45. Current state of affairs and running thoughts

Between Tsawwassen and Long Harbour (Salt Spring Island), Canada, 08.06.2017.

It is Thursday evening and my long weekend has just begun. Since I have five days off now, I decided to make a trip to Salt Spring Island to relax a little. That’s why I am currently on my way from Tsawwassen to Long Harbour (Salt Spring Island) on board of the “Queen of Nanaimo”, a rather old ferry. As this trip will take roughly three hours, I have ample to write another blog entry and share some thoughts about running and my current situation in Canada.

Let’s start with my current state of affairs in Canada. As of now, I have spent a little over 5 months in Canada already and I have enjoyed every day of it. I managed to get a decent and enjoyable job, I met family members and found new friends, I did quite a bit of sightseeing and travelling and I started to climb and run marathons. Certainly, I am currently experiencing one of the best parts of my life so far. That said, I would not be me if I had no plans for the future. Now what’s my main plan for the future? Well, as I have already laid out in one of my previous blog entries, I will apply for permanent residency so that I can stay in Canada indefinitely. As of last week, I was not yet able to apply because my university degrees had not been certified yet. Luckily, I got a letter from the certification agency last week saying that they recognize one of my degrees as a Master degree and the other one as a combination of an undergraduate degree and a diploma. I disagree with their latter assessment (that degree is also the equivalent of a master degree!!!) but that does not really matter. All that matters is that they certified the other degree as a Master degree so that I will now get the higher amount of points for the Master degree when applying for permanent residency. However, I will still wait with the application until I have my company’s final decision on my request to do a “Labor Market Impact Assessment” (LMIA) for me & my job. If they do this LMIA for me, I will score additional points in my application and that would significantly raise my chances to be considered for permanent residency. However, if my company does not support me with a LMIA, I will still be able to apply for permanent residency but I will score significantly lower and thus it will be less likely for me to get that permanent residency. In a first decision, the head of the HR department told my line manager that the company generally does not support employees with LMIA’s. So far, so good. At first glance, it looks like I won’t be supported by my company in this regard. However, I can be very persistent if I really want something so I will talk to the head of HR first before actually giving up on this endeavor. I feel that he needs to know that they will have to look for a new Store Manager in January if I don’t manage to get that permanent residency. This may entice them to overthink their decision and maybe support me after all. But if not, I will definitely try to get the permanent residency even without their support. Generally, I almost never give up until the very last card is played. You never know how things may turn out in the end. Now you may ask yourself: And what will you do if you don’t get that permanent residency? Is there a plan B? Good question and yes, there is a Plan B. If I don’t get that permanent residency, I will briefly fly back to Germany in January after my visa runs out and then I will return to Canada to do some travelling. Probably, I will also go to the U.S. and see some places over there. Now why would I do that? Simple thing: Without a valid visa, “normal” visitors are only allowed to stay in Canada for up to 3 months in one piece. However, if I cross the border to the U.S. once in a while, this 3-months period is reset and I won’t be considered an illegal visitor anymore when I will be travelling through Canada from January to August. It is my plan to drive through Canada from west to east and back again on another route. In August 2018, Grand Cache in Alberta (click here for my first visit to this place in 2016) will be my final destination. Since I won’t be working in between January and August, I will have a lot of time to train for the Canadian Death Race and this will be my final endeavor on my trip. So no matter how the Canadian government decides on my application for permanent residency, I have good plans in place for the future and I will definitely make the best out of it!

Tsawwassen2
Tsawwassen seaport and commercial terminal(s) in the background.
Tsawwassen1
Tsawwassen coastline in the background. I used to run there when I was living at Dawn’s place.

You may have noticed already that this blog entry does not contain many pictures. I am sorry about that but I did not have many opportunities in between the last blog entry and this one to take interesting pictures. However, I promise to share many nice pictures with you in my next blog entry which will be about my trip to Salt Spring Island.

Now that I have done quite a bit of running in the last weeks, I want to take this opportunity and share some of my thoughts about running with you. First of all, I realized that I really like running and pushing myself and that I can take quite a bit of pain while doing so. From my time in the German Army, I already know that I am able to take a lot of pain and endure bad situations but as of now I was unsure if I was willing to expose myself to these situations voluntarily. As it turns out, I am increasingly willing to do that and to test my personal limits. Although my first marathons were a challenge to me, I still feel that I can more than 42.2 kilometers. So I will continue to push myself and train hard for the 80 K- race in Whistler in October. And if that race goes well, my next goal will be to run the Death Race in 2018. Now I don’t know if I will be able to do that but I strongly believe in pursuing your dreams in life and also in trying as hard as you can to achieve them. And if I fail to complete that race, I can at least say that I tried and that it was not for me. In addition to that, I will never look back later and ask myself “…what would have been had I actually tried to run that race…”. I have not yet made up my mind how exactly I will train for the longer races but I am almost sure that I don’t want to stick to any rigid training- or nutrition plan. Now I know that there are numerous training plans and diets on the internet and each one tells you what to eat, when and how much to train and how to structure your weeks before the running event. Let’s put it this way: I am sure that you can optimize your running performance by following these plans and diets but that is just not my style. I don’t want to overcomplicate things and I am not prepared to slavishly do what others tell me. Sticking to training plans and diets does not sound like fun to me and in the end, I want to enjoy what I am doing and I don’t want to be forced how to spend my leisure time. Thus, if I feel like eating chips, drinking beer and watching a movie, I will always do that and I don’t want to have a training/diet plan telling me that I am supposed to eat pasta now and at least run 10-15 Kilometers that day. Won’t happen if I don’t feel like it, sorry. To me, it is all about feeling good and comfortable with spending my leisure time for something. Bottom line: I only want to go running when I feel like running. I know that I will have to “pay the price” for this attitude and kind of training in the end but that is okay with me since I am not a full-time athlete and running is a passion and hobby to me and not a job. However, when it comes to the race day itself, I think that I will be forced to follow the more scientific approach of running. Probably, you need a certain nutrition (electrolytes, energy,…) for your muscles to be able to run for an extended period of time without getting bad cramps or collapsing. So I guess I will be forced to explore this topic a little more in the future and to try some of the prevalent nutrition advices during the next races.  Let’s see what results I can achieve with my way of training…

Galiano1
Sturdies Bay at Galiano Island. Our first stop on the way to Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island.
Galiano3
Bald Eagle near our ferry at Sturdies Bay.

