2013 Preparations

Blog 2013

1/4/13 2 miles 40 min 36 sec. Walked early this AM. Can tell my legs are getting stronger. Patience, Bill! As I lay in bed last night, I tried to think of my greatest fears about making this pilgrimage. I am sure this list will change over time, but the first things that popped into my head surprised me. They all had to do with side effects of the aging process. First came the fact I go to the bathroom at least three times a night, complicated by the fact I urinate more slowly than I used to. Would the cold air bother me? Would I bother other people? Would I have to go more often? I think you get the idea. Next, my meds. I have pills I must take very day…Gerd, blood pressure, cholesterol and so on; plus ointments I must put on my hands and feet each morning and evening. Would I find a safe way to store and carry them? Would doing my hands and feet delay everyone? And so on. I then stopped. These were things I can deal with. Because I have learned the secret to happy aging is changing how I live before I have to. SO it’s just a question of figuring out how to handle these things without letting them distract from what I am trying to accomplish. Isn’t it interesting that what I should be worried about, stamina of my legs and my left knee, never came to mind? I think there is a good chance the reason we stop trying to do all we are capable of as we age is unwarranted fear of aging’s side effects.

1/12/13 Mel died yesterday. I think I am still is shock. Just feel numb, even in my prayers for him and his family. Communion calls, Health Care Center Sing-a-long, pool nap, pool exercise, preaching at 5:00 Mass. This is my weekend to preach. I particularly enjoy the Sundays of such weekends, although I am bone-tired by the end of the day. Walked 2 miles again today. First time two days in a row. Legs feel pretty good. 40 min 47 sec.

1/16/13 2 miles 38 min 11 sec. My first mile walk on Dec. 5th took 30 min 15 sec. The human body is amazing! 5 pounds lost…25 to go. I think I have stumbled on how to prepare my body for this pilgrimage. NOT TOO FAST>>>NOT TOO FAR, meaning walk as slowly as I need to walk for a particular distance. Over time as my body gets used to that pace for that distance, I will naturally start walking more rapidly and eventually will feel like walking farther. For now, don’t need to walk any faster than this. Just good steady pace. Getting ready for move to 3 miles.

1/26/13 3 (notice the 3) miles 66 min 52 sec. 22+minute miles. I’ll take it. Legs tired but good tired. Beautiful, 60’s, light breeze, completely sunny morning. Easy to be grateful. Shuffling/scuffling almost gone. 6 pounds lost…24 to go.

3/11/13 3 miles 66 min 52 sec. Walk with Michele. Good conversation. Yesterday, started looking at internet information about the pilgrimage. First, it is called El Camino de Santiago. There are actually a number of routes, but the most popular is known as the French Camino. It is 490 miles long. One company offers private rooms and private baths EVERY NIGHT. Got so excited I actually invited Frannie to go. I am not holding my breath. May, June and September best times to go.

3/13/13 Drive to Coral Gables to see Dr. San Giovanni. John Penoyer went with me. Enjoyable conversation. San Giovanni says my foot has healed well, even though one of the screws holding the plate to my foot has buckled. We talked about the idea of my doing the El Camino de Santiago. He saw no reason I could not do it if I prepared properly. So, a hurdle is passed! Must tell John. San Giovanni did suggest I use a soft orthotic if I actually do the pilgrimage.

3/22/13 2 miles, 41 minutes 5 sec. It has been one week since my last entry. Since then, here is what I have been doing: Caritas Retreat, Jesus Seminar, Lectors Training, Half-day retreat for all those seeking Spiritual Direction from me, Thursday evening Reception for all those who wanted to know more about our planned Parish Center Renewal, Preaching at two daily Masses, One Communion Service. Will go to bed early tonight in the hopes of finally getting on top of my cold.

