Reading in 2017

Every year I set myself a reading goal. At the beginning of 2017, I said I’d try to get through 15 books. It’s not quite the end of the year (and I might be able to squeeze in another short book on vacation next week!) but I thought I’d list the round-up here.

I usually keep track of books I read via a “sticky note” on my computer desktop. There are platforms that are designed for this (Goodreads, for example) but my little list works for me.

Full disclosure: I’m still halfway through my last book and last audiobook so I’m not totally sure this counts as reaching my goal, but I also think it’s pretty close and I’m glad to have been able to keep up a reading habit. Also, some books felt super long! (I’m looking at you, all 592 pages of American Wife)

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologizes Last year I discovered my favourite book (maybe ever): A Man Called Ove, by Frederick Backman. I’ve been working my way through his other books, staring with this one. It took a while to get started, which I’m realizing is common for him. In the end, I liked it a lot. This book is part of a series of books that are all a similar story told from different characters’ views. It doesn’t matter what order you read them in, or if you read all of them, but the more you read, the more perspective you get. Next on my “to-read” list is Britt-Marie Was Hereanother book in the set.

The Improbability of Love Going with the theme of “takes a long time to get started” is this book, which is told from the perspective of a painting. Once I had a lot of free time on a plane to Sydney, I got through and ended up enjoying it.

The Art of Racing in the Rain This book was great. In contrast to my first two books of the year, I tore through it. It was also a bit of a cry-fest (picture me tearing up on Bondi Beach). If you love dogs you should definitely read this one.

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did, but I thought it was fantastic. It’s a story of four women, centred around a little coffee shop in Kabul and as chaotic as you might expect that to look. At first some of the cultural elements made me want to scream, but slowly I got used to it. I don’t often pass books on to others, but both my Mom and a friend got a copy of this book later in the year.

Behind Closed Doors This was an easy but SUPER creepy read. It’s also short, which means I literally ripped through it on a flight from Sydney to Cairns. I ended up leaving it at the Cairns airport for someone else to enjoy, but if you like thrillers and are looking for something quick and easy, this could be it. There were a few holes in the story, but I was willing to overlook them.

The Wangs Vs. The World Sort of a “Crazy Rich Asians” type of book. It’s focused on a modern wealthy Chinese family going through a financial in L.A. Kind of a light story with a healthy dose of pop culture references.

The Knockoff This book itself was nothing to write home about, but I did spend some time thinking about the themes involved. It’s about a magazine editor whose young assistant tries to steal her job by turning the magazine into an app (online, all the time, 24-hours-a-day).

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend I liked this book. It’s about a book-lover who finds herself on an adventure in rural America.

American Wife This book felt like it took me a long time to get through, but I kept finding myself thinking about how realistic it seemed. Then when I finished it and googled, it turns out that the novel is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush. Once I got into it I was pretty hooked, so I’d totally recommend it if you enjoy American politics, want insight into life and dynamics in powerful families, or just like a good story. I read a good chunk of it on the bus to and from Seattle to visit friends in the summer.

Hungry Heart I picked this book up in the airport on our way to Europe in October, and I really liked it. Jennifer Weiner has written several books, and I think I’ve read most of them. She’s usually funny and down to earth and a bit self-deprecating, so I was excited to see her name on the cover. Then I realized that this book isn’t a novel, it’s a memoir in the form of short essays. I think she’s smart and has really figured out who she is, so getting to see a glimpse of that and her day-to-day life was cool.

Rabbit This book is another shorty and I read it quickly on a few train rides through Belgium. It’s the insane story of a little girl who grows up with heroin, the sex trade, teenage parenthood and more, and yet still comes out on top. It’s totally worth it just as a reminder that if you can be sitting somewhere comfortable reading a book, your life isn’t going even half badly.

The Bookshop on the Corner This book was sort of similar to the Readers of Broken Wheel above, as in it’s about a woman on an adventure who loves books. There was more of a romance piece in this book though, and I liked that it wasn’t predictable. I was surprised I enjoyed it so much.

Bear Town Oh, Backman. This was a fantastic 430-page book that felt like it could pretty easily have been 300, max. Other than that it had well-developed characters and complex themes that several times had me pause mid-page, put the book down, and think for a bit. If you grew up around sports or Canadian winters or both, you’ll definitely find it relatable.

