Getting a Foothold on Road Running in Vancouver

The first time my feet hit the pavement to go running on the road is always tenuous. Perhaps it is the memory of having knee pain for nearly ten years while running but not while cross country skiing. I proved to myself long ago by running one marathon and several half marathons that I can run easily without knee pain.

Each season begins with six to eight weeks building up to a confident 60 min treadmill run as well as two to three days of lower body strength training to build durability. The concept of using the treadmill to run on first is that if something does go sideways it easier to stop instead of being stuck somewhere on the road and needing to hobble back.

On Friday the sun was shinning with clear skies that gave way to a good view of the Vancouver mountains.  It was time for the rubber to hit the road.  The Stanley Park Seawall is a fairly flat run with a beautiful of view of the city for all runners and walkers.  There were many dogs and owners traveling the same route as I (some dogs were running their owners).

Setting the Running Goal

This run was primarily about seeing how my legs felt running along pavement instead of rubber under my feet.  There was a nice breeze to start from just in front of the Vancouver Convention Center.  The 4.0 miles (6.4 km) tempo run set to be a series of four intervals at 5 minutes at a 7:30 min/mile pace with  2 minute rest periods at a 10:00 min/mile pace with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down on either side.

Getting the Feeling of Running Faster

With fresh legs I started the first interval right on pace before I heard someone gradually catching up with me. Time push the pace! Legs turnover more quickly and breathing rate kept pace. Beep, beep, beep ended the interval. Looking down at the watch face the pace was 6:30 min/mile. Just a little faster than planned. As my legs slowed down she passed me wearing a “Ran Van” long sleeve shirt; she is probably training for the Vancouver Marathon in a few weeks.

The turnaround at mile two happened to be Deadman’s Island. A nice landmark for future runs.  Paces for subsequent  intervals gradually slowed down indicating fatigue.  The positive side is that the recovery pace was around 9:00 – 10:00 min/mile, which was a goal set in February.

Run Analysis – Training Plan Adaptations

First outing on the road went very well. There was no knee pain and my energy stayed fairly high for the rest of the day. Although  a race pace of 7:30 min/mile is just at my anaerobic threshold heart rate of 170 bpm and not sustainable, it is comfortable. Training is on track but, the next tempo runs need to have longer intervals and/or be longer runs.

Now that spring is here have you started to run on the road more frequently?

Photo credit – Ted McGrath via Flikr

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Getting Back to Preparing for Seek the Peak

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Canada Marketing Summit where I met some of this blog’s followers.  They mentioned that they enjoyed the posts about training for the Grouse Grind, so I thought it was time to provide more thoughts on the subject.

Last year was almost write off for participating in the Grind. Seek the Peak and the Grouse Grind Mountain Run were out of the picture instead finding and preparing a new space for my business took all my energy and time. Now settled, I am able to direct more attention towards staying physically fit.

Grouse Grind

Preparing for Seek the Peak 2014

For those unfamiliar with this race it rises 4100 feet and transverses 16 kilometers from Ambleside Park in West Vancouver to the top of Grouse Mountain and back down to the chalet. This event is a fundraiser for ReThink Breast Cancer; it can be completed solo or as a relay.  It is a fun spring challenge which I completed three times from 2010 to 2012. An uncompleted goal is to finish in under two hours.  Each year the course was slightly different due to trail construction or snow at the top.

 

Seek the Peak Results 2010 to 2012

Year  Stage 1  Stage 2  Stage 3  Stage 4  Total
2010  0:20:49  0:43:25  0:53:12  0:26:49  2:24:14
2011  0:16:49  0:36:03  0:47:08  0:22:19  2:02:18
2012  0:26:53  0:29:22  0:48:10  0:24:48  2:09:12

 Setting Goals for 2014

Three completions gives me some trends to work from.  Previous training data on Training Peaks shows me what training I was doing and how fit I was to accomplish  these times. My memory enables me to replay how I was feeling on each part of the terrain.

Stage 1

The first stage is fairly flat and is a quick 3.5km jog behind Park Royal, along the Capilano River to just under the bridge. 2011 was my fastest year while  in 2012 I wasn’t confident in my fitness so I started out too slowly.

Goal: 0:16:00 min at 4:34 min/km – start further up to the front and go out faster.

