Regaining 10 Years of Fitness

Learning How to Run Again with Neurokinetic TherapyIn 2002 I decide it was time to train for a half marathon to prove to myself that my knees were strong and I had recovered from a decade of persistent knee pain. Thankfully the pain didn’t prevent from cross country skiing or competing in biathlon while in university.

The Vancouver Half was what  I chose  as my destination and  as my greatest endurance challenge post retiring from competitive biathlon. Rain started to fall just after crossing the finish line in 1:50 at the Plaza of Nations. A year later after training for the half and unable to register due it being sold out I signed up for  the full marathon. My stubbornness  dictated that I couldn’t  run/walk despite my better judgement. The goal of finishing under 4 hours slipped away gradually.  Instead my body stumbled through the last 10 km to completed the full in just under 4:09.

A sub four hour marathon and a sub 1:45 hr half marathon are still eluding me.

Regaining Fitness After 10 Years

Several years later in 2012 it was time to challenge myself again on a new course for the Vancouver Half. Kudos to whomever designed the BMO Vancouver Half marathon course because it showcases our beautiful city very nicely. Knowing that my fitness wasn’t great I still wanted to see if I was at least as fit as I was in 2002.

This half marathon was grueling. and after finishing in 1:55 I cramped up so much that I had a difficulty walking for the next week. While happy to finish in under two hours the sub 1:45 was still out there for me to grab!

Finishing a Half Marathon with Grace

The Scotia Half Marathon has been on my list of events since 2006! Since it was week after Seek the Peak which I had started to train for in February all I wanted to was finish in a decent time while being able to walk reasonably well the next day.

A last week registration was necessary because I wasn’t certain how my energy and legs would recover from Seek the Peak. We often hear of or see people finishing endurance events with nothing left in the tank and being proud of the post run hobble. This was not going be me this year.

As a non-elite runner who also has zero chance of being an age group medalist it wasn’t necessary to run myself into the ground.

The Scotia Half was an opportunity to execute a race plan that would test my current limits and keep me walking the next day. The first 10km was a steady 5:00 min/km. Many people passed me, I kept repeating the mantra

Run Your Own Race

, a mantra that led me to three gold and one silver at the BC Winter Games for biathlon.

It was more humid than warm. I made sure to take sips of my drink electrolyte/carb drink every 15 min and one GU gel at 45 min.

The water stations couldn’t come soon enough. Splashing water on my head and arms was the only way to stop from becoming dizzy. The pace held up to about 14 km which is the furthest I ran in training.

From there it was a matter of holding on and preserving energy for the last 8km. Each kilometer was clearly marked with big red signs. Eventhough 13 miles and 22 kilometers are almost the same distance there’s a big pyschological difference with the smaller number!

While the course is a net downhill climbing the Burrard Street bridge was a bit tedious and longer than anticipated. The earlier pace was not to be kept.  I was unable to keep a pace where my heart rate was at my threshold of 172 bpm and it dropped to 160-165 bpm. A hard left at the end of the bridge brought us onto Beach Avenue and the finishing kick.

At this point it was a matter of adding a little more push to each stride to boost the pace. When the finish line was in sight I kicked into high gear to drop a few precious seconds and come in 1:52:39.

This race was finished in a respectable time that I am happy with. It was an opportunity to learn where some of my fitness limiters are. Walking was a bit of problem after but resolved a few days later.

Fitness Limiters

Fitness limiters are components of fitness that are limiting or preventing a goal from being achieved. During my training the focus was too much on a high aerobic fitness. Discovering fitness limiters helps runners fine tune their training.

Areas of Focus


  • Build aerobic endurance up to 22 km or 14 miles
  • Complete more supra threshold runs that are also longer than with longer intervals
  • Train for longer uphills of 2-3 minutes
    Train foot and ankle
  • Strategy – figure out a new pacing strategy
  • Review the course elevations and break the down into pace sections before

Unfinshed business

Retirement from biathlon left me feeling  as though there was more potential left in me as an endurance athlete. In two years I will officially be Masters (40 years old +) level athlete. This is a category that I want be in the top 25% of at the very least; to do so leaves me with five intermediary goals yet to accomplish

  1. 3:45 marathon
  2. 1:44 half marathon
  3. 44 min 10 km
  4. Seek the Peak 1:55 hr


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


Seeking the Peak: Learning to Lead the Climb

Learning to lead the climb to the peak is forcing me to grow as my business grows. We just hired two Junior Kinesiologists (1st and 4th-year students) and one who recently graduated. Brielle and Nicola started their first week at Lifemoves by standing at our Move for Health Day table.

