Thursday, 19 June 2008

My Moonwalk

Becky, Me, Karen and Judith (aka "Walking Partner")
We have just arrived at the event -- with four hours to go until official take-off.

Way back in the fall, when Walking Partner convinced me to train for the Moonwalk with her, I think that I secretly believed that the day would never come. Oh, sure I will walk 26 miles with you in the middle of the night. Sounds like fun!

As I look at this picture, I can clearly remember feeling gripped by anxiety -- despite the game smile. The four of us had caught an early flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh, done a bit of shopping, eaten a late lunch, attempted to nap, and finally made our way to the massive pink tent that served as official Moonwalk headquarters. From 8:30 pm to 11:30 pm, we had eaten vegetarian pasta, been treated to a neck and back massage, danced a bit of salsa, (well, that was just me), queued for the port-a-loos, and admired the creative genius and exhibitionistic daring of 12,000 women and men -- most of whom were wearing nothing on their top half but a decorated BRA. Flowers, ladybugs, fried eggs, birds in a nest, bagpipes, and numerous sequined and feathered concoctions were among the many interpretative possibilities. Overall, the display reminded me (once again) that I am one of the least creative and most cold-natured persons currently dwelling in the UK.

In case you weren't aware, the Moonwalk raises money for breast cancer research. Some bright spark lit on the clever idea of having the participants compete in their bras . . . a gimmick that certainly draws the crowds. Although we were wearing our bras throughout, I will freely admit that a t-shirt (and a hooded sweatshirt) covered my bra for the duration of the event. (Even in June, Scotland is COLD!) Only this picture preserves our brief moment of bra-very.

(Check out Becky's tan! That was from Sports Day!!)

By the time we actually started walking, just before midnight, we were feeling pretty cold and tired. Thankfully, a surge of adrenalin got us fired up again. (Truly it is impossible to explain the anticipation and excitement one feels when massed with so many costumed others.) At the very beginning, Judith and I "lost" Karen and Becky -- who had, shall we say, such a "laidback" attitude to the event that they were drinking pink champagne on approximately Mile 19. My competitive spirit, previously unknown to my Walking Partner, carried me through a great many miles. (I'm sorry to say that I took great pleasure in vaulting ahead of other walkers. Yes, I know that it wasn't really a race.)

Unobservant at the best of times, I retain only the vaguest sense of where we walked or what we saw. At times, the narrowness of the road, the darkness, and the crowded conditions meant that I kept my eyes mostly trained on whatever was likely to trip me up. At the darkest bit of the night, we walked around a great hilly mound and I remember seeing swans. It was rather eerie and peaceful -- quite a contrast to walking down the Royal Mile, where we were surrounded by cheering crowds on both sides. I was conscious of not giving very good value to the voyeurs, as I strolled by in my t-shirt, but happily we were walking by a young man who was a real crowd-pleaser -- and we benefited from his reflected glory. Not only was he wearing a bright pink wig, but he also had a sort of conical bustier (think Madonna on the Like a Virgin tour) which was adorned with flashing "fairy" lights. (Fairy lights would be the correct "technical" term here; I cast no aspersions on his character or sexual persuasion!)

Although I would have remembered this young man anyway, our brief acquaintance on Miles 4 and 5 blossomed into a walking partnership by Mile 15. At this point, he had lost both wig (scratchy!) and walking partner (bum knee), and so our duo become a trio. Named "Bayne" -- a family name, he assured us -- all I could think of was the obvious potshot of "you are the bane of my existence." Even chattier than I am, Bayne semi-annoyed WP by personally thanking every single volunteer who had showed up to cheer us on, hand out water bottles and warn us of oncoming traffic. Poor Bayne: He obviously felt that his life's objective was to defy the dubious legacy of his name! As one people-pleaser can certainly recognize the traits of another, I had nothing but sympathy for him. Also, he really made me laugh.

Bayne and I had an ongoing joke about "catching Bunny" -- and this bit of silliness carried us through most of the last 10 miles. The "Bunny" in question was wearing bunny ears, of course, and always seemed to be just ahead of us -- just out of our reach. Every time we threatened to catch up with her, she would start running to catch up with her own (really fast!) walking partner. It made us feel rather like greyhounds who can never quite catch the mechanical rabbit who spurs them on. The funny thing about Bunny is that she had quite a large backside, and it seemed to move in a rolling motion that was counterpoint to the rest of her body. (WP found it deeply mesmerizing.) When I offered up that Bunny had a lot of "junk in the trunk," I discovered that this particular bit of hip-hop lingo was a foreign language to my walking partners. Wherever you are, Bunny, I've got nothing but RESPECT for you.

