Monday, September 03, 2012

You guys...I walked 39 Miles in 2 Days

I know it's taken me awhile to write about this, but whatever, it needed time to completely absorb into my system, and I needed time to recover...but here goes!

8 Months of fundraising, with 4 month of training and my Avon Walk For Breast Cancer Walk Weekend finally arrived. AHHHHHMAZING would be an understatement to how the weekend of May 19th and 20th was.
Friday morning arrived, I picked up Arinn and Bobbie-Jo in Orrington and we scooted onward to Belfast to pick up our fearless leader, Mandie. 
There was not one bit of silence the whole ride to Portland where we would jump on a train for Bean-Town. Mandie was, as she always was, trying to prepare the rest of us for the weekend. Telling us how apart the rest areas were, what the different colored shirts that the different crew people were wearing meant, and explaining that showering in a truck really isn't that bad. The music was blaring as we sang this song, we laughed at Arinn's jokes and saw Bobbie's twin at Amato's. Then I friggen forgot my phone in my car and literally sprinted all the way back to the parking area to get it before I missed the train. 
We weren't on the train 5 minutes and already somebody had moved their seat as they knew we were going to be loud the entire time. We sat back, ate our lunch, played name that tune on Arinn's phone or excuse me got our asses beat by Mandie playing name that tune on Arinn's phone and we were pumped and ready for our walk...
My team and I arrived in Boston around 3:30, we lugged our luggage onto the subway, down a block to our event eve slumber at The Park Plaza Hotel where we had a scream fest...
After we got settled in, we headed over to 'Event Eve' where we met other walkers and the crew. They had vendors from Reebox and other local vendors selling Avon walk/Breast Cancer awareness goodies. I got my 'Powerful Fundraiser' hat for raising more than $2,300.00!!! Oh yeah baby!!! Then we met up with someone that Mandie had met online and invited her to dinner with us...Robin. Robin had come all the way from Michigan, she had done a couple of the walks before, she shared her stories with us and I could tell from my first instinct that we were all going to be friends for a long time.
As recommended, we ate at Dolce Vita, and oh my, my, my. I got the seafood alfredo, plus we had lots of bread and even a glass of white wine. Yummy!!! Yummy!
With our full bellies, we started heading back to our hotel, but then decided it might be fun to take a Pedi-Cab ride through the city. With Mandie and I in one, Arinn and Bobbie in another and Robin riding solo, we let Boston know the Holy Walkamoles had arrived.
Yeah, I know, we're crazy! But you love us, you know it!

We must have been on those pedi cabs for at least an hour, John's poor, poor tush. Mandie was then bound and determined to try the melting pot, I was tired, but you only live once and how often am I in Boston? So, we went and sat and waited at the Melting Pot....but that's all we did. No fondue and practically no service. We were very disappointed and left angry and I hope they knew it.

I was the lucky one who had to share a bed with my wonderful, very, very, VEEEERY light sleeper cousin, Mandie. She kicked me when she thought I was snoring, but I hadn't even fallen asleep yet. Then we walked down to the front desk to get some ear plugs for her, but no such luck. She finally did drift off and then for what seemed like a few minutes later the alarm went off.
45 minutes later and we were on the shuttle bus to The UMass campus. As we rounded the corner and I could see the sun rising over the harbor and then the view I had seen in tons of the pictures of the famous Avon Walk Pink Columns, the stage, the thousands of people...thousands of people. All there for the same reason. This is when I started tearing up. I couldn't believe it was actually here. I was about to take part in walking 39.3 miles. This is what I had been training for. This is what I had been fundraising for. This is what I had been breathing for day and night for the last 7 months...and I was there with thousands of others to fight for the same cause.
So, we signed the pink columns...

Met up with our Maine friend, Tessa.
Filled our water bottles, got some snacks and awaited the opening ceremonies.
Which consisted of warm up stretches, we heard from cancer survivors, family members of non-survivors and those who were currently going through treatments. The most inspirational was a women who had mastastersized breast cancer and doctors told her she would live only a short time, but she proved them wrong and lived many years longer and was still going strong.
Then we held up our hands and held onto the person's next to us so that everyone was joined....

Then they opened up the gates and we were off. I was crying with just overwhelming emotions. I had so many people that I was thinking about at that moment, my mom, my sister-in-law, my father's girlfriend's sister, my cousin's grandmother, and then the people I had just heard from. And I was also looking around at others and realizing the people that they had in their life that they were probably thinking of and walking for...

They day was beautiful, the sun was shinning, there was an early morning crisp to the air, and we were right along the water looking over at the city. 

