Camino Day 7 Learning to Walk
I have discovered something which, heretofore, I had been completely unaware—at least for the last 53 years:
Walking is hard.
I used to think (after the last time I got the hang out it) that was walking was fairly easy; you just put one foot in front of the other, as the song goes. But as I walked today, I realized that it ain’t so easy as all that. And, if I had paid any attention at all, my body was trying to tell me that yesterday.
But yesterday, on the road from Puente la Reine to Estella, on my 54th birthday, I was all about beauty and gratitude, gratitude and beauty. I was continually amazed (as you will notice if you’ve been following my pics on Facebook—and that’s the only place they are now, as this mobile blog app is crap when it comes to trying to artfully insert photos) at how much I see, or rather, #thingsyoumissdriving75mph. I felt as if my vision has somehow been sharpened. I seemingly noticed every ant on the trail and succumbed (only once!) to taking a picture of a hard-working little guy carrying something that looked to weight at least three times as much as he did. I also was fascinated by the snails, and the flowers and grasses and the bees on the flowers, and a ladybug.
And it was such a beautiful day! The Camino de Santiago, I am discovering, is always interesting. On any given day I can be walking through single track trails, on gravel secondary roads, on cobble stones or the original 14thc road which has rocks rearing up in an interesting pattern. Also popular, it seems, is the path filled with huge rocks, anywhere fromm 2- 6 inches in circumference that make it impossible to get a level step and require great care and mindfulness when traversing. See? See how both my body and the Camino were trying to tell me something yesterday?
But yesterday I was too awestruck by all the beauty around me and gratitude for it, and for another successful revolution around the sun for me. I walked alone all day and as I took in the voluptuous beauty of nature I would make eye contact with plants and flowers and trees and grasses and the crops in the field (I already knew this: that I could make eye contact with these—and even the rocks on the road) and I would ebulliently say, “You’re beautiful! Thank you! Muchas gracias! You’re doing a GREAT job—keep it up!! Buenos Dias! Thank you! Hello.”
A few times, like when I saw a spectacular specimen, just bursting with her own gorgeousness, or the ant, I would pause admiringly and say, “Ok, now you’re just showing off.”
When I walked through the single track path with the flowers and grasses crowding the sides as if to cheer me on, I picked up my trekking poles and held my arms out, fingers extended giving both side a high five! When the wind picked up, I didn’t neglect him. “Thank you for this cooling breeze,” I exclaimed. “You inspire me!!”
Even when I got caught completely unprepared in a downpour, complete with thunder, lightning and hail, I was grateful and accepting. A new friend today told me her mantra has become #keepcalmandcaminoon. I love it.
And today, all those things were still true. The day was equally beautiful, the path varied and curving up and down hills through all times of scenery, and I was equally in awe and grateful—and told many flowers and insects exactly that. But what I realized is how hard walking is.
What has become the norm over the past two days of walking is my feet are in exquisite agony when I reach my hotel but then they calm down after resting, a bath, a time with my green rubz ball (ahhhhhh) and the recovery sandals I originally discovered last summer for putting on immediately after finishing my half marathons or long training runs.
But what I’ve also noticed in the last two days of walking is how that pain free walking only lasts about the first mile into my hike and then the pain returns. It is pretty much non-stop pain on the bottom of my feet. After awhile, it begins to feel as if my feet have transformed into some semi-solid ….mush, or a blog just sloshing around in my shoes radiating pain with the magical trick of somehow taking back on the form of feet and toes when I pull off my socks at the day’s end.
I’ve been learning to walk again.
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to reduce the pain. I’m experimenting with taking breaks more often (on days 3-4 of walking, I made up a little ditty that I would sing to distract me from the growing pain. It went a little something like this: Every 10 kilometers, I get to take a break!! I would repeat that as necessary and when I made the requisite 6.2 miles I would stop for about 45 minutes. That was a little less than half of the mileage for those days. Yesterday, on my birthday, that worked for the first stop but then I began taking mini breaks at the three miles mark or even less. Still, after sitting for about 5 minutes or so, my feet would begin hurting again immediately upon walking.
Today, I experimented with stopping every four miles. This meant two main stops of about 30 minutes each along with those mini stops for about 3 minutes in the last half of the trip. And still my dogs, as my dad used to say, were barking. Nonstop.
Up until now my days have fallen into the 13-15 mile range. That changes for the next two days. As in two days in a row. Where I will clock first 17.3 miles followed by 18 miles before mercifully coming back to a “short” 13.2 mile day.
What I’m learning is that my old understanding of how walking works doesn’t work on the Camino. I need to find my pace, my stride, my rest periods that will reduce the pain in my feet while knowing (hoping, anyway) that my feet will also adjust to the new demands being made on them. I can’t criticize the poor dears for not being in top form, nor can I criticize the path. I just need to work with both, be tender with each and learn how to walk this Way, while still seeing the beauty and being grateful for each day. Which I am. Abundantly so.