Two Hours This book is an interesting look at what it will take to run a two-hour marathon (it was written a few years ago, before Nike staged their Breaking2 attempt). I liked the mix of running history, and found that it was a great book for bus rides or waits because I could read it in micro-chunks without forgetting the details/plot line etc.

AudioBooks

I wasn’t sure if audiobooks count as being “read” but I did start to get into listening on my commute home (in the morning I like the news). I found that picking a book that would be a bit of an “easier read” made it easier for me to stay engaged while listening. When I tried more “adult” books, I found my mind would drift away easily.

I’ve been listening via Audible!

Wonder This is the sweet story of a boy called Augie (short for August) who’s born with a severe craniofacial deformity, and the adventure that is his first year at school. I liked it a lot and thought it was really easy to listen to.

My Brilliant Friend (Book 1 of the Neapolitan Novels) I have to admit, I’m only about 30 minutes into this book. Apparently it’s a “modern masterpiece” about a friendship between two women that spans decades. We’ll see!

As a cookbook lover, I also gave a shoutout to favourites from the year: Dinner A Love Story, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, and (from 2016) Run Fast Eat Slow have been loved (aka dripped on/splattered/smudged) around here this year!

Advertisements

Seawheeze 2017 Race Recap

You know how I get nervous for races? Seawheeze makes me totally crazy! I wish I could channel my inner yogi but I’m a nervous nellie all the way. I’ll cut to the chase and say I had a really successful race, and this will be a bit long. If you only have two seconds here’s the short version: I had a blast and ran 1:30:42 (an almost-four-minute PB)!

I’m thinking a few things I did the week before this race made a difference. First, I barely ran all week. I was busy with work one day, feeling a bit off another day and before I knew it, I was picking up my package on Friday afternoon and thinking that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go for a run 12 hours before racing.

there is no hiding from the camera in this house

The second thing I think I got right was nutrition during that week. I’ve been learning more about carbohydrate loading and how it only really works if you deplete yourself first. So, during the week I used myfitnesspal and cut WAY back on carbs (prob why I was feeling “off”). The night before the race, I ate sushi (salt and carbs?) and some extra oatmeal. The morning of, I was accidentally out of oatmeal (great planning on my part) so I ate plain zucchini bread. In the 24 hours before the race I tried to really decrease my fat intake.

I had a harder time falling asleep that night but eventually did. The race starts at 7, but the start line is a few blocks away and I wasn’t checking a bag, so I rolled out of bed at 5.50, paced nervously for 30 minutes, and got dressed :). I took my now-traditional pre-Seawheeze nervous selfie. I also wore my lucky socks… I know this is crazy but I have PB’d in every race I wore these and there must be some magic in there.

Also NOTE TO SELF: french braiding my hair was perfect.

Jan walked me to the start line, and I jogged back and forth for a short warm up. We headed over to the start line, and saw Danielle (who also ran a big PB! Woohoo!) there as well. Seawheeze is a huge but not super competitive race, so I jumped into the first corral (Under 1:40). It was pretty surreal to be standing on the line of a 10,000 person race (next to Nic, who came second overall, Kristina, and a few other local running celebs).

Pretty soon the race was off and I just tried to settle in. Last year, Ben gave me the really good advice that I should run a race by feel – just go as fast as I think I can hold for that distance. I think that this stops me from seeing my pace and freaking out, and also has taught me to be more tuned in to my bod.

Initially, I was thinking it would be awesome to break my previous PB (1:34:17, set at the Fool’s Half earlier this year). This past week, I also wondered if I was maybe fast enough to do 1:32? Between very few structured workouts and not looking at my watch, I really didn’t have a plan other than “get in front of the 1:35 bunny and don’t get passed”. So we went off and little did I know I went through the first 2 km in 7:48… averaging 3:54/km.

splits from strava

I do have to say that just before 2k, we went over the Dunsmuir viaduct and through the Ride Cycle Club cheer tunnel, which was epic. I was running way too fast and grinning ear to ear. Turns out that in the first half of this race I set a 5k and 10k PB as well.

photo from lulu facebook page

We rounded the corner off the viaduct and hit the Main/Keefer/Carrall loop. I felt pretty bad at that point and from 3-8k was definitely a rough patch in the race for me. I tried to remind myself that all I needed to do was hang on until I just couldn’t anymore, and if I eventually fell off the pace that would be ok. Thanks to marathon and ultramarathon training, I was very sure that I would get through 21k, no matter how slowly I had to do it.

