Well, I have to say on the activity front, I am happy with the quality of 80% of my workouts this week, which is substantially higher than usual. On the nutritional front, however, this week left a lot to be desired and I’m sure I more than outweighed any caloric burn with my consumption. Let’s just all try to put that behind us and move on…
Saturday Activity: Run!!!!! Relevant Stats: 9 km, average pace 5:53 min/km Observations: Well, it was my slowest 9 km in years, but I ran it and it was magnificent. My muscles aren’t what they used to be, nor is my cardio, but at least my SI didn’t freak out, maybe because I wore the dreaded SI belt. No matter the cause, I am just happy to have completed a run of reasonable distance. Halle-freaking-lujah.
Sunday Activity: Grouse Grind Relevant Stats: 850 m elevation gain, 3 km Observations: I’m still rocking the solid 53 minutes, which is way off my old time, but much better than I was doing a few weeks ago. I took my time partially because I am an unfit, lumbering beast going up the trail and partially so that I don’t trip or slip on a rock and cause my SI to fall apart (not literally of course…though I sometimes wonder if this could happen…).
Monday Activity: Run! Relevant Stats: 7 km, average pace 5:50ish min/km Observations: After Saturday’s running victory, I was super pumped for this run. Unfortunately, there was no victory or magnificence in sight this time around. My entire right leg was a world of muscle tightness and stiffness, which made me anxious about a sciatic flair. I muddled my way through and ended with a shorter run than planned. I still consider this a success, though, as I haven’t run more than 15 km in a week in…I can’t even recall how long.
Tuesday Activity: Spin + 1/2 assed strength Relevant Stats: 45 minutes spin, 10 min. strength + stretching Observations: I don’t know what it is about post-cardio strength work at the gym. I just cannot motivate myself to do it. I did a solid spin workout leading in so I didn’t feel tremendously guilty for the short and largely unchallenging strength component.
Wednesday Activity: Grouse Grind Relevant Stats: same as always Observations: The highlight of this Grouse Grind was witnessing a stunning sunrise over the Lions and downtown Vancouver. It made me happy that I didn’t just roll over and go back to sleep, which was really my stronger desire that morning. My motivation was fear that the afternoon’s acupuncture treatment would somehow render me unable to hike on Thursday. Fear does motivate, people, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Thursday Activity: personal training session Relevant Stats: 60 min. Observations: OMG we used weights! And resistance! And the prowler!!! It felt like more of a legitimate workout than the past few weeks. According to my trainer, pro-sports-team-and-olympic-team chiropractor gave her much more specific guidance about how to work within the confines of my injury. So maybe he is worth is hefty price tag, after all. Sadly this doesn’t change the fact that he’s unaffordable.
Friday Activity: planned rest day Relevant Stats: gluteal soreness from yesterday’s session: high, calf pain from standing and delivering a workshop all day: even higher Observations: I don’t have the type of job where I typically stand on my feet all day and, thus, when I have to do this to deliver workshops, I’m reminded of how exhausting it really is. It’s just standing, yet somehow it feels ten times worse than walking all day. I am looking forward to an evening of either sitting or walking–there will be no standing. There will also be peach lambic (it may even be happening as I write). If you haven’t tried this, I have just given you your weekend present. You’re welcome.
And so, this is a week of progress and, once again, cautious optimism of week’s past. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to dive back into that peach lambic. This week gets a:
Sometimes when I drive home from the Grouse Grind, I pass Cleveland Dam and fondly miss one of my favourite, local, (relatively) easy hill runs. So for those of you who are able bodied enough to run, live in the Vancouver area, and looking for a very adaptable hill run, here’s one of my faves.
Starting Point: Behind Park Royal, West Vancouver
Turnaround Point: Cleveland Dam, North Vancouver
Distance: As shown, the return distance is 11.73 km, making it an easy short run. But it can easily be extended by starting at the western edge of Ambleside Park, adding an additional 3 km or by running past Cleveland Dam to the base of Grouse Mountain for an additional 138 m of elevation gain and an additional 4 km of distance. You can also do some repeats within the cap canyon trail itself for extra elevation and distance. See? Flexible!