Wow, another very long blog entry with over 1600 words! I guess it is time to stop writing now and to finally post my music advice for today. Let’s listen to some alternative and crazy German music with hip-hop and electronic elements. In all of my arrogance, it is a tribute to all the training plans and marathon diets out there:

Deichkind – Like mich am Arsch

44. Whistler 30K race & other events

Vancouver, Canada, 03.06.2017.

It is saturday evening and I have a little bit of time to write this blog entry and calm down from today’s final race in my current “series”. It all began with the Vancouver marathon on May 7th, then continued with the Red Deer marathon on May 21st and ended with todays 30K run in Whistler after 27 days. I have had a great time in all of these races but I also think that this is enough for now and that I will (have to) give my body a longer phase of rest now. It is not that I feel bad or wrecked now but I am a firm believer that you can only give your best if you are well rested. Also, I might have some minor injuries or muscle issues that just need a little bit of time to heal off completely. So I will only do a little bit of regular training in the next weeks and restart with doing races after I return from Germany in early July. 🙂  As of now, I have made a plan which races I definitely want to do this year and which ones I will not do because they are too close together or too far away.

So this is the updated race calendar for this year:

Langley Half Marathon, 21.01.2017:    1:51
Vancouver Marathon, 07.05.2017:        3:27
Red Deer Marathon, 21.05.2017:           3:29
30K race, Whistler, 03.06.2017:             2:18
Marathon Kamloops, 23.07.2017:         confirmed, registered already
Half Marathon Vancouver, 12.08.17:   maybe
50K trail race, Squamish 19.08.17:       sold out. Can’t compete
Marathon Texada Island, 27.08.17:      confirmed, registered already
Marathon Richmond, 01.10.17:             too close to the 80K race 2 weeks later
Kelowna Marathon, 07.10.17:               no
Okanagan Marathon, 08.10.17:             no
80K race, Whistler, 14.10.17:                confirmed, registered already
Marathon North VAN, 28.10.17:           too close to the 80K race 2 weeks earlier
Marathon, Delta, 05.11.17:                    very likely but I will decide on that spontaneously
Marathon Seattle, 26.11.17:                   maybe, depending on the weather
Half Marathon, Vancouver, 26.11.17:  alternative if I don’t go to Seattle

There are some smaller races in Vancouver and surrounding area in between and I might do one or more of them to have something in between but I havent decided on that yet. In October, there will be the big blow with the 80K race in Whistler. No clue how I will prepare for that but I know that I probably want a longer “regeneration” period prior to that so I won’t do the marathon in North Delta. Which is a bummer because it is so close to me. Unfortunately, the race in Squamish on the 19th of August was completely sold out when I looked it up and there is no way I can compete in that one. 50K, 50 mile and the 50K + 50 Mile- race (sick!!!) are all completely sold out. But with the 80K race in Whistler, I have a great highlight for this year and a true challenge ahead of me. And since I won’t be able to run in Squamish, I can drive to Texada Island the following weekend (boy, that will be a great trip!) and do the marathon over there. That will be a lot of fun I think! Actually, I booked the marathon first and then looked up how to get to Texada Island. Bad sequencing on my part but now I can’t change that anymore and I just need to do it. It will be alright though I think!

Race-Map
Race map. The red line is the 30K race I made.
Race-elevation
Elevation profile of the race course. Definitely more demanding than the marathons in Vancouver and Red Deer.

So how was the 30K run today? Well, I really liked it and it was quite different to the two races I did before. The course was about 50% tarmac and 50% forest trail which was quite new to me. Up to this race, I was used to either run on tarmac only or on trail only. But the main difference today was the considerable elevation change on the race course, see map above. Although the elevation change in the Red Deer marathon was already larger than the one in the Vancouver marathon, they were quite harmless in comparison to the elevation change on this course. It is not that the up- and downhill parts were particularly bad or gruesome on this course but they were there and it definitely made a difference in the way I ran this race. The elevation change was not as significant as in the Grande Cache half marathon last year but it was still significant. And there was another significant difference in this race: I met a fellow runner on the course who basically ran the same pace as me so we could push each other during most of the race. She was a great runner, had a very steady pace and was especially strong on the uphill parts of the race. On the last 4 kilometers, I could not keep up with her anymore and she finished ahead of me. Also, she managed to win the 2nd place in the women’s competition in the race which was a big accomplishment and I am really happy that she was able to do that. 🙂 My finishing time was 2:18 which was surprisingly good given that the track was more difficult than the previous ones and my legs did not really feel fresh. At 21.2 km, my time was around 1:38 and my overall pace was quite quick with 4:38 Minutes per kilometer. So despite the more difficult track, I was able to beat my marathon paces by quite a bit. Of course, this was a shorter race than the marathons so the paces are not comparable but I am still proud of it anyway. All in all, it was a great day and I promised myself to return to Whistler one day to actually take a look at the city and its famous sites of the Olympic Winter Games of 2010.

Whistler-Panorama
The Olympic rings, close to the start/ finish line of the race.
Finish
My racing companion and me after the race. Happy about the accomplishment!

And what else happened in the last week aside from the running? Well, first of all I had a great time with Jo Anne and Doug in Olds and I am very grateful that they invited me and I could visit them. I added a few pictures of my trip to them and back from Olds to Vancouver because they reminded me of my visit to Canada a year ago. Banff, Lake Louise and me driving long distances through Canada. I am still a big fan of that and this will probably never change. 🙂 Here we go, enjoy:

Banff
Banff. Isn’t that just a beautiful sight?
Lake-Louise
Lake Louise visitor center. I made a quick stop to get a coffee and some gas. Always nice to come back here.
Merritt
An old hotel in Merritt, on my way from Vancouver to Calgary.
Salmon Arm1
View from the road onto the lake near Salmon Arm. I definitely need to come back here one day.
Spiral-Tunnels
Made a quick stop at the Spiral Tunnels on my way back to Vancouver.
Spiral-Tunnels2
One part of the Spiral Tunnels in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. Impressive, ey? 😉
SatNav
882 kilometers straight on. What did I need a SatNav for again? 🙂 Love your long roads, Canada!
Beaver-statue
Beaver statue (wood) in the Bower Ponds in Red Deer.