Stage 2

This 6 km stage undulates through the forest, often with downhills, stairs and flat sections. There are places to pass or be passed. It is an opportunity to have a little fun and move more quickly. Two years it opened up into a the Capilano River Regional park before heading up Nancy Green Way the other year it went over the dam itself.   In 2010 the road heading up to the Grind was literally a grind! In 2011 I made sure run on that road often so that my body and brain was very familiar with it.  The fastest year, 2012 I made sure to set a specific pace on my GPS and heart rate monitor.

Goal: 0:29:00 min at 4:50 min/km – keep a fast past in the forest and be steady on the road.

Stage 3

Ah, the Grouse Grind! It will probably be about 20% slower than the best Grind time for the year.  The challenge is getting an appropriate number of ascents in due to the fact that it opens in late May or even one year it was June 12th! Opening day depends on how clear the trail is from the previous winter. Five climbs seem to be the right number for me. In 2010 my left calf cramped about three quarters they way up which seriously hampered stage 4.

Goal:  47:00 min, season opening Grind time of 40 minutes. Be light and quick on my feet.

STAGE 4

Cresting over the top of the Grind doesn’t mean the end is near, just nearer! There is a little bit of rest as the trail winds past the maintenance yard before the last ascent. Many participants walk up the wide dirt road because of how steep it is and how tired they are. As other pass going the other way it is clear that the home stretch isn’t far away.

Going downhill  after this last climb safely, but fast is a challenge due the gravel.  In 2010 and 2011 it ended at the chalet, but in 2012 the course was changed to end somewhere differently. My preparations were foiled because I didn’t have a clue as to how much further I needed to go so I slowed down to conserve energy.

If the ability to run the course can be incorporated into the training plan do all stages. Run the stages a single sections and as bricks of multiple sections without completing the whole thing will help you gauge and adjust your training but also help you familiarize you with the route. Grouse Mountain runs weekly training sessions on Wednesday nights.

Goal: 0:22:00 min

Total:  1:54 hr 

Seek the Peak Training

Now time for a plan! I started training at the end of February. It started with building base distance and strength then eight weeks (now) out continue with resistance training two to three times per week, but transition to two sessions of power and move to more single leg exercises. The other days would remain for high aerobic or threshold runs on the course.

Strength goals are to be able to deadlift 1.5 times body weight and front squat 1 times body weight each for 5 repetitions. These targets are important so that my tendons and ligaments are able to support the running. Strength training has been proven to assist with improving running economy (so less energy is required). I am up to body weight with the deadlift and getting closer on the front squats. Long runs have progressed from easy 20-30 minutes to just over six miles with several types of intervals including high aerobic and threshold to build endurance and speed.  

The distances will continue to build up in 5-10% increments to 9.5 miles. Then more emphasis will be placed on going faster for longer. Some of the runs will also be on the course (hopefully the Grouse Grind too!).

Find out more about Seek the Peak.

Reliable information on strength training: Poliquin Group

Need more training guidance? Please contact me at Lifemoves

Are you training for Seek the Peak? Please share your thoughts.

Learning How to Run Again with Neurokinetic Therapy

Part of my professional development  is attending several continuing education sessions each year. Both the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s  (NSCA) Provincial Clinic and Neurokinetic Therapy (NKT) Level 1 were recently held in Metro Vancouver.  My mind tends to run into overdrive after these workshops trying to figure out how to improve my client’s performance as well as my own.

In the last the 30 years I have participated in several sports including biathlon and cross country skiing, which I excelled at.  I have also completed a couple of half-marathons, one full-marathon and three distance mountain running courses. During that time I had a few injuries and previous to that two fairly serious surgeries; most recently an odd ankle left sprain. At the NKT Level 1 course I discovered how these injuries affect how I move as well as how my body has probably compensated all these years. Having other practitioners do a full-body muscle testing and resetting using Neurokinetic Therapy lead to several revelations.

