53. Vancouver Island & Finlayson Arm 50K Trail Race

Amsterdam, Netherlands, 29.09.2017.

Again, weeks have passed without me writing anything. Life keeps me busy with a lot of different things so I rarely find time to just sit down and take my time to write something. Right now, I have a little bit of time while I am at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, waiting for my connection flight to Porto, Portugal. I will go more into detail about this in my next blog entry. The current entry however will just be a short recap of my previous trip to Vancouver Island.

On Thursday, September 7th, I took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and this was the first time that I had to wait for a later ferry when I arrived at the port. Somewhat strange because I did not think that so many people would want to go to Vancouver Island on a random Thursday afternoon. I arrived when it was already dark so I decided to stay near Nanaimo overnight at the Westwood Lake Campground instead of driving to Victoria right away. On Friday morning, I then decided to do a little run at Westwood Lake and to explore the area around it for a while. Around noon I finally hit the road and drove to the Goldstream Provincial Park campsite west of Victoria. As you can see in the map below, this was the place where the Finlayson Arm 50K Trail Race started and finished so it absolutely made sense for me to stay there for the race weekend. Needless to say, this race was the absolute highlight of my trip and also the main reason why I went there this time.

Westwood-Lake
View on Westwood Lake near Nanaimo.
FINNY50_COURSEMAP
A very nice and enjoyable track with great views. Unfortunately, it was all rainy and foggy that day…
FinlaysonArm50k-Elevation-Profile
A total elevation gain of 10.075 feet on 50 Kilometers.

So on Saturday, I then finally ran my first trail race. Also, it was the first time that I ran a greater distance than the 42 kilometers of a marathon. I have to admit it was a completely new experience to me and I was not really well prepared for this kind of race. Indeed, a trail race is very different from a “normal” Marathon race and I never thought that I would need 8 hours and 29 minutes for that distance. Of course you are slower if you mostly walk uphill but you also lose a significant amount of time because you are generally not nearly as fast on trail than you are on road. In addition to that, you have to pay a lot of attention all the time so that you dont trip, stumble or fall. The race profile (see picture above) was a rather constant up- and downhill challenge, including an elevation gain of over 10.000 feet so this contributed to my longer race time as well. Lastly, it also rained during the whole day which was pleasant and cooling on the one hand but made running more difficult (try not to slip on rocks) and uncomfortable (all clothing wet) on the other hand.

Finlayson2
Running the last meters of the race. I finished 42nd out of 115 finishers / 140 starters.
Finished
Teri (right), Kyla (middle) and me after the race.

Overall, it was a really great experience though and I am so glad I did that race. I finished 42nd out of 115 finishers and 140 starters and I think that is pretty good for my first trail race and my suboptimal preparation for the race. It was also really nice to meet so many friendly people there, including Kyla who I had already met and ran with at the 30K Whistler race in June this year. But I also had many really great encounters with other racers on the course and after the race so I also really enjoyed the atmosphere and flair surrounding this great event. If the Canadian Government allows me to stay in Canada after my current Visa runs out in January, I will definitely return to Vancouver Island next year to either do this race again or to help organize it as a volunteer.

On Sunday, I drove to Victoria and made a little city- sightseeing tour. Interestingly, I only had a single blister after the race and this was only because I had hit a rock with my foot by accident. So overall I was okay to walk around that day although my legs were quite a bit sore and taking stairs was a real challenge. Amongst other places I also visited the Fishermans Wharf and the harbour but I did quite a bit of shopping and coffee drinking in Victoria as well. In the evening, I stayed at the Goldstream Provincial Campsite one more time before I moved to another campsite near Victoria for the final night of my trip the next day.

Victoria2
Fishermans Wharf in Victoria.
Victoria1
Victoria: View on the harbour and the Parliament building.

On Monday, I visited the breathtaking Butchart Gardens north of Victoria and I took my time admiring the beautiful flowers and the magnificent scenery. I definitely dont regret having visited them but they were quite pricey and there were also a lot of people around and I dont really like it when it is overly crowded…

Butchart Gardens2
A beautiful and sunny day at Butchart Gardens.
Butchart Gardens1
Butchart Gardens: Amazing design, colorful flowers and lots to look at.

Finally, on Tuesday, I visited two National Heritage sites near Vancouver: Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse. And these two sites are definitely worth seeing. I really admire how the Canadians value their heritage and maintain it so that future generations can see and learn what has happened in the past. It was very interesting and entertaining for me to see all the little exhibitions and pieces they prepared for the tourists here. So this was a great last stop on my trip to Vancouver Island before I had to go back to the North Shore on Tuesday afternoon.

Fort-Rodd-Hill
The lower Battery of Fort Rodd Hill with an AA-gun in front of it.
Fisgard-Lighthouse
The Fisgard – Lighthouse, overlooking Esquimalt harbour.

