June 29, 2010

June 26, 2010

Vancouver Half Marathon

Tomorrow I am racing the (Scotiabank) Vancouver Half Marathon. The race starts at 7am. My BIB number is 912 and I plan to pick up my race package tomorrow morning, as I did not have the energy nor the time to drive back and forth to Vancouver today or yesterday.

It's been a great but somewhat exhausting week as I started working as a copy-editor at a newspaper in Vancouver. It always requires a lot of mental energy to get started in a new role, including the part-time one this is. I am excited about this job, which is similar to what I did at the Australian Financial Review in Sydney before moving to Canada, and I enjoyed my first three days this past week.

I also spent a considerable amount of energy preparing electronic copies of my books for the Ibooks store, which requires them to be in .epub format. After spending much of Monday trying to figure out what was involved, and several hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before heading to the city for my new job, I still didn't have the answer.

So yesterday, Friday, I started at 7am and, aside from a couple of breaks to walk the dog and have dinner, I worked until 11pm in the evening. My rate of progress throughout the day felt slow, even absent, but by 5pm I had made a significant breakthrough and by 11pm I was 99% sure I was able to solve the remaining issues the next day (ie today).

And I did. After resuming my work on this at 7am this morning, I had my files submitted by 10am and they are being processed. Pfew. I am pretty tired now, but in a very satisfied way, as I had begun doubting I was going to be able to fix the technical issues involved in the submission.

This all means I have spent little time thinking about tomorrow's race. I had a look at the course profile today. It looks good. As for my training this week, I took Thursday and Friday off (mostly because of work).

Today I did a 10-minute easy warm-up, followed by 12 times 30 seconds fast with 30 seconds easy jogging in between.

While I didn't feel particularly energetic today, I might feel superb tomorrow. We'll see, I am just excited to race, even thought it means the alarm will ring around 4am for Tim, Luka and I.

We're driving to the race start at UBC, with the new magnetic car door ad to help spread the word about my books.

Tim was pretty tired, too, after cycling to Whistler and back this morning, at 120km his longest ride since he did Ironman Canada 10 months ago. Luka joined him for a powernap on the back deck afterwards.

June 18, 2010

Port Moody Public Library

Port Moody Public Library is acquiring my three books for its collection. I began working on my first book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend a month after I had moved to Port Moody from Sydney, Australia, so I am very glad that that book and my two other titles will have a place there. 

Gold Coast libraries

The Gold Coast libraries in Queensland, Australia, have added copies of my books Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend and Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon to their collections. Find my books in the catalogue here.

June 17, 2010

North Vancouver District Public Library

The North Vancouver District Public Library has added my three books to its collection.You can find them in the catalogue here

I am grateful for the tremendous support I've received for my books so far by libraries in Canada and Australia.

June 16, 2010

National Library of Australia

The National Library of Australia has agreed to acquire two of my books, Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend and Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon, for its collections.

June 14, 2010

Looong run

Tim, Luka and I set out for our long run yesterday (Sunday) morning at about 10am. It was a gorgeous day and we planned to do a loop of 25km on the STORMY course. I am training for the 50-mile option of this race, held in August.

Incidentally, the hugely popular Test of Metal mountain bike race will be held here next Sunday. This challenging 67km course includes the same lap we ran yesterday. 

We knew this loop, essentially from aid stations 7 to 10 (which are in the same place) on the STORMY trail map, was a combination of dirt roads and trails, with an elevation gain of at least 500 metres. Still, with the benefit of the downhill in the second part of that loop, bringing us back down to where we started, we expected to take between 2 and 2 1/2 hours.

We each had a bottle of 500ml water, two caf gels and a handful of dog cookies (we knew there would be water along the trail for Luka to drink and shared some of our bottled water with him along the second half where there wasn't any).

It took us 1 hour and 23 minutes to reach 9-mile bridge, a steady uphill for most of the time along a dirt road. We considered running back the same way, as we knew it would take a lot less time given that it was all downhill so should take us an hour or less. But with the beautiful weather and feeling good, we decided to do our loop as planned.

The Lava Flow trail goes further up and up and up, and offers stunning vistas of the surrounding forested mountains, valleys and rivers down below. Our run followed the profile from Powerhouse Bridge up to Lava Flow Hill and back to Powerhouse Bridge, a good hill workout to say the least.

We kept Luka on a leash here, as he still is a very curious puppy and might easily consider chasing a bird the wrong way. It wasn't long before we reached the next part of the trail, the Ring Creek Rip trail followed by the Powerhouse Plunge, leading us back into the forest, away from exposed ridges.

Here we let Luka off the leash, also because few mountain bike riders were using the trail today. So far, Luka's longest run with us had been two hours. He was about to smash that record, as the trail on this end took a lot longer than we had anticipated, partly because the footing is trickier with rocks and tree stumps.