Elevation Profile (basic route):
Why I recommend it: If you’re just starting to run hills for training, this is a great, gentle grade with only a couple short sections that would classify as moderate grade. In other words, you won’t feel like you want to die very often. This, of course, is all relative to your fitness level. Other plusses:
Once you get into the forest behind Capilano Suspension Bridge, you’ll enjoy the benefits of the tree canopy, making even a hot day feel cool.
While popular, it’s not uber popular so you won’t feel like you’re dodging people right, left and centre.
The trail isn’t technical so even the most clumsy (i.e. me) can safely navigate the terrain.
As mentioned above, it’s highly customizable to add (or subtract, for that matter) distance and elevation gain.
There’s both water and washrooms at Cleveland Dam, excellent for days you drink a litre of water before starting your run.
The view at the top is pretty damn nice
So there you go, a ready-made running route for your hill training needs. Please enjoy it for me as I fear it will be quite some time before I make it out there.
Six years ago I had my first and only acupuncture treatments. At the time, I was addressing a shoulder issue care of a pretty epic and ungraceful bail while trail running. It was magical. One of the needles struck perfectly in the midst of a tense muscle, created an intense spasm and, just like that, my shoulder felt measurably better.
Somehow, I have not returned to acupuncture since…until today. My unaffordable, and therefore temporary, Olympic and pro sports team chiropractor and sports therapist also does acupuncture and thought it might be good for my sciatic issues. My father also suggested this several weeks ago but, in true stubborn and lazy fashion, I wasn’t willing to look for an acupuncturist even though I knew it would probably help. But if an acupuncturist happened to fall in my lap, well that’s an entirely different matter…even if I ended up paying five times as much for it.
Here’s the skinny on today’s acupuncture:
Pre-acupuncture symptoms: I’ve been what I presume to be sciatic-related aching in my right leg muscles (mostly hamstring and calf), along with a horrible feeling that my sciatic is on the verge of going into its bad place (i.e. spasms).
During Treatment: I believe my doctors think my threshold for pain is about 1/1000th of what it actually is. The number of times my chiropractor asked me if the needles felt ok was alarming. I have had my entire SI joint seize up. I have had my sciatic nerve decide to host its own raging dance party. Sticking a couple of tiny ass needles into my muscles is nothing. My saddest treatment moment occurred when I realized I wasn’t going to have one of those crazy muscle contractions that causes your entire body to involuntarily twitch. I got some good tingling and minor twitchy-ness but not at the scale I was hoping for.
Post Treatment: I got to lay on my stomach and close my eyes for ten minutes, so first and foremost I felt like I’d almost taken a nap. In terms of my SI, it feels about the same post-treatment. The muscles surrounding my sciatic nerve (mostly the piriformis and gluteus maximus) on the other hand, have had a pretty consistent dull ache since the acupuncture. Apparently this is common, but I definitely didn’t experience this with my last acupuncture treatment. However, I’m also comparing apples to oranges as my last injury-related acupuncture treatment was for a completely different part of my body.
So now I wait to see if there is some lasting relief from this course of action. If so, I will seek a more affordable acupuncturist. Although I quite like new chiropractor/sports therapist/acupuncturist, if I see him weekly I will be spending an ungodly percentage of my net income, a number so high I can’t name it here out of fear that it will spur on a panic attack.
Gym Fatigue: it’s a real thing. Not everyone suffers from it, but for those who do, it is a troubling mental state.
gym fatigue:the insufferable and soul-destroying boredom that arises when one is forced to do increasingly more workouts within the walls of a gym versus in the outdoors. *
I suffer from gym fatigue, to the point that I have defined that my own personal limit for the number of indoor workouts that I find acceptable in a given week. That number, if you’re curious, is two–potentially three if the weather is legitimately heinous (for example, a week’s worth of -25 or colder when I lived in Alberta).
When I first got injured a number of people told me I’d learn to love a good gym workout. Those people were wrong. It is not the activity that I have an issue with, it is being indoors while doing it. It makes everything feel harder and seem like it’s taking about ten times as long. If you need evidence, I urge you to run five minutes on a treadmill with the time clock covered with a towel and tell me it doesn’t feel like it’s been thirty minutes. Try running five minutes outside and chances are it felt like five minutes, ten minutes on a bad day.
