Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Three Day!

Wow. It has been a long time since my last blog, again. Between finding a new apartment, moving into said apartment, going to NYC for nearly a week, less than 24 hours after moving the last item into the new apartment (and not even sleeping in it yet), and then coming back and having about 24 hours to prepare for a three day, sixty mile walk, I guess you could say I've been pretty busy!

Of course, everything was last minute, even with getting ready for the three day, which is all I am going to focus on in this blog.

I had packed all of my belongings, and in doing so, specifically remember putting my three day credentials, which I supposedly needed to participate in the walk, someplace specific, so that I would be able to find them with ease when I got back from NYC, had a bit of time to unpack and began packing for the three day.

Not the case.

Of course, when I go to pack, I have difficulty finding important things, like the aforementioned credentials, as well as my sportsbras. Lawd.

I finally decide that I am coming without the credentials, and Cari agrees to pick up the sports bra slack when she's at Target.

I have a run-in with the Marquette Interchange Construction, and find that the three nearest on-ramps to 94E or 43S are, of course, closed, and I end up driving halfway down to Racine to get on. This stresses me out, because it is already after the time that I need to be to bed, and I still have to drive down to Westchester, where the Prince lives.

I finally get there, at midnight. Yes, midnight. I sit and talk with the Prince a bit, and we catch up while watching part of Fight Club (one of my favorite movies, but the book is way better), and then I take a shower. By the time I lay my head down in the guest bedroom of the palace, with which I am very familiar, it is already 1:30. It's cool, I get to sleep until 4:30. No problem. It's not like I am embarking on a sixty mile walking expedition the next day or anything! Oh wait...

So I am laying there, and I can't fall asleep! It was brutal. I eventually did fall asleep though, but not long before Cari came and woke my ass up to get me in gear.

Soon after, we set off, groggy, to go to Northbrook, where the walk started. Our goal was to leave the house by 5. It was 5:19 when we pulled out of the driveway. Oops. I am pretty sure Cari factored in our inabilities to be on time or move quickly in the morning when she planned things. She's pretty awesome like that.

We get to Northbrook, on time (ish) and I get my credentials after waiting in a long line.

There are all kinds of cool, motivating things going on there, like stickers that you can collect and put on the credential lanyard, and things of that nature, so of course we check that out.

One of such motivating things was a big wall that you can write your goal for the walk on. Here's a picture of my goal.

"To make Mamalicious and the Mamalitia proud."

I was doing the walk in honor of my mom, Mamalicious, so obviously that was the main goal. But, I was so struck by all of the amazing things that the Mamalitia did (both the Decibel Cares Mamalitia specifically, as well as everyone who donated time, money, or encouraged me), that I wanted to be thinking about them, too!

One of the media partners of the event was the radio station 101.9, and they were there with a wheel that you could spin to win prizes. This is me, spinning the wheel.

I won lip balm. At first, I was saddened by this. The other prizes were way cooler, like dvds and concert tickets. I didn't really want to carry a dvd around with me all weekend, and the concert was for the Dave Matthews Band concert on Sunday night. I SURE didn't want to go to a concert right after walking 60 miles, so I rationalized not winning that, too.

Soon after my lucky lipbalm moment, the opening ceremony began.

There were people carrying banners with different relationships on them - ie: Mother, Sister, Friend, Father, Neighbor, etc. to represent for whom they were doing the walk, as well as different aspects of dealing with breast cancer, such as hope, love, encouragement, etc.

Here are some pictures of that!

And a little closer.... (Don't know why this is in bold text!)

And yet another one...

People who know me well, know that I do not cry often, at all. Well, that was not going to be the case during this walk. During this opening ceremony, I let loose. Cried. Thought about the whole journey I'd been through so far, with my mom and all of my friends at our side. The time that LL was acting all weird because my mom wanted her to be at my side when I found out (but I screwed it up by calling before I got home and could have LL over)... The time when I freaked out about the lump, but then found out that there was a 90% chance that it was nothing.... The time when I saw the flyer for the Mamalitia Event at Decibel... Seeing the $2500 check for the first time at the same time as my mom did... The Racine fundraiser... All of it. How it was almost over. How we had all gone through so much. And then the speaker started talking about what it will be like when we find the cure. And I cried.