In the last weeks, I also continued to climb and I am still making some progess with the more difficult routes as well. Last week, I took a Lead Belay course and technically, I now know how to lead climb. However, I guess I will need quite a bit of training and practice until I really feel comfortable with that style of climbing. With regard to hiking, my hiking partner and I managed to explore the Lynn Canyon together. I really enjoyed that and I am already looking forward to our next hiking trip in 2 weeks. Hiking is a good alternative to running because it still trains your legs while it is a lot slower and allows you to chill and look around a lot more…

Lynn-Canyon2
Waterfall in Lynn Canyon. View from above.
Lynn-Canyon1
Rapids in Lynn Canyon. Nice to see how the stones are sharpened by the water.

Okay, I just realized that I have already written more than 1300 words so far. So this is probably the longest blog entry I have ever written. But that also means that I will now conclude this entry with the usual music advice and stop writing for now. While browsing YouTube, I stumbled upon this rather unknown band. Check out this songs, I really enjoy listening to it! Till next time, everyone….

Fangclub – Bad words

43. Red Deer Marathon

Olds (Alberta), Canada, 22.05.2017.

Day one after my second marathon in two weeks. This time, I don’t have to work but I can chill at Jo Anne’s and Doug’s house and rest my legs and feet a little. The weather is beautiful and after having written this blog entry, I will definitely go outside and relax a bit in the nearby park. Such a blessing to have a long weekend off. One of the many upsides of my new job as a Senior Store Manager. 🙂

So yesterday I did my second marathon in two weeks and it felt totally different than the first one I did in Vancouver. But let’s stick to the bare facts first before going into detail. I finished in 3:29, which is a bit slower than my 3:27 finish in Vancouver. However, I still managed to be quicker than 3:30 so the pace was a little better than 5:00 minutes per kilometer. Interestingly, I finished the first 21.1 Km in 1:39 whereas my second 21.1 Km were a lot slower with 1:50. This indicates that my time management could have been better in this race. Bearing in mind that the circumstances of the run were not ideal, I am very satisfied with the outcome. So what about the circumstances of the run? Well, first of all my legs and my feet were still not fully regenerated from the last marathon. And secondly, I made the mistake to do a longer and quite intensive run last Thursday and it felt like I should not have done that prior to the marathon. Anyway, I knew beforehand that my body condition could be an issue in this endeavour and I factored that in. And what about the race course and the weather yesterday? Well, I think that yesterday’s course was not particularly demanding but it was still a bit more difficult than the really convenient course in Vancouver. And the same goes for the weather. Generally, it was lovely yesterday but it got annoying when the sun became really strong and I had to run without any shadow for longer periods. In the end I was fortunate to not get a sun burn but I could feel the skin on my face stretching in the evening. Overall, the conditions of the run were quite good but not as ideal as in Vancouver two weeks ago.

Marathon1
Runners already lined up at the start line before the start of the race.
Marathon3
At the end of the field: My preferred starting position.

The run itself was a lot more strenuous than the Vancouver marathon and it cost me a lot of effort to maintain my pace throughout the race. While I was still doing absolutely fine after 21.1 Km in the Vancouver race, I already felt leg pain yesterday just after the first 6 Km. So basically, yesterday’s run was all about taking the pain and fighting throughout the race. That is why it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the Vancouver run. Another thing that really bugged me was the fact that I had to run alone for a long part of the race. During the Vancouver run I always had other runners in front of me and I could motivate myself to catch every single one of them. But yesterday, there were not nearly as many runners than in the Vancouver run. So after a few kilometers I had noone in front of me anymore and I had to run against the clock. Personally, I think that this is a big psychological disadvantage and it takes a lot of discipline to keep yourself pushing forward although there is noone to catch up to. Then, if you add constantly aching muscles to that equation, you can imagine how hard it is not to slow down involuntarily. Anyway, I don’t want to complain about anything here because it was still a good run and a great experience to me. And also a good training for the Canadian Death Race that I might do in 2018.

Finish
Unfortunately, there was no mascot at the race this year….
Barbecue
Better weather for the barbeque than last year, that’s for sure!
Marathon4
Chillout- area after the race.

After the race, I rested a little while and stocked up on water and fruits. Although they had a free barbeque- stand again, I did not feel like eating a burger after the race. Also, I felt a little dizzy after the race, possibly because I had been in the sun for most of the time. When I felt good again after a few minutes, I got into my car and drove to Jo Anne’s and Doug’s place to chill out for the rest of the day. And since I also had the Monday and the Tuesday off, I could still rest today (Monday) and postpone my drive back to Vancouver to Tuesday.  Better situation than having to work on the day after the race, that’s for sure. 🙂 However, my legs already feel good again and there is only one real blister at my feet so walking is not a problem at all in the moment. It is a little disturbing though that the upper parts of both of my feet seem to be a little swollen and it still hurts when I apply pressure to the largest of the foot bones. I hope this is nothing serious but I guess I will find out more about that in a few days…

Now what is the plan for the future, which major races will I possibly do in the next months? Well, this is my current calendar:

Langley Half Marathon, 21.01.2017:    1:51
Vancouver Marathon, 07.05.2017:        3:27
Red Deer Marathon, 21.05.2017:           3:29
30K race, Whistler, 03.06.2017:             attendance depending on recovery of feet
Marathon Kamloops, 23.07.2017:         possibly
Half Marathon Vancouver, 12.08.17:   probably not
50K trail race, Squamish 19.08.17:       very likely
Marathon Texada Island, 27.08.17:      probably not if I run the 50K in Squamish
Marathon Richmond, 01.10.17:             very likely
Kelowna Marathon, 07.10.17:               probably not
Okanagan Marathon, 08.10.17:             probably not
80K race, Whistler, 14.10.17:                very likely but dependent on my training status
Marathon North VAN, 28.10.17:           unlikely if I attend the 80K race at Whistler
Marathon, Delta, 05.11.17:                    possibly
Marathon Seattle, 26.11.17:                   maybe, depending on the weather
Half Marathon, Vancouver, 26.11.17:  alternative if I don’t go to Seattle

The two highlights in this race calendar are the 50K race in Squamish and the 80K race in Whistler. Now that I feel pretty confident with doing marathons, I might as well try longer distances and these two races offer me the opportunity to just do that. However, I have not yet finally decided which of these races I will do. Since I don’t know how I will have to work on the weekends and how I will feel after the previous races, I will probably decide on doing a certain race just shortly before it takes place.

