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)

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Grouse Grind Triple: Brought to You by the Numbers 47 and 80

Over the last two seasons of the Grouse Grind I have met some wonderful people who are also in the unofficial multi-grind group. The over forty people of all ages who are in this group complete at least two grinds in one day or more on a regular basis. I was inducted into this club when I finished my first double grind last year.

The support and accomplishments of this group inspired me to take on a “Triple Grind,” or three climbs in one day. September 3rd, 2011 I challenged my mind and body to this challenging task which would also mean finishing my 80th of all time.

Preparation

I have been talking about this day and planning it for several weeks. Letting others know of my plans really meant that I was accountable and couldn’t shy away from it. A massage therapy session on Friday calmed my nerves and helped loosen up my hips, lower-back, legs and diaphragm in preparation. The day before I set out my strategy and made sure I had one energy gel every to ingest at 30 min for each climb and one cliff bar in-between. To hydrate I filled my water bottles with water, one Nuun tablet and glutamine to replenish my electrolytes and reduce any muscle breakdown.

Due to a later night I had to start one hour later than I anticipated, sunny weekends, especially long weekends are busy times at Grouse. While chatting with some tourists on the bus up they asked me how fast I do the Grind and how often I do it in a week. Though they seemed impressed by 40 minutes and three times per week, little did they know my plans for a triple!

Wishing them all the best for the day, we parted ways so that I could go to the washroom to change and put my heart rate monitor on.

Transition

It was nearly go time when I ran into Oliver and Mark, two other multi-grinders as I was dropping of my bag to the back check (one benefit of using the timer card). They gave me words of encouragement which helped bolster my belief that I could actually do it.

Grouse Mountain staff have a large drawer full of bag check cards with a couple of hundred of numbers on them, today they pulled out no. 47!



I am not usually superstitious, however 47 is my family’s lucky number. I smiled and thought excitedly to myself “this really is going to be the day to finish three.”

Climb Number One

What limits us more in physical pursuits, our mind or our body? Knowing that this was my first climb of three I didn’t set out on a blistering pace, but went at what I thought was a moderate pace that I could sustain. Every once in awhile I checked into my breath to make sure that it wasn’t out of control and looked at my heart rate to ensure it was around 160 bpm, which is 15 bpm below my anaerobic threshold. The painted quarter markers provide a good sense of pace and a place of encouragement. Passing the first one in 10:30 min, I felt pretty good. Near the half you point a I passed this guy who decided to be my shadow all the way to the top, despite giving him every opportunity I could to pass me, including staying as far right as I could, he just couldn’t manage it.

When my timer chimed 30 minutes, I tore open the pack of Cliff gel vanilla and gradually sucked it empty while still keeping my feet going one in front of the other. These a couple of swigs of water washed some of the sweetness away. Despite really wanting to push and shake this guy off, I was able to clear my head enough to stay focused on a steady pace finishing in 43:52 minutes; just a little bit slower than my average time. So far on pace for three sub 50 minute climbs.

After retrieving my bag I head to the washroom to change my shirt. In between climbs I had about 4oz of Nuun water and one cliff bar. I knew that if I had too much rest time between each ascent I wouldn’t make it number three. Also, leaving my bag up top added a little extra incentive.

To view climb #1 – click here

Climb Number Two

This was one the one where I wasn’t sure of how to pace myself because I really didn’t want to empty the fuel tank and not have enough for the third. There is a 3-4 minute section from the gate to the big warning sign that I use as a gauge to see how my body is feeling. Words of self-doubt started to creep in and I wondered if I was crazy to be attempting three. Then I remembered all those people who would be asking if I had done it and how great it would feel to accomplish this goal.

The trail was more crowded than on the first climb, but still manageable. There more tourists stopping at the blue signs to take photos and few people sitting in the middle of trail resting. Just like the little engine that could, I was the “mountain goat that could.

I broke this mission down into manageable parts, thinking that once I hit the ½ mark, I would be only 1.5 more climbs. The count down in time, elevation and ascents really helped. also figured that since I finished Seek the Peak (16 km and 4000 ft) in just over 2hrs that I could easily finish today. The second climb of my first double I felt quite dizzy and almost needed to stop. This time was different. I crested the top to see the finish timer and sprinted to swipe my card – 48:24, average hear rate 151 bpm.

With the sun out I decided to some dynamic hip, low-back and leg stretching on the grass before my last climb. Sometimes if I stretch or shift in the right way I can get my scarum to release, which actually gives me some relief and little more movement in my hips, Theses stretches are important to reduce any joint compression and length any fascia and muscles that have been shortened during the previous climbs. It turned out to be the pivotal break my body ns seeded.

