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The Call to Walk but Unfit and Ill-prepared

oomschluking

New Member
The more I read about the start from SJPDP the more I worry that on Day one I will be found prostrate, barely breathing, grasping at a passing boot - pleading "tell my family I love them", whilst praying to God to forgive my folly (ie having been so sloven in my physical preparation for such a mighty journey that I have done myself in before the journey ever started)... and then the ... Final gasp.

Tonight, having discussed my situ at great length with self (angst mitigated by good food and wine) I have come up with a solution - rather than start in SJPDP I could start in Lourdes and develop some stamina before the great mountain crossing. Having yet to research that option for myself, I thought I would put it to the sage pilgrims, who have gone before me, to advise me.

So my question is - would I be better walking 6/7 days before start at SJPDP in terms of fitness? ( I am assuming of course that that week is easy walking by comparison to start at SJPDP or am I just kidding myself?).
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
LOL That is the first time that I have heard someone say that they are walking further because they are unfit. :D

I would suggest that you use the extra time at home to prepare with your full pack weight. If you walked 10 to 15 km for a week you would be better able to take the first day out of SJPP.
Also, book Orrisson to cut the first day destance into two days.
Good Luck.
 

nellpilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SDC-Fisterra 08/Camino Frances SJPP to SDC 09/Nuremburg-SDC 11- ongoing
Oomschuluking,
Panicking and worrying was my MO before I started :oops: but it was fine just take it slowly and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Breaking it up into 2 days takes it down a notch straight away and remember you won't be alone whatever route you take.
Having 'done the Pyrenees' is a great confidence booster and sort of sets you up for anything else you meet en route.
Nell
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
If you have the time, why not start at Lourdes?
This is the profile for the journey - not too onerous and, as you say, you'll 'break in' the old body before you have to cross the Pyrenees.
 

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ranthr

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C Frances 2005, 2007
Le Puy en Velay -SdC 2009
Via de la Plata 2011
gr 653 from Oloron to Puente la Reina 2012
Gr65 from le Puy to Figeac 2013
Irun to Santander 2013
Porto to SdC 2014
Astorga to SdC 2015
Hi!
If you want to start from Lourdes, do so. If that is not your aim, rather take it slowly over the Pyrenees, stop at Orrison, book ahead, do not rush the next morning and take it slowly to Roncesvalles.
I am a 62 year old woman. Started in 2007, end of April, from St. Jean with a very heavy backpack at 7.30 and was in Roncesvalles at 15 I think. At least long before the refugio opened. This autumn I went from Le Puy and slept in Huntto. Started out after breakfast and arrived at 13.30. The road goes steadily upwards but you are most of the time on a local road, shortening it down a bit on a steep path after Huntto. When you leave the road you have passed the worst of the heightrisening.
The worst part for me was the going down to Roncesvalles. You can choose to take the road to Ibaneta, that way is easier than the path down through the wood. Foggy weather led me down there last September and it was heavier than the Ibanetearoad. Had to take it very slowly.
All the discriptions of the nasty Pyreneeroad gave me the creeps too, but it was not as bad as all the discriptions.
Since I do not know when you are starting, be aware of the weather. Ask at the pilgrimoffice in St. Jean. If somebody tells you the weather is too bad for the Napoleonroute, respect that.
Buen Camino!
Randi
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
I liked walking in France so much that I would take any excuse to do so. Preparing oneself for the stretch to Roncesvalles sounds pretty plausible, so I would take it at the drop of a hat. As well as building your stamina up a bit, you get to find your personal rhythym before you get on the main drag with the other pilgrims.

All the advice so far on this thread is quite sound, and you wouldn't go wrong following any of it.
 