But I am not here to persuade you that indoor workouts suck. It’s a matter of personal preference. For those of you who identify with me but are perhaps suffering from an injury that prevents you from engaging in your normal outdoor activities, or who want to incorporate more strength training, here’s what I’m trying to do to combat gym fatigue:
1.Focus on what I can do that’s outside: When I couldn’t run or hike, I sometimes opted to just walk or to walk up and down stairs. It sounds boring, but I promise you it was better than a stair machine inside the gym or–shudder–walking on a treadmill.
2.Take the inside workout outside: This isn’t always possible and relies more heavily on using your own body weight as resistance or investing in your own weights/kettle bells, but a lot of my strength activities can be done unweighted anywhere. While it may not be as intense, I am way more likely to stick with it for a longer period of time.
3.Test my limits: I have all sorts of people telling me to hold off from certain activities. In the gym, it’s easy to follow orders because, quite honestly, running on a treadmill is one of my least favourite things. But when the lure of the outside becomes too strong, I fight against the naysayers and am more likely to give things a whirl. You know what? Sometimes it shows me I’m ready for things I was too afraid to try.
4.Consider alternate activities: I have come to the point where I’m considering taking up cycling. This is big for me, as for years I held firm to a belief that running and hiking are the only suitably epic, multi-hour cardio activities that can yield fitness for me. The thing is, cycling doesn’t involve impact and impact/jostling seems to trigger my SI. Suddenly, it seems appealing to consider cycling. And, without question, cycling would create year-round (well, where I live) potential for epic outdoor workouts. I haven’t bit the bullet yet but even considering it is huge for me.
*likely this expression was not invented by me, but this is definitely my definition
I finally realized why this injury has been so frustrating an experience for me. Is it because I couldn’t run and/or hike the way I wanted to this summer? Yeah, that’s part of it, but it’s not the whole story. Is it because I’ve had to shell out half my net worth to a team of people all trying to make me better? I admit, that really sucks and I fear I will be living in a cardboard box by the end of the year but, again, it’s not the biggest point of contention. Or is it because I am not getting better? That’s a little bit closer but it’s still not quite hitting the nail on the head.
The real reason I’m such a ball of frustration and negativity: this whole injury is just not fair. Do I sound like a five year old? Well, maybe that’s because some aspects of my five year old self are very alive and well, and my need for fairness is one of them. It always infuriated me to no end when my dad would say “life’s not fair.” While this may be true, I do not have to like it.
I don’t know why it took me so long to see that my perception that my injury is wholly unfair is why I am so very angry about it. In my mind, fairness dictates:
If you do the right things, you should get the right result.
If you take care of your body and live an active lifestyle, you should be less prone to injury.
If you are fit and continue to invest in building strength, your injury should heal faster.
If you are doing the right things to fix your injury, it shouldn’t come back with random, everyday movements.
But none of these things have been true in my scenario–none–which leads me to believe that the basic principles of fairness, which I hold to be of the utmost importance, have been drastically violated. Every time someone tells me “you’re doing all the right things” and “sometimes these injuries are just like this”, it strikes a nerve and my fairness meter flies off the charts. Then I get angry, really angry, which is largely how I’ve felt for the past couple of months.
On a positive side, if I recall correctly, anger is the last stage of grief before acceptance, so maybe I’m actually one step closer to coming to terms with the reality of this injury…
This is the week where I learned that, among other things wrong with my body, I don’t breathe correctly. It is also the week where I’ve been relegated to basic body mechanic exercises, which is the workout equivalent of being demoted. Really, this whole injury recovery process has basically contributed to my feeling like a completely broken human being. It’s just great for the ego. Alas, here’s what I accomplished this week:
Saturday Activity: Spin + Strength Relevant Stats: 60 min. spin, 20 min. strength Observations: After sitting on my ass all morning watching the seemingly never ending rainfall, I realized my plan to hike on the North Shore was not coming to fruition. Instead, I forced myself to the gym where I was surprised to have a great (and pain free!) workout. That evening I chose to celebrate with a pecan mudslide, which you’ll recall is one of my faves, only to ruin it by placing in the freezer for half an hour. Word of caution: the pecan mudslide MUST be consumed immediately. The freezer messes severley with its textural perfection.
