11/25/2008

First of all – thank you to each and every one of you reading this that made my participation in the San Diego 3 Day a reality. I knew this event was special from the beginning but it far surpassed my expectations in many ways. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Thursday –
Thursday morning found me heading straight to the airport from work to catch my flight. By the time I landed in San Diego I had been up for 26+ hours and I was already a bit loopy. I met up with Dennis, T ath and our 3rd teammate Barbara and we made our way to our hotel. Dinner was at the California Pizza Kitchen in Solana Beach and back to the hotel for bed. Our wake up call was at 3:45am and by now I’d been up for over 32 hours. Time for some sleep!

Day One –
As I waited for Opening Ceremonies to begin I looked around at the 4400 walkers and found myself in tears. Some faces I recognized, some I did not, but I knew how hard each of them had worked to get there that morning and I knew how important it was to each of them as well. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own journey to San Diego and the kindness and generosity of so many that helped me when I didn’t know where else to turn. The tears started even as the happy music played and you know what? I was okay with that.

The most difficult portion of the weekend for me was the first two miles out of Opening. I was being stubborn – hopeful – or probably just in denial as to how badly my hamstring was actually injured. Because of that I started Friday without wrapping my leg. Not so smart. I did learn my lesson though and kept it wrapped and well supported from that point on. It wasn’t perfect but it was a heck of a lot better than those first two miles!

Friday’s route was incredible. We started out along the coastline in Del Mar and enjoyed views of the water, beach, surfers and even 3 or 4 porpoises that decided to swim along with us on our way to the bottom of the Torey Pines hill. We enjoyed the incredible coastline leading into LaJolla and enjoyed our lunch just steps from the beach. I will admit to ogling a few surfers on the boardwalk – that is, until I realized that my sunglasses were very light and they could see me staring! Oops!

After lunch we continued our journey to our camp at Mission Beach. The support along the way was beyond incredible. Some “old” favorites like Smile Guy and Little Grin, the “Streetwalkers,” Bustin Out Billy and more came out once again to cheer, wave and make us smile. I did discover that the San Diego supporters are a bit different than those in Seattle. It’s the first time I’ve been offered (and accepted) a shot of tequila complete with a lime along the route. I was okay with that! 

After 20.1 miles we entered camp and found our tent. Dennis already had it set up and was waiting for us. A fantastic shower and dinner later and T ath headed to bed. I spent some time exploring camp and was honored to sign a rocking chair that the Girl Scouts plan to donate to a local cancer patient. I loved that idea! I finally crawled into bed for some much needed sleep.

Day Two –
I woke up feeling outstanding. Woohoo! The sun rose while we ate our breakfast and revealed our beautiful pink camp shrouded in fog. The fog would persist through much of the morning but it made for some very kind walking weather. Not too hot, not too cold.

One of my personal goals for this walk was to talk to as many people, hear as many stories as I could. Saturday’s 19.6 miles provided many opportunities for just that. One team caught my eye, “I Hope You Dance” and I wanted to know more. Turns out that this family had lost their Mom at the young age of 35. Her picture was so full of life as they carried it on their shirts. Three beautiful daughters and her hubby honored her this weekend and they were truly beautiful. Another walker had flown in from Illinois with four friends to honor a friends Mom. The gal I was talking to was the only one still walking as the others had suffered various injuries on Friday. She was so determined to walk. She was taking it one step at a time – literally. I don’t know if she ended up walking the entire route but I know the steps she did take came straight from her heart.

Day Two also brought the largest Cheering Station I’ve ever seen. It stretched on and on and on. Candy, stickers, bubbles, Red Bull, mints, Diet Coke, more candy, pink pom poms, dogs with wings, the Pink Panther…the list just goes on and on. It was here that I met T ath’s friend that had traveled from LA to cheer us on. It was worth the time spent talking to her, her boyfriend and his daughter. This daughter had lost her Mom to breast cancer about three years ago and being at this Cheering Station was very, very emotional for her. She’s only 13 and she is still learning to live with her Mom’s loss. What a horrible lesson to have to learn at such a tender age. Her story will stay with me for a very long time.