My favorite bit of the walk was in the middle -- when we were walking down by the sea. The sun came up around 3:30 am, and it was so beautiful to see the streaky dawn sky reflected in the water. (As you can see, I've got my own "bunny tail" -- that crumpled silver ball is supposedly a high-tech blanket.)

The first 20 miles were relatively easy, so I was surprised to discover that the last 4 miles were, well, tortuous is a word that comes to mind. I felt like nothing but sheer willpower, Bayne's good natured joking, WP's consistent lead on me, and a small handful of peanut M&M's kept me going for the last hour.

Unfortunately, the last two miles of the walk were uphill and decidedly "urban" in smell and scenery. Our hotel was in the same insalubrious area, known as the "Pubic Territory" (Edinburgh's version of the Red Light District, apparently), according to our taxi driver. Although it was tempting to take the shortcut straight back to the hotel, we persisted to the finish line to get our "medals." WP figures that our official race time was 6 hours and 33 minutes. Quite respectable, really. Although we had to hobble back to the hotel, and stop briefly for me to heave, we were having toast and tea by 7 am. Coincidentally, it is the same meal that you are served after giving birth in the UK.

As with childbirth, it has taken me several days to feel normal again. Even though we found the energy to shop for several hours on Monday, and drink two of the most delicious margaritas I have tasted outside of Texas, I experienced a near total collapse yesterday. (Delayed reaction, perhaps? Or just my body's natural defense mechanism against the threatening piles of laundry and to-do list stuff?) However, I did manage a "gentle" walk of four miles or so this morning, and discovered that I have, indeed, recovered the full use of my limbs.

Just like I never thought that the walk would actually have to be walked, I now have a similar feeling of disbelief that I DID actually walk the walk. The whole experience feels rather surreal, actually. But then a lot of life feels that way . . .

I suppose that's why you get a medal. So you know you've been there.

Moonwalk postscript: The only blister I ended up getting was from that bloomin' bra!


Alyson said...

Ha ha! That's hilarious that the only blister gotten after such a trek was from your bra. If only men knew!

I loved hearing of your experience and you sound A LOT like me. It sounds like just the sort of thing I get myself into - having someone ask me to do something like that, then feeling like it would never actually happen, then being filled with anxiety and disbelief that I was actually there. So as one people pleaser to another, I could totally relate to it. I could also relate to the surrealness of experiences like that. I've had that so many times.

I found the experience you had on the trail to be so interesting and I loved hearing about it. Thank you.

And good for you!

Brave Sir Robin said...

Wow Bee,

I have nothing but respect for you!

I somehow had missed the fact that it was in the middle of the night!!


It does sound like you had fun, and I dare say you will remember this event long, long after the soreness wears away.

With all the costumes and such, it sounds a bit little the Capitol 10K in Austin.

Thanks for sharing the pictures and the story with us.

JaneyV said...

Hey Bee - well done. Such a brilliant achievement -as BSR says you have my total respect! May I say your decorated bras were a treat to behold. Despite how gruelling it became it certainly sounds like a good laugh. And all for a great cause too.

Good Job!

Nimble said...

Wow, that’s a lot of walking. And you had to travel before and after. I’m glad you had good compatriots to help you along. The sunrise picture is great, I imagine it was beautiful. I’m not surprised that you had to collapse for a while afterwards, even in a delayed fashion. Do you feel that you have an excuse for plenty of little indulgences now? I would.

debski beat said...

Bee ! Well done well done ! What an achievement, and clearly the bonus was you have taken your first step in Hip-Hop lingo, very soon we will not be able to understand a word you say in your blog. Thanks for posting the photos the sunrise looks stunning and it must have been quite an overwhelming site.

What are you going to do to top that experience ?

Sarah Laurence said...

Bee, not only did you walk the walk, you talked the talk – or blogged the blog? Thanks so much for taking us on a virtual moonwalk – much less painful than exerting any effort ourselves. I just did the math, and you were walking 15 minute miles!

