63. Canadian Death Race 2018

North Vancouver, Canada, 12.08.2018.

Day 7 after I finished the longest race so far in my life and today I finally find some time to recap a little what has happened. The Canadian Death Race was such an amazing experience with so many different impressions that I still feel a bit overwhelmed by everything. At the same time, I am also super happy that I achieved a long-term goal that I started dreaming about more than two years ago when I first visited the small town of Grande Cache to do a half marathon there in May 2016. So much has happened since then but I never stopped dreaming about finishing the Canadian Death Race and now I actually finally achieved that goal. It feels amazing on the one hand but also a bit scary on the other hand as I now don’t have a long-term running goal anymore! Anyway, let’s start with the recap of this exciting weekend now.

00-Town
Scenice view down the main road of Grande Cache.
04-Leg4
Downhill stretch on Mount Hamel, leg4, during a short rain-free priod.

Prior to the race, I had asked my lovely Rachel if she was willing to crew me during the race and luckily, she said yes. So we drove all the way up to Grande Cache together on Thursday, August 02nd. And by “we”, I meant that Rachel drove all the way and I was just dilly-dallying on the passenger seat. πŸ˜‰ Anyway, we arrived at Grande Cache in the evening and just unloaded the car quickly before going to bed.
Then, on Friday, we prepared everything for the race. I packed my drop-bags while Rachel prepared food for me in the morning. We managed to register for the race fairly early and then I showed Rachel where she would need to drive to find me after leg 3. I decided that I only wanted Rachel to support me after legs 2 and 3 for the following reasons:Β  Leg 1 is pretty short (meaning that I would not need much support after finishing it) and having Rachel support me after leg 4 would have meant for her to stay up all night which I did not want. So I decided to just have drop bags at the end of leg 1 and at the Ambler Loop (which is close to the end of leg 4) and to not plan anything for the transistion area at the end of leg 4. In hindsight, this whole planning was pretty solid and I think that there isn’t much that I would do differently if I chose to do this race again in the future.

elevation
Elevation profile, leg structure and aid stations, Canadian Death Race 2018.
00-Start
About half an hour before the start of the race: The calm before the storm. πŸ™‚

 

On race day (Saturday, August 4th), we arrived at the start line fairly early and the weather was good for running. About 20 degrees, mostly sunny and only a few clouds in the afternoon. Of course, the weather on Mount Hamel was an exception: Strong winds and rain so that it did pay off to carry and wear a jacket while being up there.

I started the race at a fairly slow pace because I knew what would be coming during leg 2. This was probably not the best idea as I was stuck at the back of the field for a long time and I had to wait several times to pass through narrow parts of the trail. Usually, the trail would have been wide enough to pass slower runners but with the huge puddles of mud and water, we had to take detours around these obstacles and that meant single- file “traffic”. Anyway, I made it through leg 1 without any issues and then I started leg 2 with a fresh new T-Shirt, new socks and new runners. Then, on leg 2, I stepped up my pace a little bit and I also managed to do the downhills without major injuries. I did fall twice and I also hit rocks with my right foot twice but overall my feet and legs were still absolutely fine after leg 2. However, I had a bit of a scary situation while running the uphill stretch in between Flood Mountain and Grande Mountain as this was a very very hot and humid stretch that felt like being in the jungle. At one point I felt really dizzy and also started feeling nauseous so I had to stop for two minutes to rest a little before I could go on. That felt really strange but luckily it was only a minor and temporary issue.

01-Leg1
Enjoying my run on leg 1. So much energy left!
02-Leg2
Power- hiking up Grande Mountain with Mount Hamel in the back. Still smiling! πŸ™‚

Then, at the transition area after leg 2, Rachel waited for me to assist me with putting pain relief creme on my hurting knees, with eating, with changing my clothes etc. After a short stay, I headed out on the course again. Luckily, the black bear that had been spotted at the start of leg 3 earlier had gone again so I was not affected by this anymore. On leg 3, I met Alain, a fellow runner from Wainwright (AB), and we kept running together for about 25 kilometers, which was really nice. We also met a Husky dog on leg 3 who was running on his own and accompanied us for a while and then apparently ran the last part of leg 3 together with a different group of runners. πŸ™‚ Then, in the transition area between legs 3 and 4, someone leashed the dog and checked its collar to return it to its owners. Pretty funny story though. πŸ™‚ Again, Rachel waited for me in that transition area and supported me with everything I needed. At that point in the race, my stomach was a little bit upset which is highly unusual for me. Thus, I decided not to eat any of the prepared pasta or salad anymore but to stick to watermelon, bananas and apples.
At the end of leg 3 I still felt fairly fresh and energetic and the only pain I felt was in both of my knees. As everything else was okay and since I had managed to run faster than planned, I knew that I would be able to finish the race in time unless I severly injured myself on the final two legs of the race.

03-Leg3
Leg 3. The dog was running next to me, right in the water puddle. Unfortunately, the photographer did not want to include the dog in the picture. 😦
04-Hamel
Leg 4, up at Mount Hamel. Yes, I was still in a very good mood, despite the wind and rain.

