Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A long way to go and a short time to get there: Part 1

Until 2011 every year in Squamish the STORMY! (Squamish Test Of Running Metal, Yeah!) race was held and a few hundred people got to run in the mountains.

Only a few days after joining PRR in 2009 I got to volunteer at the event and I got my first view of ultrarunning. Ross, Ed and Ellie were running the 80 km (50 mi) race, John, Terry and Susan were racing as the JeTS and three other club teams took part in the relay over the 80 km course. I was enthralled. I had heard about ultrarunners but never known one let alone seen a race. I had run 3 marathons by this point and thought I knew what pushing yourself was about, here were people doing practicaly double that distance over mountains! As I manned the PRR tent at the half way point, just before 9 Mile Hill, don't worry it is actually only 6 miles :), I saw people of every shape, size and ability come past. Maybe not all had a smile on their face, although most did, but all had the unmistakable shine of someone doing something amazing in their eyes. Ellie went on to win and Ross and Ed both finished their first 50 miler, and as for me, well I was hooked.

It took several more months before my friends got me out on the trails. I was nervous about venturing into the woods, I had images of rolling ankles, falling down hills and face planting into the mud, all of which has happened numerous times now, and this kept me from trying it out. At last Sukhi convinced me to try it out and I've never looked back, well I have done on occasion and that is normally when I trip, roll and smack into to things.

Over the next few months I learned on to be lighter on my feet down hill thanks to John, push harder on the up thanks to Susan and faster on the flat thanks to Terry. And as the summer of 2010 rolled around a competition was born. The JeTS would be racing STORMY again and Sarah, Barry and myself would challenge them as team BaDaSs. They had about 30+ years of trail running experience on their side we had a 10 year (+/-) lower average team age. We lost. Experience won out but as I saw Sukhi push across the line finishing the whole distance solo, I declared that as the race fell on my birthday in 2011 I would do the whole 80 km that year.

Months past and I did my first, second and third 50 km trail race with a sprinkling of marathons thrown in and I was getting ready for the STORMY challenge. Then the rumours started. STORMY wasn't going to be run that year. Eventually the official announcement came that permits could not be obtained and for 2011 STORMY was taking a break. I was frustrated. I was fit (ish) and ready to give this a go but it just wasn't going to happen.  I could have done other 80 km races but STORMY was special. It was a fun course, not to far from home and I knew I would have a ton of support from my friends and club members.

So again the months went by, I ran the Juan de Fuca trail on the Vancouver Island (a story for another day) and a and a few more marathons to keep me going and then the great news came out that the race was being reborn. Gary Robbins, local runner and top ultrarunner had some downtime and decided to fill it with organising a new and improved course. The race was aptly renamed the Squamish 50 (SQ50) and after a small amount of second guessing myself I signed up for my first ever 50 miler!

My training was varied at best. I took part in the Knee Knacker (another story for another day) and tied on to that some practice runs on the new sections of the SQ50 course. My fitness had slipped a little and when my scales asked if I remembered the weight I had previously lost because it was back and this time with reinforcements I knew that I could have done more to prepare. But never the less, race day was approaching and what I lack in training I make up for in stubbornness, which actually is a really good thing for ultras as no matter how fit you are at some point your body is going to ask the question "WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING TO ME?" and it is really nice if your brain can respond by going "LA, LA, LA I can't hear YOU!".

The final days ticked down and due to unfortunate timing we found out that Julia would be out of town for the weekend of the race. I know what your thinking, "Yeah, sure, UNFORTUNATE timing" but Julia assures me she was really looking forward to spending a day in the hot sun chasing round the mountains after me, picking up my sweaty gear as I swapped t-shirts and filling my hydration pack, all whilst listening to my whining and self doubt. This left me trying to find someone silly enough to take on the job. That narrowed the list down, add in being a good enough friend and that shortened it further still. Long story short (I know, I know) and a few glasses of wine later, Amber graciously, if a little slurry, offered to help out on the day.

Barry was also going to be running his first 50 miler and although he was guaranteed a PB agreed to still share a room the night before (there is a back story which may or may not come out at a later stage). This meant Amber not only got to crew both of us, who have wildly different paces ensuring that a moments rest would never be hers, she also got to spend the evening before picking up race bibs and listening to us obsess about the following day. Lucky girl. 

We were early enough to packet pick up to have little in the way of lines and had plenty of access to the complimentary Howe Sound Brewery beer keg. Ultrarunners tend to be a little more relaxed about drinking the night before a race. We grabbed our awesome race shirts, Gary and an co-race director Geoff had landed sponsorship from Arc'teryx, and headed off to sample a few more of Howe Sounds beers, oh and get some food too.

