57. An unexpected turn of events

North Vancouver, Canada, 24.01.2018.

It is amazing how quickly things can change in life. At one point, you may have almost lost all hope, just holding on to the last straw. Then, nearly out of nowhere, something entirely unexpected may happen and suddenly everything got turned upside down. This is exactly what happened to me last week:

Last week, my employer held the yearly Manager Conference for all Store Managers at a nearby hotel in Burnaby. At that time, I was already in “implied status” because my work permit had expired while my application to extend it was still pending. So I was still legally allowed to work but I already knew that this could change any day. Then, on Thursday at noon, I checked my e-mails and found out that the federal government had rejected my application to extend my work permit because my Permanent Residency application had been cancelled earlier in December. So I talked to my manager after the last session of the conference and told him that I was not allowed to work in Canada anymore. We talked about the situation and he told me that I would be put on “leave of abscence” until I would be legally allowed to work in Canada again. Not the worst solution for me as I would still be part of the company and not fired right away. So on that Thursday I drove home in the afternoon, firmly believing that that day had been my last working day in Canada for a longer time or even forever. Then, later in the evening, I reviewed the rejection letter of the government once more to find out that I also had to leave Canada immediately because I had no more legal status to stay inside the country. Oh wow, even more bad news!

Hayward-Lake-2
Hiking at Hayward Lake on January 1st. Great start in the new year!
Hayward-Lake-1
Not much snow around Hayward Lake – Even the hills around were not snow-covered.

So what to do now? After I thought about the situation for a while, I decided to drive to the US border the next day to re-enter Canada from the US side. It was my plan to get visitor status here so that I would at least be legally allowed to stay in Canada while waiting for my renewed Permanent Residency application to be processed eventually. I decided to print out all relevant documents so I could prove what had happened to me at the border. The last thing I needed was another rejection of my request or a forced removal from the country. When I arrived at the US border, the customs officer at the toll booth soon singled me out and told me to explain my case to someone in the office building. After having explained my situation to another customs officer, they decided to deny me entry into the US because I had no more legal status in Canada. That was fine with me because I did not really want to go anywhere in the US anyway. So I took my car and lined up at the Canadian border crossing. Of course, the customs officer at the booth also made me see one of her colleagues inside their office building. Luckily, there was no lineup so I could explain my situation to the officer in charge right away. He was very interested in my story, checked out all my documents, consulted with a few of his colleagues and took a long time to investigate my situation. It was a somewhat bizarre situation. He sent me away to the waiting area to do research on his own, then called me again to his desk to ask a few questions, then sent me away again and so forth. After he had sent me away for the fourth time, I began to start worrying that he could even deny me visitor status and that something may be really wrong here. However, the opposite was the case. He called me to his desk for the last time and said that he would be able to issue me a new work permit under certain circumstances. That was entirely unexpected and I was genuinely stunned by this development. In the end, we were able to solve the outstanding issues and he issued me a new 1-year work permit for my job as a Senior Store Manager after I paid for it. I think I was rarely happier to make a payment in my life than at that moment. So now I can continue working in Canada for another year which will give me enough time to sort out everything with my Permanent Residency application. Simply unbelievable. I am so happy that this happened, I can’t even put in in proper words! 🙂 🙂 🙂 So roughly 24 hours after I had suffered this serious setback from my dream to stay in Canada, my whole situation had completely changed again. I regained control of my situation and life and now I have every option and all the time I need to make my dream come true. What a crazy start into 2018! Interestingly, this all happened on January 19th, which would have been my Granddads 101st birthday if he was still alive…

Grouse-1
The lineup at the Grouse Mountain Gondola on Jan 20. Currently a paradise for snow- lovers.
Grouse-2
Raindeer on the “Lights Walk” on top of Grouse Mountain.

I guess 2018 could not have started better for me. Now I know that I can stay here for another year and thus I already started planning a little bit for the upcoming months.