4/2/13 Holy Week a blur. Struggled throughout with my cold (still present). Consistently felt drained of energy…as if everything was a major task and every decision a major one. Exercise regimen down the drain. The good news is Holy Thursday homily went well and I was able to sing the Exsultet reasonably well at the Holy Saturday Vigil Mass. (The Exsultet is a long complicated prayer chant at the beginning of Holy Saturday Evening Mass.) Miracles still happen! Got off twice but was able to get back on track. Thank God for Janet Perez. Felt relatively relaxed and prayerful. God has never let me down.

4/11/13 Tamworth NH!!! Walked 2+ miles (top of Brown Hill) 56 min 30 sec. Felt good to walk again even though I got really winded on the steep inclines. I think this morning is the first morning I have awakened with a sense of feeling healthy again, even though I am still a little stuffy. Exactly one month from when the cold descended. Left knee has soreness of left front. Happened several weeks ago and has not gone away.

4/23/13 In Logan Airport waiting to board flight to Paris. This may be the best part of the trip…anticipation at a peak!

4/26/13 Delightful time in Paris.

4/28/13 Lucca Italy. 2+ miles mins 15 sec. Felt very sluggish. May be just the effects of early travel time yesterday. Overcast and periods of light rain. Met a nice Swiss gal named Theresa at Gli Orit last night, mostly puttering around the apartment today.

4/30/13 2+ miles; untimed. Thanks to a tip from Silvia at Gli Orti last night (the pizza was delicioso!), we were able to make contact with Don Alessandro (our favorite Lucca priest) and visit for a brief few minutes. He seems as life-giving as always, and I came away with the distinct impression the Church may be grooming him for bigger things. This thought made me feel better. Oh, by the way, my left knee feels much better. Thank God. Spent the afternoon working on my drawing (after a good nap of course). By evening my back was sore and it finally gave out just before we went to bed. Looks like I may be laid up for a day or two. Wonder what will happen if my back goes out on the pilgrimage. Simple answer I guess: I‘ll just stay in one spot for awhile. Which make me realize we will probably need a cell phone if we decide to arrange for private sleeping quarters each evening. Just in case something like my back going out causing us a delay.

5/6/13 2.8+ miles 62 min; 10 sec. Walked early again (7:30 AM). Bright clear day with mid 50s temperature. Perfect walking weather, though Frannie thought a little more warmth would have been better. Yesterday, I decided on when/how I would like to do the pilgrimage. I realize this still may never happen and I will probably make many changes but here is my current thinking: John and I will leave the US on Saturday, August 30, 2015, arriving in Paris on August 31st. We will take a train to somewhere near our starting point and sleep that night and the next, getting over jet lag as well as we can while taking care of last minute details. We will start the pilgrimage on September 2nd. We will use a tour company that arranges for rooms to stay in each night, and we will follow their recommendation to take periodic days off during the pilgrimage to rest, regroup and regain strength. This means the entire pilgrimage should take 44 days and we should finish on Thursday, October 16th. We will then travel back to Paris, meeting Chrissy and Frannie for two weeks in either Paris or Lucca or both. This plan has a number of advantages: plenty of time for us to get in shape, plan for how John can get two months+ off, and how we will pay for it. What I realize now is even though staying in prearranged rooms each night will lighten the load we will have to carry, I will still need John to carry more than his fair share if I am going to have any hope of avoiding a back breakdown. I think I should probably send this to John so he knows my current thinking. The next thing I need to do is continue to build up leg strength and lose weight. My short-term goal will be to see if I can work up to eventually walking eight miles by the end of this summer. There will be two things I will be testing: whether my body can take it and, perhaps just as importantly, how I will react emotionally to long periods of doing nothing but walking.

5/10/13 Actually walked over 4.5 miles, untimed, but we did it in segments. We did our normal 2.8 tour of the wall first thing in the morning, and then a walk over and back from Essalunga for some groceries we could not get at our local grocery store (called Depar). Legs felt surprisingly good afterwards. Heard back from John. He is still positive and was actually wondering if I had started my walking training. I told him I had, only because I had such a long way to go.

