Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why Walk?

Why walk the Camino - don't we have something better to do with our lives?  Good question - hopefully this is a good answer.  As both of us get older - some would say we are already old - we ponder the question of our individual lives - what have we done with our lives - what were we suppose to do - have we done everything we could?  Rather than take up a place on the back deck - we both feel that we have much to offer.  Walking the Camino will give each of us time to converse openly - with each other - with other peregrinos - time to reflect - to think - to pray - to listen - to others - to nature - to God.

We walk to celebrate 44 years of a great marriage - the joke was I told friends I was taking Arlene to Spain for our 44th anniversary - then I told her - walking 500 miles!  I walk to ponder and reflect on completing 25 years as an ordained Roman Catholic deacon - my failures and successes.  We walk to share the message that "with God - all things are possible".  Finally we walk to introduce people to one of our newest saints - Saint Gianna Beretta Molla - a pro-life saint - an Italian doctor - wife - mother - who gave her life - that another would live.  We go to spread the Gospel message of God's awesome love for all his people - not just Christians - but all.  As we walk we will carry with us prayers requested by others - prayers of our own - prayers for our world.  As we meet others we will be sharing cards that we made up - so that they may keep in contact with us - to continue the Camino experience well into the future.  On the back of that card - we have also created a prayer card for Saint Gianna - we hope by offering these - that in some small way - we might help make the world a better place for us all.  For the Camino is an individual experience - that in one way or another - touches the lives of all.

 Why walk? What else could we do - now that we know what we do.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Gotta Love Them

OK - this may seem a bit commercial - but we have to state that we absolutely love the folks at REI - they are so helpful and cooperative.  Their return policy is so awesome - as we have been buying and returning different products from them over the past ten months since we made the decision to walk the Camino.  I am happy to state that we have finally settled on our trekking shoes.  While we thought that we needed high top boots - we have learned through this testing process that lower cut hiking shoes is best for us and our feet.  Happy feet means a better chance that walking 500 miles (800 kilometers) should be much more possible for this older couple.  Our final choice - Patagonia Drifter A/C hiking shoes. 

These are about two-thirds the weight of hiking boots - both of us hate heavy shoes - have a very strong Vibram sole - a generous toe box and are water resistant.  Walking in these is a real pleasure. We took a maiden walk in them yesterday - right out of the box - and walked 4½ miles (7 km).  No hot spots - no toe banging - just comfort - if we had more time we could have walked two or three times that before taking a break.  We have read in reviews on this particular shoe that most people were able to start walking in them with no break-in period - another plus.  We will give them a final test as we take a 17 mile (27 km) walk in a few days and repeat it Saturday August 3rd as we walk El Camino de los Santos

We are getting much closer to departure on our Camino - now that we have resolved an unexpected stomach issue - and our doctors have all given their enthusiastic approval.  Until next time...

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Walk in The Park

No we did not walk in a park but our walking trek today took us to a part of Kendall county that we have not visited previously.  The goal was to walk for a few hours - checking out our newest hiking shoes with full back packs.  With water - my pack came in at 14 pounds (6.4 kilos) and Arlene's was 13 pounds (5.9 kilos) and that was with our trekking poles strapped to the sides. So as far as pack weight - I think we are very close to our target goal.  The good news is that we were able to maintain a steady pace with some bursts of fast walking mixed in with a slower pace as we looked at sites we had not seen before. 

 My Trekking Partners Being Silly

 Walking on Asphalt Not My Favorite 

 Off Road A Pleasant Discovery 

 According To My Friend This White Flower Is A Natural Mosquito Repellent 

 Nice View With Water 

 Purple Surprise

 Very Calm & Restful 

 Trekking in Fields 

 Herons? in the Distance

 Back on Asphalt 

Hidden Path - No Vehicles

After two hours of walking we covered 5.6 miles (9 kilometers) and no foot problems - no blisters.  In the process we discovered a new neighborhood which we visited for the first time and a nice pond complete with wild flowers and herons - the lone eagle flew away before I could get a photo.  On the walk back we discovered an empty road - the victim of the economic down turn from a few years ago - the basic circle for that development stands as a lone survivor of an attempt to build a senior community.  We had no idea that this roadway was even there. With no vehicles it is a very flat place to walk or run in complete safety. 

Today was a successful day - good weather - no issue with the new shoes - good pack weight - so at this point we will keep up the walking - building our endurance - getting ourselves ready for a three day marathon next week and our second trek on El Camino de los Santos.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

One Step Forward.....

Everyone knows the phrase "One step forward - two steps back".  Well that is kind of how both of us are feeling right now.  After testing different hiking boots - we felt we were all set - until - the dreaded "black toe" - known all too well by marathon runners and serious hikers alike.  We thought that we had solved all our issues with our third pair of boots.  That is until we took a longer hike - the "half" camino that we did July 6th.  So discovering that issue - we returned to our favorite REI store to investigate more boots.  At the same time Arlene was coping with her black toe - I was beginning to have issues with tight toes - the toe box in my boots seemed to be shrinking by the day.  So Arlene picked up a pair of low cut Patagonia Drifter AC while I opted for a pair of North Face Hedgehog GTX. 

