Friday, September 20, 2013

2,830 Steps and 2,800 Feet..... The Grouse Grind!

The Grouse Grind is Vancouver's most used trail and is renowned for its challenge in requiring physical strength and endurance in order to make it to the top. In less than 2 miles, the trail climbs 2,800ft. Due to the large number of people that use this trail, primarily for exercise, maintenance workers have had to build wooden stairs on much of the path in order to prevent further erosion from overuse. 

Trail Facts 
Length: 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles) 
Elevation Gain: 853 metres (2,800 feet)
Base: 274 metres above sea level (900 feet)
Summit: 1,127 metres (3,700 feet)
Total Stairs: 2,830
Annually, over 100,000 people hike the trail. 
On average it takes up to an hour and a half to complete the hike
Course Record: 23mins 48secs
Most Grinds in one day: 16 

The Grind is one hell of a work out.  I remember my first time thinking that it can't be that bad as I set off practically running up the first section. Pacing yourself on the Grind is key, get it wrong and you suffer big time.  Your legs turn to rubber and your lungs scream out in protest.  I still had 3/4 of the climb to go and I staggered up to the top in around 54 mins. It was awful.

There are many Vancouverites that love the Grind and do it as often as they can, several times a week or even every day. There are also a few lunatics that do it several times a day!  Depending on what day and the time of day, the Grind can be virtually empty or a constant procession of people from top to bottom.  As it's a pretty narrow trail, passing other people can be a little tricky.  Aside from the regulars who keep a good pace all the way up, there can be lots of first timers and visitors who just want to make it to the top.  They stop many times on the way up for a rest, get their breathe or to take on board food and drink.  

I used to do the Grind once a week last summer with my friends Monika and Carol. It's a great cross training work out and also quite sociable if you do it with friends too. Yearly membership is available and you can view your stats on line.  My times went from 54 mins down to 47 mins.  However, I wanted to break 45 minutes at some point.  After I decided to leave Vancouver at the end of this summer, it was time to up my game and try to achieve my goal.  

My times started to slowly come down and I knew it was within my grasp.  On my final attempt, I just missed it. 45 mins 15 secs.  Damn it, so close. I just couldn't leave it there, one more attempt was planned for 2 days later.  

I went with my friend Martin who was also trying to break the 45 min threshold for the first time too.  After a short warm up running around the car park at the bottom, I gritted my teeth and set off.  Steady now, not too fast on the first half but keep up a good pace.  Look for any way of missing a few steps by walking up the side.  Take two steps at a time where they're not too big. Take deep breaths using my diaphragm to get the most air into my lungs as possible. Focus my mind to keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing!

Passing the half way mark, my lungs were telling me that I hadn't overcooked it in the first half and I could still maintain the pace. The third quarter is the steepest, so if you have gone out too fast in the first half, you really start to struggle here and your pace slows.  The final quarter came and I knew the end was close. Keep pushing now David, every second counts. I reached the top with my lungs burning and my heart beating out of my chest in 44 mins 54 secs.  

Man it felt amazing to have pushed myself to the absolute limit and finally achieve the goal. If first you don't succeed.....  Martin finished in 46 mins but will get there sooner or later.  Hats off to my friends who have do it in much quicker times than mine.  For me, I can leave Vancouver and the Grind knowing that I gave it my all. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Eastside 10k 2013

This was the inaugural running of this event and offered a great opportunity to race through the historic and colorful downtown east side of Vancouver.  The area was the city center at one time but has seen significant urban decay since then and has become synonymous with poverty, homelessness, drug use and the sex trade. Like I said, a very colorful part of the city and not one that I would normally choose to run through.

The race attracted a sell out field of 1,500 runners. All the usual suspects lined up at the front in the elites section. The weather was cool and perfect for running as we set off. The first kilometer was mainly downhill and a nice easy start but I knew that it was also the end to the race as well, so an uphill and not such an easy last kilometer finish.

Soon into the race there lots of interesting views and scenery along the way.  As well as some great vistas across the city and old historic buildings, there were some interesting spectators too.  It was great to see lots of support from the east side locals that we were running past on the streets, many of which were the down and outs. Smiling faces and cheers of support.

The hills were plentiful, not overly steep but were fairly long and I could see that my mile splits were slightly down on what I had hoped for, just a few seconds per mile.  However, I was pushing hard and I needed to leave enough in the tank for the latter stages of the race. Maybe I could make up a few seconds when there is a flat section without any hills. However, as it turned out, there really wasn't any flat sections of more than a few hundred meters at a time.

It was getting tough as I ran past the 8km marker but I knew that the end was close. However, the last big climb was still to come.  This is when the hill training would pay off.  As it turned out, I made short work of the last hill and the finishing line was only about a kilometer away and now in sight.  I gave it everything that I had left.  I was digging very deep when I saw my good friend Janette and her dad cheering me on (for the third time in the race - speedy supporters of the year award!) which helped to spur me on and I crossed the line in 42mins 27secs.  Not what I had hoped for but the course was not easy and I had given my all. The results showed that I had finished 8th in my age category and 100th overall out of 1,500.  Not too shabby!

To say that it was a brand new event, the race organizers did a great job.  The course was awesome, everything ran very smoothly and a really nice shirt and medal provided too. The Eastside 10k is here to stay!

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