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

 

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Using Coaches as Guides To Achieve Greater Success

3 Hikers In SnowHave you ever found yourself stuck and not sure how to improve your business? Have you thought about getting help from a business coach?  Coaches are guides who’s outside perspectives help those they assist reach their goals and improve their skills. In essence they are facilitators. Coaches have been an important part of my life in athletics, business and life.  The first coaches I can remember were the parents, including my dad of Jackrabbits. Jackrabbits is a cross-country skiing program for kids aged 3 – 12 years old.

For those unfamiliar with Jackrabbits it is a program similar to scouts and girl guides, but on skis that takes place in the winter.  We even had badges for accomplishing different skills and milestones; mine are still tucked in a box for safe keeping.   Since then I have had many coaches for different purposes and at various stages of athletic and business development.

A fire lit inside of me in 2007 that was so strong that I knew it was time to make the transition from employee to business owner. Unsure of where to start I enlisted the help of two coaches.  With one we were focused on developing the business strategy and figuring out how to manage the re-branding of a sole proprietorship to a new corporation and the switch from employee to entrepreneur. The other guided me through the business plan creation and successful negotiations with the gym owners.

It was with their help that I navigated my way from working for a major private fitness gym as a Personal Trainer, to owning an independent business that operated as a strategic alliance within the same gym in less than five months.

Coaches provide a non-partisan sounding board for ideas,  help elucidate resolutions to problems, celebrate successes and keep you on track.  There is no doubt in my mind the start of Lifemoves was accelerated because the coaches provided the pilot light with their of years of business knowledge that perhaps, without coaching I would have found on my own but over a much longer period of time.

While competing in biathlon the importance  of having a diverse number of coaches became very important.  When I attended a Junior Canadian national biathlon summer camp the coaches there were able to pick-up things I needed to work on that my local coaches didn’t see. This was because they had their unique perspectives and knowledge base.

Over the years I have had a few more business coaches all with different areas of specialty, such as financial management or purpose and vision.  Each coach was sought to help find a solution to a major stumbling block in my business.

If private coaching seems difficult to afford try starting with group coaching or think of coaching as an investment for greater future earnings. Next week I will be attending a business coaching group for the first time with many other entrepreneurs.  This excites me because I will be with a group of like minded individuals all interested in accelerating their business and learning from each other as well as the coach.

What are your thoughts on business coaching? How have they helped you?

Rediscovering My Story

Prairie Grain Elevators

As a birthday gift my mother sent me a photo of grandfather (her father) along with a few of his personal effects (he passed away in 1998), which included a resume of his medical education and publications.  He lived to be just over 90 years old, so how could two pages tell his story? He grew in Weyburn, Saskatchewan not far from Regina where I spent my FORMative years.

He and I went to many garage sales, he inspired me to become a health care professional and helped form my desire to learn photography (I wish I had learned more from him about film photography). There is a photo of him at my age; we look a lot a like, but I also have my paternal grandfather’s chin, who I never met..

My 40s are approaching, so I thought it was time to review the first nearly four decades.  We tie our identities to many things including what happened in our past, our occupations and our families. While our pasts have shaped us to become who we are today, they don’t have to shape tomorrow.  Each decision we made has had an effect on our lives; that decision could have been simply turning left instead of right a few years ago while walking to the grocer.

It took me many years to be able to comfortably, authentically and confidently share that depression and suicide attempts were part of my life.  The bullying that lead to these is no longer the story I tell, but I realize those years deeply affected my initial level of trust I hold towards people and how I handle particular situations.

Writing out my story from my birth in London, Ontario in 1976 to two wonderful parents, who have been married for nearly 50 years to today when I myself have been married for one and half years was quite a journey of discovery.

Those years after moving to Vancouver were quite traumatic, however I no longer have the emotions attached to high school bullying.  I jettisoned many of the self-defeating beliefs when I attended Unleash the Power Within with Tony Robbins.

What I also discovered is that I really didn’t celebrate that much. Each event I wrote down initially with very little emotion and often skipped over some major accomplishments and awards.  When I went back to fill in the blanks I started to feel very proud of what I have accomplished.

There are also some very pivotal moments in my  life that changed my direction completely.  One was deciding to come back to Vancouver after my undergraduate degree to attend UBC for non-degree related upper-level courses.  During this time I broke up with my fiancée and met Dr. Christensen, who has a spinal cord injury.  He was my first personal training client. Our six months together propelled the focus of my life’s work on providing those with disabilities, medical conditions and injuries with the opportunities, knowledge and facilities to stay active for life. It also inspired my vision for my own facility – which is almost crystal clear.

Being fired from my first job in fitness was devastating. However, one week later I was hired to as Personal Trainer at Fitness World within two days of handing in my resume.  During my eight years with them I blossomed into one of the top in the company for Personal Training sales, met my very dear friends and best woman at my wedding, met my lovely wife and I started Lifemoves as a strategic alliance with them.