A mention hear must be made to Amber who was tee-total (ish) that weekend so she could drive Barry and I around and we could enjoy said beers without concern. She suffered for us that weekend.

A quick pint or two and some mac n' cheese to fill the carb loading quota and we headed off for an early night. Now I have heard some grumbling that I attempted to sabotage Barry's race by falling asleep first, snoring and keeping him awake. I maintain this was self defense as I have fell victim before to not hitting REM fast enough and having to listen to Barry's tone-full sleep pattern. Regardless, sleep was had and the morning arrived...

This was meant to be a single post race report about SQ50 but in my usual style I realise that I have somewhat rambled on. I do happen to feel that it is important for you to understand what led up to me choosing to do this race though. So to stop your eyes from bleeding out, I will stop this post here and split the actual race report into the next post. I can hear the baited breath. 

Until next time, auf wiedersehen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Windy Westcoast Weekend: Part 2

[The first half of this post was written back in May '10 the second half was done from long distant memory]

Another Sunday morning another pre 6am alarm call. This week  was so I could go and cheer on the runners from PRR who were taking part in the BMO Vancouver International Marathon. At 5:45 am the weather looked great, cool and very slightly overcast and it seemed we would be in for a good day. With the race start at 7 am I decided that cycling down would allow me to chase the runners around the course and get to several spectator points to give them a shout and to have a go at practicing race photography.

The ride down was good, it seems that my body has started to accept the idea that I will be cycling and I had no massive problems with comfort which was a nice change. With no traffic on the road I headed straight downtown and got there just in time to park up and make my way to the front of the starting chute and see if I could find everyone. Terry and Dan were easy to find and Susan having been chosen for as an elite got to warm up before being put at the front for the start. I couldn't find Karen and wasn't sure who else was running from the club. I managed to cross the road and get myself a perch right in front of the start line and just before the gun went off, it started to rain.

I hadn't come prepared for the rain but it was a light drizzle and still looked like it would clear up quickly so I wasn't worried too for me but thought it sucked for the runners waiting to head off, the last thing you want is to get wet before you even start.

The gun went and it was a pretty cool sight having 7,000 odd people run past you but also a bit of a pain as I hadn't really thought it through that well. I had crossed the road to get my prime spot for photo taking, leaving my bike on the other side. After a few minutes of taking shots of the start I thought I would head to my first spectator point only to realise I wasn't going to be crossing the road any time soon as people were still pouring across the start line, so I waited, and waited, and waited... It takes a fair old chunk of time to get that many people going especially when the road is only a couple of lanes wide, so I waited, and waited...

After about 10 minutes it started to thin out but at this point I was viewing it like a game of frogger. The last thing I wanted to do was get in the way of anyone crossing the start line, as a runner I know how angry I get having to dodge pedestrians during a race. Every time a space would seem to open up a fast runner would zoom by who had either turned up late or just as likely got stuck in a queue for the porta-potties. As the last few runners came by I managed to get back across, retrieved my bike and set off to catch up with the race leaders. 

32 Months later....

As the course winds through East Van, China town and then Gas town, I skipped across the a few blocks to capture them at the 5 km mark. Parking up and sitting myself down on the curb just in time to see the front pack go past. To watch professional runners is amazing, they really do seem to glide effortlessly at such a fast pace. I used these fast guys and girls as practice shots until PRR came by.

The back story to this race is that due to many and various injuries, this was a bit of a comeback race for many of my friends. Susan, Terry, Karen and friend of PRR David Parkin had all decided that as personnel records were probably out of reach for today, they chose to make things more interesting and motivate themselves by placing a beer bet. A beer to the winner from each competitor.

The first person to appear out of the masses was Dan with Susan seconds behind and David right on her shoulder. Terry was past moments later and Karen right after that. They all looked strong and happy to be racing again... the fools :) At this point in the race they even managed a smile and a wave.

Back on the bike and now I was following the parallel to the course so had to get a move on to get ahead of them for more photo opportunities. Cycling into Stanley Park (larger then New York's Central Park) I hit the gravel trails through the middle whilst the runners went round the outside on the seawall.

The bike started rattling a little at this stage and as it was only a few weeks in I was a little concerned but equally committed to getting my shots and cheering everyone on.

Arriving seconds before Dan blew by, I managed to cheer them all through and snap a few shots in the now heavy drizzle. The race order was the same if a tiny bit more spread and those smiles came just a little bit harder this time.