Now I feel I have written enough about running and races and it is time to conclude this blog entry with my usual music advice, enjoy:

Offspring – Original Prankster

42. Vancouver Marathon

Vancouver, Canada, 11.05.2017.

After having done my first marathon last Saturday, I finally found a bit of time to write this blog entry now and tell you a little about my run. First of all, I have to admit that it was a great experience and that it was quite a bit different than running a half marathon. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

On Saturday, I rented a hotel room in Vancouver for two reasons: I wanted to be close to the start and the finish line of the marathon and I needed a good place to park my car for a longer time without having to pay ridiculous fees. Also, I still needed to pick up my race package on Saturday so I had to go to the Convention Centre in downtown anyway. After having picked up my package, I decided to see some stand-up comedy at the YukYuks in the evening and as usual, it was a very entertaining show. On Sunday morning, the marathon started at 08:30 AM and the weather was beautiful. The sun was out all day but it was not too hot and the fresh breezes along the way were very welcome to cool down the runners. I really enjoyed the very scenic run and the amazing views on the course. And it was also very helpful that the course itself did not have a difficult altitude profile at all. There were only two minor hills on the course and they were absolutely doable. So in the end, my finish time was pretty good and also a lot better than I had hoped for initially. However, the most amazing thing to me was the fact that I managed to run a quite steady pace throughout the marathon. My time for the first 21.1 Km was 1:40 whereas my time for the second 21.1 Km was only marginally worse at 1:47 Km. When I passed the 21.1 Km- mark, I was a little bit shocked about my time because this time is pretty close to my best half marathon time. So I expected myself to be a lot slower during the second half of the marathon as I had already invested a lot of my energy at that point. Interestingly, this did not happen and I was also able to run the second half relatively smoothly. Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed running the marathon and it was an aweseome experience.

2015.Maps_.MARATHON.
Course and altitude profile. My judgement: relatively easy and uncomplicated.
Times
My times during the run. With place 378 out of 4695 runners, I am in the top 10! 🙂
BMO-Mascot
Found a cute mascot at the finish line…

So how did/do I feel after the marathon? Interestingly, I was and I am doing pretty okay. I had a few cramps in my leg muscles but nothing serious. My feet were really good on Sunday and I had no issues at all. No open blisters, no bleeding spots, nothing. Then, on Monday evening I realized that there were 3 unopened blisters on my toes. I opened all of them and the two blisters on my large toes did hurt quite a bit but they were not the main issue. It was more annoying that I lost my nail on my little toe (right foot) due to the blood blister that had emerged under it. Also, this is the only part of my body that still hurts because of the marathon. But today, it is already a lot better so I can’t really complain. Overall, I had no major issues during or after the marathon so I am very happy that my worst fears did not come true. That being said, I am already planning for the next marathons this year and I am really looking forward to doing some more. I have not yet finally decided on it but I will MAYBE drive up to Red Deer next week and do the marathon over there on the 21st. So tempted to do it but I don’t really know if it is a good idea… Ultimately, it is my goal to run the Canadian Death Race next year and I will have to train very hard to be able to do that. So I may as well keep pushing myself a little more, I guess.

A week prior to the marathon, I went hiking at the nearby Buntzen Lake and this was also a very nice experience. I was hiking together with some very nice people and we had a lot of fun and interesting conversations while we were hiking around the lake. Unfortunately, one of the main trails around the lake was closed for maintenance so we had to take parallel but less scenic trail. Still, the views were quite nice and we had a great time.

Buntzen-Map
Buntzen Lake’s trail system.
Buntzen-3
View from the start of the hike.
Buntzen-1
View from the turning point of the hike.
Buntzen-2
Waterfall in the backcountry of Buntzen Lake.

This saturday, we will go hiking again, but not at Buntzen Lake. Instead, we will drive to Lynn Valley and hike one of the trails over there. Probably the Lynn Canyon one but we have not yet decided on that.

And what am I doing apart from the running and hiking? Well, I am still climbing regulary and I really enjoy that as well. As a preparation for my first outdoor climbing trip, I will take a lead belay course on May 27th so that I will be able/allowed to climb the more tricky routes after that. After that, Gordon and I will probably start planning trips to Squamish and/or Lake Louise to do some outdoor climbing over there. Exciting developments. 🙂 However, with all the sport activities in my life, there is not much time left for my other passion: the gaming. But I guess that is okay because you simply can’t have everything in life, can you???

Let me share two more nice pictures with you before I will conclude this blog’s entry with the ususal music advice:

Deep-Cove-Coast
Coastal area behind Cates Park. So nice to run here, especially in the sun.
Cherry-Blossom
Cherry blossom in Vancouver. Yes, I know, there are more impressive displays of this 😉 ….

The following song is one of the motivational pieces that kept pushing me forward during the marathon. In a nutshell, it is about being “on fire” and reaching out to the great goals in life. It fits my current feeling here in Canada quite well and it really kept me going when I running last Sunday. Hope you enjoy it:

Böhse Onkelz – Flammen

37. Long-term decisions

Vancouver, Canada, 11.03.2017.

When I came to Canada in January, I had basically drawn up two viable plans what to do:

1. The Gap-Year plan: Originally, it was my plan to to just travel through Canada during my Work&Travel year, to get a break from work life and to just enjoy my life. I thought about spending a few weeks on Vancouver Island, to drive to the Rocky Mountains again, to go up north to Yukon and then to drive all the way across Canada by car to finally end up in Newfoundland and Labrador at the end of the year. Of course, it was also part of this plan to visit all the sights and parks that were on the route from western Canada to the east.

