Finding Confidence Climbing a Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last week I accomplished three milestones:

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

95th Lifetime Climb

Second Triple Multi-Grind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Replenishing Electrolytes with Coconut Water

Replenshing electrolytes is an important part of endurance training recovery. Electrolytes are important to maintain proper cellular function, something I wasn’t entirely clear about when competing in Biathlon.

Headaches and extreme fatigue were often side-effects of intense biathlon or cross-country skiing events. Sleep, Advil and plenty of water were my solutions to combat being “not hydrated enough” burden of pain. Post-competition naps would often last a couple of hours and after waking up I still didn’t feel too well.

Worried about increasing the intensity of training and suffering again I decided that another solution was needed. If I am to train between clients or before a full day of seeing clients I knew I needed another solution than just water. During competition years people and coaches would often tell me I wasn’t hydrated enough, even though I knew I was. My recovery strategy wasn’t working for me.

In the mid-90s we started to experiment with our recovery drink solutions that included various concentrations of sugar, salt, lemon, water and powdered milk for protein. More sugar was added for post-race recovery. Another strategy I used was eating half a bag full of bread after each race. As a senior biathlete I was racing 10km one day and 20km the following day, not an easy task to recover from.

It took until a couple of weeks ago to find a way to avoid the headaches and the extreme fatigue following each training session. A blog post about marathon training lead be back to trying to concoct my own electrolyte drink with something that is more natural such as coconut water along with other ingredients including tart cherry concentrate which is rich in anti-oxidants.

I have tried several other electrolytes mixes such as eLoad and tablets as well as the pre-mixed drinks with minimal success. Coconut water is a natural way to restore potassium, magnesium and sodium after exercise without any preservatives. It has about half the carbohydrates, Powerade or Gatorade. Accelerade was another I tried because it the protien was supposed to help with carbohydrate uptake. Including protien in the 30 minutes post-exercise enhances muscle repair.

While browsing the isles of Whole Foods I discovered Blue Monkey instant coconut water, a powder that you just add 500ml of water too (700 ml for my tastes). The small packets make it easy to carry and mix into water bottles.

During the V(02)max interval sessions and Pace Zone 3 sessions I drink it every 15 minutes without the abdominal gas I get when drinking something like Powerade or even e-Load. Although eLoad Heat is slightly more expensive than Blue Monkey Powder I find it more effective. Certainly cheaper, more natural and more environmentally friend than buying a bottle of Powerade everytime you go out for a run.

Although my headaches are gone post-exercise, cognitive fatigue depressive symptoms and physical fatigue still exists for a few hours if I don’t have adequate carbohydrates in the 30 minutes just after a moderate or intense training session. Drinking one packet around 4:00 PM also helps keep me mentally alert for my last two clients. Proper exercise recovery is a process of experimenting and finding out what restores your energy without making you feel ill or bloated.

To expermiment with different sources first purchase small quantities to see how you feel after ingesting it and how your energy is. Then add this information to a trainng log such as training peaks so that you are able to review it later.
My goal is to find a strategy so that the rest of the day after training is still productive. Nutrition and hydration are part of the plan. How do you recover and stay mentally productive after intense or long duration training?

Sprinting Up the Grouse Grind

Today I decided to train my ability to sprint up a mountain. Think I am crazy? As an entrepreneur I am always pushing against the grain and trying to do things a little differently while still following in the strides of those who succeeded before me.

This training session’s focus was stick to the plan by executing the plan properly and evaluating the process. Time up the Grind takes care of itself.

At the beginning I set two goals: 1. Go as fast as I could go during the 30 second sprints. 2. Recover and stay within the recovery heart rates for two and a half minutes (155-160 bpm). My mind did drift to thoughts of, “How long is this going to take me?” and, “Will this result in a new seasonal best?” I caught myself and re-focused on my pace with the knowledge that time takes care of itself without any interference.

These intervals are tough, especially as I built up some lactic acid during each one, which never fully flushed out during recovery. Each sprint started with different challenges like the terrain becoming steeper or getting caught behind people on a narrower section and not being able to pass due to safety concerns.

The Garmin has different tones for high, low and in goal as well as a count down to the next interval and I’m starting to get used to them. It’s something that Polar never seemed to grasp; they used same tone for everything so you had to always look at your watch.

Recovering was challenging. I am used to pushing my heart rate to 170-185 bpm during the Grind. The recovery intervals were supposed to be between 155-160 bpm. Try lowering your heart rate while going up hill! Sometimes I found myself having to check back in and slow down to recover properly.

View Details of the Training Session:
Includes heart rates, elevations and a player to watch the changes with Google Maps.

My final push was again from the second timer around to the back of the chalet. This is feeling much stronger, though today I wasn’t quite as quick nor was my heart rate up to the level it was last week. I set my recovery period to last until I reached 120 beats per minute. This is to evaluate my fitness. Generally, the faster you recover, the fitter you are.

Final Grind time today was 43:25. This includes about one minute to change workouts on my Garmin because I chose the wrong one when I started. I am getting faster on the first section and I feel that I could push myself a little more when I reach the top section where there are more rocks as you crest up to the finish and into the open.

Sunday, it is time try a lactate usage session.

Other Grind Posts
Using Lactate Balance Point
Nutrition Strategies

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.