BMO Grouse Grind Mountain Run Experience

October 1st – North Vancouver Saturday was the 21st BMO Grouse Grind Mountain Run. Again it was overcast, a little foggy and looked like it was going to rain. Yes, this is an organized timed run up the Grouse Grind (some would think this is crazy).

Racing this trail is very different than using the timer card because you are running with a larger group which is about your own pace rather than when you are on your own, setting your pace and passing whomever is on the trail. I was in Wave 3, just behind the Elite Men and Women.

This was my third year, but first season that I have really connected with a group of fanatical multi-grinders. Our group regularly completes more than one climb per day; some have even done more than five and few more than 10. We are supportive fans who celebrate each other’s accomplishments while motivating each other to challenges ourselves even more.

Several of us competed in this year’s event. We all gathered before the race to encourage and cheer each other on. This year was extra special because I was paying tribute to a client who usually participated, but had passed away. Her mother Mavis, called me a couple of days earlier just to see if I would be there.

Since I wasn’t able to go up the day before I had to line up at pre-registration to get my race package, including my bib and chip timer. After all the years of competing, I am not shy about taking my warm-ups off in public. There were a few concerned looks as I sat outside of Starbucks with my track pants around my knees while pinning bib 3-131 to my shorts. My next step was to down a couple of gels and finish my water before placing my bag in the bag-check before 9:30 AM.

I found Mavis standing outside of the warm-up area. Giving her a big hug I asked her asked how she was doing. We reminisced while she showed me photos of her daughter. She wished me luck and said that she would be on at the top. To space runners out there are several waves which go off in 1 minute intervals.

There is a lot more strategy in this event than doing it on your own. Scurrying my way around the crowd gathered behind the starting shoot I found my way near the left-hand front edge of my group. With new wider start of Grind there isn’t as much of a slow down or jostling to get through the gate. It is really up to you to find your own path around people while staying on the trail. There are also new red painted ¼ markers along the way which I use as my pace markers.

Everyone is in a fairly tight group for most of the first quarter, so you expend a fair amount of energy trying figure out when is the right opportunity to pass someone or instead hang back. I really don’t like cutting people off, but with racers literally breathing down your neck there is a certain amount stress that goes with this event. At the first quarter I was slower than my season’s best for that piece of trail, probably due to the traffic and my decision to hold-back a little.

During the second quarter there was plenty of back and forth going, but also at one point someone asked me to “hold my line,” so I did expecting them to pass. I think I even slowed down, but they didn’t pass me. If your intent is to pass, then go by quickly and strongly otherwise I will find any means I need to get up the mountain and run my own race.

My next pacing mark is stony corner that has a waterfall by it. Looking my heart rate which was 181 bpm my time at this spot wasn’t where it should be if I was going to finish in less than 40 minutes. Somewhere during the third quarter I felt my right buttocks and hamstrings pull a little, not good. Survival at this point was most important so was keeping a steady pace. It seems as though when I am pushing past my lactate threshold I end up with a bit of gas in my stomach which prevents from going faster.

By the third quarter everyone is spaced out a little more and your are more or less on your own. Rounding a corner you can see that I like to bound up the stairs two at a time if I can because there is so much joy in moving freely.The intensity seems to bring on a bit of stomach gas, which makes it difficult to pursue a faster pace.

The timer on my watch was set at to go off every 9:35 minutes; it beeped as I found myself on the rocks, the last part of the climb.

Now the end is not just over the rocks, but instead the rest of the race loops around to the right, then left to finish near the chalet. The transition from steep climbs to fairly flat ground is similar to that of cycling to running in a triathlon. Your legs feel like jelly as you try to figure out a new cadence and speed.

Just before the finish is a timer pad so that the announcer knows who is about to finish. It is very nice to hear my name while crossing the finish line. The timer pad beeped as my foot struck the line. Looking at the clock at my own Garmin timer – the final time was 40:49, official time was 40:45, 11th in my age group and 77th overall.

My time this year was consistent with the average of the other the years (40:40 and 40:50). The 14 of Multi-Grinders placed in the top 5 of their age group, 9 were on the podium and 5 actually won their category. We celebrated these accomplishments and those of the season with lunch at afterwards.

Experience the race first hand with this video account (not mine)

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