I did it. I walked The Overnight Walk for the AFSP. http://www.theovernight.org/fundraising/yvette
It was an experience. I feel like a total champ for doing it and it's still kinda unbelievable. To quote a friend's message to me on Twitter "EPIC WIN" and I totally agree.
I flew into Chicago Friday night and met up with Carrie and Laura at the hotel around midnight as they were getting ready to go to bed. Being the person on west coast time, I was the lucky one - they were the tired ones.
We slept pretty well. I shared a bed with Laura - it was a bed that ate humans and made them into a sinkhole for the next victim. We called it the butt-trough since it created a nice divit right there. It was impossible to get out of and you definitely were made to snuggle by the bed even in the room w/o air conditioning - not so nice.
We didn't do much Saturday day time since we knew we'd have to walk walk walk our little tushes off that night. We got food and watched crappy TV and packed and prepped. Eventually we went over to Soldier's Field to get ready for the walk.
It was in the upper 80s and hot hot hot. I was carrying a rainjacket, hydration system and another layer that went unused. There were people lying in the grass, sitting around, checking in and talking and crying. Nearly all of us wore colored beads where each bead color recognized our connection to the walk and reason for participating - supporting the cause, struggling personally, loss of a friend, loss of a parent, loss of a spouse, loss of a sibling, loss of a child All were represented and sometimes in heartbreaking combinations.
We checked in, got our beads and ate our dinner watching the people and chatting. We're a bit twisted so there was much laughter from our corner And a bit of swearing and anger directed at our lost friend.
Then opening ceremony happened which was nice - just enough talking to get you ready to walk without enough to bore you. I missed some of the speeches though looking over at a group of people wearing a shirt with 4 different lost loved ones names on them - one lost as recently as June 11, 2009. Whoa.
Then we set out for our traipse around the city. We started by walking the waterfront area which was very pretty up to the pier. They had rest stops for porta-potties and water about every 3 miles. There were also snack breaks and a midnight "dinner" of sandwiches for us along the route. At first we were all bunched up and going so slow, wondering how we'd ever hit the 3mph pace. Carrie, Laura and I were determined though and we stuck together.
There were lots of groups walking together - families and friends. There were also a lot of solo walkers. After the first 3 miles I felt great - still going. Then the rain started - and it pretty much lasted the rest of the night (other than the last 2-3 miles). That wasn't horrid since it was so hot, but it wasn't what I was really looking for either. We kept on walking. We eventually turned off from the waterfront path and went through some parks over to the Chicago zoo. By this point Carrie's knees were starting to have a mind of their own and get a little funky. We kept walking. Walking walking walking. I made a really bad and really uncreative song about walking. They made me stop singing!
A few rest stops later Carrie was really sore and her knees were going to mush - literally - I felt them. We kept walking. The last mile before the dinner point, Carrie and Laura caught a van and I kept walking. I met up with a group - it was a solo walker, Amy from Chicago, and 2 of her friends who had joined her for a few miles. We walked, shared stories and laughed. Amy had lost her brother in November 2008. We got to dinner and I re-found Carrie and Laura, but lost Amy and crew.
Carrie decided to get back out and walk - she's as stubborn as I am! So walk we did. Laura by this point was also unable to truly tie one of her shoes since for no apparent reason (she trained better than I did by a lot!!) her foot was swollen and irritated. About midway through this 3 mile leg, there was suffering going on. I was a very determined shuttle van catcher making a committed sad walker face and signal. Y'see, not only did they have the greatest volunteers directing us through intersections and manning the rest stops, they also had volunteers in sweep vans picking up injured, exhausted or otherwise walkers. There were "unhappy walker" symbols to make to these vans. I made a very serious sad walker face to grab a van for us and we hopped in. Carrie's knees were no longer truly knees - at least the one I felt/squished. Thank god for great medical volunteers and sweeper vans.
We'd seen lots of dehydration victims along the way and were constantly being encouraged to hydrate. We did.
Laura and I got out at the next stop and decided to walk through downtown Chicago, letting Carrie catch the bus she'd take back to Soldier's Field to meet us later. I happened to see Amy again, this time without friends, so Laura and I adopted her. We picked up another of Amy's random Chicago-an friends around 2am in the middle of downtown Chicago - fantastic. At the final rest stop I lost Laura but I was stubborn. I was exhausted, well aware I'd be sore, but dammit - it was 2:45am and I was going to finish. Yes I was. So Amy, myself and Amy's friend (also a Carrie) set out walking... A little over 3 miles to Soldier's Field and we were routed back out to the waterfront. There was the most beautiful view of Chicago behind us, but my muscle control at this point was such that where-ever my head looked, my body turned. Aka, I knew I'd better not sit down or I wasn't going to get up and keep walking. Plod plod plod.
Finally, we heard cheering in the distance. Amy's girlfriend found us on the path just about 3/4 of a mile from Soldier's Field to encourage us to keep going - we were almost there. Holy hell I needed the cheering and encouragement of the volunteers to keep going, I needed to meet Nancy (Amy's girlfriend) who told us how close we were.
And then we saw the path into Soldier's Field. It was lit with luminary bags - white paper bags that we'd all gotten to decorate as memorials before the walk. I had 3 - one dedicated to Susan, one dedicated to my cousin Dustin, and one dedicated to all the families and friends who'd lost people but weren't there with us encouraging life in the middle of a random Saturday night. I made it I walked 16-18 miles (not sure how much I rode the van for - probably about a mile making my total 17 miles). We left Soldier's field at 7:30pm and I made it back in just before 4am. I smelled rank and I hugged everyone in sight.
It was a crazy experience. I'll do it again next year (minus the over hydration (see my previous post) that I experienced yesterday post walk.
We saw so many people all going through loss. We saw so many people cheering us on. We were all cheering for those left behind to survive and help other people not commit suicide.
We walked through quiet neighborhoods, beautiful waterfronts, the midst of downtown, old town drunkenville, parks. We put up with the length, rain, overly hot and humid weather and oncoming bike traffic. We did it - everyone. There were people of all ages and fitness levels walking. I saw a woman leave the walk only a few miles in - she was really old - definitely grandma aged. She started the walk not knowing how far she'd get just walking for the experience of it - and the pride of knowing she'd raised money for the AFSP to help educate about suicide. We saw walkers at the end who'd finished at 1am (no clue how - so not me!). It wasn't a race, it was a steady plod. a) I couldn't race 1 mile let alone 18 and b) it was the friggin' middle of the night!
I tweeted my experience on Facebook and Twitter.
The silliest quote of the night was from Carrie. "I'm wearing plastic, he's drunk. Who's having the better night?"
I can't put most of what I felt into words. Just know that it was worth it to me. It was so worth it I look forward to fundraising and walking again.
Even the fundraising experience was priceless - mostly because of all the emails you guys sent me. The encouragement and support had me in tears so often - made me feel like a truly loved sap.
Thank you everyone. For your love, your support, your understanding, your donations, your cheerleader skills when I was training or just a few days ago when I was tweeting the walk away.