Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day One - Over the Pyrenees Mountains...

Day One - Monday - March 25, 2013 /// St Jean Pied-de-Port, France to Roncevalles, Spain /// 18 miles

Strava data:
St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Roncevalles, Spain
26kms and 1,450 meters of elevations gain (approx. 18 miles and 5,000ft)

 Signing in to the official pilgrim log the night before starting the run just after receiving my Pilgrim Passport.

 The pilgrim office entrance the morning after arriving in St. Jean Pied-de-Port after several train and bus rides across France after flying into Toulouse, France from Basel, Switzerland on Easyjet for 40 francs.  You'll notice the distinct yellow sun symbol indicating this is part of the Camino de Santiago and in this case it is the beginning location.

The Camino de Santiago volunteer in the pilgrim office, yes, volunteer, completing my pilgrim passport paperwork indicating I'm an official pilgrim beginning the Camino Frances and from where I am starting the journey and on what day.  They document and track pilgrims on their progress as a safety measure to ensure no one goes missing.

The pilgrim office stated the original route of Napoleon was closed due to deep snow and someone dying in the snow and cold atop the Pyrenees along the trail just the week before my arrival on the night of March 24th.  I was shocked to learn the weather and snow was a factor at this time of year making the trail nearly impassable and that someone found their end on a path that represents a finding of peace, comfort and enjoyment in life.

I came to the Camino de Santiago with a plan and a major part of that plan was to climb over the Pyrenees mountain range.  The pilgrim office mentioning the unfortunate news that the original Napoleon route over the mountain was closed was not in the cards for me.  As stubborn as I am I didn´t want the easier, lower altitude route.  Just the thought of the alternative route rounding past the high peaks and endless views of France and Spain was a disappointment.  My excitement and expectation from day one on the Camino was certainly not this.  Therefore I went ahead and took the risky challenge of the Napoleon route. 

After a warm, comfortable night in the Albergue Municipal in St. Jean Pied-de-Port I was greeted by sunshine and relatively warm weather.  Such a perfect way to begin the Camino!  The initial group of us pilgrims that had registered in the pilgrim office together the night before and walked together from the office to the Albergue enjoyed an included breakfast of coffee and toast with butter and local jam.  After a short breakfast we gathered our belongings and prepared ourselves for the day ahead on the Camino.

To start off the day, I visited the post office (Correos) to mail the remaining clothes and items I would not need during my trip across Spain to a friend in Madrid.  There I met another American from Oregon, Bob, and two women from the UK.  We all shared a brief conversation of what would be the usual of the Camino of where each of us were from and why we were on the Camino.  While we waited to mail our respective packages I had a moment to weigh my running pack, the Salomon Skin Pro 14+3, which weighted in at five kilos or 11 pounds.  Both women from the UK took a look as I weighed my pack and exclaimed, "Wow! That's great!  We have around 12 kilos."  Of course I responded, "I need to keep it as light as possible because I am running the Camino."  Neither were all that shocked at my response considering it was easy to see I was planning to run when I was wearing running tights, shoes, a merino wool running top and hat from San Francisco Running Company.

My box being shipped to my friend's apartment in Madrid, Spain of things I did not need for the trip.

I spoke with Bob from Oregon a bit longer and helped him with French and the postal form since I had a week to get more familiar with a few words in French during my time visiting Kate and Michael in Switzerland before beginning the Camino.  We traded information and wished each other a "Buen Camino" and I headed off to find a market to buy a few snacks and something for lunch on the mountain pass and to fill my 50oz water bladder in my pack.  As I strolled the streets of St. Jean Pied-de-Port I came across an older gentleman wearing a hanna hat and walking with a walking cane, very common among older folks in Europe, and asked him, "Où se trouve le marché?" (Where is the market?).  He responded with something in French and pointed up the street.  I didn't understand him, but understood his gesture of pointing toward the small hill near a park just past the center of town.  "Merci", I told him and made my way toward the market.  Turns out it was an outdoor farmer's market with local fresh produce.  Perfect!  I purchased an apple, two oranges and two bananas which cost 1.80 euros ($2.35USD).
An old sign showing the way out of St. Jean Pied-de-Port into the Pyrenees mountain range 
via the traditional Route de Napoléon.