Sunday Activity: Grouse Grind Relevant Stats: 3 km, 850 m elevation gain, 7 minutes faster!!! Observations: No rain! Also, 7 minutes faster!!!! The only difference to which I can reasonably attribute the increase in speed is not drinking any wine the night before. Although, to be fair, it could also have been my extreme excitement to be able to do something outside of the gym. Either way, I felt strong for the first time in weeks.
Monday Activity: Spin + Strength + Attempted Jog Relevant Stats: 15 minutes spin + 5 min. jog + 30 min. strength Observations: After Sunday’s victory, I thought for sure that I was ready for a run. I chose the treadmill because it affords the ‘quick exit’ option should sciatica or SI issues have flared up. As soon as I increased the speed above 5.8, it was no bueno. Discouraged, I returned to the spin bike but I was in such a state of disappointment that I lasted a mere 15 minutes before moving on to a half-assed strength workout. Overall, this was a workout fail both physically and mentally.
Tuesday Activity: personal training session Relevant Stats: 60 min. Observations: Yeah, we did a lot of breathing, and then a lot of unweighted exercises where I realized that without constant reminders I will not keep my “collarbone space”. I consider my workouts with my trainer some of the most humbling and depressing experiences of my week.
Wednesday Activity: Run + Core Relevant Stats: 4 km in 25 minutes (hellooooo slow!) + 15 min. core Observations: Four slow-ass kilometers have never felt so good. I even wore the dreaded SI belt for an extra layer of protection. I wanted to keep going and felt like I could have kept going, but I figured I should play it a little bit safe given that every time I push the envelope even a little bit it seems to bite me in the ass.
Thursday Activity: Grouse Grind Relevant Stats: 3 km, 850 m elevation gain, STILL 7 minutes faster!! Observations: Despite an unbearably early start (I am not a morning person), I managed to fly up the trail yet again, which surprises me as neither my body nor mind tend to function particularly well until around 10 am. Bonus points: no SI or sciatic flare ups after yesterday’s run.
Friday Activity: sort of planned rest day Relevant Stats: a looooot of sitting on my ass Observations: Since I half-assed Monday/Tuesday workouts this week, I felt like I should probably work out today, but this conflicted with the feeling that I should be giving my body some rest after two days of SI-unfriendly activities. The tie breaker was the the rain, which made running stairs outside sound very unappealing. So I seized the moment to be lazy under the guise of a necessary rest day. Yeah, I’m motivated like that.
All in all, I’ve been relatively stable on the SI front this week so I know I should be all chipper and upbeat. But I also hate the word “should” because, really, it’s only used to try to tell yourself and others how to think/feel/act/behave when you don’t really want to think/feel/act/behave that way. So instead, I’m seizing my mental and physical exhaustion. Truth is, I’m worn down, I’m tired of being injured, I’m tired of thinking things are getting better only to have setback after setback. Therefore, this week gets a
I’m back again with Part II of 2015’s hiking glory. If you recall from last week, I hiked close to 35 new trails last summer, some yielding fantastic views and experiences and others…well, less so. Here’s the rest of 2015’s stellar hiking season complete with opinions, because I just can’t help myself.
Ford Mountain Lookout (Chilliwack) Stats: 12 km return, elevation gain unknown My POV: The trail itself is only 4 km return, but I had to walk the 4 km logging road, creating a longer hike. Sad fact: the views from the logging road were some of the best. The trail itself lacked any big payoff with the lookout being somewhat overgrown with only obstructed views of nearby peaks. Also, you won’t see another soul, which I usually love, but found very unsettling in this case. Maybe it’s the nearby correctional facility…
Frosty Mountain (Manning Park) Stats: 22 km return (note: the link says 18 but other sources + park signage confirm 22 km), 1150 m elevation gain My POV: Once you get to larch meadows, this trail is a winner. The final ridges to the summit offer outstanding views. As an added bonus, if you go during larch season you’ll see the magic of the only coniferous tree whose needles change colour in Fall. It’s a long drive from Vancouver–over three hours each way–but worth the drive, in my opinion.
