HIKING THE CHIEF AT 34 WEEKS… AND A NEW FITNESS CHALLENGE FOR NEXT WEEKEND

Gorgeous view from the Second Peak, with the First Peak plateau in the background

A hot bath and a good night’s sleep seems to have left me mostly recovered from yesterday :). I have to admit, I was pretty darn sore last night!

The Chief is a large granite monolith (the second largest in the world, evidently) located in Squamish, about 45 minutes north of Vancouver. It is a very popular destination for climbers from all over the world, but also has a series of beautiful, challenging hiking trails up the back side of the mountain. The Second Peak trail is my absolute favourite hike of all time, and it’s been a really long time since I’ve had the opportunity to do it, since I spent most of last summer nursing a badly sprained ankle, and the weather this spring has not really been conducive to this particular hike (which can be quite treacherous when the rock surfaces are wet). I knew that this past weekend would probably be our last chance to get up there, as it won’t be too long before the baby’s head engages, which would make the long, steep descent very difficult, if not impossible. Plus, it’s not exactly somewhere I’d like to be stuck if I started going into labour, even if a complicated helicopter rescue would make for an exciting and unique birth story.

This was J’s first time hiking the Chief, which was fine with me because I knew there would be no pressure to set any speed records with someone who was unfamiliar with the trail. The Second Peak consists of a 1.7 kilometre trail (each way) with 700 metres of elevation gain. We set out quite late in the day, which was in retrospect a good idea, because the trail had apparently been extremely busy throughout the day, but was actually very quiet by the time we reached the summit.

Taking a break at the top

A few weeks ago, J took a week-long landscape photography course, and since I’d told him just how beautiful this hike was, he decided that he wanted to bring all of his large-format camera gear along, in case the opportunity for a good photograph should arise. Because the trail is steep and challenging, I normally travel with a minimum load — a hydration pack, first aid kit, food, collapsible hiking poles and a couple of extra layers of clothing. J’s camera bag, complete with an old-school large format film camera, tripod and about a gazillion accessories, weighs 35 pounds. It is also not exactly the most streamlined or balanced backpack in the world.

Despite a smile that says otherwise, I came to loathe this pack…

The pack became known as “the equalizer,” and yours truly carried the awkward and heavy load (in addition to 20+ pounds of baby-related weight) all the way up and back down the trail! The ascent was mostly fine, as we took things rather slowly, and my glutes/hamstrings/quads are very well accustomed to weight-bearing exercise. There are a few scrambles and tight squeezes in the transition between the wooded trail and the granite summit, but I managed to figure things out without too much difficulty.

I can never get enough of the view from here!

The descent, however, was a different story. With the extra 35 pounds on my back, my balance was off, so I felt very tentative on the steep granite at the top. Fortunately, because it was a warm and sunny day, the rock was dry and grippy. I once again had to navigate the scrambles and tight squeezes, but this time with gravity adding to the challenge. Once we got into the woods, things were easier for a bit, but then the repetitive downward movement patterns started to take their toll on my pelvis and knees. Normally (i.e. without a 35 pound pack), I would be able to jump down some of the steeper drops and steps (which actually makes the descent easier, in my opinion), but instead I found myself having to slowly step or climb my way down, being careful not to trip on the roots and rocks or lose my footing on loose dirt and pine needles.

By the bottom of the trail, my left IT band was irritated, my pelvis was achy and my shoulders were raw from the mesh straps of the camera bag. I hobbled to the car and we headed off for well-deserved dinner at the local brewpub. By the time we arrived home, I pretty much felt as if someone had kicked me in the pubic bone… ouch! But alas, a hot bath, some ice on my IT band and a good night of sleep did the trick, and I feel almost 100 percent today. Although, I did decide to take a previously unscheduled rest day, as I’d rather let myself fully recover so that I’m stronger for the remainder of the week’s workouts, than to push myself and risk being out for several days in a row.