In April, I will fly back to Germany for roughly 2 weeks to see my family and my friends and to organize a few things. It is a bit unfortunate that by April, there will probably not be a decision on my new PR application yet. So I won’t know if it makes sense to ship all my remaining stuff from Germany to Canada or not. I definitely do not want any hasty decisions in that regard, knowing that it is not a given that I will get my PR one day…

When it comes to running, I already started organizing my races for 2018: In March, I will probably do a 50K trail race here in North Vancouver as my warm-up for the season. The next big race after that will be the Vancouver BMO Marathon on May 6th. After that, I will probably drive to the Death Race Training Camp in Grand Cache, Alberta in late June. And finally, the Canadian Death Race on August 4th will be my highlight of this year’s running season. 125Km in the Rocky Mountains, 24 hours, over 17.000 feet of elevation change and 3 mountain summits in the course will surely make this one of the greatest challenges in my life. I already booked accomodation for the Death Race so I am commited to that plan. It became my dream to do that race when I ran the Mountain Madness half marathon in Grande Cache in May 2016. Ever since, I thought about doing that race but I was never sure if it would fit into my plans and if I would be able to do it. Now that I have a new work permit, I can finally pursue that dream, fit the race into my 2018 schedule and plan accordingly. Although I know that I am still a rookie in the Ultra- Marathon distance, I already proved that I can do the 50K and the 80K distance. Thus, I am now confident enough that I can even do a larger distance with a sufficient amount of training. Also, I think it will benefit me and my training that I actually planned fewer races than 2017. It will give me more time to recover and properly prepare for the few races that I will actually run…

Lynn-Canyon
Lynn Valley Canyon river carrying a lot of water during our last hike there.

What an amazing start into 2018! I hope that all of you also had great first weeks and that you will be able to achieve your goals in 2018. Hold on to your dreams and never give up fighting for them!

Today’s music advice is one of my favorite songs from Judas Priest. An inspiring song that always gives me strength when I am in a sad and/or bad mood. It is also a great song to listen to while running….

Judas Priest – Blood Red Skies

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56. Current status PR & 2017 in a nutshell

North Vancouver, Canada, 30.12.2017.

When I wrote my last blog entry three weeks ago, I was in a great mood because it seemed to me that I had a good chance of getting my Canadian Permanent Residency at some point in the future. Then, I received an E-Mail from IRCC that struck a serious blow to my dreams of staying longer in Canada. See for yourself:

PR- Rejection
Rejection of my application by IRCC.

Now there is a lot I could say about this but I will reduce it to just these few comments:

  1. When I applied for my current visa last year, I did not submit a translation of my German Police certificate and it was accepted by IRCC.
  2. My German police certificate symply said “Keine Eintragung” which means “No trace”. Even without a translation, I think that this expression should be known at IRCC because there are thousands of Germans who send in their Police Certificates each year when applying for a work & travel visa, PR or a young professional visa.
  3. Simply cancelling the whole application now and not even giving me the opportunity to obtain and submit that translation seems really harsh and also inefficient. By doing this, they actually produce more work than they save. In a previous blog entry, I was full of praise for the Canadian bureaucracy. Seems like I was a little too rash with that judgment…
  4. In the end, it is my own fault that this happened because I did not provide this specific translation which I was supposed to according to their regulations. So I did not read all of their regulations in detail and that was probably a mistake. Or I should have maybe invested a few hundred dollars and have an Immigration Consultant have a look at my application. That would have been another option…

Anyway, there is nothing I can do about this anymore now. As of now, I can still continue working and staying in Canada after January 2nd since I also applied for a work permit extension so that I will be in “implied status” from January 3rd onwards. However, since my PR application has been cancelled, there is a high probability that my work permit extension will also be cancelled once they start looking into it. Now I would still have a chance to get approval for the work permit extension if my current employer AND the government of BC (they already noinated me to become one of their citizens) supported me. Both of them have to provide me with a specific letter/offer that I already requested more than 2 weeks ago. And guess what? I did not receive anything from either one yet. So time is ticking for me now and there is nothing I can really do about it. Not the greatest of all feelings, that’s for sure…

Stanley-Park
A heron sitting in a colourful autumn- tree in Stanley Park.

