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)

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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

Using Technology to Keep Motivated with vV0(2max) Interval Analysis

Technology helps me keep motivated since my goal races of Seek the Peak and the Grouse Mountain Grind Race are 6 and 9 months away. Performance management tools (software and devices) have come a long way in twenty years. I started using Polar Heart rate monitors to ensure that I was in the target training zone, not too high and not too low. Heart rates had to be just right like Goldilocks. The problems with using a heart rate monitor alone are that they don’t show far you go or your pace for each zone. Last July, after using Polar monitors without GPS since I was a teenager, I was convinced to switch to a Garmin 305 Forerunner with GPS to track speed, distance and heart rates.

In business management there is a saying “what is measured, will be managed,” so what are your key performance indicators when improving your fitness? Mine are 1. Speed at lactate threshold increases; 2. heart rate at X speed decreases or speed at X heart increases. Recently my focus has been to boosting my VO(2max) and vVO(2max), the maximum amount of oxygen my body can process and at the pace that I can sustain that effort at.

Combining the GPS of the Garmin Forerunner 305 with Training Peaks WK0+ enables me to analyse each training session to see if my speed at certain heart rates is increasing. By comparing the same type of sessions over several weeks noticed some trends. Below is a comparison of the last three weeks of vVO(2max) interval sessions which were mostly completed on the treadmill at 8.9 – 9.2 mph for vVO(2max) periods.

Date

vVO(2 max) Intervals (Work:Recovery min)

Duration

TSS(IF)

Normalized Grade Pace

Min HR

Max HR

Avg HR

Recovery Pace (mph)

26/01/2011

3.0 : 3.0

24:11.0

38.1 (0.936)

7:55 (203.3 m/min)

115

195

153

5.1

21/01/2011

3.5 : 3.0

25:58.0

0 (0)

114

188

153

4.5

19/01/2011

3.5 : 3.0

25:58.0

0 (0)

108

189

154

4.5

14/01/2011

3.5 : 3.0

25:59.0

0 (0)

99

185

153

4

05/01/2011

3.25 : 3.0

24:59.0

0 (0)

100

187

152

4

03/01/2011

3.0 : 3.0

24:06.0

0 (0)

93

187

151

4

Today was such a beautiful day that I went outside on a fairly flat area of North Vancouver. It was quite a challenge to figure what 8.9 mph – 9.1 mph feels like on the road (see this workout on training peaks). This week is a recovery week, so the duration of the work period was reduced to 3.0 min. Throughout the last three weeks I was able to keep the average heart rate similar for each session, maximum heart is close to the same level, recovery pace increased without a big jump in heart rate while speed for each interval increased from 8.9 mph to 9.1 mph.

All of this data only becomes information when it is analysed and then knowledge when I use it to adjust my training. Over time next four weeks I will continue to complete these vVO(2max) intervals and retest my VO(2max) at near the end of February. Tomorrow I should have the Footpod for the Garmin which will log the indoor pacing more accurately during inclement weather.

Seeing these small increments and feeling the ease at which I am able to run for 40 minutes is keeping me motivated to continue training for Seek the Peak and informed that my workouts are having the physiological affect I want.

How do you keep motivated to reach your fitness resolutions or goals? How do you keep motivated to reach your business goals? What do you measure? How do you translate the data in information and then into valuable information that affects your decisions?

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Getting Unstuck from Doing Long Slow Distance to Increase VO(2max)

Getting Unstuck from Doing Long Slow Distance to Increase VO(2max)

From the mid-1980s to the late-1990s while competing in Biathlon and Cross Country Skiing our coaches taught us that long slow distance (LSD) would improve aerobic conditioning and VO(2max), the maximum volume of oxygen our body could process. Having a high VO(2max) was supposed to be a predictor of performance. We diligently went along with this paradigm until the debate started between LSD and High Intensity Intervals (HIT). Optimum performance is achieved through a careful, scientific and artful balance between training volume and intensity.

This paradigm shifted to more specific measurements of heart rate at VO(2max) and heart rate at Lactate Balance Point (Anaerobic Threshold or LT), but what becomes more valuable goals are to 1) increase the speed at VO(2max) and LT and 2) increase how long can you maintain these paces, T(max) and T(LT).

As a busy entrepreneur and health professional I am always looking at ways to minimize the amount of training time I need, while maximizing the long term performance benefits of the training I do complete without injuring myself; the same as professional and recreational athletes.