Growing up in the Prairies really does define my character and pride. There is a very good poem by David Bouchard:

On the prairies I learned to embrace the snow and winter. I learned to cross-country ski, a sport I will be enjoying my entire life. My first twelve years also gave me a couple of pseudo elder brothers – the Jensens.  The two boys, Erik and Olaf were both older than me, but we did a lot together including learning to ski in Jackrabbits, playing with legos, hiking the Rockies and many Christmas dinners.  Being the youngest, of course I ended up with the hand-me-downs; a good thing in the end.

My time in Saskatchewan changed my blood colour to Rider Green.  Brock and I would get free tickets from Safeway to the kids’ end-zone area and then sneak into the main stadium claiming we had to call home (the only pay-phones in the place were in the concourse). One of my fondest memories is of attending a touch football camp at Taylor Field (now Mosaic stadium). We were mentored by some of my heroes. I still have the t-shirt, but it is a tight fit and my wife won’t let me wear it.

Growing up with my parents – no choice there, love them to bits shaped my values and the type of marriage I sought. I can not count a single divorce in my extended family, nor that of my wife’s.  My mother is doting and very caring, while my dad has is own unique way of showing is  devotion to my well-being.. He challenges me to always be better than I am by being very direct.

While I was younger both parents came on the family hikes and cross-country ski trips, but once I started to carry a pack, which was initially just my sleeping back the adventures became more just myself and my dad.

My mother was very happy being a wonderful children’s librarian who knew that if she climbed the library ladder who role would shift a way from the children. She had a knack for finding the oddest things. She would help me with my school projects. While my dad built a software company out of his home. He sold the software in the 80s and we moved – with great protest on my behalf to Vancouver in 1988.

It is his tenacity, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit is why I now own my own business. Being entrepreneur has tremendous challenges at times, but also many amazing rewards. The thought of working for someone else makes me shudder. My summer of kayaking and flexible hours working a training log software helped to understand that coding and software development is something I too enjoy.

Now, there are many similar products, but he was ahead of his time – nearly 20 years, but lacked the resources to make it big.  This makes me think, how can I gather the resources to go after my big audacious idea that I came up with in 2000?

Even with the thunderstorms and heavy rain in the winter, I am still very gratefully for the first year of kicking and screaming twenty-five years ago.  Vancouver is a wonderful place to live. Although I wish have traveled to Europe and USA, I will always come back home to Vancouver.  The day my parents permanently move back to Vancouver I will be jumping up and down with great glee and joy.

Moving to Vancouver has led to many adventures and accomplishments.  It was in Vancouver I started to pursue my dream of learning to fly by joining the air cadets. That same year I tried Biathlon. The shooting added a layer of complexity and joy to cross-country skiing. Sign-me up!

A couple of years ago my dad revealed that he become a coach to help me become a better athlete. Last year he was named Biathlon Coach of the Year for Canada.  It was a BC Winter Games where I came home with several gold medals and one silver in Biathlon – I was grinning ear to ear!  Without Biathlon I would have never realized my own Olympic dreams. He was instrumental in the Vancouver 2010 bid; he and I both had volunteer roles at the Biathlon venue in 2010 and on the field of play.

He was on the range while I my role was an Anti-Doping chaperone. What better vantage point than to be in the tick of things with the athletes spectators and the media? Wow. We were even able to watch the  Women’s Biathlon before our own events.

One thing that has become crystal clear during the last four months is that there are things that might set you back, some times in a very traumatic and dramatic way, but they are meant to propel you to even greater things.  For me, having to move my business suddenly to June made momentarily question my purpose, however it introduced me to someone who then connected me with my own clinic space.  My business now has a stable foundation to growth.

The process of exploring my own story is helping me understand that I don’t celebrate my accomplishments as much as I need to.  Also, that there have been certain things in my life that have shaped my beliefs about finances and money. Thought patterns that I am in the process of changing dramatically.

Try writing out your own story. What do you discover? Find a quiet space, grab some tissue and water, now start writing.

Getting Re-AMPed About Your Business

Sometimes my entrepreneurial motivation wanes and I need something to fire me up again.  On Canada Day I was listening to a podcast about how to harness your inner athlete while heading to the Grouse Grind® where my inner athlete thrives. That day I took 1:45 minutes of my personal best to set a new one of 37:13, this places me in the top for 15 for my age group. I am AMPed!
The Grouse Grind® is 2.9 km climb with a 2,800 feet elevation gain, a small mountain which I have climbed over 100 times. I am striving to be among the best at this and it is something I know I can be a master at, it is also something I can do on my own and the purpose it is to build confidence that transfers to other parts of my life. 
Why? It is both a mental and physical challenge that I can complete and feel victorious every time,  especially on Sunday. The rush lasts several days which gives me confidence to complete other activities especially those related to my business.
How do we find the motivation? How do I reignite the passion for my business? What does being AMPed up mean? The term comes from Mark Margolies,  a sports psychologist who has worked with over 2,000 people. The podcast was an interview by Beth Beulow of the Introvert Entrepreneur (yes, I am an Introvert); she can be found on iTunes.