As expected, the start of leg 4 was a strenuous and long powerhike up Mt Hamel but I still felt good doing it and except for my slightly nervous stomach and my aching knees, I was still in really good shape so I even enjoyed this rather demanding stretch. When I came close to the summit, it started raining and strong winds made me put on my rain jacket (see picture above). Of course, Mt Hamel had its very own weather during race day to challenge the runners a little more. πŸ™‚ Then, on the way down from Hamel, I ran for a long, long time while it was still light and thus covered a lot of kilometers in short time. When I reached the Ambler Loop aid station, the sun was already gone but there was still a little bit of light left so I decided to immediately do the short loop before accessing my drop bag. This turned out to be the right decision as I definitely got my feet wet while running the loop due to the large water- and mud puddles on the course. So after I finally completed the loop, I put on a fresh pair of socks and runners and continued running towards the end of leg 4. Although the pain in my knees had continuously increased during the last hours, I still managed to run down Beaver Dam road and to cover more kilometers quickly. This stretch, however, was the last part of the race that I actually ran.
Roughly half an hour after midnight, I arrived at the transition area between legs 4 and 5 and I was amazed how well it was organized in terms of food, drinks and assistance for runners. I had warm meatballs (!!!), a coke, a slice of watermelon and some chips before I headed out into the darkness again to finish the race. What a feast!

Times
My times during the race. I started slow, then stepped up the pace on leg 2. Strong uphill!

Leg 5 was rather uneventful for me. I managed to not lose my coin (read more about the coin here) during the race so when I arrived at the river crossing, I was safely ferried over without any issues at all. Since my knees felt quite bad going into leg 5, I decided not to run anymore but to just steadily hike the rest of the race. I am sure I would have been able to run at least a few stretches of leg 5 but I decided to not put this additional strain on my knees and to just take it easy. I knew that I would be able to easily finish the race in time even if I only hiked so I decided it was time to give my body a little break. Interestingly, I did not even feel the urge to walk faster or to start running when other runners passed me. Prior to this race, I had made the pledge to myself to run my race at my pace and to ignore what would be happening around me. It turned out that I was very disciplined about this and that I managed to live up to my own expectation which clearly helped me to finish this race without any major struggles. Thus, I arrived at the finish line at 04:36:51 AM in the morning after 20 hours, 36 minutes and 51 seconds on the course, placing 77th out of 271 solo runners who started and 174 solo runners who finished. At the finish line, Rachel was already waiting for me and it felt so good to see her and to hug her after the race was done. Not sure how it felt for her to hug her extremely sweaty and smelly boyfriend but up to now I heard no complaints so I guess it was not too too bad. πŸ™‚
Then, Keri, the race director and one of our trainers during the training camp in June, gave me my finisher medal and my personalized beer can from Folding Mountain Brewing (see titel picture above). She had predicted that she would do that on race day and I am really glad that she was right about it. Then, Rachel and I drove to our Air BnB place so that I could massage my legs with ice cubes, get a shower afterwards and then get some rest. Even though we were both exhausted, we did not manage to sleep very long so we got up fairly early again and started packing up on Sunday morning.

05-Finish
Finally done: Me walking over the finish line after 20:36:51 on the course. What a relief!
06-Ceremony
The awards ceremony and the post-race dinner at the recreation center in Grande Cache.

In the afternoon, Rachel and I stayed for the awards ceremony and the post-race dinner and then started driving in the direction of Vancouver after we felt that we had seen enough.

So what are my major personal take-aways from this race?

  1. I need to start training with poles, especially for downhill running. Not using poles caused an additional strain on my knees which could have been avoided.
  2. Having Rachel with me, who supported me a lot, was a great help and it made my race so much easier! Thanks, Sweetie! πŸ™‚ Thus, for such a long race, I would definitely recommend a support crew.
  3. I need to eat more “real food” and less Cliff Bars / Block Chews during a longer race. Halfway into the race, I was already quite fed up with my “energy food”. Next race, I will try coconut water, avocados, dates or other more natural food. Suggestions are very welcome, please leave comments!
  4. It was absolutely right to change my socks, runners and T-Shirts several times during the race. Feeling comfortable, dry and warm is such a motivational boost and mostly having completely dry feet during the race definitely prevented me from getting blisters.
  5. Not listening to music while running helped me focusing on the course and the terrain, thus avoiding major feet injuries. I only lost 1 nail after the race. That’s prettys good!
  6. It was good to run my race at my pace and to do what felt good to me. I feel it was really beneficial for me to not look at times and to not try to follow/ catch other runners.
  7. My feet and legs felt absolutely okay after the race and during the following days. However, my knees did hurt quite a bit so I should find ways to protect them in future races.
  8. Even after 125 Km, I felt that I had not reached my limit yet. Although I would not have been able to run anymore, I think that hiking a few more kilometers would have been possible for me. So maybe it is time for another challenge, another race in the near- and/or more distant future? Well, who knows? I haven’t made any decisions yet but there are a few options I am currently looking at… πŸ™‚

Wow, a truly long blog entry this time. Let’s conclude this with the ususal music piece. This time, a German Rap song that I listened to while walking leg 5 during the night. A pretty good on-theme song to listen to in that situation!