5/22/13 3 miles; untimed. A thought occurred to me today about the pilgrimage, actually, a series of thoughts. While my official walk was 2.8 miles, my guess is we actually walked over five miles, including a tour, which meant lots of standing around. My legs, as well as the rest of my body, were tired when we finished. This morning, as we started our walk, I wondered how I was ever going to walk 12 – 15 miles a day for 36 days if I was having trouble walking five miles in one. Of course, I thought, I wasn’t able to walk more than 100 yards when we started and my body has responded beautifully,  my stamina slowly increasing ever since. However, it occurred to me it took longer to move up from one mile than it took to move up from ½ mile. I have been at three miles for I don’t know how long. Clearly it must also take longer to increase stamina as one ages, so my question, and at this point my only question, was this: is there a wall a 75 year old male hits where the increase in stamina is so negligible that it becomes virtually impossible to do more? I say this was my only question this morning until I noticed my legs felt rubbery, my ankles hurt, and my ass felt like it was falling off. It was then my first question morphed into a broader set of concerns. Not only do I have to have the stamina to walk 12-15 miles in one day, I have to have the stamina to do it for multiple days in a row. And here I was, wondering whether I could walk 2.8 miles after walking five the day before! So much for increased stamina. My conclusion I guess is there may be a wall a 75 year- old male hits, but it will most likely be caused by my body’s inability to recover sufficiently in a twelve hour period to permit continuous repetition of long walks over multiple days. So, I have two potential barriers: inability to walk 15 miles on one day, and then (perhaps more importantly) do it multiple days in a row. I guess I will see as I try to slowly increase my daily distance. Of course, getting weight off will help, but we will see what we will see. One other point. As the first line of this journal entry indicates, we actually walked three miles this morning. But it was painful. As I trudged along I realized there might be a lot more discomfort before this is all over. A lot more. I feel almost betrayed. Why didn’t Martin Sheen get sore in “The Way”? Wasn’t this suppose to be a slow increase in stamina resulting in a comfortable trek across picturesque hillside bathed in early fall sun? With soft music playing in the background, as John and I joked about how much fun this had all been?

5/23/13 5.62 miles;113 min 48 sec. That’s almost (20.23 minutes) 20 minutes a mile. First lap of 2.81 in 19.8 minutes a mile. Why the renewed vigor you might ask? Received at least a partial answer to yesterday’s questions in today’s news. Yuchiro Miura, an EIGHTY year-old Japanese gentleman Became the oldest man to climb Mt. Everest yesterday. Didn’t say how long it took him but it did say he prepared by walking an unspecified distance three times a week with 60+ lbs. on his back. Mt. Everest is 29.035 feet high. This is the third time Miura has climbed Mt. Everest, the previous times at age 70 and 75. So there, wimpy Mr. Rich! I have wanted to build up to walking the wall twice (without an extended break) ever since we arrived here. After digesting the news about Mr. Muira’s accomplishment, I decided my legs felt good enough, my bladder strong enough, and the weather (cool and overcast) sufficiently cooperative that I should give it a go. Clearly Mr. Miura had demonstrated I probably have the potential to do much more than I am currently doing. As a result, the whole second time around my legs (and butt) felt nothing more than a little numb (a nice way of describing a consistent low-level pain). Anyways, round I went, with no sit down breaks and only two brief stops for water from conveniently placed fountains. And all at a pace I couldn’t imagine when I first started walking three miles. Maybe the truism that believing something is possible makes it really true. At least it is in my case. So, the pilgrimage is possible. Just believe. Besides, while an eighty year old climbing Mt. Everest sounds dramatic, it might help to keep in mind 29035 feet is only a little less than six miles, about what I walked today.

5/24/13 3 miles; untimed. Last walk of the wall (plus a little) for this trip. Legs felt surprisingly strong. I think this is what my training plan should be: walk every other day during the week this year (2013) starting at 2 miles a day, trying to reach 8 miles a day; walk every day during the week in 2014 starting at 2 miles a day, trying to reach 8 miles a day. Then in 2015, walk every day, starting at 4 miles a day, trying to end up at 16 miles a day. Sound like a plan? Now for some packing, Da Francesco’s for pasta Bolognese, gelato (pistachio, chocolate and coconut grande cono), a nap, and then pizza at Gli Orti. What a life! God is good!

