Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Petite Young Blonde Blistered and Toenail-less or The PYB Does the Susan B. Koman 3-Day for the Cure

A few years ago La Petite Soeur (LPS) called the PYB to see if she wanted to join her and a group in her gym for the 3-Day Walk in October in Atlanta.  The entry fee was a $2,500 donation per person so the PYB got to work writing letters to friends and family for assistance. And training! A person doesn’t just get off the couch and walk 60 miles, you know.  For those of you who are unaware, and surely you must have been in a coma, the Susan B Koman Foundation raises money for breast cancer research and awareness. Their biggest fundraiser is the series of 60 mile in 3 days walks they have in major cities across the United States.

The group LPS joined was made up of trainers from a gym she belonged to and some of their clients; perhaps about 10-12 people in all.  They planned fundraisers to help raise the money for the walk by organizing a children’s fun day, a square dance and a wine tasting/auction (which was the most successful and the most fun).  The PYB couldn’t train with the gym group because of distance, they were about an hour away, so she spent a lot of time on the Silver Comet Trail.  That was her downfall – no hills, but she’ll get to that a bit later.

Preparation was a must! So she read the 3-Day website and testimonials from other walkers and bought the “right” shoes, Glide for friction, the fanny pack, the socks, the Under Armour shorts, air pump and inflatable mattress, etc.  She also signed the waiver that stated, “You may die during the course of this walk.”  She paused for about a second or two and continued on.  The instructions also said no iPods.  NO IPODS???  The PYB could not possibly walk without her music. If caught wearing headphones while walking would mean immediate expulsion from the walk; it was a safety precaution.  Annoyance? Yes. Game changer? No. If women could go through chemo and radiation surely she could go three days without her iPod – no place to charge it any way. 

So training continued, fund raising continued and the money began coming in.  Some of you reading this may have been contributors for which the PYB still thanks you.  Every bit counted from the quarters given by kids at the children’s fun day to the checks for $10, $15, $50 & $100 from family, friends and even strangers.  The PYB was truly overwhelmed by the generosity.  She had several people she was walking for: Aunt Mari, Wanda S, Connie B, Gwen C, and indirectly for The Mama, Jack, Grandpa, Guy, Linda S, and Cheryl W.  Cancer really pisses off the PYB.

Day One

The day of the walk finally arrived. The PYB barely slept the night before, but the adrenaline was pretty intense.  She had spent the night with LPS and they drove over to the starting point at North Point Mall with all their equipment: overnight bags, air mattress, pump, water bottles, blankets, etc.  An incredible number of volunteers were on hand and it ran like clockwork.  Truly amazing organization! The PYB & LPS took their overnight bags, mattress and pump to the appropriate trailer, picked up their badges and other goodies to decorate their hats.  Did she mention it was cold? A very brisk morning, but she didn’t bring a jacket as the day promised to be an Indian Summer kind of October day.  So she shivered in the morning chill but the opening ceremonies got them moving.  It was announced the first day would be 18 miles.  As they began walking, she thought to herself, “What I have I gotten myself into?”  Remember she had had only a few hours of sleep.  So, slathered down with Glide on her bra line, inner thighs and feet, they were off and there was no turning back.

The organizers of the 3-Day are sincerely genius level individuals.  About every 3 miles there’s a rest stop with a gazillion port-a-potties, a medic tent, water/Powerade stations, and high energy snack tents.  She has to say, that the port-a-potties were the absolute cleanest she had ever been in….hmmm….maybe it’s because mostly women were using them? Yes, there were men in the walk (one without legs, mind you), but the women outnumbered them perhaps 15 to 1.  The organizers are serious about fluid intake; they stated that if a walker wasn’t peeing every hour they weren’t drinking enough.  The PYB was taking NO chances and was going through water bottle after water bottle.  No dehydration worries here!

It was fun to see the other walkers’ outfits.  Most came to walk in a group like the PYB did and a lot of them had matching shirts and hats: Save the Tatas, Operation TaTas, Breast Man Walking, Professional Street Walker, Nurses for Knockers to name a few or simply the name of the person for whom they’re walking. And pink; lots of pink: tutus, rabbit ears, tshirts, shorts, feather boas, and hats adorned with buttons and pins. It’s definitely an occasion when a man can be very comfortable sporting the color pink.