Jay Jiggy – Survivor

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62. Preparation for the Death Race

North Vancouver, Canada, 26.07.2018.

Right after Glenn and I finished our Road Trip through BC on June 21st, I headed up to Grande Cache (see title picture) to take part in the first of the two Death Race training camps this year. This turned out to be a very good decision since I got to know the course, I experimented successfully with nutrition and gear and I met a lot of friendly fellow racers that all share my goal and passion for running.

This was our schedule for the weekend:

Friday: Leg 2, pasta dinner and front end of leg 5 ~ 30 Km
Saturday: Legs 3 and 4 ~ 52 Km
Sunday: Part of leg 1 and back end of leg 5 ~ 22 Km

Due to time constraints, we skipped a few uninteresting and easy stretches on legs 1, 2 and 4. Thus, we did not do the full 125 Km of the race.

Town2
Scenic view from my AirBnb- apartment. Always a pleasure to come back to Grande Cache.
Flood
Leg 2. Turn right to run up Grande Mountain, turn left to run down Slugfest.
Flood-Grande
Up on Flood Mountain. Views on Grande Mountain and Mount Hamel.
Powerline
Still leg 2: Powerline trail. So steep and hard on the knees!

It was really good and insightful to see most of the race course and to know what challenges will be waiting for us on Race Day. After this training camp, I now know that I will be able to finish the race if I manage to avoid injuries and if there are no unfortunate circumstances like bear incidents or thunderstorms. Thus, after the training camp, I lost my fear of the race and instead, I am now looking forward to taking on this challenge. I still have a lot of respect for the race course and it won’t be easy but I now know that it is doable for me.

During the training camp, I experimented a little with nutrition and I think I now figured out a configuration that will work for me on race day. As my main drink, I will go for water, enriched by electrolytes from NUUN- tablets (Hi Kyla :-)). In addition to that, I will eat CLIFF- bars and CLIFF- bloks (energy chews) during the race to at least get a minimum of solid food every now and then. I don’t really like the Gel packs so I will only carry a few as an emergency reserve but I don’t really want to use any during the race. I feel that they did not really do all that much for me in the past… During my short rest periods in the transition areas and aid stations, I will eat a combination of fruits (bananas, apples), veggies (bell peppers) and prepared food (Pasta, salad and sandwiches) to refill my stomach. Fortunate for me, I figured out during the training camp that I don’t have an issue with running after having eaten a lot. πŸ™‚ I know that some runners just can’t eat a lot because it makes them nauseous and some even have to throw up due to that. So I am blessed to be able to eat as much and whatever I like and just continue running afterwards. So this is exactly what I will do: All you can eat during my short breaks. πŸ™‚

Leg3 finish
Transistion area at the end of leg 3. After this stop, it’s a 2 hour climb up Mount Hamel.
Hamel
View on Mount Hamel from the distance. Not so very motivating. πŸ˜‰
View from Hamel1
View from Mount Hamel on the surrounding mountains. Still snow there in late June!
View from Hamel2
The fire lookout cabin on Mount Hamel. After passing that, it is downhill again.

The one thing I have not yet tried or practiced is the use of poles when running/ powerwalking. In hindsight, I should have taken poles with me and started using them on the course. Since I didn’t, I then felt that it is maybe to late to start using them and to change my style of running so close to the race. So I decided not to use poles for the race and to do what I feel comfortable with. Of course this means that I am potentially missing out on a good tool that could help me to conserve energy but on the other hand I just did not want to “touch a running system”. Old Windows- joke that definitely has some truth to it. πŸ˜‰ So no poles it is for race day. I think I will be fine anyway.

Last but not least, it was great to meet so many fellow runners, have good conversations and exchange running experiences. It was definitely helpful to get running tips and advice on nutrition as well as helpful gear advice for race day. So after returning from my trip, I went to MEC in North Vancouver and to REI in Bellingham to get everything that I still needed for race day. And now I am all prepared, I guess and hope.

Confluence
Leg 5: The confluence of Smoky- and Sulphur River at Hell’s Gate Canyon.
Hell's Canyon downstream
Amazing how these two rivers have totally different colours and that they dont mix right away.
Tree-of-Souls
Leg 5: Back at the Tree of Souls. I left my good old trainers there (pointing at them) and I will wish them a final “Goodbye” on race day.

Overall, I am grateful for the truly amazing experiences I was allowed to make during that weekend. Kery, Tracy and Anita did an awesome job organizing the training camp and I am happy that I was there to prepare for the upcoming race. πŸ™‚

In the past few weeks after the training camp, I continued my training mostly on the North Vancouver trails (Baden Powell and Mount Seymour). In addition to that, I also did the Grouse Grind and the BCMC twice. I felt that I needed this intense uphill- and downhill exercise as there are quite a few stretches on the Death Race that are comparably bad or even worse (Powerline downhill on Leg 2). Right now, I feel prepared and ready to do the race and I will focus on regenerating a bit during this last week leading up to the race. The race itself will be on Saturday, August 4th and then we will see if I had enough training or not. Wish me luck! πŸ™‚

Today’s music piece is from a crazy German HipHop- Electro Band and it fits the current challenge/ race theme of this blog entry. Sort of. πŸ˜‰ Enjoy!

