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29.11.2020

The Way to Santiago: Skating 770 kilometers in 7 days

It all started in 2013 at the Miguel Servet University Hospital in Zaragoza, Spain. In the same bed for more than 100 days and countless operations is Alberto López from Zaragoza. In the visitor's chair is Alberto Alemán from Pamplona.

The friendship between the two has been around since the 1995 Spanish Children's Championships in Madrid and Barcelona. It was the first championships in Spain with the new inline skates, and where the "Albertos" fought as rivals for the medals, one Alberto from the team of Marianistas of Zaragoza and the other Alberto from the team of Chantrea of Pamplona. Both athletes won titles in different distances. Twenty-five years later they are teammates at Marianistas Vitoria and collaborate with Rollerblade® Spain.

Returning to the hospital room in 2013. In one of Alemán's countless visits, the crazy idea arises. Alemán is so confident in López's ability to recover that he proposes a challenge: The way to Santiago on skates. But is that possible?

History of the way to Santiago.
The way to Santiago is the busiest itinerary in Spain for the pilgrimage to go to Santiago de Compostela and it crosses the north of the Peninsula to the western end for about 800 km going up and down mountain passes that add up to a difference of more than 10,000 meters ascending, being the main route to which the pilgrims who pass through other Jacobean routes from different parts of Spain and Europe flow along its route. This route, given its extraordinary cultural, artistic and landscape richness, has been registered, since 1993, as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.


COVID-19 in Summer 2020.
The years go by and we are now at 2020, the year of the unfortunate COVID-19 global pandemic. Everything is paralyzed, all plans, competitions, training are suspended.  All plans go into the background. And it is at the moment when confinement ends that we realize the desire we have to go skating, to travel kilometers just for the sake of enjoying ourselves.  We want to go out on the road and feel the asphalt under our feet, see landscapes, and feel the wind on our faces.  We need to get outside of our houses to escape the situation of the pandemic and just SKATE. What if this is the best time to fulfill our crazy dream?

Rollerblade® E2 Pro.
It seemed that all the signs were pushing us to Santiago.  And then the Rollerblade® E2 Pro arrives at our feet. The perfect skate for our adventure it features 125mm Hydrogen Pro wheels to gobble up hundreds of miles a day, a lightweight chassis to go as fast as possible, 2x1 speed / fitness hybrid boot for comfort skating with speed skating stance and technique. There were no more excuses. The skates seemed to be made for our mission.

Preparations
We decided to prepare for the adventure. One thing we are clear about is that we want to go alone, without a support car. Routes: little traveled roads, mountain passes, descents, ascents, etc. The equipment: Rollerblade® E2 Pro skates and what fits in the backpack trying to carry the least possible weight. And now we decide on how many stages? How many kilometers a day? There are  780 km that separate our starting point from our goal. We also take into account the heat of August in Spain.  We will accumulate fatigue day after day. There will be unforeseen events.  So is it 10 days? Less? One week?  Are we crazy?

The face of our family and friends when we tell them our objective is a mixture of disbelief and concern.  They warned us that the objective was a serious undertaking. Ultimately their support was the icing on the cake that was this mission.  We had people who liked our challenge and wanted to continue to give us their support and send us encouragement in many ways.  One was, and is, through a monetary donation that would go entirely to the NGO Skate in Ethiopia (www.patinarenetiopia.org) and through the solidarity of the world of skating help the most disadvantaged.
All that remained was to train.  To do many many many kilometers on our Rollerblade® E2 Pro.

Day 1 - 8/8/2020: Roncesvalles - Logroño 148 km
6:00 am. We are at the starting point, Roncescalles. There is a certain nervousness and respect for the challenge in the environment. We have 770 kilometers and many hours to enjoy our beloved sport. Everything is prepared: Rollerblade® E2 Pro skates, 25L backpack (sleeping bag, two pants, two underpants, two socks, two jackets, towel and toiletry bag), Helmet, Headlight and Two liters of Water.

We started !!!! The first kilometers until reaching Pamplona (48KM) pass through a spectacular setting. We allowed ourselves to take it very calmly and enjoy the sunrise and the wide road to ascend / descend the different passes that we found (Mezkiritz and Erro). We decided to go through the door of the City Hall of Pamplona where we were greeted with a pleasant surprised: our relatives, the good people of Skating in Ethiopia, and the local press.

We continue to Puente La Reina. We are going to do the famous P2P marathon with 50 kilometers on our tired legs.  Are we crazy? The tour is completely familiar to us and brings us great memories. Alemán has been one of the winners of this emblematic race, but to be more faithful to the traditional Way we will ascend through Puerto Del Perdón. Arrived at Puente La Reina we met with our teammate Iker Mujica who has decided to accompany us to Logroño with his bicycle. The last kilometers are getting more challenging as our legs become heavy and our speed decreases. The day is getting dark.

We arrived in Logroño and entered the hostel. The manager does not believe that we have done almost 150 kilometers with skates (generally cyclists make the same journey in two days). The first day has been very hard, more hours than anticipated, but satisfied for having met our expectations.



Day 2: Logroño - Burgos 121 km
6:00 am. We got up early and said goodbye to our friend Iker and started skating again. The legs are not as loose as the day before but we managed to get them going.
When we left Logroño we were surprised and this time it was not a good one. The route we had traced between the famous vineyards of La Rioja is complicated and our path is NOT paved. We have to “skate” on a dirt road for several kilometers. We have to take another road that was not initially planned and add a few additional kilometers to our itinerary.