Autonomous

Entrepreneurs have a lot of freedom to do what we want to do.  Yes, sometimes there are certain constraints that we might “THINK” are limiting us; however maybe there other ways to get there? I am not working for anyone who is telling me what to do on a day to day basis or how to do it.  I have the freedom and autonomy to make it up as I go along.
My business can shift, grow and develop as its surrounding do the same.  I can shape it to be what I want.   After a great deal of thought I decided that my definition of success is to get the two locations Lifemoves® has thriving such that I have more financial  and time freedom.  Lifemoves® does not need to be a national or global brand, nor do we necessarily need to have our own facilities, because with that comes a lot more risk.

Mastery

What are we good at? What is your Hedgehog? Last week I had a good discussion with one of my employees who agreed that I need to delegate more.  Business leaders  need to give people the opportunity to do what they are good at so that they can be great masters at it while the leaders focus on the path towards the vision. 
As a business owner and clinician there are certain things I am good at, while others I am not good at. It is time to harness my strengths and really master those.

Purpose

Knowing your purpose is really important. My purpose has been reignited while listening to several podcasts on business and strength and conditioning.  What is it? There several parts to my purpose:  to assist as many people as I can to lead physically active lives; to show them how to become physically and mentally resilient despite injury, disability or chronic medical condition; to show them what movement is all about; to provide others with the opportunity to do the same within my business. 
After all Lifemoves®’s purpose – is that movement is an integral part of life. I am AMPed about moving into the new space in North Vancouver. It will provide a more optimal environment to be autonomus, fulfill our purpose and be masters at what we do.
How are you going to get AMPed up about your business?

James Cunningham Race Sets Humbling New Standards

Today was a humbling yet motivating experience in the rain. It was just over ten years ago that I participated in my first James Cunningham Seawall Race.

Endurance running was never something that I had focused on so, I never became all that great at it, however I was proud of what I did achieve, including a 4:08 hr marathon after training for the half (not recommended, but I knew I could do it and that his a another story). In the early 2000s I was trying to prove to myself that my knees were capable of running great distances without giving me grief.

What is measured and acted upon will always improve. The past few months my training has solely been on the Grind; with very little endurance training in between. Entering today was a whim, inspired by a few friends who said let’s do the James Cunningham Race and see how closely our Grind times correlate. The point of today was to see how fit I was compared to ten years ago, as well as set a baseline for future training.

In the book The Running Edge, which I reviewed, the authors mentioned that a 10 km race pace is approximately equivalent to your lactate threshold pace. I had not done a blood lactate running test since a few months before Seek the Peak in July.

The Race

It was cold and raining before the race as everyone was huddled under tents trying to stay dry and warm. Unfortunately we didn’t have any warm-up time, but the rain did subside before the official gun went off. In big crowds I never seem to get my starting place right. The first ten minutes were spent bobbing and weaving as I strived to find a place to get into a running rhythm. My Garmin was set to beep and if I went below 8.3 mph or above 9.5 mph and every 1.475 miles which was one quarter of the distance. Eleven minutes went by and I was setting a good pace then a stitch hit me like a brick which made it difficult to ran faster without pain. My heart was 183 beats per minute. This is about 5-8 beats above my lactate threshold.

To continue I had to slow-down. I was holding on for the second quarter trying my best to slow down and deepen my diaphragmatic breathing to get rid of the stitch. There were even instances where I drafted behind someone to see if they were going at my pace. In a lap race like the seawall – take the shortest path, the inside lane; most of the time I hung there and somewhere above 7.4 mph. Along the third quarter someone kindly asked if I got rid of the stitch and offered advice about how to get rid of it. It subsided, but never really went away.

While climbing the Grind and now on this running race I noticed that I get a stitch if my heart rate goes above my lactate threshold; there is a lesson there. By the time I hit the fourth quarter I could see a friend ahead in the distance. 7

I repeated the following mantras in my head to stay motivated “Just keep going, place one foot in front of the other and pick up the pace a little”

I caught up to my friend as the tents of the finish line came into view. We encouraged each other as I passed by him. Seeing the finish line, I sprinted to finish in a time of 46:19. This is a minute and a half slower than 2000.

Age Graded Finish Times

How did I do? Do I compare myself to me 10 years ago? My age graded time is 57.7% and 55.6% of the world’s fastest times for 10 km. On the Grind my times are about 78% of the fastest in my age group; still in the top 30 As a fitness professional I have always believed that participation and self-improvement are important and need to be celebrated, however as a someone who participated in sport at a National level I still have the competitive drive. It is great to see where I fit on a regional, national and world-class level. To be the best at something you have to know where those standards are. When I competed in Biathlon international competition spots were given on a basis of how close you finished to the top as a percentage of time; the standard to meet was usually 90% or more.

