Look Up!

That was my mantra today.  That’s what I kept telling myself, every time I stopped on the trail.  Today, I did the Grouse Grind.  Today, I was supposed to hike St. Mark’s Summit with Korri.  But instead, today, I was out of the house early in the morning to do the Grouse Grind.  Today, I climbed natures stairmaster for exactly 2hours and 23 minutes.  And it wasn’t as hard as I remember it to be.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was still a tough climb, but with all the training I’ve been doing, I’ve noticed that it takes less time for me to recover from the brutality of tough exercise.  One of the things that got me through it was something I learned in my kickboxing class.  And no, it wasn’t kicks and punches to get passed all the people on the Grind.  Rather it was breathing and how to slow my fast beating heart.  Look Up.  After a tough bought of exercise where you think your heart will explode, look up.  It distracts you and takes your mind off your fast beating heart and actually slows it down.  Of course stopping long enough to let all the hardcore grinders go first can also help with recovery, but I’m gonna say that it was the “Look Up” technique that really helped me through the grind.  I actually enjoyed most of the grind too.  Because when you look up, you see the natural beauty that surrounds you.  The tall trees, and the blue sky peaking in through the trees, it was really quite nice.  Would’ve been nicer with less people around, but it’s the Grind.  It wouldn’t be normal if there wasn’t a lot of people.

This time around, I packed light.  Just my water bag, wallet, banana, keys, tunes, point and shoot camera and bug spray.  It is so important to have bug spray.  Oh and water.  But really the bug spray will help you keep your sanity at the 3/4 mark and up.

The first challenge was to find parking.  The last time I was here was four years ago with Korri and she drove.  I remember she parked on the side of the street but this time, there was no street parking, because there was a race in progress when I got there.  I should probably expand my research to include other websites, besides the vancouvertrails.com site.  Ultimately, I found a spot in one of the side lots.  It kind of reminded me of how we used to circle around looking for parking to get to the PNE.  And I still got there early.  I’ll have to get there earlier next time.  That’s right!  There will be a next time.  Crazy, I know.  Any ways, as I walked to the start of the Grind, I could see all the hardcore grinders stretching and just milling about.  Since I was on my own, there was no point in me dawdling so I stepped across the threshold, hit the start button on my timer and took my first step.  I didn’t make it very far before I had to stop for a break.  I was already thinking about the sign at the start of the Grind.  If you run out of water or find it difficult getting to the 1/4 mark, head back.  I hadn’t even reached the 1/4 mark and I was already thinking about heading back.  But I decided, I would keep going to the 1/4 mark to see how I would do.  Funny thing is, even with all my stops to look up, with my water breaks, I never saw the 1/4 mark.  I think I was too busy watching my feet that I missed the 1/4 mark.  I was really surprised to see the half way mark.  And pleased.  And thinking, where did the 1/4 mark go?  With all the people passing me and all the other huffers and puffers, you pick up a few bits and pieces of conversation, such as the half way mark means you are half way up in elevation, not half way up in the amount of steps you’ll be taking.  And this means that we are actually more than half way to the top.  Now as I think about this little bit of information, it doesn’t make any sense to me.  But at the time, I was thinking that I wouldn’t have much more to go before reaching the top.  And it actually felt like I climbed less during the second half of the Grind, but if I climbed up 400 m and still had 400 m to go, how can it be less?  Oh well, whatever.  I still made it to the top.  But the third quarter was tough and there were a lot of bugs and sadly one of them inadvertently became my snack.  Let’s just say, I drank a lot of water on that particular spot.  Lots.  And then the bug spray came out.  Came out twice actually.  I’m still surprised I don’t have any bug bites.

I was also amazed to see the variety of people doing the Grouse Grind.  There were quite a lot of kids on the Grind.  There was one kid who was 6 years old.  There was a baby on her daddy’s back.  There were quite a lot of older folks too, some quite fit and decked out with their trekking poles and some other older folks, who probably should not have gone passed the 1/4 mark because they really did not look well.  There were a few cheerleaders as well encouraging people who had stopped on the side of the Grind.  It was actually nice to hear the encouragement.  There were two kids, who were “playing” leap frog with me.  I would head up a section passed them and then I’d be stopped further up, while they moved on passed me.  These young kids had moved on while their parents were still far below on the trail somewhere.  Eventually near the top, it was the kids who encouraged me to keep going, telling me that I was almost at the top.  As I was looking up and trying to slow the thumping, I could see that the trees were thinning out.  I was near the top.  So, one more spray with the bug repellent and I was off for the last part.

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The photo doesn’t do it justice. The view was fantastic at the top!

What an accomplishment!  I climbed up 853 meters in elevation gain.  And the view at the top was fantastic.  There was just the right amount of cloud in sky and there was a lovely breeze at the top.  Perfect for a banana break, to continue washing down that bug and lots and lots of water.  After walking around outside, it was time to head in and purchase my ticket back down.  $10 for the Skyride.  I can live with that.  Four years ago it was $5.  But hey, it was four years ago.  As I headed towards the building, my last thought was, why are there more stairs?  And then I was inside the air conditioned building and debating on if I wanted to line up for a smoothie or line up for the tickets.  I wandered over to the shops instead and then walked over to a set of chairs to do a little bit of stretching while the line ups died down.  If you’ve never been to Grouse Mountain, consider going.  It’s very nice at the top.  If you’ve never done the Grouse Grind, think long and hard about it before you attempt it.  It is not meant for unfit people.  And in my own opinion, it is not meant for little kids.  This is a one way hike.  There really is no going back down.  Once you start going up, keep going.  And just remember to look up!

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