Injury and Surgery History

  • 1976 and  ~1980 right abdominal surgery
  • ~1982  head injury – not sure about concussion
  • 1990 – 1999 right patella femoral syndrome
  • 1992  – right tibial fracture from cross country skiing
  • 1998 – right hamstring strain
  • 2002 – possible concussion
  • 2005 – right hip pain prevented me from running for several months
  • 2012 – left inversion ankle sprain, minor mva as driver, left dorsi flexion sprain

Neurokinetic Therapy Discoveries

  • 10 different muscles compensating for left psoas (important  for creating stability during walking and running; attached to the diaphragm which is used for stability and breathing)
  • weak distal fibers of left and right hamstrings
  • left and right quadratus lumborum inhibited – right was due to scars (important for side to side stability during single leg stance)
  • right psoas inhibited by right quadratus lumborum which tilted my right pelvis forward
  • right tibia lateral rotation – foot turned out due to facilitated lateral gastrocs (calf) and inhibited medial hamstrings
  • obturators facilitated (creating a hip jam) and inhibiting rectus femoris (quadriceps that crosses the hip and knee)
  • occipitals facilitated and inhibiting deep neck flexors
  • pectoralis minor both sides – doing a lot of work, including preventing same side rotation (spring energy storage and release during running)

The nice thing is that the human brain and nervous system are very plastic, which means they can change and mold easily to new inputs. These systems change faster than ligament, muscle and tendon, however propioceptive nerves run through all of the above including scars.

Our bodies adapt to get the job done. The motor control center governs how we move. Trauma to the body such as surgeries and injuries change our movement patterns on subtle levels that to most people are imperceptible unless we are highly in tune.

During the last two weeks my only training has been specific self-myofascial releases and immediate strengthening exercises related to retraining my body to use specific muscles as they should be along with relatively easy 30 min runs at zero percent grade on a treadmill.

Missing the opening of the Grouse Grind a week ago because I was out of town made me very eager to try the Grouse Grind on Friday.

Learning to Run By Feeling

Although the motor control center is adaptable it needs a lot of  repeated input to create ingrain a pattern so that it feels normal and become subconscious. Have you watched a child learn to walk? How many trials does it take? Do you still think before you start to walk? The pattern is now subconscious.

Focus was placed mainly on my right side because it seemed to have the most challenges. By opening up the joint capsule  I feel  there is significantly more mobility in my hips than before.   At the NSCA clinic Dr. Mike Young, CSCS, PhD, Fitness Coach of the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps delineated that speed and power is a function of intramuscular co-ordination while Dr. Keith Loshe of UBC pointed out that for learning to happen performance will initially decrease.

Each spring I look forward to trail running on the North Shore and challenging myself with the Grouse Grind – nature’s stair climber of 2.9 km with 2800 feet elevation gain. Average time to complete is  an hour and half and recommendation is two hours for a very novice hiker; my best last year was 35:32 minutes.

 Learning how to move my body differently meant I anticipated an initial decrease in performance even though the Grouse Grind and I have met 150 times due to reduced intramuscular co-ordination. The first few steps were a bit hesitant because I wasn’t sure how to  move my new body uphill fast.

The terrain starts out on a gradual incline during which it is possible to jog or run, however it quickly becomes steeper with larger steps and rocky terrain to overcome. Movement should feel light, effortless and joyful; this how my hips now feel. I could easily bound up a two to three stairs at a time, however my cardiovascular system just wasn’t able to keep-up.

As the climb continued I was concerned about more extreme ranges of dorsiflexion and how my left ankle would hold up.  It wasn’t until after the 3/4 mark that I dropped my heel and felt a bit of twinge. The only thing to do is continue on and make sure to always keep on the balls of my feet. There were two other times when I went into full dorsiflexion; one of those times  took my breath away – ouch!

Near the top my left ankle felt like it could go into spasm if I went any faster. Calf spasms are very painful and debilitating, something I really didn’t want. The opening Grind of the season is always completed by feel and meant to set a baseline for the rest of the season, so time was not a factor, only feeling.

Cresting the top my lungs were burning and left calf and ankle were aching. For those unfamiliar the Grind participants can purchase a Grind Timer card to swipe at the top of the bottom to record their times. The clock stopped at 45:24 with an average heart rate of 179 bpm.

Lessons From the First Grind

This was a good season opening time for me which I am happy with.  There were several key learning opportunities for me:

  1. Left calf and ankle to need more mobility and conditioning
  2. Need greater lateral stability
  3. Need to improve power-endurance at anaerobic threshold

For learning to occur a skill has to be repeated fairly soon after. The second Grind two days later was a little different. I incorporated more lateral line stability by releasing upper upper trapezius, scalenes and sternocleidomastoid (side of the neck to shoulder responsible for left to right rotation) and doing some side-bends to strength quadratus lumborum for side to side stability. Just before starting the Grind I released my left lower leg to reduce the chances of a cramp and provide me with more dorsiflexion capability.