My goal is to regain the level of fitness I had 10-15 years ago. One measure of fitness is my VO(2max) which in 1995 was 69ml/kg/min which was measured on a bike in a university laboratory. There are many inexpensive and fairly easy to execute treadmill tests to assess your level of fitness. I chose one that increases the incline and has a steady pace, it is also suitable for endurance athletes (see test). After 6.5 minutes with a speed of 7.0mph, incline of 10% and a heart rate of 188 bpm my legs couldn’t go any further. This put me at an estimated VO(2max) of 55ml/kg/min, excellent for my age group.

How do I increase that over the next 4-6 weeks? While training 15-20 years ago that would have been by using the long slow distance runs and roller-skis. In 2003, it was shown that intervals at V·VO(2max) of 60% of T(max) is more ideal for increasing VO(2max) in trained runners than 70% of T(max). In moderately trained runners a later study manipulated the interval times and intensities. The authors showed that after 10 weeks of two interval sessions at 60% of T(max) at V·VO(2max) 8 x 1:1 with two recovery runs of 60 min at 75% of V·VO(2max) was slightly better than higher velocity intervals for improving VO(2max) and V(LT), however shorter more intense intervals with 4.5 min rest were shown to be more effective at training T(max) and V·VO(2max) (Esfarjan and Laursen, 2007).

Finding V·VO(2max) There are many different ways to determine your current, go to a laboratory if you want to be precise otherwise use the assessment as tool to see change when you re-test in 6 weeks. The Runner’s Edge author Matt Fitzgerald outlines ten Pace Zones and some easy assessments to figure out what your paces should be to achieve specific physiological adaptations. Having come from the school of five heart rate zones, I was surprised to learn that are actually some grey pace zones, zones where you are not getting as much benefit as you could be. Using the above test I know that my heart rate at VO(2max) is 188 bpm. This pace is confirmed a threshold pace test I completed a couple of weeks ago based on this PZ8 or V·VO(2max) is 8.9 mph – 9.02 mph.

Finding T(max) To find T(max) a treadmill or track, find a speed that elicits your heart rate at VO(2max), for me that was 188 bpm. After a proper warm-up, generally 10 minutes easy to moderate pace, time how long you can maintain the speed, as you fatigue your heart rate will increase for the same speed.

What Intervals are Optimal? Intervals combine a work period with a rest period. Prior to this bit of research I was completing VO(2max) interval sessions of 5 x 3:00 min at V·VO(2max): 3:00 min recovery walking at 4.0mph, twice per week and increased the work duration by 15s every training session. It took me about 90s to just get my heart rate above 170 bpm.

Perhaps if the recovery speed was a bit faster time at the higher heart rates would be longer. Runner’s Edge is challenging my concept of training only with heart rates. I monitor both my pace and heart. The fitter I get, the lower my heart rate is at a given pace.

Even with all the calculations, technology, pace zone settings and planning it still important that part of your analysis is learning the art of running with feeling. I will usually adapt my training plan according to how I feel that day or even during the session, for example during this morning’s base PZ3:PZ2 run I decided to take a longer recovery between intervals at about the 30 min mark.

Adapt your training plan to how you feel that day. Only do these types of runs twice per week and include some base and recovery runs at lower intensities.

Current plan is for 16 weeks, in 4 week intervals focus to first focus on VO(2max) while increasing base endurance then to switch to more speed endurance intervals to boost V·VO(2max) and T(max) as I approach the beginning of the Grouse Grind season in June and the taper for Seek the Peak in July.

References

Esfarjani F, Laursen PB. Manipulating high-intensity interval training: effects on VO2max, the lactate threshold and 3000 m running performance in moderately trained males. J Sci Med Sport. 2007 Feb; 10(1):27-35. Epub 2006 Jul 2

Smith TP, Coombes JS, Gergahty, DP Optimising high-intensity treadmill training using the running speed at maximal O(2) uptake and time that this can be maintained. Eur J Appl Physiolo 2003 May: 80(3-4):337-43.

How to Get Unstuck – Resolve to Achieve

We are all guilty of being stuck reciting our stories over and over. Whether it be tales of the past, traumas or otherwise, being stuck in the present, habitually repeating the same routines or believing that we are forced to stay in a job that we really don’t like or no longer serves us. This is the year when I leave those stories behind me. If you want something different from your life in 2011, do something different!

Reflecting on the year is almost a rite of passage at the end of each year. We review our accomplishments for the year and set our RESOLUTIONS for the next. Now is a time to pat ourselves on our back for 2010 and set new goals for 2011.

