Depends how you look at it…

20 06 2013

It’s Thursday today.

I’ve tried to do the Grouse Grind regularly on Thursdays, after work. Today was my fifth time this season. Tenth since I paid for the timer chip and started officially recording my ascents last August. The first time I ever got officially timed (last year) I did it in an hour and 20 minutes. Not especially quick but I was quite pleased with it. You may recall that last April I did the Sun Run for the first time, and so by August I was arguably reasonably limber. Well – compared to my former self. The other timings of the year didn’t bear that out though, and on average I was a round 1:30.

If you have the timer chip, your time is displayed on a wide screen monitor at the top of Grouse in the chalet. It’s quite scary to see. There are plenty of people with times in the 30-40 minute range. There are also plenty of names that appear multiple times – meaning the person has ascended the Grouse multiple times that day alone. Last week a name was there TEN times. The slowest time was still less than an hour! It’s only about 3km, but it’s 1,231m high… and there’s a lot of steps. Some natural, some man-made to minimise the erosion.

I began this season reasonably well with an hour and 26. The next couple of times I was within a few seconds at around 1:24. Things were looking up. I might even be getting fitter, and might get back to last year’s all-time best! (I’m also trying to lose some weight and generally try and not die any time soon).

Then came last week. I was 30 minutes slower at 1:56. Weird! A whole half hour slower?! It was really humid though, and the top of the mountain was actually shrouded in cloud. I’m not making excuses you understand… I just couldn’t figure out how I could suddenly be so much slower. I was actually overtaken by the “sweepers” – a couple of super-fit Search and Rescue lads whose role is to amble up the Grind after the gate is locked and nominally nobody else is ascending that day. (In practice people circumvent the fencing, so plenty of people popped out at the top even after I made it up there). I did question the benefit of having sweepers at all if they actually left stragglers (me) behind, but I guess that given the fact that there was no practical way (due to fence hoppers) of telling who the last person actually was, it made no difference.

Anyway tonight it rained. A lot. I ummed and ahhed about whether to go at all. Nominally my son was going to take the SkyRide and wait at the top taking photos until I burst magnificently into the late sunshine out of the woods at the top of the Grind. He bottled out due to the bad weather. Or maybe because his girlfriend made him a better offer. Not sure. It may be a pertinent fact that as I write this at 11:45pm he has yet to come home.

Anyway – I got decidedly wet on the Grind. It’s a tough call for appropriate clothing. You want to travel light, typically in running gear with rugged trainers, contrary to the usual scout “be prepared” preference I’d have – carrying a 75l rucksack with stuff that would allow me to live comfortably on the mountain for a week no matter what happened. I tend to actually carry a small day sack – primarily to hold a 1l water bottle and leave my hands free. I also carry a lightweight fleece jumper in case I meet a nasty accident and have to wait for an extended period waiting for the embarrassing rescue that hopefully would arrive eventually.

(When hiking or going into the back-country ALWAYS tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back in contact. Nobody plans to have an accident…).

Today though – I half expected it’d still be raining, so I also took my super lightweight running shell. It’s not really that waterproof, but it cuts the wind and helps keep you warm if you need it.

And a cap. I’m not big on caps, but I wear glasses. Glasses are really good at correcting faulty vision… unless they steam up or get rained on (I wore contacts for many years purely to avoid steamed up glasses when I transitioned from wet dales hikes in Yorkshire to the “prize” of a pub at the end). A cheap peaked cap does wonders to keep the bulk of the “liquid sunshine” – as we call it Vancouver – off your glasses. I set off in reasonable time (i.e. I wasn’t caught up by the sweepers this week), but by the half-way mark, I was already at an hour, and it was obvious that I’d be logging another poor time. And this started me thinking of an earlier conversation I’d had about the psychology of challenges.

Many years ago, I was a Venture Scout Leader in the UK. I took a group of teenagers on a challenge hike – 40 miles overnight around the moors around Sheffield. The route passed various TV aerial masts, and was called The Masters Hike. It snowed. A couple of the teens wanted to drop out and despite my cajoling them through one more checkpoint, they finally quit. I exited the event at the same checkpoint. As we waited the 10 minutes or so for the “body wagon” – a long wheelbase Landy – to pick us up with the other folk exiting at that checkpoint, I got my second breath. Too late – I was already marked as “out”.