Another quick pedal to get to the top of the only major hill in the race and at this time the rattling was more pronounced and it seemed the brakes had shifted further round on the handlebar. But with no time to spare I grabbed my shots, yelled encouragement as they pushed hard up towards Prospect Point and was back on the bike to try and see them at the start of the down. Due to a wrong turn in the park I missed all but Karen, I grabbed a couple of quick shots and decided to get to the finish to watch them all come in.

From the top of Prospect Point the race takes over the road so the only way down is to follow the trail system down to Second Beach. As soon as I set off I noticed the handlebar was now spinning round more freely so the brakes kept being in the wrong location. As I wasn't carrying tools my options were limited and I was in a rush to try and beat the runners back. Never known for my smart decisions I gripped the brakes and remember thinking that they should see me through.

The trail down is gravel covered and not overly sleep. The bike while not strictly designed for rough trails it does have suspension on the front and should have been more than capable of dealing with this. It was not. To be fair to the bike I was the one who put it together so I accept a certain male deer stops with me but still, as I progressed further down the track the bike began to shake itself apart. The handlebar, not content with rotating around, started sliding from side to side. Frankly it scared the beegeebees out of me. I had picked up speed by this point and the brake levers had moved out of reach. Hammering down the path with limited control and each meter another part of the bike was shaking loose. First the seat joined the party in working loose then the kickstand, it was cartoonish in its timing. 

Two or three pedestrians had to be warned off to the side as I barreled past. Probably thinking I was more rude than a victim of my own transport I shouted apologies and hoped that no pushchairs or elderly would appear which would necessitate a swerve into the bush and trees. This was something I was thinking plenty about. Like a truck whose brakes had gone I was looking for an escape route off to the side that I could roll to a stop. Unfortunately big trees and sharp looking bushes did not appeal.

Thankfully no men carrying a pane of glass or a woman pushing her newborn crossed my path and after a rollercoster ride to the bottom of the hill my many prays to all the deities I could name did there work and I came to a shaky stop. Removing the kickstand was the easiest option for that and tightening the seat was straight forward enough, the handlebar was not having any of it. So rather risk taking out innocent bystanders I made of on foot to the finish. 

Rather unsurprisingly, everyone had finished by the time I got back and meet up with them. All the challengers had done great on the day but the final order of finishers were Susan 1:36:16, David 1:36:39, Terry 1:38:54 and Karen 1:41:10. So Susan drank well and for free for several days after. There were several other PRR members out there and Dan was the fastest on the day in 1:35:30. 

Congrats to all the runners that day. It was wet, windy and generally unpleasant to be out but you all showed what our club is all about... being just a little crazy.

As for me, it was a skytrain home and an hour or so with a toolkit and some stern words to my bike. A side note is that I now check key components before I ride.   

Thursday, January 17, 2013

You don't call, you don't write...

It's been a long time!

Back in May 2010 I posted part one of the story about my Windy Westcoast Weekend. Mysteriously the second part never arrived. In truth, I got lazy and the backlog of events got too much and this blog got left behind. Time to time I have come back to the site and thought about getting going again but only to then get waylaid again. But now, thanks to no public demand what so ever, I'm back!

Probably the real reason I'm trying again is a mix of causes. Primary among them is that as more and more friends start their own blogs it has made me wistful for my own. Another is that my fitness and running has taken a hit over the last 18 months and being held accountable, if even only to myself, by writing down my hopes, plans and goals to a larger audience, may keep me on track.

The concept to keep me honest and to not overwhelm you with information is to post once a week on a Sunday evening, with special editions if the occasion warrants it. Oh and if I see a film... or do a race... or see something funny, oh sod it, I'll post when I do and you can all pretend to be reading it, by ticking like on Facebook and quickly blocking my feed.

If you ever read my previous posts you know I have been guilty of being slightly verbose and generally going on a bit. I thought about trying to curb this habit but frankly anyone who has ever had the joy of spending anytime with me knows, I talk a lot too so why wouldn't I write the same. Feel free to skim.

So I guess a quick update is in order to get you all up to date on where I'm at. I hope to be adding a few posts about races I've done over the last couple of years so details to follow on them but the basics are:

  • Met Julia and fooled her into dating me. 
  • Ate a lot.
  • Drank an equivalent amount.
  • Gained great new friends
  • Lost touch with some old friends (rectifying this egregious error) 
  • Became an ultrarunnner (running more than a 26.2 mi/42.2 km) No getting lost during a marathon does not count.
  • Found and made a new home with Julia (I can't take too much credit for this one)
  • Ran a bit.
  • Traveled as much as I could.