Now people keep asking me if I can’t simply reapply for Permanent Residency. Yes, I can and I already have but the whole process takes a lot of time and I fear that I don’t have that time. First of all, my BC provincial nomination has to be tied to my new PR application again. That will take a few weeks probably. After that, I will score enough points again to be invited by IRCC. However, I will first have to wait for the next round of invitations. That can take up to another three weeks. After that, I will be allowed to submit all of my documents again and wait for the application to be processed. Now it is very likely that my application for the work permit extension will be rejected a lot earlier than me being able to finalize my new PR application. And in that case, I would have to notify IRCC and BC PNP that I am not working anymore. This again will probably lead to BC PNP withdrawing my provincial nomination and thus IRCC voiding my new PR application on the basis of me not having enough points anymore. Sounds like a vicious circle to you? Not quite but close I would say.

Backyard
A family of racoons visiting “my” backyard in late October. And they were pretty curious.
Vancouver-fog
Vancouver in fog. View from West Vancouver. Note how the Lions Gate Bridge and parts of Stanley Park are above the clouds.

 

Anyway, this is my current situation now and so I can’t even start planning anything for 2018 yet because it is totally unclear what will happen when and how. Just a few years ago, so much uncertainty would have driven me crazy and left me fearful und helpless. Today, I am a lot stronger and experienced so that I know that every change also offers opportunities and that life goes on, no matter what. Still, I am incredibly sad that I potentially have to leave Canada again soon and that this is mainly my own fault because I was not diligent enough with that first PR application. Probably one of the biggest mistakes I ever made in life. And definitely one of those mistakes that have a huge huge impact on one’s future.

1000Stories
My personal drink discovery of 2017: An amazing red wine from the Bonterra winemaker, California. Resonably prized!

Alright, enough of the whining about the PR. Let’s do a little review of this beautiful year 2017 instead. And let’s talk about the pictures in this blog first. I intentionally chose not to show any pictures that I already used in previous blog entrys. Why? Because there are way too many meaningful and great things that I would want to show again here. So instead I went with a much smaller set of pictures that I haven’t shown in my blog yet. Some are already a few months old, others only a few days, but all are worth showing. Finally, I chose the title picture because it mirrors exactly how I feel right now about my future. Arrows pointing in all kinds of direction and I have no idea yet which way to take. I took that picture on the Camino in Spain (October) and despite this irritating situation, Rachel and I found the right way then and did not get lost. I have faith in myself to do the same for my future once I have clarity about my application- situation.

Titel
Left, right or straight ahead? Which way is the right one? Who knows?

There were so many highlights in 2017 that it is hard for me to remember them all. Looking at my travel highlights, there was my hiking trip to Portugal and Spain in October, my trip to Vancouver Island in September, my trips to Saskatchewan and Texada Island in August, my trip to Germany in June/ July, my trip to Salt Spring Island in June and my trip to Olds/ Red Deer in May. All of them amazing trips and I am truly priviledged that I was able to do every single one of them.
My running highlights include the halfmarathon in Langley in January, the marathons in Vancouver and Red Deer in May, the 30K race in Whisler in June, the marathon in Texada in August, the 50K Trail race on Vancouver Island in September and finally the awesome 80K race in Whistler in October. A lot of running for the year and hopefully also a good preparation for future endeavours in 2018.
Aside from the running, I also did quite a bit of rock climbing in 2017. Actually, I just started climbing in 2017, that’s probably why it is worth mentioning here. 🙂 So far I have only climbed indoors but if the opportunity arises, I am definitely open to climbing outdoors as well in 2018.

Mt Seymour
Great view on Mount Seymouor. Snow begins at roughly 900 meters elevation.
Blue-Gentian-Lake
Gentian Lake at the Brothers-Creek-Loop, West Vancouver.

