I welcome foam rollers, sticks, and athletic trainers even two days after this xtreme adventure!
Although my leg of this journey started over three months ago and will take a break until until next summer I can honestly say it didn’t seem long enough. I introduced you to my inspiration a few short weeks ago and since then the anticipation has been building like mad to give you guys a recap.
Let me apologize in advance, I am going to take you through the whole weekend so get ready to read (and see more than a few pictures)!
I packed my bag (you guys got to see that process – lots of work!), headed over to eat lunch with and get a few knots out from my back by my husband, and finally headed out to the Wilderness Lodge in Lesterville, MO where we were staying for the weekend.
Check in started at four but I ran into traffic on the way down so I got there about five pm and just in time to check in, socialize a little, be fed – perfect timing!! We were given welcome packs, room keys, and a weekend itinerary at check in – it was going to be a busy weekend!!
I stayed with CF Foundation staff in a charming three bed/two bath cabin that had a large living room and screened in front porch (there were even beds out there!).
A few pictures of the digs…
Charming right? I thought so!
With almost all hikers and volunteers to the Lodge we chowed down on salad, homemade spaghetti and meat balls, and ice cream. I only had the fortitude to take a picture of the dessert. Yes, my mind was focused on the sweet stuff in life!
While hikers ate Mike Burke spoke to us and truly touched each one of us. Mike is a 43 year old man who is living a insanely inspiring life. He has completed nine marathons, fifteen half marathons, and three triathlons all within the last thirteen years. But wait, there’s yet another remarkable thing about Mike – he has Cystic Fibrosis.
Take a moment and let it sink in.
Over 9,000 pills a year not just for CF but for Diabetes as well, a vest treatment daily, and somehow he still finds time to train for endurance events, give back to his community, and be thankful for CF for bringing him to where he is today.
Did I mention he’s about as humble and kind as they come? He is. He spoke to us about how at 16 he looked at his life and realized he may not make it to his high school graduation and at 20 the life expectancy was 22, how for that very reason he was not interested in going to college. Eight years (and a college degree) late Mike was 30, the life expectancy 28 and he had an epiphany that allowed him to take back control of his life from CF. From there he planned to live, he found marathons and is now running at 80% lung capacity. There is always hope.
During dessert we moved to the safety and trail presentation. It was interesting to hear about the past and proposed future of the trail trying to get the Ozark Trail expanded to 700 miles from the Arkansas boarder to the Mississippi River. How is that for extreme?! The Ozark Trail Association even gave us nifty pins and brochures for bedtime reading!
Finally around ten o’clock we all went our separate ways and headed to bed. In just a few short hours we would be up and bused to the trailhead where we could begin our journey down the road less traveled.
We all went to bed with sweet notes from the CFF staff, could they spoil us any more? Ok, maybe with a foot rub post hike but it’s the thought that counts!
I organized my pack Friday night with all these lovely goodies! Thank you to all our sponsors! Naturally here’s the gutted contents of our welcome packs:
Saturday (Hike Your Feet Off Day!):
Beep, Beep, Beep, WHAP! That alarm was not a welcome sound at two am but thank goodness I could just stumble out of bed, fumble with my pack, and head out the door to breakfast. By three am I was awake and had eaten breakfast, filled my bladder (the one in my pack), and relieved my other bladder (TMI? Probably want to skip to the summary haha).
Bright eyed and bushy tailed we posed for the first of many pictures:
Herded onto a bus next and gripped with anticipation we headed into the wilderness. Don’t we all look thrilled?!
Thirty minutes later we evacuate the bus and gather in our respected start groups. Speedy Gonzales’ upfront and Team Tortoise in the rear. Off to Grandma’s house we went with our headlamps, maps, compasses, and determination.
I didn’t see this for myself but a very reputable source told me everyone looked like little ants marching up the hill (and there was a pretty steep incline for the first mile, elevation gain of 243 feet) and that we were adorable. This is probably the only time I’m going to celebrate being an ant – whoo!
I started out in the slowest proposed group and got to spend quality time with Team Tortoise. Our original group of four split into two groups of two and got to hiking at a comfortable, easy pace.
Deb and I hiked the first two miles before hearing the rest of what would become Team Tortoise coming in behind us. Ringleader Suzie took us in and we plodding along at a leisurely pace!
Head lamp activated, Garmin GPS beeping every mile
Within a few hours we hear the stomping of what we thought were hikers who started behind us. No, these were the hikers who started BEFORE us and who got lost less than two miles in. Savoring for a moment that we were ahead we moved to the side quickly when we realized that they planned on running us over if we even thought about standing our ground! The blur shows just how speedy these guys were:
We wandered across a ridge, got to star gaze and watch the sun rise, it was
Aid Station #1 ( 2 hours, 48 mins in at mile 6.8)
We all felt pretty good, munched on some snacks, rested only briefly and hit the trail again.
I slipped into a creek crossing early on and Suzie offered to let me use an extra pair of socks she had in her comfort pack at the first Aid Station – thank goodness for Suzie! For the rest of the day I rocked some awesome pink knee highs:
Here is our group (minus photographer Steve) at mile 8.7 or so:
Happy, smiling people! Let me introduce them from left to right: Peggy, Patty,Suzie in the front; Tom, Deb, me in the back! Bonus material, the photographer:
Not a whole lot to talk about between Aid Station #1 and #2, we were all feeling good and glad to be hiking in such amazing weather!