I have an injury that makes steep hills a bit of a challenge - and we have limited time this year, so we're simply starting in Roncesvalles, where a lot of the Spanish pilgrims start. Would that be a possibility for you, too?
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
Heidi - the route from Roncesvalles is a roller coaster of up and down hills so take it slowly. Even after Pamplona you have to climb up a rocky ridge to the Alto del Perdon. Not so bad going up but a river-boulder rocky steep path going down.
In June last year I climbed up on my way to Pamplona from the Aragones route and it was worse going up the down side than climbing up the 'proper' side.
 

dutchpilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, 2005, 2008, 2012
Hi,

Exactly the same reason why I started in Lourdes.
The days in France were very special to me.
Walking alone, hardly any fellow-pilgrims, and very special: the hospitality in France.

So my advice:
do it.

Ultreya,
Carli Di Bortolo
 

oomschluking

New Member
They say your Camino starts the minute you walk out your front door - I suspect my Camino started the moment I connected to you people. Thank you so much - your varied answers reminded me I have choice and that choice is made from freedom and not panic. Thank you so much for your generosity - I feel supported which ever way I go - I cannot tell you how much that means to me.

I will keep reading and planning and when, this weekend, I buy my walking shoes/ boots/sandals ? ( who knew there were SO many decisions) I will know I am two steps towards Santiago.
Thank you.
 

gittiharre

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Austria Czech Le Puy Geneva RLS V. Jacobi V. Regia V. Baltica/Scandinavica Porto Muxia
HI, I started off with no preparation on my first Camino and it took me a while to get into it. I really found it hard at first. I had the wrong shoes, too soft and sole too thin and I tied the laces too tightly, so I ended up with foot problems, which never went away. My pack was too heavy, 9.5 kg and it took me a few days to gradually dump stuff, but the damage had been done in the early days.
On subsequent caminos I had next to no problems even though again I had not trained.
Pack of no more than 10 percent of your body weight is crucial. Supportive ankle height boots with a nice thick sole so you don't feel the stones, lightweight and waterproof, walked in and comfortable are best in my opinion. And 2 walking sticks are really great. Only had 1 on my first walk, but found 2 so much better. Planning the first few days, so you gradually walk yourself in is good. I usually do something like 16 km, 18 km, 12 km, 20 km and then gradually build up to 25 km. I never have rest days, but an occasional day of 9 or 10 km, so I always keep moving. This works for me, but everyone is different and the thing to learn is to really become aware of your body and what it needs. If you overdo it to keep up with others or whatever, you pay for it and I have seen people having to quit walking or at best having to have several days off walking to mend. I met a Canadian man near Conques who would walk 40 or more km and then ended up with infected blisters and had to have time out more than once. We ended up arriving at St Jean Pied de Port the same day. Regards, Gitti
 

ramble-on

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2010; LePuy 2011; VdlP 2013/14; CdN (to Oviedo) & Primitivo 2016
For us, starting anywhere but SJPdP was not an option - we didn't want to start at Roncevalles and starting further east in France wasn't a plan that would work for us. It's unfortunate that the SJPdP - Roncevalles walk is long and difficult for the first day. Sillydoll's profile is quite scary, and as it only shows the starting elevation and the ending elevation, and overlooks having to walk over the peak (somewhere around 1300 metres?), it may actually not be as scary as it should be.

However, there's been a lot written on blogs and the like about other pilgrims (unfit, ill-prepared & overloaded) who have walked that walk and lived to tell the tale. The key I think is to keep your pack weight to the minimum, set a pace you're comfortable with, stop for rests frequently, keep hydrated, and pay attention to how your feet feel. A couple of years ago, when I was much less fit than I am now, I walked up Table Mountain in Cape Town, which is about 1000 metres, but much more vertical, and that gives me some confidence that I can get over the RN.

To paraphrase Cromwell, "put your faith in God, and keep your feet dry". :lol:
 

oomschluking

New Member
How fantastic and supportive you all are ( exactly what I need!). I had to laugh RambleOn at your response - I too have climbed Table Mountain ( OK it was exactly 19 years ago and I have done no such thing since!) but it did make me laugh and it did make me think , like you- well if I could do it then, I can do it now (albeit much more slowly). As much as I would like to start at Lourdes ( spiritual as well as getting fit idea) I am not sure I can afford that much time off work.I will see what the God's rule. Where ever I start , I now get the feeling it is the perfect place for me to start!

