Sunday’s climb up Mt. Finlayson near Victoria, B.C. was a good lesson that nothing in life comes easy.
I had been in a pretty good groove with my training over the past couple of months. I felt like I was rounding into good shape to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in August.
Many friends and acquaintances have been telling me that they felt I could climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow, if I were forced to leave early. I let that get to my head.
On Sunday, Mt. Finlayson kicked the shit out of me. I failed to make it to the top.
I tried, several times, to catch my breath, regain the strength in my legs and disregard the aches and pains in my muscles and joints. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.
I started worrying about Sunday’s hike on Saturday afternoon following my regular workout with Marshall. I made it through our session, but I was feeling lackluster and was not my energetic self. My body was present, but my mind was elsewhere.
I came home and tried to recover before my five-hour flight to Victoria. I hydrated. I ate nutritious food. I stretched. Nothing seemed to eliminate the aches and pain in my body that was now spreading to my head. My stomach was in knots. I was exhausted.
I started the week suffering from allergies – an annual occurrence for me. But this wave of sickness wasn’t allergies. It was much stronger.
I slept for a majority of the flight to Victoria, hopeful that the west coast air might breathe some new life into me when I landed. It didn’t.
I decided that sleep would be the cure. I went to bed at 10pm and slept until 8am. This marked the most cumulative hours of sleep I have had in months.
I felt refreshed when I woke up, but still weak. I went downstairs for breakfast where I tried to fuel up to ensure I could make it to the summit of this 419m high peak.
Mt. Finlayson isn’t a long hike – it’s only 4km round trip – but it is a steep hike with lots of rugged terrain like tree roots and bare rock. The footing is challenging for most of the hike while the final ascent involves scrambling up a rock face.
I’m visiting Victoria to speak at Social Media Camp – a gathering of about 600 social media professionals. The plans had been in the works for weeks to climb Mt. Finlayson. Chris Burdge, who runs Social Media Camp, was kind enough to help me continue my streak of Sunday morning hikes to train for the #Climb4Cord. He put out a call to other attendees of the conference to join us.
We couldn’t have picked a nicer day for a hike. The sun was out. The sky was blue. Temperatures were in the low 20s. And the breeze off the ocean was magnificent.
The setting for the hike was ideal. Mt. Finlayson is located in Goldstream Provincial Park, which is a 25 minute drive northwest of Victoria. It is set amid old-growth temperate rain forest.
The hike commences at the bottom of a steep set of stairs. The shade is nice as your body instantly heats up from the exertion of ascending quickly. At the top of the stairs, glimmers of sunshine dot the trail, which becomes a mixture of dirt, rocks and tree roots.
One especially beautiful part of the lower mountain is what some locals call “nature’s ladder” – it is a maze of tree roots leading up a hill. We experienced this feature a couple of times on some early hills.
Soon the dirt and roots gave way to loose rocks and the grades became steeper. Before we knew it, we were out of the trees and on a rock face. This was the final part of the trail and it required us to scramble across and up the rocks to reach the summit.
The trail was marked by tiny orange flags, but it became abundantly clear why hikers are strongly dissuaded from heading up this trail close to dusk or in the rain. Even on a dry day, some of the rock faces were slippery as we made our way up.
Chris was patient enough to wait for me each time I needed to try and regain my energy, which became more frequent on this part of the hike. Finally, I had to stop and sit on a rock and simply take in the breathtaking views.
You could see several snowcapped mountain ranges off in the distance. Large birds stalked prey from above the treetops. And it was quiet. It was so peaceful.
I sat there and contemplated my situation for a few minutes. Should I let my competitive spirit take over and drive myself to summit the mountain, despite the exhaustion and pain? Or do I do the smart thing and head down, recognizing that the decent was going to be equally taxing on my body.
I decided to keep going for the top. I hiked another minute or so and saw the final ascent. It was long. It was steep. It was rocky. I took a deep breath and realized that that it wasn’t meant to be. I simply didn’t have the energy to push for the top. Whatever illness that had invaded my body was going to win the day.
Part of me wanted to know what failure felt like so that I could bottle up that feeling and store it in the back for my mind in case I found myself in a similar situation on Kilimanjaro. I wanted to ensure I knew what the bitter taste of defeat tasted like, so that I would never have to taste it again – let alone on the actual climb in August.
So while my attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Finlayson was a failure, the overall hike was a success thanks to the lessons I learned.
I have a second challenging hike coming up this week on Friday in Vancouver (as long as I’m recovered from whatever is making me sick). The plan is to climb the Grouse Grind with some of the Vancouver based climbers from our #Climb4Cord team. Then I’m back in Toronto on Saturday and have a local hike planned for Sunday. The sign-up sheet is located here.
Fundraising continues to go well. I’m within $200 of reaching $15,000 raised. The support from family and friends has been outstanding and I’m thankful to everyone who continues to support me along the way.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $750,000 for the campaign For All Canadians, which is dedicated to building Canada’s new national public cord blood bank. Click here to donate to my personal page or for more information on the campaign please visit: http://campaignforcanadians.ca/