When I left the Island, I felt that there is still so much more to discover there so that I will probably return to it again sometime next year. It is just amazing how many great places there are around Vancouver. I feel blessed to live and work there and to have all these opportunities to travel while I hold a decent job at the same time…

After having presented more exotic music pieces in my last blog entries, I feel like it is time to listen to a more mainstream and punk/rock piece again so here it goes:

Green Day – Revolution Radio

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52. Texada Island and Run the Rock

From Texada Island to Horseshoe Bay, Canada, 29.08.2017.

After five beautiful days on this amazing island, I am now on my way back to Vancouver’s north shore, back to normality. What a great experience it was to explore Texada Island and to meet its friendly people.

It all started when I luckily got the last ferry to the island on Thursday evening so that I could still drive to my final destination in the night: The Shelter Point Regional Park with its campground. Of course, the campground was already closed when I arrived significantly after 10pm but that did not bug me. I just simply parked in front of the campground and slept there overnight just to wake up at a beautiful scenery in the morning. Then, I decided to get a camping space for 3 days, pay for it and take a shower. Since my marathon was still 2 days away, I decided to climb the highest “mountain” on the isle: Mount Pocahontas. The hike was pretty short and the ascent was not a big challenge but the view up at that “mountain” was really beautiful. Also, I did not encounter a single other person during that hike and that happened to me more than once during my whole trip. In the afternoon, I decided to mainly relax so I drove to Bob’s Lake, swam a little and enjoyed the solitude there while taking a longer nap.

Mount Pocahontas
View from Mount Pocahontas to the north. The white spots are the quarries.
Bobs Lake
Bob’s Lake. Quiet and remote place to enjoy some solitude.

On Saturday, I decided to do the “nature walk” that starts close to the campground and I got to see some really old growth trees there. Also, I took the opportunity to take a walk on the beach and collect some beautiful shells for my apartment. Again, it was all but crowded and I merely met a handful of other tourists during the walk. In the afternoon, I figured it was time to explore the island’s main village, “Van Anda”, to get a coffee and to see the local Heritage Museum. Normally, I am not a fan of visiting a museum if the weather is that good (we had pure sunshine all 5 days, just gorgeous) but in this case it was well worth it. The museum was very informative, had some very nice pieces in it and you could feel that the people who built and maintain it put a lot of love into its exhibitions. Also, I met Peter over there and he guided us through the whole museum and gave us a very informative tour. I have never had a personal guide in a museum and it was so nice to have him with us and bring Texada’s history to live for us. When I say “we”, I mean myself and an American couple (Keith and Becky) who also visited Texada Island and who were also great people to talk to. I later met them again at the “Run the Rock” event when Keith actually ran the half marathon. After the visit to the museum, I spent the rest of the afternoon reading a good book at an abandoned limestone quarry filled with water where a few other people actually took a swim. When I became hungry again in the evening, I went for a good tasty dinner at the island’s only real restaurant, the “Ravenous Raven”. And no, I did not have pasta although it is always advised to eat that prior to a marathon. Back at the campground, I was a bit surprised to see a tent in the middle of my camping space. It turned out to be Rob and Kerry’s tent and they put it up there because they thought this camping space was not yet taken. As there was no empty spot left on the campground (a lot of marathoners there!), I offered them to stay the night in my spot since there was enough room for all of us there. Later it turned out that they were also from Vancouver and that they would also do the marathon. So we had a lot to talk about and it was good to have them around. 🙂

Nature Trail
The nature trail near Shelter Point Regional Park.
Texada Museum
Heritage museum at Van Anda.
Old-quarry
View on an abandoned limestone quarry. Today: A great place to relax and swim.

Early on Sunday, I got up, prepared a little breakfast for me and made my gear race- ready. In this Marathon, I was determined to try out two different things: Firstly, I would carry my own running pack during the whole race to see if I would be able to comfortably run with something on my back the whole time. And secondly, it was my goal to constantly feed on my drink, consisting of 1.5l of water and 5 gel-packs. I just poured the content of the gel-packs into the water prior to the race and made it dissolve by furiously shaking the water bottle. In theory, I thought that constantly consuming this drink during the race would help keep my muscles work and feed them properly so I would suffer less pain in the last quarter of the race. It turned out that this was not the case as my muscles responded exactly as they did in the last races. No problems in the first 20 kilometers, some notable changes in the next 10 kilometers, considerable pain in the last 10 kilometers. So drinking all these gel- packs did not make a notable difference for me. Maybe I will try a different brand for the next race and hope for the best. In any case, I found out that I don’t have an issue with running with a running pack on my back so at least one of my two experiments was successful. The course of the marathon was a lot more demanding than the courses of the previous races I had done. No severe and long elevation changes in the course but a lot of small hills and up- and downs. Also, it was quite the challenge to run one half of the course on packed and loose gravel and one half of the course on tarmac. Overall, I managed to come in second overall at a time of 3:40 (that’s what the official timekeeping says…) which I am totally fine with. On that day with that course and my current training state, I feel that this was as fast as I was able to go. The winner was quite a bit older than me and finished in 3:29. I lost contact to him after roughly 10 kilometers when I decided to not chase him anymore but started running my own race instead. Now do I feel prepared for the 50K Finlayson trail race on September 9th? Honestly: no. That race has a much more demanding elevation profile and it will also be a lot more technical than the “Run the Rock” marathon on Texada Island. But I don’t shy away from challenges so I will just do it and see what happens. It is my great strength to just take the pain and go on. And if that’s what I need to do in the last 20 kilometers of that race, so be it. In any case, it will be a lot of fun and I want to see where my limits are. I also don’t worry too much about the outcome of the race since I will have a lot of time to complete it so that I can run slower overall and maybe even walk the stepper hills…