2. The residency plan: This plan focused on trying to get a decent job somewhere as quickly as possible, to move there and get my own apartment, to then apply for permanent residency and thus to gain a foothold here in Canada. Of course, this plan is the more “responsible” and “mature” plan as it satisfies the common view that you are supposed to work somewhere and be a “good member of society”.  On the other hand, this plan is also less fun and not so much different from what I have been doing so far in my life. So not a great change, really.

To be very honest, I was totally unsure what to do initially when I arrived in Canada in January. I had no real preference for a plan although I clearly saw their individual benefits and drawbacks. However, it was not at all easy for me to weigh them properly and make up my mind what I really wanted. On the one hand, the Gap-Year plan promised to be more fun and it would reward me with a million priceless impressions and great experiences. On the other hand, this Gap-Year would then clearly be a one-shot thing and I would have to go back to Europe at the end of the year and it would become increasingly more difficult after this year to try to gain a permanent foothold here in Canada. So what do you do if you don’t know what’s right? I solved this problem by prioritizing the plans while not discarding either of them. Upon arrival in Canada, I decided to follow the residency plan first and to try to get a job quickly. Then, in case of an unfruitful job search, I was prepared to discard the residency plan in favor of the Gap-Year plan by the end of April. Why not earlier than the end of April? Well, Canada is mainly a cold and snowy country. So leaving the lower mainlands around Vancouver earlier than May does not really make much sense if you want to go up north and see a bit more of the landscape than just the white layer. Also, most of the parks do not open that early in the year and hiking is not too much fun if you have to do it in the snow. So basically the residency plan was my primary plan and the the Gap-Year plan was my “Plan B” or backup- plan. Now why am I writing about all this now? Well, my current situation has significantly changed in the last days and it looks like my primary plan has worked out well. But before I go into details here, let’s take a look at a few pictures first.

Buch
The third book in the triology. Overall, three very good books with a great story line but “The Chess Men” can’t quite keep up with the quality of the first two books. Peter May is a great author, you’ll like him.
Shells
A few shells I found when jogging on the beach.

Last week, my future employer, the BC Liquor Stores, finally received the last reference they needed to take me on board. So now I will start to work as a Senior Store Manager for them in North Vancouver on the 20th of March. However, before I get my own store there, I will be trained in several other stores nearby. So it looks like my primary plan worked just fine and I can now try to apply for permanent residency here. And this is exactly what my next step will be once I have settled down in North Vancouver. Next Monday, I will take a look at a few apartments there and hopefully find a good place to stay there. But I think that will not be a huge issue as I am not too picky about my living places.
Despite the current development, I have not at all given up on my Gap-Year plan yet. And if all goes according to my grand master plan, I don’t have to give up on it anyway. In case I get my permanent residency, I can always do my all-around-Canada-trip at some point in the future. So nothing is really “lost” and by pursuing my current plan I keep most of my future options open. I feel I can always take a Sabbatical later in my life and still do the trip once I managed to acquire my permanent residency and worked for a few years here in Canada.
Interesting side- note: Last week, I also received an E-Mail from Parks Canada telling me that I was chosen for an interview for the site-manager position at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. How unexpected. Last time I heard anything from this application, I was just buying my car. Must have been late January I guess. But there was no chance I would go to that interview as I had already signed the job offer of the BC Liquor Stores. Still interesting to see how long a recruitment process can take. Six weeks in between the end of the application process and the decision who will be invited to an interrview. That is long! Also, I am quite thrilled to see the success of my applications. In total, I wrote just 7 applications, I got invited to interviews 2 times, attended one interview and got the job. Can’t say I am not a bit proud about that. 🙂

Now that should be enought talk about work and me drawing up strange plans. Let’s write a bit about the fun things I did in the last days. I managed to read a bit and I also continued to go jogging regularly (see both pictures above). Now that I know that I’ll be staying in Vancouver a bit longer, I decided to sign up for the Vancouver Marathon on May 7th and do the first full marathon in my life. Seems really fitting that I will do it here in Vancouver on a stunning course that will also lead through Stanley Park. You can check out the course map here. Just a really really nice course I think.
Also, I will get a year membership in one of the climbing gyms in Vancouver and start climbing regularly. Climbing is not only great fun but I realized that it trains my upper body and arms a lot and I feel that this really benefits me. Up to now, I only trained my legs by running and completely neglected my upper body. Possibly not the greatest choice.

When it comes to regular fun activities, I managed to attend some board game evenings in the store in Ladner and I also visited the CatFe again twice. They have three very cute Main Coone mix breeds there, all siblings. They are really friendly and curious and two of them ended up on my lap, enjoying my cuddles. I expressed my wish to maybe adopt them but after having checked the currently available apartments in North Vancouver, it looks like this is not going to happen. Most of the landlords do not want any animals in their apartment and those who tolerate cats will only tolerate one or two. That’s pretty unfortunate because I think this band deserves a second chance. However, I guess that many potential new owners will be deterred by their current age as they are already 10 years old. Now that does not deter me but I know that most of the people look for cats that are still young. That situation makes me a bit sad but there’s not much I can really do about it…

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Harvey (female) and me in the CatFe in Vancouver.
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Budddy (male), who sat on my lap for over an hour, enjoying my cuddles.
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Mare Nostrum Empires. I played the green Greece, trying to fend off the Romans and the Babylonians at the same time.
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Castles of Burgundy. Second time I played it. Thanks to Stephan Valkyser, I already had a good insight into this game.

Last week I also managed to make a few trips to downtown Vancouver and I visited the Vancouver Public Library, the Vancouver Museum and the Space Centre. The library resides in a very interesting Colosseum- like building and it has a truly large collection, including some German literature. Unfortunately, they apparently also bought crappy books in the past as I found a copy of a rather infamous German author whose views are much questioned.
The Space Center is a nice place to go and their shows are really entertaining and offer some stunning views. So I can only advise to go there if you’re a bit interested in astronomy or Space exploration. Not the biggest or most thrilling exhibition but it is still worth to go there and take a look at it. Now I wish I could say the same for the Museum of Vancouver but I really can’t. Verena and I went there and we both agreed that this museum is rather boring and that it did not really entertain us. I have seen many better Canadian museums and I would not recommend seeing the Museum of Vancouver if you’re only staying at Vancouver for a few days…

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The Colosseum- like building of Vancouver’s Public Library.
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Very surprised to find a copy of THIS book here in Vancouver. Not the best choice to invest the library’s money.

