least $1800 in order to be allowed to participate.
Well, this past weekend was the big weekend. I left the house bright and early on Saturday at 5 am so I could make it to the start of the walk on time. The night before we had had torrential downpours and gale force winds, but the morning was dry, albeit a bit cool with temps in the 40's, although they were expected to get up in the 70's by mid-day.
Even though the organizers had pumps running to drain out the water, the gathering area was a bit muddy. It was a challenge to use the port-a-potties they had set up - they were in a low spot in the field and there was no light. There were approximately 1000 folks ready and waiting to walk for this good cause.
Lucky for me, I belonged to a team, so I had someone to walk with right off the bat. Of course, as you walk you talk to whomever is by your side, teammate or not. The walk led us throughout downtown Houston, through some of the more scenic neighborhoods - the rich ones and the ones that just had charm. We walked through the center of the city, with the volunteer crew stopping traffic so that we might continue on in safety. There were multiple themed rest stops along the way, with plenty of gatorade, water, and snacks to go around. There was even the legendary peanut butter and jelly graham cracker snacks that everyone seemed to know about from previous walks. The port-a-potties were spotless (thank goodness) as one of my team mates mistook the urinal in the port-a-potty as a shelf for her fanny pack. We had quite a laugh over that, with her convincing herself that since we were near the front of the pack no male had used it yet.
The first day went by quickly and I was able to finish the 26.2 miles with ease. Well, it was more like 27 miles, as I took a wrong turn at one point, going straight instead of turning at a light. Luckily, the route was so well marked that I realized within a quarter mile that I had gone the wrong way and simply turned around. I did have some nasty blisters on the heels of my foot, but I knew I would get them as I had every long training walk I took. I had the medical tent dress them for me at mile 13 and I had no trouble with them after that. It was only after I passed the finish line for the first day that I noticed my right knee was a bit sore from over use. I went one more time to a medical tent, iced it and had them wrap it for me. Even with that soreness, I was ready for the next day.
The next day started a half hour later, and the start line was the finish line from the day before. There was a hot breakfast available, along with coffee and jelly beans if you so desired. It was not quite as cold in the morning as the day before, but there was still a nip to the air. I decided to take advantage of the massage therapist they had on hand for the walkers, to see if he could loosen up my knee a bit, since it was not feeling so great this morning. By doing that, I did not start the walk with the majority of the walkers or my team. However, it was not a race, we had many many hours to complete the walk and would have to wait at the end for closing ceremonies anyway, so I was OK with that.
After my massage, I got up and started walking. Within less than 0.1 miles, my knee told rather emphatically that it did not wish to go on with this walk today, as it had already done its fair share of walking the day before. I was sitting on a stone bench trying to talk myself into walking. I had already raised the money, I did not have to complete the walk, I had already done the important part of this fundraiser. However, I could not help but think of all the people who had supported me, who said that they knew I would be able to finish this walk, that I had trained for so long for this, and then I thought of my aunt. My aunt who underwent chemo for breast cancer a few years back, who had so much energy all the time during treatment that it absolutely amazed me. She wasn't given the choice of stopping, she had to go on with the treatment.
So, with those thoughts in mind, I pushed on. The next 13.1 miles were tough. I walked many of them alone, as I had to walk a certain pace to prevent my knee from freezing up, and it was a pace quicker than most of the back on the line folks were maintaining. The sidewalks in Houston are not always smooth, especially in the older areas of the city, and having to lift my foot up and over those frost-heaved, tree root overturned sidewalks was tough. Then, whomever planned this walk threw in a nasty trick - there were hills at mile 9. Hills in Houston? Where did those come from? I was not happy, I wanted to stop, but I kept pushing. Luckily, around that mile, I caught up with another woman who had fallen the first day (tripped on a broken sidewalk) and broken three hand bones. She and I chatted a bit, and that motivated me to keep going. They had lunch break at mile 10, at which point I sat, put my feet up and rested for a moment. With only three miles left, I knew I could do it, that I could dig down deep for that last bit of reserve and get there.
So I continued on, walking, walking, walking. I tried to speak encouraging words to anyone I passed, telling them that we were almost done, that we could do it.
At mile 39, I nearly wept - only .3 miles to go. Unfortunately, it was once again over horribly broken up sidewalk. I was having to hold onto saplings to use them for support as I went up and down on the cement. I came to the last crosswalk, I could see the finish., all I had to do was step off a very large curb and go down a small hill. I was in tears, from what I am not exactly sure. I had reached the end of my reserve, but I had made it.