Running Upstream with Salmon

Salmon are an important resource in British Columbia; for the last thirty five years there has been a 14 km (9 mile) Coho Run that starts at Kitsilano Beach then follows the edge of Stanley Park, heads north over the Lion’s Gate Bridge and finishes at Ambleside Park where the annual Coho Festival is.

This year it coincided with the Grouse Grind Mountain Run which I have participated in several times. Since, my long-term goal is a 3:30 – 3:55 marathon I decided to enter the Coho Run for a new challenge. It was also an opportunity to gauge my training.

Finally a running event that starts at a reasonable time – 9:00 am on a Sunday! The sun was shinning when I arrived at the start area over looking the North Vancouver mountains with forty-five minutes to go to the washroom, warm-up and drop my bag at the bag drop.

Coho Salmon Head

Coho Salmon – Shutter Stock

10 Km Time Trial

To keep my running tempo at or near threshold (172 bpm) pace my heart rate monitor was set beep at anything below 167 bpm. The race strategy was to push for the first ten kilometers  The first little bit looped West around a narrow paved trail and past the pool.  It was difficult to pass.

We traveled along the seawall to the south end of the Burrard Street bridge which was my nemesis a few months ago. This wasn’t so this time around. Quick legs paced me over in 07:49 min/mi. After the bridge the course took a sharp left back down to the trail along Sunset Beach, to around the Stanley Park seawall.

It culminated in Merileese’s Trail, a mile long hill up to the Lion’s Gate Bridge which slowed me down to 10:15 min/mile. A bit of mental fortitude drove my legs forward to the start of the bridge and the end of the first 10 Km in 50:49 min.

4 Km to Home

Left rib cage fatigue prevented a full breath and slowed the pace over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. With each passing participant I valiantly made thirty-second sprints to challenge my slowing pace.

Recent research is showing that the brain regulates our ability to push our physical boundaries. Our attitude and self-talk can either be hindering or beneficial. Mantras like:

Steady Legs. Run Your Own Race. One Foot In Front of the Other.

kept my efforts high and me moving forward with a smile on my face.  There was one other person tailing me on my right side to the finish, not to be out done the jets were fired in the last 100 meters; he finished three seconds behind.

View the Training Peaks COHO Run Race Log.

Post Race Pancakes and Prizes With Friends

By finishing within a predicted time of 1:05 to 1:15 hr and 26th in my age group this run result was one that I am happy with. It also wasn’t an A race which means I wasn’t fresh nor did I taper for it.

The is the only event I know of that has a pancake breakfast at the end of it! Perfect for refueling post-run.  During the last few years of climbing the Grouse Grind I have made several friends who have also expanded their endurance activities to longer runs.  A few of them also participated. We all met up at the end to catch-up and have breakfast.

During the awards ceremony the organizers handed out draw prizes, not by bib number but by enthusiasm. The announcer had to see your bib number to for you to receive a prize.  The goodies included gift certificates to the Scandinavian Spa in Whistler (highly recommended) and a dual water bottle carrier for those loooonnnnggg runs.

When he asked who “REALLY REALLY Likes the long runs?” I jumped up and down with great abandon while waving my bib that was still attached to my shirt. I knew that my single bottle carrier was getting ratty and wouldn’t carry me much past 13 miles. Relieved to be selected I ran up to the stage to retrieve my prize. Earlier one of my friends received one of the gift spa gift certificates, while a second spa gift certificate was given at the end via a kissing contest for those who had their partners in attendance.

Running the for Long Run

At 80 years old, the inspirational Senior’s level runner Betty Jean McHugh, who has set numerous records for age group, is the author of My Road to Rome and is a North Shore resident finished in a blistering 1:41:43.  Can I be that fast in 40 years? Will I still be running at 80?

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.

Seeking the Peak: Being Happy With Your Accomplishments – Stop Living in the Gap

Ever since I was bullied in high school, I have had trouble being happy with my accomplishments. The art of being happy is connected to the gap between our actual self and our ideal self. How often do we live in the gap between these two when we don’t meet our goals? Entrepreneurs tend to set these wild and somewhat unrealistic ideals, invest their life savings and then come out on the other side with nothing but bankruptcy.
We need to mitigate our risk by evaluating our goals as being realistic while still pushing the boundaries. Ever watch Dragon’s Den on CBC? Some people have some very interesting ideas, but no sense what their idea is truly worth or whether there is a need for their widget or service.
When I started my training for Seek the Peak, my ideal was a sub-2-hour time which, with my knowledge and endurance training background, I could achieve with the appropriate training. However, this training was promptly side-tracked by my adding staff to Lifemoves in May and June.

