Seeking the Peak of Grouse 2014: A Post-Race Analysis

The 11th annual Seek the Peak trail running race took place on June 15, 2014.  There were nearly 500 solo participants and another 300 relay or team participants.  This was the fourth time that I decided to throw my body into this event.   Last year I skipped it because I felt I wasn’t ready for its physical demands, which some believe are grueling: sixteen kilometers with a 4100 foot climb from Ambleside Park in North Vancouver to the top of Grouse Mountain.

Seek the Peak 2014 Finish

Alfred finishing Seek the Peak 2014 – photo Caroline S.

Armed with 2010’s 2:24 hr time and the top times in age group of around 1:35hr I have been motivated to at least achieve a sub two hour time.  Ever since I stopped competing in Biathlon I have felt that I have more potential and a talent for endurance events. With proper training I could achieve some top 10 finishes in my age group.

Post-Race Analysis

When looking for improvement it is important to take a deeper look at each event, even when goals are achieved. Some say success leaves foot prints!  While I missed the sub two hour goal this race was still a big success.

Stage 1 is a very gradual uphill which gives participants the opportunity to go fast to bank a little time, but risk using up all their glycogen stores. My goal was to push the pace a little bit and finish under 15 minutes, a time I met in 14:43.

Stage 2 keeps going uphill, but also has some good turns and fun downhills.  Although,  I quickly found out though that my training runs were not quite on the same trails my feet were still quick and I was sure footed.  This stage takes racers further along the Capilano River past the fish hatchery to emerge in the park near the damn by climbing up a long set of stairs.  Taking a slightly more conservative approach I reached Nancy Green Way while passing several people on those stairs.

Nancy Green Way is 1.6 kilometers of boring pavement pounding which ends at the  start of the Grouse Grind. This section takes more mental energy than physical.  The aim was to complete the road section in under 10 minutes, which I came very close to doing.

Stage 3 is the Grouse Grind which I predicted a time of 48 minutes. The strategy for this stage is just to keep the legs moving while repeating “one step at a time.”  It was grueling and at times I wasn’t sure if my legs would take me to the top. The left ankle strain of last year did not rear its ugly head either which was a big concern.  Final time for the Grouse Grind was 47:36.

If you haven’t been training hills stage 4 will fill you with dread! It did my first year and it started with a severe left calf spasm which left me hobbling.  This time around my strategy was 30 speedy steps followed by 30 fast walking steps. With a grade nearly 16% to the chairlift there was glory in reaching the final turnaround which also meant it was all downhill from there.

The gravel road down is bumpy and slippery when wet. Zigzagging down racers need to be careful to not run into anyone coming up on their left.  This year I felt the most sure on my feet I have in the several years during that section.

Finally the last few meters are almost flat but slightly downhill and the finish line was in sight! Time to turn on the jets. Well as best as I could! Out of breathed I cross the line in 2:01:10, 8% off my goal time and a personal course record. Looking up as I neared the finish line I saw 2:01:10.  This good enough for a top 100 overall and 21/80 in the male 30-39 year old group, which I have two years left in.

See the full Training Peaks File.

Planning for Seek the Peak 2015

Overall the race plan was executed very well. The call of a 1:55 is still out there for me to achieve and it isn’t that far away. It requires a fitness improvement of 13% in one year. Challenging? Yes. Do able? Yes.

What are the take home lessons?

  • Keep fit from September to February – maintain the capacity to run 16 km
  • Start the main plan February 1st instead of February 28th
  • Increase leg strength and leg power – start training for power earlier
  • Incorporate more Pace Zone 4 (tempo) and Pace Zone 6 (threshold) into the training plan with longer intervals
  • Hills, Hills, Hills


Repairing the Boat to Keep More Treasure: Cash

Kids Bailing Water from a DinglyJune 5th, 2013 was a dark day and stormy day because unforseen waves crashed upon our deck. We were told to vacate our current premises. This news came without a warning shot over our bow, but it struck us right in our hull and threatened to sink my business. Also, six months earlier I used all cash reserves to close a second location that just wasn’t developing as planned. It took a lot of courage, self-reflection and discussions with friends, mentors and family to discover that I really didn’t want to abandon ship.

