59. Dirty Duo 50Km Trail Race

North Vancouver, Canada, 12.03.2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

3 Doors Down – Kryptonite

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58. Pursuing my 2018 goals

North Vancouver, Canada, 27.02.2018.

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

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

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Number 70 on the roster of the male Ultra- runners. This is it, no backing out!
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On one of my favourite running trails, leading up to Mount Seymour. Lots of snow there right now…
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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.

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View from a junction close to my appartment onto Mount Seymour. I love the white winter scenery.
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BC Family Day: Rachel and I took the Sea to Sky Gondola up the mountain and enjoyed it a lot.
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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…

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The suspension bridge at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola.
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View on the Stawamus Chief and Squamish in the background.
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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

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.

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View on Westwood Lake near Nanaimo.
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A very nice and enjoyable track with great views. Unfortunately, it was all rainy and foggy that day…
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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.

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Running the last meters of the race. I finished 42nd out of 115 finishers / 140 starters.
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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.

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Fishermans Wharf in Victoria.
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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…

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A beautiful and sunny day at Butchart Gardens.
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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.

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The lower Battery of Fort Rodd Hill with an AA-gun in front of it.
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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

48. Assault Mount Seymour & flight back to Germany

North Vancouver, Canada, 27.06.2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAMP – Move on