Guest post by Katie Smith, Grouse Grind Master.
Who doesn’t love the stair master? Me actually…I do not love the stair master. If I were to be in a gym for my workout the stair master is likely the last option I’d choose. I only use it when all other machines are taken or the lone available treadmill is stationed beside someone who has sweat dripping from their armpits (a serious turn-off). However, when it came to Mother Nature’s stair master – a.k.a. the Grouse Grind – I thought, “Really? How bad could it be?”
Grouse Grind: Summer To-Do List
I had a baby eight months ago and I have been vigorously trying to get back into shape from the moment the doctor gave me the okay to do so. The journey has been long, hard and coupled with sleepless nights, and hasn’t always been as fast as I’d like. Sometimes I take on more than I’m ready for, but when I made my “to do” list for a summer in the city, the Grouse Grind was a must. I had the fabulous idea to go with my girlfriends (Note to self: taking girlfriends that haven’t had babies and are in impeccable shape is not the best idea). I was looking for company and laughs. Girls to take on the world with.
See that picture of me at the three quarters mark? I’m the one on the right, so sunburned from a day
at the beach gone wrong that wearing a sports bra standing still sent me into excruciating pain. However, I made a deal to climb the Grouse Grind Sunday morning, so sunburned or not I was there. The smile in the picture was the fakest of my life. Do you see how wet our hair and faces were? It wasn’t raining that day. That, my friends is sweat, sweet, sweet sweat, the kind of sweat I’ve only ever experienced before in my weekly hot yoga class.
The Grind as a Metaphor for Life
I don’t mean to make this experience sound negative at all, it was, in fact, the opposite. The Grouse Grind is a sort of metaphor for life. First, you need to set out to do it and actually show up. This, as in life, is the only place to start. When the incline only seems to be rising you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and looking forward. My saving grace in this moment was my friends. Although they could have climbed to that peak faster without me, we were in this together. As hard as I urged them to go on without me, and even as I promised them that I’d catch up, it was their refusal to leave me that really what kept me going.
In real life, the last few years have been some of my hardest ever. All too often the hard times just seemed to get harder (job loss, miscarriage, unexpected pregnancy, the diagnosis of potential down syndrome). It was in these same moments that the friends who have become like family tell you to just keep moving forward, and just as importantly, stay with you during a rest stop, just to make sure you know you’re not in this alone. See? A metaphor.
Triumph in my Soul
When I reached the three quarters mark I had triumph in my soul. I was almost there! Looking around at the faces of other people who were on their own journey up that mountain sometimes offered me hope and even relief to know that I wasn’t the only one finding this harder than I first thought. When you strip away the option of quitting and your only choice is to keep going to the finish, who you really are starts to come out. People’s defensive competitiveness seems to weaken, their faces soften and the sweat beats down. No one is really interested in what they look like at this point, they are just in it to finish.
We all took on the final quarter of the incline, championing each other on. I remember turning a slight corner and seeing a break in the trees and then I heard a little boy shouting, “I see it, there’s the top, we are really almost there this time!” I thought to myself, “Move it sista…finish strong.” I was cresting the finishing line after climing 2,799 ft over a distance of 2.9km. What was supposed to be a friendly hike with the girlfriends turned into so much more. I thought to myself, “I really really did it, I didn’t think I was going to make it for a second there!”
Like most good things in life, the Grouse Grind was worth the effort and sweat, and as soon as it was over I forgot how hard it actually was because the sense of accomplishment took over. I think I’ll take on that mountain again this weekend, but this time alone. I know what I’m getting myself into and I have something to prove, to myself. I can do this. Now, it’s just step and repeat.
Katie Smith is a twenty-something mama living life in the city with a creative genius husband and two brilliant kids. She moved to the city from a prairie town, ready to embrace the adventure that awaits outside her front door (wait, she lives in an apartment, her front door leads to the hallway)! Life in the heart of Vancouver is exciting, complex and expensive. All the more reason to embrace it, live it and talk about it with a few laughs. Share her laughs at www.worldbysmith.com.
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.