2010 was the year that I started adding themes to each year, first with “Seeking the Peak.” “Seeking the Peak” will never end for me, however it did enable me to focus on achieving high standards, something that my father tried to instill in me from a very young age. A couple of years ago I left Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within seminar with the mantra “I set the new standard” ingrained into my psyche.

In 2010, I pushed some of my physical boundaries to achieve a 38 minute Grouse Grind, completed Seek the Peak(16km from Ambleside Park to the peak of Grouse Mountain) and achieved a level peak physical fitness that I have not seen for myself in nearly 10 years. Financially, I decided it was time to start living in a cash positive state, rather than subject myself to the enticement of credit cards and the “gotta have it now” mentality. I slashed my personal debt; 2011 is when it will be gone.

One of my peak experiences was volunteering along-side my father during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics at the same venue. This year I tried grow my business hoping, expecting that a few things would go my way, some did, several did not. What surprised me is how I took the risk of interviewing and hiring over-the phone and found two great employees; one is still working for Lifemoves®, the other was only here for a self-directed summer co-op. I took risks, I made mistakes, I learned, I succeeded, I moved on and became stuck.

In 2010, I tried to wait patiently as Steve Nash Sports Club merged with Fitness World; I got stuck waiting for things to change, things to move which prevented me from taking action on several initiatives. I also became stuck in the excitement of hosting bigger and bolder events and wasn’t watching the financial picture as much as I should have been. There I was stuck – needing to have the best of graphics and video for our marketing when there were things I could have done that “would do” and would have moved us in a forward direction.

Marketing slightly below your brand standards doesn’t mean that it is forever. It is a for now that will get your business name, services and products in front of potential clients. For example, using the tools we already have access to Lifemoves® will be adding more videos on YouTube in 2011; perhaps, not with HD or the world’s best camera, however as Fiona Walsh said to me “perfectionism is not profitable,” in life or in business.

At home, each day started and finished the same way. Each day was a comfortable routine, that was feeling uncomfortable, yet took very little thought or effort – stuck again.

Learning to Move On – Getting Unstuck

It took a Christmas shopping trip to the bookstore to get me unstuck. I was looking for gift books when I stumbled upon “Stuck: Why We Can’t or Won’t Move On,” by Anneli Rufus. With its bold title “STUCK” staring at me from the shelf, I had to pick it up.

It described exactly how I was feeling – like there was more to life – and I was stuck in a sticky mess that I was having difficulty getting out of. After flipping through a few pages I knew I had to read it. Stuck describes in great, detailed, poetic and entertaining prose why people become wrapped in the past, present, the future, habits (good, bad and ugly), jobs and trauma and how to get unstuck. Ms. Rufus doesn’t mince words or sugar coat ideas instead she challenges your thoughts in order to wake you up.

The first chapter had an immediate impact. It set the theme for 2011 – Unstuck. This year will be all about finding my voice again, expressing how I feel and doing things differently than I have before knowing that I have choices. I am not stuck going to the same coffee shop each morning I am choosing to go the same place. Perhaps, there will be days when I go elsewhere, but I am not enslaved to this habit.

I didn’t have to wait for January 1st. On Boxing Day I went snowshoeing for the first time in a very, very long time.

First Steps to Becoming Unstuck in 2011

We all have choices. We all have habits that are either destroying us or building us. Start the journey on being unstuck by making one conscientious choice today that is different than you normally would have. If you choose to do the same at least go forward saying to yourself – “I am choosing to …” It will change your entire outlook on life, you might just stumble upon happiness while you are at it. To achieve a different life in 2011 than in 2010, each decision you make needs to be different. Resolve to take action each and every day.

Books:

Stuck: Why We Can’t or Won’t Move On

Stumbling Upon Happiness

Resolution Blog Posts:

Tips on Keeping Resolutions from Cliff Harvey

Sleep – The Underrated Resolution from Jon Eng, Coastal Fitness

Visualizing, Planning and Taking Action to a 39:13 Grouse Grind

After last year’s personal victory Grouse Grind of 39:56 on September 10th, I decided I wanted to be in the best physical condition I have been since retiring from biathlon, and finishing the Vancouver Marathon. This year I completed the Seek the Peak race and set a new personal record on the Grind of 39:13.