Taking in the view before running up to the ridge top of the Pyrenees mountains!
Nursing the early blisters from the steep climb heading to the ridge line high atop the Pyrenees mountain range along the Napoleon Route of the Camino de Santiago. 
I had no idea what lay ahead for me…..

The short of it is that is was fine and the mountain tops appeared clear until you get over one ridge to the next where knee to waist deep snow greets you.  It also goes on for 12kms or 7 miles.  Slowest, coldest and scariest 7 miles on the trail in my life thus far because I was caught in a snow storm with winds that ripped my rain poncho apart in minutes.

Made it to Roncevalles and the amazing hostel partly frozen, cramping and out of water during the final 2kms where I drank from mountain snow melt streams.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Schedule Update - March 25th starts the Camino!

After the recent surgery after the Barcelona Marathon March 17th I needed a few days to heal before beginning my run and life living hostel to hostel. Serendipitously a good friend of mine and his wife relocated to Le Landeron, Switzerland on March 13th and were kind enough to invite me to visit and share in the new international adventure combining our travels.

The timing could not have been better! I booked a flight on EasyJet from Barcelona, Spain to Geneva, Switzerland and off I went and here I am.

I'm enjoying Swiss cheese, chocolate, wine and the gorgeous countryside until my flight from Basel, Switzerland to Toulouse, France Sunday morning March 24th. From Toulouse I'll take a train to Pau, then Bayonne and finally St. Jean Pied de Port where I'll stay for the night before heading to the pilgrimage office the morning of the 25th to receive my official pilgrimage passport and scallop shell which is the symbol of a pilgrim on the path.

From there marks day one climbing up and over the Pyrenees mountains covering 18 miles and 5,000+ feet of elevation gain. I'll stop in Roncevalles, Spain for the night and rest up for a 20+ mile day the following day.

More updates to come and a surprise "Running the Pilgrimage" tech shirt in the works for followers to enjoy and show off the adventure while on their own runs/journeys!

The official tech shirts have arrived!  Preview and order yours here:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Barcelona Marathon Results / Surgery / Switzerland - Updates

Order of topics:
1) Barcelona Marathon race review
2) Surgery…..
3) Going to Switzerland!

1) The Barcelona Marathon was awesome!  I managed to pull out an 8:37min/mile pace.  Check out the Strava data here:

 Showing some love for Sports Basement at the 2013 Barcelona Marathon starting line!!!

I also filmed the finish line run.  From my face you can see both relief in being finished and concern for the hospital visit I knew I had coming later that day…..

Done and DONE!!!  Cool new medal to add to the collection!  
Thanks to Nathan Sports for the awesome water bottle!

The epic finish area!  A palace turned museum.

Views along the race course

2) Surgery came several hours after the marathon.  "For what!?", you might ask.  I was 'lucky' enough to have the sudden development of a pilonidal cyst five days before the marathon and knowing that the only way to rid myself of this painful issue was surgery I elected to wait until after the marathon.  I can't miss my races!  I took antibiotics and pain meds in the days leading up to the race and the morning of the race.  This was certainly the most painful marathon I have ever run due to the cyst.  Post race I had a nice lunch with my biggest fans and cheerleaders, a.k.a. my parents, and finally made it back to the apartment to begin the search for a public hospital.

Seeing as I don't have international medical insurance and I'm not covered under Spain's national medical plan that is paid into by citizens via taxes providing them with free, yes FREE, medical care whenever they need it I had to pay something.  This was the scariest part because I was at their mercy and they could have charged me 5,000 euros and I would have paid it.  I could barely walk without pain especially after the marathon.  So I asked my fellow IE Business School graduate, Jaime, living here in Barcelona for a recommendation.  He offered the Hospital Clinic which turned out to be great and had an ER admittance area.