For various reasons including my only employee leaving the initial blow was 40% of revenue! Without cash I was taking on water fast and was having a great deal of difficulty making payments to our accounts payable. My only option was to stay strong in mind and keep renegotiating with my vendors by letting them know our challenges and that I knew it would turn around.They understood and were patient because they also respected my integrity.

Thankfully, we were able to quickly find an independent fitness studio to operate out of. The studio owner also showed me a 900 square foot open clinic space in the same building which I could lease for the treatment room and business growth. After a few tense weeks I was able navigate through the murky waters of the district’s business licence rules to land my own clinic space. Finally my own island! A month of zipping upstairs to renovate between clients and weekends labouring my private oasis was open to clients on August 1st, 2013.

There were times when my faith wavered, but I knew that my business was one worth keeping and rebuilding. I also knew I had most of the necessary skills to repair the ship. The skill missing to keep more of my treasure was cash management. After reading several books on cash flow management I stumbled across Cash Flow Management Mojo by Sandra Simmons.

Most of the information I found on cash flow management didn’t really explain how to build in cash reserves for growth, taxes and emergencies while others were too complicated or did not link budgets with sales goals while Sandra’s software and book do. Tired of bailing out water with a small bucket I started to attend a bi-weekly business mindset group where we set three levels of two-week heart centred profit goals – achievable, stretch and outrageous.

Learning cash flow management is much like learning a trade. With some trepidation and optimism I signed up for the cash flow management mojo software online. Many fitness and rehabilitation entrepreneurs are excellent practitioners but like myself also lack some key business skills. It took me six years to figure out how to manage with cash.

Who knows better how to manage cash than Warren Buffet? He buys businesses with cash on hand and believes that the majority of growth should be cash-based. Warren Buffet is also keen and trimming any excess costs. I took a look at our expenses to trim so of the fat. Something to do every 3-6 months so that costs don’t get go overboard. In two weeks our vendors were current a month before my goal. Two weeks later the cash was available to invest in an iPad, a tool to enhance our services that I had been eyeing since 2010!

Sleeping on a log

Each week ends with allocating cash to pay bills and for savings followed by the setting of income goals for the following week. The rest of the week my mind is solely focused on providing oustading service to our clients. Ah, now I can rest my weary head knowing that the ship is repaired and my island is safe.

How to Evaluate and Add Value to Your Service Offerings

Chalk Board EvaluationShifting Lifemoves from a  large gym in 2011 that had a lot of sales team support to a few different smaller independent studios and now finally having my own clinic space has forced me to re-evaluate my marketing strategies as Lifemoves is rebuilt towards being a leader in the health and rehabilitation field.

The new space I have is 900 square feet and I am using half of it on a regular basis. Since, my company has been built with kinesiology as the primary services offered I am also looking to add various complimentary services such as physiotherapy and message therapy.  Even under the umbrella of kinesiology we offer various programs which to an average consumer  can be confusing.

I have often felt like Kinesiologists are in between Personal Fitness Trainers and Physiotherapists in terms of our skill set, but also how to describe our profession and sell our services. Nearly 10 years of direct involvement in a gym has kept me selling my services on a per session basis with discounts based on number of pre-paid sessions.

We can sometimes get caught up in doing things just because that is the way it has always been.   Online advertisers can be aggressive with pursuing the upgraded listing.  If you don’t have a marketing plan these sales calls can push people into doing things that take them off their original path.

Perhaps there is another way? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Simplify Services Offers – get clear on what you do. Can you pare down your programs then become excellent on providing the ones that are making you the most profits?
  • Add Value – is there a way to add value to the programs? Educational products or tools enhance results and build relationships.
  • Create Specific Programs – instead of selling per session basis, create a program with additional service, products etc that are designed for your clients
  • Evaluate Your Website Lifemoves Health and Rehabilitation is so 2008; it will be getting a complete overhaul. When was the last time you delved deep into your website using Google Keywords or Google Analytics? Is what you offer clear on your website? Are there pages that drive clients  a way or that are no longer useful? Is it mobile friendly?
  • Create Tactical Partnerships – are there people or companies in your network who have similar practice philosophies, share client demographics and offer complementary services? Maybe, just maybe there is a program that can combine both organizations’ expertise (start with one first).

