Friday, July 29, 2011

A Salute to the Boobies, Past, Present, & Future, 2009-2010

Another one in the works for 2011!   Enjoy!

Record Heat No Match for the Blue Footed Boobies: Boston 3-Day 2011

Boobies B.J. (Before Jeannie)
We did it!!  WOOT!!  The Blue Footed Boobies got it done!!  Last Friday-Sunday, we blazed through 60 steamy, sweltering, blistering miles, navigated a hazardous heat index, unexpected delays, and logistical minefields, and successfully completed the 2011 Boston 3-Day for the Cure.  It was epic.  Fueled by a constant diet of water, sports drinks, shot blocks, bananas, Gu, salty peanuts, and most importantly, the spirit of Ubuntu and moxie that Boobies are well-known for, the team—including our newest member, Jeannie Gray, who found us at 5 am during the first morning, and never looked back—did amazingly well.  Yes, the Boobies showed some true grit, kicked ass, and rocked the walk (and quite literally, too; thank goodness for that cheap little battery-operated purple portable speaker that hooked up to my iPhone, blasted out such old-school favorites as Funkytown & You Dropped a Bomb on Me, & kept us going!). Linda, Roxanne, Lydia, and Jeannie gutted out one of the toughest 3-Days on record.  I am so proud of my Boobies!  

Thanks to our rigorous training regimen, which began in January, and included steamrolling hills, interval training, and logging more than 700 miles each, 3 pairs of running shoes, and many, many hours of twalking (that is not a typo: walking + talking = twalking), cross-training, and constant stretching, the Boobies were able to soar through those 60 miles.   But we couldn’t have done it without YOU.  Thanks to all of you, who gave generously, sent encouraging messages of love and support, came out to cheer us on, and infused the experience with good juju, we were able to not just survive but thrive.  The Blue Footed Boobies suffered only minimal blisters, no injuries, no bad tempers, no heat sickness.  We enjoyed ourselves, made new friends, and deepened friendships.  We danced through the streets of Boston.  We raised over $22,000, earning Power Team pins for our efforts.  And--thanks to some last-minute donations, and in particular, a $56 contribution from Dominick to put me over by a dollar, I cleared, for the first time, the $10K mark in my own personal fundraising goal.  Woot!  It felt great to be amongst the top ten fundraisers for the third year in a row.  Thank you all so much for making that possible.
Exactly a week ago today, the Boobies stood amidst throngs of other walkers—over 1700 in all—and, in this sea of pink, watched the sun rise and burst through the morning skies above Farm Pond in Framingham, the site of the Opening Ceremonies for the 2011 Boston Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, and the kick-off to the 2011 season that will include walks in 14 cities.  It would be a premonitory sunrise, fair warning of the heat that would build throughout the day to unprecedented levels, forcing the organizers to implement contingency plans to minimize heat-related mishaps, emptying Friday’s cheering sections and challenging even the most well-conditioned athletes on the walk.  
Lydia, Liz, and Linda
The night before, we had gathered for dinner, shamelessly putting away pizzas and salads proportioned for giants (or 3-Day walkers).  Roxanne, veteran walker and captain of a gigantic team in San Diego, and Linda, at 71, the most experienced member of the team (ie, the most kickass), had come from the OC rehearsal, where Roxanne would carry the “Friend” flag in honor of her buddy Carol.  Lydia and I had driven in together from out this way, feeling emboldened by the new henna tattoos that Kelly Flaherty had given us a few days before.  After dinner, I wrote the names of many of the people I would be walking for on a long Boobie-blue ribbon: Cindy, Betsy, Jeanne, Barb, Rima, Rosalinda, Gabrielli, Maribeth, Mimi, Katie, Joy, Sarah, Anja, Karen, Judy, Corky, Molly, Tony, June, Judy, Suzanne, Betty, Kit, Henry, Liz ….  It was a long ribbon. 

After managing to wrest a few hours of sleep from the dark night, we awoke at 4 on Friday morning, Day One, to step outside and greet the already impressive, oppressive heat.  Taking our places on the shuttle bus that would take us from our Natick hotel to the Opening Ceremonies, we felt instantly and hooked into that powerful 3-Day magic, that collective spirit of courage, resilience, and tenacity that brought us all together to “Share Our Courage” with its Obama-esque promise of “Together We Can…Go Further Than Imagined.”   It would be a deep wellspring of love and compassion and ice cold water that lined the route, and we dipped frequently, and it made all the difference.