In fact, I may or may not have let a tear or two fall just now, just remembering it. But don't tell anyone. =P

(Side note: I am totally being a hypocrite right there. You know those commercials where a woman talks directly to a camera and tells you "a secret" about her tampons, or embarrassing bladder control issue, or whatever? I am always mad when those come on, because she is obviously sharing her secret with a few million people. I guess I just kinda did that, but on a much smaller scale. Oops!)

Of course, Cari and I needed a picture before we started our journey. Here it is!

I know I look rough. But be nice! It was 6am, and I wasn't wearing makeup. Cari still looks cute, though. And can you believe that a lot of the people who did the walk did wear makeup? Are you serious about life? Why? I can't even imagine it.

Anyway, you can see our credentials hanging around our necks. On the back of mine (and Cari's, but you can't see it) are six inspirational stickers. There were different places along the beginning of the opening ceremony where we could collect the stickers. Little did we know, but stickers were going to be a HUGE part of the weekend to come.

Anyway, here is what these first stickers said:

Kindness rocks: "Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together." - Goethe
Stay Positive: "Never complain. Never explain." - Katherine Hepburn (We were a little nervous that this one was going to be tough to abide by! We didn't complain much at all, though!)
Strut your stuff: "Personal example carries more weight than preaching" - Chinese Proverb
Cheer a lot: "The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up." - Mark Twain
Grow the Community: "Living together is an art." - William Pickens
And finally, the one we knew we weren't going to follow - Take your time: We have to do both, save and savor the world." - Kate Clinton.

We are fast walkers. We knew we weren't about being patient and taking our time!

Anyway, we'll get back to that later.

So there we were, at pretty much the end of the line (since I had the whole credential ordeal), and we began our walk.

One of the coolest things about the walk was the crew. These people volunteered their time for the weekend (they woke up earlier and went to bed later than all of us!) and paid the $90 registration fee to basically keep us as healthy, happy, and encouraged as possible.

One pair of crew members were the angels. They rode along the path on their bikes ALL DAY LONG, and dressed as angels! Here is a picture of Cari and with them. Gotta love a man in a pink tutu with painted nails!

So, we continued on our walk, the beginning of which went through the botanical gardens. I was very happy with this, as it was a beautiful setting. At the time, I thought that I wouldn't mind doing all sixty of the miles there, but I would change my mind.

Here's a picture of the first pit stop from across a pond in the botanical gardens. Ignore the randoms in the foreground. =)

As we approached the first pit stop, I had an idea. The next stop was only about a mile and a half away. I knew this because the walk organizers gave us "route cards" which we put in our credentials lanyards, and they told us the mileage between stops for each day.

My thinking was that if we skipped the first stop, we'd be among the first to use the portapotties, and they wouldn't be as gross. Also, we could avoid the absurdly huge lines that were at the first place.

Turns out, that was a great idea.

Anyway, the next portion of our walk, I was given one of the flags with the relationships on it. It would be the only flag that either of us would carry the whole walk. While I am not aware of any neighbors of mine having breast cancer, I figured that given the staggering number of people who are affected by it, unfortunately, odds were that some day I might have a neighbor who battles this disease (hopefully, by then, though, there is a cure for it!). So here I am with the "Neighbor" flag.

So after a while of carrying that around, I was able to give it to someone else. It was kinda a pain to carry for a while, because we kept walking down suburban streets with low trees, and I would have to try to navigate in such a way that would keep me from hitting things with the flag.

All along the path, there were people standing and cheering us on. There were also themed sweep vans that would drive past and cheer at us... They had cute names like "Disco Driving Divas" and things like that, and they'd blast upbeat music and they dressed crazily and had corresponding decorations on the vans themselves. Another I specifically remember was one that was Hawaiian themed, and the people in it wore hula skirts and leis and coconut bras and such. =)

Some people on the route's roles were to let us know how long it was to the next stop. There were also people whose job it was just to cheer for us, as well as crossing guards.

When we got near lunch, which was about the halfway point each day, someone said "About one more mile until lunch, where you can take off your shoes!"

All I could say was "Hell yeah!"