Create a yearly marketing plan based on an analysis of where your top clients are coming from as well as solid analysis of online marketing.  I started to take a look into this recently and made some interesting discoveries, such as my home page being very unclear about what we offer and the long-tail keywords that competitors websites are using.

What will you be doing differently in the next few months?

How to Build a Thriving Health and Wellness Practice: Review

Building a thriving and growing health, wellness and rehabilitation business is something I am always striving for.

As a Kinesiologist I know that we graduate from our Kinesiology or Human Kinetics programs with very few business skills; they all learned as we practice. During the last ten years I have had to learn through weekend workshops, business coaching , reading and watching videos or listening to podcasts as well learning from what succeeded and what didn’t.

This weekend I attended an all day workshop on how to build a thriving wellness practice at the Vancouver Yacht Club, organized by Lotus Counselling Services and Chasidy Karpiuk & Associates. This series of seminars started with accounting and bookkeeping, progressed through business planning and finished with building and branding. We also had the unexpected pleasure of having our headshot photo taken. I think it was well worth going to as an opportunity to network with a variety of health and wellness professionals including another Kinesiologist from Fort St. John. This was really a quick business bootcamp which gave wellness professionals a kick start and some of the tools to build their practice.

I remember being in the same place as some of the participants who were starting to transition from being employees to being the self-employed. This was when I was having great difficulty finding work in my industry so I decided to start my own business. This business struggled even after I participated in a Small Business BC Self-Employment program. I still didn’t entirely understand what it was going to take to succeed. Lifemoves® is my second business which I am very focused on making it a success. I folded my previous one I rebranded in 2007 the company brand no longer met my current personal brand’s needs.

Whether or not they stay on their own or build to multiple practitioners is up them and what they want to get from being self-employed. Building a thriving practice is a continual process of trying different things, searching for new knowledge and continually making changes as you progress towards greater success.

Keys to Building a Thriving Practice

  • Pay attention to your financials, in the beginning every month. This enables you to make adjustments as needed.
  • Maintain good bookkeeping habits. This helps your accountant at the end of each year to complete your taxes.
  • Set Goals, create a business plan with strategies to achieve them. Re-evaluate.
  • Be clear on who your market is and isn’t.
  • Save money by doing a waste audit. Sometimes it is time to pull the plug on a project that is draining resources
  • Be aware of your billable and non-billable hours. Earnings / Non-Billable + Billable Hours = Hourly Rate
    • Look for ways to be more efficient during your non-billable hours
  • What are your political, environmental, social and technological constraints?
  • Define your strengths and weakness. Play to your strengths.
  • Understand key threats and opportunities.
  • Build a story around your business which is the core of your business brand. Communicate that in as many ways as you can, but stay consistent.
  • Ace customer/client service – this is how you gain long-term clients as well as referrals.
  • Use social media as one portion of your 7 touch points: Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, YouTube, Twitter are just five ways to contribute to the conversation and communicate with your clients.
  • Have a website and blog at a minimum. Referred clients will search for you and evaluate your level of professionalism and whether or not you can provide the appropriate solution for them. This is part of brand a reputation building.
  • Use images that are appropriate to your market and that create emotion and connection. Ensure these are consistent with your brand’s story.

As an entrepreneur I always set goals, create a plan, evaluate progress and then redefine the goal or the plan. During these sessions we shared our goal and suggested different strategies to meet them, mine is develop a team of 5 Kinesiologists at the Steve Nash Fitness World in North Vancouver. This weekend’s workshop helped me to identify some areas where I can focus to take Lifemoves® to the next level. I do recommend that this workshop to anyone who is trying to start/build a wellness practice; click here to find out when the next one will be held.