Deichkind – Limit

61. PR achieved and BC road trip

North Vancouver, Canada, 16.07.2018.

It is done. Two days ago, I finally received a message from IRCC saying that my Permanent Residency application was approved. πŸ™‚ And it is actually very hard for me to express how happy I am about this. At this very moment, it still feels a bit unreal and I think that this piece of news still has to “sink in” before I will be able to realize that I actually achieved the first of my two major goals for 2018. However, I do already feel somewhat relieved and happy and I will most certainly be very joyous once I get to hold the actual PR card in my hand. This whole development is actually pretty crazy considering that just 6 months ago, the chances of me staying here in Canada were very slim and I thought that I would have to stop working there and then. Yes, at that point I definitely got lucky but I also never stopped focusing on my goal to get Permanent Residency here in Canada and now it happened. πŸ™‚ That’s so awesome that I can now stay here for at least another 5 years, I can hardly put it into adequate words. Thus, I will probably write a little more about this whole PR thing in a future blog entry and now focus a little more my recent BC- road trip with Glenn in June.

20180604_164319
Bridal Veil Falls near Highway 1, east of Harrison Hot Springs.
20180605_133823
View on the Fraser Valley from Bear Mountain near Harrison Hot Springs.
20180606_142137
Othello Tunnels in Hope, BC. We only stopped in Hope for a few hours on our way to Coalmont.

In less than three weeks, Glenn and I saw so much of BC and it was an absolutely awesome experience. I love this province because it is so diverse and it has so many nice spots and stunning nature. And even though we were almost on the road for three weeks, I still feel that we only managed to see a fraction of the province. So there is more to discover in the future. πŸ™‚ This is what we did on our road trip:

04.06.: Fort Langley, Bridal Veil Falls, Sandy Cove Hike (Harrison Hot Springs)
05.06.: Bear Mountain, Bear Lake, Hot Springs Pool in Harrison Hot Springs
06.06.: Ruby Creek Gallery, Hope, Othello Tunnels+Hike, Hope Landslide, Princeton
07.06.: Granite Creek Ghost City, Blakeburn, Coal Seam, Coal Mine, Moskito Hike
08.06.: Grizzly Bears around Princeton, Ochre Bluff, Hoodoos, Otter Lake near Tulameen
09.06.: Hedley museum, Drive from Princeton to Penticton, Orga- day in Penticton
10.06.: Kelowna City, waterfront walk, three Wine Tastings around Kelowna
11.06.: Last Spike Craigllachie, Moses Falls near Revelstoke, Swimming Pool Revelstoke
12.06.: Mount Revelstoke trails, Glacier National Park: Bear Creek Falls, The Hermit trail
13.06.: Forestry Museum Revelstoke, Swimming Pool Revelstoke, Orga- day (shopping,…)
14.06.: Begbie Falls and Sutherland Falls close to Revelstoke
15.06.: Golden downtown, Sinclair Falls and Juniper Hike in Radium Falls
16.06.: Yoho National Park: Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake, Hamilton Falls, Hamilton Lake
17.06.: Diana Lake- hike near Radium Falls
18.06.: Kootenay National Park: Paint Pots, Marble Canyon, Stanley Glacier
19.06.: Quiet & Orga- day in Radium Falls
20.06.: Drive to Edmonton, West Edmonton Mall, Beercade Bar in the evening
21.06.: Farewell in Edmonton. Glenn stayed with his family and I drove up north for my Death Race Training Camp at Grande Cache

20180607_132831
Open coal seam near the Ghost Town of Blakeburn, close to Coalmont.
20180608_122628
Hoodoos near Princeton. Close to this place, we saw two bears playing in the meadows.
20180612_120816
View on Revelstoke city from the Nels Nelsen Ski Jump on Mount Revelstoke.

Overall, our road trip was absolutely awesome. We visited four National Parks (Mount Revelstoke, Glacier National Park, Yoho and Kootenay), drove almost 3000 Kilometers and experienced so many awesome things along our way that I can’t possibly mention everything. Writing about every single stop on our road trip would surely be too much for this blog entry so I will just write a little about the National Parks. When I hear people talk about the National Parks in western Canada, Banff and Jasper are undoubtedly the two most mentioned National Parks. And they are really beautiful so they absolutely deserve to be mentioned. Then again, Yoho, Kootenay and the Glacier National Park are absolutely stunning as well. But somehow, they are not nearly as much in peoples’ focus as Banff and Jasper are. Interestingly, many Canadians who asked me where I went during my holidays haven’t actually been to Yoho and Kootenay yet. That’s quite surprising because these National Parks are so beautiful and scenic that I don’t really understand why everyone seems to be so focused on Banff and Jasper. Anyway, the bottom line here is that I can only recommend visiting these National Parks to everyone who is interested in doing hikes, experiencing nature and wildlife and getting to know beautiful BC a little better. We saw quiet mountain lakes, stunning waterfalls, black bears and mountain goats by the road, canyons, glaciers, blooming meadows, snowy forests, wild creeks and rivers and raw mountain cliffs. And much much more…

