The Journey Begins

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Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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And then this happened

It rained all last Monday night and I was curious as to whether or not Tuesday weather would lend itself to walking.  As it turned out, the space between rain drops was large, so Sally and I “suited up” and trekked on down to Sailor Bar. 

Because it had been raining, very few folks were out.  Walking with Sally can present some special issues when other dogs are around, and don’t get me started on “off-leash” dogs, which may be the topic of another discussion. But today, solitude and quiet abounded.  Complete serenity.

Tuesday is also a training day, so shortly after Sally and I returned, I readied to leave again, this time solo.  My plan was to walk around the neighborhood, travel the road down to Sailor Bar again and walk along the river westward toward the village.  I had my 10-pound backpack on and my new hiking boots that I am breaking in.  I noticed, for this first time, that my pack seemed lighter, almost weightless.  This is a sign that I am getting stronger…good news!

My walk along the larger avenue was pleasant in spite of the roar of cars “en commute.”  The weather was cooperating—no rain in sight and, in fact, blue sky was peeking through the clouds.  I turned the corner into the neighborhood, admiring yards with new blooms, feeling the breeze on my face.  It was cool, but not too cool, and I was thinking about how nice some hot homemade chicken and rice soup would be for lunch when I got home.  I was probably smiling.  I was feeling great!

And then this happened:

It was in slow motion, as it often is.  A step, a misplaced boot toe, a stumble, a stutter step in hopes of recovery–but not soon enough.  And down—my knee, my hands, my chin, and ultimately my glasses and my cheek.  Contact with the asphalt. 

Raising my head, I saw my glasses broken on the street in front of me.  This is not good, was my immediate thought, as I gathered up the pieces.  A temple had detached and one lens was scratched.  Both hands on the asphalt attempted to bring me to my feet, once, then twice…the backpack heavier now.  Much heavier.  A third attempt got me up and, as Sally would, I shook it off.

I felt dampness on my chin and used my handkerchief to dab the blood away, straightened my pack and started walking again.  My phone app spoke:  One mile, split pace: 19 minutes and 54 seconds.  Wow, I thought, I was making pretty good time. 

I felt a trickle run down my cheek and dabbed at that.  Oh, another drip from another place.  Ok, home we go to take a look.

Total walk with pack 1.5 miles. 

The mirror showed me the damage, and it was not clear to me if I would need stitches.  The doctor said to come in, so I did.  Nothing hurt, adrenaline was still very much in play.  I had a pretty good goose egg on my cheek under the cut, and my chin was slightly off center, but nothing was broken. 

The folks at the doctor’s office were very kind.  My cheek got glued back together; we chuckled about their advice that I not laugh for a couple of days (to avoid crinkling my cheek and disrupting the glue).  I went to the grocery store to get some comfort food and headed home.

The next morning, I had a black eye, a Dermabond bandage on my cheek and a story.  The picture shows where I tripped–there is no crack or mound or mountain or mole hill to trip on where I fell–just inattention, a dream of soup and an errant foot.  Such is life…

The scene of the pratfall–not even a crack!

Happily, the rest of the week went as scheduled…Sally and I walked regularly.  I went on my scheduled long training walks:  Thursday with my pack but with trail runners instead of boots; Saturday with my pack and boots.  There have been no further walking accidents or incidents.  This April Fool’s Day morning I am left with a small patch of Dermabond on my cheek—a testimony to how quickly things heal—and a full schedule of things to do. 

March was eventful.  I survived a fall with minimal injury, I logged over 100 miles of walking, and I gained some additional confidence.  Life is good.

Tear you down; Build you up (or not)


With my new training plan, I walked just over 33 miles last week.  Thirty-three miles is just about two days of walking on the Camino, and I did this 33 over five days, so I still have a way to go, but I will tell you this:  This week felt good!

I’ve been in training before.    My first organized fitness program (other than physical education in grade school) was when I attended a police academy in late 1979 and early 1980, for 13 weeks.  I was barely 25 years old at the time.

What I remember most about that experience was that the training philosophy was to tear us down–physically, mentally, communally—in order to build us back up.  This was done to help us become mentally and physically stronger and to build a strong bond between us.  We would need all of those attributes as we launched into our law enforcement careers in the 80’s.  Some of us made it through the academy; others didn’t.  Personally, I was not going to quit; If I left prematurely, they would be carrying me out on a stretcher.  Thank goodness it didn’t come to that, but I felt every ounce of the tear down…and experienced every bit of the build-up.  At graduation, I was in great shape, and felt a bit invincible!

Well, that was then and this is now–a mere forty years later.

The tear you down/build you up just doesn’t work well for me anymore.  I need every ounce of energy I can muster just to wake up and do yoga!  To dress, eat, walk, and get on with my day takes energy too.  The best I can figure is that I need to conserve and build; start with the base I have and add to it gradually and sensibly.  And this new training plan seems to accommodate that.  Thank you to the commenter on the last post who reminded me that muscles need time to mend and grow.  That is the truth!

