Monday, February 15, 2010

Trekking and Camping (Preparing for the Trans-Mindanao Ultramarathon & Camino de Santiago)

At 10:30 am yesterday, several hours after celebrating the mass in the parish church, I was on the road with a backpack weighing 18 pounds. Inside the pack were some clothes, sleeping bag, ultralite air mattress, tent, headlamp, palm-top computer, digital camera, a plastic jar of peanut butter, a can of sardines and water. As I sauntered under the heat of the sun along the busy highway, a police car drove by and the police officer waved at me and greeted me: "good morning, father!" I smiled and waved back at him. I was doing more walking than running since my swelling right knee had been bothering me for more than a week. At twelve noon, after covering over 8 km, I reached the pier and took the ferry boat that brought me to Samal island.

I was already in the island before 1 pm. No lunchbreak - I was fasting. I just stopped by a store and bought a piece of bread for dinner. I continued trekking under the noonday heat - drinking water mixed with extra-joss every hour. There was no more traffic this time as I followed the rough road and trail overlooking the sea. I reached Dasag before 4 pm and pitched my tent near the beach. I took a nap and then had an early supper of peanut butter, sardines and bread. As the sun was setting, I sat on the beach and enjoyed the view. For four hours in the dark, I continued to gaze at the sea, reflecting on my life as a priest over the last 29 years and praying. Then, at 10 pm, I went inside my tent and went to sleep.
I woke up after six this morning. I continued to meditate for a while. No breakfast and lunch today - as usual. I continued my trek around the Island at 8:40, still doing more walking and less running. My walk was as fast as my jog and my right knee felt fine. I was so glad when it began to drizzle by 10 am which continued until 2 am. I always prefer the rain than the hot sun. I reached the pier at 3 pm and took the ferry boat. I reached the monastery before 5 pm, without even feeling exhausted, after a two days of trekking and fasting. I think I should be able to do this when I trek across Mindanao this holy week, and traverse Spain this July.
This evening I enjoyed a sumptous dinner with the community and our friends. We celebrated the birthday of Fr. Allen and Shaun, and also the Chinese New Year and Valentine's.
Some realizations/learnings:
1. I can run/walk 6-8 hours a day while fasting (without breakfast and lunch), as long as I have a heavy dinner the night before. Eating on the run is not necessary - it can even make me sluggish. The food I eat is not immediately converted into fuel (it takes over 12 hours for food to become usable as body-fuel). . During emergency, the human body can function even without food for more than four weeks. (20 years ago, I was able to fast for 14 days, while running every day).
2. I don't have to drink frequently or much. I usually drink ever hour (instead of every 15 minutes), and I don't have any problem with dehydration. What is dangerous is drinking too much.
3. Ultra-long distance trekking is mind over body. Older people may not have the speed, but we have the endurance and the will to cover long distances.
4. Fast, continous running is not sustainable for multi-days, ultra-marathons (it could lead to injuries). Easy running mixed with a lot of brisk walking is the secret for success.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Preparing for the Camino de Santiago (a Running/Walking Pilgrimage)

We only have less than two months before the end of semester and I am pre-occupied with my preparation for my Sabbatical - and especially for my running/walking pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It is an 800 km trek which starts at St. John Pied de Port, a village South of France at the base of the Pyrennees mountains, across the northern part of Spain and finishing at the western city of the Santiago de Compostela, where the tomb of St. James the Apostle is believed to be located. The Camino de Santiago is one of the three major pilgrimage center of Christianity (besides Jerusalem and Rome). For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have gone to Santiago de Compostela, mostly on foot. It usually takes 30-35 days to walk on the Camino Frances. I plan to do it in 21-24 days (combining walking and running). I will start my pilgrimage on July 12, after my summer course in Rome (Ecumenical & Interreligious Dialogue). I will be carrying a 15-lb backpack including an ultra-light tent, so that I can sleep under the stars.

My physical preparation is underway. I run-walk for 6-8 hours once a week, and 2-3 hours thrice a week. After Easter, I will run-walk across Mindanao (from Iligan to Davao, 400 km). I still have one month of running/walking up and down the mountain of Busay during my one-month hermitage before I leave for Rome in June.

Here are some of the books I have been reading as part of my preparation.