20180612_180500
View from the trail of “The Hermit” hike in Glacier National Park into the valley.
20180616_125225
Takakkaw- falls in Yoho National Park. Pretty impressive how high it is!
20180617_130830
A very unstable bridge on our hike to Diana Lake. We made it without falling into the water!

Some of the most stunning pictures of our trip (black bear at the road, Stanley Glacier in Kootenay National Park,…) are already on my Facebook page so I decided not to include those in the current blog entry. Aside from all the beautiful nature experiences, Glenn and I also enjoyed exploring many of the small towns and villages along our route. We managed to try quite a few vegan restaurants (yum yum!) along our way and, of course, we also had our share of wine tastings in the Okanagan. πŸ™‚ Overall, we definitely had a lot of fun on the road trip and I am glad that we could finally make this trip happen after Glenn wasn’t able to join me on my 2016- trip to Canada. This was our third trip together after having visited Amsterdam in January 2016 and Scotland in October 2016. I hope you will be back in Canada soon, Glenn, so we can continue our sightseeing trip through BC and Alberta. πŸ™‚

20180618_120159
Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park.
20180618_130732
The lower end of Marble Canyon, also Kootenay National Park.
ZZ-Edmonton-House of the dead
Glenn and me playing “House of the Dead I” on our last evening of the road trip.

Our road trip ended with us playing a longer game of “House of the Dead I”, a real Arcade classic, at the Beercade- bar in Edmonton. It was a lot of fun and definitely a worthy last activity during our road trip. Then, on the next day, Glenn went to his family that lives close to Edmonton and I drove up to Grande Cache to take part in a training camp for the Canadian Death Race. But that is a different story and I will save it for the next blog entry that I will hopefully be able to write before I will actually be running the Death Race on August 4th…

If you are still looking for a good music track to listen to during your next road trip, try this one. It worked quite well for us and it is definitely great on sunny days with your car windows down:

Five – Everybody get up

60. A lazy writer

North Vancouver, Canada, 30.05.2018.

It is more than ten weeks ago since I last wrote something for this blog and I really should have taken the time to sit down and write a little bit a lot earlier. So when it comes to writing my blog, I admit that I have been very lazy lately. Thus, the title of this blog’s entry. πŸ™‚ Alright then, let’s catch up on what has happened in the last ten weeks, shall we?

After the Dirty Duo- race in March, I had a pretty quiet rest of the month with running and working as my main priorities. It was a little bit challenging at work since both of my managers were gone for the whole month and I had to manage my store mainly on my own. However, I did get quite a bit of support from my store regulars so that I did not have to work too many extra hours. The situation itself turned out to be pretty interesting as it forced me to focus on the really important things and delegate or let go of all other duties that were not really vital for the store’s immediate performance.

In April, I flew back to Germany for two weeks to meet friends and family and to deal with a few organizational and bureaucratic issues. The first thing I had to do was to fill out a lenghty report for the Canadian Immigration Agency about my history as a former officer of the German Army. The information they wanted included posting dates, names of superiors, promotion dates, the names of my units and a comprehensive list of my duties for every single position I held during my career. In the end, just dealing with this request and finishing my Canadian tax return kept me busy for a few days already.

Koeln
Beautiful weather in KΓΆln (Cologne) when I went there to meet Martin, a good friend of mine who still works for Lidl.
Konzert
At the Motorjesus- concert in MΓΆnchengladbach. It has already become a tradition to do that together with my brother.
Trail
A stretch of my favourite trail, not far away from my mum’s house. While I was in Germany, the sun shone almost every day!

Aside from this “work- part”, I also found the time to visit my family and some of my friends as well during my Germany- holidays. I stayed at my mum’s place for a few days, I went to a rock- concert with my brother and I also spent a quiet and relaxing day with my dad, chatting about a lot of things. Then, I also met my army friends from the Captain’s Mafia, a good friend from my Lidl- days and, of course, my best buddy, Glenn. He and I spent quite a bit of time together planning for our roadtrip through British Columbia, starting either on June 4th or 5th. That is in less than a week from now! We will probably drive through and see a few places in the Okanagan and then spent a lot of time in the YOHO and KOOTENAY National Park. Needless to say that I am already really excited about that! Finally and before I flew back to Canada on April 24th, Rachel flew in from Vancouver and we spent a lovely weekend together in Hamburg. It was great to show her the city that I lived in for almost six years and it was good to re-visit some of my favourite spots. These are just some of the highlights of that fabulous weekend:

Hamburg1
We visited the Hamburg’s magnificent town hall and found this greek- inspired statue in the backyard.
Hamburg2
The original “Heiße Ecke” on St. Pauli’s Reeperbahn. We ate a Currywurst here before watching the “Heisse Ecke” comedy play at Schmidt’s Tivoli theatre.
Hamburg3
We had a “Dinner in the Dark” at this place. It was a challenge and an absolutely stunning experience to eat a four-course surprise-dinner in complete darkness, served by blind waiters.