Did you attend this workshop at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club? Can you think of any other ways to create a thriving health, wellness and rehabilitation practice?

Using Lactate Balance Point to Increase Speed Up Hills

Use your lactate balance points to adjust your training heart rates and speed uphill during trail runs. This takes practice, focus, discipline and dedication. The Grouse Grind is a mountain climbing trail that a lot of Vancouver residents are addicted to, myself included. I’ll describe a speed workout later on in this article.

My quest to achieve a sub-36 minute Grouse Grind is part of this year’s theme of Seeking the Peak in business and fitness. This mark would put me in the top 10 of those who complete the Grind in my age group. I believe that being physically fit and taking care of your emotional health helps you be a more effective entrepreneur. It also enables you to enjoy the fruits of your labour more easily.
Generally, the maximum speed you can go without having to slow down is your Lactate Balance Point (LBP). I had mine tested in March and again today. The battery on my Garmin ran out, so I don’t have a graph of the heart rates, but luckily Nicola had an extra monitor. The good news is that there is a 6% improvement in speed (greater than the predicted Canadian economic growth!) and my heart rates for different speeds has dropped (a good thing), some even by 15 beats per minute. The bad news is that I am not using Lactic acid as energy as well as I could be.
In the past, the aerobic capacity was the determinate of performance. Mine – measured on a bike in university – was 69ml/kg/min (excellent). Recently there is more emphasis on lactate balance point – speed before lactic acid builds in the blood stream more rapidly than it can be buffered – and this is what forces you to slow down.
How do I beat my 39:56 minute time from Sept 10th, 2009?
First, not every trail run is aimed at obtaining a Personal Best. Set a goal for each training session. Is it technique, maintaining a specific heart rate, training a specific energy system or maybe your focus on your mental attitude?
Each run I do has a purpose. Two areas that I will be working on in the next 6 weeks are: Leg-Power and Lactic Acid use. The training plan below is for developing quick uphill speed, such as when you need to pass someone. It also includes some tempo work. Later, I will write about training your ability to maximize the use of Lactic acid.
The Grind Lactate Workout focused on training my tolerance for having a large amount of lactate in my blood. My recovery during these intervals was not enough to entirely flush out the lactic acid so, near the top, I was unable to speed up during the 1 minute running sections. With a new heart rate at Lactate Balance of 160-163 bpm, down from 170 bpm, I now need to adjust my training.
Going Fast Uphill
Goal: Training the ATP- Creatine Phosphate and Fast Glycolytic system. (depleted in 30 seconds).
Warm-Up – 3:00 min – Dynamic
Start of Timer to Baden Powell Split – Fast as Can Be, You Can’t Catch Me; approx 1:45 minutes
Interval Series 1 x 4
  • 30 second Sprint
  • 2:30 minutes 150-155 bmp
  • 5:00 minutes 150-155 bmp – to flush any accumulation of lactic acid and ensure quality of speed intervals.
Interval Series 2 x 4
  • 30 second Sprint
  • 2:30 minutes 155-160 bpm (slightly below lactate balance point)
Total Time – 39 minutes (minus Warm-Up)

Top of Timer
Heart rate of 165-175 bpm
*Note: these are my heart rates based on my test today. Balance point is usually at the fastest pace you can sustain for a long period of time. Each person will have their balance point at different heart rates. The 30 second sprint is as fast as you can go.
Estimated duration – 40-42 minutes. I will let you know after Friday’s ascent.
Tip: Stick to your own race, stick to the plan, evaluate the results, adjust the plan and repeat.
August 1st, I passed a colleague who encouraged me to go faster, but instead I “raced my own race” and kept with the plan which resulted in a new season best by not over-taxing myself.
Click Here to learn more about the value of Lactate Balance Point testing and check yours out in North Vancouver. Nicola has tested me twice now. It takes about 1 hour and isn’t that painful. It’s just dealing with a little pin prick to take a small blood sample and having the ability to really push yourself.
Janssen, Peter. Lactate Threshold Training; Human Kinetics, 2001. I have this book in my library and refer to it often. It goes beyond the Zone 1-5 of heart rates. Training zones are based on a percentage of your Lactate Balance Point. Great photos and explanations.
Have you had your balance point tested before? How do you monitor your training progress? Leave your comments below.

