63. Canadian Death Race 2018

North Vancouver, Canada, 12.08.2018.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Jiggy – Survivor

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62. Preparation for the Death Race

North Vancouver, Canada, 26.07.2018.

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

This was our schedule for the weekend:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deichkind – Limit

61. PR achieved and BC road trip

North Vancouver, Canada, 16.07.2018.

It is done. Two days ago, I finally received a message from IRCC saying that my Permanent Residency application was approved. 🙂 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the most stunning pictures of our trip (black bear at the road, Stanley Glacier in Kootenay National Park,…) are already on my Facebook page so I decided not to include those in the current blog entry. Aside from all the beautiful nature experiences, Glenn and I also enjoyed exploring many of the small towns and villages along our route. We managed to try quite a few vegan restaurants (yum yum!) along our way and, of course, we also had our share of wine tastings in the Okanagan. 🙂 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. 🙂

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

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

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

Five – Everybody get up

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.

Finish1
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.

Finish Line
Start and finish- line next to the food- and chillout area.
View on Start-Finish-zone
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