We got to check in, ten after eight. I was supposed to be there by eight. One computer was still working, I made it. No goodie bags, it’s okay. Drove to Breckenridge. Found the condo. Nice place, and it was free, donated by a students’ mother. Took a shower, ready for bed. One beer won’t hurt. Set the alarm 4:45.
Got up. Left for Keystone. Dropped off my bag, assured it would be taken care of and waiting for me at the campsite. We parked the car and headed for the opening ceremony. Mom was amazed by all of the people, the people in pink ready to walk half the day or all day. We were doing it for people like her. She cried, I hugged her. Then she spilled her coffee down the front of her white shirt. Some lady was up on the stage. Pink. In front of a very large screen, leading us in a warm up. Not quite awake, we did it anyway. We listened to inspirational speeches and cried some more. Every three minutes. That’s how often someone is told they have breast cancer. Every three minutes someone involved in the walk would get a banner to wear stating just that. Every three minutes. Then we were off and walking. One big mass of pink people, mostly women, some men.
One mile. I held back tears the first mile. Then the first pit stop, filled up my water bottle and gave the empty to a man with no bottle. Potty time. The lines were long for the port-a-pots. It must have been a half an hour. I stood behind a girl with long blonde French braids and stared at her white scalp. Surely that would burn. Burnt scalps suck, especially when they peel. So, I asked if there was sun block there, down that perfect part of blondeness. Oh, yes, Mom had applied gobs this morning. Was I walking alone? So was she. I agreed to walk with her, if I could keep up. We went to the bathroom with 400 people. We decided it would be faster if we just didn’t lock our doors. Then went on our way to join the walk with the other 1100.
We talked about jobs, life, families, who we were walking for, everyone was walking for someone, it said so on the signs we pinned to our backs, moms, aunts, grandmas, I walked for my mom and you and me. The line of walkers was long and impressive. And pink. I wonder how many miles we stretched. We were cheered on by cars driving by, bikers, people on balconies, a cow and his milk maid, gruff men with motorcycles in pink furry hats and feather boas and random people along the way. The crew on bikes checked on us, and cheered us on as well. Cars had clever saying painted on their windows, teams had cleverer names. We stayed together until lunch, sat together. I left my backpack with her while I got mole skin for my blisters. I never heard of mole skin before this weekend, but I will always remember it fondly. My bag was still with her when I returned.
We walked together the remainder of the first 13.1. We bitched about the biker on the road who wanted us to walk next to traffic, so he could ride on the right. We came up with more creative words of encouragement. Instead of “Good Job” they could have said, “Go Boobies” or “Cancer Sucks”. She slowed down with me on the uphills. She told me I was doing good, she had had her doubts that I would be able to keep up. She took a picture of me on her phone at the 12 mile mark, so I could send it to myself. I never did. We wondered who marked to last .1 mile, because it took ten minutes to walk it. But we did it, we made it to camp. If we wanted to walk another 13.1 the first day we had to get medical clearance. I was proud to have finished the 13.1. She went on to do the next 13.1, I found out the next day. We were supposed to meet at dinner.
I waited an hour and a half for the chiropractor to break my body in many places, I found out the next day it was well worth it. I got a tent and my bag. Did I have a tent mate? I didn’t know. I took a shower in a truck, best shower I ever I had. I walked 13.1 miles and raised 1800 dollars to take a shower in a truck. I got my blisters taken care of. I ate hot food, and everything but the meatballs and butter container were compostable, so I ate the meatballs, but not the butter container. I said bye to Mom, and went to my tent. I heard one girl, talking to her tent mate, say she was going to get a massage, how much do you think it is. I shouted without even sticking my head out, “It’s totally free!” she was excited. I wrote and drew (It’s going to be a good painting). I brushed my teeth and took out my contacts at the truck with the showers in it, it also had sinks. I sent Angelo a text message- Get me a bottle of wine for tomorrow, please. Then another-Call me when you are done with dinner. He did. Thought about going for seconds of dinner, and fell asleep with my headphones in.
I woke up at 11:35, no tent mate, and went to the port-a-pots across the field. There were glow sticks attached to tents and the handles of the toilet doors. But I had a flashlight anyway. I went back to my tent, no tent mate. It was colder now, so I put on pants and a sweatshirt and curled up in the sleeping bag, listening to the people around me sawing logs. All the different types of saws. It was really cold when I awoke around three. I couldn’t get back to sleep. At 4:45 I got up. Every three minutes. There were banners outside of tents, in shoes left out in the night, almost every other tent had one. Breakfast began at 5:30. I trudged to the shower truck and did my routine. Trudged back to my tent and packed everything up. Breakfast, not as good as dinner, but there was coffee. Every three minutes. I got my banner as I got breakfast. We sat in the sun and stretched. It felt good. At 7:30 we were off and walking again.
I walked and walked, by myself mainly today. I talked to people, and was cheered on by the guys gruff with their pink furry hats and feather boas and motorcycles, the cow, his milk maid, kids of walkers, spouses, crew members on bicycles, random people on bicycles and people in cars. They thanked us for walking and encouraged us with all the positive words they had. Just like the day before. At Rest Stop 1 someone said, “Hi stranger”, and it was the girl from the day before. I gave her a hug. Potty. Food. Water. Blisters. I told her to go on without me, she said she’d see me at the next stop.
I saw mom along the trail cheering us on. She walked with me for a bit. I said I couldn’t stop. Meet me at lunch. I met the cow once again. He said to reapply sun block every two hours. He’d had good advice or a back massager every time I saw him. I told his milk maid they were the best cheerleaders, she told me we were the best walkers. Lunch was served by angels, and it was good. Five more miles.
On the way I listened to conversations. One group was going on a picnic and bringing apples, bings, cherries, I don’t remember the rest, but I thought why bings and not beer? One lady was telling a scandalous story about a man being caught in bed by Patti, he was with Sandy, and Patti knew. It was her dad. One group was telling another about the hotel they stayed in and the bar they went to the night before. One lady had a great idea to wear margarita hats next year so the person in back of her would be chasing it the entire way. The cow ran up to me and said I still had to climb up the top of the mountain before I was at the wellness village. I knew better, he told me the truth, a mile and a half. A girl on a bike, one of the crew told us, “go strong wonderful women”. I was almost there. The girl on the bike rode by announcing, under a bridge then up a hill. There were so many people there to cheer us in. I was looking for my mom. I got hugs and high fives from strangers. I did it. I saw my mom and she gave me a hug. There was ice cream, another t-shirt, registration for next year’s walk and I signed up. I got twenty dollars off for signing up there.
We went back to the condo. Packed. Showered. Back to the closing ceremony. Mom talked to everyone. She had been all weekend. She told them she was a survivor and thanked them for walking. She felt bad because she couldn’t walk, bum ankle, bum knee. We walked into the ceremony together, all the walkers, then survivor walkers, crew, volunteers, medic, etc. We cheered each other on. We thanked the sponsors. We heard more stories from survivors and families of survivors, projected on the big screen. We listened to the numbers, we raised over 3 million dollars, and where it was going. Every three minutes. 750 banners were given out over two days. We raised our hands and joined them together. More tears were shed. And we went home.
I never saw my walking partner again. I never even asked her name, she never asked mine, I guess it really wasn’t important. She still has a picture of me on her phone.
I drove home. What a long day, but it felt good. I stopped in Fredrick for gas and the bathroom. Every three minutes. I still had my ribbon on.
When I got home there was a bottle of wine for me. I was happy to be home, but excited to go back next year.