Get More from Trail Running: Use a Heart Rate Monitor with GPS

Using a heart rate monitor with timing features enhances your training experience by giving you the ability to easily record your progress and adjust each training session. It will also beep at you when you are inside or outside of your targets. This is my video game that keeps me motivated while I’m outside trail running.
After only one week of using the Garmin Forerunner 305 with the heart rate monitor, I am figuring out how to analyze each trail run and training session. I use my knowledge of my current physiological conditioning to set-up training runs with specific goals, and then analyze my progress. I finish by planning the next training session. Today I achieved a seasonal best of 41:46 min on the Grouse Grind, 28 days earlier than the same time in 2009.
Garmin Connect and Garmin Training software enable me to compare and analyze different training days or training events. The best thing is that with a little thought, I can easily adjust my training to prevent over doing it.
Detecting Over-training: One method of detecting over-training is by recording your resting heart rate (RHR). Your RHR is taken with a minimum of 5 minutes of inactivity in a quiet place, preferably lying down. After 5 minutes of recording my RHR, I used the built-in software to scroll to the lowest heart rate. Today it is 49 bpm, previously it was 53 bpm. If you find your RHR going up, take a couple of rest days or very light activity days to recover.
Trail Run 1 – July 30th, 2010 Goal: Keep HR 170-175 bpm; laps at specific trail locations.
Note: I started at Cleveland Park which is about 12.5 min at 140 bpm. I also stopped for a total of 3 minutes to input the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 marks on my GPS.
Trail Run 2 – August 1st, 2010 Goal: Quick 1st lap to Baden Powell Turn-Off, 6 intervals of 4 minutes, 160-165 x 1 min at run speed for lactate tolerance; 170-175 bpm to Grind Timer.
Note: Most laps were time-based not marker-based.

July 30 Aug 1
Grouse Grind Timer 45:27 41:46
Adjusted for GPS Inputs 42:27 N/A
Average Heart Rates 162 bpm 172 bpm
1st Timer to Baden Powell Turn-Off 2:10 1:54
2nd Timer to Back of Chalet 1:57 1:45

Note: We are comparing two different training strategies, hence different workouts, but on the same course.

Am I getting faster at a lower heart rate? Yes at the start and at the end, but when I analyzed my pace in between, it was very similar. It feels great that the section from the second timer around to the back of the chalet is faster. I struggled with this during the 2009 BMO Grouse Mountain Run.
I need to complete both workouts again at least twice more to be able to view trends. Of course, the analysis is only as good as the data collected and the person doing the analysis.
You can see both runs in detail including my heart rates, elevation and speed by clicking on July 30 (The end part after Grind is a run from Highway 1 to Capilano and Marine Drive) and Aug 1. Either way, I hit the sub 42 minute mark 28 days earlier on in the season than last year.
5-10% Rule of Thumb: Achieving 5-10% improvement in performance and fitness level is a good rule of thumb to prevent over-training and injury. Nutrition, recovery, technique and strategy also play a role in seeing times decrease.
So, from a best of 39:56 minutes, I am setting my 10% goal at 36 minutes and 37:56 as my 5% goal for 2010. Anything faster than 36 minutes, I will be ecstatic; the top 3 in my age category are sub 34 minutes. I do this to challenge myself and to see how fit I can be. Currently I am on pace to achieve these targets.
Philosophy: “The only influence you have is on yourself, not others. Run your own race and smile as you pass others while continuing to encourage them.”
The Grind offers a challenge that is easily measurable, that I can access easily from home or work, and that so many other people do so we can share our mutual experiences.
Please leave your comments below to let me know why you do the Grind or if you are not in Vancouver, why and where do you trail run.
Click here for Grouse Grind information.