Being a competitive winter athlete taught me many transferable skills, including visualization, goal setting and planning. It was a clear sense of my own talents that gave me confidence to strive for a sub 39:56 Grouse Grind by my 34th birthday.

I always believe when I accomplish something once, I am capable of doing it again, so my goal was quite reachable. Now I had to visualize it. When I broke the board at Unleash the Power Within, I wasn’t focused on the board, but instead on going beyond the board. Each time I went up the Grind, I had 38 minutes in my mind. I knew it was challenging, yet I had the talent to do this.
If you don’t act on your talent, you will never accomplish what you are able to, but before acting you need to plan. My plan was very simple: train myself to go faster by doing speed work on Wednesdays and completing high intensity intervals on the Grouse Grind on Fridays and Sundays.
These Grind sessions challenged my current fitness, both mental and physical. Technology is a powerful thing. Having my Garmin GPS and Heart Rate monitor really helped. It was my coach and motivator. Even though I set the workouts, Garmin beeped at me when I was going too slow or even too fast. I also used the software it came with to analyze each training session and adjust the following one. One thing I did figure out is that ideal conditions for me are overcast, 55F and 70% humidity.
Of course my education as well as both my professional and athletic backgrounds helped me tremendously because I have over 20 years of training experience and 10 years of helping hundreds of others reach their peak physical fitness.
As the week started, I continued to plan and visualize how I was going to prepare, how I was going to feel and how I was going to move to set a new personal record. The weather was ideal and I was excited to push hard. Each quarter was planned.
I hit the Baden Powell Trail head in a record time of 1:30, then the 1/4 marker in just under 12 minutes (amazing for me). With my heart pounding and my legs feeling great, I continued to drive to the top, all while thinking of taking the straight line and bounding with each step.
Split to the 1/2 marker was 8:03 – still on pace. Legs were burning and the pace was getting difficult to maintain. Finally I passed the 3/4 sign at 10:21, not my fastest but still pretty good. My mind was set on a 8:30 last quarter. Coming up over the top with the timer post in sight, I was feeling really fast and strong, not tired as I had in the past.
Ouch! I hit my right foot on a rock. Falling, I caught myself in a push-up position and rebounded up. As I sprinted for the timer, I said to myself, “Ouch, that is going to hurt later.” The last quarter was just off a personal record. Beep! Beep! Beeeep! 39:13! Time to celebrate and stretch.
That afternoon I went to the infrared sauna for 30 minutes to stretch and recover, followed the next day by a massage. Next is the multiples to train my aerobic endurance conditioning. This year I am not going to take 5 months off, instead I will be snowshoeing, strength training and cross country skiing so I hit the trails in better fitness and form than when I did in June of 2010.
Sunday is the 20th BMO Grouse Mountain Run – who is with me?
Detailed history of this Personal Record – click here

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Using Lactate Balance Point to Increase Speed Up Hills

Use your lactate balance points to adjust your training heart rates and speed uphill during trail runs. This takes practice, focus, discipline and dedication. The Grouse Grind is a mountain climbing trail that a lot of Vancouver residents are addicted to, myself included. I’ll describe a speed workout later on in this article.

My quest to achieve a sub-36 minute Grouse Grind is part of this year’s theme of Seeking the Peak in business and fitness. This mark would put me in the top 10 of those who complete the Grind in my age group. I believe that being physically fit and taking care of your emotional health helps you be a more effective entrepreneur. It also enables you to enjoy the fruits of your labour more easily.
Generally, the maximum speed you can go without having to slow down is your Lactate Balance Point (LBP). I had mine tested in March and again today. The battery on my Garmin ran out, so I don’t have a graph of the heart rates, but luckily Nicola had an extra monitor. The good news is that there is a 6% improvement in speed (greater than the predicted Canadian economic growth!) and my heart rates for different speeds has dropped (a good thing), some even by 15 beats per minute. The bad news is that I am not using Lactic acid as energy as well as I could be.
In the past, the aerobic capacity was the determinate of performance. Mine – measured on a bike in university – was 69ml/kg/min (excellent). Recently there is more emphasis on lactate balance point – speed before lactic acid builds in the blood stream more rapidly than it can be buffered – and this is what forces you to slow down.
How do I beat my 39:56 minute time from Sept 10th, 2009?
First, not every trail run is aimed at obtaining a Personal Best. Set a goal for each training session. Is it technique, maintaining a specific heart rate, training a specific energy system or maybe your focus on your mental attitude?
Each run I do has a purpose. Two areas that I will be working on in the next 6 weeks are: Leg-Power and Lactic Acid use. The training plan below is for developing quick uphill speed, such as when you need to pass someone. It also includes some tempo work. Later, I will write about training your ability to maximize the use of Lactic acid.
The Grind Lactate Workout focused on training my tolerance for having a large amount of lactate in my blood. My recovery during these intervals was not enough to entirely flush out the lactic acid so, near the top, I was unable to speed up during the 1 minute running sections. With a new heart rate at Lactate Balance of 160-163 bpm, down from 170 bpm, I now need to adjust my training.
Going Fast Uphill
Goal: Training the ATP- Creatine Phosphate and Fast Glycolytic system. (depleted in 30 seconds).
Warm-Up – 3:00 min – Dynamic
Start of Timer to Baden Powell Split – Fast as Can Be, You Can’t Catch Me; approx 1:45 minutes
Interval Series 1 x 4
  • 30 second Sprint
  • 2:30 minutes 150-155 bmp
Recovery
  • 5:00 minutes 150-155 bmp – to flush any accumulation of lactic acid and ensure quality of speed intervals.
Interval Series 2 x 4
  • 30 second Sprint
  • 2:30 minutes 155-160 bpm (slightly below lactate balance point)
Total Time – 39 minutes (minus Warm-Up)

