59. Dirty Duo 50Km Trail Race

North Vancouver, Canada, 12.03.2018.

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

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

Dirty-Duo1
Early in the morning, at about 06:30 AM. The 50K- runners checking in, temperatures close to zero.
Dirty-Duo4
After the race: Sitting down and enjoying the sun on a very beautiful day.

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

Dirty-Duo2
Riley and me after the race. We spent a lot of time chasing each other on the course.
Dirty-Duo3
A vegetarinan stew with lentils after the race: Great to get some good and warm food! 🙂

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

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

 

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

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

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

Japanese-Meal3
The traditional dolls for the Japanese Girl’s day, dressed in Kimonos.
Japanese-Meal1
A whole table full of amazing food. What a delicious feast that was! 🙂
Japanese-Meal2
After the many main courses, we even had dessert: Daifuku and cake! So yummy  🙂

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

3 Doors Down – Kryptonite

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58. Pursuing my 2018 goals

North Vancouver, Canada, 27.02.2018.

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

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

DR-REG
Number 70 on the roster of the male Ultra- runners. This is it, no backing out!
Snow-Trail1
On one of my favourite running trails, leading up to Mount Seymour. Lots of snow there right now…
Mt-Seymour
Junction on the way up to Mount Seymour at roughly 600m. With the current snowy conditions, this is a good spot to turn around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cypress Hill – Insane in the Brain

57. An unexpected turn of events

North Vancouver, Canada, 24.01.2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judas Priest – Blood Red Skies

56. Current status PR & 2017 in a nutshell

North Vancouver, Canada, 30.12.2017.

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

PR- Rejection
Rejection of my application by IRCC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russkaja – Energia

54. Recap 1 – Whistler 80K & Permanent Residency

North Vancouver, Canada, 04.11.2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy eat World – Pain

48. Assault Mount Seymour & flight back to Germany

North Vancouver, Canada, 27.06.2017.

It is 4 o’clock in the middle of the night and I can’t sleep. Usually, I am never too excited to sleep but it looks like today must be an exception. In a few hours, I will board my plane back to Germany and flying is still none of my favourite activities. So I have to admit that I am at least a little bit nervous about that in the moment. In addition to this, I am also still excited about having recently completed my application for Canadian permanent residency. Yesterday I also applied for the BC nomination program which could really help me to get the permanent residency. From what I have read in the internet, my chances to be nominated for permanent residency by the BC government are pretty good. And if that happens, it is pretty likely to also get a positive decision by the Canadian government. That would be soooooo amazing. So although nothing has been decided yet and there is no reason to celebrate yet, I am nevertheless very excited about this situation. I sincerely hope that I don’t have to wait too long for a decision since the waiting is always the most annoying part of it all. Probably, I will write a little more about this subject in my next blog entry but I won’t go into detail right now because there are other things worth reporting…

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Lower part of the trail that leads up to Mount Seymour.
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First of the three peaks at Mount Seymour. I went on to the second peak from here.
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Snow all the way up from Parking lot 4 to the three peaks of Mount Seymour.

Why do I love Canada anyway? Well, let me tell you about last Thursday and you may get an idea why I am so happy here right now. Last Thursday, I just had a single day off and I decided to do something crazy. In April, I wanted to hike up to Mount Seymour (see my blog post here) but back then, there was still a lot of snow around and I decided to come back later. Since I don’t like unfinished issues, I thought it was time to do a little trail- and uphill training and finally conquer Mount Seymour. So I put on my running shoes, and started the assault on Mount Seymour shortly after breakfast with only a bare minimum of additional gear/equipment. My primary goal was to avoid having to carry a heavy backpack like I did last time. Running up to parking lot number 4 on Mount Seymour at 1000m of elevation (I started at roughly 50m above sea level) was quite nice and doable since the trail was now completely snow-free. Then, however, it started to get ugly. Although it was quite warm (over 20 degrees celsius) and running in shorts and T-Shirt was totally fine, the snowy ground really gave me a hard time. Not really ideal to run/hike on trails covered by several feet of snow (~ 1m of snow cover) with old sport shoes. Anyway, I was not prepared to give up this time and although I also forgot a proper hat and my sunscreen, I still made my way up to peak 2, close to the highest summit of Mount Seymour. Unfortunately, the last summit of Mount Seymour was not accessible due to unfavorable snow conditions. There was no chance to do the final piece of the trail without ropes, carabiners and spike shoes. And guess what: I had none of that at hand. So I decided to stay on top of peak 2 for a little while and talk to Peter, a very well travelled and nice guy who likes to hike around BC.

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Best footwear ever to run up a snowy mountain 🙂
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On top of peak 2, I met Peter, a very friendly guy who was a lot better prepared for his hike than I was for mine.
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A nice view on the whole Vancouver Metro region.
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Final peak of Mount Seymour. Visible but not accessible today.

After having paused a little on peak 2 with Peter, it was time to run back down to Deep Cove. Naturally, it was a lot easier and quicker to run downhill than it had been to crawl all the way up. Also, it was a lot of fun to surf and slide down the steeper parts of the snow trails. 🙂 Fear of triggering an avalanche? Well, yes, I had that but what can you do? I suppose that life is too short to worry about avoiding every possible disaster however unlikely it is that it will occur. All in all, I had a fabulous day and a great experience in the mountains. And now I also learned that you should definitely put on sunscreen when hiking in the mountains if you want to avoid getting sunburn in the face and on the legs. Yes, the legs. Probably because the snow reflects the sun so that the legs are really exposed to it. Not a big deal, my skin has mostly recovered from it already…

What else did I do in the last two weeks in BC? As usual, I did my share of climbing but I also managed to hike a little with my hiking partner in Lighthouse park. Although the weather could have been better on that day, it was still a great hike and we had a good time. On July 15th, we will go on our next trip and conquer the Stawamus Chief near Squamish. Yes, I am already looking forward to that!

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Panorama view from the coast of Lighthouse Park. Burrard Inlay in the background.
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Hiking in the Canadian Rainforest. Can’t get enough of that.
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Historical information and monuments around Lighthouse Park.

Last but not least, I also registered for the Finlayson Arm 50K Trail race on Vancvouver Island in September. That race will be 13 days after the marathon in Texada Island but I guess that’s still okay. I need to push myself hard if I want to do the Canadian Death Race in 2018 and that is a goal I am willing to suffer a lot for. Always go for your dreams and never give up until the final card is played. 🙂 Also, I am really looking forward to visiting Vancouver Island again. I hope I can take a few days off as well and also see Corey & Kelly as well as a little bit more of the island (maybe Victoria, maybe the Pacific Rim National Park). But we will see about that once I start planning for that trip in detail.

Right now, it is time to get prepared for my drive to the airport so I can catch my connecting flight to Calgary at 11:20 AM. Ah, nearly forgot to post today’s music advice. Check out this Austrian Punk/Rock band with this nice song:

FAMP – Move on

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!

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Tsawwassen seaport and commercial terminal(s) in the background.
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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…

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Sturdies Bay at Galiano Island. Our first stop on the way to Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island.
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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