Lots of “trail talk” happened throughout the day but in this particular leg we heard a little too much about Suzie and Tom. Oh wait, if I learned anything these past three months it’s that there is nothing off limits!
Aid Station #2 (mile 15.2)
Smack dab in the middle of our 30.1 miles blisters were starting to appear and knees started to hurt. Patty who had hobbled with blisters in many of our training hikes decided that she had gone as far as she could go and decided to cheer us on at the Aid Stations. Kuddos to Patty who listened to her body and gave it her all through mile 15!!
We refueled with Gatorade and beef jerky. A few of us were running low on water so refilling our bladder was a necessity too!
Between Aid Station #2 and #3 proved to be the toughest part of the day, terrain was sandy, then rocky, and always unpredictable but we made it as a team and it proved to be valuable bonding time!
Aid Station #3 (mile 22.2)
I don’t have any pictures at #3 but we were getting mentally and physically exhausted around this time. Three of us had our feet elevated on a makeshift table.
Deb and Peggy scurried off before the rest of the team so Deb could see her family at the finish! They booked the last eight miles!!
Suzie, our fearless leader was close to the wall and about ready to throw in the towel until she looked through her inspiration pictures of everyone afflicted by CF. Putting on a brave face and drying her tears she slipped her shoes back on and we headed out on the trail. We were all fairly gassed at this point so it really helped everyone to have Mike Burke (inspirational CFer from Friday night, I know you remember him!) and Matt, a CF dad, trekking alongside us.
Team Tortoise with the Game Changers!
We had a few falls early in the last leg but nothing serious came of them thankfully!
For the last little bit of the hike we were teased by the sight of the lake and the beach where the finish line was but it sure was beautiful!
The last mile or so was tortuous for me because Steve kept suggesting we had an extra mile or two to go and I went into complete mental panic. To prepare for that I slowed and took my time trying to figure out when the best time to cry was going to be. Thankfully Steve had misremembered the map and we were right on schedule!
We started hearing the cheers about half a mile from the finish line and a few of us jogged our way up into camp chairs and, for those legal to drink, beer. What a fantastic way to end a fourteen hour day!
The proof is in the pudding!
Whoa. The exhaustion set in as soon as my butt hit the camp chair. Others had cramps and ultimate fatigue as we were finally able to celebrate being 30.1 miles and $93,000 closer to curing CF.
Back at the lodge about an hour and a half later we sat down to an amazing meal of smoked pork butt, cole slaw , corn melody, and some pecan and apple dessert that was out of this world. Again, all of it was homemade and again, I only managed to get a picture of the dessert. Whoops.
As you can imagine it was time to shower and get to bed shortly after this!
Quite possibly the most insightful day of the weekend we woke up for breakfast around eight, packed our cars, and headed to breakfast. With tummies full of the best french toast and bacon anyone has ever had we were corralled into the dining room to hand out trail awards and receive event patches.
The CFF staffer in charge of the event started off by giving Suzie (the whole reason the event began) a patch, from there we “pop corned” patches around the room telling everyone our connection to CF and what brought us to this hike. Story after story was shared.
Mothers losing children, triumph in spite of difficulties, the change of treatment and drug choice from thirty years ago to now, lemonade stands to raise money for a CF child so she could have a normal life, ER doctors hiking without a connection for the sense of humanity and compassion. Tears flowed freely and everyone felt the comrade that was experienced.
One of the fastest finishers stepped up to speak, she happens to be a CF mom and she said, “I’m not competitive, I’m desperate. This may not have been a race but curing CF is.”
That quote sums up the reason all of us ended up together, regardless of if we came to the Hike with a connection or made one along the way.
It was time to say our good byes and see you next times after breakfast. I loaded up and headed back home. Waiting for me was my husband and dog – what a welcome sight!
Next year, tentatively one day earlier, we will head out with the exact same mission as this weekend – make CF stand for Cure Found.
Wow. This weekend was amazing. There is nothing more fulfilling than doing what you love for a great cause. Regardless of if that means hiking thirty miles or donating your time for a cause you believe in (your children and grandchildren are causes too) get out there and make a difference in the world. It takes one person to change someone’s life.
I want to thank the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – Gateway Chapter for allowing me the chance to hang out in the office all summer and meet some of the greatest families.
Thank you to the volunteers specifically for this weekend who spent literally all weekend being our support system but to everyone who volunteers.
Thank you to the Wilderness Lodge – fantastic experience, amazing food, super fun staff!
Thank you Team Tortoise from start to finish – could not have done it without each of you!
Thank you to my personal support team!! My husband, my parents, my family, and my friends. Y’all are the best!
If you would like to give I strongly encourage it. Almost ninety cents of every dollar goes directly research, the rest goes to make sure people are able to put on phenomenal fundraisers like this! My personal Hike page is here (as easy as click and submit!) and I would be honored by your support.
Again, thank you everyone who helped get me across the finish line!
And PLEASE, if you have a CF connection comment! I want to know who I hiked for yesterday! Questions are welcome as well 🙂