So enough on training for now.  My mind is on what’s happening out there…Spring has sprung!  And the Sailor Bar flowers are beginning to bloom…

The Importance of Rest Days—and a Re-revised Training Plan

Maybe it’s an excuse to be lazy.  Maybe this is what it feels like to be 64.  Maybe it is just the way it is, but let me say these things:  1) I think I may have been overly enthusiastic with my training plan; and 2) I need rest days. 

I’ve been officially training to walk the Camino del Norte for two and a half months.  I started in January and walked 81 miles during that month.  Most days I walked two and three quarter miles with Sally the dog and a few days I added four miles walking solo.  My training goal, however, was to walk three to five miles each day with a four-pound pack. I did that six times.  Six.  Hum.

A cloudy sunrise in January

In February, I walked ten days.  Yep, ten.  Most days were cold and rainy and I simply wasn’t up to meeting that challenge.  Over those ten walking days, Sally and I did our typical two and three quarter miles and I threw in a couple of four milers without her.  My total for February was 32 miles.  But, my goal for February was to walk six miles a day with a six-pound pack.  I did exactly one of those.  Sheesh…

One of the ten sunny and warm February days (and that’s Sally!)

So far in March, I have walked 12 days, with six days off for weather or other commitments. On five walking days I doubled up my walking—taking Sally for her two and three quarter miles, following up with a few more with my backpack.  Those five days I walked from eight to nine miles each.  To date, I have 59 miles logged in March. Better for sure, but I am still not on track with my training plan.  March was supposed to be seven-mile days with an eight-pound pack. 

A spectacular March day on the American River

Yesterday and today I walked Sally and then did my backpack miles.  I totaled seven and eight miles respectively and did my solo walking with a nine-pound pack.  And today–I’m beat. 

I get really proud of myself when I walk longer and I carry more weight.  That old ego really gets pumped up and pushes me harder and harder.  But it ends up being counter-productive in the long run, when I wake up with sore and tired legs and I don’t even want to roll out of bed. 

In order to alleviate those dog tired mornings, my revised training plan for March is this:  On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I will just walk Sally.  We may go three and a half miles, because she did that today and survived.  On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, Sally and I will do our two and three quarter miles and I will do a second solo walk of four to five miles with a ten-pound pack.  The intermittent pack days will hopefully allow me to move slowly and deliberately into longer walks with a heavier pack. And, Sunday I will rest because, while training is important, rest days are too.

And thank goodness I have April, May, June, July and most of August to train before I leave. 

I can’t believe it’s been so long…

So, here it is March, nearly a year later. Let me catch you all up.

I am still planning on walking the Camino del Norte this year. My original plan was to walk in May but I read so much about the wet mucky mud in the spring, I knew I had to rethink my planning. Due to my desire to walk on semi-dry soil, I have changed my departure date to late August. Hopefully by then the coastal vacationers will have largely gone back home to fall school and work schedules, and the coast will be clear(er).

Since revising my travel schedule, my training finally started in earnest in January, just in time for torrential California rains, and a freezing February. March weather has been much better and I have been logging a few more miles. My Training Schedule–Rev. 2 still seems do-able, and I think I am on track.

Sally enjoying a short three-miler with me

I have my new wardrobe and, I am happy to say, it matches! I have black pants, grey shirts, a grey fleece, a grey sun hat, a black and white scarf, and for evenings, a new black wrap-around travel skirt. I do believe I will look, well, coordinated. There have been a few other new additions: a smaller, lighter backpack (30 liters instead of 36, and light blue instead of pink), a new rainproof poncho to replace the rain jacket and rain pants system, and a new pair of black Tevas for showering and “after-walking” walking around.

New shoes (same as the old shoes)
and my new black pants

My plane tickets are purchased and my first three nights are reserved. I have decided that I will buy new trekking poles in Irun, where I will begin walking, because I don’t want to have to bother with checking luggage. I have been using two wonderful Camino cell phone apps, Wise Pilgrim and Editorial Buen Camino, and have laid out each stage — each days’ stopping place — planning, but not wed to any notion of rigidity. I feel pretty settled about the logistics of my trip.

Sailor Bar. My own little Camino…

I also feel more settled about this walk. I’ve done this type of walk before. I know “the ropes.” This time I will be better able to go with the flow. I know I have to train more, to gain more mileage and strength, but I also know that will come. And, a few days ago, as I walked seven miles with ten pounds on my back, I was reminded of just how liberating it is to simply be, walking…

Roadblocks

Last month was busy. My Camino del Norte Training Plan was derailed.

My intentions were good when I devised my plan. I knew from past experience that I didn’t want to wait until the month before I planned to leave to begin training for my next Camino. I wanted to begin a slow and steady increase in miles, time and weight so that I would be strong, consistent and confident to walk without much trepidation. If I had a year to make long backpacking walks a habit, I knew I would be just fine. So, I created a plan.