This was a quick, reactive opportunity on my part to introduce them to the gym, members and our clients while celebrating a World Health Organization initiative. The timing was actually very good. Even though putting the event together was a bit hurried, it forced me to learn to delegate and trust that the tasks I give others would get done (not easy for an only child). We now have a base for Move for Health Day in the future.
I am not sure if I was looking for, or received, as much direction when I first started working for Fitness World in 2000. I believe I was told to do a job and I figured it out mostly by myself. I succeeded despite a lack of leadership from my immediate managers. Perhaps after the first couple of weeks, and with the proper direction, our new employees will figure out how things run and become more independent while taking more initiative.
These proteges are young, willing to learn and open to me leading them. At the moment they ask for direction. What I need to do is unlock the talent that lies within them and show them the way in a supportive manner that does not involve too much hand holding.
I don’t know the exact path we will take to reach where I want to grow my business, but I do know our ultimate destination. I am learning that when I am asked a question, I need to be more confident about the next step and answer, even if it means deferring and doing more research. I will do whatever I know how to do to help my team be successful. For me this means that they have a sustainable client load and are engaged on a day-to-day basis in areas they are passionate about.
I am confident that Nicola and Brielle will be successful and I am looking forward to Leah joining us in mid-June. There is a difference between management and leadership. With a vision, I know I am capable of leading my team of Kinesologists on the climb towards fantastic opportunities.

Seeking the Peak: Race Your Own Race

As we aim for our peak performance or being the best at something, many of us get wrapped up in comparing ourselves to others. But, when it comes down to race day or the day we are making an important presentation, we can only manage what is under our control.

This is a lesson I learned competing in Biathlon. Each competitor trains for months and then prepares in his own way on race day. Whether or not we end up in first, second or last really is not up to us. What we can do is go out and set ourselves up to do our personal best.
I clearly remember my strategy during the B.C. Winter Games in Comox, where I won two golds and one silver. It was to “race my own race.” This was still about pushing myself and wanting to be the best, but the focus was more on my own performance. I knew that my training and pre-race preparation were both excellent, as was my confidence in my abilities.
During most of the race I saw a competitor a head of me, but not once did I decide that “I had to catch him.” I could see that I was gradually reeling him in and eventually I passed him. I think that if I had switched my strategy, I would have exhausted myself trying to catch him instead of having my best race.
With Seek the Peak in July and the Grouse Mountain Run in September, I am aware of what my top physical condition was before I retired from Biathlon and what the top times are in my category. On race day, if I am fitter than I was when I competed in Biathlon and I reach my own performance goals of under 2 hours for Seek the Peak and 31:00 minutes for the BMO Grouse Mountain Run, I will have succeeded; placement is secondary.
Through years of various competitions including the Vancouver Marathon, and in my decade as a Kinesiologist, I have always defined my successes by asking, “Did I do everything I could? Was this my best performance?” Please leave a comment and let me know how you run your own race.
Previous Seeking the Peak Posts:
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Unveiling Business Excellence in North Vancouver

After several months of anticipating October 29th, it was time to attend the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards held at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Each year they have a theme. This year’s was a masquerade.
Not knowing where I could get a mask, my girlfriend volunteered to make my mask for me. She is studying Prosthetics and Orthotics but also enjoys creating things and is very good at doing so. This mask was made to fit and is a masterpiece I cherish.
All day Thursday I nervously waited for the evening’s festivities to begin and the reception of my mask. I kept focused on each client during their session with breathing and mindfulness mantras. The pre-event started at 6:00 PM, but due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to get there until 6:45 PM, not long before dinner started.
Drink in hand, I made my way to my table of ten, “Table 27.” I made a very good connection with Dave, a father of one of the nominees. Throughout the gala we joked and predicted who would be the winner of each award. This was only to help me calm down. The awards were presented in alphabetical order with Best in Business and Business Person presented last. As a “Young Entrepreneur” finalist, I was one of the last to find out if I had won.
Each award was presented by the different sponsors who had the opportunity to speak about what it meant to them. The finalists were announced again by wonderfully done short-films produced by Capilano University Film Students.
This was a great project for the students and gave each finalist an opportunity to showcase their business. Thank you John Morrison and Charlie Caanan for a well-edited version of our one day of filming.
I sat on the edge of my seat, with my thank you speech in hand (we were asked to write one, just in case). Unfortunately, I was not the winner. However, I would like congratulate Laurie of Carol’s Costumes who said, “Thank you, it is great to be young!” after which the crowd erupted in laughter. It was clear that everyone was enjoying the evening, which ended by celebrating the top three short-films with generous monetary awards and applause.
Even though I did not win, I am grateful. It is an honour to be recognized among such outstanding business owners on the North Shore. Among many other things, I am grateful for all the support I received starting Lifemoves. I am grateful for our clients, I am grateful for having Sahba as an employee and I am grateful for being able to pursue my dreams.
I have been involved in the North Shore Chamber of Commerce for less than a year, but have been welcomed with open arms. Being a Young Entrepreneur I appreciate the family feeling and I look forward to getting to know everyone at future events. Thanks to the NVCC and Fairmont Vancouver Hotel Staff for hosting a lively event.