5/30/13 2.5 miles 56 min; 44 sec. Walk up Brown Hill Road to top of hill in New Hampshire. Beautiful day.

6/5/13 3 miles 79 min 31 sec. First three mile walk including Brown Hill down to bottom on east side. Had to stop three times to catch breath on the way up. That will improve.

6/23/13 2+ miles 55 mins 8 sec. Warm, humid, overcast day. Just returned from St. Paul of the Cross “Faith & Fun” pilgrimage. While on the trip, I read a book given me by a friend of our son Bill’s called “Seven Tips to Make the Most of Camino de Santiago.” I learned many things, ranging from Santiago being St. James’ name in Spanish to a bunch of helpful advice in how to prepare and what to bring. It also prodded me to start thinking more about why am I so sure I want to make this pilgrimage. For now, my short answer is it has been my experience that one of the ways God communicates with us is by placing a wish/desire/thought in our minds that will simply not go away. More on this in the future. For now, the biggest conclusion I reached from reading this book is I have to get serious about my weight. All the planning and philosophizing in the world will be for naught if I don’t get my weight down. So, for the immediate future, that’s my number one priority. So much so, I am enlisting God’s help. I am hoping St. Paul was right when he said “in my weakness he will make me strong.”

6/24/13 Roger Murch died today. His wife Ursula called late this morning to tell us he had died peacefully earlier in the day. She was still in shock. I was devastated.

6/25/13 4 miles 121 mins 12 sec. Overcast, muggy, buggy. Two miles per hour a good goal for the pilgrimage. The first time I walked up the back of Brown Hill, I had to stop three times. June 7th I stopped twice. Today just once. Revel in the small signs of progress. Roger’s funeral will be this Saturday. Ursula has asked me to coordinate the service with her Episcopal Pastor, with my picking scripture and doing the homily. We also agreed Roger would be buried here at the Red House. I am very pleased with this decision.

6/27/13 4 miles 110 mins 25 sec. Didn’t have to stop at all coming up the back side of Brown Hill Road. Frannie with me today.

7/3/13 4 miles 113 min 46 sec. Muggy day. One of the things that I have wondered about was how I would do with having to have bowel movements along the way. Well, today, I got a little practice, deciding I couldn’t wait until I got home. So off into the woods I went. Won’t bore you with the details but everything came out fine, so to speak, although, as with all things, I decided I could handle the whole process much better with a little practice. Twenty for dinner. Four O’Hares, Tim, Joanne, Billy, Emily, Nat, Lisa, Wesley, Julian, Nate, Taylor, four Canfields, Frannie and me.

7/9/13 4 miles 103 min 53 sec. After much time spent comparing and trying out different pairs of shoes, I purchased Obōz size 11 trail hiking shoes. I record all this so I will have a something to compare to if or when I look for another pair. Decided there are two small signs of progress. First, the pain going up the back side of Brown Hill was marginally less today. Second, I am not sleeping the sleep of the dead any more. This extreme tiredness was very present the first week or so of four mile walks.

7/21/13 4 miles 97 minutes 5 sec. NEW RECORD. Walked after Mass with Frannie, Emily and her sister-in-law Kimberly. Reason for faster time: 10% my training, 90 % trying to keep up with the girls.

8/5/13 6 miles 2 hours 42 minutes (162) 42 sec.

8/17/13 6 miles 2 hours 23 minutes 23 sec. Some days, in the midst of walking, I have this dreadful set of thoughts run through my mind: What am I doing? Who do I think I am pretending I am going to walk 490 miles in a country where I probably won’t even like the food (if you haven’t noticed food is important to me and I am not a big fan of Spanish food). I don’t even particularly like to walk. And my legs feel like lead. A feeling of defeat passes through me. But then…I keep walking.