Blanca Lake (Central Cascades, Washington) Stats: 12 km return, 1000 m elevation gain My POV: It rained. There were low clouds. The lake was still a stunning shade of turquoise. That’s the sign of a solid lake. I recommend this as a quick half-day hike (shorter if you’re super fit). The payoff for effort ratio is high. The trail descriptions talked about steep trail, but I found it moderate most of the way. Note: in the course of linking to this trail I noticed the WTA says the road access has been washed out indefinitely. Sad times.
Summerland-Panhandle Gap (Mount Rainier) Stats: 19 km return, 900 m elevation gain My POV: It rained. All day. I mean, all day. The trail turned into a river. I’ve seen photos that paint the most epically beautiful of scenes, but I cannot attest to it. I do plan to return one day to combat my memory of cold, frozen hands and waterlogged shoes.
Burroughs Mountain (Mount Rainier) Stats: 14 km return, 790 m elevation gain My POV: I sat in the freezing wind for 30 minutes waiting for a glimpse of Rainier from the 2nd peak and Emmet Glacier from the 3rd peak of Burroughs Mountains. My patience was rewarded with the most awe-inspiringly close view of Mount Rainier that you can possibly imagine. I read that it feels like you could reach out and touch Rainier, which I thought sounded ridiculous, but turned out to be true. Do this hike. It is beyond crowded to the first peak, moderately busy to the second peak, but you likely won’t see a soul on the third peak. I had it all to myself both times I’ve done this trail.
Glacier Basin (Mount Rainier) Stats: 10 km return, 485 m elevation gain My POV: I saw no evidence of a glacier so I can’t speak to whether this is a worthwhile hike. It offered me exercise and a chance to warm up after getting rained out on Summerland-Panhandle Gap. For that, I was thankful.
Dege Peak (Mount Rainier) Stats: 6.5 km return, 180 m elevation gain My POV: I saw my first clear glimpse of Rainier after three days of rain and low cloud, so this short spur trail holds a special place in my heart. Watching wispy clouds lift and clear was magic.
Little Yoho Valley/Kiwetinok Pass (Yoho National Park) Stats: 10.7 km one-way to Stanley Mitchell Hut (25 km return to Kiwetinok Pass), elevation gain unknown My POV: I’m not sure the trail beyond the Iceline trail is worth it, but we didn’t make it all the way to Kiwetinok Pass so it’s not a fair statement. Besides, the valley has a certain charm and continuing even a little bit toward Kiwetinok Pass offers views of a rocky landscape, hidden glaciers and waterfalls. Your warning: you’ll descend to Little Yoho Valley and climbing back up to the Iceline trail will anger your tired legs. As a day hike, it may not be worth it unless you love uphill on your way back to a trailhead.
Tumbling Pass (Kootenay National Park) Stats: 26 km return, elevation gain approximately 800 m My POV: The first 11 km offer nothing in the way of views and everything in the way of holy-shit-I-think-I’m-going-to-get-attacked-by-a-bear-at-any-second terror. I saw almost no one the entire way, despite the Rockwall trail being an incredibly popular multi-day backpack destination. The last couple of kilometers to Tumbling Pass, however, are a stunning mix of lush green, rocky moraines, lazy rivers, craggy peaks and glaciers. My heart loved the end and wished desperately that the rest of the hike weren’t such a wretched experience. Only the most passionate of hikers will appreciate this as a day hike.
Bow Hut (Bow Lake, Banff National Park) Stats: 15 km return, 400 m elevation gain My POV: F’ing river crossings. I was having such a wonderful day and seeing such magical sights until the final crossing. I can’t even talk about it. Let’s just say I walked up and down that final river trying desperately to find a section that looked passable (for me). But if you’re not afraid of jumping from rock to rock, you will love this trail. Love it.