The Camino del Norte Training Plan was developed to begin last month—a year from my intended Camino del Norte start date. Walking regularly and incrementally longer would give Sally-the-dog, her exercise and would give me the increases I knew I needed. The plan was to walk Sally for her three miles and then walk by myself for increasingly more miles. It all seemed manageable enough.

My initial roadblock was getting over the notion of doing a short walk, then walking home, dropping Sally off, and heading out again. I dislike stopping and starting as much as I dislike out and back walks. But I found I could reframe the stop as a café con leche break—like one I might have on the Camino–and I actually did that a couple of times. It seemed to work.

The plan worked for about a week, maybe two. Then the second roadblock happened: the weather got hotter. My morning routine includes about two hours of ritual work: Meditation, yoga, journaling, answering emails, perusing the news. My normal wake time is 6:00 am. That means I finally get breakfast and dressed around 8. If I left the house at 8:30, with the heat the way is was (and is destined to become again) there is no way that Sally could do her three miles, nor that I could do my additional ones afterwards. It was just too hot.

The third roadblock, juggling, was the final straw. My schedule got really busy. There was the impending high school graduation of my grandson and its requisite changes in school pick up times and days. There was in increase in medical appointments for my mom, who, although she is quite fit, at 87 years young her doctors like to err on the side of caution and order every test imaginable for every small anomaly. Not that I am not grateful for their diligence—I am.

Because the Training Plan was not yet part of my routine, it slid off my radar. Yes, it was a plan, a possibility, a desire, and a need, but it was not a done deal. I had not consciously made it a priority and this is what happened: I just stopped walking.

Sally and I just stopped walking—for a couple of weeks. And I was off transporting Grandson and Mother to and from school, work, and appointments. I thought about the Training Plan periodically, feeling a pang of guilt or justification, but I could not imagine how to resolve the conflict. I couldn’t figure out how to juggle all of the important things I had in my life and add yet another.

I write so I can think. As this is written the obvious solution is forming. During the summer, I just have to get up earlier. It’s a simple solution—maybe not easy to begin but do-able. I think, if I can get out of the house with Sally by 6:30 am, I can get all the miles in that I need this summer. In the fall, and as the weather cools and the days start later, I can re-adjust.

Tomorrow, my goal is to rise at 4:30 am and do my meditation, yoga, journaling, emailing, and perusing. Then eat and dress and leash up Sally to begin the walk. After three miles, I will get home and have a delicious cup of café con leche, just like on the Camino. And then I will be off again, by myself, adding distance, time and weight, one walk at a time.

 

Against All Advice

It was in late 2014, when I was preparing for my first walk (the Camino Frances), that I heard this pronouncement:

Serious hikers don’t care if their clothes match or their backpack is the “wrong” color.  What matters is that everything fits and is comfortable.

So, being the intrepid soon-to-be serious hiker, off I went looking for good deals in clothes that fit, dried quickly, and were comfortable. It mattered not what color they were. Well, that isn’t entirely true. I still wanted to look, at least remotely, sartorially coordinated, so I looked around a bit for things that did not, at least, clash. I ended up taking these pieces:

Brown/hunter green hiking pants that I had to let down because they were too short;
• a blue short sleeved T-shirt;
• a pink short sleeved T-shirt;
• a turquoise long sleeved shirt;
• a teal fleece jacket;
brown socks;
• a tan hiking skirt;
blue hiking sandals; and
grey boots.

I did my best to find a teal backpack to match at least something, and I ended up with a pink one that matched one of my shirts. Pink is not my favorite color but the pack fit exceptionally well. And then I took a multicolored scarf that “pulled it all together.”

Last year, for the Camino Portuguese, I bought an inexpensive light blue sleeveless shirt and got rid of the pink T-shirt. I swapped out my blue short sleeve T-shirt for a light green one. I brought tan shorts instead of the skirt that hiked up my legs with every step. My socks were grey and teal. As far as sartorial eloquence, this was slightly better. The scarf still helped.

This year when the walking bug struck again I made this vow:

I will coordinate the color of my clothes.

I know, it’s shallow. But darn it, I’m worth it.

Here, though, was the problem. That pink backpack (whose color I don’t really care for) fits really nicely. One just does not mess around with that kind of success. I even bought an identical pair of boots for my next trek. Some things you must not change.

Black and grey. Goes with pink, yes? YES!

With more than a year to go and with no significant training under my belt, I’ve gone and purchased my ENTIRE new wardrobe for the Camino Del Norte. Not only that, I’ve bought more than I will actually take. The new “exercise” will be to decide if the new black capris or the new black skirt (which is actually a skort, so it won’t hike up) will go, and whether the new second short sleeved t-shirt will replace the new sleeveless one (both grey).

Grey uppers, black lowers. I’m still in the market for that new coordinating scarf.  (Won’t it be funny when my “after” pictures look just like these “before” shots?)

In the end, I may not look like a serious hiker but I might be fashion forward!