On Sunday I ran Seek the Peak which is a 16 km run up Grouse Mountain. It is mostly on trails and has 4100 ft elevation gain.
The route features the widely popular Grouse Grind, a 2.9 km climb with 850 m elevation gain. I have done the Grind several times before, once coming pretty close to a time of an hour.
Prior to the Grind is a 10 km stretch from Ambleside beach to the base of the Grind. It went through the Capilano Canyon, which I was not familiar with, and then up a steep road called Nancy Greene Way, which I have only ever driven.
After the Grind, the last 3 km take you up to the peak and back down to the lodge where the finish line is located. I had no idea what to expect for this portion.
I was really nervous as race day approached. This would be my first time doing a race that’s varying degrees of uphill basically the entire time and I wasn’t sure how to pace myself.
Saturday before the race, I drove all over the place. I picked up my race package, stopped by a florist to talk wedding bouquets and centrepieces, started a registry, and checked out suits. I usually drop the ball on pre-race nutrition and hydration so I made sure to eat and drink lots!
.@briehemingway Today is your day! pic.twitter.com/dVAu5brGEV
— Gary E. Jones (@maniac5702) June 14, 2015
Sunday morning came fast. I woke up and put on my BibRave shirt, Lululemon SeaWheeze shorts, Run Like A Girl hat, and Under Armour ankle socks [affiliate link]. I wore my usual pre and post-run cowboy boots and brought my Salomon Sense Pro trail runners [affiliate link] to wear for the run.
It was a hot, sunny day so I put on sunscreen and brought a travel size one with me. I filled my Nathan hydration vest with water and Vega electrolyte mix and stashed a few Honey Stinger chews and a bag of dried mangoes in the pockets.
This is one of the few races that I didn’t convince any of my friends to sign up for with me. It was a hard sell! So I had no one to carpool with to the start.
Since it is a point to point route, there was a shuttle set up in the morning from the lot at the bottom of the Grouse Grind to the start line at Ambleside beach. I opted not to use this service and instead park at the beach with the intention of running the 10 km from the gondola to the beach after the race to get in some more distance.
I arrived early and parked several blocks away only to find that there were tons of spots in close proximity to the start line. By the time I took some photos of the beach and waited in line for the bathroom, the warm up has started. Not only did I feel super uncoordinated but my quads were burning from some of the dynamic movements. It didn’t exactly instill confidence!
As everyone made their way into the starting corral I hung back and found a few other ladies that I knew through a running group.
I started off slow and steady. I was unsure of how to pace myself and was maybe a little too conservative during the first stretch. All I could think about was trying not to bonk in the middle of the Grind.
The first two legs of the race, which can also be done as a four-person relay, were a combined 10 km through the Capilano Canyon. I had never been on these trails before. There are very well groomed and shaded with some stairs built in the the trails at steep parts.
At one point we hit a small access road and had to turn right. I was following close behind another lady and I looked ahead and thought something didn’t seem right … There were no flags. I quickly looked around and saw that we were supposed to have made a quick left. I called to the lady and we got back on the right track.
Other than that one incident, the course was well marked with volunteers at most junctions.
After the Capilano Canyon portion, there was a quick (and steep) run/walk up Nancy Greene Way to the base of the infamous Grouse Grind. The third aid station awaited me there and I crammed a bunch of pretzels and oranges into my face before starting the grueling ascent.
For everyone but maybe the elite, the Grind is NOT run-able. It is a slow and steady hike up a trail composed of small steps, big stairs, and rocky bits while trying to dodge and weave around the tons of other people going up it. Even during the race, the trail was still open to locals and tourists out to enjoy a hike or try for a PB. Most of the runners ascended in silence while the leisurely hikers chatted away. I eavesdropped for entertainment and to take my mind off the task at hand.
I’m so glad I wore my hydration vest, however, I hit a point where I wished I hadn’t mixed electrolyte mix into the bladder. My mouth was dry and I was craving regular ol’ water. When I hit the aid station at the top I downed a couple cup fulls as a volunteer watched, holding a full water bottle and waiting to refill my cup. I ate more oranges and pretzels and carried on down a misleadingly flat path.
As I turned the corner I saw what the last leg of the race was like … a steep, uphill slog up a loose gravel access road to the peak of the mountain and then back down mostly the same route to the finish line at the lodge. I took on the climb at a brisk walk like most of the other participants around me.
Once I reached the top, I took a quick photo and then ran back down the steep, loose gravel and dirt road. It wasn’t long before I was crossing the finish line and rejoicing in my time of just under 2 hours and 40 minutes. I took a victory selfie while I waited for a couple ladies that were close behind me to finish.
We checked out some of the free snacks and drinks and then headed down the gondola. One of the ladies and I ran from there back to our cars at Ambleside beach for some extra distance. The flagging had been taken down but the faint spray chalk arrows remained to help us navigated our way back. Before leaving, I decided to check out a local coffee shop for an iced coffee and a muffin. It was no burger and beer, but it did the trick!
Quite a trek! I’m very proud of you…and impressed with the 10k run back to the car!! I need to try the Grouse Grind again. It’s been many, many years!
Thanks Bradley! That was the first time I’ve done the Grind in quite a few years! I’d like to see how fast I can do it (without running 10k beforehand). We should go sometime!
What does it mean to “bonk” on the grouse grind?
Are you trying to be funny? Haha! It’s like hitting the wall! 😛