Lactate Threshold and New Pace Zones

Today helped established new pace zones. I use The Running Edge: High Tech training for Peak Performance (p.54) Pace Zone Index to establish my training zones, which need to be evaluated every 6-8 weeks as fitness changes from training stimuli. Since my last blood lactate test this has dropped from 32 to 36.

Conclusions

Seek the Peak is awesome event which I trained for specifically by building my base then going for specific interval runs on the terrain that would be the event route. I want to in top physical condition related to my age as I age for both physical strength and endurance. That leaves me with a few things to focus on the half-marathon, 10 km, Seek the Peak and the Grouse Grind. Overall placement is not important however gradual improvements relative to previous years as well as percentage improvements relative to age group are important. I want to be in the 80% – 90% at the very least.

Now it is time to build a plan around these new standards and goals. There are striking similarities between high performance and business: the need to review, set standards, set a new plan and take actions.

PS – I find it confusing when the chip time and gun time are the same. I pressed my stopwatch when I stepped on the mat, which was a minute after the gun time (see the age group results – here). Either way I placed 16th in my age group and have four more years to reach the podium.

Find your age graded pace – click here

I am still very happy with the last six months of events and training. What are your standards? What are you measuring and taking action on?

Grinding Out Climb Number 50 in the Snow

Friday was the end of the Grouse Grind season for 2011. The reason isn’t because the trail is closed, though with the snow starting to stick at the ¾ marker I am sure it won’t be too long until it is.. My second climb today was the last one because I am at ease that all my season goals have been accomplished.

That morning I woke up knowing it would probably be cold, wet and snowing up on the mountain, but with the drive to complete two more goals: 10 sub 40 min and 50 Grinds for the season; this meant at least two more ascents. Staying active outdoors in the late fall and winter requires wearing the appropriate layers and planning to have dry clothes close by for when you finish. I decided it was time to pull out the long-underwear for the slightly cool damp weather to avoid hyperthermia and keep my torso warm. When we are cold our blood goes to our vital organs to keep them warm, so by keeping my torso means that some of this blood could go to my arms and legs.

Number 49

It was very close to toque weather, but now quite. Instead what it is raining I need a peaked hat to stay prevent heat from escaping and water from dripping in my eyes. The magic gloves are great during this time of year, so with ball cap, gloves, long underwear, shorts and double knotted shoes it was time get my 49th Grind underway.

The canopy provides some shelter so the trail wasn’t too slippery at the start. Since, I had heard that there was black ice near the top on Thursday I knew that I had to drive my legs a little faster for the first three quarters to reach the top in less than 40 minutes. The first quarter was a little slow, 8:40 min, probably due to my body’s requirement for a longer warm-up. My next pace evaluation point was the old blue quarter sign – 11:56 min, just under my goal of twelve minutes. So, far I was definitely on pace. Finishing the second quarter in 9:18, just over my personal best gave me even more encouragement. I passed a couple of multi-grinders who mentioned that I was on target for sub 40 min. Little did they I know I might finish in 38 minutes.

As I climbed the rain started to fall a little harder through the trees. At the third quarter red sign, I might be on pace for a new personal best. There was more foot traffic after this point which made it difficult to navigate at a fast tempo. There was also some snow on the ground making each footstep a little more tenuous. When I started I set my timer to beep every 9:45 minutes, as I reached the last rocky section it had not chimed yet so I knew that 39 minutes was possible. Scrabbling over the top, I hit my watch lap button, 38:35 min! A great time, but not quite what I had hoped for. Still this was one more goal reached: 10 under 40 minutes!

Number 50

Do I go home and come back on Saturday? Or head-back out for a second time? I did bring extra clothes and an additional hat. My shirt wasn’t too wet, so all I changed was my hat. It was raining harder at the beginning this time. Overcoming the cold rain in Vancouver is a matter of mental attitude. I told myself it was sunny and 30c outside. Two objectives were set for this climb. Goals for this last ascent were first to finish and secondly to finish in less than 42:30 min which was my season average. Somewhere along the trail it started to hail. It isn’t very often that people pass me, however I could start to hear foot steps behind me after the second quarter started. Knowing that at some point he would pass me I kept to the right as best I could, but I wasn’t about to slow down at all.

He kept pace with me for quite awhile, but never passed me; there were plenty of opportunities. It almost started to get annoying, but it was admirable that he was trying to keep pace. I have always said, “run your own race and the rest will follow.” Steve Jobs was right to be a leader and innovator in business you will always need to think ahead of what is next and there will always be followers and imitators. As the fourth quarter started more space started to open up between us; it was then that I took charge and sped up.

One of my favourite parts is the last set of stairs where you can more gradually by steering left or steeper by heading right to get to the rocks. The rocky area is my favourite because represents the final push of the Grind before the trees line clears. Looking up I saw the familiar gait and umbrella of Terry, a Grind legend. The snow started to fall heavily, coating the ground with the first white blanket of the winter season. The trail was slippery, so each step had to be taken more carefully. A wonderful white world revealed itself as the trees line cleared. This climbs time was 42:07 making this season’s average 42:24; it felt like a comfortable and rewarding end to a season full of accomplishments.

