Walk On Baby!
WARNING: This post is long, but I promise I made it as brief as I could. It was just a lot to get into one post.
Quick Summary: We finished 26 miles (instead of 39) of the walk. (Blessing 1) Just one of the ways the weekend ended up working out a little different than I planned. But in most cases, it was different for the better. Lots a blessings to account for over the course of the weekend. Here are a few:
People warned me that it would be an emotional weekend. I imagined that they meant Opening/Closing Ceremony, but it was more than just the "ceremonies". It was women walking in honor and memory of their daughters, women walking with bandanas and hats to cover their baldness, men walking for their wives (some in memory of), daughters walking in memory of moms who had passed away only weeks earlier and just the feeling of unity that everyone was there for a single purpose. It was heart wrenching and sad. It was difficult and emotional. It was beautiful and wonderful. It was just as it should have been. (Blessing 2)
A few days prior to the walk, my back acted like it wanted to go out on me again, but after some talks with the Guy Upstairs, I woke up Friday morning without even a twinge of pain. (Blessing 3)
Upon finishing packing and getting ready, JM (my BFF) arrives and we head for the train station. We decided to go into DC to catch the train, rather than King St. Station. We are still unsure if this was a wise choice or not because when we walked into Union Station, a voice over head announced that all trains were sold out until 6 PM. We needed to leave by 2 PM. SO ON TO PLAN B- We walked around the corner to the bus station, which was surprisingly, nearly empty, and got two tickets to NYC for the 2 PM bus. (Blessing 4)
We took the last two seats that were together in the very last row (yes next to the bathroom, but it was not bad at all). JM and I talked, read, slept, worked, made calls, etc. While the bus mainly sat still in I95 traffic. Here's the deal: it was raining and a holiday weekend and a Friday afternoon, all recipes for sitting in traffic on I95. Six hours later (should have been 3 1/2 hours) we arrive at the NYC bus station. Kudos to the driver who actually did a great job bypassing a lot of traffic with back roads. None the less, I needed to be at the hotel to check in for the walk by 8, about the time we were waiting for a cab. We make it to the hotel around 8:45. There was one computer still up and working, they got me checked in, I got my packet and we were off to meet our hosts for the weekend. (Blessing 5)
We hopped back into a cab and made our way to The Guys apartment. "The Guys" is how I will kindly refer to the four thoughtful young gentlemen who let us stay with them this weekend, even though they did not know me at all and only knew JM through her Sis. There hospitality saved us a ton of money in hotel costs. (Blessing 6) We met up with one of The Guys, we will call him Tennessee T. He was so sweet by helping us into the building and then took us across the street to a pub where we finally got to eat dinner. We had not eaten since noon and we were starving. SIDENOTE: I could not help but notice their apartment over looked Ground Zero. I knew that I could only handle one emotional event at a time. So I pushed that out of my head and concentrated on the reason I was there. I proceeded to make the shirts I would wear for the walk and went to bed.
We woke very early the next morning and hopped a cab to Opening Ceremony. We had breakfast, did some stretching, listened to the speakers and I choked by the tears (first time of many this weekend). Then the walk began. JM said, "I will just walk with you until they kick me off the route." (Blessing 7) They never kicked her off the route, nor did she leave my side. Clad only in jeans, a jacket and old sneakers, she braved the misting rain, cold wind and crowds right beside me. What a trooper! The first mile was tough. So many people, narrow sidewalks, stop lights, traffic, that first stop-n-go mile alone took an hour. But once we got on the Hudson River bank, we were home free. My back was feeling quite bad again when I woke that morning, so I was walking slow and stopping frequently to stretch. It was not fun having everyone pass us, but I just kept reminding myself that this was not a race (first of all) and those ladies whose names were on my shirt (plus many others) endured much more pain than I was going through at that time. So, I pressed on. JM was again a trooper and never once complained.
A few hours into it though, the pain subsided enough that I was able to move a little faster. On the flip side, the shoes were perfect, feet felt great, not rubbing, no blisters, that part was going better than I could have ever hoped for. (Blessing 8)
Fast forward to mile 13, I was feeling tired and my feet were beginning to burn. JM was not in her best shoes and we feeling it too. We decided that if we were going to walk at all on Day 2 we needed to not go 26 miles on Day 1. So we called it quits and got on the bus headed for the wellness village. She helped me set up my tent and then went on her way back to The Guys apartment. I got a hot shower in the portable showers, that was very different, but got the job done.
Next, I took an appointment with a chiropractor, just to give me a good stretch. After which I did some yoga, had a lovely dinner and was in my tent asleep by 5:30 pm. I did not wake until 4:50 am the next morning. (I might have been a little tired, ya think?) Amazingly, I was able to get that much needed sleep even with all the noise around me and with the sun still in the sky. (Blessing 9)
Day 2 took us through different parts of the city. Places in Manhattan (Chinatown, Little Vietnam) I had never been, then over the Manhattan Bridge. (Blessing 10) We had lunch in Brooklyn at a park under the bridge, walked through a sweet little neighborhood, then over the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan, finally arriving back at Pier 17 where we started. All along the way, same as Day 1, their were cheering stations with some strangers, some crew, some friends/family of other walkers, some locals, all their cheering us on . It felt great and awkward at the same time.
I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of the finish line because I was so tired and my body was just relieved to be done, that I could not get the camera out. Those last few miles were brutal. I must admit, I almost gave up. I was very slow, but made it to the finish line. (Blessing 11)
And the finish was the best. It was the most touching of all. The welcome from strangers, friends of other walkers, the familiar faces of the crew, the hug from my "cow-boy" who cheered us all on the walk, a woman with a bandana on her head holding a sign that read, "Thanks for walking for me", I could not contain the tears any longer.
We got a shower at The Guys apartment and took the train back to DC. Once there, we were welcomed with open arms of D and the kids, bearing lovely gifts in the form of handmade "I am proud of you Mom" cards. (Blessing 12) Crying yet again, I ended the chapter of my Avon Walk Weekend with great appreciation to all those who supported me along the way, and thus supported all those who benefit from Avon as well, THANK YOU!!!