Walking... It seems so simple. We do it all the time. Just putting one feet in front of the other. One does not appreciate the merits and complexity of walking unless (a) one is only just learning how to do it; (b) one used to be able to do it, but no longer can; and (c) one has to do a whole lot of it.
The 3-Day for the Cure walk organizers recommend beginning one's training no later than about 6-7 months prior to the event. Which is fine. If you stick to it religiously during those 6-7 months and increase the distances and the speeds exactly according to schedule. People like that do exist. But for the rest of us... I would recommend starting the training at least a year in advance, which is when people usually start signing up for big events like that.
The gym is fabulous. I started at the gym - first with 20-30-minute warmups before my weight workout, then moving on to 1-1.5 hour stretches to work on my pace. And while modern treadmills have tons of settings and allow you to adjust speed and incline to your heart's content, eventually you have to take your training outside. A treadmill - no matter how sophisticated - cannot generate a variety of weather you need to experience, or the variety of surfaces you need to try out with your walking shoes on.
I was very fortunate to have discovered Fletcher Community park right after we moved to Hendersonville, NC - and right at that 6-7 month training mark recommended by the event organizers. I have been training actively by then, but not nearly enough of it outside. Here was this enormous stretch of land and forest with four different path surfaces (asphalt, concrete, mulch and gravel) and a variety of open and shaded stretches. And, much as during the walk event, there are lots of people around - on foot and on bikes, with children and dogs - so you kind of learn to pay attention.
I started with 2.5 mile-stretches at the park and gradually changed my path to include more and more, until I got it to roughly 9 miles. I have walked it in all kinds of temperatures and all kinds of weather, including 95 degree heat with 90% humidity and pouring rain with cold wind.
It is interesting, how your perception of distance changes with time and training. When I started 2.5 - 3 miles used to be the extent of my cardio. Now, 2,3, sometimes even 4 miles is, essentially, warm up. Finally, somewhere around mile #5 I manage to find my groove and get into the right walking shape with all the body parts working together as they ought.
Ancient Greeks did most of their fitness activities in the nude, including running and walking. Sadly, neither our norms nor our bodies, devolved from the sufficient fitness and resiliency levels, allow us to do so. Which means gear... Lots of it.
"Aw," you might say, "How much does it really take to equip one little woman for one long-ish walk?" About the same it takes to equip anyone regardless of gender, size and shape. The 3-Day for the Cure event lasts three days, during which the participants spend two nights at the event camp - pink tents and all. Therefor, all your stuff is split into two major groups: stuff for the camp and stuff for the walk.
Stuff for the camp has to fit into a reasonably-sized backpack and cannot exceed 35 pounds of weight, because it will be loaded and unloaded by nice volunteers and we don't want them to have to haul around equivalents of small elephants.
Camping gear includes:
- air pad (a miraculous device that is very easy to roll up into a thin tube for packing, but, when unrolled, automatically fills with air and provides a cushion for the sleeping bag)
- sleeping bag
- extra walking shoes (must be broken in. Never, ever do the stupid thing of buying brand new walking shoes to show off at the event.)
- Walking clothes (t-shirts, sports bras, workout bottoms, water-resistant wind breaker, thermals)
- socks (lots of socks, minimum 2-3 pairs per day)
- camp/lounging/sleeping clothes
- shower shoes (communal showers - sorry, all exceptionally squeamish people)
- toiletries (including a small mirror)
- towels (although, for a couple of bucks a day you can buy the towel service, which gives you two large clean towels per day)
- flashlight (to get around the camp after lights-out)
- travel alarm clock
- prescription meds (if you have any)
- regular band-aids
- anti-blister band-aids
- moleskin (soft, fuzzy and cuddly pads used if you do get a blister despite all precautions)
- foot powder
- pain killer for muscle aches
- pain killer for all other aches
- stuff for any tummy issues
- insect repellent
- lip balm
In addition to all of the above, half of the stuff - in miniaturized form - goes into a small daypack or waist pack you carry during the walk itself. So, the pain killers, the band-aids, the moleskin, the insect repellent, the foot powder and extra socks need to be separated into smaller containers to stock your waist pack every morning. The rain-proof poncho or jacket and the thermals need to be easily packable, so that you can take them off and stash them either inside the waist pack or strap them to the outside, should the temperatures go up steeply. Plus, you also carry:
- two bottles - one for water, one for Gatorade (dehydration and loss of electrolytes is the second worst problem during the event after blisters).
- protein and carb bars (if you feel hungry - eat protein, if you feel tired - eat carbs)
- insect repellent
- lip balm
The last but not the list, to capture the memories of the event, it is recommended to bring a camera, a journal, and a stash of business cards. Bringing any other gadgetry is not recommended as (a) it might get lost, stolen or broken and (b) there are no charging outlets at camp, so you'll only be able to canoodle with your beloved iPad for one day at most.
My husband and I spent about two hours getting together all my stuff and by the time we were done, I felt a bit like someone going on a space mission (only without a space suit) or on an Arctic exploration mission (minus the penguins). While all this may seem like a frightful amount of stuff, most of it is small, and not much different from what you would take along on a weekend hike - and you don't even need to bring a tent or to carry the big pack during the day. The idea behind all this preparation is that, if you have been training properly, you won't need most of it, but if something happens, at least it's there for you.