I had the pleasure of coming down on the tram with Frédérique and Jim who were just one climb away from finishing 150 and 300 ascents for the season respectively (they finished their 5th Grind of the day and reached their goals later that day). Congratulations to everyone who at least completed the Grind even once.

As an entrepreneur being physically active outdoors is important to me because I am able to reconnect with the earth, be within my own thoughts and release most of the negative stress that accumulates during the week. Accomplishing each Grind goal this season builds confidence within me that I am able to transfer into my business.

Another aspect of the Grind that are powerful to me the bonds that are formed between those of us who are part of the Multi-Grind Club. There are people who have done some amazing things who continue to inspire me to challenge myself further. If you are ever to improve in business surround yourself with those who are successful and who push you to new heights.

With the snow falling I am looking forward to snowshoeing and trying the Snowshoe Grind at Grouse.

Persevering Through Rain to Reach 100 Grouse Grinds

On Saturday morning I woke up to the rain and the prospect of it not letting up. It did not matter what the weather was like when I awoke because it was my mission this weekend to finish my quest to reach 100 lifetime Grouse Grinds. This is to honour of Barbara, who in her lifetime completed over 100 climbs despite a brain injury that made it challenging to walk. When she passed away earlier this year I knew that reaching my 100th climb this season was how I could pay tribute to her admirable courage and perseverance. I had pushed through a dark soggy climb on Friday morning and had reached number 97.

As winter approaches it becomes more likely that Metro Vancouver will close the Grind due to safety concerns. The unpredictable closing date made completing my goal this weekend even more urgent. Learning my lesson from Friday I remember to pack additional clothes including socks. It was still dark out when I left the house because the sun rose at 7:42 AM.

Finding a positive outlook is important when it’s dark, raining and cold outside. Part of the beauty of the Grind is the wonderful canopy that the trees provide so you don’t get that wet. My body started to warm-up once I started moving as well. The trail was wet and full of puddles, but also silent in the darkness. There weren’t very people on the trail in the morning; being on my own gives me sometime to be quiet and listen to my own body and breath.

Number 98

Three minutes after starting the battery power drained on my Garmin. I was truly on my own without technology. Could I finish in less than 40 minutes? What does that pace FEEL like? I searched through my memories of previous ascents to find the right speed. As I continued to climb the trail became clearer as the sun rose in the morning sky. My favourite part of the Grind came upon me quickly – the last stairs before the rocky climbs. It was there that the wind shook the trees to nicely shower me. Clamouring over the last bit where many people stop – I reached the timer hoping my card would produce that satisfying long beep which signals that it scanned properly; it did.

Out of breath I waited for my name to scroll on the screen – 39:58! Under the wire! Triumphant! Two more climbs to reach 100. Coming down on the tram listening to the rain fall didn’t inspire me too much. I really wasn’t looking forward to another climb in soaked shoes. Refuelling with a couple of carbohydrate gels and some electrolyte fluid I reframed my thoughts by realizing I had been smart this time by bringing a second peaked cap and t-shirt.

Number 99

After changing my clothes, setting my bag in the bag check I was feeling warmer and ready for climb number 99. By this time the rain had stopped. The trail was still wet and on several sections it was cascading over the rocks to create mini-waterfalls. With the wet trail, roots and stairs one needs to be judicious about each foot step. There was a moment when one foot went sideways and I had to catch myself before straining my groin. Even though I really wanted to push the pace my body kept telling me that I need to maintain a steady rhythm while my mind kept reminding me that today wasn’t about time, it was about completions. The second climb was finished in 43:41.

I really wanted to stay for a third, however I had booked one client that day and had to head to work. It was going to be difficult to wait until Sunday to finish that ascent and feel the victory of crowning the top for my 100th Grind. Also, I knew there might be some other activities planned on Sunday that would force to wait until next weekend.

Number 100

Looking outside after my session was over I noticed that the weather had cleared a little bit more. There was time in the day to finish that 100th climb and complete my third triple multi-day. Another inspiring factor was that a friend completed his 500th climb on the same day.

After having a bite to eat, hydrating and doing a little stretching with self-myofascial release I set out to find a bus. I could feel the excitement build as I approached the gate to swipe my timer card. The third climb was completely by feel. Another goal I had set was to finish ten climbs in less than 40 minutes each, I was at nine. With the first few steps my legs were feeling free, so was this also the 10th? I decided to let my body set the pace. There were times when I was dragging and had to mentally give myself a kick, while others times I felt like I was flying at a speed that would earn a personal best.