I was ready to air my feet out!

The lunch areas were themed as well. Here's a picture of the welcome sign for lunch on day one.

As you can see, it was a 50's diner. I think it was a 50's diner another day, too. We got stickers when we got to those, too. And the pit stops as well! For whatever reason, it was SO EXCITING to get stickers. I felt like it was kindergarten all over again!

Here is a picture of the lunch camp. There were different areas for different things - food, drink, medical, bathroom, and a "dunking station" where you could get your clothes wet in ice water to cool you off. That came in handy for sure!

Here's me, enjoying an apple at lunch on day one. It was funny, because since this was the first meal, both Cari and I felt like we needed to eat a ton of food, because we felt like it was going to be such a long and hard thing.... We ended up eating less and less as the walk went on, because we realized that we definitely didn't need to eat as much as we were, and we were sick of feeling full!

I think I was just mostly psyched to have my feet out of my shoes and socks. We changed our socks at lunch every day and got into a serious routine of applying body glide and baby powder to our feet, sunscreen to the rest of us, and body glide to our arms and legs. It was a life saver!

So yeah, we continued on our walk after lunch, feeling a little refreshed and a lot ready to continue walking!

In case you're curious about the route... As I said, we started in Northbrook, IL, which is a Northern Suburb of Chicago. On day one, we walked to Oakton Community College. This is where we set up camp (more on that in a minute!). Then on day two, we walked a huge circle (nearly 20 miles!) and ended up back at the same place, so that the weary walkers didn't have to set up our tents all over again. Finally, from the community college, on day three, we took a bus (and let me tell you, it was weird at that point to go somewhere without walking being involved!) to a closer suburb of Chicago, and then walked to Soldier Field.

Here's Cari and I right after we got to camp, in front of a large inflatable thing with logos on it.

Do we look like we just walked 22 miles in about 7 hours? Because we had!

And there we are in front of the flags representing all of the people everyone was walking for, and, of course, the port-o-potties.

For the record, hurrying through the walking parts of this was definitely the way to go. Not only were the port-o-potties fresh, but we also didn't have to wait to take showers, which was absolutely glorious!

Apparently, and we didn't know this, we passed about 2000 people in our quest to be among the first back. They were using counters along the way. At like the third pit stop (and we passed a TON of people who actually stopped at the first one when we opted to keep going), someone told the people in front of us that they were the 1000th walkers to pass that point. When we got to camp, we were like numbers 232 and 233 or something! Apparently, we were hauling ass!

So, once we were back, the first thing we did was find our luggage, and get a tent. There were all kinds of volunteers there to help us carry our luggage (they must've heard that Cari and I are princesses - haha) and set up our tents. The people actually involved for the most part were the people from the Oakton Community College Soccer team.

This obviously meant that I was going to give these poor young boys a hard time.

I got one to agree to carry me the last fifteen miles of day two, and another agreed to give me a massage. Neither of these things happened. Stupid baby college boys being all talk!

Ok, so I probably wouldn't have accepted much of a massage (so as not to feel like a creepy old cougar woman) and I definitely wouldn't've let anyone carry me (I wanted to do all 60 miles on my own two feet), but it was still a fun time talking to the silly boys who were probably overwhelmed by being surrounded by probably 2000 women (there were some men on the walk, so I am definitely going to try to recruit more boys for next year!).

Once our tents were set up, we had a snack (pretty much because we were forced to - they didn't want anyone passing out in the shower) and then took showers.

Oh man. That shower felt so amazing! And what's funny about it is that there was something wrong with my shower, and instead of most of the water coming out of the shower head, it was misting out of the shower head and pretty much coming out of a hole in the pipes about waist high. So, even though barely any water was getting on me, unless I bent awkwardly to make it or splashed it up onto my upper body, I was taking one of the best showers of my life. It just felt good when I was done to be clean!

After our showers, we laid in our tents for a bit and took naps.

Then, we went over to the sponsor tents. The La Croix tent had La Croix water, and motorized foot massagers. GLORIOUS!

The Pepperidge Farms tent had cookies. The New Balance tent had snacks and places to sit in the shade. We'd spend a LOT of time sleeping in their chairs in that tent on Day Two! This is also when I took out my phone and sent many people a text alerting them of my progress.