We base our goals on what we know. Early in June I knew that my ideal time had to be adjusted or I would end up feeling frustrated, defeated and sad. However, this did not stop me from going after my original plan of participating and proving that I could complete the 16km and 4,100m journey from Ambleside Park to the top of Grouse Mountain.

A few weeks before July 4th, I completed a couple of Grouse Grinds and my time was around 44-46 minutes. So, based on this, I predicted a finish of 2:30. A few days before, I came up with a race plan of warming-up properly then, as the race started, gradually increasing my pace using an increasing heart rate as the race progressed to ensure that I didn’t fatigue too quickly. My background as a Strength and Conditioning Coach gave me skills to have a plan for my heart rates, but the missing part of it was a detailed nutrition plan.
I only ever looked at my watch to see that I was at the appropriate heart rate — not going too slow or too fast. Sticking to the plan was crucial. About 10 years ago, one of my coaches gave me sound advice: Run your race. In other words, stick to the plan no matter what others are doing. You can control yourself — not others. Only you control your reaction to the environment around you.
My mantra the whole way was, “race your own race.” Prior to the race, I had not trained on the sections before the Grouse Grind, so I was really unsure of the terrain which, in the end, slowed me slightly. The trails on the North Shore are beautiful and I am looking forward to running more of them this year.
The first two stages were very nice and everyone was fairly spread out. Once we hit the Grind, my legs were starting to fatigue and we encountered all the other Grinders who were not racing. I struggled to get my heart to 175bpm; it averaged 165bmp instead, with a time of 53 minutes for this section as the traffic kept me at a good pace. At the end of each stage I felt really good and very happy with how much I was able to push and keep going.
Going up the last portion from the top of the Grind, around the chalet, and up to the top of the mountain were the toughest parts. We were encased in clouds and not able to see more than 10 feet in front of us. My mind wanted to run this portion, but as many experienced trail runners before me have said, “you will be walking steeper sections,” which I did.
Looking at my watch as I scurried around the pylon to make my way down, I saw that I was on pace for my goal. Knowing that it wasn’t too far to go, I picked up the speed and pushed myself until the end.
Near the Capilano Dam, someone said, “Pain is only temporary.” I responded with, “Victory is a lifetime.” It feels great to have completed something as strenuous as the Seek the Peak in a time of 2:24 hours. If I had not shifted my goal, I would have thought my time was awful and not experienced the joy that this race offered.
The gap would have been 30 minutes, and looking at it as a percentage, it still would be 80% which, in university, is a very good grade.
So what if you don’t reach your goal? Are you going to be unhappy and morose? Instead, think about how much progress you did make towards it and what lessons you learned. I stared from not being able to run for more than 10 minutes without stopping, to running 16km UPHILL non-stop.
Ideal – Actual 1 (start) – Actual 2 (end) = Gap (1). Ideal is perfection which we never reach. How often do you live in the gap instead of celebrating getting to Actual 2 knowing that you put your in your best effort? Time to take this new philosophy into my business goals. Stop measuring yourself against an ideal and perfection.
Stay Happy and Avoid the Gap.
1. Sullivan, Dan. “Learning How to Avoid the Gap: The Skill of Building Lifetime Happiness. 2004

Seeking the Peak: Staying on Track with 80/20

Staying on track with the 80/20 rule to maintain my Seek the Peak Training has not been easy. I work right down the road from the North Shore mountains and in a gym! Imagine my excuse being, “I don’t have enough time.” What will our clients think?

As an entrepreneur, I will do anything I need to in order to ensure that my business is successful. Sometimes that means putting in extra development, administrative and clinical hours. These past three weeks have been very full with interviewing, hiring and integrating three new Kinesiologists and one part-time administrator, while managing new and current clients. Once these new people are integrated, I will have more time to train.
In the meantime, July 4th is fast approaching. Here is where the 80/20 rule comes into play. When you have limited time, what is the 20% that will get you 80% of the way? Eighty percent is still very successful.
For me, the 20% that will give me an 80% return (an excellent investment) is being able to run for 2 hours or sixteen kilometers and have the power to stride up to the top of Grouse Mountain. My training sessions have dropped from six days per week to three: one power-endurance session, one Lactate Balance session and one endurance day. I am keeping my head on straight by focusing my attention and intention on improving my key performance indicators, just like I do in my business.
Today I came close to sleeping in, but instead I rolled out of bed and ran 11.2 kilometers in 65 minutes with an average heart rate of 15o bpm (approximately my MaxVO2), before training four clients. Including a two-week taper, I will still reach the 16 km distance before race time. What are your excuses? How do you stay on track towards your goals and stay confident?