I would just like to thank the community on this forum - no matter whether I am reading a response to my own questions or that of another, I am forever amazed at the generosity of spirit that goes into answering those questions - right down to providing visuals and follow up sites and talking from your own experience etc. What I see and feel from this Forum is a microcosm of what I would hope for the greater community. Without your support this aussi girl would be too afraid to move from her bed, reading about other peoples experiences on the Camino. God Bless!
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
Modern guide books (post 2000) included St Jean as a starting point simply because of the scenic walk over the mountain. There is no historical basis for starting there.
I used Nancy Frey's guide written in the Lonely Planet guide to walking in Spain for my first camino in 2002. It starts at Roncesvalles.
Starting at St Jean is a fairly recent phenomenom. I doubt that many Spanish pilgrims bothered to cross over into France in order to start walking to the tomb of their saint.
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x 2 , Norte x 2 , Le Puy x 3 , Portuguese x 2,
Mont St Michel , Primitivo .
Oomschluking,

Give us a ring in Sorrento , Melbourne on 59880445 if you need any advice on clothes etc.
You will have a great time,
David and Angela
 

MaritaSanchez

New Member
sillydoll said:
Modern guide books (post 2000) included St Jean as a starting point simply because of the scenic walk over the mountain. There is no historical basis for starting there.
Starting at St Jean is a fairly recent phenomenom. I doubt that many Spanish pilgrims bothered to cross over into France in order to start walking to the tomb of their saint.

Thanks for this information Sil. I had been thinking I'd really be missing an important part of the Camino if I didn't start at SJPP. But I realize now that it's simply a matter of one's choice.

Marita
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
Yes of course, its choice. Its not as though there is an 'authentic' beginning to any of the camino routes, there is only and end!
The medieval pilgrim didn't have much choice and unless they took a ship to Galicia they had no option but to start walking from their front door.
At one of our camino workshops I overhead a pilgrim say to someone when asked if he liked St Jean Pied de Port, "Oh well, I cheated - I only started at Pamplona". What nonsense! Walter Starkie wrote that the camino Frances started in Paris and very few modern pilgrims start there these days.
 

gary000

New Member
Hi everybody,

This is my first post but I hope that I can give some good advice to people who are setting of on their first camino. I embarked from SJDPDP with my friend on a gorgeous sunny day last July, looking forward to a 3 week stint at the camino. To say I was ill prepared is an understatement. Wrong boots, backpack too heavy, walking to fast...if only I'd spent some time on this wonderful site!

Blisters set in on the 3rd day leaving Larassona, and the next week or so was spent limping to Logrono in much pain! To cut a long story short oomschluking, I think that the ascent across the Pyrenees is achievable by anyone who has prepared sufficiently and takes the good advice of most people on here..slow down & enjoy the scenery!

We spent the first night in Orrisson which is about 8 Km I think. It's a bit pricier than the other refugios you will stay in but it was well worth it. We met a lot of good friends on that first night and it really set the tone for a painful but unforgettable couple of weeks.

The main damage was done for me on the descent into Roncesvallles. Boots were too loose and friction caused my blisters. Only for the brilliant people at the Red Cross clinic in Estella, I would definitely have got an infection. So its also important to know how to treat blisters yourself if possible. Although at the time it was a very painful experience I'm counting the days until I can go back & have another go at the camino...older & definitely wiser!

I hope you have a great time, Ultreia!
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
Top 7 Blister Preventing Lubricants
By Wendy Bumgardner, About.com Guide
Updated July 31, 2009
Blisters are caused by abrasion against the skin. Lubricating the skin can keep that abrasion from causing blisters. The lubricant you use should be one that will last for the length of your walk. Apply any lubricant liberally to your feet in any area that is prone to blistering.

1. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly
It's cheap and it works. I put great gobs of petroleum jelly on my feet before I put on my Cool-Max socks. No blisters, not even on a marathon - and I used to get big heel blisters every time at 10 miles. No, my feet don't slide around in my shoes - the socks prevent that. No, it doesn't feel slimy once you put on your socks. It doesn't wash out well but who cares - these are walking socks! Use the plain petroleum jelly, not any of the fancy cream versions.

2. BodyGlide
A no-petroleum stick that goes on like a deodorant stick. It won't stain your clothing. It comes in regular and a version that includes sunscreen. Good for preventing blisters on your feet. I use this by itself for 6-10 miles walks and put it on first, before the petroleum jelly, for longer distances.

3. SportShield and BlisterShield
2Toms produces two kinds of silicone-based blister prevention lubricants. One is a SportShield, a silicone-based roll-on or towelette that provides long lasting lubrication to prevent blisters and chafing. It is odorless, non-greasy. The second variety is BlisterShield powdered silicone to put into your socks to help prevent blisters.

4. SportSlick
Think of it as high-tech petroleum jelly. It combines silicone, polymers, and petroleum jelly for long-lasting waterproof lubrication. Includes aloe, antioxidant vitamins E and C, natural plant extracts, Tolnaftate antifungal agent and Triclosan antibacterial agent.

5. Hydropel
Endorsed by ultra-distance athletes and triathletes, this high-tech lubricant can keep you from getting rubbed the wrong way.

6. Squeaky Cheeks Performance Powder
For chafing and for foot blister prevention, Squeaky Cheeks is a cornstarch and essential oils solution for those who don't want to mess with greasy preparations.

7. Band-Aid Blister Block Stick
This convenient stick uses vegetable oil as its lubricant. Just rub on your feet and go.
 

oomschluking

New Member
Hmm instead of gasping and clawing at a strangers boot laces I think I will just pull myself up by own boot laces and take the excellent advice given here - plan for an easy start, know thy body and have no expectations! Have I missed anything?
 

Janeh

Active Member
I just read Karla's blog.... :evil: and I'm sorry guys, but her story doesn't reflect the realities of the camino, but more someone who is ill-prepared to experience anything that isn't HOME!
I get annoyed at English speaking people who get pissed off when they travel to foreign countries and complain that 'no-one spoke English'! Why are some of us English speaking people so arrogant? How hard is it to carry a small phrase book or learn some basic words from the country you are travelling in?
I have traveled widely all over the world.....I've learnt to say hello, thank-you and can smile in at least 10 languages!
Remember, the camino for the most part is in Spain, they speak Spanish there, not English, so why should signs be in both languages or why should the people have to learn English to speak to you?
The camino is for people who for one thing have a sense of adventure......most also want to experience another fellow human being's culture, language, food, customs....and learning those few foreign words, eating those weird and wonderful meals that we don't even know what it is (I'm sure I've eaten bull frog in China and definitely know I ate Cock's combs in France), laughing with the people when they have no idea what you're miming as you don't know the words (I have stood in front of a taxi in China going 'choo, choo' and doing a 'train moving along the tracks' dance to let the driver know we wanted to go to the train station), this is the spirit of adventure!

here ends my tirade, sorry guys :( , just pissed off with Karla and her narrow look on the world. I know the rest of you are fabulous, adventurous, wonderful pilgrims, prepared or unprepared as the case may be! :D Jane.
 

ramble-on

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2010; LePuy 2011; VdlP 2013/14; CdN (to Oviedo) & Primitivo 2016
Well said. On our first visit to Spain, we mimed extensively, especially in restaurants. Every meal was an adventure. We're now much more aware of our responsibility to learn a few of the basics of the language of the country we're visiting. We're certainly not fluent, but if one tries to speak the language of the "locals", it goes a long way to establish a bridge with them.