I'll leave it there for now. I'm back in Britain for 2 weeks for work which means I will have lots of time on trains, planes and automobiles for writing and catching you up more fully on past and present adventures.

I hope every now and again to provide not only a distraction for you from looking at cat videos (I'll post more soon) but maybe give you some night time reading to put you to sleep.

As for Windy Westcoast Weekend: Part 2, I'll work on finishing it off as there was an amusing occurrence with my then new bicycle which I would like to impart with you and also the thrilling outcome of the 2010 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon Beer bet.

Until next time, adieu.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Windy Westcoast Weekend: Part 1

Friday I slept. I may have woken up for food every now and again but for the vast majority I was truly unconscious. Now you think that would mean I would have little to report but oh no I can make paragraph up or two about pretty much anything. My inner ear infection that I mentioned a while back still hasn't completely cleared up. I'm getting to the point now that I don't believe it is an infection. The only symptom of it is this dizziness when I'm in bed. It has got to the point now where I have sort of gotten used to it and it no longer wakes me up when I turn over at night. What it does do is intrude into my dreams.

It is very bizarre. Basically I have had quite a few dreams now where I'm going along perfectly normally and I presume that at that point I must roll over in my sleep and in my dream I get dizzy. On Friday, my day of sleep, I must have been especially fidgety as I recall fairly well a dream where I spent the whole time feeling very thick headed as I do when this vertigo hits me when I'm awake. But enough of my wobbly night time adventures.

One other note worthy thing about Friday was it was the last day of April and my month of vegetarianism came to and end. I have to say that I have failed at this challenge more than any of the others, I ate meat several times during the month for one reason or another but one thing that I didn't do was eat any meat at home. I said going into that I would be sensible about it, that I would try and do my best unless I thought it was having a negative impact on me. Generally I felt great the whole month and the times when I did eat meat due to feeling tired was more to do with me not being sensible with the food I ate as opposed to actually the vegetable diet itself. I'm happy to be able to eat meat guilt free again but something I have taken form this is an appreciation of vegetarian dishes and will definitely be including them in meals that I regularly cook.

As of yet I have not come up with anything for May but I'll let you know if I do.

It was Vancouver International Marathon weekend here and on Saturday morning I had volunteered to help out on the BC athletics stand down at the Expo. My job was thankfully simple and all I had to do was hand out leaflets about upcoming races and try and promote PRR as much as I could. It was a good time actually, Susan and Carol were also there and if the questions got to hard the Maurice who works for BC Athletics was on hand to step in and take over. Our stand was well positioned for people watching as runners filed past queuing up to get the race packets. There was such a diverse bunch of people taking part it was great to see, it really did show that people of all ages, gender, race, weight and hair length and colour can be runners.

Another plus was the freebies being handed out. Having got a free coffee and muffin from the McDonald's stand on the way in, I also managed to snag a chocolate bar, several energy chews, a bunch of Advil (Score!) some wrist head pad things and some menstrual cramp heat pads, that will teach me to grab things without paying attention, I did wonder why I got an odd look from that stand. Another big plus was that the stand next to us was for the Scotiabank Half Marathon June. They were offering a $15 discount if you signed up there and then which was a bit of a bargain so I'm now signed up for that.

Throughout the morning two things were keeping my mind occupied. The first was trying not to cave and sign up for the half marathon the next morning, the late registration booth was just across from us. Not signing up for the half was made easier by the $90 + $10 sign up fee but was made harder by everyone around me getting there numbers and getting excited about the run, I did manage to stop myself though.

The second was getting updates from Mike about how Ellie was doing in her first ever 100k race. That's right I said 100k, not a typo of adding an extra zero, 62 miles of race. It was the Elk Beaver 100k which consisted of 10 laps of 10k around the lake. Mike and Sukhi had gone across to Vancouver Island to crew for her and on each lap Mike would update us as to how she was doing. The guys even ran a lap or two each to help pace her (though I think she actually paced them) and to keep her company as well. I will resist in building the tension by giving you the blow by blow account of waiting for each update but as people we knew stopped by at the stand we were all keenly aware of how it was going. In the end Ellie won the race, not just the first female but first overall, in an awesome time of 7 hours 36 minutes, which to put into some sort of perspective, my fastest marathon time was 3:10, Ellie did this then turned around and did it again and then did another 10 miles just for kicks. 100k at 4:31 minutes per km, astonishing doesn't even nearly sum it up.

