The scenery changed today. Behind me is the Meseta. In front of me are mountains. The fields of wheat, wine, sunflowers and hay, have given way to forests and rolling hills. The climbs are gradually, the view serene. The people I pass now seem different from when we began. Quiet, content, focused. Others are injured and hobbling, willing their way to the end of each day.
As I walked into Astorga, about 75 meters ahead of me I noticed a woman limping horribly. You could tell each step was excruciating. Her male companion was roughly 15 meters ahead of her. He would look back now and then, but never fell back to walk with her.
I closed the gap between us rather quickly. When I was about 25 meters away she stopped walking, bent over at the waste and clasped her face with her hands. It was quite apparent she was sobbing. Within a few of my strides, she stood up right and continued walking.
As she heard my footsteps closing, she wiped her cheeks. As I came alongside, I whispered, “Buen Camino”, and gave her a thumbs up as if to say, “You’ve got this.” She turned to me; through the tears rolling down her sunburnt cheeks, a huge smile appeared. She nodded. She then looked forward and kept walking, never uttering a word.
It was abundantly clear she intends to walk into Santiago regardless of the obstacles.
Like others I have seen, I have become quiet. Not simply from a verbal perspective but a mental one. It’s a wonderful space to be in. The trail really does have stages. The beginning is newness and learning, the middle is struggle both mental and physical, and the last section (prepare for a cliché), Zen. Physically you have become strong, emotionally, your baggage has been addressed, and mentally you’ve become quiet.
In leaving this place, I hope to pursue more avenues of quieting my mind. I have always struggled with clarity of thought. 6 million things on my mind and nigh an answer can be found. Perhaps when my mind races, a good long walk will be in order…. Or for the sanity of my loved ones and friends, perhaps, I will take up yoga, and go back to endurance events. Twice the peace in half the time. Ah Americans are always looking for a shortcut.
It may sound as if the hike has come to an end, but alas, it has not. I still have a good 10 days to go. It shall be interesting to see what the next days have in store.
For a followup to yesterdays hike, I feel good. I have some minor tendonitis in my lower left leg, but seems to be responding well to rest and massage. Other than that, I was simply more “achy” this morning than I have been after shorter distances. No surprise there.
One person asked what I ate yesterday. My food intake has changed somewhat since we started the Camino. Yesterday I had the following:
First thing I had a pear
A snack on the move
two bananas and a peach
Steak (the first steak I have had in 30 days) with french fries
Snack, about 6 squares of dark chocolate.
Throughout the day I consumed almost 6 liters of water.
Tony has an interesting diet overall. I would classify him as nearly a fruitarian. It is not unusual for him to eat 10 banana, 2 pears, a couple kiwi and half a watermelon in a day. I would say fruit accounts for 75% of his diet. The rest is salad, lean protein, vegetables. He’s not without vices. He will eat copious amounts of tortilla chips and does like sweets on occasion.
Since being on the camino, I have taken to being more fueled by fruit. I have always eaten a good amount of fruit. Here, the primary motivation is the ease of availability and it’s almost instant, clean energy.
I haven’t been eating nearly the protein I normally consume, and I have noticed some muscle loss as a result. Of course, some of my muscle loss is due to simple atrophy. I’m not using my upper body for much at all. Another factor is the calorie deficit I run almost every day. Currently, I am eating no artificial sweeteners and almost no processed foods. My protein is less than half of normal, and my supplemented fat intake consists of olive oil and a few nuts.
I am contemplating having a blood panel completely shortly after returning home. I wish to see if any of my values have changed. My cholesterol always runs high, and I’m on medication for it. It would be curious to see if this and other values have been affected by the change in diet and large number of miles walked each day.
As a final note, Thank you all for the emails and kudos on my milestone yesterday. I appreciate it!
James, Nice post! I love how you describe the phases of the journey and that you are grooving on the Zen phase. I think you should give yoga a try to keep that zen thing going beyond the Camino. You might be able to ditch the meds!
Buen Camino y salud!
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Hi Laurie. Ive practiced yoga in the past but only as a advanced form of stretching as an injury mediation tool for endurance sports. I never really got into the mental piece of it much. I’m eager to see the cholesterol results, but high cholesterol is hereditary in my family. So we shall see. Thanks for reading!
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You might enjoy the Ultimate Yogi series. It rocked my world about a year ago. The Cross Training session is a great workout and is available on YT at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7DRlMcEYD4
Give it a try if you have a chance and let me know what you think.