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A very nice saying, displayed at the Space Center.
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Magnificent Oldtimer in the Museum of Vancouver.

Now that I’ve chosen to settle down in Vancouver, I suppose that I won’t be writing that many blog entries in the future anymore. Of course, I will still write about the exceptional events in my life but I also guess that it will start getting a bit more quiet in my life in the future. But that is okay, life can’t always be a rollercoaster ride. Thus, you should not expect so lengthy and frequent blog entries anymore. But we’ll see about that…
Ah, one last thing before I conclude the blog entry with my music advice: I just received my Parks Canada Discovery pass (see cover picture at the top of the entry) so I can visit every one of Canada’s National Parks for free this year. Anyone can apply for this pass and it costs exactly zero Canadian dollars as Parks Canada gives it away for free this year due to Canada’s 150th birthday. What a great gift! I wish I could do both: work in Vancouver and travel to see Canada’s National Parks at the same time. Not possible though. And again, it is always about setting priorities and making (long-term) decisions….

By chance, I stumbled over this interesting piece of music last week. And I simply put it on repeat and listened to it again and again and again. Until I got fed up with it at some point. But it is still a very good song so I happily share it with you here:

Aesop Rock – None shall pass

33. Ups and Downs

Vancouver, Canada, 04.02.2017.

Less than 2 weeks have passed since the last blog entry. Significantly less. ^^ Someone’s keeping a promise. 🙂 And this blog entry will also be a lot shorter than the last one. Everything according to plan, at least with the writing.

So, what happened during the last days? First of all, my car got repaired. I decided to invest a bit more money into it to get it to an overall good standard. For example, I decided to get a “new” (used) steering wheel (costs a hefty 300$) because the current steering wheel is already beginning to disintegrate. Well, no wonder after 19 years. And since I also decided to get new spark plugs for the engine (the old ones were really worn out), I had to bear a little incident today. But I will write about that later. Also, I washed my car from the inside and from the outside. And I realized that an “undercarriage” wash in one of the big commercial washing facilities is just laughable. There was a lot of mud and dirt under my car when I bought it. So I thought it would be nice to have it cleaned. However, the undercarriage wash in the commercial washing facility I went to was so weak and poor that most of my car’s undercarriage wasn’t even wet after the wash. Now, I am noone who likes to complain a lot but this time I asked for the manager and I showed him. He was not very helpful and told me there was nothing he could do. Then, he advised me to get a pressure wash for the undercarriage but could not even tell me where I could get one. Yeah, well, I guess I experienced better customer service already. Definitely the last time that I went to that car wash. I then googled a bit and found a self- service car wash with high pressure washing pistols. And I got my undercarriage cleaned, finally… So aside from a few minor repairs that still need to be done next week, I am fine now and the car is in a good state. And I love having a 4WD in the current snow weather here in Vancouver. It is a blessing and it works so extremely well, unbelievable. Really happy that I bought a 4WD and now that I have seen how it performs in the snow, I am really confident that the car will also be alright in any offroad-action. Can’t wait to take it for a ride somewhere…. 🙂

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Winter has returned to the Lower Mainlands.

So what else happened? On Wednesday, I went to the board game night in “my” store. We played a really nice game called “Terraforming Mars”. Not too complicated but it offers a lot of different options and various strategies. And I like having lots of choices when it comes to games. So it was a great experience and I enjoyed it a lot. I don’t know how many points are considered a “good” score in the game but I felt I was doing well. Aside from the board gaming, I also started reading again. I don’t know exactly when I read my last book but I think it must have been sometime in 2014. That was not intentional but rather a reaction to the shortage of available leisure time I had when I worked for my last employer. Anyway, now I bought a book at a local store and I already read it. Very nice story, very entertaining and overall an enthralling book. So after having read this book, which is the first book in a cycle, I went to the same store and just got the second one of the cycle. Can’t wait to see how the story continues. Anyone who likes to read crime thrillers and who has a connection to Scotland will probably love this book. Try it!

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Terraforming Mars. This game is not yet on sale in Canada but will be soon. Current copies are U.S.- imports.
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Great crime thriller. Setting in Scotland, outer hebrides.

Yesterday, Verena convinced me to go Ice Skating with her in the Hillcrest Rink arena. Now I don’t like Ice Skating. Why’s that? I tend to fall a lot, I am not good at it and there are a lot of things I like better. But hey, I am in Canada now. So I suppose I have to at least try to do those things that Canadians do. And in the end it was quite the nice experience. After initial difficulties, I got more and more confident and managed to even go a bit faster in the end. And I didn’t fall a single time so that was good. But I was pretty close to falling several times…. Must have helped that I did some Inline- skating in the (more distant) past. Although I think that it is a lot easier to brake with Inliners. In any case, I enjoyed it and maybe I will do that again some time. Just to get a bit of practice. Not that I will ever be able to play Ice Hockey in the end, I am still light years away from that. 🙂

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Hillcrest rink arena, south of downtown Vancouver.
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I had to lend some Ice Skating shoes but they were overall okay.

Today, I got up early to do the half Marathon I already talked about in my last blog entry. It was a quite expensive one as well since I had to pay nearly 90 Dollars for the entry. Well, the later you enter, the more it costs. Still, 90 Dollars is quite a lot. Anyway, I got in my car this morning, started it and drove roughly 2 kilometers. Then, the engine check light went on. Great stuff! No choice but to drive to the nearest car repair shop and let them have a look at it. As I suspected, the mechanic that had replaced the spark plugs on Friday made a mistake when he did that repair. So it’s not really the car’s fault that it “broke down”. In any case, I had to leave my car there and there was no chance I could still make it in time to the half Marathon using public transport means. Bummer! I would have loved to run in the current cold snow setting. Would have been a great experience I think. Interestingly, I already had a bad feeling when I drove the car yesterday after they had changed the spark plugs. It felt like the motor was slightly louder and there were more vibrations when it was idling. Sometimes I just hate it when I’m right. In the end, the car could at least be fixed today so that I can use it tomorrow. Well, there will be more half Marathons I can run this year so I guess it’s no big deal. Next time….

