53. Vancouver Island & Finlayson Arm 50K Trail Race

Amsterdam, Netherlands, 29.09.2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Day – Revolution Radio

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52. Texada Island and Run the Rock

From Texada Island to Horseshoe Bay, Canada, 29.08.2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, Canada, 07.09.2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yiruma –River flows in you

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…

Cat2
Harvey (female) and me in the CatFe in Vancouver.
Cat1
Budddy (male), who sat on my lap for over an hour, enjoying my cuddles.
BoardGame2
Mare Nostrum Empires. I played the green Greece, trying to fend off the Romans and the Babylonians at the same time.
BoardGame1
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…

Library
The Colosseum- like building of Vancouver’s Public Library.
Library2
Very surprised to find a copy of THIS book here in Vancouver. Not the best choice to invest the library’s money.

Space1

Space2
A very nice saying, displayed at the Space Center.
Car
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