Team Fitness Challenge 1: Camino de Santiago

July 22, 2020

One of DesignHammer’s core values is healthy living. Life in the CoVID-19 world is a challenge for many, so to help encourage our team members on their wellness and fitness journeys, we turned to gamification.

Several members of our team joined The Conquerer fitness challenge via My Virtual Mission, a mashup of Google Maps and a fitness tracker that maps a path along iconic trails. Mix in a dash of marketing charm, including fancy finisher medals and virtual postcards, and it is hard to resist the urge to stay physically active.

Follow along with our journey, as we walk, run, bike, swim, and anything else the system will convert into miles traveled. If you want to follow along with Team DesignHammer, use our team link for 10% off the registration price.

Camino de Santiago Virtual Challenge

Camino de Santiago Virtual Challenge finisher medalOur latest fitness challenge took a virtual spiritual walk along the 480-mile The Pilgrims’ Way. This journey is a collection of pilgrimages taken from the French border of Spain to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galacia. Our team had hoped to complete this challenge in 6–8 weeks using a team format where we hoped to average 10–12 miles per day.


Journey Progress

Virtual walking leads to actual tree planting.

Despite potential blockers like COVID-19 mask protocols, lack of indoor workout options amidst a blazing hot summer, and general life reshuffling, the team completed the mission in 8 weeks, in line with our original goals. It was a great experience for the team in general, with several of us upping our fitness game as a result of the unique gamification aspect of the challenge. Managing Partner David Minton said:

"I thought this would be a great way to use not just technology, but also the mental and technologically stimulating effects that gamification can add to encourage fitness. I'm glad our team stepped up to take part in this challenge and hope to do more."

As we worked through the challenge, the Conqueror Virtual Challenge Team let participants know that they would plant a tree for every percent achievement level a person reached in August. DesignHammer was just a small piece of this goal towards one of our core beliefs in sustainability but are happy to contribute 20 trees to earth's renewal.

We were sent virtual postcards for points of note along the way, and have shared some color commentary on what would have made those stops so interesting were we hiking in person below.

Update 7: Catedral de Santiago de Compostela



Map displaying route including Team Designhammer progress

After a highly and remote trek from León through the small towns of O Cebreiro, Triacastela, Portomarin, and Aruza in the Galacia autonomous community, our virtual journey finally ends at the Santiago de Compostela. The last 20% of our journey took just over 2 weeks as the team powered through to complete our virtual fitness challenge. The final stop along the Camino de Santiago, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, is noted as the site of the burial of the apostle James' remains. An cathedral was commissioned on this spot after his tomb was discovered in AD 814. After original iterations of the cathedral were constructed, and ultimately destroyed by the caliph of Cordoba in the late 900s, construction of the current cathedral began in 1075 and were completed in 1211 AD. LIke many of the cathedrals on the route, the architecture is in the Romanesque design with the spirit of Gothic features.

Every year on July 25 the town hosts the Feast of Saint James (Dia de Santiago) to honor the Patron Saint of Spain. A public holiday in the community of Galacia, the day honors both the life of James as well as the journey that over 100,000 pilgrims journey each year.

Update 6: Ponferrada



Map displaying route including Team Designhammer progress

We are nearing the end of our journey through the autonomous region of Castile and León as we make it ever closer to the end of our journey. Nestled in the El Bierzo Valley and surrounded by the Aquilanos mountains, Ponferrada is the last major town on the Camino de Santiago trail. Outdoor activities are naturally a popular recreation choice in this area with many hiking and cycling trails in the valley, along the Sil River and up into the Aquilianos. The 205 mile La Mirada Circular circles the entire valley, while a climb to the 2135 meter peak of the El Morredero offers varying degrees of outdoor activity. Interesting in-town sights include the Luis del Olmo Radio Museum, named for one of the most celebrated and controversial Spanish journalists in history. del Olmo was famous for his 44 year run as host of Protagonistas, a morning show that produced over 12,000 episodes. A final point of interest must be the Templar Castle. Originally used to host the Knights Templar's of Castille, the almost 10-square-mile castle offered protection and respite for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago throughout history.

Update Five: León



Map displaying route including Team Designhammer progress

León may well be the City of Cathedrals as it boasts many of Spain's most stunning historic places of worship. Most famous of them is the Catedral de León, also known as the House of Light. Built between 1205 and 1301 it is a striking example of Spanish Gothic architecture. Famous for its stained glass windows, the cathedral has one of the most extensive collections of medieval stained glass in the world. The Casa Boutines is famous as it was designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi, who famously designed the in Barcelona. Similar to other stops along our virtual journey, León boasts a concentrated area of bars, clubs, and eating establishments in an area called the Barrio Humedo - or the wet district. The area is set inside the Roman city walls, which are still mostly intact today. What's most interesting is that the area offers free tapas bars - making this author wish it was a real journey, not a virtual one!

Update Four: UNESCO Sites, Burgos, and “The Way”



Map displaying route including Team Designhammer progress

A week ago that we were enjoying a beautiful virtual trip through the Rioja Wine Region, while not enjoying stifling heat back here at home. While we are still not enjoying stifling heat at home, our virtual journey has already surpassed its halfway point. Now trekking through less mountainous virtual terrain, we have long past Logrono, traveled through Burgos and two UNESCO sites, and are now traipsing through Carrión de los Condes en route to León.