It was a huge lesson to me. I was about 25 at the time, and I vowed I would never quit such an event again purely on “mental grounds”. After that I went on to do many other challenge hikes including “Endurance 80” – an 80km (50mi), 24hr hike through the night. Glad to see that one’s still going strong.

So every time I start up the Grind, I have these little arguments in my head.

“Are you mad?

Eh?

Are you mad? You’re nearly 50!

So?

You’re pre-diabetic and have a heart problem.

Again – so?

Well this is just asking for trouble. You’ve barely started and you’re panting.

It’s good for you. It’s called “cardio”. The doctor said I should do more of it…”

And so it goes on – often all the way up to the halfway mark, at which juncture I point out to myself that even if I were to give in, it’s as far to the start as it is to the end, so I might as well continue. But behind it all is the memory of that terrible feeling I had as a young pup when I gave in for no other reason than a weak mental moment.

And so I keep going.

One. More. Step.

That’s one closer to the end. Well – do it again then!

And so on. Despite often sounding like Thomas the Tank Engine when I finally emerge at the top, I am rarely achy or physically exhausted. It’s way more a mental challenge than a physical one.

And the point of all this diatribe, you might ask?  Having taken 1:50 tonight, I initially thought “You’re getting old. Slowing down. Everyone passed you. You’re last”.

But then I thought:

“Yes. But I finished. That’s 10 Grouse Grinds since I started logging them. Probably about 15 altogether. All these people were faster than me today. But what about all those who are at home watching TV? Or who caught the SkyRide up to the top? How many of them have even done it once?”

And I smiled. And I ordered my usual cup of tea and fruit scone in the café. And I felt smug as I rode the SkyRide back down… 20 years the senior of everyone else who was muddy and in shorts.

I hope to keep winning the arguments with myself.





They may not rhyme, but…

18 06 2013

… they’re quite possibly the dumbest ways to die!

Truly superb PSA from Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia. By all accounts it won a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions festival. Bravo!

Watch it to the end.





Oi – I’m talking to you…

18 06 2013

Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to talk to someone in a bar or café, and they only have eyes for their smart phone?

Salve Jorge Bar in São Paulo, Brazil has come up with an interesting solution. Their beer glasses will only remain upright (keeping your undrunk beer where it’s supposed to be) if you rest them on your phone… thus keeping it safely out of reach, and freeing you up to once more take part in the human race.





For Ocean Pollution Awareness: Used Condoms, Cigarette Butts ‘Sold’ At Markets – DesignTAXI.com

11 06 2013

Every year, the local Sea Scouts help with World Oceans Day, and provide safety boat cover for the local divers who collect debris from our local shoreline. Families and youngsters comb the sands and collect “foreign” items that shouldn’t be there. Then the fun starts – under the guidance of Vancouver Aquarium all the various items are logged and categorised. Condoms, cigarette butts, you name it, we find it.

Sometimes there are pleasant discoveries too. One year a wallet was recovered and returned to its owner. Sometimes there are poignant finds… like well-loved dollies who met a watery end.

Saatchi & Saatchi in LA worked with the Surfrider Foundation to help raise awareness with a pretty unsubtle reminder of how we’re polluting our food sources.

For Ocean Pollution Awareness: Used Condoms, Cigarette Butts ‘Sold’ At Markets – DesignTAXI.com.





This Is Yorkshire on Vimeo

11 06 2013

Not a climber myself, and not one to sit and watch other people climbing as a rule.

But THIS video is different. You see… it’s in God’s Own County. Lots of it in my old stomping ground in and around West Yorkshire. Shipley Glen, Embsay, Brimham Rocks.

As soon as the video starts, the tone and texture of the rock instantly transported me back to the countless hours I spent camping and hiking through that terrain.

The maker (Dan Turner) asks that you consider donating to Climbers Against Cancer if you like his video which sounds like a reasonable request.