Fill me up, fill me up, I’m a long way from home
And I don’t have a lot to say
Fill me up, fill me up, ‘cause you’re all that I’ve got
And I traveled a long, long way
The popular pink mohawk
A vision!
Intrepid crew
The first thing I noticed at the Opening Ceremonies, aside from the pale moon and the fiery sun sharing sky space above, and the fact that my Boston accent was quickly returning, were the men.  So many more than last year--and wearing such (wicked) awesome get-ups!  There is something about the 3-Day that compels the men to air out their Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fantasies, and go all out.  Not that they are competitive or anything, or trying to outdo each other, no, no.  Beards and mustaches and hair dyed pink.  Ginormous, bright pink, bling-bras edged in fur—faux, I am certain.  Kilts.  Skirts.  Dresses.  Knee socks.   Spiky pink Mohawks.  Team Men with Heart in their orange-yellow shirts, backpacks filled with things walkers might need, singing their songs.  The 60 Mile Men, calendar pin-ups, walking with beauty pageant ribbons across their chests and well-muscled calves.  The men, in particular, dress for the occasion.  I have my theories (haha).  And I appreciate the way so many of them put so much thought and effort into the appearance.  Really.  William Wallace meets Frank-.N- Furter.  There is nothing better.  

My war paint--under wraps
We all, men and women, wear our own particular brand of battle gear—matching team uniforms, henna tattoos, pins and buttons and beads and bandannas—declaring our readiness, our resolve, that fire in the belly that’s going to see us through those 60 miles.  Plus, it’s all part of the show, the spectacle, that shimmering river of hope and love that winds its way through Boston and its ‘burbs, to make people sit up and take notice:  “We are here, and we are walking to find a cure, and to make breast cancer history.  Are you with us?”  It’s the reason why they don’t hold the 3-Day out here in the sticks, where the walking is as fine as it comes, with hills, views, and fresh air, but alas, not enough people to take it all in.
Veteran Walker Roxanne showing us how it's done!
The indomitable Linda Batty
There is no place to hide on the 3-Day.  There is no escaping the cycling through of emotions that range from deep sadness and a profound sense of loss to intense gratitude, pure joy and a sense of hope that is as much overwhelming as it is exhilarating.   And why hide?  The whole experience is wonderfully cathartic—a mixture of blood, sweat, and tears, with a whole lot of laughter thrown in for comic relief.  I’ve described the Opening Ceremonies before as a Pandora-like, pulsating, interconnected sea of focused intention, energy and good will, and this year was no different: we were packed in like sardines, eager to begin the first of 60 miles, full of anticipation, music blasting, making us bounce, beach balls zipping about.  Good cheer, civility, and compassion at its absolute best, a force field lighting up the breaking dawn.  Everyone was here for their own reasons, some universal, some incredibly personal.   And the stories presented themselves everywhere, etched on the lines of the faces surrounding us, on team t-shirts and buttons emblazoned in the pink light of the morning, on the ribbons and beads and homemade signs festooning fanny packs and necklines, along the route, in cheering sections, in the faces of young children who stand in the hot sun to thank us for walking.  One girl of about seven held a sign that said “My mother died from breast cancer. Keep walking for a cure.”  Another older girl passed out her story to walkers on pieces of paper that asked us to remember her mother, taken from her when she was eight.  And there are the survivors and the fighters, out to thank us for doing what they cannot.  “Thank you for saving my life.”  “Celebrating 30 years of survivorship.”  At times, it is almost too much to bear.  And yet, it is the manna of the Walk.  The reason we do what we do: the faces behind the stories, the stories behind the statistics, the one in eight.  This girl is why we walk.  However heartbreaking, we need to see her.
Team Boobie
Bolstered by the addition of Jeannie, who graced us with her warm, sweet spunk and fine sense of humor, the Boobies set off Friday morning to walk the first several miles along smog-infested, morning rush-hour congested, traffic lanes, which made us pine for the clean, country air we had trained in.  I can’t imagine what we were breathing in.  Such was the perfection of the addition of Jeannie that at lunchtime I pinned an I Love Boobies pin on her and dubbed her an honorary Boobie.  I warned her: “Once a Boobie, always a Boobie.”  She accepted.  Hooray!
Welcome to the Boobies, Jeannie!