That’s really impressive to keep that up all night. I loved the photo of you by the sea at 3:30 am. I haven’t been sleeping well with all the light and birds etc – so good of you to put insomniac energy to a good cause.

As for running out of steam on mile 20 – sounds like you “hit the wall.” Of course you had to collapse. I remember post-marathon photos of my brother – he was green. You look, appropriately enough, just pink and happy. Congratulations!

Lucy said...

Wow, bravo, amazing! Walking 26 miles is exhausting, losing a night's sleep is exhausting, no wonder you were exhausted!

Taffiny said...

That sounds really memorable, quite an interesting post, enjoyable to read about. Though I am suddenly feeling most unfit.

Glad it went so well (you know except for the heaving part).
I am a bit sad to hear about the blister though, I was getting all inspired to sequin up my sports bra, not for others to see, just so it would look less sterile/industrial/boring. Like a "girl power" sports bra.

No one would ever accuse me of being a people pleaser. Once however back when I worked at Macy's, a co-worker friend asked me to do the Thanksgiving parade with her. I am still so amazed that she actually got me to do this, so like the opposite of being me. And we ended up not being together, she was a star who held a star balloon float, and I was a pioneer girl (with costume and dance steps and all). It was of course, grey, incredibly cold and raining that day, I only remember it in bits and pieces, but I will always be glad that I did it.

Taffiny said...

P.S. (by the bye)
much surprised to hear/read you call yourself cold-natured, and uncreative. ??? (or is this only significant in comparison to people in the Uk, who perhaps are excessively creative and warm?)

I do love, this start to a paragragh
"unobservant at the best of times..

Anne said...

To echo the others, well done!! Sounds like you did indeed hit the wall, but good on you for pushing through it. What a great event, and what a wonderful virtual tour through it all!

I find that this sort of thing is surreal in general (I'm still not entirely convinced that I did a half ironman last year, even though I have the finish photo and medal and so on) but to do it in the middle of the night must make it several times more surreal! My hat's off to you for doing the walk (a grueling distance under the best of circumstances) when your body told you it was time to sleep.


Bee said...

I did wonder how the men who were walking (about 10% or so) felt about their bras -- after spending 26 hours in them! (And they didn't even have to lug around substantial bosoms, like some of the women there!)

I've never seen the Capital 10K, but I can just imagine how wacky some of the costumes are. I'm not good at costumes myself, but I admire people who excell in this area of creativity.

Thanks -- and yes, there were lots of laughs in amidst the teeth-gritting "Ok, I can do this."

Well, we did have a Mexican feast the next day . . . and that was a bit of an indulgence. Actually, I think that I indulged more in the training bit. (I cannot otherwise account for the fact that I didn't lose any weight whilst training.)

D Beat,
Now that I am no longer exposed to urban black youth I fear that my knowledge of hip hop lingo will slip to the point of being embarrassingly passe.
As for my next challenge, it seems to be presenting itself in the form of arranging my summer calendar to fit in visits from all of the UK visitors!

I am renowned for my ability to walk and talk at the same time!
My chattiness definitely deserted me at mile 24, though.

I'm still exhausted! But this week has been a marathon in more ways than one . . .

Oh, definitely sequin up your bra! (It was the bra itself that rubbed, and not the ornamentation.)

How cool that you did the Macy's parade -- especially in bad weather. I was deeply grateful that we had clear skies for our Moonwalk, because I'm not so good with wind and rain.

I am definitely cold-natured, in the sense of always needing a sweater, but I hope that my personality is "warm." When it comes to sewing, I am definitely uncreative. I promise you that I am not just being self-deprecating!

Actually (because I know that you are interested in these things) I was feeling really cocky at mile 20 . . . so we decided to speed up. At miles 22-26 I was really just running out of gas. I think that I got a little bit dehydrated; my fault, because I didn't want to keep stopping for the loo. Our friends took a much more casual approach -- and finished 2 hours after us. Which begs the question: Is it better to have fun or push yourself to meet your goal (of coming in at a faster time?).

Bon Bon said...

Bra-vo Bee, I tried to post a comment before but it seems to have vanished. What an achievement and I loved the story of the Bayne? Bain of your walk. See you soon. B.B xo

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

When you told me you were going to Scotland it didn't even occur to me that it was time for your moonlight walk. Well done, Bee!