I went to the Hospital Clinic located in downtown Barcelona and was immediately brought in.  First a quick check in and sharing of my information and the procedure I needed, a visit to the nurse to discuss medical history and finally to the waiting area where I was also told about the cost.  As the "murse", male-nurse, handed me a form that explained everything and quoted the cost I cringed thinking of the number of zeros I would see…  "223 Euros".  WHAT!?  223 Euros was all I had to pay!?  Needless to say I was smiling ear to ear and said, "Dale.  Esta bien!" (Okay.  That's good!).

I waited around 45mins for the doctor and was brought in, put in a medical gown and waited just another 15mins before getting into what is the most uncomfortable surgery I've experienced to date.  The doctor was fantastic, Jorge, and took care of the procedure quickly and explained everything as he went along preparing me for what was to happen next.  Fantastic care and a great experience overall.  I've already provided them with a great Yelp review for other foreigners in need of medical care while in Barcelona.  Read it here:

So that sums up my first international surgery experience.

3) Now I'm headed to Switzerland to visit a good friend for a few days.  This also gives me time to heal up and tend to the incision area before beginning my run across Spain along the Camino de Santiago.  I will now begin the journey on March 25th instead of March 20th.  More updates to come!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Barcelona Marathon Check-In and potential disaster…..

All checked in and ready to go!  ….but, one small issue that could derail my international marathon glory dreams.  I have a small infection that is causing me some serious pain and making it very difficult to run.  I started antibiotics (875g Augmentine) two days ago and today, day three, I am starting to feel better and I'm able to jog in place with minimal discomfort.  Crossing my fingers tightly, I hope to be running pain free in the marathon tomorrow morning.  Wish me luck!?

Zurich Barcelona Marathon 31st Annual -

San Francisco Running Company -

Thursday, March 14, 2013

IE Business School graduation in the bag. The Camino awaits...

Graduations ceremonies complete for the Masters in Sports Management - March 13, 2013!  My undergraduate alma mater, Saint Louis University (SLU), has a sister campus in Madrid just a few miles away from my graduate school, IE Business School.  I had to make a visit after graduation for a moment of reflection on the last eight years since graduating from SLU.

The Camino de Santiago awaits…

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Casa de Campo and a palace along my running path

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Trail running in the big city of Madrid, Spain (Casa de Campo)

Lot's of fun trails today with a couple instagram photos included in my route recorded on Strava to show you some of the sights.  I have never seen so many rabbits on a single trail run before.  They were everywhere.  Gordy Ainsleigh (pioneer of the 100 mile endurance race - Western States 100) may run with the horses, but I ran with the rabbits this morning…

View the map and the workout from today on Strava:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Masters Program Finals coming to a close and the Camino de Santiago awaits...

I am already dreaming of the open trails, mountain views, endless finds and a trail leading me to the Atlantic Ocean!  Only two more days of classes here at IE Business School followed by graduation on March 13th and I'll be on my way to Barcelona for a few days to enjoy that city and race the Barcelona Marathon on March 17th.  

Also shared on my Facebook Fan Page at:

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Barcelona Marathon race number ready! - March 17th

I haven't been this excited for a marathon in a long time!  This one is special because I have wanted to visit Barcelona ever since I saw a photo of La Sagrada Familia on the cover of my Spanish course book when I was a sophomore in high school.  15 years later I'll be running by it in the Barcelona Marathon!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Gear organization/packing for the long haul ahead...

How can you possibly use only a 17 liter capacity pack to live out of for three weeks while encountering several differing climates and rain during the first few days and even some snow? That's the question I was struggling with while laying all of these items out to visualize what was coming with me. I'll most likely be eliminating a few items.

Can you identify all the items from these photos?  Look closely and I'm sure you'll be able to pick out 90% of them.  There are only four items that appear in all three photos as the four most important items.  Which ones are they?