In 2017, I also managed to do a lot of hiking. I hiked the Camino with Rachel, I hiked quite a few routes together with Emilia, with my Mum, with Martin or simply alone. During those hikes, I got to see Spain, Portugal, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour, Cypress Mountain, the Chief, Lynn Canyon, Bunzten Lake, Lighthouse Park, the Brothers- Creek- Loop, Quarry Rock and the interiors of Texada Island, Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island. And probably, I even forgot some of my hikes in this enumeration….

Above everything else, I feel that I was very fortunate to spend so much quality time with so many wonderful people in 2017. My Mum and Martin from the Captain’s Mafia came to see me in Canada in July (Martin) and August (Mum) and we spent some really nice days together. An unbelievable feeling to receive visitors here, several thousand kilometers away from my former home. In the first months of the year, Verena was still in Vancouver and I remember doing a lot of different things together with her and having a lot of fun. During our trip in Portugal and Spain, I spent two great weeks together with Rachel on the longest hike I have done so far in my life. Even after that hike we kept in touch and I really enjoy the time we spend together. In August, I was invited to a family reunion in Saskatchewan and that weekend was a real blast. It was great to meet so many wonderful people (again), to be at that beautiful lake and to be introduced to a family’s tradition, the strudel- making. Big hugs for Dawn, Jo Anne and Doug for also inviting me to their places from January to March (Dawn) and May (Jo Anne and Doug). I really enjoyed spending time together with you! In July, I flew back to Germany and I met Glenn, Martin from Lidl and two of my buddies from the Captain’s Mafia. It was great to see you all again and I am looking forward to meeting you all again in April. We will have a great time together, I know it! During that week in Germany, I also met my Mum, of course, because I mainly stayed at her place. 🙂 Hugs and kisses for you, Mum, for being my Mum and for continuously supporting me while I am away in Canada!
Now I will stop mentioning people right here because otherwise this blog entry will become way too long. Sorry for not mentioning everyone explicitly who helped to make my year 2017 as great as it was. I haven’t forgotten you!

Waterfall
Majestic waterfall on the Brothers- Creek- Loop, West Vancouver.
Cypress-Mountain
My Mum and I at Cypress Mountain, after a hike. Looks like I have quite the belly on the picture. 🙂

Overall, 2017 was probably the best year of my life so far. No close friends or family members got really sick or died and I myself also stayed pretty healthy. In addition to that, I had an awesome year in Canada with lots of highlights and only very few things that did not go my way. Even though the above outlined PR issue is a looming dark shadow in the otherwise really light and shiny appearance of 2017, I do not let this single and tragic mistake make me feel bad about the whole year. I am grateful for every experience in this year and I am still full of hope that the new year 2018 can be as amazing and exciting as the current fading year. 🙂

Time to close this blog entry with a crazy song (Russian/ German- lyrics) that will supply us with all the energy we possibly need for a good start to 2018. Cheers!

Russkaja – Energia

55. Recap 2 – Camino Portugal & Spain

North Vancouver, Canada, 11.12.2017.

After a few more busy weeks, I finally find some time to write about my trip to Portugal and Spain in October. It is pretty crazy that this is already over 8 weeks ago now. How time flies, unbelievable!

This trip was suggested to me by Rachel, my hiking partner from Vancouver who had already done the traditional French Camino and wanted to do the Portuguese Coastal Camino then. And since I like hiking and I am always up for challenges, I agreed to do this long hike with her despite me having already signed up for the 80K- Race in Whistler on October 14th. So we were running a rather tight time schedule to do this hike because I had to be back in Porto, Portugal by October 13th to catch my flight back to Vancouver. So this really only left us with 12 days to complete the whole hike of approximately 280 Kilometers. I landed a few hours earlier than Rachel and picked her up at the airport early in the morning on September 30th. We then rested a little before we headed to the inner city of Porto to look for a hostel to stay overnight. After we found one, we got our pilgrim passes for the hike at the cathedral and finally did some sightseeing as well. In hindsight I am a bit sad that I was unable to spend more time in Porto because it is a really beautiful city with lots of interesting sights and a great flair. After this trip, I am definitely considering to spend more time in Portugal one day and then I may be able to return to Porto after all, who knows?

