Friday, September 28, 2012

a fabulous finish

day two of the avon walk found us groggy and sore as all hell in our pink tent.  we had a slightly later start time than the day before, but not by much.  although since we were already on-site and didn't have to deal with parking issues, we were able to push it and get as much sleep as we possibly could and still have time to grab something for breakfast.

i guess the program was slightly different than walks of years past - we were to take a bus that would deliver us to the starting point for the walk, which was at the santa barbara polo & racquet club.  from snippets of conversations i overheard over the weekend, the wellness village typically set up camp on the polo fields but had somehow booked an event for the weekend that conflicted with the walk.  d-oh.

after getting dressed, repacking our bags, rolling up the tent, and rushing through breakfast (i'm now addicted to plain nonfat yogurt with granola mixed into it.  never thought i'd see the day), we boarded one of the first buses.


it wasn't a very long ride, and then we were pulling into the entrance of the polo club.  the flyer we'd been given with details about the day's 13.1-mile route told us that william and kate were here during their visit to the states last summer.  rather fitting, since we're totally princesses, right?



and just like before, there were several tables set up with snacks and drinks for the walk.


since the buses were still rolling in, the teen and i decided to take advantage of the tented lounge areas and enjoy the gorgeous sunrise.



and then it was finally time to start walking.  the youth crew was in full effect at the start line this time around.


all of the cheerleaders and honking cars were back for the second day.


then as we went through one of the many residential areas along the way, there was a collective "oooooh" as we rounded a corner and found this.  apparently, the people who live on this street do this every year.  so nice.


although i'd told the teen that she could quit anytime she wanted to - she was horribly sore and all blistered up from the first 26 miles - she marched alongside me for quite a while.  but by the time we got to this mile marker, she was just plain over it.


luckily, there was a rest stop just beyond this point.  she was totally cool with me going on ahead while she caught a bus to the lunch stop at mile 10, and so we parted ways (temporarily).  and before i knew it, i was here.


somewhere past mile 8 we made a left turn onto a bike trail that was rather pretty, despite the fact that it went underneath the freeway.  it made for a nice change after walking on all that concrete.


almost there!


the teen texted me just before i reached mile 10.  she was enjoying some quiet time, sitting in the sun with her feet up.  i let her know that i was just a few steps away from her, and stopped for another dorky picture.


yay!



reunited, and it felt so goooood...


because she'd had a chance to rest up and get a li'l something in her belly, she decided to join me for the final three miles.  hey, why not?  at least we'd get to cross the finish line together.  i was thrilled to have her company again.  plus, this last stretch was the prettiest of the day.



final rest stop of the entire event.  whee!


in no time, we were here:


then here:


and finally, done!


it truly was one hell of an amazing weekend spent with my girl.  despite the physical discomfort of the walking and having to do it on limited sleep, it was completely worth it.  i don't know that we'll do it again anytime soon, but it's most definitely a cause we both feel strongly about.  we agreed that it felt a little odd to be there without a true personal connection - something we're both really grateful for - and at times felt a little like frauds as we read the handwritten notes others wore on bibs pinned to their shirts.  it was just so strange not to be there in honor of anyone in particular.

but you know, 39.3 miles of walking gives you a lot of time to think.  i thought about the many women (and a few men) who were receiving their breast cancer diagnosis every three minutes.  and i reflected upon the testimonies we'd heard during the opening ceremony just the day before.  i thought about how lucky we were not to be directly affected by this disease, and how much i hope we never will be.  plus, walking amongst the hundreds of women who have survived this deadly disease was just so incredibly inspiring.

and then i thought of how all those cookies we baked and decorated are helping to fund the important research that will hopefully, one day, lead to a cure.  it sounds so silly when you think about it, but it's pretty cool to know that every effort, big or small, actually does help.  what a wonderful thing it would be for me to know that my girls could grow up in a world where cancer is a thing of the past.  from the walkers over this weekend alone, over $4.7 million was raised - and this walk was just one of nine held across the country in 2012.

