We were full of excitement on that first day out of St Jean. It was our first time and so everything was new and just amazing. The landscape, the other Pilgrims, and oh, did I mention the landscape!
Reg, Len and I were having the time of our lives. We felt like Hobbits starting an adventure!
Though Len started to struggle a bit on that really steep stretch up to Hunto (Achilles Tendonitis) but some additional heel wedges helped a lot. In fact, we three were rather ‘walking wounded’ due to age, lack of exercise, being a bit (a lot) overweight, and carrying a few training injuries.
You know what they say “Don’t walk your Camino before your Camino”. Well we had it seems…
That first day set the tone though. In a good way. “Set the pace to the slowest man” That has been drummed into me in the Army and later in life through amazing team management books like Eli Goldratt’s The Goal, in which, Goldratt gives the example of the scout troop on a hike.
The goal of Alex Rogo the Scout Leader, was to get the troop to the campground in some reasonable amount of time while keeping the group close enough together to maintain adult supervision.
The constraint was identified as Herbie, the slowest moving boy in the troop. He was easily identified by the queue of boys behind him and the growing space between Herbie and the boys in front of him.
We didn’t have this problem though. Our slowest member was Len, and we walked at Len’s pace.
Of course there were minor irritations at times, as all three of us would want to stop at different times, to adjust boots and socks, tend to sore spots, merely take rest or to take on food and water.
Thankfully we all three were in 100% agreement on water!
We found through painful experience, that not enough water, and even mild dehydration would increase joint and foot pain. This was generally managed by making sure we were drinking enough and by careful use of pain killers and anti inflammatories.
A doctor had given us specific advice on what to take and when. And it was working fine.
Don’t think that we were being overly cautious. Len had quite severe Achilles Tendonitis, and Reg had it also but not as bad. (They both had cortisone shots before departure) And I was suffering most of the way with knee and back pain.
We really were rather a sorry outfit. All self-induced of course through poor preparation.
But we managed, through the days and the weeks and built up a sound regime of hydration, stretching, rest stops and medications. Not to forget of course, regular breaks and raising the feet at breaks.
What’s that acronym? RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Well it works……. To a point.
Maybe the problems started due to over confidence? Maybe the heat? Maybe because we were starting to walk longer distances.
But it all came to a head on Day 20 I think it was. We were walking from Terradillos to El Burgo. 32 kms on quite a hot day. We’d been used to distances averaging 22 kms so far, which were manageable. We’d done one day of 32 kms before and it took a rest day in Burgos to recover from it.
And here we were again……pushing our limits.
It was a few kms before Bercianos del Real Camino. We’d stopped for a rest and a drink. We were hurting by now, all three of us. We’d already walked 20 kms and the day was hot. Joints and feet were really starting to hurt.
So things got tense, fast.
Lex wanted to take more meds right away, but as I pointed out, it was only 3 hours since the last lot and we only had about 4-5 kms to go till Bercianos del Real Camino, where we could stop at a café for a snack, as it’s better to take the meds with food. “We’ll be there in an hour Lex” I pleaded.
“No”, was the reply. “Let’s just sit here for another hour then. We’ll have a proper rest and take our meds before we get going”.
(I don’t know why they say to take these meds every 4 hours, because I can tell you right now, at about 3 hours, they start wearing off fast!)
“Lex, if we wait here another hour, in this heat, we’ll just be an hour later getting to El Burgo. Where we can stop for the day, we can get ice for your Achilles and relax for the day”
“No” was the response.
I appealed to Reg. “Does it make sense to sit here another hour”?
“I don’t mind going on” replied Reg, “but we agreed that the slowest sets the pace and that’s worked for almost 3 weeks now”
“OK” I said. “How about this as a compromise”
“Len, I have a compression ‘sock’ you can use to help with the Tendonitis”. “We’ll drink our remaining water to hydrate as much as possible, and when we reach Bercianos del Real Camino, we’ll stop for a break, get some ice and then take more painkillers and anti inflammatories” “We then only have 7.5 kms to go to El Burgo, at worst case 2 hours, given our current pace”
“OK” said Len. “Deal”
I breathed a huge sigh of relief, as I really didn’t want to sit around in this heat for another hour.
I got out the compression sock, and some fresh walking socks to do a complete ‘change over’ for Len.
I was just so glad he agreed to keep going.
You see it would have been impossible to go on without him……..
Len was my left foot, and Reg my right………
I had to use all my persuasive powers to coax them that last 12 kilometres to El Burgo Ranero!
Have you found yourself having these ‘internal’ conversations on Camino?
Or is it just me?
It seemed like a great idea, but the descent...