02-Coast Portugal
Portuguese Atlantic coast. Beautiful views and the best possible weather for us, amazing!
03-Church Portugal
Church in Castelo do Neiva, Portugal. After a longer uphill stretch, a little rest was very welcome.
04-Eucalyptus Forest
Majestic eucalyptus forests: The eucalyptus smell was noticeable but not at all intense.

On October 1st, we started our hike from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Spain on a sunny and cloudless day. We decided to do the coastal route instead of the inland route because it was described as more scenic and beautiful. Now since I have not done the inland route, I can’t judge that but I can definitely tell that there was a lot to admire and enjoy along the coastal route: Picturesque villages and churches, all kinds of beautiful nature settings (vineyards, rivers, beaches, coast stretches, forests, animals…), amazing food and tapas (yum yum) and last but not least: open and friendly people along our way. Along our route to Santiago de Compostela, we made the following overnight stops: Porto – Vila do Conde – Esposende – Viana do Castelo – Vila Praia de Ancora – BORDER CROSSING TO SPAIN – Oia – Ramallosa (near Nigran) – Vigo – Cesantes – Barro (Portela) – Valga – Milladoiro (near Santiago).

05-Hiking
One of the few pictures of the trip with me in it and I actually like it. That’s pretty unusual.
06-Fairytale-House
This was a very fairy- tale like scenery we discovered in Spain. Beautiful in every aspect.
07-Foggy Coast Spain
Spanish Atlantic coast. On two of our hiking days, we had a lot of fog but luckily no rain.

On quite a few of our legs, we deviated from the “usual” overnight stops because we just kept on walking for as long as we still felt good. So some of our legs were rather short whereas others (especially the first two and the last two) were quite long. Since we hiked in the off-season, we did not book any hostels or hotels along our way in advance. This turned out to be a good strategy since we only really struggled once during our trip to find a place to stay. But even on that day, it was rather fortunate that we kept walking because the hostel we finally stayed in was really nice and affordable and so close to Santiago that we managed to cover the last stretch in no time. And again, this turned out to be fortunate for us because although we arrived very early in Santiago, we still had to wait for more than two hours to get our pilgrim certificates. In the end, this left us hurrying to the bus station to catch our booked bus back to Porto in time. Thus, we were not able to explore Santiago and/or its cathedral at all. Unfortunate, yes, but it is also possible to do another Camino one day and then stay a little longer in Santiago…

08-Tower Spain
An absolutely remarkable little tower. Notice how the flat pieces of stone were crafted and put together to form its body.
09-Street Art- Vigo
Great street art in the city of Vigo: My favourite character from Futurama: Bender. 🙂
10-Vineyard
Vineyards with ripe, juicy and sweet grapes, waiting to be harvested. They will make a great wine.

Overall, I am very happy I made this trip. It was very enjoyable to get out of my daily routine for a longer time and to finally visit some parts of Portugal and Spain. Also, it was really great to spend so much time with Rachel and to do such a beautiful and picturesque hike with her. And we were really blessed with the weather during our hike: Temperatures around 25-30 degrees, mainly sunshine, no rain at all and only two foggy days with limited sight. During our trip, it also turned out that our timing had been pretty good: While it is still pleasant and enjoyable to hike in October, there are significantly less pilgrims on the road than during the summer months. Thus, it is easier to find a decent place to stay overnight without having to book everything in advance. The downside of this is that you don’t get to meet that many fellow pilgrims. However, we did meet quite a few very nice fellow pilgrims on our way to Santiago. One of them, Linda from Victoria (Vancouver Island), was a particularly likeable and cheerful lady who me met several times on our way to Santiago. In the end, meeting her again was like meeting a good friend and it was always great to chat with her in a break or after a long day’s walk.

