Tag Archives: marathoners

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 to enjoy a marathon

I haven’t blogged much about it, but I have been training for the past 4 months for my third marathon: May 1 in Vancouver.

My first marathon was a triumphant 4:42:24 finish. My second attempt ended at the 15k mark with an injury to one of my upper calf muscles.

I’ve been ambivalent about running this marathon. Training is hard, it takes over your life. I haven’t been out in the evening in weeks. My friends are starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Not only that, but I signed up to be a run leader for a spring marathon, not realizing my group would consist of exactly four people: me, two fellow run leaders, one of whom is not signed up for a race and who hasn’t completed a run more than 2 hours, another who injured her ankle hiking and had to drop out of marathon training, and our sole clinic participant who was in Hawaii for all of February and missed several crucial build-up runs.

But still, I slogged through my training, being sidelined by nagging injuries (that were caught early and treatable) only a couple of times. The whole time I’ve been plagued by doubt: do I really WANT to do this? Previously, the training was the most fun part of marathon training. Not so this time.

Of course, yes I do want to finish this marathon. I’ve worked so hard for this. I know the feeling of accomplishment after crossing that finish line and getting a medal is incomparable.

I think my problem is: I’m no longer a newbie. I know how hard it is. I’m under no illusions as to how much work it takes to cross the finish line after 42.2k. I’m under no illusions that race day might not be my day to have a good run. After last fall’s sudden, unexpected injury (it happened in the last week before the race) I know that any-freaking-thing can happen to derail my race plan.

I finished Saturday’s 3:30 run confident that I am ready to run Vancouver. Now taper starts. I’ve been doing everything I can to get into the right headspace to finish strong. I visualize the race each morning, including my triumphant finish. I listen to my marathon music mix, including Phoenix’s “Love Like a Sunset.” I imagine Chris (who’s flying in from New Brunswick the week before) waiting for me in the family area with his camera, a big hug and kiss to my sweaty, salty face.

I know that no matter what happens in the next 20 days, I will take whatever comes, knowing that life happens, the running gods sometimes have a sick sense of humour and I’ve done all I can to get me that medal.

If it’s true that the race is simply the victory lap after all the training, then I’m prepared to just enjoy the day.


I’m a Marythoner

This year I’ve decided to kick my running up a notch by raising cash for the Mount St. Mary’s Hospital foundation. I’m running on the “Marythoners” team for the 8k division of the Victoria Marathon Oct 10.

As you know I run for my health and fitness (although running marathons goes way beyond just keeping healthy, but that’s a topic for another day), but I don’t want it to be all about me. One of my run leaders, Mandy, works at the Mount St. Mary’s foundation and she is passionate about her work and about Mount St. Mary’s.

I know your donation will stay right here in Victoria providing long term care for those who need it most. It will also help me take my running outside myself and into helping my community – that way we all benefit!

Please take a moment right now to pledge me online, then come out and cheer on the Marythoners!