At Lunch we were entertained by the UC Davis Marching Band…really! The afternoon brought more supporters out to cheer us on. I enjoyed warm cookies fresh from the oven, homemade mint fudge, red wine with olives and cheese, freshly caught BBQ tuna, a margarita AND a rum and coke on our way to camp. Did I mention I LOVE San Diego?

Back at camp we enjoyed another wonderful shower and dinner. T ath headed to bed but once again I found myself too restless to lay down. I still had things to do. I checked the camp mail and found a note from the Michigan Kindred Spirits which made me smile. I wandered over near the Medical Tent where I found a DJ spinning a dance party! I only got to enjoy three songs but it was way fun!

My last stop for the night was at the Remembrance Tent. All through the weekend I carried the names of too many angels that had lost their battle to cancer. In the Remembrance Tent I carefully wrote each of their names to honor their lives and the ones they left behind that miss them so desperately. When I was done I stepped outside to take some photos of this very special place set up on a hill overlooking camp, almost as if those angels were camp guardians.

Day Three –
I’m not a morning person. That isn’t exactly a secret. Unfortunately someone a couple of rows over didn’t get the memo and decided that 4 am was a good time to deflate their air mattress with a battery operated pump. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with their decision but you’d be proud to know I didn’t track them down and kill them. Kindness was the rule for the weekend after all!

Today’s route wandered along Mission Bay and then headed up to Old Town. “Up” being the operative word. With the energy I had come to expect from these San Diego folks the entire path along the big hill in Old Town was lined with supporters cheering us on. Once again there were pom poms, signs, candy, water misters, horns honking, music playing, people clapping – all in an effort to get us up that hill. My hamstring made sure that I took 4” steps the entire way up so I was lucky enough to really get to enjoy all that support! At the top I stopped to have a picture taken – and I’m actually smiling in it!

Lunch came quickly it seemed – probably because I had sampled every olive, every chip with salsa, every treat offered along the way getting there and I wasn’t all that hungry. I did appreciate the opportunity to ice down my hamstring before tackling the final few miles though.

The end of our 14.3 mile day came after we walked through Balboa Park and enjoyed the beautiful songs of a children’s choir that had come out to support us. Because I had a plane to catch I didn’t stay for Closing Ceremonies but I did find out that we raised $11.2 million in San Diego!! Wow. I’m humbled to have been part of that effort.

T ath, Dennis and I headed back to Old Town for a celebratory dinner and margarita and discovered that we weren’t the only ones with that idea. Several other walkers and their families were also enjoying their dinner at the restaurant. We also had several restaurant patrons stop and thank us for walking. Very cool.

After a quick shower at T ath’s hotel I headed for the airport. I had some time to kill so went to the bar to enjoy Sunday Night Football and a beer. As I sat, a young gal came up to me and apologized for intruding. She had tears in her eyes and told me that she wanted to thank me for walking. She said that is was an incredible thing I had done by walking and while I didn’t know her or her family they wanted to thank me. She then handed me a free drink coupon and gave me a huge hug. Honestly I was a bit stunned. In all the walks I’ve done, I’ve never had a complete stranger approach me after the event with tears in their eyes to thank me for walking. That experience just capped an amazing, incredible, fantastic weekend. I’ve tried to put some of it into words here but honestly this one is pretty hard to capture. San Diego 2008 will always hold a very special place in my heart. Thank you for making it possible.


Next year I’ll be walking in San Francisco and Seattle. If you would like to support me in my efforts, please visit www.the3day.org, click on Donate, enter my name and choose the event you’d like to support. If you would like more information on walking in either event as a part of my team of Kindred Spirits, please drop me a note at kellam83@att.net.