This is where I will attempt to recap the 3-Day. But I already know I will do a poor job, because there's so much to tell, so many amazing moments and stories to tell, and I just can't capture them all.
Thursday, October 19th:
Mom and I drove down to Atlanta the night before, and thanks to Google Maps, we got incredibly lost! Who is more at fault: Google Maps or the crappy layout of Atlanta? I nominate both. We stayed in a cheap motel - it smelled like sin! But we were exhausted and just went to bed.
Friday, October 20th:
"I'm going to have to keep track of how many times I cry this weekend."
Mom dropped me off early and wished me luck. I think she may not have understood the full scope of the walk until she saw the thousands of people at the Opening Ceremonies, all awake and ready to submit themselves to 60 miles of torture for a really good cause. I met up with E,ily, my tentmate, and Opening Ceremonies began with a round of JAZZERCISE - I shit you not. It did warm us up and make us laugh. My favorite part was the sign language interpreter, who went the extra mile and signed out "Now, let's warm up those legs!"
After a very moving ceremony (Emily and I both cried), we were off! To start, you walk through an aisle in the middle of the group of walkers waiting. As you pass them, everyone cheers you on and wishes you luck.
Many streets were closed off, and there was a traffic crew and many cops out to make sure we got across the street safely. We joked that there were lots of Atlanta commuters on their cell phones, saying "I'm sorry, boss but I'll be late today. There's all these women walking in the street and there's just no end in sight!"
The first day's route seemed to be entirely uphill. Some of the hills were so steep that I wondered how a car could make it up to the top, let alone us.
Somehow, we made it through the first day's walk of 20 miles. I called some people up and told them "wow, I hurt! I hope the next day isn't hard." Which was, in hindsight, an incredibly dumb thing to say.
We had to set up our tent when we got back. Emily did a great job and I, having no clue what to do, stood back in awe. We got cleaned up and ate dinner quickly, and were in our sleeping bags by 8 pm. That night, the temperature got down to the freezing mark. Emily found out that going to the bathroom at 2 am in a port-a-potty in freezing temperature sure does suck. I found out that it sucks at 6 am as well. We also had someone in the next tent over who snored like a chainsaw. Needless to say, we did not sleep well on the first night. Did I mention I had never camped before? I now know there was a reason.
Saturday, October 21st:
"This is so much harder than I ever thought it would be."
I woke up frozen and sore and cranky. Luckily, the weather was clear.
The second day was not nearly as hilly, but it did have a lot of walking on the highway shoulder. At times, we had to walk in single file because there was not enough room for everyone. I felt absolutely miserable on the second day, and got very worried around mile 12 that I would not be able to finish. Luckily, I had Emily cheering me on and an incredible crew supporting us.
There were also lots of cheering stations set up for family, friends and the community to come out and support us - some even wore costumes. Even though I did not know any of these people personally, they cheered me on and it really (really) helped me through.
At the end of the day when we returned to camp, I was limping but proud to finish. We heard the volunteers talking about rain that night. All I wanted to do was go immediately to the medical tent and get my feet wrapped. I knew I had blisters, and my arches were killing me. Unfortunately, they told me I had to eat and shower first - and I started to cry. Instead, Emily and I got cleaned up, ate dinner, dropped by the foot massage tent (OH MY LORD this was the best thing about the 3 Day), dropped by the self-help medical area, and went to bed. Emily brought a "tarp" for us - a shower curtain. We stretched it as far as it would go over the tent, and hoped for the best. That night, it rained but barely any got inside the tent. We had bundled up and were nice and warm, but it was hard to sleep with the sound of the rain on the tent.
Sunday, October 22nd
"Today, we're going home."
We woke up in PAIN! Hard ground, bad sleep, wet tent and 40 miles behind us equalled a very sore morning. But we kept reminding ourselves that TODAY was the last day, TODAY we would finish, TONIGHT we would be in our beds, warm and having used a real toilet with a flush. Emily and I got separated in the morning - I realized I had packed my credentials by mistake, and had to get temporary ones - but we met up at the first pit stop. We were so determined to get through today that we started walking FAST. We walked through the pain and cold, wet weather and kept thinking about home.
We weren't the only ones with energy - some women broke into the Electric Slide during a pit stop.
We overcame our pain and cranked through the last miles. When we finally saw the finish line, we started crying. Finishing the 3 Day is an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment, happiness, excitement and peace. And hundreds of people cheer you through the finish. Emily and I started the 3 Day together, and finished it side-by-side. We would have taken a picture of the finish, but we were too overcome with emotion to stop. Nothing was going to stop us from walking over that finish line.
As soon as you finish, you are given a finisher's t-shirt - blue for walkers, pink for walkers who are survivors. Then, you enjoy the holding area - you can eat, use the port-a-potty, and re-visit the foot massage booth (which we totally did). Emily made me an awesome sign thanking me for walking with her. I started to make a sign but was so tired I actually had trouble writing a straight line on the paper. We also met up with Adele, another Charlotte walker who was so fast, she finished hours before us and had a few margaritas in her already.
Then, it was time for closing ceremonies. All of the walkers (blue shirts) line up on one side of the park, and the survivors (pink shirts) line up behind us. As survivors were asked to line up separately, the walkers and crew cheered them on.
Slowly, we moved to the closing ceremonies - held in Piedmont Park, Atlanta. We walked in a line 8-people wide, passing family and friends on the way. In fact, that's when I saw Erik, Becky and Lee (dressed as Santa Claus!!!). Even though I was hurting, I ran up to them and gave them a big hug. (Then I immediately regretted my decision to run, because it really, really hurt).
Suddenly, we weren't walking down a narrow path. We were walking into a huge area of the park, with THOUSANDS of people cheering for us! There was the crew, who worked so hard and did so much. There were the people who came to the cheering stations, dressed up and giving us candy. There were so many people, all thanking us for what we did and calling us their heroes. Once we walked to the main section, the crew followed us in. They got a TON of applause from us, and they deserved every bit.
After the crew came in, we were reminded of the reason we walked. The survivors walked in to a standing ovation. To honor them, all of the walkers raised their walking shoes in silent salute.
Can you see us all crying?
After that, we went home. Emily and I told 3-day stories to Erik, Becky and Lee. I eventually fell asleep in the car - I was too exhausted to keep talking.
If I had not broken the camera at the 3-Day, I'd take a picture of my gorgeous feet! I have skin missing from the top of the left foot, raw skin on both of my pinky toes from bad blisters, a big flap of skin hanging off of my left big toe, and shin splints. Luckily, I am not limping nearly as much as I was on Sunday night/Monday morning.
Next up: Wedding is in 10 days!