Last week, North Vancouver’s infamous Grouse Grind opened for a new season. Many of you may know of it, but how many of you have actually taken it on? It’s a “little” 2.9km hike up the side of Grouse Mountain with an elevation gain of a little over 850 metres. While many of us can easily run 2.9km in under 20 minutes, this “short” hike can easily take well over an hour. The Grind is affectionately known as “Nature’s Stair Climber”. Every year, this trail is filled with tourists and locals ranging from novice hikers to fitness fanatics. Many professional athletes have been known to use this hike as part of their summer training regime. With over 2,800 steps, it brings a whole new meaning to working on one’s squats and lunges. There are times when looking up is the most discouraging thing you can do – for a long time, there is literally no end in sight. While the gorgeous, natural scenery is enough to make you want to sit awhile (pick a step, any step…), when in need of motivation to keep climbing, the combined wafts of varying degrees of sweat in a narrow passage is often all it takes!
My first attempt at the Grind was well over a decade ago, back in my non-athletic life. While I did make it up to the top, I certainly did not pursue it on a regular basis. Life and parenthood took precedence over any training regimes. This year, my family decided to renew our Grouse Mountain passes after a multi-year reprieve. Now that my daughters are older, we’ve decided to challenge ourselves to mastering the Grind.
This weekend, was attempt number one. With Whistler being just weeks away, I am tapering my runs and thought it might be a “fun” change of scenery to take on the Grind as a new method of strength training. I was curious to see if my months of running would make this climb any easier than any previous attempts made in my pre-running life. It turns out, the running has come in handy! For the first time, my lungs were not on fire. My legs were kind of wondering what was going on with the never-ending steps, but they too did not burn in the same way that used to swear me off from tackling this hike ever again. I even managed to beat my athletic, teenage daughter up the mountain – quelle surprise!!!!
One thing is for sure. I am no longer terrified of the Grind. While it is indeed a challenging workout, I now know that is no longer unattainable. I can see a summer of stair climbing in my future! My running has definitely made this possible. I’ll be even more curious to see how adding this as part of my regular training might in turn improve my running. I might even dare to wonder if this endless set of stairs and steps might make your Blueberry Hill seem a little less overwhelming?