Our first major attraction is the Archaeological site of Atapuerca, named a UNESCO Heritage site in 2000. It’s here that human remains were found dating back nearly one million years. There were from our Neanderthal forerunner — Homo Heidelbergensis. Fascinating!

Borgos is a major setting for the 2010 film The Way, which portrays an Americans pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. The moving film is directed by Emilio Estevez and stars among others, his sister Renée and father Martin Sheen. The movie was inspired after Estevez’s father (Martin) and son (Taylor) drove the length of the trail together in 2003.

Interestingly, Burgos is a very ‘green’ city, lined by three major parks which total nearly 3 square miles along the river Arlanz#oacute;n. For context, Central Park in Manhattan is less than half that size. They say that there is one tree for every three city residents.

Burgos boasts another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos. The cathedral was built in Gothic styling over 300 years between the 13th and 16th centuries. Burgos boasts 10 museums in its boundaries, the most famous being the Museum of Human Evolution. The museum houses over 200 original fossils, including the skeletal remains of the earliest evidence of humans in Europe.

Update Three: Logroño & Wine Country


Map displaying route including Team Designhammer progress

The DesignHammer team has completed more than 30-percent of our fitness challenge, but while the temperature along our virtual trail at this time of year tends to be a delightful 72° with a 76% humidity, the same cannot be said for our physical fitness journey. Currently, our area is battling temperatures rising upwards of 110° with the heat index, and with gyms still being closed, our training has taken a hit. The journey must proceed, however, and at least this week's virtual hike takes us through the province of La Rioja and the city of Logroño, known for — you guessed it — Rioja wine.

Rioja wine has the D.O.Ca (Qualified Designation of Origin" distinction, the highest category in Spanish wine regulation. Traditionally it is made of a combination of seven grapes grown in the region: Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Mazuelo, Graciano, Viura, Malvasia, and Garnacha Blanca. The climate of the area combined with the closeness to the river Ebro makes for rich and fertile soil for grape production. The mass availability of such great wine and produce boosts the tourism economy of Logroño, most famously Juan Fernández Navarrete, a 16th century mannerist painter, Cosme García Sáez, who created the worlds first submersible in the late 1850s, and classic guitarist Pablo Sainz-Villegas.

Hopefully more manageable local weather will up our mileage next week as we travel towards the autonomous community of Castile and León.


Update Two: Pamplona


Map displaying route including Team Designhammer progress

This week our virtual journey took us through Pamplona, famed for the annual running of the bulls. Coincidentally, the bull run is part of the San Fermin festival held each year between July 8-14. Our virtual team would have run with the bulls, but the festival has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pamplona is the capital city of the Navarre region that we’ve been traveling through since our entry into Spain in week one. It sits across the Arga River and is the main commercial hub of the region due to the river, and its ease of access to San Sebastian, Bilbao, Paris, and Madrid. The settlement of Pompaelo was founded in 74 BC as a camp for the General Pompey the Great, who played a significant role in establishing the Roman Empire. Architecturally the city is a blend of historically notable gothic churches (the most notable being the fourteenth-century Gothic Cathedral of Saint Mary the Royal), medieval military structures, and civilian Baroque and Romanesque buildings.

The climate in Pamplona is very mild, with an average temperature of 55 degrees with very little rain and humidity. This promotes fertile soil that allows farmers in the area to produce lamb, beef, foie gras, nutty, buttery cheeses like Idiazabal, and more. Much like the rest of the Navarre region, indigenous grapes include Tempranillo, Garancha, and Viura. Because of the abundance of local food and drink options, Pamplona boasts three Michelin-rated restaurants, Rodero, Europa, and El Molino de Urdaniz. Based on the look of the stone-built restaurant and its two Michelin stars, this author would likely choose the latter!

Culturally, much like the Punto de Vista International Documentary Film Festival each March. Pamplona has also been immortalized in literature by Ernest Hemmingway, who featured Cafe Iruna in his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, and spent time living in the city in the 1920’s. Athletically, the city is home to mid-table La Liga side Osasuna football club, and is the hometown of 5-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain.


Update One: Napoleon Route



Map displaying route including Team Designhammer progress

The team has started our virtual journey from Saint-Jean-Pied-Port near the French border with Spain. This week we are making the long trek through the Pyrennes mountains and the Basque town of Luzaide/Valcarlos in the autonomous community of Navarre, Spain. Currently, we are on the Napoleon Route, which was a strategic passage to Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. 1,000 years prior, Charlemagne is thought to have made the arduous trek across the mountain range in his quest for continental supremacy.

Politically the region is interesting because of its close proximity and shared traditions to the Basque Autonomous Community, which has long sought independence from Spain. Culturally Navarre is a blend of Basque traditions, migrants from points further east over the Pyrennes and Mediterranean influences from the Ebro River.

Agriculturally, the soil is rich for wheat, vegetables, olive trees, and of course wine grapes. The traditional wine historically has been rosado (or Rosé). Historically grapes have been grown and wine produced since the ancient Roman times around the 2nd century BC. Viticulture is the main agricultural product in the region, and today you can find most of the popular grapes of the Basque region, including Tempranillo, Pino Noir, Granacha Tinta, Savignon Blanc, Garnatxa Blanca, and Malvasia, to name a few.

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