The heat roasted us like smooth little chestnuts on the route, and on several occasions, the organizers were forced to shut the route down, detaining walkers with a military-styled “You’re not going anywhere,” and bussing the sweaty, heady throngs from one pit stop to the next.  Ambulances careened past every now and then, sirens filling the air, and we’d say, “Uh-oh, that’s not good,” and keep on walking.  The medical tents were filled with overheated people on cots, getting ice and fluids and medical attention of all kinds.  But, God bless ‘em, the cheering sections were full of brave souls who were not going to let a little heat wave get in the way of coming out to show their support.  
 Med tent overflowing
I won the hula hoop contest at lunch, just sayin'
We were five of just a hundred or so walkers who actually walked most of the route the first day, having been detained at lunch for a short while, then allowed to walk to pit stop 4.  This particular 4 mile trek through unrelenting pavement in Waltham center (or was it Woburn?) was brutal.  No trees, no shade, no grass.  And no people—the heat had sent everyone running in search of A/C.  We could have really used the extra watering stations the organizers had promised us, but even they were not to be found.  As strong (and indignant that we were forced to climb into the bus for a 2 mile ride to lunch) as we were feeling when we set out after lunch, by just a mile or two into this leg we had developed a healthy respect for the heat.  I remember thinking, “I totally get now how this could kill someone.”  I could feel my heart, big and busy, trying to keep up with the cooling process.  I thought, maybe I shouldn’t have hula-hooped at lunch.  We were drinking constantly, and staying energized with frequent nips of Gu.  We wore our bandannas around our necks filled with ice, which all too quickly melted to drip, drip down our backs.  We wore hats, slathered on the zinc oxide, walked in the shade—however paltry--when we could.  I knew we had to keep on, otherwise risk melting, quite literally, into the asphalt, to simmer and stink amongst the rotting garbage that seemed to lurk on every corner.  So, we kept on.  Keep walking for a cure.  By the time we got to Pit Stop 4, there were hundreds of walkers—maybe even all 1700 minus us—already there, having been bused from earlier pit stops en route.  The course was absolutely and officially closed for the day.  The heat index was just too high.  We would be bussed to camp.  Some were pissed that they couldn’t finish, others were plainly relieved, and still others were too dazed and depleted to register the decision.  We endured a long wait in long lines to sit in an overly-air-conditioned bus that rocketed and jittered its way to camp—once there, the driver got lost, and after several near-misses with other buses, finally let us out.  Hallelujah.  We were baked.  And I don’t mean that in a good, hey-I’ve-got-the-munchies kind of way.
At camp, we had time to kill before they allowed us to shower or set up our pink tents on the heat-soaked artificial turf fields that would be our home for the next two nights, so we took advantage of some of the camp offerings before dinner, getting foot and back massages at the Bank of America tent, charging our phones, looting the post office for lovely letters and chocolates, and all the while constantly drinking more water, refilling our water bottles, and draining them again and again. It cooled off sufficiently to get some Zombie-land sleep, even though my air mattress deflated in the middle of the night and I woke up with my butt on the ground and pinched in on all sides. It was already 3, so almost time to get up anyway.  (yes, really).

The next day, while still in the high 90’s and a hazardous heat index to boot, felt immensely better.  The organizers had hoped to open the route at 6 am instead of 6:30 so we had a better chance of beating the heat, but their ice vendor refused to get up a half hour early, so we all had to stand and wait at the start for a good 45 minutes before they would let us go.  I tried to reason with the head honcho, but she would not be swayed.  There was a moment when I thought the walkers would erupt into a MLK-Ghandi-Alice Paul-inspired protest, and there was some synchronized clapping and chanting “Let us walk!” for a few minutes, but it faded quickly, and before we knew it, we were slip, slapping the pavement once again, high-fiving the Pink Angels, and rushing to those porta potties at every pit stop.  With the exception of some thunder and lightning that closed the route for a short spell in the morning, forcing us into our clingy, plastic, cheapo ponchos to dodge puddles and truck sprays, we cruised through our 20+ miles, meeting up with family and friends and favorite dogs along the way.  