 

This unforeseen event will not take away our smiles and the desire to continue. The kilometers go by and the heat is becoming more noticeable. For those who do not know Spain, August is the hottest month and can reach 40º. We have to constantly hydrate ourselves so as not to have heat stroke. The hours on the skates are passing.  We could not be happier with the choice of equipment. Our Rollerblade® E2 Pro are performing very well.

 

Arriving in Burgos, we took the opportunity to take a walk through the spectacular Santa María Cathedral and its surroundings. It is a place to visit quietly.

Day 3: Burgos - Sahagún 127 km
The kilometers are taking a toll on our body and it is more challenging to get up. We managed to get going at 4:45.
Today is going to be a very emotional day, our lifelong partner Nicolás Alonso is going to accompany us for a few kilometers. This makes the kilometers much more bearable.
The day is hotter than normal and on several occasions we have to stop to cool off in the fountains and take advantage of resting in the shade. The landscape is completely different from the previous days: fields, long plains, endless straight roads, sparse trees and a lot of heat... very hot. We have to skate for more than 3 hours at 37ºc. The best of the day is yet to come. Upon arrival in Sahagún, we meet up with the founder of https://patinarenetiopia.org/, Koro del Santo. It is a very important injection of motivation for us.  It makes the challenge more important. It reminds us the reality that they are living in Ethiopia and how impactful and important our contributions raised from this effort are going to be.



Day 4: Sahagún - Rabanal del Camino 126 km

With our motivation through the roof after our visits the day before we started again. Today in León we will have a new visit: Patxi Peula (world champion) and Aura Quintana. Gregarious luxury. Before we meet up with them the road is challenging, the asphalt is not in very good condition, and there is a lot of car traffic.

This makes us stop every so often to rest our feet. Our Hydrogeen Pro wheels are performing very well.  And we take the time to rotate them as needed.

The arrival at Rabanal del Camino is a very cozy little town where we can enjoy good company with our company. Thanks to Patxi Padre for his supplies and hospitality.

Day 5: Rabanal del Camino - Ponferrada 38 km
We decided to get up early (4:00 am) to avoid bad weather and to be able to ascend La to the Iron Cross with its hard ramps of up to 14% level. Pilgrims are surprised to see us so far from Roncesvalles after 5 days skating. 
We managed to make the descent from the port without rain but it becomes very difficult, López rolls three times on the ground and Alemán manages to reach the next town intact (quite an achievement as the road is not recommended for amateurs). The day got complicated by the rain and we decided to stay in Ponferrada.

Day 6: Ponferrada - Palas del Rey 143 km
The day before we could not make the desired kilometers. What is our plan now? Get up early again. We managed to get going, and today we have less than 250 kilometers to go on our mission.  However, today is going to be very hard. It is The Queen stage. The forecast is for bad weather and the unevenness of the stage is terrifying. The port of O Cebreiro and the Alto do Poio with its 26 kilometers between fog and rain. The effort of this ascent is undescribable, like the face of the owner of the pilgrim hostel that is at the top at almost 1,400 meters high when he sees two crazy people on skates arrive. You can't believe it.

A good hot coffee and a piece of omelette will help us face the dizzying descent. Today is a special day, it can be our last night and our last hostel among pilgrims since if we manage to do the necessary kilometers we will sleep very close to our goal: Santiago. That means that despite exhaustion we are on our Rollerblade® E2 Pro for more than 12 hours in an endless day.


Day 7: Palas del Rey - SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA (total 770 km)

Last stage. We are very close to achieving our goal. On our faces apart from the mark that the kilometers, the ascents, the heat and the effort leave, today a nervous smile appears when we are aware that our adventure is coming to an end. But like everything in this adventure it will cost. Galician roads do not have a flat kilometer.  The path is intense with constant ups and downs. And when we see the city of Santiago in the distance, our final destination we decided to stop for moment.
Stop for the last time and enjoy to the fullest those last kilometers that were so far away seven days and behind when we said goodbye to our families. We feel nostalgic knowing that this incredible journey will soon end.

And finally our goal:  The Plaza del Obradoiro and the imposing Cathedral of Santiago with its Pórtico de La Gloria. The satisfaction is infinite. We will need several weeks to recover and to understand what has been achieved, but the congratulations of the rest of the pilgrims who come to ask if it is possible that we have reached there on skates, gives us a clue.
Now is the time to definitely take off our skates.  The challenge is complete.  These skates have allowed us enjoy an incredible adventure. On these and many other skates we have been enjoying more than 30 years forging our friendship.


Could the day be any more incredible? Well, yes, Mari, Alberto López's mother, and Lucía and Aitana (4 and 6 years old), Alberto Alemán's nieces, have done the 700 kilometers by car without stopping to arrive in time to receive us and give us a wonderful surprise.



At night it's time to relax, hundreds of congratulations roll in on our social media platforms. And the successful fundraiser for www.patinarenetiopia.org (9,200 euros) leaves us overwhelmed. We realize that the really important thing has not been to reach the goal, it has been the path traveled, the experiences, the visits of friends, the agonizing effort, the teamwork between the two helping us in difficult moments, the places , the landscapes.  In order not to fall into a post-achievement melancholy we can only think of one thing…  What our next challenge will be with our Rollerblade® skates.


 


 

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