Then we took another nap, then had dinner. We were concerned that if we ate dinner too early that we'd get hungry later. Our concern actually should've been staying awake! We were trying to randomly think of things to do to stay awake until 9!

One such thing was play checkers on a travel checkerboard that Matt had given us earlier that morning.

A while after dinner, when we were still kinda sitting there (we were moving very slowly), the person on the microphone announced that the last walker was going to be arriving shortly. It was around 730, so she had been walking for over twelve hours! What a trooper!

Anyway, when she came, everyone cheered for her, and then she raised a flag that said "One Day Closer," as in "you're one day closer to living in a world with out breast cancer!"

We didn't get a picture of this the first day, because we didn't know that there would be anything ceremonial or anything like that. I did, of course, cry, though. Again. It is emotional to see so many people so supportive, and to think about actually being a day closer to a cure!

After that, we brushed our teeth at the portable sinks, and played our game of checkers, and went to bed.

I slept pretty well. I was super tired from not getting much sleep for several days beforehand, but I kept waking up because I was cold, because I brought an ALF sleeping bag from when I was a child, since I planned on it being hot! I woke up refreshed, though.

Day two, we had decided we wanted to get an earlier start. So, we got up pretty early. I let Cari be in charge of the alarm, because she could keep her phone off and still have the alarm go off. My phone is not that advanced, and I send a few more texts than she does, so I didn't have that luxury and needed to conserve the battery. Plus, I was truly scared to know what time we were waking up. It was still dark! I am definitely not a morning person.

So, it was our idea to get an earlier start, so that we could again be among the first to use port-o-potties on the route, and once again be among the first people to arrive at camp, for all of the benefits described earlier.

Somehow, though, since we are not morning people, we still managed to take like two hours to get our butts out of our sleeping bags and on the trail!

We were still able to meet our goals, though, and get all the benefits. I am so thankful that we were able to walk fast!

It was very rare that people would pass us.... And when they did, it was often someone in a wheelchair going down hill! I can't imagine pushing myself 60 miles in a wheelchair - holy upper arm strength!

On days two and three, part of the walking took place in Mount Prospect, IL, which is very close to where Oakton Community College (our camp) is located. Or maybe it is exactly where it is located? I'm not sure.

Anyway, the entirety of the Mount Prospect police that were involved in directing traffic around us and helping us safely cross the street wore pink shirts as their uniform! Here's one example!

On day two, Cari decided to take more pictures, so that we could show people all the cool stuff we saw. My camera got lost or stolen in NYC, so I was unable to take pictures (and I lost pictures of LL and I with Carson from Queer Eye in NYC, as well as all of my pictures from the Save the Tatas fundraiser in Racine - so sad!). This also explains why there are so many pictures of just me in this blog - Cari took them!

Anyway, Pit Stop Five was among the coolest pit stops, because they were themed. Five, all three days, was the stop that was after a major city. Day one was Paris, day two was Vegas, and day three was Los Angeles.

So, here we are in Vegas, with Elvis and.... a tranny or something?

I also don't want to leave out the crew at Pit Stop Four each day. They were Olympic-themed, and handed out medals - bronze on day one, silver on day two, and gold on day three. They were just metallic circles that had writing on them and were laminated for us to hang on our lanyards, but to us they were also badges of honor signifying how far we'd walked!

Another group that I DEFINITELY can't forget to include were our favorite guys - the motivation medics! They drove behind a pink ambulance van in a pink trailer, dressed in head-to-toe pink and danced to loud music that they played on a PA system. It was awesome and SO EXCITING to see them. I don't know why, but Cari and I just got so pumped whenever they drove past! They were awesome. They were especially instrumental on the third day, close to the finish, when we were REALLY starting to get tired!

Anyway, here they are!

And here they are again, closer. They did a lot of fist pumping. You KNOW I love the fist pumping! =)

As you can see, there are funny phrases written on the ambulance van. In this case, it is "Medics for melons" and "Jive for your jugs!" There were all kinds of euphemisms for breasts - on tshirts, pins, and hats people were wearing, on the vans, on people's tents, etc. Many of the team names also were related to these themes. Quite entertaining!

