So just yesterday I was writing about how calm and confident I feel as I plan for my second Camino. And while that is mostly true, I have a small confession: I’m nervous about how physically prepared I’m going to be for the long walk on the Norte.
I know, I know, I was worried about this last year, too, and the training that I thought wasn’t nearly enough proved to be almost more than enough as I set off on the Camino Frances.
But the Norte isn’t the Frances, and if anything, I’m afraid that because of my general confidence with this whole Camino thing, I’m going to relax too much on the training, and start my Camino completely unprepared (which isn’t true because I’m already somewhat prepared… but fear is a funny thing). I’m afraid that I’m going to be in the same boat as so many of the pilgrims I walked with last year: aching legs and sore hips and tired feet and generally just a lot of pain.
I understand that this wouldn’t be such a bad thing- it’s a 500+ mile walk, after all, and what’s a pilgrimage without at least a little pain?
This fear is recent: just two days ago I was talking about how I’m in better physical shape than I was at this same time last year. But already, I’m starting to question that. I did a 3-mile round-trip hike in Virginia earlier this week, up Sharp Top, one of the Peaks of Otter off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, VA. At this point, 3-miles is like a warmup to me, so I didn’t think this hike would be particularly challenging.
Well, tell that to my aching legs. The 1.5 mile ascent was tough. Compared to some of the days on last year’s Camino, the hike up to Sharp Top would probably be considered only moderately difficult. Nothing compared to the first day’s walk through the Pyrenees, or up and down the three mountains of the Dragonte route.
But here’s what I’ve learned: while I’ve still been walking somewhat regularly and continuing to wear my pack, my legs are not what they once used to be. Somewhere along the way, I lost my Camino legs.
I don’t think I would be so nervous if I were walking the Frances again. I still have over two months to train and it’s not like I was hiking up mountains every day last year in preparation for my Camino. But the Norte is going to be tough: up and down mountains, sometimes day after day. One reason I loved my Camino so much last year was that I wasn’t in too much physical pain, and I think that allowed me to completely embrace my experience, and everyday I felt so grateful that I got to be outside, walking. I’m afraid that this year, if I walk with pain, I’m going to have a very different experience.
But this is part of it, right? I think this is the beauty of an experience like the Camino- we can prepare and prepare, but we never fully know what we’re going to walk into. And we get to work through whatever challenges we face while on the journey: we have time and space and help and understanding. In many ways, it is the most perfect kind of environment to face fear and challenge.
So if one of my challenges this year is a physical one, I know that I’ll be able to face it. In the meantime, I’m going to keep walking and hiking, but I’m going to try not to stress. I’m going to try to follow one of the great Camino lessons: enjoy the journey. And that means enjoying the preparation part of this journey as well, even if it means sore calves and aching feet.