The final day dawned cloudy and cooler, and we were glad for the light rain that followed us for the first few miles down Brattle Street and into Harvard Square.  We were happily surprised by BFB Gretel and her three kids, who jumped out of a coffee shop to see us, inspired us with their signs (“Little Girls Thank You!  You make the world better!”) and 3-Day attire, and later, by a happy hatch of Boobies—and walkers in the 2010 3-Day—on Comm. Ave.  Such a wonderful treat to get to see so many beloved Boobies along the way--my mother and Dominick, and Gretel, Meg, Marggie, Barb, and Cindy.  So, so glad to see everyone, but especially Cindy, whose smile proved to be the best shot block around.  We took turns carrying the Blue Footed Boobies banner, filled with all the names of the Boobies: Angie, Ursula, Jeanne, Damon, Marggie, Rachel, Meg, Gretel, Barb, Cindy, Gail, Dominick, Katie, the very latest Booby, Jeannie, and yours truly, Captain Booby.  

On Boston Common, we very nearly followed groups of tourists—not walkers—off the course, finding that those little understated black and white arrow signs were easy to lose in the rush and splendor (well, that’s one word for it) of the urban landscape.  We bounced along to music coming from my mini-boom box that screeched and swung from my hip like a howler monkey.  It seemed perfectly suitable for the theater district in particular, and by the time we got to the Seaport section of Boston, we were flying along.  Roxanne’s friend, Carol, and Jr. Boobies, Dominick and Lydia’s two boys, Noah and Pierre, joined us for the final stretch along the Harborwalk in South Boston, and represented exceptionally well.  Blue Footed Boobies in training, indeed!  Noah and Dom wore their “Save Second Base” pin, while Pierre relished being a “Pink Man.”  They got in the spirit even more at the finish, where Noah and Dom sprayed their hair, fingernails and toenails pink, and they all took it upon themselves to commandeer a water station, filling cups with ice water for parched Closing Ceremonies-goers and keeping the coolers filled.  Next year: Youth Corps!

It felt great to have finished.  The first day was particular grueling, which made it all the more awesome. Boston walkers—about 1700 in all—raised an astonishing $4.8 million!  Komen is launching some exciting new initiatives, and has now sunk $1.8 billion into breast cancer research and community outreach and education programs.  YOU should be proud.  YOU made this possible.  Thank YOU so much for your support, for being a part of this, for taking up the banner and holding it high.  You ROCK.

A few special thank yous: to my incredible teammates, Roxanne, Linda, Lydia, and Jeannie, who invented a new kind of BFB-mojo (better than cajones!) to kick some heat wave ass; to the walkers, who smoothed out the belligerent bad-itude of the weather with grace and civility and humor; to the 3-Day crew, who took such good care of us during what must have been an incredibly difficult, potentially litigious time; to friends and family who took the time to send encouraging letters and messages, hugs, and good juju; to our families, for keeping us strong, walking with us, and holding the Boobie banner high; to Kelly, our team henna tattoo artist, for adorning us for battle; to all the Boobies, for being there, always, for each other (BFBF!); to all our family and friends and all the folks who braved the heat to cheer us on, offer up frozen grapes, and spray us down with water; to those who have lost loved ones to breast cancer and shared their stories and made us cry; to my fellow survivors who inspire me to keep walking year after year; and to all the men who squeezed themselves into bras and skirts, walked with us this year, and made me laugh.  THANK YOU!

The fight isn’t over.  Not until Cindy doesn’t have to keep looking over her shoulder to try to figure out where her breast cancer will show up next.  Not until all cancer is curable, and not just treatable.  Not until those little girls lining the route with their hand drawn signs can rest easy, knowing that there is a cure for the breast cancer that took their mothers.  Not until all women have access to mammograms and free screening and treatment options.  It is within our reach.  But there is still work to be done.  I have my eye on Boston 2012.  The hatch is expanding for next year.  Let me know if you are interested in joining us.

Thanks again.  And thanks for listening to my story.

With love & gratitude,
Liz, aka Captain Booby