Soon after I came back from Germany, I had a fitness weekend coming up in early May. First, I met up with Emilia and we went for two hikes at the Golden Ears Provincial Park. Again, the weather was beautiful and we got to enjoy a sunny day at this beautiful park. When hiking to the waterfalls (see picture) and a lookout, I noticed that there is another hike in the park that goes all the way up to the 1500m summit. This could be something that Glenn and I may do next week, at the start of our road trip through BC. We’ll see about that…

Golden-Ears3
Scenery at the Golden Ears Provincial Park with view on the still snow-covered mountains.
Golden-Ears1
The lower part of the Golden Ears waterfalls.
Golden-Ears2
The upper part of the Golden Ears waterfalls with a large pothole on the right side.

The day after we hiked at Golden Ears Provincial Park, it was race day in Vancouver, May 6th. I already ran the BMO Vancouver Marathon last year and that was the very first marathon I ever ran. So at the start of this year, it sounded like a good idea to me to sign up for this race again. The weather on race day was lovely again and I felt really good when the race started. Since I knew from last year that there would be plenty of good aid stations along the way, I decided to run without my backpack and rely on what I would get from these aid stations. Well, it turned out that this time, they only had ONE!!! aid station that offered gel packs instead of at least three of them last year. So that was pretty bad as it serioiusly impacted my nutrition intake. In addition to that, I probably ran too quick during the first 20ish- kilometers so that the second half of the marathon was not at all enjoyable anymore. Also, I felt that running on tarmac for the whole distance really put an extra strain on my body and I felt a lot worse after these 42 kilometers than I did after the 50 kilometers of trail in March. In hindsight, it was probably a mistake to even sign up for this race since neither the distance nor the elevation profile nor the running conditions of the race mirrored what I will be facing at the Death Race in August. So not a good training run at all, I suppose. Anyway, lessons learned. With the way my knees still feel even three weeks after the race, I don’t think that I will run a tarmac-only race anytime soon again. Better focus on trail running. In the end, I finished the marathon in 3 hours and 35 minutes, so it took me 8 minutes longer than last year.

Marathon1
This was a so-called “Yoga for runners”- session on the day before the race. When I was a kid, people used to call that “sleeping in the sun”. πŸ™‚
Marathon2
Just seconds before the race started. Again, we were really blessed with the weather on that day.

In the weeks after the marathon, I continued my training for my next big racing event: The Death Race training camp in Grand Cache from June 22nd to June 24th. Judging from the prelimiary training plan I saw, this camp will be quite a challenge on its own already. I believe the goal of the training camp is to run the whole course of the Death Race (=125 Km) in those three days. That will surely give us a good idea of what awaits us in August when we will have to do the same course in just 24 hours. Fun times! πŸ™‚

With regard to my Permanent Residence application, I have not heard anything back from IRCC since I submitted the last documents at their request. Judging from their usual processing times for new PR applications, I should hear from them soon though. Hopefully there will be something positive to report in my next blog entry, which will probably go online in July sometime.

In the meantime, I hope that all of my readers enjoy life as much as I do and that you will have an equally glorious summer with lots of great activities and events coming up. Let’s get the summer started with this nice summer song by Bam Bam:

Bam Bam – Bags packedΒ 

59. Dirty Duo 50Km Trail Race

North Vancouver, Canada, 12.03.2018.

In my last blog entry, I wrote a lot about pursuing my 2018 goals. Since then, roughly two weeks have gone by and a lot has happened. First of all, I finally managed to obtain all necessary documents for my Permanent Residency application so that I could re-submit it yesterday. Yay. πŸ™‚ Judging from the processing times displayed on the IRCC website, it will probably take them roughly two months to give me feedback on my application. So I guess it is time to show some patience now…

In the meantime, I will now be able to spend more time on one of my other main goals: Running and finishing the Death Race in August. As one of my first major steps towards that goal, I ran the Dirty Duo 50K Trail Race in North Vancouver last Saturday. To me, this race was mainly a way to determine my current state of training and to gather more experience running longer distances. Also, I was really excited to actually run a race in my very own neighbourhood and being on trails that I usually train on. During the race, that really made me feel comfortable and lifted my spirits more than once.

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Early in the morning, at about 06:30 AM. The 50K- runners checking in, temperatures close to zero.
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After the race: Sitting down and enjoying the sun on a very beautiful day.