Deception Pass (Lake Louise, Alberta) Stats: 22 km return, 750 m elevation gain My POV: I’ve hiked as far as Boulder Pass a number of times but never continued to Deception Pass. Naturally, I would pick a day to do this that was both smokey from forest fires and stormy. As I result we saw little in the way of scenery, and much in the way of pelting hail. It was intolerably cold and windy at the pass so I’d have to return to give this a fair review. But I will say that during Larch season, even the trail to Boulder Pass would be a fine destination. Your warning here: there’s a pretty uninspiring 4 km service road to hike before you get to real trail. It’s the price you pay to keep areas more pristine.
Hannegan Peak (Mount Baker) Stats: 16 km return, 950 m elevation gain My POV: This trail was stunning. I almost didn’t see it as I misread the directions to the forest service road not once but five times! The trail is pretty easy to the pass, with few lengthy uphill stretches. Even the final push to the peak, though it says it’s tough, is well worth the effort (which, honestly, wasn’t that bad). Bonus points, I got to watch the wall of smoke from Washington State forest fires roll in from the summit. By the time I got back to my car, everything was a total smoke-fest.
Ptarmigan Ridge (Mount Baker) Stats: 14.5 km return, 400 m elevation gain My POV: I didn’t have the best weather day, but this trail still delivered. There’s not a lot of elevation gain, because you’re at a high point (Artist Point), which also means views the entire way. There had been fresh snowfall the night before so I had the added fun of trying to figure out the route to the final ridge.
Table Mountain (Mount Baker) Stats: 4 km return, 220 m elevation gain My POV: This is a short trail with absolutely outstanding views of Shuksan (which I actually love just a little bit more than Baker itself). Don’t get me wrong, you’ll also see Baker, but I was mesmerized by Shuksan. Because it’s short and so highly accessible there are hordes of people on this trail, but at the top there are enough spur trails to find some solitude.
High Divide (Mount Baker) Stats: 13 km return, 1000 m elevation gain My POV: For all the claims about how steep this trail is, I didn’t find it overwhelmingly so. The trail description also speaks to solitude, which you will find. I saw only two people the entire day. The views at Welcome Pass are nice, but continuing either West or East once at the Pass take you to a number of knolls that offer even better views. Your warning here: the road is rough. I made it in a tiny car but, at times, was driving maybe 5 miles per hour.
Skyline I (Manning Park) Stats: 20.4 km return, 621 m elevation gain My POV: For a brief window (likely 4 km of the total hike), views are everything you would want. We hiked this in the Fall when foliage was changing into all sorts of brilliant colours, which added to the wow factor. Unfortunately, the remaining 16ish km are pretty torturous and forest bound, particularly the final 6 km during which I wanted to curl in a fetal ball and die (huge caveat to that claim: I hiked this trail with a hangover and on about 3 hours of sleep, which I’m sure didn’t help). Your warning here: I’d strongly suggest hiking this in the opposite direction. By doing this, I think you would get the connecting gravel path between trailheads and the worst of the forested trail out of the way, but I haven’t actually done this so that’s just a guess on my part.
Damfino Lakes/Excelsior Peak (Mount Baker) Stats: 9 km return, 450 m elevation gain My POV: Like most trails in the area, the road to the trailhead leaves something to be desired (if you drive a tiny car like me). I wish I could say the trail was worth it, but it was pretty a rainy and socked in weather day so the best I can say is that the pictures I’ve seen of this hike online look pretty nice. I imagine on a clear day views would be great. On a rainy day, however, it simply offers an easy workout and solitude. Your warning here: the trail junctions aren’t super well-marked in all areas. I wandered off towards the High Divide (the two trails are connected) and got myself pretty disoriented, but managed to find my way back to the original trail plagued by only a mild level of panic.
So there you have it, 2015 in a nutshell…or, rather, in a rambling two-part series. I hope that some of these trail reviews and descriptions inspire others to hit the trails and explore what western Canada and Washington State have to offer. There are some pretty amazing destinations and, as you can see from my reviews, even when weather doesn’t cooperate, there’s still ample beauty to be found.