39.3 Miles of Love

[Friday] Mike dropped me & Saundra off at our Union Square hotel.  We carbed-up on super yummy pasta and went to bed somewhat early.

[Saturday] Our 4am wake-up call got us up (actually we were already awake thanks to an unruly car alarm near our window), we quickly showered, and hustled down to catch the shuttle bus which took us to Golden Gate Park, our starting point.  4:45am and on the bus!

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We arrived at 5am, had a little breakfast, and a chance to sign the San Francisco section of this huge inflatable tower that stated all of the walk locations for the year.   We cheered at the opening ceremony and then hit the road.  Here’s what we wrote on the tower:

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It’s 6am and I’m trying to stay warm.

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And we’re off!!  26.2 miles (f)or bust!  3,000 women in pink.  Ha, ha, except Saundra because she forgot to pack pink clothes so she borrowed a tee for the next day.

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The cheering fans were instrumental the entire weekend and their energy gave us a little push each time.  Here’s Kate & Nicole, my fantastic friends who I met recently by photographing their wedding.  They were cheering early in the morning at Park Presidio and it was tremendously exciting to see a sign with my name on it and to see some familiar faces. (And they returned the next day near the end of the route, with signs, smiles and shoulder rubs as we walked!  It gave us a big boost.)

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Check out their awesome signs!

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We walked through west SF making our way towards the GG bridge.  We crossed the bridge, down into Sausalito where we met up with Mike and my in-laws.  We took a few minutes to say hello, snap some photos, give some hugs and then we moved on.

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I was so caught up with the commotion in Sausalito, that I completely forgot (until hours later when it was too late) to look for some new friends with a booth for Young Survival Coalition, an organization that was instrumental to me through the treatments.  They had signs for me and Saundra and I still feel bad we walked right by them completely oblivious.

A couple miles down the road, we had another small fan base cheering for us, my dad and Candace.  More photos, hugs and Candace gave me a beautiful gardenia which I carried for several hours, all the way until we crossed the GG bridge again where we ceremoniously tossed it over the railing saying a few prayers.

After seeing my dad, we continued on the bike path along 101 towards Mill Valley where at mile 16 Mike and my in-laws were waiting for us for a second glance and my friends Kristen & Carolyn were there too!  Whole Foods generously doled out brownies & lemonade for us!

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We drank alot of fluids, utilizing nearly every rest stop for potty-breaks and took a couple minutes to regroup each time.  All of this really helped us feel strong and we were weathering well, although the fatigue & boredom was definitely starting to set in near mile 18 so we started up with some silly alphabet games to help pass the time. A-Z: Places we want to visit.

Mike was our welcomed follower and he surprised us one last time just before mile 22.

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Here we are at mile 22, above Sausalito, making our way back towards the GG Bridge.

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Great views were everywhere on the walk.

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Our walking feet as we cross back over the GG Bridge.

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The end was near with just .2 miles to go!

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We rolled into Crissy Field at 5:30pm, feeling very glad to finally be done for the day!  First order of business was finding our gear and a “tent angel” whose only job is to help setup the tents for the tired walkers.   Once the tent was up I marked it with our makeshift identifying flag since it looked exactly like the other 750+ blue tents around us.  Our showers were in huge semi trucks specially outfitted with shower stalls.  We chowed down on some pasta and salad in a giant tent and listened to some speakers including special guest Suze Orman who answered questions via open mic.  I wish I could have thought of something to ask, but by then I could barely mumble my name I was so tired.  After dinner, Saundra went to one of the specialty tents which offered massages and I went back to the tent; at least that was the idea.  Basically, I wandered for a good 15 minutes unable to find it.  The sun was setting, it was insanely cold and windy, I was reaching critical meltdown, and finally burst into tears like a little 8 year old lost in the mall.  I just wanted my tent.  I phoned Saundra and she quickly came to my rescue, put her arm around me and found our tent.  The winds ripped off our rain fly twice; which in all seriousness, we actually needed because it started sprinkling a little; not heavy fog, but actual rain clouds were over us!  In July?!  Seriously!?!  The wind pummeled our tent as if we were high up on Mt. Everest.  It was crazy!  The sides of the tents billowed inwards pushing up against us, but thankfully our borrowed subzero-rated sleeping bags kept us mega toasty all night.  Here’s “tent city” with a beautiful sunset.

