Wednesday, 1 August 2012

I showed No-Fun-Couver what it meant to be hardcore; or, just an idiot (Day 30)


The latter end of the Grouse Grind
                I am on the plane to Toronto. My legs, knees, and body ache; my brain hurts from fatigue. I was going to prepare a post about life on the road as a rockstar. Is this a viable career path? I will save you all some time and tell you no. Instead, I have an unexpected tale for you. 

GD said it felt like a miniature van
                It was a sunny day as we drove from North Delta into Vancouver. We had made plans for a sejour into Chinatown followed by dinner with our friend Cindy. But Greg had other plans: he wanted to climb the Grouse Grind, a trail on a medium-sized mountain just outside of the city.  I was not thrilled at the prospect, wearing tight jeans, a dress shirt, and a $10 pair of flip flops. Life on the road had also taken its toll with my ponch sticking out more prominently than it once did. But Dowling seconded the idea; I decided why not. Greg provided some comforting words: “Don’t worry. It’s more vertical than horizontal.” I misinterpreted that sentence.

                The four of us parked just outside; I found just climbing the gentle incline just to get inside vexing. At the entrance I spied a group of BC Yuppies, dressed in flashy athletic gear and water bottles strapped to their hips, in Yoga positions getting ready for the climb. A large sign warned us of all the necessary provisions for the hike of which we possessed none, especially water. Yet we paid no heed and began.

We answered no to all of these questions
                The gentle incline became steeper and steeper. I started off slower than the rest, struggling to keep my balance on the rocky terrain. But I settled into a good pace.  Then Dowling slowed down and walked with me, a gesture I much appreciated. But then I noticed his panting. His breaked  more frequently; one quarter of the way up, he could journey no more. He descended and waited in the parking lot. 

GD taking his final break
                GD was the next casualty. About 20 minutes later, we breaked again; afterwards, he said he could go no further without water and removing his hipster jeans. I suggested he take them off, but he shuddered at the idea. I was, however, feeling invigorated by the exercise and my strength persisted. Flips flops made the climb trickier, but it didn’t make the cardio-vascular aspect  more challenging. Greg and I pressed on for the top. I snacked on a small portion of mushrooms. Shortly after, we made it to the top. My legs were exhausted, but I had done it. I had climbed the Grouse Grind in flip flops.
The view wasn't what I had hoped for
                But the honeymoon ended quickly: after I came up, I came up. I felt ill, light headed, and paranoid; I realized we had to descend. There were three options: the first, a gondola ride which packed people in as if it was the Tokyo subway; I didn’t feel up for that challenge. The second was an alternative trail down a steep cliff twice as long; given that GD and Matt were waiting in the parking lot, that option would please few. Lastly, to descend down the trail we just climbed, which was against park rules and full of rule abiding professionals getting a climb in before bed. All options equally as daunting, I choose the third. 

                We began descending the main trail, passing many steady stream of panting climbers; I heard many quick exhales. Then my haggard mind made a conclusion: they were laughing at me. Indeed, from the feet up, I looked ready for the club; from the feet down, the beach. I descended for 10 minutes and my legs were convulsing. Many probably doubted that I would make it down. What had I gotten myself into? Thankfully, we at least had the good sense to procure some water. 

                Shortly after starting, I needed a break. But they did little for my legs and only gave other climbers more time to look, laugh, and comment. Some expressed disbelief; one was even impressed. Having had enough, I pressed on. The spasms intensified. But I had to keep going: the entire situation was my fault and everyone was waiting for me. The narrow path also made it treacherous. As descending this way was against the rules, I needed to find alternative routes which involved sliding and jumping. After one such detour, I was unable to stop my momentum and grasped for tree just before I was to fall down a steep, rock filled slope. 

\My slow descent down the rocky path
                The stream of climbers increased. They looked at me like some sort of spectacle. The BCers appeared ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro whereas I was totally unprepared. This even aroused anger: one girl muttered as I passed, “You look like a fucking joke,” as if I was belittled the entire endeavor. I probably did.  But for the most part people laughed. Others made fun of me in other tongues, but their tone gave themselves away. I maintained a stoic expression to show these BC climbers this was no big deal, even though I was pushing my body harder than ever before.  Yet things began to improve as I reached the half-way point: the weakness of my legs plateaued and my mind calmed. I also realized this was going to make an excellent blog post. I even thought to stop and taking a picture.

Greg needed to do some recovering as well
                The vegetation began to change, the path became less rocky, and we could hear traffic again. I knew we were getting close. I was exuberant. I even began to walk with some swagger in my steps. Then the parking lot appeared. I was going to make it. Whereas these yuppies struggled to complete the climb with their expensive shoes, synthetic clothing, and energy drinks, I did it with no provisions, in sandals and skinny jeans, and having been on tour for the past 30 days, which involved much sitting in the van, drinking, and being a fat ass. To what do I attribute my success? The power of my mind: never once did I think I would not make it; never did I let the pain get in the way of my goal. I knew it would end and it did. I had shown the self-proclaimed outdoors people of BC what it really meant to be hardcore. 

                I collapsed into the front seat of the van and we drove to meet up with our friend Cindy, another casualty of my poor decision. Greg pulled onto the Trans Canada; there was no merging lane and he slammed on the breaks; a car whizzed by us. It pained me to think that turning onto the highway was more dangerous than the entire journey I had just completed. 

We still made it to Cindy's lovely apartment

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