All three of us were fine, just a little tired and hungry by the time we got home after an epic 3 1/2 hours. We ended up walking much of the final 45 minutes, as Tim's legs were still recovering from last week's half Ironman race while mine were as well from the 9km time trial the previous day.

June 13, 2010

Tees & other designs

In an effort to spread the word on my books I decided to create some t-shirts and a couple of other items, such as the bumper sticker on the right, as a simple way to advertise them.

Vancouver Public Library

The Vancouver Public Library acquired Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend and Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon for its collection of more than 1.2 million books.

This is the fourth library that is adding my books to its shelves. (Also, the West Vancouver Memorial Library, Squamish Public Library and Penticton Public Library.)

June 08, 2010

Awesome Okanagan

Last night we came back from a superb four-day weekend in the Okanagan. I absolutely love the area, particularly Naramata. Tim and I have been working incredibly hard since September last year and we were both looking forward to this mini-holiday.

Our trips tend to be planned around races and since we usually have a performance goal for them it's never quite as lazy a trip as we, somehow, always expect it to be. This weekend's main goal was Tim racing the Oliver half Ironman on Sunday and qualifying for Ironman Canada.

As you do, I had found a 10km running race on Saturday evening in Summerland, about 15km from Penticton where we had booked pet-friendly accommodation for the three nights at the Breeze Inn. We both brought our laptops because we each had deadlines to meet on the weekend with some stories.

I also brought my Little Martin travel guitar so I could practice, had taken two books of poetry to enjoy and study (Self/Pity by Susan Hahn and The Best American Poetry 2005, with guest editor Paul Muldoon and series editor David Lehman).

Our apartment in Penticton also had a small collection of books. Danielle Steel's Bungalow 2 caught my eye because of its cover and it being right at the front of the row of books -- and then because it said she has sold more than 570 million books.

Admittedly I had not heard of her. I haven't read any romance novels since my first year in high school when my best friend then had drawers full of them (she told me that the ones with a red-haired woman featured on the cover were the best ones.) Steel's 78th bestselling novel was published in February this year, so I spent some time this weekend speed-reading Bungalow 2, alongside poetry.

We had left Squamish on Friday morning shortly before 8am. We were in Summerland at about 1:30pm and got my 10km race package, then drove to Oliver where we picked up Tim's race package and checked out the bike course by car. Oliver bills itself as the Wine Capital of Canada and is home to Inniskillin, Jackson-Triggs and Tinhorn Creek among many others.

It was 4:30pm by the time we arrived at our Penticton accommodation.

After unloading the car, we took Luka for a walk along the Kettle Valley Railway trail. It's a spectacular section that heads from Penticton to Naramata with views across Okanagan Lake and the surrounding mountains.

Here too vineyards are everywhere.

On Saturday Tim prepared his bike for the race in the morning, while I took Luka for a walk along the KVR trail again. We relaxed for a bit and then took Luka to Three Mile Beach in between Penticton and Naramata, where he had a great swim, before driving to Oliver where Tim checked in his bike and did a short swim in Tuc-El-Nuit lake. To Luka's dismay no dogs were allowed. 

We got back in Penticton at about 4pm so I had an hour before I needed to leave to Summerland for my 10km race which started at 6pm. Tim and Luka decided to stay in the apartment to prepare for the half Ironman the following day.

The 10km is part of Summerland's Action Fest, which also has a 5.4km run and triathlon races for adults and kids. After a warm-up I positioned myself near the front of the start line. I wasn't sure about the course and for some reason I had expected it to be reasonably flat. It wasn't. I was the lead female immediately, with about five guys ahead of me.

It was a warm night and we were running along a scenic route though I didn't pay too much attention to that.

It was my first race since I did the Rotterdam Marathon in early April and my first 10km in 10 months. I have done little speed work in the past two months so I was hoping to stay under 42 minutes, which is what I just managed to do on this hilly course. I crossed the line as first female.

The next morning the alarm went off at 5am and we left Penticton 35 minutes later. The race started at 7.30am, though Tim's wave didn't start until 7.55am. Tim crossed the finish line 4hrs and 53mins later, during which Luka and I must have walked close to 15km to different parts of the course to cheer him on.

Tim had a solid race, placing top 10 in his age group and securing his coveted Ironman spot. It was a great but long day, as we then had to wait for the awards ceremony, which started at 4:30pm and after which the Ironman Canada slots were given. We hung out with friends and had a great time catching up.

The next morning I took Luka for a 90-minute run along the KVR trail, while Tim did some work before we packed up the car. We drove to the tourist information centre for suggestions about accommodation for Ironman in August. Then we went to the Penticton Public Library where I wanted to show the librarian my books but she was out for lunch. 