The race itself was really great and I enjoyed running it a lot. It was dry throughout the whole race and at about 8am, the sun came out and shone for the rest of the day. Just beautiful. πŸ™‚ On the other hand, some parts of the trails were really challenging as they were still covered by soft and packed snow as well as ice. This certainly slowed us down during the race but it was also a good way to train running and keeping one’s balance on treacherous ground. Overall, the race offered a good mixture of easy and difficult stretches as well as an intersting mixture of up- and downhill running. In the end, I managed to finish 10th out of 43 starters and 10th out of 34 finishers in 6 hours and 17 minutes. Considering my goal to stay under 8 hours, I am really happy about this time. After having finished the race, I even felt like I could still continue running and do some more kilometers without significantly slowing down. So that is a very good sign considering that I will have to run a lot more than those 50 Kilometers in August. Knowing this, I am a bit concerned that I don’t have a longer race (80K or 100K) scheduled anymore before the Death Race in August. However, I may just do some longer training runs on my own in between April and July to account for this. We’ll see….

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Riley and me after the race. We spent a lot of time chasing each other on the course.
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A vegetarinan stew with lentils after the race: Great to get some good and warm food! πŸ™‚

During and after the race, I tried to analyze my running and I came up with these top 5 findings for the race:

  1. I need to find my own pace and run it without considering other runners. During the race, I observed myself chasing other runners more than once, unnecessarily increasing my running speed and loosing my own rhythm as a result of that. I should stop worrying about other runners but start focusing exclusively on myself.
  2. On the one hand, it was really good and relaxing to consequently walk uphill instead of running those stretches. On the other hand, this cost me a lot of time. I am really good at running downhill and on even ground but rather weak when it comes to running/ walking uphill. Once the Grouse Grind opens again, I should go there and focus on training uphill walking.
  3. It was good to have my own supply of water and energy bars on the course although I came across aid stations roughly every 40 minutes. I think it is important to eat and drink when you feel like doing so, regardless if there is an aid station around or not. Also, since my camel bag was warmed by my back during the race (I wore my running backpack), my water was a lot warmer than the water at the aid stations. And drinking really cold water while running is not a good thing at all.
  4. When walking longer uphill stretches, I made it my habit to use these “breaks” to eat something. I even did that when I did not really feel hungry because I knew that my body needed the energy then. So far, this strategy has worked fine for me and I think that I will keep doing that in the future. I feel that I really need to conserve my available energy during longer runs, so I think it is quite reasonable not to run uphill anymore but instead to use those stretches to refill my body energy reserves.
  5. I need to pay more attention to the rocks and roots on the trail. During the race, I stumbled over rocks and roots several times, causing bruises on my toes in the process. Fortunately, I did not severely injure my toes but there was a chance that that could have happened and it would have had a very negative effect on my ability to continue running at an acceptable pace. Interestingly, I did not stumble nor fall in the snow and ice, presumably because I knew it was dangerous so I paid a lot of attention when walking and running those stretches.

 

Wine-Fest2
At the 2018 Wine Festival inside the Vancouver Convention Center. I stood at the window while making this picture.
Wine-Fest3
And this is the view from where I stood in the Convention Center when I turned around 180 degrees. Amazing panorama, isn’t it?
Wine-Fest1
I had a chance to taste this 1968 Port Wine and a 1966 Port Wine as well. 50 year old wines are great but a little too expensive for my taste.

Aside from my PR application and the running, I had two more highlights in the past weeks. A really good colleague of mine offered me a ticket to come to the Vancouver Wine Festival which featured a lot of Spanish and Portuguese Wines this year. I went there with him on March 1st and we spent some three hours trying all kinds of wines and enjoying the flair of the event. It was amazing to taste all these different kinds of Port Wine and finding out about their particular flavours and consistencies. In the end, I even bought a bottle of quite expensive Port Wine (not the 50 year old bottle portrayed above) because its taste was/is amazing and absolutely convinced me. I will keep that bottle for a special occasion.

On March 3rd (Japanese Girl’s Day), Rachel invited me to join a Japanese cooking session with close friends of hers. We had a great time preparing all the wonderful dishes (Sushi, Udon Noodles, Gomae, Teriyaki,…) and filling our stomachs with these delicious treats. I learned a lot about preparing these dishes and I am looking forward to preparing some of those together with Rachel at some point. Overall, we had an amazing afternoon and evening with great conversations and a lot of laughter. πŸ™‚ It was great to be there, to meet everyone and to be part of this very special event. Also, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to make this experience.

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The traditional dolls for the Japanese Girl’s day, dressed in Kimonos.
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A whole table full of amazing food. What a delicious feast that was! πŸ™‚
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After the many main courses, we even had dessert: Daifuku and cake! So yummyΒ  πŸ™‚

After so much writing, it is finally time to conclude this blog entry with my usual music advice of the day. I stumbled upon this piece when I listened to a random Youtube playlist. Without paying a lot of attention to the lyrics, I just think this is an enjoyable piece overall:

3 Doors Down – Kryptonite

58. Pursuing my 2018 goals

North Vancouver, Canada, 27.02.2018.