Along the route there are volunteers on bicycles, motorcycles and vans; all decorated, of course. These volunteers provide encouragement, safety at crosswalks, and help in case one finds themselves in trouble. Or if you simply want to stop for the day you can hop on a van and they’ll take you to a bus that will transport you back to camp.  Yes, she said camp. As in tents.

Most of the route was contained to Gwinnett county with maybe the walkers touching the fringes of Fulton county.  May the PYB just say that Gwinnett is FULL OF HILLS.  Lord, they were about to kill her.  The first few hours went really well; the team stuck together for most of the day. Plenty of food and water was provided, but, yes walking 18 miles was pretty difficult. She was worried about her feet blistering, but that wasn’t an issue. Her thighs, on the other hand, were screaming.  The PYB did train prior to the event, but not as much as she had hoped to because she was down for the count with a back injury for about a month and a half.  However, once she was mobile again she worked up to seven miles, but that was it. Eighteen miles was definitely a challenge.  With the required stops it took the PYB about 8 hours to complete the first day.  Man, was she pooped!

Although some of the adrenaline had worn off it was pretty exhilarating to make it back to camp…to find that she and the LPS had to erect their TENT for the night. It was lying there on the ground in a bag at their assigned spot looking all innocent. How hard could it be? But, really. They had just walked 18 miles and their legs could barely hold them up any more and they STILL had to walk to the dinner tent.  So, fine, they could do this…after all they did just walk 18 miles and who knew they had that in them??  They dumped the tent parts out onto the grass and just stood there looking at all the poles and canvas and stakes. All those pieces looked as foreign to them as a calculus formula.  After a very frustrating 20 minutes of getting nowhere the Boy Scouts finally arrived and had that puppy up in about three minutes flat. Thank you, boys!  Off to dinner!

Since they were too tired for the nightly entertainment the PYB and LPS went back to their tent to blow up the mattress, get their overnight bags and hit the showers.  As it turned out the mattress just fit in the tiny tent so the overnight bags were going to have to stay outside. The portable showers and potties, located on the other side of an arched footbridge, were a bit weak, but nothing felt so good as it…unless it was a cushy hotel room with a spa tub.  

By that time it was getting dark and cold. They were beat. So LPS climbed into the tent first and then the PYB. Apparently, they didn’t inflate the mattress completely because when the PYB climbed onto the mattress it nearly bounced the LPS right off! When the LPS rolled back on The PYB was tossed to the other side.  And it didn’t help that they were laughing hysterically because they could barely move in all the clothing they had to put on due to the dip in temperature. 

It didn’t take too long to get settled in and start to fall asleep…except from the moaning and groaning as muscles tried to relax. It was going to be a very early morning and another 18 miles; sleep was a necessity.  Unfortunately, so was going to the bathroom…curses! It was about 2am, colder, and good walk to the Potty Patch.  So, the PYB carefully climbed out of the sleeping bad (ouch) trying not to disturb the LPS (ouch).  On with the shoes (ouch) and tried to find the path leading to the bathrooms.  She found her way and hit the footbridge only to fall flat on her ass (OUCH!). You’ve seen the signs, “Warning! Bridge ices faster than roadway,” well, it’s true. There was actually frost on the bridge! She didn’t realize it was getting that cold! She carefully went up and then down as there was an arch in it she finally made it to the Potty Patch and did her thing  - in the dark; she forgot the flashlight.  Upon coming out she also realized she was not wearing her glasses. Just damn.  How she made it over to the Pottie Patch she really doesn’t know. Instinct, need, pure damn luck? There were some free standing lights, but not a lot.  First, make it to the bridge…do not land in the creek! Over bridge, taking shuffling baby steps, across the field to the tents.  The tents. ALL THOSE TENTS. Where the hell was hers?  NOOOOOO!!!!  Why didn’t she put on her glasses? Why didn’t they decorate theirs?! Curse word, curse word, curse word!  What aisle were they on? Come on, think…..