cancer sucks, man.  plain and simple.  it needs to crawl in a hole and die.  and maybe sometime soon, that's exactly what it'll do.  all we can do is hope.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

hello kitty hates cancer

the weekend of our avon walk came up really quickly for us.  seemed like we'd just signed up and worked like mad to raise the money, and all of a sudden final instructions and luggage tags and wristbands were in the mail.

in a last-minute stroke of craftiness, i decided that the teen and i needed cute matching backpacks to hold some essentials during the two long days of walking.  with a trip to michaels and joann's and the aid of two tutorials, i managed to turn a yard of fabric into exactly what i'd envisioned.



when i dropped the bean off at school on friday morning, i was super sad knowing that this would be the longest separation we'd ever had.  i've only spent a couple of quick overnight trips away from her, and i was all verklempt over it.  luckily, she seemed unfazed by it all (of course), gave me my hugs and kisses, and skipped happily to line up with her class.  i spent the rest of the morning packing and psyching myself up for the weekend, and when the teen got home we threw all of our crap in the car and headed off to santa barbara.

fess parker's doubletree resort was the host hotel.  technically, since we'd completed all four steps for early check-in and already had our tags in hand, we didn't need to show up to "event eve."  but because i wanted to experience as much of the weekend as we could, we stopped in to check it out.




the parking lot was already super crowded, jam-packed with cars and bikes obviously there for the same reason we were.


when the doors opened, there was lots of pink and cheering and squealing.  most definitely a women-oriented event.




we picked up a few things from the official event merchandise shop.



after a bit of shopping on state street and dinner at an irish pub with one of my cousins who went to UCSB and loved the area so much she stayed after graduation, we headed off to the best western for the night.  because it was a "plus" property, our room was really nice.


that wake-up call came mighty early...like before the asscrack of dawn early.  we got ready as quickly as humanly possible, packed up the car again, and headed over to the host hotel for overnight parking.  of course, they took advantage of the situation and i found myself down a whopping $40 for a spot to leave my car for a day and a half.  ask me if i'm bitter.

the shuttle bus to the start line was packed with chicks all decked out in their pinkest finery (okay, us included) who were waaaaay too friggin' chipper for 6am.  we most definitely were not quite ready for that much perkiness just yet.


the site of the start line and opening ceremony was a park with an ocean view.  giant columns signed by walkers all over the country were all lit up and people were queued up to leave their mark.  i sent the teen ahead to handle it for both of us.


we didn't even have to ask anyone to take our picture.  one look at our giant tutus and people were practically begging us for the honor.  too bad the one shot we actually got ended up super blurry.  oh, well.


the opening ceremony was really touching, with several walkers telling the stories of what brought them there.  it was sad and inspiring and beautiful, and we were both in tears as we listened.


the sunrise was gorgeous, which seemed like the perfect way to kick off the weekend.


we started our 26.2-mile journey right at 7:00.  spirits were high and the crowd was energetic and happy as the walk officially began.  and before we knew it, we were here:


there was no shortage of signage along the way, to help keep us on the route, provide some motivation, and keep everyone safe.  we never did figure out what this one meant, though.  heh.


this was one well-organized event.  there were gobs of volunteers and crew members, and there were rest stops every couple of miles or so.  each stop offered snacks, water and gatorade, port-o-potties (gross, but necessary), medical aid, and chairs.  oh, and i learned that lemon-lime and orange gatorade tastes pretty fantastic mixed together.  yup.






there were "sweep" vehicles that cruised up and down the route continuously, looking for walkers who were looking for a ride to the next rest stop.



although we ran into these chicks as we walked along:



we were really surprised not to see more tutus out there.  and we got quite a few comments on ours, from "i love your tutus!" to "did you make those yourselves?" (because i apparently don't look very crafty) and even a "you only wore those so we couldn't get past you, huh?"  yeah, there were a few bitches out there despite the overall upbeat tone of the event.  the teen even overheard one who snipped "i hate when people pass us" as we very politely walked ahead of her.  i guess a bit of cattiness is to be expected when you have a few thousand women all in one place.  we just smiled and soldiered on.



