61. PR achieved and BC road trip

North Vancouver, Canada, 16.07.2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five – Everybody get up

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60. A lazy writer

North Vancouver, Canada, 30.05.2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bam Bam – Bags packed 

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

56. Current status PR & 2017 in a nutshell

North Vancouver, Canada, 30.12.2017.

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

PR- Rejection
Rejection of my application by IRCC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russkaja – Energia

55. Recap 2 – Camino Portugal & Spain

North Vancouver, Canada, 11.12.2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Striker – City of Gold

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

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