And then before I knew it we had walked 1 mile. I had so much energy I probably could've ran that first mile if they would've let me.
At this point everyone's pretty much together. I'd talk to one person, then they would stop to tie their shoe and the next thing I knew I'd be talking to a different person. The sweep vans are constantly driving by with their decorated vehicles, all with different themes, beeping their horns, yelling out cheers to you. Supporters are lined up at different points with signs to give you boosts. And then there are volunteer bikers who are at every crosswalk making sure the walkers are safe as they cross. Most are dressed up in some way, some have music blaring from their motorcycles and they are just so awesome. "How you doing? You drinking enough? Do you need anything? Thank you for doing this." They would say as you approached them. Did I mention how awesome they were?
And then oh look at that we're already at mile 2...
This is when I started getting warm and stripped off the jacket, as I noticed others doing as well. 
Mile 3 was the first rest stop. I was bound and determined to not finish last so we quickly filled our water bottles and kept on keeping on.  We all were feeling great. 

At the beginning of the race you can fill out a bib for who you are walking for, I enjoyed reading others and it gave us reason to approach them and hear their story. Another conversation starter was "where ya from?" I thought it was odd that most people mentioned that they thought we came from pretty far away, it's only 4 hours, it's not like we drove up this morning. And also a lot of people mentioned that they had summer homes in Maine, summer birds....

At about Mile 5 we were entering the big city. Everytime we rounded the corner I could see tons of people up ahead, which made me feel like we were close to the end of the line, but then I turned around. 
Mile 6 hosted another rest stop, where Mandie had to pee and the lines were crazy. I did some stretching and found some snacks, peanut butter on a bagel was just what I wanted. And these things...
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a graham cracker, and not with just a layer of peanut butter and jelly, it was like the perfect amount of peanut butter and jelly. My mouth is watering now just thinking of these things. I had started feeling tired at this point, but some snacks in my belly and some stretching for my muscles and boom, let's rock on!

 We were entering the Boston Commons at Mile 8. Nice shaded area with lots of statues and some bums posing as statues. Luckily we had fun posing with the not so scary statues.

 Lunch was served around Mile 11, which we ate right after Arinn got her blisters wrapped.
Keeping with the wrap theme, we had turkey wraps, carrots with hummus and sweet potato chips for lunch.
 After lunch we really all could've used a nap, but we kept on going. Every year the route changes a little and Mandie had warned us about a rather large hill when we were going through the city, which we had already been up. Mandie and Arinn had lagged behind after stopping at Dunkin and Bobbie and I were trucking along when we realized we were climbing quite a hill....that never stopped. Luckily more distractions from the local neighbors slightly helped us to the peak.

Besides the crazy ladies who called themselves the 'Support Squad' that were sporting their home-made bras and the gigantic bra that made me laugh out loud as I crested that hill (no pun intended), there were also kids selling lemonade, lots of people had written messages to us in the roadway with chalk and quite a few had the artistic touch. Then there it was, mile 13 and I knew the first day was half way over.
A short ways down the road from mile marker 13 was the Half Marathon Finish Line. This is where I just had to take my sneakers off and oh it felt so good. Bobbie and I waited for Mandie and Arinn and they had made a new friend, Michelle, who was a riot and fit right it. We peed, filled up our water bottles and we left singing Bon Jovi's famous half way there song.
Lots of the cities we were walking through I had never heard of like Brookline, Readville, Roxbury, and who knew there was a Dedham in Massachusetts. And it was sort of amusing how we'd go from sort of a sketchy area to wow, these house are really nice.

Bobby and I were separated from Mandie and Arinn...again...but no worries they made some great friends...
At about mile 19, it was quite warm out and we were dragging butt. This rest area had a Hawaii theme and we may have gotten laid a couple of times.
Like I had said before you meet so many different people and hear so many amazing stories. These two girls pictured below will definitely be two that I will never forget...
I started talking to them because the girl on the left had a pink ribbon tattoo on the back of her calf and I complimented her on it, it was a really nice one. I showed her mine and we got talking about why we were walking. I shared my story and then the two shared the story of how last year they were walking for their friend who was in the hospital, going through chemotherapy and an hour after they had finished the race...their friend passed away.

They pledged at that moment that they would do the walk every single year no matter what, in honor of their friend.

Like I said, I will never forget those two ladies.
Later on I had met 2 other friends who were walking together. They were laughing and I caught on to what they were joking around about and joined in with them. The older of the two said she was walking because a couple years ago she had a brain tumor and it scared her so bad that she wanted to make the most out of her life and help others any way she could. The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer was just one of the charities that she supported. Her friend, who must of been no older than 37 had just finished going through chemotherapy, she had an amazing attitude and beautiful smile.