Tomorrow, I will help Verena to move her stuff from her current apartment to the new one she got in downtown. No big deal, I guess that will be done quickly. After that, I plan to go to Granville Island south of downtown or visit one of Vancouver’s museums. And in the evening, I’m invited at Jen’s Board Game night. Really looking forward to that. I will probably miss the “Super Bowl” but I don’t really care much about that. I don’t have much of a clue about American Foottball anyway and since it’s an American thing, I don’t feel obliged to watch…. Next week, I will focus a bit more on getting a proper job again. So after the car issue is resolved now, I should now put some more effort into writing applications.

Today’s music advice is from one of the most popular and best Punk bands, Green Day. I first listened to the song on the flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver and really liked it. The rest of their new album “Revolution Radio” is also pretty nice so that anyone who likes Punk Rock can buy that album without second thoughs. The chosen song also reflects the current situation on earth quite well (Trump, etc…), think about it!

Green Day – Troubled times

32. Encouraging developments

Vancouver, Canada, 30.01.2017.

Time is running when you’re having fun. Or when you’re busy. 2 weeks have passed by and I haven’t written anything for the blog. Sorry for that! Well, I will try to make up for this by wrinting a longer entry now. Yes, it will be a bit longer because a lot of things have happened in the last 2 weeks. Let’s recapitulate:

In the days after the last blog entry, I continued writing applications and I did quite a bit of running. Then, on Saturday, 21st I did my first half marathon of the year in Langley, next to Vancouver. The Yeti-Set-Go Half Marathon was a very “exclusive” event with only a hand full of people doing the half marathon. Actually, we were around 15 people overall so the event was even smaller than the Coigach Half Marathon in Scotland last October. But there were really nice people and the weather was also quite good for a run. However, I was really unprepared for this run. In December, I could not train because I was sick for quite a while. Also, I was busy clearing out my apartment. And now, in January, I only ran a couple of times and none of the training sessions was anywhere near half marathon distance. So I decided not to push the matter but to go steady and without a hurry. Means that I finished in 1:51 hours, definitely not the best time ever. But hey, it was okay for my current state of training. Also, just in case I will start going even longer distances in the future, I need to start managing my power a bit better. That means I should probably rather run a 2:00- pace so that I don’t start dying after the first half of a full marathon. Anyway, these are thoughts for the future I guess. We also got really nice gloves for the run and I proudly wore them. Check them out!

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The start/ finish line. You don’t know it’s there….
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Place of the run: The Tynehead Regional Park in Langley, next to Vancouver.
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Soooooooo fluffy!
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Done after 1:51. First finish in 2017. Felt like a real Yeti in this run…. 🙂

Next weekend, there will be another half marathon right here in Vancouver. I don’t know yet if I want to take part in that one as well since my current training status hasn’t changed much in the previous days. Thus, a similar result to the Langley- run can be expected. That is why, on the one hand this run would not make much sense. But on the other hand, I could try to run a 2:00 pace and see how that feels after 20 kilometers. I don’t know yet what to do. Possibly, I will make a spontaneous decision here. When running in the “city” in the last days, I finally found the official US-Canada border crossing and also a very very interesting junction. So let me also share these pictures with you before I change the subject to my new car. Yes, my new car. 🙂

border
Official US – Canadian border crossing at Point Roberts.
crossing
England meets Germany in Canada. Good times.

