October 15, 2007 | Tips from Us >
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It's a nice fall Saturday in Vancouver. I'm at home, minding my own business when my friend Chris calls. He wants to go hike the Grouse Grind
and have a beer and some Nachos on top. Sounds good, I haven't done 'the grind' in over a year and I can use the work-out. You don't hike the grind for the scenery.
We drive over to the North Shore and park the car in the free parking lot (on the right side). I expected it to be packed but there aren't many people at the starting point. I stretch a bit, check my watch and start. The hike goes up immediately. It's going well. Maybe playing soccer twice a week will help me. Maybe I should increase my speed and break my best time of 55 minutes.
It just keeps going up and up. I forgot how relentless it is. There are no flat parts. It's all stairs and rocks, positioned as stairs. My heart rate is going up rapidly. I have to look down to find the right place to put my feet. But I'm not slowing down and I'm not stopping. I need to get 'into the zone'. But I don't. Instead, I'm getting really tired. My heart is pounding fast. What was I thinking? I can drink beer and eat Nachos downtown, no need to go up this crazy hill.
Slowly, my mind is turning off. It's almost like meditating. I breathe and step in a rhythm. Up and up it goes. Once in a while a switchback. I'm passing people, that feels good. I also get passed, but by young people who look very fit. I'm in my second wind, I'm feeling good. Then there's the sign, I'm 1/4 of the way up. This is the point where you want to give up and turn around. I knew it was coming but I still can't believe I have to do the same distance 3 more times to reach the top.
I check my watch, it's been 18 minutes. I don't want to stop and I reach for my water bottle and have a zip of water. I try to forget how far I have to go still. I'm telling myself they put that sign up at the wrong place. I must be higher. I pass tourists in jeans. This is not a leisure hike; if you want a nice hike and breathtaking views, you won't get it until you reach the top. And a gondola will take you there in 5 minutes. Instead, this is the best workout Vancouver has to offer.
It feels a less steep now. I'm getting back in the zone. My mind wonders off. "You should write about this experience on the HelloBC blog". "When was the last time you called your mother?" Up and up it goes. I look back for my friends who have fallen back. I can't see them. I hear the soft zooming of the Gondola to my left. It's torturing me, it's telling me I'm nuts.
The 1/2 mark comes sooner then I expected. I check my watch. I'm 30 minutes under way. It feels like an hour. But it's a moral victory. This feeling subsides when a man at least 25 years older than me races by. I tell myself he must do this every day. There are a lot of people on this part of the trail. Mostly tourists, so they're standing on the side of the trail resting or taking pictures. They want to be able to complete the trail and buy the t-shirt. It's like climbing the Eiffel tower, you're nuts to do it, but it's one of those things you have to do. They keep cutting in front of me though and I have a hard time passing them. But I don't care. They're the ones who I owe my paycheck to. I wonder how many have visited HelloBC.
The 3/4 sign comes and goes. My heart is still pounding. It's been telling me to stop for a long time but I'm not listening. But my legs are starting to tell me the same story. They start to feel like spaghetti a dente. It's getting harder to keep my pace. I look up. In between the trees I can see patches of blue sky. But I also see people way up the trail. It's still a long way to go. I'm not thinking about anything anymore. All I do is tell myself to keep going, every single step of the way. My legs are starting to shake. Keep going, keep going.
Then, all of a sudden, there it is. The top. People are sitting in the sun on the rocks. I make my way up and see that I've completed this nightmare in exactly one hour. Not bad, all things considered. I drink some water and wait for my friends who are a little bit behind me. We walk inside to get our tickets for the ride down. Hikers get a deal to go down. Only $5. There's a TV displaying the top times for the day and the season. Somebody hiked up in 32 minutes. The top time for women over 70 is... one hour exact. I need a beer...