Mile 20 you could say was a bit of a low point for me. Didn't take many pictures, kept to myself and just took in all I had seen and heard throughout the day. Plus I could feel a blister forming on my left pinky toe and it was starting to really hurt.

Notice how in the pictures now we're not smiling as much as we were in the beginning. Arinn was also at a low and later we unfortunately find out that her feet didn't make mile 22, 23 or the rest of the first day.

Right around the corner from this mile marker was the final rest stop for the day. Probably as this picture was taken was when poor Arinn found Bobbie and I and broke the news that she had to take a sweep van. She started crying as she was in quite a bit of pain and a little disappointed in herself. We comforted her and told her she should be proud of herself, that she did a lot more than most. And it didn't matter if she didn't walk the rest, at least we raised some kick ass money to help lots of people fighting breast cancer.
Besides lunch this was our longest break time as I was on the blister operating table getting my blister popped and wrapped and feeling slight wooosey too. I had to lay down for a bit, but I grabbed a banana and another peanut butter graham cracker snack and felt like I could push my way to the finish.
 Bobbie and I joined back up with Mandie and all her new found friends and we made sure to stay with her as we were nearing the finish.
Even though she kept making me take pictures at Every. Single. Milemarker!!!
It was worth it though Mandie...
That final mile though...oh my gosh, the road was a straight shot and I kept thinking I saw the end nearing, but it was just a mirage. We were singing, well kind of. Making up songs, I had to poop and the beeping of the cars driving past was getting real old.
Then we rounded the corner...
Mandie: "See those cars up past the yellow building, that's it, that's the finish."

Few minutes later
Sam: "Yeah, but the cars go on forever!!!"
Mandie: "It's right there, see the driveway by those trees."
Sam: "I'm not gonna make it, I think I may die right here..."
Mandie: "Oh my god, Sam look."

I was looking and I could see what she was seeing. There was my Jordan, waiting for me. He saw me and started running towards me. Then it was like someone had lifted me up and I ran to him.
Darric, my cousin Jessica and her friend and my mom, grandmother and brother were also there awaiting me. It felt so good to see them and hug and kiss them.

We reunited with Arinn, grabbed our new friends and grabbed this memory before making the final stretch.

"Come on girls, point 2 and we are there"
We were second to last, but at this point I so didn't care and was just so happy to be done with the first day. Remember the motorcycle crew? Yeah, they were there at the end, welcoming us, cheering us on, thanking us, and making us feel like a million bucks, crumpled up million bucks, but hey money is money...

We did it. We walked 26.2 miles. We still had a long night ahead of us and another day of walking, but we felt that the hard part was over.
Well, we then had to walk to get our tents, set them up (luckily some tent angels did it for us), walk to get our dinner (spaghetti), walk to the showers in a truck, which Mandie was right they were great. Warm, enough room, great pressure, clean. I felt good; tired and sore, but good. 
As we were walking around I kept laughing, it seriously reminded me of the Michael Jackson video Thriller. Everyone was walking very slowly and limping, half slumped over. It was funny.

Then it was time for bed...

Day 2
5:30am - BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!!!! I wanted to die! I couldn't believe that I had to walk another 13 miles after sleeping in a cold tent, on the cold, hard ground. I didn't dare to move, but was surprised when I did stand up, that I could walk. And I actually didn't feel too bad. 

After a good hearty breakfast, we packed up and was ready to get going.

There was a little cheer and then they opened the gates for us and we were good to go, except Mandie and Arinn were nowhere to be found....again. Those girls, they're lucky we love them. They were filling up their water bottles and saying goodbye to the new friends who were unfortunately gave up after the first day. Guess they still felt pretty crappy. 
The first mile again went by pretty quick, but.....sadly Arinn's blisters weren't having it and she decided to sit it out and stayed behind. We hated leaving her again, but Michelle was with her and they were good support for each other. Stay tuned though, Arinn and Michelle just may have jumped back in the walk with us.....

From Mile 2 to probably mile 4 we were walking along the side of  a busy stretch of road. Some places made me a tad nervous. It was a beautiful neighborhood and I was quite distracted by the flowers. Why didn't I take any picture s of the flowers....
Then the rest stop right before mile 4 we decided to stop at, but by golly it was a good quarter of a mile the other way. So we actually walked more than 39.3 miles I tell ya what....

Look at that Bobbie is actually smiling. I teased Bobbie a lot through the whole fundraising process and I think even one of the motorcycle guys mentioned how she wasn't smiling. We said he was hitting on her, and we even saw him a second time and knew it was him because he was the only one wearing a whoopee cushion costume.

See the girl in the above picture leaning up against the fence? Mandie and I had met her the night before when we were trying to find a place to plug in my phone. She was really nice, but we felt bad for her because her team decided to give up on the race and left her to walk all alone. So, we welcomed her to walk with us.

