Tag Archives: trail running

Trip report: Grouse Grind

After I did the Vancouver Marathon May 1, I got the brilliant idea I could become a badass trail runner. I blame Born to Run. I even had dreams of ultra running.

Accordingly, I vowed to get out to North Vancouver and do the Grouse Grind this summer. I ran Mount Doug and Mount Finlayson. I hiked Gros Morne mountain in Newfoundland. I did not shy away from The Hill (yes there is one) when I was in Regina.

When I put out the call for fellow Grinders on Twitter and Facebook, my friend David (a runner from Central Saanich who runs with the Frontrunners gang) and Eric (from Vancouver) responded. We were on. August 21 was Grind Day.


David on Grouse Mountain

6:25 am: I pull up near David’s place and he’s waiting outside, mostly because I’m five minutes late. It’s already warm, heading towards one of the hottest days of the year on the west coast.

6:40 am: We’ve decided to go public transit, so we leave my car at the ferry terminal and walk on. Despite my lack of sleep, we talk – really talk – the entire trip. No, not just the ferry crossing, I mean the ENTIRE trip which involves bus, sky train, sea bus and another bus before we get to Grouse Mountain.

7:30 am: I’m not hungry, but David convinces me I need to eat breakfast. I will thank him for this later.

10:30 am: after the epic public transit adventure (see above) we arrive at Grouse Mountain guest services to check our bags. “You should know the trail is very strenuous. You can’t climb down after you start up, you have to take the tram…” begins the spiel. “We know. We’re marathon runners, we’ll be fine,” we say.

10:45 am: We meet up with Eric at the trailhead and start off. Thinking Grouse is much like Mount Finlayson, which starts out relatively flat and then climbs, with the occasional flattish spot to pick up the pace, I want to run as much of it as I can. So we start out running.

Catching my breath on the Grind

Catching my breath on the Grind

10:46:32 am: We (well – er – it was me actually) stop running and start hiking. I am sucking wind, heaving like a rusty bellows. The Grouse Grind is nearly three kilometres straight up on awkward, uneven shored up trail. You can’t take short steps because of it. Quite frankly – it’s – a grind.

I blame my poor performance on my prairie upbringing and lack of latent athletic ability. David assures me I’m doing just fine as he slows down with me. I tell him to go ahead if he wants. He’s a Boston Qualified marathoner after all. And I’m — not.

“Why would I do that?” he says. “We came all the way over here to do this together. It wouldn’t be any fun if I went ahead of you.”

10:59 am: It occurs to me, after I get my heart rate down, after all this slowing down and sucking wind, that David is a lot like my last climbing partner Pete. Easygoing, just wanting to share the love of the sport and have a great time. Not out to prove anything. It’s all about the camaraderie, the adventure together. The more the merrier.

11:00 am: I realize how much I’m going to miss my friends in Victoria when I move to Vancouver.

11:15 am: the mountain is packed with people. I can’t believe the number of young children on this trail. Did their parents not get the message? (This blog post warns against taking young children.) I didn’t see anyone carrying a child up, but I did pass a lot sitting by the side of the trail. Meh, who am I to judge? I also saw some very spry (yet slow) older people making their way up.

Me and Eric at the top of Grouse Grind

Me and Eric at the top of Grouse Grind

11:30 am: I wasn’t the only one sucking wind, that’s for sure. It was also a very hot day. Silly me, I had forgotten my running hat at home. I took off my shirt so I could wipe sweat from my eyes, baring my midriff in public for the first time in years. It’s a little more cushy than I remember it from years ago when I ran in the Saskatchewan heat wearing only shorts and jogbra. I feel a little exposed, but soon I don’t care. I’m just concentrating on climbing.

12:05 pm: Success! One minute I’m hauling my very tired legs up that damned hill. Next, I turn a corner and surprise! There is the chalet!

Our total climbing time was 80 minutes. Apparently the average is 90. That’s what our waiter told us when we sat down to order beer and burgers, and enjoy the view from up there.

Eric had to head off to UBC for a conference, but after we finished lunch David and I decided to head right to the summit, another 20 minutes, but much easier hike to the top of the ski area. We watched some hang gliders take off and took the ski lift back down to the chalet. There we picked up the bags we checked at the bottom and changed into clean, dry clothes. Even I was starting not to be able to stand my own stink.

The view from the chalet

The view from the chalet

The tram ride all the way down is one of the highlights of the trip, even though it was packed with people. I’m sure they all appreciated that we had changed clothes.

We caught the bus to Lonsdale Quay, where we detoured for gelato before getting back on the sea bus. What a gorgeous day!

We got to Tsawwassen in time to catch the 7 pm ferry, 12 hours from the time our adventure started. I catnapped for about 10 minutes, then David and I just kept talking (albeit at a slower pace than before).

Back on the island, I dropped David at his place, and by the time I got home at about 9:45 pm I was exhausted, but still stoked from such a perfect day.

Overall impression of the Grouse Grind? It is indeed a grind: but with Guest Services at the bottom, a beer and burger at the top, and a tram ride down, you can’t go wrong. I’ll be back to do it again soon.

Paragliders taking off from Grouse Mountain summit

Paragliders taking off from Grouse Mountain



How not to recover from a marathon

I’m not running. Yes, it sucks, but I hope it’s only for a couple of weeks.

Lesson learned: do not try to get back into running too soon after a marathon. My first post-marathon run was a slow, easy half hour (about 4 k) while I was on Salt Spring Island six days after the marathon. Chris “tsk tsk’d” as I went out the door of our hotel room.

“I’ll be fine, I’ll take it really easy,” I said.

Chris and Tori on Mt Doug summit

Mount Doug summit!

Then a few days later, after we were back in Victoria, we went trail running at Mount Doug. I even got off course and we had to bushwhack a little bit to get up onto the trail again. It was fun, but my foot hurt after that.

A few days after that, we did the 10k loop around Elk Lake.

After Chris went back to Sackville, I really wanted to get onto the trails so I did Mount Finlayson – twice – and went for a 10k with the Frontrunners gang. I may have gone a bit fast …

All within a month of running a marathon.

I know some people can get back on a schedule like that within weeks. I am clearly not one of those people.

My big toe joint became inflamed again, I have an extremely tight sacroiliac joint, and a hip flexor that nags me every time I wake up. My physiotherapist told me to hold off on running for a while and just stick to biking to keep up my fitness.

Trail below Mt Finlayson in Goldstream Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Trail below Mt Finlayson

That was before the second Mount Finlayson run. I’m stubborn, aren’t I? After that run (which was really pretty, I love Goldstream Park!) I found I could not even sit for very long without my back hurting.

It’s a hard lesson to learn. It’s finally getting really gorgeous and sunny outside and I am stuck inside on the elliptical, the spin bikes, the yoga studio. How frustrating! Oh well, at least I have a balcony on which I can sit and relax with a G&T after my workout.