I am sitting, like an elderly lady, with my feet soaking in a basin of nice warm water and Dettol. My feet don’t like me today.
I’ve finally started training in earnest. According to the Health app on my iPhone, I have walked more in the last two days than in the whole of March and April combined. My walk the day before yesterday was my longest walk since I got my phone over a year ago. I’m now regularly going on ten and twelve kilometre walks. In three weeks, I’ll be attempting twenty-five kilometres in the heat with a backpack. I’m not ready yet, but I’m definitely heading in the right direction.
I have sore feet, sore ankles, sore hips, a sore back, sore shoulders, sore calves and sore thighs. Parts of my body are red raw and blistered. But I’ll tell you this, I’m tapping into something that I haven’t felt since the spring of 2012. The last time I did any real amount of extensive deliberate exercise to the point of exhaustion was when I was when I was going to boxing classes and running my 8K. It’s an amazing feeling, an exhilaration I’ve denied myself for too long.
I’m walking along the N4 into Longford and back, on the verge of the main Dublin-Sligo road, a road that’s kind of safe to walk along. Of course, I have to walk in the daylight, because there’s no footpath beside the road, so I’ve been setting off at 6:30 or 7:00 pm, because I’m not organised enough to leave the house any earlier than that, but today I managed to start my walk at 11:15 am. Lorries honk at me as they pass. In the space of a week, I’m becoming a celebrity of a national primary route.
A lot of the Camino is hilly and all the training recommendations include this. I’ve been doing stair climbing at home to practice since Saturday. I started by telling myself that I’d go up and down twelve times. By the time I’d gone up and down twice, I revised this to six times. By the third time, I’d given up on my aim not to hold on to the bannister. By the fourth ascent, I’d given up on my aim not to take breaks between climbs. I managed six up-and-downs that day. I’m now up to nine up-and-downs.
All of this is absolutely exhausting me. I’m sleeping for hours. HOURS. But it’s making me feel so much better. I had breakfast at home in the kitchen twice this week. Which isn’t an achievement for most people, but it is for me. I wouldn’t be foolish enough to say I’m getting some control over my eating, because I’ve said that too many times before, but I’ve got a bad case of hope again. And I’m OK with that.
It’s all getting a lot more real, and I’m really beginning to believe I’ll do it. I am full of fear. I’ve been over-researching it all, watching the hundreds of YouTube videos about it, reading the Camino forums and the bajillions of Camino blogs. I read my Camino guidebooks and watch the 24-hour webcam trained on the route in San Marcos, Galicia. This reality all makes me very afraid and I’ve been waking up in the middle of literal nightmares about the Camino.
The Camino forums are amazing. They are full of preachy and overly helpful people whose lives are built around the Camino, people who did it once ten years ago and haven’t stopped talking about it since, and people who’ve done the Camino numerous times. Questions are posed by nervous prospective pilgrims. Many of the questions are from Americans, often elderly, often visiting Europe for the first time. They ask ridiculously specific questions and I love them for it, because they’re all the questions I’d be too embarrassed to ask. I have a very good idea of what to expect.
And some of it is great. They talk about people in their 70s and 80s doing the walk, people recovering from open-heart surgery, people walking with babies and young children. There are messages there saying that there is no need to train, that the first week of the Camino is the training. But there are other posts that terrify me. Posts about all the people who give up in the first week. Posts about the Serbian man who had a heart attack and died on the route a few weeks ago. Posts that say things like “By the time you get to Pamplona, the amateurs start to drop off” or “Logroño hospital specialises in patching up people’s leg and foot injuries and sending them back home”. Posts about the two Brazilian pilgrims who got stranded in the snow in the Pyrenees in March and were fined over €5000 for the cost of a helicopter rescue. Posts saying that you should “obviously lose your excess weight before you start”. Posts saying that if you’re unprepared you won’t make it. An awful lot of people have to give up. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’m not hoping too hard.