As the trees started to thin out I passed a few people who had stopped. Some smiled as I encouraged them to keep going because they were literally almost at the top. Feelings of joy, relief and elation began to overwhelm me as I crested over the top to the final timer post. My time was 40:12. I strongly believe that part of success is being able perform at a consistent level – so just over 40 minutes is still successful for me. On the way down we could see the snow on the Lions.

While everything worthwhile usually takes quite a bit of investment of effort and time remember the rewards are well worth it. Be patient and keep striving towards your goal. Ensure that each step or action, no matter how small takes you closer to your goal. When you want something enough, obstacles are only challenges. Find your way through them and keep preserving.

These 100 Grouse Grinds are dedicated to Barb Burton. Rest in Peace.

Finding Confidence Climbing a Mountain

The trails and mountains in North Vancouver are where I go when I need a boost of self-confidence which was soaring after setting a new personal best on the Grouse Grind on Wednesday and then receiving the bag check No. 111 on Friday, just before attempting my second triple multi-Grind.

Businesses have their ways of measuring growth and success often in sales or profit. Even those of us who complete athletic events have our own measures. What we measure is usually what brings us personal intrinsic meaning while keeping us striving for our goals.

In business circles it is well know that what is measured is managed”. A business can only change, adapt and grow if it is measuring itself against some type of standard.

Confidence is built each time a goal is reached, however we often end up lost if we don’t know what that next goal is, especially after major accomplishments.

I remember the months of dedicated training to complete the Vancouver Marathon as vividly as the mixed feelings of elation and disappointment as my finisher’s medal was placed around my neck. The standard of finishing the marathon was achieved. The Marathon was a way to prove to myself that my previously sore knees (which took years to rehabilitate) were strong enough to endure 42.6 miles of running. I had forgotten to set the next goal; it took several years to find another athletic endeavour. A couple of years ago I discovered the Grouse Grind’s timer card.

Each climb renews my sense of accomplishment while each descent on the tram reminds me of the beauty of Vancouver. Trail running is often a way for me to reconnect with nature on my own. If there are any days I am in need a boost of self-esteem I know the mountain is not far away.

One thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that my fitness level is increasing on an easy to measure standard which my self-confidence.

Between my second and third ascents and during my second gondola ride down on Friday a woman asked “why do I do the Grind? Am I training for anything?” I replied “to keep the comb webs out.” I kept thinking of Fuaja Singh who finished the Toronto Marathon at 100 years old, surprising himself with a time of 8:26 hrs. It is the active agers who keep me inspired to keep moving and challenging my own abilities as I age. My tram conversation also inspired further reflection and analysis.

I am training to be the fittest I can be and in comparison to those in my age group. My season goals include single climb time, average heart rate reductions for the climbs, total number of climbs in a day and 100 climbs for the season. Every outing I wear my Garmin Forerunner, both as a back-up to the timer, but also to measure my heart rate and set quarter interval times for my pacing and motivation.

Each outing I measure the duration for each quarter, total duration and average heart rate for the entire climb; this is then compared to previous days with similar times.

Last week I accomplished three milestones:

Personal Best – 37:58 minutes (top 30 in my age group)

95th Lifetime Climb

Second Triple Multi-Grind

Wednesday was just one of those days when my body felt fluid and like it was moving fast. After looking at my second quarter time of 9:11 (a new PB), I knew that if I could do the same for the third quarter in a similar time I had a good chance of getting under 38 minutes. Looking at my watch it was 9:15. Yes! Now it was time to push to the top.

From that point it was about going as fast I could and repeating to myself that I could do this. Swiping the card then pressing the lap button my watch – I carefully looked at my watch. There is a notice of the last lap time to covers the current time – I could see it was 38, “did I do it?” The timer is the official time. Flying up the stairs I cautiously looked at the computer screen as it scrolled towards my name – 37:58! Yes, with a fist pump. Even with having to tie my shoes once I broke the 38 min barrier three weeks before I hit 38:04 in 2010 so, clearly there is an improved level of fitness.

Looking back over the season I found out that Friday’s triple was accomplished in 9 minutes less than my first one and each ascent was on average was 3 minutes faster than my first triple and a slightly lower average heart rate than on September 3rd, 2011. The third climb on Friday even felt stronger than my third one in September. I started out pretty fast, but then remember – the goal for the day was really about crossing the finish line.

Next was getting up on Saturday morning to finish my 95th climb. Maybe the fatigue set in, I am not quite sure but I forgot to double knot my shoes again – so there I was pulling off my magic gloves to tie my shoes in the cold, twice, once for each shoe. I clamoured over the top in 40:05.

What does it all mean? The rest of Wednesday I was elated. This confidence spilled over into the rest of the day at work and with clients. Saturday’s climb left me confident that I can finish the remaining five to reach my one hundred and most in less than 40 minutes each. It is also really motivating to group my times and look at very similar times to see that the average heart rates are dropping for those times. The confidence on the mountain flows over to the rest of life. It builds self-belief and self-esteem.