not having had breakfast, i was rather crestfallen at the sight of this sign at one of the rest stops:


as we made our way out onto state street, we were stoked to find a couple of old friends.  this place was super crowded:


but we knew from our shopping expedition the day before that our needs would be met just down the street.


oh, how i needed that coffee.  and it gave me the push i needed to keep on truckin'.


the decorations on the motorcycles and cars were really amusing.  there were groups of folks who'd cruise ahead of us, blaring loud music, honking and waving, park along the route and get out to cheer us on and hand out snacks.  there were bowls of lollipops, bags of chips, even trays of sugar-coated lemon slices.  it was really sweet and helped restore my faith in humanity somewhat.






we were so relieved to reach this mile marker, because it meant we were half done - i.e., we'd walked a half marathon.  it took us about four hours and fifteen minutes, including our starbucks run and visits to a few of the rest stops.


plus, it meant that it was finally time for this:



see how happy we were?  sorta.


inside our paper bags (pink, of course) were giant ham or turkey croissant sandwiches, a bag of sun chips, two oreos, and fruit.


but we still had a lot of walking ahead of us, so we ate quickly, refilled our water bottles, and headed off.  not far from our lunch spot was the santa barbara mission.


and this is where my cousin teaches some awesome barre-style fitness classes.  she'd invited us to join her 4:30 class the day before, but we ran out of time - and thought that maybe it might not be the best idea to start our weekend with sore asses and thighs.


BIG FAT LIE!


and a truth.


looks like someone misplaced a sign.


it was at this point that the fatigue started to hit me, and no amount of gatorade or goldfish was helping. it didn't help that the final six miles yielded some of the roughest hills of the entire course, which i thought was really freaking cruel, yo.


i am incredibly proud of this girl.  she'd done practically zero training for this thing, yet she marched ahead of me for the last few miles.  while she sucked it up and kept walking through the pain and exhaustion, i lumbered along behind her and gave those sweep vehicles longing looks as they drove past.


and by some miracle, we reached this at last.



you KNOW my ass was out of it simply from the lack of a photo at the finish line.  right?  i was out of energy, looked a hot mess, and didn't have the patience to stop and smile for the camera.  instead, i steered us right towards this tent for some well-deserved rest.


there were rows and rows of chairs lined with back and foot massagers.  why yes, i think i will.


when we'd sat there long enough to get some feeling back in our feet, we stumbled over towards the baggage claim area and picked up our totes and sleeping bags.  and the gods smiled down on us again as we located the space we'd been assigned for our tent in the first couple of rows.


and another stroke of luck - as we put our stuff down and started unrolling our tent with sagging shoulders, a "tent angel" happened to be walking by.  she asked if we'd walked the entire 26 miles, and after we nodded our heads and looked at her with droopy eyes, she took charge.  "i've been doing this for eight years, didn't walk at all today, and you don't need to be putting up your own tent."  amen, sister.  i couldn't decide whether to cry or hug her and instead ended up watching her snap that thing together in four minutes flat.



a little clowning around in the "wellness village."


i got one quick glance at this before the teen steered me away.  "NO," she said.  but but but...even with that cute shirt for free?  she wasn't having it.


two things that made me really happy as we grabbed dinner and found a table inside the dining tent:


the food was simple, but filling and good - grilled chicken and rice, pasta with meatballs, rolls and butter.  after we'd eaten our fill, we stretched out in the tent and took the best nap of my life.

this was one of three golf carts that served as the "shower taxi," bussing people to the other end of the campus for the shower trucks.


it was so good to wash away the dust and grime of the day and put on some fresh, comfy clothes.  we got our stuff ready for the next morning, got our sleeping bags just right, and stuffed our tutus into the bag covers for a makeshift pillow.  i'd picked up some glow sticks at the dollar store just for the occasion, and the teen cracked 'em all to get us some light.


we didn't need them for long, though.  knowing we had another early day and 13.1 more miles to cover, it was off to lala land even before lights-out at 10:00.

i'm tired just remembering how wiped out we were.
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