There were no problems with dorsiflexion on the way up, though I was still cautious and aware of making sure to step properly. During the last quarter there was slight feeling of possible left calfcramping. During the way up I even tried to keep my heart rate down, but it did creep up to 184 bmp to pass the long-weekend.

With a time of 43:53 I am definitely on track to my goal of a sub 35 min this year. However, I am still trying to figure out why my left calf is taking most of the load. Perhaps it is weakness in the hamstrings?

Now it is time to add more specific strength training two days a week to support my efforts on the Grind. I am even considering  entering Seek Peak trail run again – 16 km from Ambleside Beach up to the top of Grouse Mountain.

Read more about the Grouse Grind

Read more about Neurokinetic Therapy

5 Reasons To Climb the Grouse Grind

A client asked me the other week “What brings you joy?”  At the time I had difficulty answering, perhaps it was because it was the end of the day and week and I was a little tired.  There are many things that bring me joy including the Grouse Grind® which provides a close by escape from the city.
Since picking up the timer card in 2009, I have climbed the Grouse Grind® over 125 times.  Last night the trail was quieter and more relaxed with several sections where I was alone. On rainy days it is mostly those who are dedicated Grinders who visit the mountain.
There are several reasons that I come to Grouse every week during the summer and crave it during the winter when it is closed.

Reconnect with Nature – Get Grounded

We get so busy during the day that we can lose contact with the beauty that surrounds us in Vancouver. Yesterday, was no exception. The rainforest canopy last night was absolutely gorgeous after the rain stopped.  My family travelled from Saskatchewan to Alberta during the summers for overnight week long hikes in the Rocky Mountains. Now living in Vancouver I appreciate the landscape this city has.  It would be a shame to neglect the beauty that is in my backyard.   Each climb provides time and space to be my introvert self, reflect, and calm my nerves from running a business while reconnecting with the earth.

Increase Physical Conditioning and Stamina

The 2,800 steps offer an unparalleled opportunity to challenge my physical capacities. I grew up competing in cross-country skiing and biathlon; it was the hills that I was able to catch people on. Each season I continue to push myself to see how fast I can get on the Grind®, with the aim of being the fastest in my age group. 
It is a set course that is measurable. The timer card combined with a heart rate monitor makes it very easy to see changes in fitness as well as chart age group progress.
Being among the fittest in my age group will keep me physically younger, prevent injuries and chronic medical conditions while continuing to inspire others to challenge their own physical limitations. Increasing my stamina leaves  with me more energy at the end of some of my long work days which are often both mentally and physically taxing.

Build Self-Confidence

For years I struggled with depression due to school bullies. They thought that biathlon was a sissy sport – though we were skiing 10-20km per race, with a rifle on our backs and competed in two races per weekend; this was until I skied circles around my classmates during a PE outing to Cypress.  I strongly believe that this lack of self-confidence prevented me from reaching my potential in the sport.
Just cresting the top always makes me feel great and like I have really accomplished something. This endorphine kick lasts most of the day and spills over to other activities. Setting new Personal Bests, doesn’t happen every climb, but when it does I feel fabulous for several days. It provides something to celebrate; it gives me more confidence and belief in myself.  This renewed confidence assists me with feeling like I can do what is necessary to grow my business.
I climb to show those who thought that I wouldn’t accomplish much that I am physically capable of great things.  I might not be able to win a marathon, but I believe I can be among the fastest on the mountain.

Make Friends

Although I am in introvert and I like to climb alone part of the reasons I come to the mountain is to see friends who share a common interest. There is a group of us who go up multiple times per day (something I once thought was CRAZY). We all encourage each other to push our limits, support each others’ goals and celebrate our accomplishments. We catch up between Grinds at Startbucks or on the Gondola.
 When you ascend the Grind® as often as we do – you get to know the wonderful Grouse Mountain staff. Also, it is always nice to say hello and encourage people on the trail who are sharing a similar experiences, but might be climbing for their first time.

Fundraise for BC’s Children

This year I am participating in the Grind for Kids fundraiser because the Children’s Hospital was a big part of my personal well-being and I want the kids today to able to experience the same joy I do when I am moving outdoors.  My goal is to raise $1000 in 50 Grinds with 25 of those under 40 minutes. I am half way to my Grind goals, but need a little help with the fundraising.   
If you enjoyed reading these blog posts please consider making earthier a pledge per Grind or a direct donation on my behalf – click here to donate.
 Why do you climb the Grouse Grind®?

