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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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