15-Kitten
No words. Just cute.
11-River
Very scenic river (Rio Umia) panorama in Caldas de Reis, Spain.

After our return to Porto in the afternoon of October 12th, Rachel and I had to book a quite expensive hotel because unexpectedly, all other accomodations in the city and the outskirts were totally booked on that day. This was a little surprising to us but the luxury of a 4star- hotel was also very welcome after the trip. After having checked-in, we then decided to do some wine shopping in Porto before we had our last (and very tasty) dinner of the trip. Then, in the morning hours of October 13th, I took one of the first flights out of Porto to Vancouver via Amsterdam. Now I don’t know when I will find time to do another Camino or to visit Portugal again but I definitely want to do both in the future at some point.

13-Church Spain palm trees
Not a common sight for someone who grew up in the colder regions of Europe: Church with palm trees in front of it.
14-Santiago
Rather anti-climatic at the end of the hike: The cathedral in Santiago, obviously in need of repair.

After having written over 1200 words again, I think it is time to conclude this blog entry now. I would love to continue writing about the trip and the many nice encounters and little adventures we had along our way but that would definitely be too much for now.

Instead, let’s finish this blog entry with the usual music advice. Just a few days ago, I had my first contact with Canadian rock music and I was not disappointed: This band has quite a few nice songs and I especially like this one. Check them out, it’s worth it:

Striker – City of Gold

54. Recap 1 – Whistler 80K & Permanent Residency

North Vancouver, Canada, 04.11.2017.

It is more than a month ago since I last wrote something for this blog. A long time, I know, but I will not apologize for this anymore. Life keeps me busy and I like that and not being able to write blog entries that frequently anymore is the price I need to pay for this I guess. A lot of things happened during the last weeks and in this blog entry, I will focus on writing about the events from Friday October 13th onwards. I will probably cover my hiking trip in Portugal and Spain from October 1st to October 13th in the next blog entry if I have the time to write about it anytime soon…

On October 13th, I first took a connecting flight from Porto, Portugal to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Then, I took the continental flight to Vancouver and landed there at about 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon, thanks to the time change and on-time flights. At the airport, I picked up my car, drove home, grabbed my running gear and got in my car again to drive to Whistler. After I arrived at my Air-BnB apartment in Whistler, I picked up my race package at the Brewhouse and prepared for the upcoming race. Due to Jet Lag, I did not get much sleep during that night although I was really tired after having been awake for almost 24 hours. So after a pretty sleepless night, I checked in with the race organizers after 5AM and started running at 6AM on Saturday, October 14th. This was the first 80 Kilometer race I have ever signed up for, so my primary goal was to complete the race in time. However, I am also ambitious so my secondary goal was to finish the race in under 9 hours which I though was a realistic goal given the fact that I had done 12 days of hiking prior to this race.

Finish1
Nelly with me after the race. She finished first in the women’s competition and we ran together for quite a part of the course until she was too quick for me and I fell back.

After the first 25Km, I began to notice that my legs were not so very well rested and it was not so very “easy- going” anymore after that. However, I only experienced some pain and no crucial bodypart failures (severe cramps,…) so I kept running at a slower pace and I also started walking the short uphill stretches to relax my muscles a little bit. In hindsight, I should have also walked the uphill stretches during the first 25Km and I also probably ran too fast during the first 25Km. In any case, the second part of the race was more like a “test of will” for me and it was not so very enjoyable anymore. However, we were lucky that it stayed mostly dry during the day so at least the weather did not make the race even more difficult for me. In the end, I finished at 8 hours and 44 minutes in 11th place out of 36 finishers and 53 starters. Given the circumstances, I am very satisfied with this result and I don’t regret having done this race. Overall, it was a great race and I made lots of valuable running experiences that will probably help me a lot in my future endeavours.

