Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Conquering the Grind

The last time I visited British Columbia I was 13 years old, and on a West Coast family Vacation. We spent a lot of time checking out the mountains, but most of our sight-seeing was done from a gondola. I was convinced that we could easily ascend one of these peaks by foot, and get a real taste for the landscape. But my parents insisted that this was easier said than done, and informed me that we would not being doing that. I was desperate to climb one of the peaks none-the-less, and spent the whole 2 weeks we were visiting scheming and sizing up the mountains that surrounded us.

Fast forward 16 years, and I finally made it back to Vancouver. But a lot has happened in the mean time, including developing a pretty serious phobia of hills, let alone mountains. Regardless, I was determined to finish this unfinished business. So I set off to tackle the infamous Grouse Grind.
The Grind is a 2.9km trail with 2800 feet of elevation. Distance-wise it is not long, but holy-moley is it steep. 

Anyone who has ever run with me knows I hate hills and it all stems from my first summer as a runner. While tackling one of the hills on my regular running route, my heart rate reached my max-threshold and my defibrillator fired. It hurt like a Mother-Fucker, and it also scared the shit out of me. (I have never run without my Polar since that day). 

And while I have run for over 10 years without any problems, I still feel a certain amount of anxiety when I approach a hill. I shy away from hill repeats, and I often chose to take a walk break if I encounter a good size incline. Deep down I know I don’t need to, but this fear of hills is one I have struggled to shake.
So Grouse Grind was going to be my hill, or mountain, depending on how you look at it. I was going to climb that beast as fast as I could, and get rid of this phobia once and for all.

I arrived at the base Tuesday night after work. It was hot, but I was excited. I started out at a comfortable jog, but that only lasted for about 5 mins. The elevation is no joke, and the “steps” are not built for short legs. I tried to maintain a steady pace, but I was breathing hard in no time, and barely covered any ground.

When I made to the half point I felt exhausted! How could this only be half way? And the terrain was getting steeper. The guy who rented me my rental car had told me that 45 mins was a competitive time, so secretly I was aiming for that. But there were points in the second half that I literally had to scramble up rocks, so I knew 45 minutes was not going to happen. I was sweating like crazy and heart rate was high even though I was barely moving faster than a slow walk.

1:01:57 later I made it to the top! The views were amazing, and I was absolutely elated! It was hard. It was scary. It was way outside my comfort zone. But I did it. And it was a welcome reminder of how far I come.

Have you ever tackled the Grind?
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,