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[Sunday] Day two started around 6:30, with a quick wash-up, a good hot breakfast, breaking down our camp and hitting the road at 8am.  13.1 miles today.  I’m leaving out an infinite amount of details, but I do want to emphasize again that the organized volunteers and the spontaneous cheer stations were instrumental in the entire event!  Including 20 San Jose biking police officers who volunteer every year.  They were amazing, funny, concerned and with us continually throughout the day; making jokes, blasting music from boom-boxes and always checking in with our well being.  They were always a great source of entertainment!  Here is the officer who started volunteering years ago in memory of his mother and now rallies nearly 20 cops each year to join him.

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Here was our “police escort” for the first few minutes of day two.  Their music and antics really helped us get motivated for another long day!  They look so innocent until I’d notice their big ‘ol gun on their hip and realize, “Oh yea – they are the real deal! Good thing they are on our side!”

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Here we are at mile 3.  I had missed Mike’s text and wasn’t expecting him so soon, but it’s good because he really captured us so candidly.  I was struggling to ramp up and it shows all over my face.  Not far after that, I popped some Ibuprofen, ate a cookie and then smiled most of the day.

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He took this shot seconds before I realized it was him behind the camera.  What a guy!!  It sure lifted my spirits to see him (of course we don’t have that picture, where I’m beaming ear to ear).

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Once again supporters lined the sidewalks and streets the entire time – it was amazing!  We walked by two separate Project Open Hand locations; an organization that makes meals for ailing people; including 300 local breast cancer patients.  The Avon walk, and your donations helps fund that program and they had banners thanking us.  It was really touching.

And big kudos to the companies that randomly plunked down on a sidewalk and started handing out free goods; my favorite and most desperately needed at the time was Honest Tea; they handed out hundreds upon hundreds of full-size bottles.  It was just what I wanted (and what I was whining for).

The enthusiasm for photo moments really dwindled towards the end because we were on a mission to get to the finish line as quick as we could.  We even blew through the lunch rest stop, eating our sandwiches while we walked.  We both knew that if we sat down, we would stiffen up like the Tin Man and it would be bad to try to get going again.

There were at least half a dozen rescue vans driving by all the time picking up wayward walkers who couldn’t continue.  They made it fun by decorating the vans with different themes, dressing up in costumes, blasting music and just being crazy!  This is a bad shot, but it gives you a glimpse of what they were like.

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Towards the end we started getting seriously rummy.  While we were waiting to cross a street, Saundra started a sentence and then kind of trailed off without finishing it, but I knew what she was trying to say, so I said, “That’s ok, you don’t have to finish your sentence, I got your point.”  We laughed!  She was too tired to structure a sentence and I was too tired to listen.

And here’s the finish line!!  It was emotional and I tried to keep it together, in all honesty for the photos.  What can I say, I’m a photographer, and I knew Mike was somewhere close with my big telephoto lens.

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Mike was at the finish line along with Saundra’s hubby Scott, their daughter Madi and our good friend Karen, who sent us inspirational texts for two days straight and brought some bubbly to celebrate.

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It was a proud, proud weekend and I’m so grateful to the thousands who made it possible!  Over 6 million dollars was raised for the SF walk alone, money that will go to women with breast cancer, women who do not have health insurance.  And we did it together; as a team!  All of the names on my scarf helped fund my dream to walk, helped women without the means that I’m so fortunate to have and I’m just so thankful for the experience!

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3 Responses to “39.3 Miles of Love”

  1. shell Says:

    I’m so proud of you two!! I am wiping tears as I read about the walk and your experience.
    Its an interesting flood of thoughts and emotions as I go in tomorrow for an ultrasound requested by my radiologist after having my first Mamogram last week. As much as I thought about you and others and knew I “wanted” an ultra sound “just to cover the bases”. Having it requested for my left breast has made me really feel like I don’t want to join that “pink” club! I’m trying to not “worry”. At least its happening tomorrow and at my sisters insistance I told them I wanted both my breasts looked at with ultrasound.
    I was told the Doc will talk to me right after the u/s. So I don’t have to wait. So for right now I’m trying to not throw up with anxiety.
    I knew you would understand the “what ifs”.
    Much love!!!

  2. Kate Says:

    Champions. With super tight quads. Fabulous.
    XOX
    Kate

  3. Melba Newman Says:

    Wow! Thanks for all your sharing. I am so proud of you and your share makes us feel like we are walking with you! I has foot surgery so I really wish I was walking with you.
    melba

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