Finish Line
Start and finish- line next to the food- and chillout area.
View on Start-Finish-zone
View on the main aid station with our drop bags and start of the two different loops (13Km and 7Km).

Since I participated in the Mountain Madness Run (half marathon) in Grand Cache, Alberta in May 2016 (read about it again here), I dreamt about coming back to Grand Cache one day to do the Canadian Death Race. 125 Kilometers of trail, rough and difficult terrain, a total elevation climb of 5180m and three mountain summits to conquer during the 24 hours available to finish the course. Yes, that is quite the crazy stunt. But after my races this year I feel that it will be doable for me next year. This year, I did not focus a lot on training and I just did what I felt was fun and enjoyable for me. And still, I had acceptable to good results in the races I did, even without optimal preparation. Now I feel that if I start to focus a little more on traninig and nutrition, the Death Race will be doable for me. Of course, it will still be a tough tough race and it is not at all guaranteed that I will be able to finish it but I will try to do exactly that next year. So this is my next big project and probably the longest and toughest race I will ever do in my running career. At least I won’t start planning for anything else even crazier than that until I know how that race went and if I can actually take even more or not.

Recreation
Food- and chillout- area next to the race course.
Goulash
A nice hot bowl of Goulash. It was soooooo good after the race and it really lifted my spirits.

After having written so much about my latest race, it is now time to switch to a totally different but even more important topic: My application for permanent residency. When I was hiking in Portugal, I received the very good news that the Province of BC nominated me to be one of its residents in the future. This nomination generated a whopping additional 600 points for me towards my application for permanent residency. Thus, in the next round of invitations to apply for permanent residency, I was also selected and invited to apply. Since then, I have started gathering all the additional paperwork that I need to finish this application. In this regard, I am a little under time pressure since I will only be allowed to stay in Canada until January 2nd with my old visa. However, if I manage to finalize my application by January 2nd, I will get the so-called “implied status”. Having this status means that I can stay in Canada under the conditions of my old visa for as long as it takes the government to decide upon my PR application. And judging from the current processing times, it may take up to three months for the government to make a decision on an application once they received all the documents. So I will probably only know by the end of March next year if I will be allowed to stay in Canada permanently or not. Exciting times for me, that’s for sure. 🙂

Hot Tub
Chilling in the Hot Tub in the evening after the race was a blessing for my strained legs.

Alright, over 1100 words already again in this blog entry. Time to stop writing. Today’s music advice is from a band that I only got to know recently but they have already gained a top spot on my Youtube- playlist order. This one is about pain, a good theme song for the Whistler 80K race.

Jimmy eat World – Pain

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.

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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

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

51. Busy times

From Horseshoe Bay to Texada Island, Canada, 24.08.2017.

I have been lazy with my blog lately, I agree. There has not been much time for me to sit down and recapitulate what I experienced in the last weeks. But now there is a little time because I am on a ferry again and on my way to Texada Island. This trip will include three ferry crossings and quite a bit of driving and I hope that I will make it to the island by this evening so I don’t have to stay somewhere on the Sunshine Coast overnight. But even if I have to do that, it won’t be the end of the world. As usual, I will be fine in the end. 🙂

sunshine-c1
Another ferry crossing our way from Horseshoe Bay to Gibsons.
sunshine-c2
Sunshine Coast: view from the ferry.

So why am I making this trip to Texada Island? Well, it is time to start running again and on Sunday the 27th of August, there will be the “Run the Rock” marathon and I am happy to do it. Also, it is always nice to explore new places so I decided to stay a little longer on the island and travel around a little. Right now, I feel I am in a fairly good training state but I have to admit that I haven’t done much running in the last two weeks. I was really busy with working long hours or exploring the Vancouver area together with my mum.

