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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kidney March 2011-The March Starts

Well it's over. Done. Finito. What an experience. The 2011 Kidney March was what I expected and more. And there were some thing s that could have been better (as with everything in life). But the idea is great and I'd consider doing it again. Because of the enormity of the experience (beyond the 100km), I've decided to make a few posts about my ups and downs and impressions over the weekend. Here is part one:

Arriving at the baggage drop off zone at the Delta South Hotel in Calgary at 6AM felt a little like being dropped off for summer camp. I was excited, nervous and a little a lot unsure of myself. I was also feeling a little rushed as I had left much of the packing for that morning and as a result had just left the house in time to make it to the hotel. We were halfway there when I remembered I forgot to both eat breakfast and tie the "Tent City" colour coded tag to my bag (so they know where to put your luggage). This only added to my nerves-I hate not being perfectly prepared.

I said my goodbyes to "Charlie" and wandered into the hotel lobby. It seemed like there were people everywhere-inside and out and I didn't recognize anyone. After a few minutes we were all instructed to head out to the buses. On my bus, the only seat that didn't have anyone in it yet was the one right behind the bus driver. I of course picked that one. Keener. Eventually a man came along and asked if he could sit there. He quickly was greeted by others around us as "Doc" so I assumed he was a doctor. Turns out he is indeed and is a paediatric nephrologist at Children's Hospital here in Calgary. We chatted briefly about kidneys and why we were marching. I learned that due to advances in the last 10 years or so in diet, monitoring and medication, they  can often prevent most kids living with kidney disease from needing a transplant at least into adulthood. Research (and funding for research) does indeed pay off. Very important, especially when you are dealing with kids.

The other three in Lee's crew!
We arrived at the kick off location (Millarville Race track). They had a good selection of fruits and yogurt (phew-the no breakfast issue was overcome). People milled around and made their way to the stage area. I still was feeling very "by myself" but that didn't last long. Lee Ferreira, my very first Kidney March sponsor, found me and introduced me to her three team mates, Marian, Sue and Rosie. When they moved, they made sure I came along with them. People took photos of their teams on the stage and there was a quick opening ceremony and a warm up. Then we were off!

And somehow I was by myself again but in the beginning everyone was so bunched up it didn't matter. I just wasn't talking the way everyone around me was. The energy was high and there were a lot of smiles around me. We started trekking towards the main road. It was pretty impressive to see all the marchers in their "Failure is not an option" shirts moving along the roadway. Despite being surrounded by people though it would have been cool for those first few kilometers to have had "team mates" around me. Next year right? I fought off the urge to sing "All by myself" as I walked. Nobody likes a martyr. One of the crew/cheer people I passed asked me where my marching buddy was. I told her I didn't have one. She said she might come walk with me a bit later in the march.

We walked a few kilometers and ta da-our first rest stop. I have to applaud the event organizers on this feature of the march-the rest stops were almost always perfectly spaced and had everything (usually) from water to Gatorade to Oreos and port-o-potties. You could enjoy any or all of the features for as long as you needed and in any order that suited you.

About two or three stops in I caught up to Lee and crew and had marching buddies again. Time and space go by much faster if you have people to talk or listen to. Or even just to experience the scenery with! The Kidney March organizers had these great quotes along the roadway too which were motivating at least the first few times you saw them :)

By late morning it was getting pretty hot out. My energy was holding up but I knew the sun would start to get to me. I was kind of worried about a repeat of golf day where I overdid it in the sun and lost the whole next day. As much as I am feeling great 99% of the time these days, rumour has it that donating a kidney is major surgery and that was only 12 weeks ago.The more we trekked on, the more tired I got. We finally arrived at the lunch station and I felt like every muscle in my legs was on fire. I stretched and stretched and stretched which seemed to help some but not others. We were towards the rear of the "pack" of marchers and as such we seemed to catch the tail end of lunch. We quickly ate, feeling pressure to keep going.

After lunch, our team had split up a bit and I was walking with Sue. She is a fantastic lady. Without getting into great detail about her story, she is a kidney recipient (from her sister in law) as of about a year and a half ago. It was so interesting to talk to her and hear about her experiences with dialysis, waiting to see if  she had a donor match in an extended family member or friend. It was hugely helpful to me and it helped me better understand what life with Kidney disease is like.

At about one stop after lunch I knew my energy was dwindling and there were a lot of sunny, brutal hills ahead. My muscles were fine and I was blister free but I had no energy left. As much as it totally made me feel defeated, I climbed into a sweeper van (vans for people who need a ride for as much of the course they want). There were a few people with me in the van and everyone was pretty quiet (in pain and/or a bit deflated). The cheer-crew lady who had promised to walk with me was in the passenger seat of the van. She tried to keep our spirits up and got everyone talking about why they were marching. There was a range of answers from family members/friends affected or lost to kidney disease, people who worked in the renal field etc. I was the only donor (in the van) and there were a few questions about that. It was good to listen/talk as it kept my mind off feeling badly for "quitting" for a little while.

After a bit of touring around we started to make our way back to camp. I was very excited about the prospect of a shower. And a massage.

To be continued...

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