I climb the Grouse Grind because it reminds me that I am getting fitter and how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful city with mountains and forests in our backyard. Each climb I know that I that I am making some progress and that with diligence there will be the occasional breakthroughs. This week there were several. After last week’s successes on the Grind, I am feeling more focused to tackle what needs to be done in my business this week.

If you are struggling with confidence in your business or feeling unsure of yourself go out and do something that you know you can complete – big or small. Keep doing the day-to-day things that will lead to success and greatness.

What do you do when you are looking for that extra little bit of confidence? For me, it is climbing a local mountain.

(photos top to bottom: Grouse Mountain Grind Timer and bag check card; West view of the Lions and tram tower; north view of Seabus docking at Waterfront Station)

Breaking Barriers: Achieving a Sub 40 min Grouse Grind and Business Excellence

Several weeks ago I ran into someone who mentioned that my blog and advice on the Grouse Grind have been quieter this summer. So, here I am today to tell of how I broke the magical forty minute barrier on the Grouse Grind (2.9 km, 2,800 ft elevation) and how these lessons apply to business. 38:59 minutes in the 30-39 age group within the top 12% of all who use the Grind Timer. First, if you think grinding away by completing many climbs will get you results, it won’t. If you think ” if only I work harder, I will achieve my business results, ” you might, but probably only mediocre and not excellence.

To break barriers it is necessary to have unwavering commitment to building excellence working diligently and smartly. Working smartly means consistently evaluating your current environment and what you have achieved so that you can adjust your strategy as need. You also need to firmly belief that you will and know how to achieve your goals.

Over the last several weeks I have always known that I would break the 40 min barrier; there were several times when I came close. Each climb there was a plan, some days it was to push my limits, usually Fridays while other days it was to finish faster than my average of 43:30 min. On Wednesday I had a guy trying to keep up with from about the ½ way mark, there were several times when he went of course to try to pass me, however by following the path I was able to keep ahead of him. My goal for the Wednesday climb was to keep a steady pace, so when he finally did pass me just after the last staircase I didn’t flinch, I kept to my game plan.

I am committed to finishing my 100th all –time Grouse Grind at the BMO Grouse Mountain Run in October, so no matter what is happening I am determined to three climbs per week. On the other days I am in the gym completing several power lifts or plyometrics for the legs and strength lifts for the upper-body. Plyometrics and power-lifts fatigue the central nervous system (CNS) and designed to develop quickness on the trail. The power-lifts are 3-6 reps with as much force and quickness I can generate (all with excellent technique). They might feel and look slow, but because they recruit the central nervous system, I recover fairly quickly the next day without too much muscle soreness. Upper-body strength helps me climb up and over the rocky sections, especially that last bit at the top, just before the timer.

Execution follows preparation and planning. Each climb I learned a little bit more about how to my Grind barrier. I broke my each quarter into timed sections, so that I knew that when I achieve all four lap-times and few markers in between I would be beeping in at less than 40 minutes. Last night I set the intent – “Friday, I will finish under 40 minutes!” I prepared by making sure that I completed all my fascial stretches and self-myofascial releases so that my hips, legs, back and spine were aligned and feeling easy to move. I also made sure that I hydrated well with an electrolyte drink (Nuun tablets) the night before. Just before bed I checked to see that my heart monitor watch was fully charged. Yes!

An entrepreneurs need to be engaged in what they are doing. Recently I have been very excited about what is happening at Lifemoves and what is in our future. I woke up this morning very excited. To achieve excellence athletes need to find the right level of what is called arousal, too much or too little is detrimental. I had been experimenting with different gels and discovered for cost and what my body felt was right – Hammer nutrition’s are appropriate. A Cliff bar 3 hours before, 500ml of Nuun-water up to 30 min and one Hammer Espresso Gel 30 min, with 50 mg caffeine was my energy preparation.

When I arrived at the mountain, I changed, put on my heart rate monitor and made sure that my shoes were fitting snugly around my feet, but also double knotted. There is nothing worse than sliding around in your shoes during a trail run or having to break your momentum to tie up a shoe! After dropping my bag off at the back-check I headed out into the sunshine ready start my mission. A proper warm-up is essential before the Grind, because of how steep the new beginning is. The point is to raise your body temperature, stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, get more elasticity out of the fascia, elevate your heart rate to its level during the climb and mentally prepare you for the task.

After a setting my watch to 9:45 min intervals, for the quarters and a 5 minute run around the parking-lot that included heel kicks, hops, cariocas, knee-hops and tuck jumps it was time to get going. I always time myself from the start to the big warning sign. My arrival time usually tells me how I am feeling and what my likely time will be; 2:17 min, a new record. “Ok, today is the day!” I said with a big grin on my face. Keeping my focus on keeping a steady pace while periodically speeding up places where the terrain allowed I found myself at the first quarter (the painted signs) in just under 8:30 min. “Wow, another PB!”