So we drove to Naramata to check out accommodation options and found one that is spectacular but somewhat pricey. We toured the beautiful house that is right on the water and jammed with antiques, including a library. It has two rooms and is pet-friendly. The owner is a painter. It's a great option for Ironman.

At 2pm I was back at the library where I met with the librarian, showed her my books and described the contents. She loved them and agreed to acquire them on the spot. What a superb weekend.

We stopped at a dog-friendly beach just before Summerland which made Luka very happy. He just loves swimming and we tired him out as much as we could while we had our lunch on the beach. 

An hour later we were on our way back to Squamish after a weekend that was a lot less lazy than we, foolishly, expected but relaxing nonetheless.

Incidentally, Tim and I had funny race numbers in two entirely different events:

June 07, 2010

Penticton Public Library

The Penticton Public Library, which last year celebrated its 100th birthday, has acquired my three published books for its collection.

Penticton is the home of Ironman Canada, so what a perfect place for Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon.

June 01, 2010

What I am reading

Robert Fulford's The Triumph of Narrative is a great book that I have borrowed from my local library. Among other things, it has made me think a lot about my grandmother who turned 94 in March this year and who has always had many stories for me, and still does, told in a language powerful even though, and perhaps because, it is not her first.

It was my grandmother's determination in her challenging life that first made me consider writing a book more than 15 years ago. It's still on my mind, and I have made some tentative starts at different points. For various reasons I have not pursued it any further.

But, as Lawrence Block says in Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print, "Writing the book is an organic process, and we carry the book with us wherever we go." I have been carrying the idea of a book about my grandmother for a long time and it is now in the forefront of my mind as I am wondering again if and how I should tell her story.

As a longtime journalist I have always thought that I needed to verify the authenticity of my grandmother's many great and dramatic stories. But now I realise that stories can just be told as stories for their own sake, just as long as we do not pretend them to be anything they are not.

While I have yet to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Living to Tell the Tale, the epitaph in this book struck me when I read it at my grandmother's apartment in the Netherlands in April: “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.”

When I returned from the Netherlands, Fulford's book spoke to me from the library shelves so I brought it home and highly recommend it.

In the first of its five chapters, titled Gossip, Literature and Fictions of the Self, Fulford quotes from Charlotte Linde’s Life Stories: The Creation of Coherence, “Life stories express our sense of self – who we are … and how we became that person ... communicate our sense of self to others and negotiate it with others.”

Fulford writes: “We might add another level of meaning to what Linde says: when we make stories, when we turn raw events into personal sagas, parables, tales, and anecdotes, we are often struggling to come to terms with one of the inescapably difficult and puzzling facts of existence. Storytelling is an attempt to deal with and at least partly contain the terrifyingly haphazard quality of life. Large parts of life, sometimes the most crucial parts, depend on random happenings, contingency… we cannot bear to think that there is no meaningful structure in the way we develop.”

Practicing race pace

I finished the first week of my new training program. As expected, I enjoyed the sessions, especially because the training routine is different to the one I have followed for five years.

Change is refreshing and, on that note, my hair went from shoulder-length to a super-short pixie style on Friday.

My new program includes a marathon race pace session on most Saturdays and I did the first one this weekend. The idea of this session is to get used to your planned marathon race pace by running a certain distance at it, 8km this time.

My best marathon time is 3:07:10, which I ran in the Victoria Marathon in October 2008. That works out to a marathon pace of 4:26 per kilometre. Since then I've run another three marathons in 3:10, 3:10 and 3:11 respectively, which is a pace of between 4:30 to 4:32 per kilometre.

A difference of  5 to 7 seconds per kilometre seems minor but over 42.195km it adds up to nearly five minutes, which at my pace means more than 1km.

I am looking for an ambitious improvement in my marathon time so I have decided to aim for a 4:20 per kilometre pace in my Saturday race pace sessions. (That pace works out to a marathon time of 3:02:51 if I were able to maintain this.)

Starting this session with the expectations that marathon pace would feel pretty relaxed for 8km, I noticed soon that I was wrong and had underestimated how quickly you lose your top speed. The first 3km should have taken me 13 minutes but I was 45 seconds too slow.

So I sped up and managed to finish the remaining 5km at my desired 4:20 marathon race pace, feeling more like I had just done an 8km time trial than the relaxed pace I anticipated. Oh well, the marathon is still four months away.

This Saturday I am racing a 10km in Summerland, BC. I am planning to start at 4:10 pace and see how that feels, which I expect to be challenging given this weekend's session:-). The last time I raced a 10km was more than six months ago, so I am excited!