This Is Yorkshire on Vimeo.





Very “intense” at FieldCandy

10 06 2013

First born, you may recall is “out East” at Waterloo. She’s a keen Rover Scout and always has half an eye open for interesting outdoor gear, sales and the like.

Today she told me about a UK company called “Field Candy“. They offer a range of tents very (and I mean VERY) similar to the Vango Force 10. Regulars may recall that I possess such a beast, and  very good it is too. Heavy to haul around, but that’s why you have Sherpas I suppose!

Force 10 up Seymour

FieldCandy hit upon the idea of spicing up the old workhorse (sorry – I mean their tent that just happens to look a LOT like the old workhorse) by offering a bewildering array of cool fly sheets. Limited editions too, to ensure that yours is always very special.

Perhaps you’d like the bubble-wrap look:

All wrapped up | FieldCandy.

Or perhaps you like to fall asleep between the pages of a good book…

Fully booked | FieldCandy.

The old UJ is certainly tempting:

Rule Britannia | FieldCandy. But at £395, I think I’ll just stick with ol’ faithful. We’ve shared more than a few adventures together over the almost 30 years we’ve been together. (Though she did get a new fly-sheet a couple of years ago when the zip finally gave way).

 

Mk4 Vango Force 10

 





A Hilltop Solarium Made with Sugar by William Lamson

7 06 2013

As a small kid, I remember having 3-4 sugars in my tea. In fact the tea was just an excuse to have the sugar. By the time I hit my teens I’d left that behind and rarely use sugar now. Just as well given my pre-diabetic status at the moment!

Anyway, I spotted this piece on Colossal today – using the various hues possible from caramelized sugar to form an art installation. The range of tints is amazing. As a kid, my mum used to make “cinder toffee” for us on bonfire night. Now I’m older, I realise she likely just burned it.  🙂

The imperfections add to the overall effect I think.

A Hilltop Solarium Made with Panels of Caramelized Sugar by William Lamson | Colossal.

There’s a video where Mr Lamson explains his earlier work and the concept. Kudos!





Early morning rush

2 06 2013

So I’m not great in the morning. I look forward to the weekend when there’s no early morning con-calls with Europe or any need to try and beat the Massey Tunnel rat race before it clogs up worse than a student toilet.

No – weekends, and in particular Sundays are for lie-ins. Sometimes I’m as decadent as to lie there until 8 o’clock. Not today though. No, today I was on the road by 7:15 and heading for Vancouver. In a moment of weakness I’d signed up for the company team entry to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation ChildRun 2013.

FDN BANNER LONG–ChildRun 2013

I figured after the 10km Vancouver SunRun in April that this would be a doddle. Even better, the company was paying for my entrance fee. All I had to do was turn up and run. It’s definitely a smaller affair than the premier SunRun… but it’s got a very different rationale. It’s actually a Fun Run. There were lots of kids of all ages taking part – and I was soundly over-taken by many who were only a third of my height. It was quite heartening really. We hear so much about how unfit our kids are – sat in front of TV screens, listening to their iPods and playing video games. But here was a group of kids of all ages and ethnicities out in the early (-ish) morning sunshine and being active. Of course – I also passed quite a few of them walking, but at least they were there. (I really must get a T-shirt with “50th year, Overweight, Pre-diabetic, Heart arrhythmia… and in front of you!”)

A few were there only because their super-fit Lululemon-clad parents had bullied them into it, but by and large, most seemed to be there of their own volition. There was no super-accurate start; no timer chip; no first prize for the “winner”. This was an event. A happening. The only race was against yourself. I overheard one little chap complaining to his mother than other kids were cutting the corners as the race wound through Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. She laughed and said “they are only cheating themselves – we’ll follow the proper route”. A small lesson, but a powerful one. I was once impressed during a Scout Leader training course when moral fibre was defined to trainees as “what you do in the woods when nobody’s watching”. If you cheat when there’s only yourself measuring, what does that say about your standards?

