On Saturday morning I woke up to the rain and the prospect of it not letting up. It did not matter what the weather was like when I awoke because it was my mission this weekend to finish my quest to reach 100 lifetime Grouse Grinds. This is to honour of Barbara, who in her lifetime completed over 100 climbs despite a brain injury that made it challenging to walk. When she passed away earlier this year I knew that reaching my 100th climb this season was how I could pay tribute to her admirable courage and perseverance. I had pushed through a dark soggy climb on Friday morning and had reached number 97.
As winter approaches it becomes more likely that Metro Vancouver will close the Grind due to safety concerns. The unpredictable closing date made completing my goal this weekend even more urgent. Learning my lesson from Friday I remember to pack additional clothes including socks. It was still dark out when I left the house because the sun rose at 7:42 AM.
Finding a positive outlook is important when it’s dark, raining and cold outside. Part of the beauty of the Grind is the wonderful canopy that the trees provide so you don’t get that wet. My body started to warm-up once I started moving as well. The trail was wet and full of puddles, but also silent in the darkness. There weren’t very people on the trail in the morning; being on my own gives me sometime to be quiet and listen to my own body and breath.
Three minutes after starting the battery power drained on my Garmin. I was truly on my own without technology. Could I finish in less than 40 minutes? What does that pace FEEL like? I searched through my memories of previous ascents to find the right speed. As I continued to climb the trail became clearer as the sun rose in the morning sky. My favourite part of the Grind came upon me quickly – the last stairs before the rocky climbs. It was there that the wind shook the trees to nicely shower me. Clamouring over the last bit where many people stop – I reached the timer hoping my card would produce that satisfying long beep which signals that it scanned properly; it did.
Out of breath I waited for my name to scroll on the screen – 39:58! Under the wire! Triumphant! Two more climbs to reach 100. Coming down on the tram listening to the rain fall didn’t inspire me too much. I really wasn’t looking forward to another climb in soaked shoes. Refuelling with a couple of carbohydrate gels and some electrolyte fluid I reframed my thoughts by realizing I had been smart this time by bringing a second peaked cap and t-shirt.
After changing my clothes, setting my bag in the bag check I was feeling warmer and ready for climb number 99. By this time the rain had stopped. The trail was still wet and on several sections it was cascading over the rocks to create mini-waterfalls. With the wet trail, roots and stairs one needs to be judicious about each foot step. There was a moment when one foot went sideways and I had to catch myself before straining my groin. Even though I really wanted to push the pace my body kept telling me that I need to maintain a steady rhythm while my mind kept reminding me that today wasn’t about time, it was about completions. The second climb was finished in 43:41.
I really wanted to stay for a third, however I had booked one client that day and had to head to work. It was going to be difficult to wait until Sunday to finish that ascent and feel the victory of crowning the top for my 100th Grind. Also, I knew there might be some other activities planned on Sunday that would force to wait until next weekend.
Looking outside after my session was over I noticed that the weather had cleared a little bit more. There was time in the day to finish that 100th climb and complete my third triple multi-day. Another inspiring factor was that a friend completed his 500th climb on the same day.
After having a bite to eat, hydrating and doing a little stretching with self-myofascial release I set out to find a bus. I could feel the excitement build as I approached the gate to swipe my timer card. The third climb was completely by feel. Another goal I had set was to finish ten climbs in less than 40 minutes each, I was at nine. With the first few steps my legs were feeling free, so was this also the 10th? I decided to let my body set the pace. There were times when I was dragging and had to mentally give myself a kick, while others times I felt like I was flying at a speed that would earn a personal best.
As the trees started to thin out I passed a few people who had stopped. Some smiled as I encouraged them to keep going because they were literally almost at the top. Feelings of joy, relief and elation began to overwhelm me as I crested over the top to the final timer post. My time was 40:12. I strongly believe that part of success is being able perform at a consistent level – so just over 40 minutes is still successful for me. On the way down we could see the snow on the Lions.
While everything worthwhile usually takes quite a bit of investment of effort and time remember the rewards are well worth it. Be patient and keep striving towards your goal. Ensure that each step or action, no matter how small takes you closer to your goal. When you want something enough, obstacles are only challenges. Find your way through them and keep preserving.
These 100 Grouse Grinds are dedicated to Barb Burton. Rest in Peace.