Top of Timer
Heart rate of 165-175 bpm
*Note: these are my heart rates based on my test today. Balance point is usually at the fastest pace you can sustain for a long period of time. Each person will have their balance point at different heart rates. The 30 second sprint is as fast as you can go.
Estimated duration – 40-42 minutes. I will let you know after Friday’s ascent.
Tip: Stick to your own race, stick to the plan, evaluate the results, adjust the plan and repeat.
August 1st, I passed a colleague who encouraged me to go faster, but instead I “raced my own race” and kept with the plan which resulted in a new season best by not over-taxing myself.
Resources
Click Here to learn more about the value of Lactate Balance Point testing and check yours out in North Vancouver. Nicola has tested me twice now. It takes about 1 hour and isn’t that painful. It’s just dealing with a little pin prick to take a small blood sample and having the ability to really push yourself.
Janssen, Peter. Lactate Threshold Training; Human Kinetics, 2001. I have this book in my library and refer to it often. It goes beyond the Zone 1-5 of heart rates. Training zones are based on a percentage of your Lactate Balance Point. Great photos and explanations.
Have you had your balance point tested before? How do you monitor your training progress? Leave your comments below.

Get More from Trail Running: Use a Heart Rate Monitor with GPS

Using a heart rate monitor with timing features enhances your training experience by giving you the ability to easily record your progress and adjust each training session. It will also beep at you when you are inside or outside of your targets. This is my video game that keeps me motivated while I’m outside trail running.
After only one week of using the Garmin Forerunner 305 with the heart rate monitor, I am figuring out how to analyze each trail run and training session. I use my knowledge of my current physiological conditioning to set-up training runs with specific goals, and then analyze my progress. I finish by planning the next training session. Today I achieved a seasonal best of 41:46 min on the Grouse Grind, 28 days earlier than the same time in 2009.
Garmin Connect and Garmin Training software enable me to compare and analyze different training days or training events. The best thing is that with a little thought, I can easily adjust my training to prevent over doing it.
Detecting Over-training: One method of detecting over-training is by recording your resting heart rate (RHR). Your RHR is taken with a minimum of 5 minutes of inactivity in a quiet place, preferably lying down. After 5 minutes of recording my RHR, I used the built-in software to scroll to the lowest heart rate. Today it is 49 bpm, previously it was 53 bpm. If you find your RHR going up, take a couple of rest days or very light activity days to recover.
Trail Run 1 – July 30th, 2010 Goal: Keep HR 170-175 bpm; laps at specific trail locations.
Note: I started at Cleveland Park which is about 12.5 min at 140 bpm. I also stopped for a total of 3 minutes to input the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 marks on my GPS.
Trail Run 2 – August 1st, 2010 Goal: Quick 1st lap to Baden Powell Turn-Off, 6 intervals of 4 minutes, 160-165 x 1 min at run speed for lactate tolerance; 170-175 bpm to Grind Timer.
Note: Most laps were time-based not marker-based.

July 30 Aug 1
Grouse Grind Timer 45:27 41:46
Adjusted for GPS Inputs 42:27 N/A
Average Heart Rates 162 bpm 172 bpm
1st Timer to Baden Powell Turn-Off 2:10 1:54
2nd Timer to Back of Chalet 1:57 1:45

Note: We are comparing two different training strategies, hence different workouts, but on the same course.