9/4/13 6 miles 2 hours 20 minutes 12 seconds. Did the Pease Hill/ Great Hill Road route. Beautiful day. Frannie and I both enjoyed the walk, although my feet still hurt by the end. Good news is I can feel my body getting stronger. Two years from today we will be more than half way through the pilgrimage.

9/9/13 Had planned to walk 8 miles today as a final hurrah to my walking program this summer. However, I came down with a cold over the weekend and so have decided I better try to deal with it as we prepare for our trek south starting this Thursday. Eight miles…and maybe more…will have to wait.

10/9/13 3 miles 64 minutes 33 seconds. Obviously, much has transpired since September 9th! We left on the 12th, arrived in Juno the night of the 16th, and left early on the morning of the 18th for our trip west. We visited Kelly and Ricky in South Bend, Chrissy and John in Chicago, Steve and Mary Ann in Phoenix, Tim and Chris in Seattle, spent a wonderful five days in Eden Bench with Tim, Kris, Nat, Lisa and their two sons. During our stay there our good friend Jim Ray died, so we decided to spend another five days in Seattle (wonderfully relaxed time, during which I finally shook the last vestiges of my September 9th cold). After attending the October 5th funeral, we flew home on Sunday, October 6th, getting to bed around 1:30 a.m. on Monday, October 7th. It was a good trip but it is really good to be home at last.

10/15/13 3 miles 65 minutes 24 seconds. Another beautiful morning in Juno Beach FL.

11/23/13 First, notice the date.It has been almost six weeks since my last entry. The primary reason for my absence from this journal is a cast on my left foot that extends up most of my lower leg. That “swelling up…that is probably nothing serious” turned out to be a fracture on the bottom of a bone I DO NOT want to fracture in a place I definitely want to avoid (as it is the exact point that bears most of my weight in the normal course of affairs). The story goes of how I got to where I am today is so typical of me. We left Florida on Friday, October 18th, with Frannie flying to Hope’s in Ithaca while I went to Ridgefield CT for my first mission. I felt my normal inadequacy before the mission but was feeling very good about the whole thing by the time it ended. However, my ankle continued to swell ever larger each day, even though the combination of ibuprofen and deep sleep seemed to help. As an aside, it was a special blessing to be back at St. Mary’s, where a significant part of my conversion took place. On Wednesday, October 23rd, I drove to Ithaca, where Frannie and I decided it was time to see a doctor. On Thursday, thanks to a couple of small miracles, we were able to see our daughter’s orthopedist, Dr. Green. After an x-ray and MRI, he informed us I indeed had a fracture in my left ankle and should see my local doctor when I returned home (which, we figured out later, he assumed would be the next day). Alas, the next day we set off for Burlington where we spent the next five days visiting our two sons while I did my other mission. This mission also started with misgivings and ended with a great deal of satisfaction. Finally, we did return home on Wednesday, November 30th . Thanks to another small miracle, we ended up seeing Dr. Swartzon, an associate of Dr. San Giovanni the next day. Dr. Swartzon is my kind of doctor. He read me the riot act (nicely), put the fear of God in me and the cast on me. I have been that way ever since. We see him Thursday, December 5th, when I will have another MRI and he will decide what we do next. Needless to say, all the good conditioning accumulated over the past fours months is pretty much shot. I keep telling myself the good news is I have allowed sufficient time to recover and get back on track.

12/5/13 Cast removed today, after five weeks. “Fracture’s stabilized, which is a nice way of saying it isn’t going to get better. May be a source of discomfort and/or swelling in future. Should make the pilgrimage interesting. Significant atrophying of my lower left leg. In simplest walking motion, my leg muscles are screaming, “Not so fast, not too far taking on a whole new meaning!.”

12/9/13 Walked a little over 100 yards. A start. Legs uncomfortable and left foot swelling.

12/21/13 1 mile 25 minutes, 27 seconds. Leisurely walk on a beautiful warm morning.

12/26/13 1.5 miles 35 minutes 3 seconds. Humid day. Frannie and I enjoyed the walk. Just totaled mileage walked: 2012 13.5; 2013 326 miles. Good start.