First Person: Sebastien Albrecht

Two years ago, I did the Grind 13 times in one day. I eventually cramped up so much that I became incapacitated-at one point I curled into a ball on the trail. Last year I did a much better job with preparation and nutrition: yoga and stretching, sports hydration tablets, coconut water, salt tablets. Even with the tablets, though, I started cramping around the sixth climb. You just have to keep going and work through the pain.

I trained daily in the four months leading up to the day, focusing on developing endurance, strength, and flexibility. That meant sometimes sprinting up the Grind, or doing it four times in succession, or pushing weights at the gym, or sweating it out in hot yoga.

I ate easy-to-consume stuff: bananas, dates, nuts, chocolate, and the power bars that my mother made me. You have to make sure you keep getting enough hydration and calories, which is hard when you’re nauseous.

I lubricated my groin and underarms with Body Glide, and I changed my shorts and shirt every climb, so chafing wasn’t an issue. And I had no shoe or blister problems, which I’ve had in the past. But by the 10th climb, I was urinating blood. It scared me, even though I realized it was from all the salt I was taking. I guess the salt kind of scours your kidneys. I made the mistake of telling my mother, who was part of my support team, and she got very concerned. Suddenly I had people asking if I was okay, urging me to stop, making sure I was of sound mind.

It was only when I was on my own that I wavered. Most people on the mountain that day seemed to know what I was doing and cheered me, asked questions, offered encouragement. I took the gondola back down to the bottom and for most of that time I was dealing with the media. It was mentally good for me to stay occupied that way. Your body doesn’t want to do what you’re making it do, and your mind says, “You’ve done 11, that’s good, let’s call it quits now.” To keep my motivation strong I’d focus on the reason I was doing it-to raise money for the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation-and I thought about how embarrassed I’d feel if I gave up.

I was always moving. Once, up top, I skipped the first gondola back down, to get 15 minutes of rest, but otherwise I was racing the whole time. I started at 6:30 a.m. and finished the 14th climb at around 11 p.m. Friends and support people were waiting for me at the bottom. They were happy and excited and wanted to go out and celebrate, but I said quietly to my girlfriend, “We gotta go home.” I felt like I might throw up. It took me a long time to fall asleep that night-I was exhausted, full of pain and excitement. My legs had taken such a beating it hurt to keep still and it hurt to move. When I woke the next morning I still felt like I was going to throw up. It was three or four days before I stopped feeling nauseous.