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Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining…Even Best Plans Sometimes Need Tweaking

Brisbane has copped its fair share of rain lately, along with the rest of the East coast of Australia. We’ve experienced some exciting storm season situations along with more flooding. Unfortunately, it seems this is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Long periods of serious rain has been known to create cabin fever in even the most patient of folks and I’m no exception to this rule.

There was a time in my past when we lived on a property an hour away from Rockhampton and we were situated in a dry belt. We’d watch the storms build all around us and then pass us by. As a family we made a pact that if it would just rain for us we would never again complain about the amount of rain that fell. I’ve always been mindful of that comment. I put it down in the never say never category as quite frankly, I’d like to have more control over when and how it rains.

The recent rain has disrupted the way I train. I don’t mind walking in the rain but I try to avoid downpours, which is what we’ve been experiencing. This has necessitated the way in which I train and I’ve had to become creative; well, for me, at any rate. This is saying a lot because  I am happiest just to walk for fitness. Until I was diagnosed with plantar faseiitis quite recently,  I never did much else except walk, for I am a walker and a happy one at that. I know there are many different ways to get fit, but I’ve just never been concerned with any of them.

However, that has changed now.

There is another saying that seems to fit in with my rainy days theme and it goes like this: It never rains but it pours! Whilst this saying was triggered by the rain initially, I make reference to it based on a few health issues that have cropped up recently.

After I got back from Sydney I finally succumbed to and paid a visit to the doctor to suss out my right knee. Over the years my knee has always been a little sensitive and flares up for a while but generally settles quite quickly. In the past, when it flared up I’d feel some pain, but I’d usually just persevere and I’d never been inclined to check out what the problem is. I can remember these flare ups as far back as when I was 18 and riding horses. I’ve just lived with it and the thought never occurred me to ask a doctor. But while I was in Sydney walking around, I think I may have jarred my knee and the result has been a more than normal painful and slightly swollen knee. When combined with my Plantar Faseiitis, both on my right leg, well I must admit, I felt a little out of sorts and had to take another enforced break. Some X-rays confirmed  mild osteo-arthritis; just great! But, I guess it is to be expected from the normal wear and tear on the body.

I am managing the Plantar Faseiitis with stretching exercises given to me by my sports podiatrist and don’t have to go back to see him till June or July. Now I am working with a physiotherapist to sort out my knee issues. I am currently learning and executing exercises that will strengthen my knee and hopefully take the current stress off it. I’ve certainly had my ups and downs with these conditions over the past couple of months, but it is all character building, I’m sure.  I have ‘rest’ days when I feel I need them. I try to listen to my body, however, there are days when my knee aches and I won’t/can’t give in to it and I try hard to push through the pain and continue on walking or exercising. Generally mind over matter can be a powerful thing for me, but I’m not advocating this to others. It really is a matter of figuring out what works for me and how much I can put up with.

I combine my walking (between 7 – 13 kilometres per day) with a 20 kilometre cycle (stationary exercise bike) workout, weights for knees and upper body, stretches for total body, sit ups and physio exercises. This can sometimes take a large chunk of time, so I play around with the combinations. It all seems to be working and I notice that I can climb stairs quite well now and in my job at QPAC, when I hold open the large glass doors and greet our guests, I can generally do this with ease now. When I first started I felt awkward and it was hard to hold the doors open. So, I believe I am seeing and feeling improvements in myself.

My repertoire of exercises and fitness program has grown from simply walking. My goal of walking 1000 kilometres along the Camino Way has had more far-reaching benefits than just getting fit for the walk. I am making some lifestyle changes that will make a permanent and positive difference to my life. I’ve cut out adding sugar to my coffee or cereal, I strictly limit my intake of alcohol and try to eat fresh, unprocessed meals in small quantities. And, it is working. I am getting fitter, more toned and slimmer.

Colleagues and friends have begun to notice the difference and often express their compliments. This is very encouraging to someone who is trying very hard to improve physical fitness levels and train for a significant journey. I really do appreciate everyone’s support and encouragement.

I always try to look on the bright side of life – even when the chips are down. The rain and the injuries, whilst I wish I didn’t have to suffer through them, I am thankful for them because they have pushed me to look for different ways to do things and I am much better off for it. Every cloud does have a silver lining – it seems…

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Contemplation in the early hours of the morning – 5:20am…the road is wet and quiet. I start my walk in the dark some twenty minutes before this photo was taken. The lights are still glowing. Soon the sun will peek through the trees and the lights will disappear.

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And as if one cue…the sun makes its appearance. Oh what a beautiful morning…oh what a beautiful day…I’ve got a wonderful feeling…everything’s going my way.

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Time Spent Researching is Never Time or Energy Wasted

I returned home from my trip to Sydney and feel armed and dangerous. It’s been a couple of weeks since I flew down to do the Camino Downunder workshop and once I got back, I literally hit the floor running with the start of the teaching year, my evening work, Spanish lessons and catching up on the four days of work  I missed while I was in Sydney.

I didn’t really have a choice of whether to blog or not; I simply did not have the time. But whilst I’ve been away from blogging, it’s given me an opportunity to process all the information I gleamed from a couple of seasoned pilgrims and try to put it into perspective and implement it into my planning.

Let me first say, I had such a great time while in Sydney that I’ll probably blog about some of the good times later on. I used the opportunity to explore Sydney in such a way that is similar to how I think it might be when I’m in Spain; to get a taste of things yet to come. With a mindset of expectancy, I experienced a wonderful time meeting strangers and experiencing just some of the many things Sydney has to offer. It was remarkable and I will share some stories down the track.

It was drizzling with rain the morning of the workshop and I headed out from my hotel with brolly in one hand and Google Maps GPS on my iPhone in the other. I knew I only had to walk a street or two away from where I was staying. This sounds simple, but you are yet to know what I am like when it comes to finding my way to intended destinations. After my trip to Sydney, I realise that orienteering is just not my thing. Something internal wills me to go in the completely opposite direction to where I actually need to go. Although proven many times over, I still argue to the death with whoever happens to be with me. I object till I’m blue in the face and even after I have been proven wrong, I still feel driven to go where I feel it is the right direction. My head tells me one thing; my heart, another.

Trying to read the GPS on my phone didn’t help me either. I am one of those people who has to turn the map around so I can see the direction I am meant to take. In truth, I think my spatial awareness could use some fine tuning. My brain simply won’t process upside-down. This time I had no one to argue with, and I won. I took the direction of my burning desire, and yes, you guessed it, I ended up streets away from where I needed to be. At one point I decided to ask this girl I was standing next to at the traffic lights. “Can you please tell me where Clarence Street is?” She smiled shyly at me and held up her phone and shrugged. She had just arrived in Sydney and was using her GPS to find a street. We both laughed  and continued on once the lights turned green. Next minute, I found myself on Clarence Street and outside the building that the workshop was to be held in.

I’d given myself plenty of time and had arrived early so I decided to find a place to buy some breakfast. I headed off down the street, after noting a couple of land marks and found a little breakfast bar on the next intersection. I ordered an egg and bacon roll and a lovely hot cup of coffee, which I enjoyed immensely. I made it back to the meeting point without any more misadventures and was met by Yvonne Grossman. She took a group of us up to the ninth floor where we met her husband Marc and other members of the group; about 20 people approximately. Marc was rearing to get started. Once everything kicked off, we spent an intense morning jammed packed with information. Marc worked his way around the room and asked us all to state every concern we had while he filled two white boards with these queries. Most of the session before lunch was spent answering all the questions raised.

We spent a good deal of time looking at the book of 30 All Weather Maps of the Camino that most of us purchased, along with a print out of the cross sections and elevations of the mountains that we will meet along the way. Throughout the day we discussed topics such as: the concept of a pilgrimage, the timeline and a little bit of the history of the Camino, the walking of the Camino de Santiago, a proposed itinerary, a packing list, a food guide, health issues, resources, phrase guides and various scenarios. As part of our package, we received a very informative guide-book called, The Guide for the Spanish Camino ~ Walking the Camino Frances as a 21st century pilgrim, by Marc Grossman, as well as other information and a souvenir cloth badge of Camino Downunder.

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I purchased the 30 All Weather Maps produced by Camino Downunder because they are very good quality and made from waterproof plastic paper with highly UV-resistant colours to prevent tearing and fading, they show a 3D aerial view of the terrain using geographic information system (GIS), and on the back of each map of the section of the walk, there is an accommodation guide and food recommendations and finally, it has been successfully tested by pilgrims walking the Camino Frances in 2009.

The Grossman’s also provided a wonderful selection of snacks for morning tea that lasted throughout the day. A surprise treat offered toward the end of the day was some traditional Spanish liquor.

I’m glad I invested the time and energy into flying down to Sydney to participate in this workshop and I would recommend it to anyone contemplating their first pilgrimage to a land unknown, as in my case. I learnt a lot and I know I still have much more research to do.

As I said in a previous post, it is not the destination but the journey that is the pilgrimage and my pilgrimage has already begun. Attending this workshop is part of my pilgrimage. I plan to put as much time and energy into research as I can. I want my trip to be successful so I am planning for its success. None of it will be wasted.

I plan to discuss many of the things I find out here in more detail in this blog. It will be my record and reference point. I also plan to share interesting stories that crop up along the way.

So, hasta la vista amigos,

Buen Camino

Camino Downunder Workshop ~ Sydney

At the end of this week (Jan 31) I am heading off to Sydney for a workshop (short course) on Walking the Camino de Santiago run by husband and wife team, Marc and Yvonne Grossman. The course is held in down town Sydney close to Darling Harbour. It’s a hard life. But as they say, someone’s got to do it! I will spend the Saturday, beginning at 9am and closing at 5pm, covering all aspects of the pilgrimage, including: maps, guide books, discussing the gear necessary for a successful trip and anything and everything that relates to the Camino that you can possibly fit in one day!

As part of the course, I will receive a copy of the ‘Camino Guidebook‘ (5th edition and revised for 2012-13 ISBN 978-0-646-51466-6). I will also be able to purchase 30 all-weather maps (Camino de Santiago: 30 all-weather walking maps ISBN 978-0-646-52975-2), which we will be using in the workshop for practice and research. I will also receive as part of the package, paper elevation maps which will be used as part of the training and learning, plus something I’m a little excited about, the Camino Downunder cloth badge, that I will be able to sew to my backpack.

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Photo Credit: Camino Downunder

The participants will also be using for ‘geographical training‘ the brand new, innovative and bold overview maps (2.3 metres long – the long version) – which are oriented direction-up or forward up – replicating the anatomical way every person walks and which is in portrait design, not landscape. After crossing the Pyrenees, these wall maps go in a constant westerly direction all the way to the Atlantic coast.

It is promised that we, as participants, will not come away from the course without a ‘tsunami’ quantity of information, insights, knowledge and skills to assist us in our great enterprise of being joyous and successful pilgrim/walkers. The team promises that whatever is, or are my motivations, their workshop will be a watershed.

I’m excited about attending this course and meeting the other like-minded participants and educators. I am hungry and thirsty for their knowledge and hearing of their experiences. I have huge expectations of what I will receive out of this latest adventure.

Another bonus to the course is just one street and one block away (Kent Street) live all the recommended outdoors stores mentioned in the Camino Guidebook for Sydney. No doubt during my short stay in Sydney I will find some time to visit these outlets. It will be interesting to see what Sydney stores have compared to the Brisbane outlets I have visited.

As preparation for the course, the participants were given some homework to do. We were asked to bring along our written lists of the following:

1.

  • i.   Your concerns and/or anxieties;
  • ii.  Questions, including confusing and /or contradictory information gleamed from the internet sites;
  • iii. Unresolved issues about walking the Camino de Santiago as an independent pilgrim/walker. They assure me that no question or issue raised by anyone is ever unimportant or treated offhandedly.

2.

  • Write down your list of all your gear (i.e: walking clothes you will be wearing and clothes carried in your backpack) including your footwear; hat wear and clothing accessories. AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THE QUANTUM (i.e: how many items of underwear, pairs of socks, etc, etc

3.

  • Write down your list of non walking gear (e.g. a torch, first aid kit items, guide-book/map and communication devices; i.e. mobile phone, etc, etc)

4.

         A Reflective & Philosophical Meditation Task:

  • i. Whilst you are undertaking the Camino de Santiago, what do you think your ‘core business’ should be? Hint: before answering this question, you will need to clearly separate in your mind and on paper ‘core business’ from ‘non-core business’. I strongly encourage you to put in writing this fundamental question.

I have completed these four tasks in readiness for my travels to Sydney. It took some time and research, but I think I got there in the end. It will be interesting for me to find out just what I need (suggested) to take and what I don’t need. I think I will add a page to my blog regarding my packing process. Then after my course I can add to it or delete unnecessary items and make adjustments.

Below, if anyone is interested, I have included the link to Camino Downunder’s website:

http://www.caminodownunder.com

Until next time…

Buen Camino

The Way of Saint James in Video

There are many videos of the Camino on Youtube that give an overall picture of what to expect when walking the Camino de Compostela. Here are a couple of samples to give you a taste:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DluzZdK6yAk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3MlI3bVa1I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOMMl33Ot5Q

Enjoy!

Buen Camino

Camino Downunder Class & Workshop ~ Camino de Santiago

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Photo credit: Holiness
The yellow markers show this pilgrim’s intended way…

At the end of January, I head down to Sydney to attend ‘Camino Downunder’s’ Class and Workshop on the Camino de Santiago route from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. The workshop will be held on Saturday, 2 February, 2013 in Clarence St, Sydney, right near Darling Harbour and the Rocks area.

I will be very excited to meet others who are intending to do this walk in the future and hear from experienced trekkers about what to expect, have my questions answered, and hear answers to questions I never thought to ask.

I feel very reassured to attend a workshop of this nature, especially if I do, in the end, walk solo. I am hoping the workshop gives me the confidence and accurate information to help make my walk every bit successful that I am praying for.

Camino Downunder, run by husband and wife team, Marc and Yvonne Grossman, experienced trekkers themselves, have walked the Camino several times. Below is a link to their blog and website to check them out for yourself.

Blog:   http://caminodownunder.wordpress.com

Website:   http://www.caminodownunder.com

To prepare for this workshop they have given me some homework to do in the mean time. The homework covers four main areas that include me thinking about:

1. a) Any concerns and/or anxieties I might be having.

    b) Creating a list of questions, including confusing and/or contradictory information gleamed from internet sites.

    c) Creating a list of any unresolved issues about walking the Camino de Santiago.

2. Creating a list of all the gear I am intending to take, especially the quantities.

3. Creating a list of all the non-walking gear I am planning to take.

4. And finally, my reflective & philosophical meditation task – detailing my ‘core business’ – in other words, why I want to do this pilgrimage.

I will make sure I do this homework very thoughtfully to get the best out of the workshop.

Right near the venue are some recommended outdoor stores which will be fun to look through and perhaps, buy any requirements needed. The quantity of clothing and the weight carried in the back pack will help decide what needs to be purchased. There are many aspects of this adventure that will require a great deal of attention and valuable information heeded to make it a successful journey. Being weighed down with too much gear is not an option conducive to a comfortable hike.

There is a lot of information out there on the internet and many people have valuable knowledge and experience to share. But it is up to me to decipher everything and glean what will work for me. It is all a necessary part of the process of preparation.

When it is all said and done…it is wise to listen to people who have a wealth of knowledge and experience, but in the end, it is up to me to prepare in a safe and well thought out manner. I am more than happy to follow the advice of those who have gone before. Why invent the wheel? Of course there are lots of choices out there regarding particular brand names and variances in equipment and that’s when the real fun can start.

The photo below sums up everything regarding this walk for me.

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Photo credit: Pinrest.com

Stuff Happens – A Minor Set Back

For about ten days before my long walk to South Bank, I’d been experiencing intermittent pain under the arch in the heel area of my right foot. While I mostly tolerated the pain that radiated from my heel for most of my 37 km walk, the last few kilometres were quite excruciating to be honest. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the walk and I realised that whatever was happening in my foot was totally aggravated from the long haul. Lucky for me I am only in training and it’s the perfect time to have a break down if you really must have one.

By Sunday morning I could barely walk on that foot. I’d arranged to meet a girlfriend to go and check out the large outdoor outlets located at Fortitude Valley. I put on a brave front and drove into the city after collecting her. We got there early and found a park. No shops were open by then so we regarded the time as perfect to grab a coffee before hitting the stores.

I had hoped to buy a pair of new hiking boots. After all my research, I knew the boots I wanted and had been quite excited, however, both my feet were really swollen and the pain in my right heel would not abate. It really put a dampener on the trip for me. I could only manage hobbling around in my comfy thongs for padding. Earlier that morning I couldn’t put my foot down on the floor boards or tiles at home. I needed cushioning.

I’d been on the Internet to Google ‘pain in heels’ and suspected that I was suffering from Plantar Faseiitis, but I wasn’t certain. From the description, it certainly seemed like it might be that.

I booked an appointment with a local Sports Podiatrist and had to wait until the following Wednesday. In the meantime I had a rest from walking on the Sunday, but did two 7 km walks on Monday and Tuesday. My feet were still rather swollen, but I managed the walks at a slower pace and in some pain.

On the Wednesday I made an executive decision not to get an early walk in before visiting the Podiatrist, but to wait and see what the diagnosis of my foot was. As suspected, I was diagnosed with Plantar Faseiitis. At least now I knew what I was dealing with. Next was to develop a management plan.

My podiatrist, Will, was most understanding of the goals I had set in order to attain my main goal of walking in Spain. As I feared, he asked me to take ten days off walking, which to be honest would drive me nuts. I tried to negotiate with him, but he remained adamant.

So, how does one treat Plantar Faseiitis?

After a thorough diagnostic look at the way I walk and the condition of the muscles around my foot and calves, it was discovered that my calf muscles were really super tight. I never stretch; a big no, no apparently. I didn’t realise how important stretching is to walkers as much as any other sport. In my head I tell myself it is only a walk. Walking is not too hard to do, is it? But apparently, and I have recently learnt this: walkers and joggers are prone to constriction of muscles, making everything tight. Go figure…I learn something every day.

  • So, Will gave me some beaut stretches to do to help tame my calf muscles.
  • A friend of mine who was a high level gymnast had mentioned to me to use a rolling pin to roll my arch to help iron out the tightness in the muscles under my arch, but Will went one better, asking me to freeze a couple of small water bottles and use these in the same method as the rolling pin.
  • After close examination of my poor old Nikes, Will suggested I invest in a more appropriate joggers to assist my feet with superior support. I was keen for new joggers, so I didn’t protest.
  • Rest for 10 days – no walking…but Will said I could ‘smash up’ on the exercise bike to keep my cardio on target. After the ten days, he told me, I could recommence my walking (between 3-4 kms every other day).
  • ICE my foot.
  • Voltaren Gel – applied to my foot and wrapped in Glad Wrap in the evenings to trap the alcohol in the liniment.

I felt sure I could manage all this and probably more. I do have to be careful because Will said this condition can sometimes hang around for a couple of years! I was horrified to hear this, so it made me determined to follow Will’s expert advice.

My Progress:

Day 8 – update

I have been working out every day on the exercise bike doing 20 kms as well as stretching, weights, sit ups and women’s push ups. I am serious about getting my fitness levels up and running and every day I feel I’m gaining strength and feeling great. The first few days I pined for my daily walk but I’m happy with the way my exercise regime is going for the moment. I only have till Saturday to go and then I can do my first walk.

I’d like to introduce you to my one of my new joggers:

New joggers

ASICS Nimbus 14

ASICS Nimbus 14 gel

I think it is going to be sweet wearing these babies. They are so light and supportive. Can’t wait to give them a whirl.

I’m also watching what I eat. I’ve cut out sugar completely and I am alcohol free while trying to shift some kilograms.

So, all in all, I am viewing this set back through positive eyes. What I feared the most (needing to rest the walking) happened, but from that, it forced me to try new ways to work on my fitness levels. Ways I probably, in all honesty, wouldn’t have bothered giving a go.

I am happy and looking forward to visiting with Will next Wednesday for his report on my progress. I think Will is excited for me about my walk through Spain and is happy to be part of my team. I’d also like to thank my mates (you know who you are) for giving me tips from rolling pins, advice from a scientific viewpoint and tips on the best way to do weights, push ups and sit ups.

I’m excited.

So, until next time…

Buen Camino

A Long Walk to South Bank

A Long Walk to South Bank.

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