Other Grind Articles

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)

A Breakthrough Grouse Grind: 90th Climb

Today my motivation was waning and I didn’t feel like going to Grouse Mountain, but I did. I ascended the Grouse Grind for the 90th time in my life (that is with the Grind Timer, which makes it more official). Now, the official count down from 10 begins on my quest to reach 100 by the end of the season to honour a client who passed away this year. This is a big audacious goal because the most I completed in one season was 35 (last year) and when I reach 100 it will be 49 climbs for the 2011 season.

The weather forecast for today was 90% chance of rain and sure enough, someone had posted on Facebook that it was like a monsoon in North Vancouver. I decided to get going anyways, because that is what Barb would do and because I always know that I enjoy myself once I am moving along the trail. Finishing one climb today is alson what was needed to stay on track.

My routine is to first release my hip and lower-back muscles, especially around the pelvis with a little trigger point therapy then had some myofascial release with a foam roller called the Grid, next are few upper and lower body fascial stretches to make sure that my body feels loose and ready to roll. If I don’t do this I will inevitably find that my lower-back fatigues around the 3/4 mark.

Missing the Seabus on a holiday is always annoying, because you have to wait for another thirty minutes. Finally arriving at the mountain around 10:00 AM, I noticed that I left my timer and pass at home – was today meant to be? Part of being an entrepreneur is being able to problem solve on the fly and sometimes make quick decisions. Guest services are great, they have all my information and they are able print a downloading ticket and manual input our Grind times. People forget to bring their gym pass every day at Steve Nash Fitness World.

After setting my watch for 10:30 intervals, a 42 min finish time I pressed the start button to begin my ascent. The time it takes to get from the start to the big warning is usually where I assess how my body is going to perform on that day – 3:00 minutes. Not to slow, but not super-fast. During the first quarter I felt like my legs were feeling loose and turning over quite well. That quarter flew by in 9:20 minutes, my quickest is 8:16 – today wasn’t fast, but it was still well under my daily goal.

My mind started to figure out how much extra time I had due to the first quarter cushion so, I begun to speed-up. The second quarter mark approached in a blistering time of 9:37 (best of 9:36). Alright, “Could I finish in less than 40 min today?” Pacing on this gruelling climb is very important. My hips, legs and lower-back were feeling great, I knew I could go a little faster. I learned the lesson of going off pace during Seak the Peak Relay ’11 in July when I had to slow down because of calf-cramping, which meant I nearly missed my sub 2 hour finish time.

“Keep a steady pace,” I repeated to myself.

To go faster the trick is to turn-over the legs more quickly, by taking advantage of the terrain by changing your tactics. One example is to sprint wider flatter sections. I knew I was on track for a faster time when finished by the 3/4 in 9:38. Now could I push even more get another season’s best on the last quarter? Only time would tell. Feeling charged-up I knew I had a little bit of extra energy, the faster I went the less time there was left to the finish line.

It took a lot of will power not too look at my watch. Technology is great, however there is tremendous power in also learning to run by feel. There is last set of stairs, where you either go left and it is longer and not as steep or you go steep and more intensely up. I chose right. The rest of the climb is scrambling over rocks – which is the most fun part of the Grind for me because I know I am almost finished and I can leap from rock to rock, even using my hands sometimes.

Since the last interval of 10:30 min had not gone off, I knew I was really close to finishing in less than 40 minutes. Sprinting up the last part of the gravel to the timer, I tapped the timer and pressed the lap button. The last lap is a cool-down; it is a measure of my recovery which can be 1-2 minutes. The point is to see how long it takes my heart rate to drop below 120 bpm.


Q1 9:20
Q2 9:37
Q3 9:38
Q4 10:32
(rounded)

Stunned I read my elapsed time of 39:07!

Follow heart beat by heart beat at TrainingPeaks.com- click here or my 2010 Personal Best

The last quarter was nearly 30s faster than my previous time. My official published time starts at 12 am because it was manually entered and is just shy of my season’s best.

This was an outstanding time for my 90th climb. Keeping reading as I go for 100 by the end of October. The Grind closes when the snow hits the ground and it becomes unsafe.

The lesson today is that you can gather all the data you want, but the decision is really completed with instinct and feeling. Some days are break through days while other are steady as you go. Either way keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep climbing.

