The zen of effort. That’s the zone I was in as I hiked up the Grouse Grind, a challenging 2.9-km (1.8-mi.) hike straight up Grouse Mountain with an elevation gain of 853 m (2,800 ft.). From the start, this trail, a very short drive from downtown Vancouver, is an unrelenting stairmaster, and that’s what makes it a worthy challenge. The average experienced hiker can finish in 90 min. We finished in 80 min. I’ve heard it’s possible to finish in half an hour while running.
The key is to find your personal rhythm. I started out going fast, then brought the level down a bit, focusing on a slower pace that I could maintain steadily until the finish.
Any strategy is valid, of course. I saw people ripping up the mountain, huffing and puffing heavily. One guy sounded like he was about to die, so kudos to his tenacity. I saw some people take a lot of breaks. I took a few pauses myself.
Intention is key. I believe that movement can be accomplished with grace; that hard work can be graceful. It’s about the steady application of effort, keeping in mind the goal and working toward it mindfully. My goal was to make it up the mountain at a steady pace with good breath control, maintaining calm breath with each step. Doing this, I was able to pass several people who had passed me earlier toward the top. I didn’t want to burn out; I wanted to manage my energy.
The trick is to pace yourself so that you keep moving while maintaining control, managing the breath and the body. There are the inevitable moments of tiredness and frustration, but you simply keep going.
How did I feel at the summit? Energized, happy and sitting on top of the world.