As I hit the quarter mark of Vancouver’s infamous Grouse Grind, my hamstrings were on fire. My quads trembled as I tried to catch my breath. I used my shirt to mop the flowing river of sweat off my forehand.
“Oh Fuck,” I thought. Here we go again.
It was less than a week after I had failed to reach the summit of Mt. Finlayson in Victoria. Sure, I could use the excuse that I was sick then. But not here. Not now.
I had had almost a week to recover and reset my focus on climbing to the top of Grouse Mountain for the first time in my life – a 2.9 kilometre trail that rises 853 vertical metres. In other words, it is damn steep, which explains why it is often dubbed “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” (Note: The official website states that the climb is an approximate 56 per cent slope or 30°)
I was hiking with Tanya. She’s the Medical Director for the Canadian Blood Services’ National Public Cord Blood Bank. We had met in person for the first time about 20 minutes earlier in the parking lot at Grouse Mountain. However, we’d been chatting over email and Facebook for a few weeks as both of us will be on the expedition team climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August.
Tanya and I have an additional connection. My late father, whom I am climbing for on this trip, was one of her mentors when she was in medical school. She also cared for him when he was sick. I was really looking forward to meeting her and hiking ‘The Grind’ on this Friday morning.
Tanya flew up the grind with ease and was patient enough to wait for me as I slowly navigated my way along the route.
The setting was unreal – beautiful old growth forest with sounds of running water and birds chirping. I even saw a real grouse shouting out mating calls with its ruffled feathers displayed for courtship.
The average hiker is supposed to take an hour and a half to reach the top. Novice hikers generally take two hours. By the three-quarter mark, Tanya and I had to split. I was slowing her down and she had to take off to get to a meeting.
I was physically spent at this point, but there’s no turning around on The Grind. The only way to go is up. So I took some time to catch my breath and refocus. I would have taken a sip of water, but my bottle was empty.
Ever so slowly, step by step, I forced myself up the final quarter of the trail. It was a mental battle. But one I needed to endure.
The elation I felt when I emerged from the trees and saw the lodge at the top of the hill is indescribable. A huge smile came across my face and the weight of the world fell from my shoulders. I had slayed my mental beast and it only took me 1 hour and 57 minutes.
This climb provided some additional valuable information for my training. It exposed some additional weaknesses – namely my fitness and the muscles in my legs.
I have now put a renewed focus on my physical conditioning. I was out on the bike earlier this week before work and will continue to create time in my schedule to ride and also run hills. So be forewarned, if I tell you I can’t hang out until September, this is why (unless you want to ride a bike or run a hill with me).
To address the issue of my muscles, I called up an old friend, Erin, who is an athletic therapist. She and I started working together this week.
Erin informed me that my glutes aren’t firing, which is causing my hamstrings and quads to fatigue quickly. I also have super tight hip flexors, which is why I was at a standing desk at work for most of today instead of sitting. The next few months will be about making little adjustments in my life to ensure I’m as ready as I can be when August arrives.
I want to make absolutely sure that I take charge of all the factors that I can control.
Often times when you meet someone in person for the first time after only knowing them from Twitter, they aren’t quite as you’d expect them to be. Fortunately, Kristyna’s online and offline personality is a perfect match of energy, intelligence and sass. She’s also the ideal person to get you in a great mood on a Sunday morning (and not only because she brought me a vanilla latte from Starbucks).
We have some similarities, like experience working in professional sports. We also have some differences when it comes to hockey. She likes the Calgary Flames; I’m a Vancouver Canucks fan. Thankfully, we didn’t come to blows on the trail. Likely, it was because both our teams are already golfing.
We also share a passion for social media and connecting with people and we traded stories of online experiences with brands – both positive and negative. I’m always interested to hear from other people about which companies they like and which companies they could do without when it comes to social media practices.
We started our hike in the sun, but by the time we reached the top of the ridge overlooking the Brickworks, a wicked hail storm howled across the horizon. We had nowhere to take cover, so we kept walking. Hail in May – you just gotta roll with it!
I received a package from Arc’teryx on Tuesday, which made my day. I had sent my jacket in for repairs a few weeks ago and now it is fixed. It is my lime green jacket that will be accompanying me on the climb and it is nice to have it back and in my care. Through all these training hikes, I’ve become quite particular about my gear. Again, I don’t want any surprises on the mountain.
On the fundraising front, I hit another major milestone on May 8th when I passed the $15,000 mark. It is hard to put into words how much the support – financial or otherwise – from friends, family and strangers means to me. So thank you for playing a part in this journey.
Don’t forget to sign up for a hike. The weeks are filling up fast and I’d like to hike with as many people as possible before I go.
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/