Alright, let’s talk about my new car. About 10 days ago, my German bank finally told me that they wired the money to my Canadian bank. Finally! It was about time. Then, it took 2 more days until the money arrived here in Canada. Once that happened, I started looking for a car. Since I have no clue about cars or mechnical things in general, I tried to get as much information and advice as I could. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, I had two different cars inspected by professional mechanics to find out if they were any good. Turned out they were crap and I should not buy them. Which I did not do. One was a Dodge Durango, one was a Toyota 4Runner. The latter, however, was a rebuild car that must have been in a severe accident. It’s owner must have forgotten about that as he continued to claim that the car was all good. Well, I knew better and told him I wasn’t interested anymore. At that point, I had already met several different people who kept telling me that a Toyota 4Runner was a good buy. I am especially thankful for the initial advice in this direction which came from Corey&Kelly. Thanks again! So I continued looking for a Toyota 4Runner. I found a decent 4Runner in Surrey and although it was already 20 years old, it had only 94.000 kilometers on it. Japanese import, steering wheel on the right side of the car (I don’t care about that. Done it before in England!) and its japanese owner claimed it was in perfect condition. Well, as I don’t know anything about cars, I wanted to see its papers and have it inspected as well. It turned out that the guy was trying to sell the car for nearly 5 months now. A 4Runner! These usually sell very very quickly. He was asking 7200 Dollars for it which is an o.k. price if the car is as good as he claimed. Then he tried to start the engine and the car only came to live after a lot of effort. Great. Then it turned out that the radio was broken. Oh well. Then I made an appointment at a local repair shop with him standing beside me. After I phoned the shop, he told me he would need 40 Dollars as a compensation to go there. Because it would be his working time that he needed to invest for that. Great service, isn’t it? I then asked him who would pay the mechanic if it turned out that the car has more issues than he claims. He replied that this would be my problem. Now, I am a rather patient person. But when he then went on to say that he has no more time to “play games” and that he was done with the conversation, I was very close to tell him to f**k off. Anyway, I didn’t do that but I told him I would consider his offer. Then I drove off to my next appointment (see below). He later texted me that he didn’t want the 40 dollars anymore to go to the repair shop with me. In any case, the whole thing didn’t quite feel right to me. It was a gut feeling that there may be more problems waiting for me, especially when trying to get insurance for a “newly” imported vehicle with right hand drive. In any case, I then went to New Westminster to take a look at another car. Also 4Runner, built in 1998 but with 360.000 kilometers. Yep, that is a lot. But as of now, I only need that car for one year. And its price was quite low at 2600 Dollars. I had a very long chat with its owner, a very kind and helpful dealer named Ken. He told me about the car’s issues and even adviced me not to buy the car, anticipating that it would need a lot of repairs. He also said that this car was rather suited for someone who already owns a 4Runner and/or who was prepared to spend a lot of time and love trying to fix this one. We had a very good and long conversation and agreed to keep in contact about the car. Now I had a decision to make: A hopefully good car sold by a strange guy or a confirmed “problem-child” sold by a refreshingly honest and friendly dealer. Well, as I don’t know anything about cars, I felt like the presumably healthier car would be the better choice for me. So I texted the japanese guy, telling him that I would still like to have a mechanic to take a look at his car and that we should meet at the repair shop as previously planned. After a while, he answered that he had already made other plans for the afternoon since he thought I didn’t want the car anymore. For real? This was the moment when one of Bricktop’s famous quotes from the movie “Snatch” came to my mind. Anyone who knows that movie has an idea of what I thought in that moment. I won’t quote it here though. In any case, I had never told him I wasn’t interested anymore but after this event, I was sure I would not buy his car anymore. So I then organized a mechanic to take a closer look at the much more problematic 4Runner the next day. I then met with Ken and the mechanic and anxiously awaited the result of the inspection. As anticipated, the car had a lot of issues, including a lot of rust, also visible. But the rust underneath the car was only surface rust and I don’t care about the appearance of a car as long as it is safe and reliable. So the rust and the bad paint on one of the car’s sides do not bother me. The mechanic told me not to buy the car due to its obvious issues but hey, that decision is on me, right? Of course, Ken also got the result of the inspection. We talked a bit about it and made a plan how to fix the most important things right away. Ken was very helpful and very resourceful and organized a lot for me already on the same day. So on Saturday, when I showed up to buy the car, it already had a new wind shield and a new alternator. I then managed to get insurance for the car and we concluded the deal afterwards. Ken then also got me a new belt for the alternator and I had it installed at a nearby repair shop. He also called another repair shop that would then fix the damaged muffler and the brakes. This is where I went today and got these two things done for a mere 460 dollars. Call that a good deal! Overall, Ken’s performance was outstanding. An honest dealer with a great heart, a top-notch understanding of customer service and just a really really nice person overall. That is why I love Canada. Although people don’t know you, they help you and treat you like you are family. I am really really grateful for that, this is so great about this country….

Just now, the car is in another repair shop which takes care of all the other issues that need to be done. Fluids, steering, minor electric issues and other stuff. All in all, these repairs will cost another 1000 Dollars and then I should be good. The overall cost of this car will then be around 4200 Dollars which is totally fine with me. And it will have so many new parts that I won’t have to worry about much about future issues. Of course, it is always a risk to buy a used car, I am aware of that. So there is a chance that this car breaks down soon and I will have lost most of these 4200 Dollars. Then the decision was wrong to buy the car. But I am willing to take this risk. Even if the car fails me in the middle of nowhere, I am not too worried about that. When you’re trained to survive, what can possibly happen? Life’s a challenge and I am willing to take it. Besides, it just felt right to buy this car, I can’t even explain why. While I was very head- driven in the past, I started to listen to my heart a bit more in the past and up to now, I think that has benefited me quite well. In the end, my decision to come to Canada was definitely a heart- decision. Anyway, back to the subject. 🙂  I will probably be able to pick up my 4Runner after having brought back my rental car to the airport on Wednesday. Really looking forward to that! Here is my new boy:

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1998 Toyota 4Runner. My new companion for at least a year. 🙂

So that is all about the car. What else happened in my life? I found out that Whippcream looks like an egg if she sleeps and you put half of a lemon on her. She didn’t even flinch when I did that. Did not wake up or complain about it. Can’t stop mentioning that she is a really great and friendly companion. 🙂 At some point in the future I definitely also want to have a cat again. Just now, it is not the right time for that.

Job- wise, I got a phone call from the HR manager in Banff, asking me about my working permit. I explained it to him and he said that I have a “strong application” overall. So I am happy that there is a positive reaction and people seem to consider me as a candidate. All I need now is a job interview. Let’s hope for the future. But now that I have dealt with the car- issue, I will continue to focus on the job- problem. Probably, I will write some more applications during this week. That is as much as I can do job-wise in the moment.

In the meantime, I also enjoyed my life in Vancouver. I spent 2 more nights at the YukYuk’s comedy club in Vancouver. Definitely one of my favorite places here. Great show with Tom Buehler (see picture) and Steve Gaskin roughly two weeks ago. And last Friday, I went there with Verena, a work-and-travel girl from Germany that I met online in one of Facebook’s Canadian work&travel groups. We had a great evening and also visited one of Vancouver’s clubs, the Roxy, afterwards. As Verena works in an associated restaurant, we didn’t have to pay for entry and for the (soft) drinks. Never had that before in club!!! Thanks again, Verena, we should do that again sometime!

Also, I have spent quite some time in the local Comic Store, playing all kinds of games with the lovely folks there. Feels good to be able to enjoy my hobbies here in Canada as well. No matter where I went in the world so far, I always found nice people to play with, be it Magic, board games or poker. Just amazing, I feel I am really privileged. 🙂

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Vancouver Sky train. Favorite means of transportation if you want to go quickly from A to B in Vancouver.
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The “cat- egg”. No harm was done to any cat for this picture.
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Energy Empire, Manhattan Project. Great board game that allows for many different strategies.
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Tom Buehler on stage. Great show at the YukYuk’s Comedy club. Love that location!

Alright, this is about as much as I can and want to write about in the moment. Also, I just realized that I already wrote some 2400+ words. Guess I have to write more but shorter blog entries in the future. Well, whatever. 🙂 Lastly, let me conclude with the obligatory music advice. This song is rather aggressive and I don’t like it for its lyrics. However, it has a certain touch to it that stimulates my adrenalin- production. Great when you’re running uphill…

Drowning Pool – Bodies