On June 14th (a Saturday), my alarm went off at 5am.
No, I didn't accidentally set it the night before. This was intentional.
I rolled myself out of bed, took a very quick shower, got dressed and headed out the door. I was due in North Seattle by 6:30 and I did not want to be late. Clutching my Yahoo!maps directions in one hand, I drove my (borrowed) car down the freeway, hoping I wouldn't get lost.
I don't drive to North Seattle all that often. In fact, I've only been in the neighborhood I was heading twice before. But, I think I did pretty good... only one wrong turn!
I neared the high school where the Seattle 3-Day Expo was being held and my jaw just dropped. Aside from four vacant spots, the entire parking lot and surrounding streets were crammed with cars. At 6:15 in the morning. On a Saturday.
Our 10-mile training walk before the Expo was scheduled to start at 7:00am on the dot and everyone who'd signed up took that very seriously. 500 of us took it seriously, I should say.
I was very nervous when I got out of the car. I didn't know one person in the sea of people spreading out before my eyes. What exactly, I thought to myself, had I signed myself up for? But then I saw the look in some of the other people edging their way to the sign-in table and recognized the same fear in their eyes. I wasn't alone in being alone. And that made me relax.
I signed in, grabbed a name tag, stretched, and waited for instructions. This would be both my first time walking 10 miles in one stretch AND attending an official 3-Day training walk, so I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing before I headed out.
As 7:00am rolled around, our walk leader stood up on a table and addressed the masses. According to the online sign-up, there were only supposed to be about 150 of us, so the 500 that actually showed was a bit of a surprise. We were all given a pocket map of the route we were walking and asked to keep our voices to a dull roar when we walked through the neighborhoods along the way. Then, she addressed me and my ilk of solo walkers. She told us if we were interested in joining a team, there were pink leis at the start and to please pick one up and wear it so team captains could approach us about maybe joining theirs.
And then we took off. I grabbed my lei, hoping to find some walkers in my area, and almost immediately a group approached me.
Two ladies from West Seattle (a neighborhood about 15 miles away from where I live) sidled up next to me and started asking me questions: Where did I live? Why was I walking? Would I consider joining a group so far away from my home? They were both very nice when I explained to them that I would prefer to join a group a bit closer to me as I would like to train with my group, not just show up and walk the 3-Day with them. They walked with me the entire 10 miles anyway.
Alex, the group captain, kept assuring me that if I didn't find another group that it would be great if I joined them anyway. She also gave me a bunch of pointers along the way: what to wear, what not to pack, what to carry on the road... all great advice that I'm still - two weeks later - sifting through and compiling for the walk.
The 10 miles turned out to be so not a big deal that I felt like I could go do the whole loop over again without worrying about it. I was assured that it was very similar on the actual walk (only 10 miles longer each day, of course) and I was told over and over, so long as you can walk three miles without a break, you can do the 60 miles easy. There are, apparently, rest stops all along the way.
Needless to say, it was the slowest I've walked in a very long time. You get 500 people out walking down sidewalks on busy streets, having to wait for lights, it doesn't really make for fast walking. I did 10 miles in 3.5 hours. If you apply your (my) math skills to that, potentially during the 3-Day, I will be spending 7 hours a day walking. Yeehaw! That sounds like so long! Still daunting, even if totally doable.
The expo itself was a bit underwhelming. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't what I got in any case. The main exhibition hall had some vendors selling socks, gear, and measuring for proper footwear. They also had a mock-up of one of the tents they provide us to sleep in (hot pink!) and a basic map of how camp will be set up. I've heard from some past walkers that the first night in camp is just wild when all the tents are set up. "A sea of pink," is how it was put to me.
In some of the other rooms, there were speakers. I sat in on a demonstration of what/how to pack for the event. Have I mentioned we're only allowed one bag? And in that bag must fit our sleeping bag and everything else? And that one bag that we are allowed to bring must weigh 35 pounds or under? Yeah. I'm not even thinking about that yet. It makes my brain hurt. And the last time I used a sleeping bag, I believe it had My Little Ponies on it, and it definitely wouldn't fit inside another bag. I did pick up some pointers, though, about how to pack, so I'll be applying that when I figure out what I'm packing.
I think what I got most out of the Seattle Expo and Training Walk is, I'm no longer afraid to do this walk solo. I went there hoping to find a team, but realized it would be totally ok if I ended up not finding a team. I met a ton of great people throughout the day, and I realized that no matter what, I wouldn't be doing this alone. That doesn't mean that I won't still be searching for a group. It just means that it won't be the end of the world if I show up for Opening Ceremonies on September 12th alone.
I know that I'll make friends along the way. I know that we're all doing this for a great cause, and that -in itself- will bring us all closer together.
Thank you all for supporting me so much!
And thanks for making it to the end of this post! You see? Give the girl a platform and a keyboard and she just can't shut up!