To finish up the day I was going to see a very appropriate film that was made about ultra running. A friend had a spare ticket and had asked if I fancied checking it out, with little else to do and my love for anything movie orientated it was not a tough decision. It was a short film of only about 50 minutes and was being shown at the Vancouver Space Center which I had never been to before. XS-NRG (sound it out) was all about 4 guys who were attempting to run 180 km non-stop of trail down the Sunshine Coast. The Space Center looks fun and I will make it back soon to have a proper look around and the auditorium we were in was packed out which was great to see the support for a local film.

In brief this was a mega challenge with the trails being difficult to navigate and a massive distance to cover. 3 out of the 4 people dropped out before the half way point with only one powering through to the end, taking him over 40 hours to complete it. It was a funny film and a good look at ultra running at it's most challenging, with great moments of mini-arguments between the runners and glide being liberal applied to all bits that needed it, it kept every one engaged and entertained. One point I have to make is that out of the four runners it was the one who was seen to be eating cheeseburgers and drinking beer that finished and the two vegans who dropped out first, just saying is all :)

The really cool bit was after it was finished the director and runners got up on stage to answer questions about the film which gave you some fun insights in to what was involved. Even better was going for a beer after with them all and really getting the fun stories that didn't make it into the film. Thank Lara for the invite, a great evening.

I'm actually going to cut it there for the weekend as Sunday is a post all onto it self and I'm trying very hard not over do each individual post.

More to follow soon...

Bikes, Beaches and Beer

With having left writing my blog for a few days I have lots to catch up on, so in my customary style I shall try to be brief. :) Actually I'm going to break this down into separate posts so you don't fall asleep before the end.

As it had been more than a couple of days since I had last seen a movie I decided to pop out on Thursday afternoon and catch Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Trailers had looked good and the movie was fair but I felt that it fell in a comedy gap. It seemed to be aiming it self at adults then it would switch to kid style humour the next and just felt it couldn't decide which it was. It was a little like Adventures in Babysitting if anyone remembers that classic but didn't quite make it. Good but not great.

With my purchase of my bike the night before, it was time to give it a go. Sukhi volunteered to cycle down to running club with me to show me the safest way downtown during rush hour traffic. It should be mentioned that apart from a cycle ride around Stanley Park shortly after I got here I don't think I have sat on a bike in about 16 years. Luckily the old adage proved true, it was just like riding a bike, and I set off in hot pursuit of Sukhi. I'm glad I was recording the route on my Garmin as I would never be able to repeat the route on my own. I was so busy alternating been gasping for air, dodging traffic and trying to remember correct hand signals that where we were going ranked very low on my lists of concerns.

There was one other concern that was bothering me and was progressively becoming more of an issue as the journey continued. To be delicate about it, let's just say it was in the saddle area that the problem was presenting. The seat I have on the bike is I think as bike seats go pretty comfortable but even still after 20 minutes I had noticed my level of discomfort rising dramatically. I kept finding excuses to stand up on the pedals and surreptitiously jiggle 'things' around a bit. And to add to this was the fact that even though we were peddling into a pretty strong headwind I was sweating so much that my clothes were rapidly becoming nothing but damp rags.

We did arrive without any major issues and the relief to step off the bike was only matched by my concern about having to make it home later, which would also be going up hill. I did walk around for the next 10 minutes looking like I had just stepped out of a western and I do have a huge new found respect for Sarah, Sukhi, Bill, Jess and all the others members who cycle down to the club before running, because as for me, the last thing I felt like doing was heading out for a run.

One big plus was that Ellie was back in town for a race (more to follow in next post about that) and had come out to have a gentle run with us and to say hello. It is always good to have Ellie back running with us and due to the fact that Susan, Terry and Karen were also tapering for the Vancouver Half Marathon on Sunday we all took a slightly slower paced run out to Second beach, which the slower pace worked just fine for me as I was growing more and more concerned that I may have had extensive bruising of the old man fruit.

While it was still a little windy it was a great night for a run along the sea wall through English Bay. The beach volley ball people have started to come out already and there was a good group of people enjoying the sun and sand.

And as always, when we have any kind of excuse, as soon as the run was over we headed for a drink. With Ellie visiting and everyone wanting to catch up it was a good sized crowd and we even got some friends from the Vancouver Falcons (running club for the serious/good people) to come have some drinks too.

In retrospect it probably wasn't the best idea to pair up the first night of cycling to the night I drink the most beer I have drunk this year but hey at the time it seemed to be the thing to do. Luckily for me, Barry, Sarah and Victoria had also decided to join in the new drink/bike program as well, so I was in good company as we set off amid slight concern that none of us would actually see another dawn.