It seems to me Karla's outlook on life is quite closed and limited/limiting.
 

cecelia

Wandering for the love and growth of it
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from SJPP - 2003, 2005, 2009, 2013. 500 km on Le Puy 2013. Future - Vezelay-Santiago
Re:"What I see and feel from this Forum is a microcosm of what I would hope for the greater community."
What you see and feel from this forum is definitely what you will see and feel on your camino. It can be a wonderful experience.
And just to add more encouragement in case it will help... I first walked over the Route Napoleon when I was 59 and have walked it twice more since then. The first time I thought it would kill me but the second and third times it was easier (not easy!) - something about body memory? You will see people who are in their seventies or more making that climb.
And to reinforce what others have said - make sure your boots/shoes/sandals fit well, don't rub and are well broken in. Socks are equally important. Blisters are not inevitable although many get them (I'm lucky, I don't). Think of your feet more than you ever have before. Don't get a pedicure before you go or at least don't let anyone scrape the skin off the bottoms of your feet. You'll need the protection.
And do consider stopping at Huntto or Orisson (you'll need a reservation well in advance at Orisson). It's a very pleasant evening at either place in my experience and shortens the next day's trip by those few important kilometers. And if the first day is too hard, consider letting the good folks at Huntto or Orisson take your pack over for you. It will make your walk easier. Of course you will need water and lunch for your walk. Muy buen camino.Cecelia
 

gittiharre

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Austria Czech Le Puy Geneva RLS V. Jacobi V. Regia V. Baltica/Scandinavica Porto Muxia
I echo what you say. I am 54 now, struggled on my first Camino and since then every long walk has become easier. After Le Puy to St Jean I could have just kept going last October, I felt in fine form, not a blister, just a few sore muscles at times. Next year my husband aged 79 will ( Inshallah) walk with me from Le Puy to Santiago. Can't wait. Love to you all, Gitti
 
I hope to find the adventure and take part in the community of the world.

Am trying hard to make sure I will be ready. I have been doing a lot of hill work. After reading this form and combining it with the forum on eating on the Camino tonight I did a hill course for an hour and half on my treadmill and then had a glass of Merlot.

Hopefully, I'll be in the right spirit when I get there. :D

An American for peace.

Louise
Ctlou
 

ramble-on

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2010; LePuy 2011; VdlP 2013/14; CdN (to Oviedo) & Primitivo 2016
Great preparation, Louise, which I am emulating. I could only suggest one progress to training with vino made with tempranillo to be fully acclimatized to Spain!

Dick
 
Hi Dick:
Will do as soon as I figure out what tempranillo is.
Sounds like if I don't before I will once I get there.

BTW...saw you on here the other day and forgot to mention.
Kudos to you and all of Canada for a great Olympics. Nice from start to finish.
Louise
 

ramble-on

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2010; LePuy 2011; VdlP 2013/14; CdN (to Oviedo) & Primitivo 2016
Thanks for your comments on the Olympics. More snow and colder, wintery conditions would have been nice, but that was arranged by a higher authority than the Olympic committee. The country almost had collective heart failure on the last day (when that audacious American hockey team had the nerve (imagine!! :lol: ) to tie the gold medal game in the last 24 seconds). But, all's well that ends well! :D

Try a bottle of rioja - it's loaded with tempranillo, one of the noble grape varieties of Spain.

Dick
 

benandsam

Member
Im doing the whole french camino this year from sjpp but fortunately i did a section of it last year from triacastela, the expierience gained is invaluable.
I dont think you have to stay in refugios to get the most out of the camino as you are constantly passing people on the paths and roads and good naturedness is common and its nice to say hello and wish buen camino.
Several good tips have been listed here

Good footwear
Good backpack evenly weighted, straps on your chest and waist and as light as possible
Walking sticks
a hat to keep you dry and to keep the sun off
Always be hydrated and always have some water to drink
Stop very 8/10k at a cafe, top up your food /water and chat to people for a while
Learn some basic spanish
 

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