Surviving the Multi Grouse Grind: First Attempt Stopped by Emergency Response


Part I: Most of the summer was invested in moving faster up the Grouse Grind® and setting a new personal record which I achieved on September 10th. The camaraderie of the core group who up go up the Grind on a regular basis kept encouraging me to complete at least two climbs on a single day (a multi-grind), which I finally did on Sept 26th. I was foiled by emergency response two weeks earlier.

When I first heard of Apollo Ohno and a few other high performance athletes finishing the Grind up to six times in one day as part of their training, I thought it was a level of fitness I would not be able to achieve. This turned out to be false. When you complete one goal there is always something new to achieve afterwards, goals are always fleeting. With my PR set for 2010 I knew the next step (or many) was a multi-grind.

Sept 12th rolled around and the night before I was motivating myself with positive mantras, visualizations, hydration and carbohydrate loading. In the morning I woke up to the rain – not very inspiring, but part of living on the west coast. It took me until the late morning to get myself going and out the door and up to Grouse. My bag was packed with many essentials including several changes of clothes, extra shoes and cliff bars to re-fuel in-between.

Nothing was going to deter me from my multi or so I thought! After I dropped my bag at guest services and set my heart rate monitor up I proceed out the door towards the gate through the cold rain. Directly in my line of sight was a fire truck backing up near the entrance of the Grind®. “Not a good sign,” I thought as I hoped the person was going to be ok. As the sound of sirens kept coming, closer and closer and I knew someone was in trouble somewhere on the mountain.

A bit of extra motivation is needed when it is soaking wet, when each step has a puddle and when there are waterfalls coming down as you go up. Though once you are wet, you are wet and once you start moving you warm-up. The trees provide some protection as well. I hit a nice stride most of the way up averaging a heart rate of 157 beats per minute while keeping in mind the concept of a straight line. My goal was to finish each ascent in under forty five minutes.

It wasn’t until the second half when I came across an older gentlemen surrounded with paramedics and who I think were family members. A few people were giving him shelter by holding a tarp over-his head; he had a blanket wrapped around him to keep warm. As I passed cautiously I hoped he would be ok and I was thankful that he looked like he was being well taken care of.

I stopped just over the crest on the rocks to let more rescuers come down the mountain with supplies. With some of the multi-grind club encouraging me I downed a bottle of orange juice, left my bag behind guest services at the top and rushed off to the gondola so that I would stay warm.

Until this day I never truly understood what it takes to safely get someone off the mountain when they are in distress. The response was phenomenal. When I disembarked from the gondola the upper parking lot was full with emergency response vehicles and fire personnel advised us the Grind was closed.

I suddenly realized that “My bag is at the top!” with all my warm-clothes. This was time to make a quick decision. Running up the stairs I flashed my membership card and made it on the turn-around ride up. I thought about waiting around until the Grind re-opened however, I didn’t know when that would be and KNOW I have difficulty dealing with the unknown.

There are times when it things are seemingly out of your control, however how you can control how you react to the situation. That day my best option was to head home, say my prayers for the gentleman being attended to by the emergency response team and attempt my multi another week.

Read Part II Surviving the Multi Grouse Grind: Mission Accomplished

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