Geesh, I wonder if I'm going to make it.

I'm talking to my mother in law in this picture, checking on my little girl. It was nice to hear Gracie's sweet voice and it gave me a boost of energy as seen in at the next mile marker.

Of coarse I had to strike up a conversation with the cow man. He was awesome. I wish I could've hung out with him all day. He walked for a little while with us, I told him how I loved cows and that most of my house was decorated in cows. Then he started a challenge..."How many 'cow' pot holders do you have?" "Ummm, over a dozen." "OK, me too." "Cow wallpaper?" "Yup!" "Cow sheets?" "Yup!" "How many cow plate sets?" "One!" "I have two." "Cow toothbrush?" "ohhh, nope." "Cow underwear?" "noooooo" "Huh, I win!" 
I agreed, he was in a full cow costume after all. He asked if I was drinking enough and then he disappeared.

We then entered a nice bike trail. Too bad we weren't on bikes. It was a straight along path, but hard top and the sun was beating down on us. Every so often we'd come to an train overpass and it felt so good to be in the shade, but we had to keep moving.

That last mile just about did me in, but just up ahead was lunch and someone was there waiting to greet Mandie.....

Again, it was nice to see familiar faces and to have support from home. We had some lunch, peed and filled the water bottles and let's go.

Mile 9 to mile 10 was in a field that looped around and we could've cheated and taken a short cut...but we didn't of coarse.
And I'm glad we didn't either because we wouldn't have met these ladies from New York

There were a couple more in their group too, but I didn't get them. They had done all of the walks at one point or another, not in one year though. The woman on the right was the same year survivor as my mom so I hugged her. They had speakers going with some music which was fun and motivating, and I loved their accents. 
We talked about the different cities and we asked which one was their favorite (Chicago) and which was their least favorite (Charlotte). They did like Boston though and said it was known for having the nicest people.

It was nice to be back along the water because it meant that we were getting closer. There were some fisherman fishing that we taunted as we walked by.


Mandie's friend Jess met up with us at Mile 11, another boost of support from home. Thank you Jess.

Well, well, well. Look who we found at mile 12. Arinn and Michelle jumped back in after lunch and were back in it to end it. They had a good rest, met some fun people and found their strength to carry on.

This is Karl or Pink Mohawk Guy. He was dancing in the street for us, gave us high fives, hugs and helped us get through this last mile.
The last mile was on a busy stretch of highway. Horns were constantly going, we could see walkers that had finished already leaving the city. We could see where we had started which is also where we would end.
I put in my ear buds one last time and cued it to eye of the tiger and danced the rest of the way. Then I didn't even realize it, but there it was..mile marker 13!!!!!!!!!!!

My heart was pounding with overwhelming achievement. I could now say that I walked 39 miles.
Come on ladies...point three to go.
Then Mandie's family found us and her girls joined in...

Then we rounded the corner where there was a crowd of people, including my people...

 Darric's sister, Lisa and her daughter Kiersten had flown in to see his Dad, who was having surgery the next day and it was cheaper for them to fly into Boston It just so happened that we were in Boston that weekend and it just so happens that Lisa is a 9 year breast cancer survivor so it meant the world to me to have her there at the finish line.

We had to wait a good half hour or more to get through the actual finish line, I had stripped off my sneakers, gave Darric my bag to hold and I almost laid on the ground right there, but I probably wouldn't have gotten up.

Then we made it...officially!

We stayed for an emotional closing ceremony where we took time out to recognize the crew, the motorcycle brigade and especially the survivors.
 Then once again we held on to each others hands so we were all formed as one and chanted we are 'In It To End It!' one last time.

I met so many inspirational people, heard tons of their stories, learned some things about myself and was part of a huge community of people who were all there for the same reason. And I can't wait for the day I can tell others how I was part of the cure.
Thank you to everyone who supported me throughout my fundraising, my training walks and the walk itself. Without you all I would not have been able to do this. I hope you're ready to do it again, because I am and I've already signed up."

Some of the pictures I took from Avon Walk's Flickr Page. I apologize if I didn't courtesy you.

If you'd like to see more of my pictures of the walk, you can do so here.
If you'd like to see more videos of my walk, you can do so here.
If you'd like to donate to me or my team, please visit our Avon Walk page here.
Keep up to date with The Holy Walkamoles here.


Mandie said...

What a great time! And thank you so much Sam for putting it all into words- the whole experience, the photos, the pedi-cab... :) I love you and I'm so happy we got to experience this together!!!!

Anonymous said...


Sitting here fighting tears!! It really is the greatest, isn't it!??!! Thank you all!