It’s been over a year of my “Ultra-Camino de Santiago”. I wrote some lines about it, which I thought one day I’d share again on an appropriate space.
So let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we?
October 2015 →
Happy of being able to say “I did it”, but I can also go with “I wouldn’t do something like this again”.
It may come as a surprise but the greatest challenge to complete those 68 miles (110 km) non-stop wasn’t the distance but my head. For the first time in a very long time I felt exposed —a sense of overwhelming loneliness— and even unsafe. I will tackle ultra-distance again barring my body won’t agree. However, I’ll do it fully supported, not so wildly.
The first hours were awesome. Still in daylight and with no rain I took in what the Camino always brings for me: freedom. I was flying along the paths, more running than anything. I even had the time to take some silly pics.
But then it was dark. Just after the first encounters with local people and fellow pilgrims already resting for the day after. That sort of amusing conversation where you’re asked where you are going at that time of night, and you even feel embarrassed to tell.
Dark hours are much more tolerable with a headlamp. However, with the skies fully open on me, it loses its appealing. And that’s how I went on for 12 hours of darkness, literally, both in terms of light and mental health. After venturing into some paths and realizing the high chance of meeting some dog coming out on me to say “hi, get the f*** out” — which I can’t really argue with considering the time of the night and the fact that they are not used to seeing people there and then — I decided to take the road for my own good. Three direct consequences off that: feeling a bit safer, 4 km extra, grinding my feet on the asphalt. I guess one can’t have it both ways. Fortunately, I had gear on me that made me look like a proper Christmas tree, but even so it’s not cool having to focus 150% on making yourself noticed by every car, that surely would be like “where are you going and why!” More mental fatigue.
And so went on the hours. Miles were coming down quickly, but I wasn’t enjoying myself. All I wanted was for daybreak to come and making it halfway feeling just ok, and get back on the paths. And there were my parents (going to bed at 1am proved impossible, sorry to put you guys through this!); all of you cheering on through FB; and most specially, my uni mates — my friends — who always give me some healthy banter about my sporty adventures, coming up with the goods and making it so that I would get a motivational video every number of hours so that I wouldn’t yield. G3.
Daylight! After having a sandwich in a bank hallway (glad nobody called the police on me) I was within the last 30-odd miles to Santiago. Melide. A small cafe opened early, at 6:05; when I had been listening to the roosters’ crow for awhile. What a bliss getting somehow dry and stop shivering! Those small pleasures of life.
“Nearly there”, “this is the easy part”, “keep going”. I went from this to “it’s just not normal what’s coming down on me”, “God, Thor, whoever…if you’re up there…enough is enough!”, “another hill. Great stuff”.
Pedrouzo. Some 15 miles to Santiago and I can rightly say never saw so much rain on me. The wet dream of whom likes epic. But it’s 16 hours out there and not amusing anymore. At this point my legs gave up on running, my feet soles where too much in pain and I had sort of pulled a muscle on my inner quadriceps. Basically my body saying “man, it’s fine for you to walk, but don’t get too excited” That put me in the position of knowing I couldn’t do more than 3 mile-per-hour pace and on top of that I needed to stop and do some stretching every 2 miles. After doing the math the adventure becomes tiresome and annoying. But at least I wasn’t feeling unsafe like I did hours before, just tired of the whole thing. The silver lining.
Monte do Gozo. 3 miles to the end. I wanted to go and have a look at the Pilgrim Statue which I haven’t visited in my 7 Caminos, but I stirred away since all I wanted was to get it over with. 2.5 miles: bloody steps down the hill. The bridge over the highway and my pole gets stuck twice in the wooden planks. Less than 2 miles left and had to stop more than once regardless of being nearly there because my body doesn’t know any better.
1 mile to go, Porta do Camiño, the Old Town, cobbled streets, “bloody hell!”, I’m smiling and it has stopped raining! Last yards and I break out running , nothing hurts anymore, down the steps into Obradoiro Square, running in the square! The challenge is over and all that is left to do is some weeping because at the end of the day, the last 21:31 hours have been nothing but a reflection of my last year. But here I am, still standing.
It’s over. All that remains is a bunch of anecdotes, feelings and images. And also some figures to explain what those 28 miles running and 40 hiking meant.
Ultreia et Suseia. El Camino. There are no adventures like this anymore.