Especially when we walked through the suburbs, it was overwhelming (in a good way) how supportive even random people were. For example, along the route, many people sat on their porches, I am assuming all day long, and cheered as walkers came by. Whole families, even, including little girls wearing pink dresses. It was so nice to see the puppies and little kids, especially, because of course those things bring good cheer and warm, fuzzy feelings!

Many of the families outside had things for us to help us out, like freeze pops, bottled water, and candy. And of course there were crew members with these things as well. One woman said that she bought THREE THOUSAND freeze pops to hand out to walkers!

Some families who weren't home set out coolers of water for us, with encouraging signs, and telling us to take them. Or hoses with a sign saying "Thank you three day walkers, feel free to drink!" There were also lawn chairs and benches ready for us to sit on, if we needed it!

I thought it was amazing that so many people would be so generous and kind to people they didn't even know!

Also, along the route, there were many other signs. Some were put up by the crew, and reminded us to reapply sunscreen, or to stretch. Others were put up by supporters and teams, and had inspirational phrases on them.

One sign that stands out to me was one that was in someone's lawn that said that the daughter of whoever lived there was diagnosed in 1960 with breast cancer and still going STRONG! That was very relieving to see!

In addition to the pit stops and lunch camps, there were cheering stations. These were places that were pre-planned where family and friends of walkers could come and cheer us on, and where we could stop and talk.

All of them were great, but the best one was the last one on day two. We seriously felt like celebrities! It was like 2 blocks long, solid, of people cheering for us, giving us beads, dilly bars, more lip balm, shaved ice, freeze pops, candy.... We had to turn a lot of stuff down!

Cari's mom came to the first cheering station on day one.

Both of her parents came to the mile long one on day two, and they both wore pink!

They took pictures of us approaching - I'm on the right in the baby blue shorts and white shirt, and Cari is on the left in all black. Look at all the people there cheering!

And here we are with our dilly bars.

Man, that dilly bar tasted delicious!

Here's Cari with her parents. =)

We stopped to chat a little bit and went back onto our route. It had rained a bit in the morning, and we had purchased garbage bags at a local Walgreens to keep us dry. Cari's parents also brought her a book to read in the New Balance tent when we got back to camp.

They also had to bring me a toothbrush!

I had no toothbrush problems on day one, until right before bed. I had my toothbrush, dental floss, and toothpaste all in one plastic thing made for exactly that. I had just gotten done brushing my teeth to go to bed, and we went to use the port-o-potties. Right when I was about to leave, I dropped the plastic thing on the floor, and my damn toothbrush flew out and landed bristles down on the floor of the port-o-potty. GROSS! Thank goodness for Cari's parents! I am sure that I could've bought another one at a Walgreens (perhaps when we got our garbage bags), but I was pretty surprised that they didn't have extras there for people with my kind of luck, or people who maybe forgot them! Ah well. It worked out alright. =)

Anyway, we only stopped to chat with Cari's parents briefly, and then we were back on our way. See?!

From the final cheering station each day, there isn't much of a distance to the camp, so we knew we only had a little bit left! It seemed like that was the longest part of the walk every day, though, and we felt like they were lying to us about the mileage! We could've definitely just been tired, though! ;-)

Here we are, back at camp on day two! Forty one miles down, 39 to go!

They had that same cute thing on day one, but we didn't notice it until after we put Cari's camera away! And, like I said, she really stepped up the picture taking on day two. =)

We had the same routine on day two as we had on day one, although this time, our tents were already assembled. It was great not to have to do that all over again!

Here's a picture of where we ate breakfast and dinner each day, on the inside. The food was the best on the first night, when we had overcooked spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread, and salad. The rest of the time, it was questionable. I loved the uncrustables at the pit stops, though.... Ate a lot of those!

So I've definitely mentioned the people who were dressed all crazy - the crew members. There were also "walker stalkers" who drove around or were randomly standing on the sidewalk on the route to encourage us. You've seen the angels, and you've seen the motivation medics.

Now, it's time for one of the sixty mile men.

Meet Mr. August!

We did, see?