Also, as mentioned in the title of this post, I finally managed to find a suitable fitness challenge to mark my ninth month of pregnancy, so I really need to be in good form for the weekend ahead. On Sunday, I am planning to participate (note the absence of the words race or compete) in the Subaru Vancouver Triathlon, doing the sprint distance race, which consists of a 500 metre ocean swim, 26.5 kilometre bike ride and five kilometre run. There are a few logistical issues I have to sort out over the next couple of days, namely: getting my bike tuned up, finding a wet suit that fits my belly, finding an inexpensive pair of tri shorts and a top (or a tri suit), and getting some new swim goggles. If I can get all of that accomplished by Wednesday, I will register.

This will be my first ever triathlon, which might sound like a really strange thing to attempt at eight-plus months pregnant, but in a certain way, I am actually less ambivalent than I would be otherwise, because I know there is absolutely no pressure, self-imposed or otherwise, for me to be competitive.

I’ve never done an ocean swim before. The swim course is in English Bay, an area that is rather prone to having strong winds, tides and currents, but I am a very strong and confident swimmer, and I know that the course will be well supervised. The biking shouldn’t be an issue for me, and I figure that if the run makes my pelvis ache, I can always do a combination of walking and running. It is, after all, only five kilometres. Even if I end up having to walk half of it, I could still finish that distance in around 45 minutes.

I will be aiming to complete the course in less than two and a half hours, taking into account approximately 20-25 minutes for the swim, 60 to 75 minutes for the cycling (I have a ridiculously heavy hybrid bike totally unsuited to competition), and 25 to 35 minutes for the run, plus a bit of time in each of the transition zones (it might take a while to peel a wetsuit off my pregnant body!).

So, I’ll keep you posted as to whether I get organized enough to register. I think it’ll be a lot of fun, as well as being very good mental preparation for the rigours of labour.

8 responses to “HIKING THE CHIEF AT 34 WEEKS… AND A NEW FITNESS CHALLENGE FOR NEXT WEEKEND

  1. Wow, isn’t the view from the Chief magnificent! I would’ve happily gone uphill with that pack – but I tend to hand the pack over to hubby for the downhills – beecause even not pregnant it throws my balance off! Have a great time in the tri – , stay wide on the swim to avoid the flailing arms and legs and just be really really cautious on the bike; a few years ago the bike wound around Stanley park and some of those corners were crazy fast…so…just keep your wits about you for spectators or other bikes trying to race past…great way to celebrate your 9th month though!

  2. Downhill was definitely not fun with the pack, but I’m really familiar with the trail and generally more agile on that sort of terrain, so it just seemed like a better idea for me to carry it. Teamwork, I suppose 🙂

    For the triathlon, I’m planning to let all the speed demons run into the water first so that I don’t get ploughed over during the swim. I’ve heard people can be quite viciously competitive, and although I definitely won’t be the slowest swimmer of the group, I sure don’t need to be in there with the fast people.

    The bike course is at UBC, along Marine Drive, so hopefully there’s plenty of space and not too many tight turns. I will be a polite slow cyclist and stay to the right 🙂

  3. I am supposed to add that J offered to take the pack from me numerous times and I stubbornly insisted on continuing to carry it for the entire way down 🙂 LOL

    This is indeed the truth. But after I’d carried it all the way up and part of the way down, to just hand it over would be like giving up 😉

  4. I did the Chief right around 34 weeks too!!! September of 2009 and we went to Peak 2. It was fantastic but I got a lot of stares. And I was a bit shaky on the ladders. Have similar pics of me at the top.

    And thumbs up for hiking helping the baby descend. I really think my 1-2 times a week doing the Grind and a lot of walking made it happen for me.

    Nice work!

    • I’m 34 weeks pregnant and doing the chief tomorrow! Everyone told me I was crazy for doing it so I was googling “doing the chief pregnant” and came across your blog! Showed it to all the people doubting me! Thanks for the encouragement!

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