Eventually we got off that part of the seawall and went up the hill on Bute and I willed myself not to barf. I knew Jan would be around the foot of the bridge but didn’t see him until he captured some really candid photos! From where I saw him it was only 500m to the peak of the bridge, and the downhill. was. amazing. Suddenly I felt so much better. I turned onto Cornwall and saw Yasuyo, who cheered and jumped about 30 feet in the air and powered through to the turnaround.

pure joy. Thanks for the photo Yasuyo!

When I started running back, I realized that part of feeling so good was a tailwind! Oh well. I knew I’d have to dig a bit and get over Burrard from the tougher side. I ran a 4:35 km (my second slowest of the race) and then hit the west part of the seawall. I also saw some more friends on this stretch, including Meghan, Nic, Yasuyo again, and Danielle (best thing about an out-and-back). From there I really did zone out – it seemed like every step was hard, but also suddenly I was at Siwash rock, and then Lion’s Gate, and the Vega cheering station and boom! I was turning into the park.

 

Once I was back on the Coal Harbour seawall, I started to think about my breathing and focus. I knew I’d be done running in 5 minutes, and I really didn’t want to throw up. Sometimes at the end of a race I get excited, and my heart rate spikes just thatmuch more, and that’s all it takes give me the barfs. With about a kilometer to go, I heard someone’s Garmin tell them out loud “20 kilometers. One hour and 26 minutes”. I literally did not believe it. My immediate reaction was that there was no way I was running that pace and they must have started their watch late. It was only at the 400m mark that I saw Jan, and he yelled that I was going to run 1:30.

I rounded the last corner and couldn’t sprint – too much tummy trouble. I still saw the 1:30 on the clock and couldn’t resist throwing up my arms. It was a huge breakthrough! I’ve been running 1:34-1:35 for the past year.

thinking about how much awesomeness this city has brought me in the last two years

Post-race I got a shiny medal and lots of goodies. Of course pre-race lulu sends out a pair of their special Seawheeze-branded, exclusive print shorts, and then when I picked up my timing chip on Friday I also got a bag, water bottle, package of Nuun, and JJ Bean coupon for a free coffee. There were free manicures, temporary tatoos and foam rolling in the Plaza, but I didn’t line up for any of it. Maybe next year!

 

I also didn’t wait in line for the exclusive Seawheeze store – too much $$ already spent on this for me! I think people really liked the stuff though, so if you’re in town for the race and don’t mind waiting it might be fun.

After getting the medal, I continued on towards the plaza and was given a Bearfoot Bistro brunch box. It had banana bread, chia pudding and an apricot. I wasn’t feeling up to food at that point, but it did get eaten later this weekend! In the plaza, I got an aromatherapy kit from Saje with Peppermint Halo and Muscle Melt (both of which I already loved) and a sample of vega smoothie. We took some photos and I let it sink in that I HAD JUST RUN 90 MINUTES!

Of course I hadn’t thought to bring any warm clothes, and it really wasn’t the warmest morning (which helped!) so we headed home pretty quickly. After a shower and a whole foods almond milk latte I was feeling great!

We took it easy for the rest of the day and met up with some friends at the Sunset Festival that night. Lulu puts on a big outdoor concert as part of the race, so we relaxed with friends and listened to the music. When we got home around 11, I had a huge snack (turns out running is hard) and totally crashed.

It was a great day!

5peaks Mt Seymour/Golden Ears

I’m finally caught up on race reports! It seemed like I was barely racing at all and then all of a sudden they were back to back. I decided to race the 5peaks Mt. Seymour race as a bit of a last minute fun race – it’s kind of a long story.

Back in May, we went to a fundraiser for some of our running friends. They’d been chosen to represent Canada at the 50k World Championships. It was held in Italy this year, which was super cool and super expensive (flight, hotel, food, etc).

So anyway, the run club they (and sometimes we) run with hosted a big fundraiser. It was a really relaxed evening at our friend Jess’ studio (early childhood education by day, runner hangout by night). We first did a mellow 5k run, then ate a bunch of pizza, had some drinks and hung out. There was a silent auction and a raffle, so of course we had to get in on those, too.

Jan and I both ended up winning raffle prizes (hat + bag + water bottle for me, and shoes for him) but I also entered the silent auction and won… this race!

THEN, we found out that there was still so much snow on Mt. Seymour on race weekend (June 17th) that the race had to get moved to Golden Ears (where I actually raced last year!). So long story short, I found myself driving to a race at 5.45 am, less than 12 hours after a 5k road race, with Jan, my parents, and the ever-adventurous Moira, who agreed to come race as well.

The race itself was classic 5peaks – low key, well organized, really friendly and beautiful scenery. Also need to say that the race director, Solana, was really nice about helping me squeeze Moira into the race (it was sold out and I emailed her the night before begging for an entry!). Seriously, they are so, so great. Definitely recommended if you want some fun trail racing!

I think I was a bit in my head about being tired, and I probably told myself for the first 3-4 km that I needed to just settle into it. I was in third place or so (thanks to some long slow climbs that were very non-technical) for the first half but got caught on the more technical downhill. I finished 5th female overall in 1:18 on a 13ish km course.

It was a fun day overall! Definitely made me think more about being confident heading into a race instead of having to convince myself that I’m fit while I’m on the course. Also note to self for next year/other races- I really don’t need to carry that water on a run <20k… I don’t end up drinking anything!

On a side note, I was SUPER tired last week and took a few days off from running. I was able to hold a faster pace for my long run on Sunday, so hopefully that’s over! Also tried to add more meat/protein and sleep. We’ll see!

Any tips? (Besides sleep more :-) Have you raced 5peaks?

 

Another Race! Longest Day 5k

If you’ve been reading along for the past week or so, you’re probably wondering how it’s possible that I’m posting another race recap. I promise there’s just this one and then one more and then I’m caught up!

The Longest Day 5k is one of my favourite Vancouver races. It’s almost more about seeing running friends than it is about running fast (but also it’s always a bit about running fast ;).

The race is always on the Friday before the summer solstice, aka the longest day (June 16th this year). It’s out at UBC, and there is a 5k and 10k option. It’s the only 5k I’ve really raced hard in Vancouver, so I’ve been taking the opportunity to test my fitness whenever it comes up. Afterwards, there’s a huge barbecue and everyone hangs out on picnic blankets in the late sunshine.  Last year Jan paced me through the first 3k and I ran it in 20:32. This year I was really hoping to go under 20:00.

This year, my Mom and Dad were visiting so we brought them along to watch. Jan stayed with them while I ran, so no pacer for me. Going into Sun Mountain I didn’t do much speed work, so I wasn’t sure how my time would compare. I had already been at UBC for the day for work, so I just walked over to the start line to get my bib when I was done. After a while, Jan and my parents arrived. I was feeling a bit nervous so I waited til the last minute to get rid of my layers and head to the start. This also meant I didn’t do a warm up, even though Jan tried hard to get me to!

Also, since I came straight from work I’d packed everything that morning anddd… I forgot my watch! I put my phone in the pocket of my shorts so that the run would still be on Strava (crazy, I know) but I didn’t know my pace at all.

The first km turns almost right away and then goes slightly downhill before levelling off. I tried to stay with the little pack I was in but it felt SO FAST. Turns out it was 3:40 – is that my fastest km ever? Might be.

My usual thought process for a 5k is 1 km of running really fast in the beginning, 3km in the middle of just trying to hang on and one more km of oh-my-god-the-finish-line-is-right-there-don’t-barf-its-only-a-few-more-minutes. This race also has a harsh little uphill right after the 2k mark that I really felt.

I did back off on pace a bit for the middle 3k (4:05, 4:18, 4:12) and then used my last bit of gas to run a 3:57 for the final km. I was so glad to be done! There was a tiny bit of barfing (TMI? Sorry.) at the finish line but I got it together pretty quickly and felt a lot better once my HR came down. My mom was a bit shocked – I think for her the line of pushing too hard is way before it comes to that! My final chip time was 20:15… far from my goal of under 20 minutes but significantly faster than last year without much specific work put in. I was a bit annoyed at first but overall am really happy with the new PB.

Of course, the BBQ after the race was awesome (burgers, tons of veggies, ice cream, chips, cookies, and more!)and I more than refuelled from a long day. We went home as the sun started to set and I was in bed by 9.30 – possibly asleep before I was fully laying down! We had an early morning planned – stay tuned for more on that!

As for the race – another fun year! See ya in 2018!

Ultramarathon! Sun Mountain 50k Recap

“show me your bib!”
nervous smiles at the start line

I feel like this is going to be a doozy of a post! It’s also wayyy overdue: the recap for Sun Mountain 2017, my first ultra! Grab a coffee and settle in.

On Friday May 19th (6 days after we got home from Sydney), I met up with Jan and our friends Greg and Martina after a quick morning at the office. The four of us piled into Martina’s car and drove across the border to Winthrop, Washington. Our final destination was the Sun Mountain 50k for me, and 100k for Greg (!).

In few weeks before this, I finished my rural placement, wrote my CCFP, and traveled to Australia. It didn’t give me one spare minute to get nervous about this race, which I think was a really good thing, because it was the farthest I’d ever run, and pretty much the longest I’d been on my feet. (My only longer races were tri’s).

We stayed in a big house with some other Fraser St. Run Club folks, which was the best combination of advice from awesome trail runners and really good vibes. We arrived at the Air BnB a bit late (I was late leaving work + we had a long border crossing + Trader Joe’s stop) and made a quick dinner of stir-fry veggies and quinoa.

labeling drop bags

After eating I laid out my clothes. The weather was calling for 21 and sunny, with an 8 AM start in the mountains. I went with singlet (super old but tried and true) + Flow Y bra + Nike shorts, and a lulu long sleeve to start in. Add my Garmin, latest trail shoe choice and hat (Bondi beach souvenir trucker hat!) and I was good to go.

last minute race outfit pic!
drop baggies

The race had three aid stations: mile 8.6, 17 and 25.2 (km 13.8, 27.4, and 40.5). The website didn’t have a lot of info about what would be stocked there, but people had told me that Rainshadow events are always really well done. I made sure to have Nuun in the second two bags (the heat!) and tossed in a few other things I thought I’d like to eat. FYI: The aid stations were great, and had watermelon, bananas, pretzels, PB+J rollups, chips, water and sports drinks.

I wrote out my nutrition plan on the plane from Australia – colour coded because what else are you going to do with 16 1/2 hours? The main strategy was to get 90-150 cal/h, using foods that I already knew I could handle (not gel). Along the right hand side of the page I noted things I wanted to have available from my bag at the aid station (extra hair ties, chapstick, etc). I ended up not putting in the fig cookies, but I did have some banana bread in there instead.

So Martina (who was 4 months pregnant and an actual superstar) got up early so she could drive me to the 8 am start. I was nervous at that part – it was chilly and I was just overall a bit shaky.

checking in

The race got started in such a quick way! Everyone was kind of standing around (like in the photo above), while the race director, James, did a mini safety briefing. But then, in the same breath, he was like “ok and 3, 2, 1, go!” People just standing around the start line were all “yikes ok!”

For the first bit of the race I was just thinking “omg I’m running 50 kilometres today”. I did a bit of “omg what am I going to think about for the next 48.5 km?!” and a lot of looking around until I settled in around 5k. I came to the first aid station absolutely dying to get rid of my long sleeve. It was around 14 deg at the start line and probably overkill even to have worn it in the first place.

I knew Jan didn’t have access to a car and would only be able to see me at the halfway point and the end, so at the first station I found my drop bag, grabbed some food (another waffle and shot bloks) and ditched my top. This is probably where I made my biggest mistakes of the day. Early that morning, Kat (speedy trail runner, also friend) had told me to get calories in early. She knew that in the heat and hills I wouldn’t feel like eating late in the race.

Feeling great running along at halfway

To make a long story short, I didn’t eat much at all (2 waffles + half a package of chews) in the first part of the race. Things were going so well at the 25k mark that I thought I’d be fine. In the last 10k, I got nauseous and focused on getting fluids, but wasn’t really able to take in a much food.

From about 28-30km, I felt medium –  until 45k, when I really just wanted to be done running. I was tired, hot, and my feet hurt. I really think that a major reason why I faded so hard was nutrition. I just didn’t get enough calories in. So, lesson learned! Eat early!

I don’t think I’ve ever really hit a true “low point” in a running race before. At 46ish k, I really just wanted to sit down on the trail. I was tearful and not thinking at all clearly about how I only really had 20 mins of running left to do. I couldn’t even recognize myself bonking a bit!

such an emotional roller coaster – from tears to smiles in a few steps

Jan ran out to keep me company for the last 3km, and seeing him really helped. I was so ready to have my first ultra done!

“can I dump some of that water on my head?”

I finished in 6:03 (23rd F). I think I’m capable of something closer to 5:45 if I train harder in the trails and figure out nutrition, etc. It’s taken me a full five weeks but I’m starting to think that it’s maybe something I would attempt again :).

At the race, you don’t get a medal – it’s a stainless steel beer cup! It says “Sun Mountain 50 km 2017”. I totally love it – way more useful and cool than a medal.

the crew watching the 25k finish line on sore legs!
driving through a still-snowy pass on the way home

The rest of the day was tiring but fun – we hung out at the finish line and ate amazing wood stove pizza + tons of snacks, beer, coffee and water. We waited for Greg and eventually ran with him to the finish line of his 100k race. I slept pretty well (I don’t usually after a hard race/workout but 65000 steps in one day will do that to you) and we watched a bit of the 25k race on Sunday morning before driving back home.

I’d definitely race this one again! Thanks for a fantastic first ultra experience Rainshadow!

PS I also got a really cool t-shirt as a souvenir, but no photo of it! Might be able to find it here

MEC Trail Race 3

too sweaty to open my eyes! sorry in advance for the iphone photos – no fancy camera today!

While we were in Australia, my friend Moira emailed asking if I wanted to join her for one of the upcoming MEC trail races (“Trail Race 3“). Of course I said yes!

Side note: the MEC races are so great because they have all the things you need for a race (timing, well-marked course, coffee at the start line and snacks after) but none of the extra bells and whistles (participation medals, t-shirts, etc.). This means they can be SUPER CHEAP but still well-run, challenging and super fun. 

This race was hosted by MEC North Van and was 15$ for a 15k trail race. There was also a 55k option, but it was only 2 weeks after Sun Mountain and even a 15k race sounded hefty. The race was on the Capilano-Pacific trail, which is mostly wide and non-technical, but also very beautiful!

Moira also got friends Jen and Travis to register, and Jan came along for moral support ;). We drove out to Ambleside Park, where the race started. They had coffee and water and we grabbed our bibs. Excel with Grace was there to lead pre-run yoga (when did I get so stiff?!?!).

I lined up near the front of the pack. I didn’t really know what to expect from other people there, but Jan is always telling me to start up front. There were a few layers of men in front of me but I didn’t see too many other women. They ended up going out pretty fast and when I saw us hit the first km in 4:20, I knew I needed to be a bit more conservative. I let the lead pack, including the first woman, go.

At this point I was running with only one or two other people. The race would go slowly up towards the Cleveland Dam before coming all the way back down, so I focused on running the uphills as much as possible, so I could put more distance between me and any other chase groups. I’m still so much better going up than down! I had some doubts in the early kilometers about racing so soon after Sun Mountain, but I reminded myself it was supposed to be a fun, no-pressure day and just went for it.

On the way back, I saw the others (the joys of an out and back course!) and started to feel good, especially with the downhill. I ran the last 7k significantly under a 5:00 pace and finished in 1:18:28 for 2nd female.

It was a pretty warm day, so I wore an old lulu swiftly tech tee and speed shorts, plus my Flow Y sports bra and a random pair of socks. I’m still rocking the New Balance Vazee trail shoes (a departure from my beloved Saucony!) and quite liking them. I had both of my trusty Garmin’s (steps and GPS tracking) and that’s about it! I carried my Ultimate Direction handheld but this was prob overkill – I didn’t drink on the course.

It was great to get a post-race massage, banana, muffin and coffee! We spent the rest of the day hanging out and getting ready for the week – a perfect Sunday in my books :)