Mr. August was at a pit stop earlier in the day with his sash, in a wonder woman costume. Here we are with him after dinner, and after our shower on day two.

What the 60 mile men are is a group of guys who have all posed for a calendar, which is the 60 mile men. The money raised by the calendar goes to fight breast cancer. All of the men (and there is quite the variety!!!!) posed nude or close to it in the calendar (don't worry, the most graphic thing you see are butt cheeks!) and many of them were there for the three day (they seem to go to almost all of them, either as walkers or crew members) wearing their sashes.

I would LOVE to say I knew someone in the calendar, so gentlemen, you better sign up!

You can check it out (and by that, I mean: buy a calendar or ten, sign up to be in it, or just learn more about these crazy men in general) at www.60milemen.org

I cannot stress enough how much I urge you to check out that website and support (JOIN!) those guys! You can also see a picture of Mr August in his wonder woman costume in Chicago! =)

I really hope to know one of the men in the calendar next year - and they could use some that are... well... younger. I want an autographed, personalized copy next year from someone I know! =)

Ok, back to the walk....

So, much like the first day, after napping and laying around and sleeping in the chairs an showering and eating dinner, the last walker arrived, and this time it was a group of ladies.

Also, this time, we had the camera ready. Here they are, approaching with the flag.

And here's the flag, flying high in the sky. Once again, it says "One Day Closer."

And, once again, I cried.

(Yeah, that's like the third or fourth time in two days. Won't be the last, either!)

It didn't help that they were blasting "Beautiful Day" by U2. U2 always makes me emotional (they play "where the streets have no name" when the MU Bball team is being announced, and that gets me too!).

Here's the food tent from the outside, at camp....

And here's a picture of all of the sponsor tents. There was also a three day gear store, where I bought a long sleeve shirt to wear to bed, so that I would sleep better and stay warmer.

The back of it says "We walk because we must. We are strong because the journey demands it. Together in body, and united in spirit, we lay down our footsteps for this generation and the next. This is our promise: a world without breast cancer."

Damn. The first time I read that on someone's back on the trail, I almost started crying, and once again, I just got goosebumps and misty eyes reading it now.

I was going to blame some of my crying on being over tired, and on the fact that I was surrounded by women, but I guess since it still gets me now that it's no excuse! Ah well. I guess I am reaching my crying quota for 2008 a little early (which, because of the crap with my mom, I probably surpassed in like April, anyway!). =P

The next picture is of the memorial area. On each side of the tent in the middle, you see small tents. Each of those has a pink ribbon on it that has the name of one of the cities in which the three day is held.

In the middle tent, there is another tent. They were playing soft music, and the tent was lit from the inside. People could sign that tent (the one inside the center tent) and write messages to people they'd known who had lost their battles to breast cancer. Hopefully, they are among the last!

On the walls of the larger tent, there were big framed photos hanging of women who had been walkers or crew members in the three day and who had passed away. It was quite touching.

Here's a closer up picture of the center tent.

On the campus, there was a nice little pond (which Cari, who seemed to have a decreasing IQ throughout the walk, called a Lake). Here is a picture of that. Just beyond it, you can see where they handed out towels (if you chose to have towel service for $12 instead of bringing your own and drying it out), as well as where the portable showers were.

About Cari's decreasing IQ....

First of all, I must mention that when we were at the opening ceremony, I was remarking to Cari that some of the women there had the skinniest legs I had ever seen in my life. I mentioned to her that those women must've walked their legs off in training. (It was funny at 530am! I know, far be it for me to make fun of someone, haha...)

Turns out, Cari was walking her brain away. Hopefully she's recovered.

And, before I tease Cari again, I must mention that I wasn't at the top of my mental game, either, when I was remarking that the tents are small.... They were 6.5' by 6.5'. I was mentioning that some people I knew wouldn't fit. I was right in some cases, like with Ous, who is 6'10", but I was a little off my Math game when I couldn't make the conversion in my head that made 6.5' = 6'6". Oops! But hey, it's Summer! I'll start thinking this Thursday, when I have to be back at school! ;-P

Another of my favorite of Cari's comments was when she described a tent that had tarps on it to guard it from the rain as "Tarped up."