This concerns proved completely unfounded, for the first 100 yards anyway. Just as I had gained some momentum and balance there was a small strangled sound of surprise from behind me and when I looked around I found a car bearing down on one of our group who was sitting in the middle of road with a bike wrapped round them. Whilst I won't name names, Barry (oops) had got his wheel 'stuck' in the rail tracks that line the island and had gracefully gone over the handlebars. Roadkill was averted and after some small running repairs and brushing off we all got underway again pretty quickly.

It actually was a fairly pleasant ride home, going along the creek with city reflecting in the water and dodging the odd small dog on the stupid extendable leashes I could see the benefits of cycling and I as for near misses of me hitting the side and going into the water, well lets not dwell on minor details. The uphill journey home wasn't to bad either, although I have a suspicion that this may have been due to the beer scooter effect. I do recall after having left Barry and then Sarah to finish my ride home, coming up next to another cyclist at some traffic lights. I'm not sure he realised we would be drag racing off of the green light but suffices to say I took him with ease, style and grace.

Overall a good first attempt of the journey in all. Saved me money and time waiting for buses and trains and also got to see some nice views of the city. One slightly perturbing thought though is the fact that on the way down to club it was a journey of 10k on the way back it was nearly 12k, might need to work on that return route.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Run, Cook, Bike

After a fairly active weekend I decided to take Monday of from running and give my body a much needed break. The weather while rainy was still pretty warm so I did make the choice to still get out of the apartment and go for walk. The park near my apartments is always great to have a wander round and even with a light drizzle it was a pleasant walk with the squirrels bounding around and do mock charges at you, still not use to that one, and the big Koi Carp type fish skimming the surface in the lake scaring the heck out of the ducks.

Tuesday started off with a full on down pour and the forecast looked like it was set to stay for the day. With running club in the evening I was already dreading a third run in a row of getting soaked. Through the afternoon the rain was on and off and when I left the apartment there were some pretty ominous black clouds hanging over downtown. But I'm glad to say after getting there and changed and actually out on the Tuesday club warm up, the sun came out and it was a great night for a run around the creek.

With 12 days to go until the Sun Run I'm trying to push hard on the club runs and my one speed work session a week and with some great runners in the club it is easy to find someone to push that bit faster. Due to the creek run being about 1K shy of 10K we added on an extra part to get closer to the 6.2 miles of the race. With the sun hitting the water and a cool breeze it was a good evening for finding that little extra motivation and even though we took a quick break at the half way point I'm really happy with the workout, especially as we almost did negative splits virtually the whole way round (each K faster than the last). The average pace was about 4:08 per K over the 9.6K distance, to get my dream result in the race I need 3:59 min per K. So still a little to go but I'm feeling positive that I will get close. And the best bit of the evening as always was having a couple of beers after and now that we finish before dusk we get to sit my the side of the dock and drink watching the sun set over the city, brilliant!

I've been looking forward to today for a little while now. Ever since I started my month of vegetarianism I have wanted to get Sukhi to show me how to make some authentic Indian dishes from scratch. Having finally got myself organised and found a time we could do, today was to be my cooking lesson. The first thing I have learned is just how many different things go into the dish. With Sukhi help I have know got more herbs, spices and seeds in my kitchen than ever before, they have even now got there own special box.

Not only did Sukhi show me how to get going with the base for a lot of Indian dishes he also showed me some cooking basics which I have been frighteningly lacking, things like how to dice an onion, up until now it has been more like a massacre than dicing.

After extensive not taking and Sukhi making it look so effortless I'm psyched to give it a go on my own. I have a suspicion that it will take a few attempts to get anything close to what I ate today but I'm up for the challenge and what's the worse that can happen, right? :)

And yes what we did today was vegetarian. A spicy mushroom dish which had a great kick and even made my nose run a little. With the meat embargo ending on Friday I shall be adding chicken to these dishes as well but also doing veggie ones as well, I have come to appreciate a veggie option every now and again.

With my cooking class over and a nice tingling feeling on my taste buds it was back to Costco to finally get off the fence and buy a bike. I have chosen to get a cheap hybrid option that will get me around town and then if and when I give triathlons ago I can get a specific road racing bike.

After doing a few laps of the Costco isles and taking pictures of me in different helmets, turns out I look stupid in all head wear, I have got the bike and helmet and weather permitting I shall cycle down to club tomorrow night to test it all out. I shall report how city riding goes shortly.

Finally, having received a fair amount of stick for NEARLY peeing in the Costco sink I will endeavour to get a photo to prove how easy an error it was to make. Only problem with this is finding a moment when the the place is deserted as people sort of get funny when you take a camera out in the restroom, go figure.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I know what I did this weekend!

Well to sum before I even start, this weekend lived up to and surpassed expectation.