Patagonia Drifter AC

North Face Hedgehog GTX

The good news is that the wider toe box in the Patagonia Drifters seem to have solved Arlene's black toe issues - she now has more wiggle room.  Although the North Face felt good on my feet in the store - I quickly discovered that the sole was not hard enough for what I wanted. One of my tests with foot wear has been to intentionally step on gravel pebbles on asphalt.  If I can step on pebbles and feel nothing then that is good - unfortunately I could feel the sole of the North Face flex around the pebble and I could feel the pebble trying to poke through the sole. That was a definite failure so the next day back to REI - love their generous return policy - to buy a pair of men's Patagonia Drifter AC for myself.  So now Arlene is 98 percent sure that her Patagonia's are her hiking shoes -  but I am still making test walks to see if I can be happy with mine.  After walking with a mid-height boot over the past few months -  it is different walking in a low cut hiking shoe. 

One constant debate among those who have walked or are training to walk the Camino is foot wear. Hiking boots - full - mid-height - low cut - versus hiking shoes and even trail runners - all seem to be equally popular and depending on who you discuss this with - the perfect shoe/boot.  In reality it all comes down to proper fit - comfort - personal preference. So we are finding out what we prefer. The same goes for our socks - do we need the very thick wool socks we started with - or can we go with a mid-weight. Decisions - decisions. That is one thing  that the Camino has taught us already - do not get upset when a previous decision has to be revisited and a new decision made - sometimes completely contrary to the initial decision. On the Camino we will have to "go with the flow" - a lesson that should be applied to everyday life.

In time - all this will work itself out - until then - we do what we do best - we walk.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fruitful Training

When a person trains for anything - a sporting event - a concert - rehearsing lines for a play - it is always better when that training effort produces good results. When others share in the benefits of that training - then that is what I call fruitful training - like a bunch of grapes that all benefit from the same nutrition supplied by the trunk of the one plant.  Last Saturday - while doing another training trek - we had the pleasure of being joined by eighteen other people on that trek.  Twenty people in total - all gained and learned from our one training event. As always - on any training event - lessons are learned - issues revisited - new ideas shared - new possibilities presented.  Our "half" camino of El Camino de los Santos - some 8½ miles - 13 kilometers - again revealed possibilities that we had not thought of previously.  Now we take those new insights and again we investigate - rethink - explore - new possibilities. As we come to new conclusions - we will share on our blog.

Needless to say - those walking with us - all had a great time and now have a new respect and understanding of walking on pilgrimage.  Now we are no longer "those crazy people" - rather innovative leaders.  We are pleased that those who walked - are so pleased with their effort and outcome.  For pictures of that event please visit our sister blog: El Camino de los Santos

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hitting the Wall

In endurance sports such as cycling and running - hitting the wall describes a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles - which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy. Milder instances can be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. The condition can usually be avoided by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins - maintaining glucose levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances or by reducing exercise intensity.

Although we are not running or cycling - we are doing endurance walking or trekking. Today I had the dubious pleasure (?) of hitting the wall. Today was a test hike of El Camino de los Santos.  The first part of the trek to Saint Mary Church went well - the return trek not as well.  At 13 miles or 21 kilometers - I had to call it quits. I suddenly lost all energy - began to have visual issues - did not feel well.

Failure? - not really - that is why we refer to these treks as "training" walks.  This is how we learn what to do - how to take corrective action - how to avoid issues. It is through these experiences here at home that we can prepare ourselves for the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  Too often - we read in various forums and Camino groups - of those who trained poorly - hit the wall - and returned home disappointed at their failure.  Better to fail - learn and correct - here at home - than to fail in Spain.
What I learned - 1) have breakfast - today I started walking on an empty stomach - serious error - 2) take a lunch break and actually eat - I did take a break but only ate a handful of grapes - 3) drink water and take electrolyte replacements - I drank plenty of water - but only plain water.  Lessons learned - nutrition is not just a word but an action - I need to plan better and not short-cut on nutrition.

In spite of hitting the wall - today was a great experience.  We made the trek to Saint Mary in approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes which had us walking at 2.75 miles per hour and within our estimate of 3½ hours. Once we arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe - we relaxed - removed our socks - ate our lunch (as little as it was) - drank water - and spent time in prayer.

 Dale Walking the Rosary

 Arlene Praying at Shrine 

One thing we learned today is that the bricks at the Shrine are layed out so that a Rosary encircles the Shrine - so Dale "walked" the Rosary in his bare feet - the pavers were cool under foot - walking on pavers had a "pilgrimage" feel.  Arlene found a spot where she spent her time in private prayer - kneeling on the paver blocks - another "pilgrimage" feel. This is a nice Shrine - plenty of room for many people. A place to relax and sit - to meditate - to eat a light lunch - to connect to God. 

Thirty minutes later we resumed our trek back to our starting point. We did not complete that part - we fell about 4 miles short - still we walked a little over 13 miles - about 21 kilometers - and over all a good training walk - our longest walk to date.  We still have about six weeks before we leave - six weeks to continue training - six weeks to better learn our limits - six weeks to learn our capabilities - six weeks to contemplate El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene