Last week, Patrick shared about his challenging parts of our journey. While many obstacles occurred on the trail, there were some challenges to overcome before leaving. Perhaps the two biggest were training and choosing the right equipment. Today, Patrick shares about his training regimen and what equipment he and Justin used on the trail.
Approximately two years passed from the time Justin asked me about taking on the Camino till we first stepped onto the trail. Two years from the time I said “I’ll Push You” till I would know what those words actually meant. When we put the official date on the calendar, I had about 12 months to prepare my body for our wheelchair journey through Spain. Having had three surgeries on my right knee (and minimal cartilage left in said knee) meant I couldn’t run to build endurance or lift heavy weights to build strength.
From June till October of 2013 I got up every morning, Monday thru Saturday and headed to the gym around 430 AM. Though the day’s workouts varied, all of them included a high number of repetitions of exercises like burpees, pull-ups, pushups, air squats, jump squats and lunges. Each morning I would finish up with 3 or four rounds of jump rope, 20 minutes of rowing, or 30 minutes on the stair climber. Every night I was either back at the gym for another round of exercises or on the road riding my bike in an attempt to build the necessary endurance.
With October came an early and very cold winter. The AM treks to the gym continued and evenings were spent on an indoor trainer where I would ride for 90 minutes 4 times a week. On the other two nights, I continued the evening gym regimen. With each passing month I grew stronger and was rapidly approaching the best shape of my life.
But no matter how good of shape I was in, there was no substitute for pushing a 250-pound wheelchair for miles on end. Justin’s wheelchair arrived in early March and we immediately put it to use. I abandoned much of my time in the gym, replacing it with afternoons and evenings pushing Justin in his chair. We started at 8 miles a day over flat roads and increased the distance and elevation over the next twelve weeks. Slowly, the chair became easier to move forward over hills and trail. But what felt like countless hours of training still didn’t have me ready for the journey that lay ahead.
In addition to the training piece, we had the challenge of determining the best gear. Though the ideal wheelchair for Justin had been chosen, we still had to decide on backpacks, shoes and what miscellaneous items to bring.
For anyone choosing to hike the Camino, good shoes and good socks are the most important pieces of equipment. Opinions vary, but I definitely would not recommend hiking boots. Too heavy and too hot. Trail running shoes where probably the most common type of shoe we saw on the trail. I wore a pair of Brooks Cascadia’s and Thorlo Experia socks. Both were great investments.
Weight was crucial so we packed light. Our packing list for our six weeks in Spain included (per person):
1 lightweight backpacking sleeping bag
3 pairs of socks
3 pairs of antimicrobial underwear
1 rain parka
1 packable jacket
1 pair of pants (convertible into shorts)
1 pair of shorts
2 antimicrobial t shirts (wick-dry)
2 long sleeve shirts
toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, toenail clippers, soap)
1 pair of flip-flops
1 small antimicrobial travel towel
Guidebook (Michelin or Brierely )
Each of our backpacks, when full, weighed about fifteen pounds. On the trail, one rested on the back of Justin’s wheelchair and the other on my back. In addition to the above, I brought a roll of moleskin. Every morning I prepped my feet by putting some moleskin on my heels and on any toes that tended to rub together. 500 miles (not to mention all the walking through towns in the evenings) later, I had one small blister on the middle toe of my left foot.
We faced a lot of struggle; many obstacles shaped our journey in ways we couldn’t foresee. There are so many variables in a trek like this, unknowns that no person can be 100% ready for. But the preparations we were careful to carry out allowed us to be more focused on the challenges as they came.
It’s the same with life. When we take care of ourselves, and those around us, we are better equipped for the unknowns of life. Getting blindsided isn’t any less surprising, but we are much quicker to get back on our feet when there is someone there to lift us off the ground.