I had been wondering whether or not to take part in a trail race this weekend as I have never done one and do enjoy the trails and wonder what the differences would be from running on the road and on the trails. This weekend saw the first of the Five Peaks series and I had thought about giving it a go. As it turns out I didn't, It cost to much and it was to far away so the story of my first trail race will have to wait for another day :)

Instead, Ross, PRR's esteemed president suggested doing an orientation run (means trial run, I think) for the ominously named, although I'm assured it's for a different reason, Iron Knee and Tender Knee races. So at 8am on Saturday morning Ross, Barry and myself were to be found on the North Shore lined up in the drizzling rain waiting to go for a bit of a jolly in the mountains.

The group that organise these events are called Mountain Madness, name says it all, and are very well organised at that. On arriving we were handed maps with a full list of directions on that the course would be taking. Unfortunately these directions mainly consisted of trail names such as Power line, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Old Buck and Mystery Creek to name a few. As this meant pretty much nothing to any of us we resolved to follow the trail run leaders instead, who make sure no one actually gets lost. There was a many groups to cater for most abilities so if anyone is tempted, you could do a lot worse than to try it out with theses guys and girls, and for once in running the girls seemed to outnumber the boys.

This would be Barry's first real trail run and while the temperature was cool and the rain coming down it did nothing to dampen his spirit of taking on the challenge. We all headed off and the order for the rest of the run was pretty much sorted straight off, Trail leader Darren in front, Barry close behind and Ross and I trying to keep them insight. The course was only 12k long but fairly soon into the run we were faced with the Power line Trail which is aptly named as it follows the power lines running up to the side of Mt. Seymour, raising over a 1000ft in elevation over nearly 3k of constant incline. After attempting to run the first couple of hundred metres we all pretty much switched to power hiking, then hiking, then walking and then using our arms to push our legs to keep them moving. I have to say it was a bit of a challenge. As always though, what goes up must come down and let me tell you it was a fun run down. I have said it before about trail running but there is something that makes me feel like a little kid again. Running heedlessly down a mountain jumping over rocks and trees and splashing through mud and puddles, it real is great fun. We eventually arrived back at the start after nearly an hour and half, coated with mud and all with big smiles plastered over our faces, although that could have been due to the fact that we could now change into warm dry clothing, you decide.

The fact that it was still only just after 10am meant we decided to grab some brunch and headed over to a place I first went to when I got to Vancouver, The Three Lions. A British pub where the football (soccer) was on the TV and we could grab some breakfast and an early beer, well we had been running we had earned it!

After getting home and soaking in the bath for a while to regain feeling in my toes I got the mundane weekend tasks out the way, clothes washing/drying etc and in between cycles, catching some welcome naps.

Saturday night and for once I had plans that didn't involve running what so ever. Ed had organised a meal at a restaurant called Chambar where Belgian Tapas was the theme, followed by a film and then a few drinks.

Trying to speed up this blog I will just say that while the food and drink at Chambar was amazingly cooked and presented I was left a little hungry and it was a tad expensive. I think that it is more due in fault to me than the restaurant. I get a little grumpy when portion size is small and to be honest I'm just probably not sophisticated enough for places like this, which the fact that I managed to drop a muscle into my lap attested to. Don't get me wrong though I did enjoy the meal, The different beers that the waiter kept recommending were great and I did try muscles for the first time which as long as I didn't look at it as I ate it, tasted lovely. The bits of bison we had while small were very tasty as well. Although I did draw the line at calamari, I have said it before and it is worth saying it again, I like calamari as long as it is not in it's original form, tentacles, I don't do tentacles!

It should be observed at this point that this weekend has not been a good one for the vegetarian challenge with several slip ups. I would however argue that I would have hardly eaten if I had stuck firm and frankly I have been very hungry all weekend.

The least said about the film the better. We saw Control Alt Delete and frankly while I try and find the good in most movies this was just horrendous from start to finish. It was a Canadian film, shot in Vancouver I wanted to like it but just couldn't. Not to spoil it for anyone but the basic blot is that it is set in 1999 and follows a stressed head programmer who is in charge of Y2K fixes for a major corporation. He finds the only ways to 'relieve' his stress is to drill holes into PC's and screw them. I kid you not. There were a couple of funny moments and good performances but nothing could make up for the scenes of him banging away at his desktop or in the big finale, the firms mainframe. Wrong, wrong, diddly wrong! Stop funding this rubbish, there are talented people out there, let them have a chance.

