Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saved by a one-hit wonder

WHITEHALL, Wis. -- My sisters were gassed. So were other family members who had stuck it out overnight at the Relay For Life and were now gathered at a sheltered picnic table beside the Whitehall High School track field. Muscles ached. Feet hurt. A general state of exhaustion had overtaken our spirited but weary and sleep-deprived team, Gene's Brew Crew.

Less than an hour to go.

Time to reach for three more miles -- just 12 trips around the paved oval track. You could sleepwalk that distance, something Brew Crew members had proven repeatedly while racking up mile after mile overnight. But this was early morning, and early mornings have never been good to me.

A damp chill hung in the air and rain clouds threatened to soak the encampment as Peg completed her final lap, leaving little brother to finish the deed. Surely, after taking a guilty nap, I had three more miles in me and my canvas Converse All-Stars.

Where was the D.J. from Neon Fever who had kept us so loose and focused over the first few hundred laps with his lively mix of music? Or the polka band that had spurred us to our best performances? Give me a fiddle, an accordian and a bluegrass guitar and I could run to daylight.

I was out of sync the first three laps as a struggled to keep my coffee cup from spilling onto the track. It didn't help that the music coming from the stadium P.A. system sounded like noise. Where was the song that would provide the needed surge?

A light but steady rain began to fall during the second mile. I traded my coffee cup for an oversized Packers umbrella and trudged on. With three laps to go the rain stopped, so I dropped off the umbrella as I passed the Brew Crew "dugout'' and kept on chugging. Please, just one song to put a bounce back in my step and make the blisters under my feet temporarily disappear.

And then it came:

I used to think maybe you loved me
Now baby I'm sure
And I just can't wait 'til the day
When you knock on the door...

Everything was a blur as I completed the final lap to Katrina & the Waves' bouncy "Walking on Sunshine.''

Final tallies for Gene's Brew Crew: 314 miles walked, $1,093 raised. And a Whitehall relay total of more than $25,000 generated to fight cancer.

... and don't it feel good!

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