Sizing up your Challenges

Last week, I challenged a good friend of mine to a race on the Grouse Grind in Vancouver. For those of you who don’t know, the Grouse Grind is a grueling 2.9km vertical hike. Specifically, the trail is made out of 2,830 steps and is known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.  Definitely not for the faint of heart.

My friend used to be my personal trainer but he had sustained a few injuries over the last few years which resulted in him having to take a break from exercising for awhile. He was also about 20 years my senior so I figured I’d have not problem beating him.  I’d also been on a fairly regular work out routine for the last few months so I thought that the race would be no problem.

The stakes? Race to the top of Grouse Mountain and the loser buys beer and nachos. (For all you fitness experts out there, I’m well aware that the caloric value of the nachos basically defeats the purpose of going up the mountain)

About 10 minutes in, he slowly advanced past me and then easily took the lead for the rest of the race. He finished in an amazing 52 minutes and I trailed behind at an hour and five. The average finishing time for most people is about an hour and a half.

Now there are three lessons here.

The first, is that it is always a good idea to challenge yourself and go past your mental boundaries. That’s how we grow and move into a more advanced state of being.

The second is that incremental changes to our current state are far more effective than Hail Marys, although this is sometimes needed to exponentially grow. This is where the well known idea of “Kaizen” comes in. “Kaizen” is a japanese work that is commonly used in business to describe constant and never ending improvement.

Finally, the third lesson is that mental preparation trumps all. My friend spend an entire week physically and mentally preparing himself to win the race. And he knew that regardless of what pain his body felt, he would push on. And that is why he won the race, even though from a technical perspective, I had every advantage to win.

So with those lessons in mind, I bought a membership to Grouse Mountain so that I can practice racing him every week until I beat him. I’m thinking it might take 10-15 trys before I get it. But hey, incremental change is what it’s all about. :)


  1. Great entry! Some great parallels you’ve drawn. The best skills you could ever learn are those transferable ones that work in every aspect of your life :)

Leave a Reply