Right, I've got that out my system. Thankfully the evening picked up again after that with us heading into Gastown and a great cozy little bar called Six Acres. With pictures on the wall of celebrity guests, ranging from Rowan Atkinson to Don Johnson and a shelf full of board games like Ludo and Connect 4 this was a great place to hang out, sample some more tasty beers and enjoy the conversation. With Victoria back from her trip to Australia and Barry, Ed, his friend Fiona from New Zealand and myself we covered most a vast array of topics thinking nothing of bashing our way through politics and religion, insulting pretty much everyone along the way, or I did at least, fun times :)

Sunday morning and again the alarm is going off before 7am. With only a week to go before the Vancouver Marathon and Half, this morning's Sunday PRR club run headed off the trails and back onto the road. We were running from the False Creek Community Centre where we meet on normal club nights and running up to the UBC campus and back with a round trip of just under 22k, perfect warm up for those running the half next week.

The run is basically a 9.5K 'ish flat run out to UBC where we climb a long but not steep slope into the UBC campus, turn around and retrace our steps back to the Granville Island. There were lots of runners out today getting in the final long run before next week and several times we saw people we knew along the way. The running community here is very friendly and it's great to have some one give you a wave when you are not feeling that into it. We also managed to run through a film location who seemed to be trying to recreate a carnival type scene at one of the many beaches along the way. I do still get a kick from seeing all the trucks and lighting and cameras although it is a fairly common occurrence here.

After getting to the top of the UBC hill and turning around the weather which had started off cold and windy decided to through another element into the mix, rain. It was a long hard slog back, running into the wind and rain I was soon drenched and frankly I was sapped of any energy I had left. The film crew seemed determined to get there scenes shot with background cast playing Frisbee and the like in beach wear while simultaneously shivering. The last 3K were really rough, with not a dry centimetre of clothing and cold hands and soaked feet I had to remind myself many times that I was doing this for fun. I think I can safely say we were all glad to get back and finish and in not a to shabby time considering the conditions.

A quick change into dry clothes and a hot drink and muffin at Pedro's perked everyone back up in no time.

Getting back home and again sitting in bath to warm up all the cold bits I found myself heading for what must have been the umpteenth nap of the weekend. I'm a napping animal!

Power nap over and done with, I awoke to find the sun had come out. I had promised Sukhi I would take a quick look at a PC problem he had and I took a walk in the sun over to his house. Thankfully I managed to find the problem fairly quickly, which went to fix some of the wounds to my ego that my issues earlier in the week had caused and in reward Sukhi came along to help me look for a bike. I have been thinking of getting gone since I got here as Vancouver is a very bike friendly place and it would not only give me a different form of exercise but also save me a little money on Sky Train tickets.

I'm still indecisive about getting a road bike or a hybrid but I'm leaning towards hybrid as it would take a little more punishment which as I haven't really ridden a bike in many years it would probably sustain regularly.

To top of the weekend I was even treated ti a magnificent home barbecued burger with freshly made spicy onions. I know, I know, I'm not meant to eat meat at the minute, but I have been hungry all weekend and have exercised more than enough to justify the calories and frankly this weekend I have been so low on energy that I felt that I need meat. I will say that this is my own fault as for the rest of the month energy has not been an issue but with a tough end to the week and a busy weekend I have not had the time it takes me to think of and prepare the proper vegetarian dishes. I have been lazy and that is the cause of lack of energy but it still doesn't alter the fact that I was drained and so fell back to what I know and that is meat. Sorry, I feel bad, I really do, but I want to be honest about these challenges and some are harder than others.

On the plus side on getting home and pottering around for as bit I discovered I was still hungry and even though the desire to fall back on my old friend McDonald's was strong I didn't and instead whipped up a fast vegetarian pasta dish which did the job nicely.

So while eating that meal I made another error by watching this weeks Doctor Who episode in the dark. For those that don't watch it you may think me foolish but I would put money on the fact those that do understand why after a few minutes the little voice in my head was screaming at me to turn on the light or at least pull the blanket up a little higher. Good to see the new Doctor return to form.

Oh and I nearly forgot, as near misses of death inducing embarrassment go the trip to Costco ranks right up there. Popping into the rest room I walked into the men's area to be faced with a fairly common sight, a big long chrome trough to pee in. As I stood up next to it and prepared to get out little David I started thinking how high this trough was off the ground, it was pretty much at my waist height and being 6ft (YES I AM!) I thought this a little odd. with fly down and getting ready to 'shake hands with the man' I finally realised one small detail I had previously missed. this particular chrome trough came with taps! Bugger! I had very nearly peed in the sink. As I subtlety relocated myself to the right location I did say a little prayer of thanks for the last minute revelation. May be a little more attention to detail is required on my part.