On paper, the route looked plain enough. I wasn’t familiar with the area, so got quite a shock when a few metres past the half way mark, the route took a 90 degree turn to the right… and almost the same vertically! I’m sure in practice it wasn’t that steep at all, but it felt bad. The Sun Run has a similar “are you sure you want to do this?” moment, just as you turn to climb up to the Burrard Bridge. I decided I’d just dig in and reduce my stride, but keep “running”. At this point a few lithe souls cruised past me without breaking into a sweat, and my breath was definitely a bit ragged. I recalled an English lesson when I was about 11 or 12, when we were learning about puns, similes, metaphors and the like. The example was “His breath came in short pants”. I chuckled then. I chuckled now. But I was definitely on the edge of “let’s just walk for a bit”.

Then I saw a sign at the side of the road. It said “Pain is only temporary. Have courage and keep going“. Something along those lines anyway. And I got to thinking. Why was I even doing this run? It was a fund-raiser for the Children’s Hospital. Specifically for the cancer care and research part. And I thought about it. I had chosen to enter this event. I had therefore inherently chosen to undergo this temporary inconvenience and discomfort. But the kids in the hospital had had no choice. They were there through some cruel twist of fate. Some as yet poorly understood mechanism of nature that bestowed cancer upon them. A genetic propensity perhaps. Some food sensitivity. Walking past some chemical emission at the wrong time. Any or all of the above. But not a choice they had any part in.

And I remembered the video clips and pictures so carefully selected by the marketing geniuses for this and similar charities. Of kids with bald heads from the side-effects of chemo treatment. Crippled or bed-ridden from their internal fight against the disease. But with a smile. A laugh. A joy in life. They had no choice but to accept their pain, yet still found that joy that every child deserves. And I realised that though we may call it “courage”, they call it “life”. And suddenly I was at the top of the hill, snagging a cup of water, and depositing the empty vessel into a bin bag helpfully held out by a fireman volunteering on his day off. Another little kid (who let’s be clear – had been ahead of me until this point!) was enquiring of his mother why other folk were discarding their paper cups on the roadside. “Because they’re litter bugs” she said. Kudos. Even in a “race”, there’s no reason to make more work than necessary for all the volunteers who are giving of their own time to make the event run smoothly. This kid was getting a great grounding in acceptable behaviour for a Canadian – social awareness, looking out for your fellow citizens, respect for others, and a healthy outlook. My faith in humanity was ever so slightly restored.

From there it was downhill and flat, and our merry throng soon got to the 4km mark and passed the tail end of the 1km walkers as they embarked on their own little demonstration of solidarity and support in the opposite direction. But then…

… I turned the corner and someone had transplanted Everest to Vancouver. Where had that last hill come from? That can’t be right! Why would a race organiser put a bloody great hill up to the finish line?! Nothing for it now. Dig in, keep the momentum, and keep right on truckin’…

We’re funny animals us humans. Sat in the calm of your living room with a cup of tea and a digestive you really would not credit the effect that a friendly voice of support can have on your physical being. But a few young ladies waving pom-poms and yelling “you’re nearly there – keep going”, or random strangers clapping and cheering really can do that. That tone of support from the crowds lining the finish stretch really do have a positive effect. Your legs suddenly find energy you were convinced you didn’t have, and you somehow keep going. And then you’re over the line and it’s all over. A smiley-faced volunteer presses a  participation medal into your hand, and it’s off to find a banana and a drink of juice.

It wasn’t really a race. But I beat Mrs E for the first time ever. Just sayin’… 😉

So, feeling quite pleased with myself, we wandered back to the car – parked in the Children’s Hospital. And as we did so, we passed a young mother with a pushchair carrying a young child. On the canopy was a hand-written sign. I forget the name, but it had a photo and said “This is my brother…” I didn’t have time to read the rest as we passed, but it had a poppy – the emblem of remembrance. She was leaving the hospital. I suspect it was a regular trip she made. Suddenly I didn’t feel so pleased with myself. I’d done nothing really. Just ran 5km. Something anyone could do.

Why not take the $5 you’d spend on that next pint of beer and give it to a great cause instead? Here’s where.