While everyone has their own pace it is difficult sometimes not to get caught up behind someone and slow down. What you are trying to be innovative and build an excellent business sometimes you get stuck in rut behind companies doing the same as you, just OK. This was the same as the Grind, I had to keep passing people. Yet, I was having so much fun that in a slightly exasperated way I always asked them how they were doing and encouraged them to keep it up. You can still be friendly while leading the way.

Finishing the second quarter in 9:43 min was amazing. My next unofficial target is the left hand turn, just after some stairs, up some rocks and near the waterfall. To be on track I had to be there in less than 27 min. I looked at my watch which read about 26:30 min. Yes, my mind did wander to different places including work and family, however my mantra that I kept repeating was “nothing but here and now matters, keep your mind, body and legs focused on the task at hand.”

The third quarter came flying by in 9:43 min, another quarter personal best for the season. At this time I knew I was on track, but was also wary that I had at least another 11 minutes to go. There was a temptation to push myself even further, however I learned during Seek the Peak that by pushing hard when I was fatigued meant a calf-cramp, which surely would slow me down even further.

“Stick to the plan, stick the plan. Keep a steady pace. Time will take care of itself. Concern yourself with what you are doing, not how you will finish,” I repeated to myself.

Bound up the last staircase, I could feel that I was going to be under 40 minutes. However, I resisted temptation to look at my watch until the very end. I avoided the fondly remembered rock sticking out of the gravel that I so graciously tripped over a few weeks ago. Huffing and puffing I had the final timer in my sights! Beep! “What is your time?” an older gentleman asked me.

I told him as humbly as I could that I think it was under forty minutes. He replied explaining that he was now finishing in less than two hours. We all go at our pace, be proud of what you accomplished,” was my response. While still catching my breath, I walked up the stairs to the chalet to look at the timer screen. To my delightful surprise – 38:59!

This set me grinning internally and externally for the rest of the day. Each quarter was a season personal best. Remember the sum of the parts equals the whole.

What I do in business and sport is collect and analyze data. Take a look the information collected using the Garmin Forerunner 305, including heart rates, intervals, pace and GPS – click here

More info on the Grouse Grind

How to Succeed by Winning Each Period

“Win each period,” was ingrained into my psyche while I was volunteering as a student athletic trainer for the University of Guelph Women’s Hockey team. This mantra re-told by their coaches during each intermission between periods, at every hockey game. When the team won each period, they won the game; this was about execution and taking appropriate action.

How do you “win each period” to succeed? Once the goal is set it is about doing everything in your power to execute the action steps necessary to get there. In ten years of kinesiology practice I always coached clients that by completing each step of their fitness or rehab program, their end goal will be reached.

This mentality is the same in business, life and sport. First, determine your goal, write it out and place it somewhere highly visible. Now take this goal and break it down into smaller action steps. How detailed you get is completely up to you.

What is a period? The periods are defined in various ways. David Allen of “Getting Thing Done,” fame asks people to align their 50,000 elevation goals with their runway action steps. In business your outcome is a result of your actions; even in-action is an action, because you are choosing to do something else. In sport strength and conditioning – your fitness level today is a measure of the training you have done in the 30-42 days previous.

A period is any length of time that you desire. Often in business we speak about Quarters, but quarterly reports are an after affect of what has happened in the months, weeks, days and hours that are part of that Quarter. Winning each period is about breaking down your goal into a set of actions, such as an Annual Plan. From there take the annual plan and break into to quarters, months, weeks and days.

There are often things that come up in the day that must be taken care of in that day however, set out each day and week with a few items that must get done for you to be successful. Ask yourself what are a few actions that you can take today that will progress you towards your goal.

How do I stay focused during each period? When evaluating new tasks and projects, ask yourself these questions –”will this _______ take me towards or away from my goal?” and “is this something that I can be the very best at?(my hedgehog)” We are on a path that is constantly diverging, with constant decisions to go left or right. How often do you evaluate that you are winning each period? Today I set out to complete a sub 40 minute Grouse Grind, in this case it is broken down in quarters. I knew that each quarter had a desired lap time. As well, that I had to be at the 3/4 by 31 minutes to complete finish under 40 minutes. At the start my Garmin Forerunner was set to alert me every 10 minutes. I had two places to evaluate my progress, every 10 minutes and at each quarter. Each time I reached a lap point or the alert chimed I adjusted my pace so that finished in 38:48.

How closely do I monitor each period? Don’t forget to review. The more closely you pay attention to your own metrics, the more adaptable you can be to changing environments. A win can be the fleeting moment of reaching your goal or knowing that your plan is working and progress is being made. You don’t have to scrutinize every detail, but look for trends. Are you wandering away or towards your destination? I didn’t pay attention to my financial metrics for awhile and then it was much more difficult to get back on course. The lesson is that the more closely you monitor your wins/losses the easier it will be to get that next win and stay on your desired path.

Resources

(two of my favourite business books)

Allen, David Getting Things Done

Collins, Jim (hedgehog) Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t

How do you evaluate success?