Am I getting faster at a lower heart rate? Yes at the start and at the end, but when I analyzed my pace in between, it was very similar. It feels great that the section from the second timer around to the back of the chalet is faster. I struggled with this during the 2009 BMO Grouse Mountain Run.
I need to complete both workouts again at least twice more to be able to view trends. Of course, the analysis is only as good as the data collected and the person doing the analysis.
You can see both runs in detail including my heart rates, elevation and speed by clicking on July 30 (The end part after Grind is a run from Highway 1 to Capilano and Marine Drive) and Aug 1. Either way, I hit the sub 42 minute mark 28 days earlier on in the season than last year.
5-10% Rule of Thumb: Achieving 5-10% improvement in performance and fitness level is a good rule of thumb to prevent over-training and injury. Nutrition, recovery, technique and strategy also play a role in seeing times decrease.
So, from a best of 39:56 minutes, I am setting my 10% goal at 36 minutes and 37:56 as my 5% goal for 2010. Anything faster than 36 minutes, I will be ecstatic; the top 3 in my age category are sub 34 minutes. I do this to challenge myself and to see how fit I can be. Currently I am on pace to achieve these targets.
Philosophy: “The only influence you have is on yourself, not others. Run your own race and smile as you pass others while continuing to encourage them.”
The Grind offers a challenge that is easily measurable, that I can access easily from home or work, and that so many other people do so we can share our mutual experiences.
Please leave your comments below to let me know why you do the Grind or if you are not in Vancouver, why and where do you trail run.
Click here for Grouse Grind information.

Nutrition Strategies Key for Peak Performance

Nutrition is often a forgotten part of achieving your peak performance in both athletics and business. As an entrepreneur, I am getting back to what I learned while competing in biathlon — that it’s not just about nutrition for endurance sports, but also about experimenting with different parts of my training to have my best race and be my most productive.

I clearly remember a cross-country skiing race in 100 Mile House. The night before, I hydrated extremely well, had a very good, complex breakfast four hours before the race, and then ate a banana thirty minutes before my start. This led to what I believe is one of my best cross-country skiing races.
Achieving your peak in business and athletics is about the preparation as well as the final performance. During my training for the Grouse Mountain Run, I am experimenting with different nutrition strategies. I am also exploring a more minimalist diet that gets back to live, raw, non-processed foods.
Nutritional Strategy for Seasonal Best Grouse Grind – 41:46 min:
  • Drink 2 Liters of water the night before.
  • Night Snack before 9 PM – whole wheat bagel with a tablespoon of almond butter, handful of blueberries and a nectarine.
  • 6 AM – whole wheat bagel with tablespoon of almond butter, 1 golden kiwi, 1 cup of blueberries, 1.5 liters of water.
  • I brought an apple for on the way, but forgot to eat it. I used it for recovery instead.
*This is not a prescription of what to eat. This is only what I tried and what I know works for my body. Do what works for you. *
The fruits are full of electrolytes and are simpler to digest than cereals and grains. This idea came from Tim VanOrden’s Running Raw experiment where he has a breakfast full of fruits. With more planning, I am going to try this next time.
How do I feel? I used to include a coffee before the Grind. Today proved that I don’t need the extra boost from the caffeine. My body felt calm, focused and energized. Next week I am going add more fruit to see what happens. Remember: all of these were consumed at least 1 hour beforehand.
As an entrepreneur I am always looking for ways to improve my productivity, and nutrition is a key component. Perhaps I can eliminate or reduce my dependence on nutritionally void coffees by just adding the right types of fruits and grains in the morning. This will save me money at the coffee shops too!
Nutrition and Raw Food Websites:
The Raw Food Project – provides different raw food recipes proving that raw food doesn’t have to be boring carrot sticks.
Nutrition List of Common Fruit – gives top links for protein, nuts and grains, etc.
Raw Running Experiment – Tim’s experiment on running with using a raw food diet.
Cultivate Your Health – Holistic Nutritionist who can provide more detailed and individualized nutrition coaching.
Remember that nutrition is only one component of peak performance. Today I also had an interval training plan with a goal that wasn’t time based. I focused on the process and let time take care itself. It was nice to end up at the top with a new seasonal best of 41:46 min.
What is your pre-hike or trail running nutrition strategy?

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.