Related Posts

  1. 2011 BMO Grouse Mountain Run
  2. Paying Tribute to a Client Who Loved the Grind

BMO Grouse Grind Mountain Run Experience

October 1st – North Vancouver Saturday was the 21st BMO Grouse Grind Mountain Run. Again it was overcast, a little foggy and looked like it was going to rain. Yes, this is an organized timed run up the Grouse Grind (some would think this is crazy).

Racing this trail is very different than using the timer card because you are running with a larger group which is about your own pace rather than when you are on your own, setting your pace and passing whomever is on the trail. I was in Wave 3, just behind the Elite Men and Women.

This was my third year, but first season that I have really connected with a group of fanatical multi-grinders. Our group regularly completes more than one climb per day; some have even done more than five and few more than 10. We are supportive fans who celebrate each other’s accomplishments while motivating each other to challenges ourselves even more.

Several of us competed in this year’s event. We all gathered before the race to encourage and cheer each other on. This year was extra special because I was paying tribute to a client who usually participated, but had passed away. Her mother Mavis, called me a couple of days earlier just to see if I would be there.

Since I wasn’t able to go up the day before I had to line up at pre-registration to get my race package, including my bib and chip timer. After all the years of competing, I am not shy about taking my warm-ups off in public. There were a few concerned looks as I sat outside of Starbucks with my track pants around my knees while pinning bib 3-131 to my shorts. My next step was to down a couple of gels and finish my water before placing my bag in the bag-check before 9:30 AM.

I found Mavis standing outside of the warm-up area. Giving her a big hug I asked her asked how she was doing. We reminisced while she showed me photos of her daughter. She wished me luck and said that she would be on at the top. To space runners out there are several waves which go off in 1 minute intervals.

There is a lot more strategy in this event than doing it on your own. Scurrying my way around the crowd gathered behind the starting shoot I found my way near the left-hand front edge of my group. With new wider start of Grind there isn’t as much of a slow down or jostling to get through the gate. It is really up to you to find your own path around people while staying on the trail. There are also new red painted ¼ markers along the way which I use as my pace markers.

Everyone is in a fairly tight group for most of the first quarter, so you expend a fair amount of energy trying figure out when is the right opportunity to pass someone or instead hang back. I really don’t like cutting people off, but with racers literally breathing down your neck there is a certain amount stress that goes with this event. At the first quarter I was slower than my season’s best for that piece of trail, probably due to the traffic and my decision to hold-back a little.

During the second quarter there was plenty of back and forth going, but also at one point someone asked me to “hold my line,” so I did expecting them to pass. I think I even slowed down, but they didn’t pass me. If your intent is to pass, then go by quickly and strongly otherwise I will find any means I need to get up the mountain and run my own race.

My next pacing mark is stony corner that has a waterfall by it. Looking my heart rate which was 181 bpm my time at this spot wasn’t where it should be if I was going to finish in less than 40 minutes. Somewhere during the third quarter I felt my right buttocks and hamstrings pull a little, not good. Survival at this point was most important so was keeping a steady pace. It seems as though when I am pushing past my lactate threshold I end up with a bit of gas in my stomach which prevents from going faster.

By the third quarter everyone is spaced out a little more and your are more or less on your own. Rounding a corner you can see that I like to bound up the stairs two at a time if I can because there is so much joy in moving freely.The intensity seems to bring on a bit of stomach gas, which makes it difficult to pursue a faster pace.

The timer on my watch was set at to go off every 9:35 minutes; it beeped as I found myself on the rocks, the last part of the climb.

Now the end is not just over the rocks, but instead the rest of the race loops around to the right, then left to finish near the chalet. The transition from steep climbs to fairly flat ground is similar to that of cycling to running in a triathlon. Your legs feel like jelly as you try to figure out a new cadence and speed.

Just before the finish is a timer pad so that the announcer knows who is about to finish. It is very nice to hear my name while crossing the finish line. The timer pad beeped as my foot struck the line. Looking at the clock at my own Garmin timer – the final time was 40:49, official time was 40:45, 11th in my age group and 77th overall.

My time this year was consistent with the average of the other the years (40:40 and 40:50). The 14 of Multi-Grinders placed in the top 5 of their age group, 9 were on the podium and 5 actually won their category. We celebrated these accomplishments and those of the season with lunch at afterwards.

Experience the race first hand with this video account (not mine)

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!