That phrase is one that just doesn't get used as often as it should - it is so fun to say!

Speaking of tents, the way that the camp was organized was by rows of 100 tents. We were tent 33 in row G. They also gave us Hollywood street names, because the camp had a Hollywood theme.

So here's our street sign (G) - Sunset Boulevard!

I have NO idea why the N is backward.

And here is a big picture of the view of all of the tents. That's a lot of pink!

Many people decorated theirs. We weren't into that. We were into being lazy, as you can see in the picture of our tent below:

And since Cari was quite amused by my ALF sleeping bag, we got a closer up picture of that.

That bad boy has been going strong since 1987! I think, though, that at some point, I am going to have to invest in a real, adult sleeping bag. If I ever get to go camping again (which I really really want to do!), or for the three day next year (depending on where we do it), I am likely to want something a little warmer!

And, in case you were wondering about the shower situation, here they are:

Each semi truck had like 12 showers in it. Couldn't take pictures inside for obvious reasons. ;-P

As I am sure that you'd noted, things at camp were spread quite far apart. On the first day, when I was feeling particularly exhausted, I joked that they should count all of our walking around camp as part of our mileage!

We also were a little upset that the mileage seemed like it was going to be broken up evenly to almost exactly 20 miles a day - it was 22 the first and 19 the second.

We were worried that another 19 mile day would be a struggle on the third day.

Well, to our relief (and, to be honest, we were kinda upset to be possibly gypping people), they did count mileage around camp, and on the third day, we actually walked only 16.4 miles. On the route card, it said 15.4. That gave us a little false hope - haha!

Here's a picture of one of the dry-erase boards they had at all the pit stops that showed our mileage....

Much of the walk in Chicago was on Michigan Avenue (the magnificent mile!) through all of the shops. It was so hard for me not to shop, even though I am poor! I saw so many stores that I loved. I also discovered that my favorite jewelery designer (apart from LJ of www.histyledesign.com), Me & Ro, had a store downtown. Those are the designers that made the earrings that I always wore, and which symbol I got tattooed on my foot. I wanted to stop so badly, but didn't!

Another majority of our walk on the third day was along Lake Michigan, which was beautiful!

Here's Cari and I (I'm on the left, she's on the right) on the lake with our freeze pops. =)

Cari's parents weren't the only ones to come to the cheering stations. Although Sarah was a little before the actual cheering station location, it was still definitely great to see here! Here we are!

By the way, I would like to mention that throughout the whole walk, my biggest complaint was that I really wanted a hot dog. I think at this point in the journey, I was willing to kill a man for a hot dog. Ok, not really. But my desire was quite intense!

Also because of my orthotics (which, as we discovered when we were on quieter parts of the walk, apparently make squeaking sounds!), I got a couple blisters. They weren't that bad, though, thanks to the blister bandages Cari came prepared with! They are already gone, and even if they weren't, like one of the signs (and many people's pins) said: Blisters don't need chemo!

Speaking of signs, here's a picture Cari took on day three of the arrows we followed, and one of the signs that was put up by the Team California.

It said, "Show me.... THE CURE!"

A lot of them were modified movie quotes.

When we were a mile away at the last cheering station from the end, people told us that once we would get to holding, they were going to have us wait in a shadeless asphalt parking lot until the closing ceremony.

This did not sound appealing to us, so we thought we'd stay in that park and lay down for a while.

This did not work. We were so antsy that we couldn't handle people walking past us, and decided just to take our chances. Thank goodness we did!

Here we are, with our victory tshirts, in front of the Day Three billboard! We did it! Cari is on the left, and I am on the right, in my Mamalitia tshirt, of course! (I thought it was appropriate)!

The closing ceremony area was very similar to camp. Same sponsor tents. Same cheering at arrival. This time, though, we had victory shirts. White was for regular walkers, gray was for crew members, and pink was for survivors.

Once we got our shirts, we went and got foot massages from the machines in the La Croix tent.

Then, we laid down on a hill under a tree and took a nap, until Matt called Cari to tell us he had arrived.

Once we found him, we got our luggage and put it in his car. Then we sat back down on that hill for awhile. It was definitely a far cry from a shadeless parking lot, and was actually very nice!