The next big event after my last blog entry was the Stefan/Henderson reunion near Saskatoon on the weekend of August 4th. It was an amazing weekend full of good conversations, great sport activities and exciting new experiences. I got to meet many interesting and very friendly members of the Stefan/Henderson family, I learned how to prepare the famous family- Schtroodel (Jo Anne, did I spell that correctly?) and I got a very interesting insight into the Canadian past when we watched the old family pictures on the slide projector. Overall, I had an awesome time and I feel really grateful that I was allowed to be there and meet everyone. Now since I don’t know if everyone is okay with me posting family pictures or going into details about our activities on the internet, I will not do that here but instead I will only post a few pictures of the cabin and the nearby lake.

cabin
The cabin at the lake.
lake
View on the lake from a nearby hill.
sunset
Sunset at the lake.

After returning from Saskatoon, a lot of work awaited me at my store. Due to our then upcoming transition to a new computer system, there was still a lot to prepare and to take care of. I had to work pretty long hours because one of my managers was attending the training course for the new computer system while the other manager was on vacation. So I pretty much had to do all by myself. But I won’t complain ab out that because it was still manageable, I like being busy and it is my job to do that, right? In the end, all the extra work paid off and we had a really smooth transition to the new computer system on August 15th.

R1
Chilling at the lake in the morning.
R2
Beautiful lake to swim in. Especially early in the morning when everybody else is still sleeping.

Then, my mum arrived in Vancouver to visit me. I took some days off to do some hiking with her and to show her some of the sights in Vancouver city. First, we hiked up to Mount Seymour and I finally made it to peak 3, the “real” Mount Seymour, together with my mum. The hike itself was really nice and I was so proud to see that my mum was really fit and strong so she had no trouble to hike all the way with me. However, there were two things about the hike that were pretty annoying. First of all, we encountered a lot of hungry flies and mosquitos on our way up. And secondly, we partly had to hike in clouds which also covered the entire mountain during the whole day. So we did not have the great 360- degree view that Mount Seymour usually offers. I felt really sorry for my mum because it would have been really great for her to see that nice panorama live. Not much you can do about that I guess. In the end, it would not have made a difference had we done the hike one day later because on that Friday, the sky was covered by clouds again. Instead, we spent that Friday downtown and I guided my mum through the city. She went on the Vancouver lookout, tried the Fly Over Canada simulator, visited the CatFé to meet some cats and went to a comedy show at YukYuks with me in the evening. In between this full day, we ate at 2 different restaurants where we got some very delicious food. On Sunday, I took my mum hiking again and we conquered the St. Marks summit together with a few friends of mine. Fortunately, the weather was good on that day and we could enjoy the great view on the Howe Sound and the many mountains around the area. It was a wonderful and sunny day that really compensated us for the rather bad weather on Thursday. On Saturday and Monday, my mum went out to discover other places in Vancouver on her own. After these few but really intensive days, my mum had to fly back to Germany on Tuesday. It was really great to have her here in Vancouver and show her the beauty of this country. I guess that she now understands why I love it here and why I will definitely stay here if the Canadian government allows me to do that.

Mum
My mum at Mount Seymour taking a picture of me and vice versa. 🙂 Later on I noticed that she is actually quite well camouflaged in that picture. 🙂
cypress
Skilift at Cypress Mountain. We hiked to St. Marks from there.
Howe1
View on Howe Sound from the St. Marks summit.

This week, I had to work from Monday to Thursday (today) and now I have a few days off again to spend some time on Texada Island. So far, I have made it to Earls Cove and I am currently waiting for my second ferry. I guess I need to be very lucky to actually make it to Texada Island today. Maybe I will be able to catch the last ferry to Blubber Bay but that depends on the length of the second ferry trip and the amount of time that I need to drive to the third harbor. Well, we will see about that I guess…

Last update: It is 9:20 PM and I just made it onto the last ferry to Texada Island in time after 6 hours of travel. Yay!!! 🙂

Today’s music advice is as straightforward as possible but it also contains a good amount of irony. Please find out for yourself, see link below. Thanks for being here in Canada, Mum, it was great to have you here. See you again in Germany next January!

257ers – Mama