Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 23
A Feat on FootA Lompoc man walks 500 miles in Spain to send his brother to the Special Olympics
BY JASON BANANIA
Cooper Barrick, 20, traveled to Europe this summer to raise money and awareness for his autistic brother, Cameron, and the Special Olympics by embarking on a journey through Spain.
He used the most ancient mode of transport known to man: his two legs. Starting from the French Pyrenees, a mountain range between Spain and France, Barrick trekked through 500 miles of mountains, jungles, deserts, and forests to arrive at the Cathedral
Barrick, who played varsity tennis at Lompoc throughout high school, was used to calling on his sore and exhausted body to perform past its limitation, but this challenge differed from a tennis game at match point. Quickness and reaction speed was replaced with a moderate and steady pace, and his focus shifted from a small and unpredictable yellow target to a large static cathedral hundreds of miles away.
Barrick departed from America at the end of June and landed in Europe after more than 20 hours of travel. A day after arriving in France, and still feeling the effects of jet lag, Barrick took the first step of his 500-mile journey on June 29.
His first obstacle was to conquer a 27-mile hike up the French Pyrenees at five in the morning. He successfully reached the other side, but not without an alarming realization.
“I did a lot of exercising and training beforehand—at least I thought I did. But it definitely wasn’t enough. I was really sore for the first week and a half,” Barrick said.
Six months before taking off for France, Barrick began a workout routine that consisted of circuit training, weight lifting, and running three to five miles at least three times a week. Unfortunately, the running endurance didn’t transfer to long-distance hiking as well as he’d hoped.
“In hindsight if I were to change my preparation it would have probably been smart to get a 25 to 30 pound pack and walk for 10 to 15 miles uphill and downhill,” Barrick said.
Only a week into the hike and already Barrick started to feel his body wear away. His feet began to blister and his knees ached painfully. Barrick had to cope with challenging terrain, injuries, and the seed of doubt the searing sun cruelly nurtured.
“There was one point where I did 42 miles in one day, by myself, in weather that was well over 100 degrees. My knee was really injured at that point and my feet were killing me,” Barrick said. “That moment was definitely a wakeup call and I realized it was going to be a lot harder than I first thought it was going to be.”
Before leaving for Europe, Barrick gathered a number of pledges to fundraise for the Special Olympics. One of the agreed-upon conditions was for Barrick to complete the trail by foot, which meant that horses, buses, and cars would be only things to glance at as they passed by, or avoid, as they barreled towards him.
On one of the trails, Barrick was nearly hit by a car, forcing him to jump out of the way and into a ditch on the side of the road. The fall hurt Barrick’s back, which became another nagging injury that he would have to deal with.
To make matters worse, Barrick said he was often tempted by some of the friends he made on the trail to take a bus ride with them to the next stop, assuring him that people back home would never find out.
“A lot of people got injured on the way and they would just take a bus or a taxi to the next town, but I couldn’t do that. Well, I guess I could’ve done it, but I chose not to because I was doing the fundraiser and I don’t think it would’ve sat right with me,” Barrick said. “But it was really difficult to see people whose injuries weren’t as bad as mine taking two or three days off at a time and being able to take a bus.”
But Barrick marched on every morning no later than 5 a.m., through steep hills, dark dense jungles, under rainy weather—which he “welcomed as relief.” In the torrid deserts, the temperature reached up to 110 degrees, and the “monotony of the road” severely affected his mind.
“Surprisingly the flat land was the hardest because that’s when the heat was the hottest,” Barrick explained. “You would go for hours on end, not seeing anything in sight, the monotony of the flat road and the 100-degree weather was hard to deal with.
“The days you would have a trail where it was totally at an incline or walk through hills that went up and down, surprisingly made it a little easier. It was still hard, but as far as the mental aspect, every mile that was a little different made it go by faster.”
With his bleeding feet, a wobbly knee, and an aching back, Barrick finally entered the grounds of Santiago de Compostela on July 31. According to Barrick, many people who walked the trail and got tired could just stop walking and take an hour-long taxi ride to their homes, but for Cooper, that was not an option.
For all the money he had raised and all the people waiting back home expecting his success, including his brother Cameron, he couldn’t stop.
“I knew that the injuries were going to heal eventually and that the soreness was going to go away. I kept telling myself that it was only five weeks of pain, that I had to deal with it, and that everyday, every mile, I was getting a little closer,” Barrick explained.
“Knowing that I was doing this for the ‘Camino4Cameron’ fundraiser, knowing that I was doing it for my little brother, and that I had all these people counting on me, helped push me through. I would’ve hated to look back knowing I quit just because my foot hurt,” he said.
Intern Jason Banania walks the walk and talks the talk. Contact him at email@example.com.
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