Then my mom called, and we found her and Marv.

Of course we had to get a picture with Mamalicious, because she's the reason why the whole thing happened!

And, here's Matt (the Prince) and Cari...

After hanging out with them for awhile, the last walker came in, and it was time for the closing ceremony. They had all of us line up in rows of twelve, but with the survivors and crew separate.

Us regular non-survivor walkers went first. Pictures kinda struggle here because Matt was taking them, and he wasn't able to really get close - people had kinda camped out while we were meeting up and laying around. Next year, we'll be more ready for it though!

Here are people walking in with the flags.

During the entirety of the closing ceremony, there was a woman who gave a speech. I think she must've been related to Barbara Walters, or something, because that woman made me cry a lot, too! (And, looking around and talking to people afterward, I know I was not the only one!)

When all of the survivors came into the circle, everyone that was already there took off a shoe and held it in the air. It's hard to see, but here's a picture of that...

It was another one of those moments when I sat and thought about why I had done it all, and all of the people who must've had similar experiences to do it too.... And listening to the lady talk....

I can't describe it. I cried again then, and here I go getting wet eyes again now. Lawd!

Here is another shot of the survivor's circle, with the same flags as from the opening ceremony.

During the closing ceremony, they also had a person come onto the stage with a person they were related to that had survived each thing - for example, a walker with her father were on the stage with the "my father" flag, and so on.

Here's yet another shot of the closing ceremony.

Like I wrote, and as you can imagine, the closing ceremony was quite emotional.

It was here that we learned that there were 2,300 walkers total in Chicago alone, and that we 2,300 walkers raised over 6.1 million dollars to fight breast cancer.

As a team, Cari and I, with the support of the Mamalitia, raised $9,808.56.

Next year, I am definitely doing the three day again.

I would be lying if I didn't say that it was one of the most remarkable and memorable and profound experiences of my life. Definitely worth every step - training through the walk itself.

THANK YOU to everyone, once again, who donated - be it time or money.
THANK YOU to everyone, once again, who encouraged me - whether I know you personally, or you were a random crew member on the street!
THANK YOU to everyone, once again, who entertained me during my training - I needed it, and the training definitely helped!
THANK YOU to my mom, who helped me be so strong, made it through so strong, and gave me a reason to get involved with something that gave my life more purpose and more meaning than it had before. You're almost done, mom! I am ok with the late birthday present of you being done with radiation!
THANK YOU to all of my close friends, all of the friends who became closer because of this, and all of those who kinda got caught in the crossfire of me randomly crying about this while it was tough - sorry if I freaked you out for crying, but thank you for being there, giving me a shoulder, and supporting me when I did!
THANK YOU to Cari - I know I gave you all kinds of a hard time about suggesting this (especially when I found out that there are easier ways to support the fight against breast cancer, like a BREAST CANCER CRUISE!!!), but I hope you know how much it meant to me that you were willing to do all the training, all the fundraising, and all of the walking with me, for me, for my mom. So much!
THANK YOU to the Mamalitia - I will never forget how you helped, and how much support you gave me!
THANK YOU to everyone who couldn't help this year, but will be next year!

And finally, THANK YOU to those of you who will be walking with me next year. I don't know which city I'll be doing it in (seems like it might be a fun challenge to check out one of the other cities, especially since you would only need a hotel on days you're not walking and the last day!), but I know I will definitely be walking! So, who wants to be on my team? =)

All of you who I thanked, you have no idea what even the littlest ways you helped have meant to me. Things that seemed small to you, like sending me funny texts or emails to cheer me up, asking me how my mom was doing, or how I was doing, or giving me extra hugs, or extra long hugs... Those small things meant, and still mean, the world to me. And of course, those of you who did bigger things, like work for free, organize events, bring me foods that I crave (mostly cheeseburgers, pizza, ice cream and wine) and sitting with me and watching ridiculous movies to cheer me up.... I could list things forever. I will hold it all in my heart, and hold you all in my heart, for the rest of my life.

The fact that I have so many people to thank, and so many reasons for which I should be thanking them, means that I am honestly one of the luckiest people in the whole world. And for that, I thank you all.

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