I wonder if I will ever learn it: always drink water on runs over 30 minutes on hot summer days.
This afternoon I left the office a bit earlier to hike up Grouse Mountain. Before my trip to China in July I did the Grouse Grind 1-2 times per week, but I had not climbed it since I came back. The weather was nice, about 25 Celsius (although my car told me it was closer to 30 degrees) and a beautiful blue sky.
I mainly drank coffee during the day, so I had a glass of water before I drove my car to the foot of the mountain. Because most of the trail is in the shade of the trees I did not think it would be very warm and so I did not bring any water. I normally don’t drink during this hike, because it’s less than an hour and there is a Starbucks at the end of the trail for water or other cold drinks.
When I started off I felt some muscle ache in my upper legs. I did not really understand why, because I didn’t run yesterday (my last run was a 7 km mountain run on Sunday). But then I realized it may have been from a semi-dangerous kayak experience on Monday. Scott and I had gone for a kayak trip to Whytecliff Beach, but on the way back the tide currents were suddenly so strong that Scott could not paddle against it. He therefore held on to my kayak and I had to paddle as hard as I could to get back to shore. It took me 45 minutes and we finally made it, but I was exhausted. I know I put my legs and knees against the top of my kayak to be able to have a more powerful paddle stroke, and that’s likely why I felt my legs today.
No big deal and after a few minutes of climbing the muscle ache had disappeared. At first the climb went quite well, but it was a lot warmer than I had expected. So warm that I could not really get into a good rhythm, I was sweating a lot and had to keep on getting the sweat out of my eyes.
About half way my legs were suddenly very tired. That’s strange, because normally on the Grouse Grind my breathing gets faster before I feel tired, but now I was still breathing normally, although my heart was beating very fast. I thought that it may be because of the food (I had sushi for lunch, maybe I did not eat enough calories to burn?) and continued my walk. But then I realized I was getting thirsty as well, which is unusual if I climb up only once. Quickly my thirst was getting worse but I did not bring any drinks and I had at least another 300 vertical meters ahead of me. Going down wasn’t really an option. Not only is it not allowed, but it’s also quite dangerous because the mountain is very steep in many places.
So I just walked very slowly and even had to stop a couple of times. When I saw other people drinking (there were quite some other hikers on the trail) I almost wanted to ask them for a sip, but I did not do that and continued on. I came to a point where I would have paid $50 for a bottle of water if there had been any for sale on the trail, but of course this isn’t China so there are no vendors climbing up mountains to make a few extra dollars.
When I got closer to the top the temperature was much lower (the end of the trail is at about 1200 meters, so it’s noticeably cooler there than at the bottom) and I felt climbing up the rocks was a little less difficult. I knew I would be able to make it, but it was still not easy. I pushed myself very hard and eventually reached the top. My time: 1:01, the first time that the Grouse Grind took me more than an hour while hiking on my own.
I immediately got a cold chocolate milk at Starbucks and it tasted fantastic. Within minutes my energy came back and once I could walk again normally I took the cable car down and drove home. There I drank a liter of water and ate a banana and now I am perfectly fine again. It was a good lesson though. The Grouse Grind is not your average walk in the park, and doing it without water on a hot summer day can be dangerous. I have been dehydrated while doing sports in warm weather several times over the years and I will try to make sure this won’t happen again – and certainly not on the Grouse Grind!