Marathon1
Start and Finish of the “Run the Rock” marathon, right next to the campground.
Marathon2
After the race: Chatting with fellow runners. This is Keith from America, a relly nice guy.
Chilling
Just chilling…. well deserved. 🙂

 

From Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, Canada, 07.09.2017.

Yes, I was unable to finish this blog entry during my way home on the 29th of August. I was quite fortunate to actually catch every ferry I was waiting for and I did not have to wait too long for boarding each time. So I did not have the time to continue writing. Then, I wanted to finish writing this blog entry after work last week but never got the chance to do it because I happened to be pleasantly distracted a lot in the last days. However, now I am back at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, waiting for the ferry to take me to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Thus, I now have the time to finish writing this blog entry.

After the marathon, I decided to chill for the rest of the day and to read a little in a “new” Peter May- book which I had borrowed from my local library. On Monday, I decided to look for the caves near Davie Bay so I got in my car and tried to find a road leading to Davie Bay. This was more difficult than I thought since there was no real road at all leading to that bay. Now that did not really deter me. I just parked my car at the side of closest road passing Davie Bay and started hiking through a forest to get to that bay. When I finally reached Davie Bay, I was generously rewarded for my effort with a breathtaking panorama and a really unique experience. Although I looked for the caves all along the rocky and rough coast (great opportunity to do a little scrambling and climbing), I was unable to find them. But then, on my way back, I suddenly heard a loud “Splash” and I wondered who was jumping in the water here since there was no other human being around anywhere. So I went in the direction of the sound and discovered… about 15 sea lions, some swimming in the water, some lying on the rocks. It seemed like they were as curious as I was because they all kept looking at me, swimming around a little but always keeping a distance of roughly 20 meters or more. It was a beautiful experience to actually be so close to them and see them in the wild and not in a zoo. After a while, I figured that I had disturbed them enough so I left and made my way back to the car. Since I had heard lots of good things about Shingle Beach, I decided to camp there for the last day of my stay on Texada Island. The beach itself was as beautiful as promised and I could not resist to take a swim in the clear water. Finally, I spend the rest of the day relaxing at an elevated spot above the beach, enjoying a great conversation with a very sweet and interesting lady.

Davie-Bay
Rough and rocky coast at Davie Bay.
Sea Lions2
Sea lions in the water, looking at me.
Sea lions1
Curious sea lion, diving near the place where I sat.

On Tuesday morning, I decided to visit Turtle Lake before trying to get on the ferry at noon. The lake itself was beautiful but I did not see any turtles and the hike around the lake was less exciting than promised by the reviews I had read about it. In my mind, Turtle Lake is not necessarily a “must- go” on Texada Island. Later, I still had the time to take a brief look at one of Texada’s active quarries when I waited to get on my first ferry at Blubber Bay. And that’s about all there is to write about my little adventure on this beautiful island. In case the Canadian Government allows me to stay here, I will definitely consider returning to Texada next year, not only for the marathon but also to finally find the caves I was looking for…

Shingle Beach
Coast of Shingle beach. Mostly very fine gravel but very scenic.
Crab-water
Small crab trying to attack my feet. 🙂 I left the little guy alone…
Turtle Lake
Start of the hike around Turtle Lake near Van Anda.
Quarry
Active quarry at Blubber Bay.

So right now I am on a ferry again (the “Queen of Oak Bay”) but this time my destination is Nanaimo. Then, in approximately 36 hours, I will start running my first Ultra Marathon, the 50K Finlayson Arm trail race. I am excited to do it but there is also a fairly big amount of doubt about my state of training and the wisdom of choosing to do this race so soon after the last marathon. Anyway, there is no turning back now, just anxious anticipation and an unbroken will to overcome any obstacles thrown in my way. I will write about it when it’s done… Until then, have a little bit of relaxing music, a lovely piece that Glenn made me aware of today. Thanks! 🙂

Yiruma –River flows in you