After I received my new work permit a few weeks ago, I felt really energized and determined to start tackling my 2018 goals and make this year as amazing as the past year. This will be a real challenge since 2017 was an awesome and exciting year, probably the best one so far in my life. So in order to make 2018 a great year as well, I started working on the goals I set for myself and there is actually already visible progress which makes me very happy. In this blog entry, I will write about two very important goals of mine for 2018: Getting Permanent Residency here in Canada and running the Canadian Death Race.

Let’s start with the Canadian Death Race. I already wrote about this race in earlier blog entries and the idea to run this beast has not escaped my mind since I first heard about the race in May 2016 when I visited Grand Cache to run the Mountain Madness Half Marathon. Now that I know that I will be allowed to stay in Canada this year, the circumstances seemed right to sign up for that race and to live one of my more recent dreams. So when the registration for the race opened on February 15th at 12:00 o’clock I sat right in front of my computer and registered as one of the first runners this year. In addition to that, I also booked a spot in the training camp in Grand Cache from June 22-24th and my accomodation for both events. So now I am fully committed to run this race and challenge my mental and physical strength as well as my ability to withstand pain. Probably a lot of pain.

DR-REG
Number 70 on the roster of the male Ultra- runners. This is it, no backing out!
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On one of my favourite running trails, leading up to Mount Seymour. Lots of snow there right now…
Mt-Seymour
Junction on the way up to Mount Seymour at roughly 600m. With the current snowy conditions, this is a good spot to turn around.

Needless to say, I am really excited to do that race. I don’t know if I will be able to finish it in time or at all but I will give my very best and push myself as hard as I can. As of now, I already intensified my training to get my body used to running longer distances. Then, in less than two weeks, I will run my first serious race this year, the Dirty Duo in North Vancouver. This 50 Kilometer trail race is practically in my neighborhood and a great opportunity for me to test myself this early in the year. Currently I feel that I am in better shape than usually at this time of year but feelings can always be deceiving. In any case, it is my goal to finish this race in under 8 hours. Although this race has some hills in it, it is probably still a lot less hilly and technical than the two difficult legs in the Death Race. So if I need more than 8 hours for relatively easy 50 Kilometers, I will need to improve a lot to be able to do 125 pretty difficult Kilometers in less than 24 hours. Then again, if I need more than 8 hours, I still have five months to improve and step up my training a few notches. In any case, I will write about the race and any new insights it may provide in my next blog so you will know how it went for me. Hopefully, the snow will be gone by race day so that we don’t have to slide around on the trail. But even if there is still snow on the trail on race day, this won’t deter me from running. I will most certainly face difficult conditions during the Death Race in August as well so it may even be a good thing to train running on tricky surfaces in advance.

Snow-NorthVan
View from a junction close to my appartment onto Mount Seymour. I love the white winter scenery.
Sea-to-Sky
BC Family Day: Rachel and I took the Sea to Sky Gondola up the mountain and enjoyed it a lot.
Mt Habrich
View on Mount Habrich. On a sunny day, we had a lovely hike up to a view point on the slope of the mountain.

Although there is a lot more to say about the Death Race, I feel like I don’t want to overextend on that topic now. Instead, I would rather like to write a little about my goal to get Permanent Residency in Canada this year.

Shortly after I got my new work permit, the BC Provincial Nomination Program also re-attached its nomination to my new PR application and I received my 600 points for that again. As a result, I was picked out of the pool of PR applicants in the next draw and I again received an invitation by IRCC to submit my documents. Since then I managed to gather most of the needed documents so my application has already made a lot of progress. However, I am still waiting for the last important document from one of my German banks which really takes its time, unfortunately. A little bit frustrating for me right now but there is not really a way to speed that up significantly. Once I get my hands on this last document, I will get it translated so that it can be uploaded shortly after that. And then I will be able to submit my application again and hopefully get a positive response within the next 2-4 months. If this all happens like I have it planned right now, I could start to further developing my life and presence here in Canada in late summer/ early fall which would be absolutely awesome. Although it seems like there are no more major obstacles in my way, I still have my fingers crossed that nothing unforeseen happens and my PR application won’t be rejected a second time. To prevent that, I already double-checked all of my documents once more to make sure that they are all good and compliant with the IRCC rules…

Suspension
The suspension bridge at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola.
Chief
View on the Stawamus Chief and Squamish in the background.
howe-Sound
View on Howe Sound and the beautiful snowy mountains surrounding it.

As you can see in the pictures above, I still like to travel when there is time to do that. During the most recent trip, Rachel and I took the Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish and we spent a beautiful day up in the mountains. It was really sunny and hiking up halfway to Mount Habrich was great fun and exciting at the same time. We were rewarded with amazing panoramic views and mesmerizing nature scenery in snow. Also, it was a great opportunity for us to do that trip as there was a 50% rebate on the gondola tickets during the whole BC family day weekend. Overall, a really nice trip that I can recommend to everyone who has not been up there yet.

As usual, I want to conclude this blog entry with a song I like. Also, the refrain of this song happens to summarize quite well what many people think about me and my plan when I tell them that I intend to run the Death Race:

Cypress Hill – Insane in the Brain

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!

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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! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ 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…

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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