To view climb #2 click here

Climb Number Three

I was eager to start because I knew it was my final climb of the day and I could push my pace in some places. At 11:40 AM, the trail was really starting to get busy with many groups starting. My legs felt light at the beginning and my mind was all fired up ready to get my body to the top. Even though I wanted do this one for time, I also wanted to finish. Time takes care of itself, we don’t have any influence over it. What do have influence is on the process of whatever we are pursuing.

This last one was all about getting to the top, the rest was gravy. Hitting the timer after first quarter, I noticed 11:14 minutes, on pace for around 45 minutes at that time. As I continued to climb the trail became more congested. Long weekends around noon are not great times to be trying to set personal records that are time based. There were people littered all over the trail, sometimes not unknowingly stepping right in front of me; just like driving – stick to the right unless passing. There was one younger gentleman who looked like he was going to pass, then held back.

After about a minute of this, I decided to accelerate just to get passed him. There were several places where traffic jams almost put me at a complete stop; if I stopped, I might not get going again. The trick was to find a safe path around the gaggle of people without forcing them to move suddenly, which would make it unsafe. I saved the Hammer Espresso with 50mg of a caffeine for the 20min mark of the last climb. Delightful.

There were moments of speed that lasted only 30 – 40 seconds then my legs wouldn’t pick up anymore. Surprisingly there were only a few spots where I miss-stepped losing my footing momentarily. The second and third quarter were completed in 11:55 and 11:56 minutes, respectively; these were very even times. When my watch chimed 40 minutes during the fourth quarter I knew I could finish this one in less than 50 minutes.

It was only the last 5-10 minutes where I really felt my body getting ready to give in. The last set of stairs before the rocks, where you can either go steeply up or around to the left then right arrived more quickly than I chuckled and smiled to myself “you have to be kidding.” When I step on the rocks, I know the finish is really close. My excitement rose as I bounded through this next section, scrambled over the rock face to see the finish time in my view. Pushing myself a little bit more to the finish timer I swiped my card and stopped my watch. Astonished I read “47:24.”

To view climb #3 click here.

Celebration

All three climbs in less than 50 minutes and one of my season goals completed. Yes! Yes! Yes! Booyah! Now it was time to get a chicken burger and a chocolate milk to enjoy the glory on the deck overlooking Vancouver. One of the things I really enjoy about Grouse Mountain is the view of the city from the top as well as on the gondola ride. There is nothing quite like it to help you appreciate where we live.

What is next? A business coach asked me once, “What is the goal beyond the goal?” I still have a 35 minute single climb and 100 climbs overall to finish by the end of the season. Happy trails!

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

Learning to Adapt: Troubleshooting the Garmin Heart Rate Monitor

Using the Garmin Forerunner 305 for the first time up the Grouse Grind came with a little troubleshooting. In business, I often find I have to do this because most often something comes up that we didn’t anticipate or plan.

The Garmin looked like a “plug and play” unit that, like my previous Polar, I would be able to use easily. Training for Biathlon, I had always depended on my heart for training intensity. I had a great deal of difficulty using the new heart monitor. Once I returned it to the Running Room, they fixed it by exchanging the receiver.

My original plan was to purchase a Polar HR monitor with splits. However, I was convinced that for the price and the features, the Garmin was my best option. Saturday night I had difficulty sleeping because I was so excited to use my device after uploading the laps for the Grouse Grind. I tried all the steps I knew to troubleshoot the heart rate monitor before I started, including dousing it in water and using my own saliva. It just didn’t work.
After 10 minutes I resigned myself to not having the heart rates and to make do with what I did have. I did a quick warm-up as part of the advanced workout I created. My pacing has always been done by using my heart rates, but I still roughly knew where I needed to be at each section to get my desired time. I managed to get a heart rate of 153 bpm somewhere along the way for nearly a minute and then it went silent again. Keeping a quick pace was difficult without the heart rates because of the slower crowds and the fact that my legs didn’t have the turnover they needed to go quickly.
At the top I scanned my Grind Timer card and then looped around to the back-side of the chalet just like in the Grouse Mountain Run finishes. Even though I didn’t have heart rates, I do have a better sense of split times and I still managed a 43:54 time. This is 5% faster than the same time in 2009. One thing I noticed was that when I completed the Grind with a day in between, the second day was one minute slower. Hint: Going after your record time? Consider more rest days in between Grinds.
My history comes in handy as I complete more training activities and become more comfortable with using the Garmin.
I am looking forward to using the Garmin for many activities including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. This is the start of my chronicle as I aim to reach the top 5 in the 30-39 age category on the Grouse Grind.