“LPS….LPS…” in a very loud whisper….walk, walk, walk, squint, squint, squint… “LPS! LPS!”

This was not working. All she needed was to crawl into someone else’s tent by mistake.
Blast it. After wandering down aisle after aisle for about 8 minutes squinting to see if she could determine one tent from another she finally spotted their overnight bags outside their tent. Success! So off with the shoes (ouch) and carefully into the sleeping bag (ouch) and the LPS promptly gets knocked off the mattress and rolls into the side of the tent.  It was going to be a long night.

Day Two:

Every muscle felt like it had seized up on her when she awoke a few hours later.  The LPS wasn’t doing much better either.  The PYB had not been as aware of her quads as she was that morning.  They were mad at her and had no problem relaying that message. They opened the tent flap to find that their bags were covered in, not just frost, but ice. Yes, it had rained during the night. Yay! Cold and wet clothes! Fortunately their shoes had been in the tent.  Thanks goodness they had rain ponchos, too.  So, it was going to be a challenging day that was made apparent.  And it was.

The PYB decided to take her second pair of shoes since it was going to be a wet day. It never just really poured, but it was enough to keep her feet wet and her poncho steamy underneath.  And if she thought the hills were bad the first day she was in for a rude awakening on day two. It wasn’t so much the climbing up the hills any more; there’s a zone one can find within oneself to deal with that. What was problematic was walking down. That causes friction on the toes and if you have ever thought about it your toes kind of stick up as you walk down a hill, at least the PYB’s did on that walk.  Combine that with wet shoes and socks and you have major feet issues!  Pain, lots of pain!! She hit every medic tent to reapply Nuskin and band-aids to her blossoming blisters.  She continually slathered Vaseline petroleum jelly on her petites pieds and added half a shoe full of powder. About half way through the day she ditched the shoes she started out in and put on the ones she wore the day before along with some dry socks. That helped but she definitely was walking with a different gait than she normally would to avoid putting pressure on some of her tender spots.  It was sort of a lurching stride but on the outside of her feet; the kind of walk that might scare small children and animals. 

(She was going to insert some pictures of blistered feet here, but, frankly, they were too disgusting)

That night she waited about an hour after dinner to have her appendages that used to be feet looked at by the medics. The entire ball of her right foot was blistered so that sac of liquid was lanced along with the ones on that covered the entire backs of her heels. By that night a lot of folks were hobbling around.  Couldn’t go barefoot because she didn’t want to get dirt in her wounds, but it also hurt to wear shoes. Crawling was out of the question; that would just look stupid. She had downed about 10 Motrin tablets to help with the increasingly sharp muscle pain throughout the day. She was barely interested in food or a shower and only wanted to go to sleep.  Later in the middle of that second night, she remembered her glasses on the way to the Pottie Patch.  She wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

Day Three

It was finally the last day of the walk and the mileage to shuffle was the highest of the three days. To cut to the chase, she didn’t make the entire walk. She made it about 10 miles and was transported the last ten. By then her toenails on her big toes were kind of, well, moving around….three of her nubby toenails had already slid off, and must have fallen out of her socks when sitting down with the medics.  Honestly, she felt pretty sorry about not completing the walk; almost like a loser.  However, she truly couldn’t go any further. Remember the giant blister on the ball of her right foot? Completely messed up and the skin had started to come off leaving a nice, red, raw patch that felt like red hot pokers were being inserted with every step. It just wasn’t gonna happen any longer.  Her feet were toast.

The incredible part of the entire 3 days was the other walkers, the volunteers, the “sideline” supporters cheering everyone on.  Every arrival to a rest stop or a crosswalk was greeted with clapping and cheering.  People lined the streets to clap and cheer and/or pass out snacks, buttons, beads, etc (no one has cheered or applauded her arrival since).

The whole event was a feel-good situation.  Great people, great cause.  That was the purpose. The PYB desperately hopes her Petites Jeunes Filles Bruns will never have to face breast cancer or any cancer for that matter and if a few blisters and some missing toenails helps the cause then it was well worth it.

For more information please visit: