Run 502: In before the Africa hot

Run 502
Average pace: 5:40/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CW)
Start: 9:21 am
Distance: 5.03 km
Time: 28:36
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 21-23ºC
Humidity: 44%
Wind: light
BPM: 163
Weight: 166.2 pounds
Total distance to date: 3902 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone

The forecast high for today was 31ºC, which is not only Africa hot, it’s especially hot for June. It’s also way hotter than I like for running. I’m not planning on doing a desert marathon so I’m good with running under milder conditions.

My plan was to get out earlier so I could finish my run while the temperature was still bearable. I headed out around 8:45 a.m. and started the run at 9:21. It was already 21ºC and rose to 23ºC over the run but that’s a fair bit better than 30 or 31.

And I still saw someone running in a jacket.

I felt a lot more energetic today compared to Thursday and this was reflected in the first km, by far my fastest (5:18/km). But I bogged down over the next two km and by the fourth felt a bit like a baked potato, my energy leaking out like a slowly-deflating balloon wearing jogging shorts.

It was around that point that I opted to stick to 5K instead of pushing to 7K. On the one hand I kind of regret not going farther because the temperature only rose a few more degrees (it’s since gone up to 28 now that it’s past noon) but there are times when you know it’s better to listen to the signals your body is giving you and this seemed like one of them.

My pace did improve in the last few km, so overall it was a mediocre-ish 5:40/km.

The trail was not too busy, just a few small groups of walkers and the occasional over-dressed jogger.

Weirdly, I’m almost tempted to go back tomorrow to try a 7K. I’d have to get up super-early to do it before the writing group, though, and the odds of that are…not great.

Run 501: The first 7K of 2017 with bonus very slow

Run 501
Average pace: 5:52/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 9:44 am
Distance: 7.03 km
Time: 41:23
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 18ºC
Humidity: 52%
Wind: light
BPM: 163
Weight: 166.2 pounds
Total distance to date: 3897 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone

My stomach was not feeling quite right so I ended up not going into work today. After getting up things seemed okay so I thought I’d risk getting the run out of the way in the morning so I could spend the rest of the day working on my couch potato skills.

When I got to Burnaby Lake I had to use the Jiffy Potty. I think it’s called that because you don’t want to linger. I mean, you really don’t. This was somewhat ominous but I ended up being fine during the run, though the stomach/innards protested a few times on the walk home.

Despite a quite early start for me at 9:44 am the temperature still rose quickly and it was 18ºC for most of the run. Not too hot, though in mid-morning it somehow feels hotter. My plan was to set for a 5K but push out to a 7K if I felt up for it.

I started slow, even slower than normal for a lake run. I felt off. Not bad per se, and the right heel actually behaved itself nicely, but the energy clearly wasn’t there. At times my legs felt like lead poles. The fifth km was actually my fastest, which is rather unusual.

The GPS tracking of the iPhone also was off. I started at the 0K marker and ran the regular loop, skipping the side trails. As I passed the 1K marker I checked the watch and it reported 0.91 km. At the 5K marker it reported 4.78 km.

I’m going to try a few runs without the iPhone, which will force the Apple Watch to use its built-in GPS. I’ll be interested to see how it compares. The iPhone is over two and a half years old so it’s probably self-destructing with the hope of being upgraded to the fancy models Apple will reveal in September.

Back to the run, I felt good enough at 5K to press on and managed 7K without any complications. I’m sure I could have gone farther still, but 7K is good for now.

Other than the pace being sluggish the run went decently otherwise. My BPM was not too high, sweating was minimal and the trail wasn’t festooned with lots of people due to the early weekday hour. It was nice. Not that I hate people, I just prefer having the entire trail to myself.

One guy passed me at about the 3K mark, he said hello as he went by. He seemed nice. I didn’t mind him being faster as I know I’m well off peak condition. He disappeared after a couple of km so he either turned off the trail, got kidnapped by a bear or fell through a hole in the time/space continuum.

My next run is on Saturday and the forecast is mucho hot–30ºC! I’ll either try to run early or late, though earlier is probably the better choice. I’m aiming for another 7K. It’ll be fun! Fun-ish!

The first day of summer, 2017: Perfectly cromulent

Today is officially the first day of summer and it defied expectations, given the weather we’ve seen so far this year. Rather than raining brimstone and fire or perhaps just letting loose with another monsoon, the day instead was a bit breezy but pleasant, with clear skies, sun and temperatures hovering just under 20ºC–right around seasonal.

It was kind of weird.

I took advantage by actually going for a walk at lunch. I admit I have a motive other than enjoying the nice weather, and that is a renewed effort to get the rest of the flab off me.

On that note, I make a solemn vow now: No more Goldfish crackers. These are like year-round shortbread for me. They are small and tasty and so it’s easy to eat five or ten or 5,000 of them before you know it.

No more.

Begone, Goldfish! You will be a lightly-salted memory from now on. As soon as I finish this bag, that is.

There’s no need to be wasteful, after all.

But anyway, the first day of summer was pretty nice.

Run 500: I’ve done 500 of these things? Yoinks!

Run 500
Average pace: 5:32/km
Location: Brunette River trail
Start: 7:04 pm
Distance: 5.04 km
Time: 27:54
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 21ºC
Humidity: 47%
Wind: light
BPM: 160
Weight: 166.3 pounds
Total distance to date: 3890 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone

I completely forgot this was run #500. Go me!

As runs go, it was better than Saturday’s pace by eight seconds–pretty good–but three seconds slower than the last river run, which is okay since three seconds is no big deal.

I again seemed to slip into a reasonable pace and didn’t budge from it until I gently put on the gas for the last few hundred meters. I didn’t see a massive collapse in the second km like on Saturday, just a more typical fall-off. Unlike the last few runs, the first km was actually the fastest at 5:20/km vs. 5:22/km for the last km.

My right heel and right foot in general felt a bit sore. Nothing painful, just painfully annoying. I don’t think it affected my pace but maybe it did, even if only a little. Toward the end of the run I was able to finally put the foot out of my mind. Er.

On the other…leg…the left knee behaved itself for the entire run. Hooray.

And now in celebration of run #500, a statistic:

I have run approximately 3890 km total over 500 runs for an average distance of 7.78 km per run. Not too shabby. This stat is boosted by my insane effort in 2012 when I ran almost 1,000 km and most of those runs were 10K or better.

Here’s to the next 500 runs and hopefully precious few of them will be tagged with damn [appendage].

Writing group, June 18, 2017: Delayed trains and AA meetings

Today’s writing group was well-attended despite some SkyTrain shenanigans that delayed the arrival of some. A fire or something fire-like led to service being closed between New West and 22 St. stations, meaning anyone at Columbia had to take a special bus to Edmonds station. For those not familiar with the SkyTrain network, this is what qualifies as a major pain in the butt, especially since we meet at the Waves Coffee one block away from, the New West station.

I only faced the minor inconvenience of getting off at Columbia and having to walk a few extra blocks. I was first to arrive and apparently the drizzly weather was a major turn-off for people as the place was empty (business picked up as we moved into the afternoon).

We had seven total, though one had to leave early for a spontaneous house-viewing (don’t you hate it when that happens? I’m speculating because I never knew such a thing could happen.)

My plan today was to write the chapter where Christian goes to his first AA meeting but despite turning out over 2,000 words he has yet to attend because I found myself putting him through mind games instead. Specifically he can hear what may be the tinkling of the beer bottles in his fridge calling to him. He dismisses the thought and heads off to a local bakery…where he hears the tinkling again.

Then Rachel–from the house party–shows up. I’m not sure what happens yet but I’m eager to find out.

He’ll eventually get to that AA meeting.

I have been subtly reshaping bits of the story to create more ambiguity on whether Christian is actually experiencing things or merely thinking he is because his drinking and current mental state are such that he can never really be sure.

In all, a productive outing. I am still amazed at how gigantic most of the others’ laptops are. One person has a purple Dell laptop that I’m pretty sure you could land a Cessna on. I still think my MacBook Pro at slightly over three pounds could be lighter and these behemoths probably cause permanent damage to your muscle tissue if you actually try placing them on your lap.

Still, if the tool works for you, it works for you.

Run 499: Featuring the cramps and a need for speed (to the washroom)

Run 499
Average pace: 5:40/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CW)
Start: 10:50 am
Distance: 5.03 km
Time: 28:33
Weather: Cloudy
Temp: 15-17ºC
Humidity: 60%
Wind: light
BPM: 165
Weight: 165.8 pounds
Total distance to date: 3885 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone

I returned to the lake today after a longer-than-usual three-day layoff from running. I skipped Thursday to help take care of my sick partner (it was also coincidentally a monsoon for most of the day). Conditions were generally good–overcast skies meant no bright sun beating down on me, but the air felt a bit muggy with the lingering humidity from recent rain (see aforementioned monsoon).

The first km was not great but decent but the second km my pace dropped massively, mainly due to a cramp in my lower left side. Cramps mean I’m pushing too hard, so I eased up (apparently with relish). My pace recovered a bit and I finished once again with the final km being my best. Still, my overall pace was off at 5:40/km.

On the other hand, I got out, did the run and walked back without any real issue. Even the right heel mostly behaved itself. My walking pace on the route back was also snappier than usual.

I may have also been slowed the last two km or so by by my body’s klaxon letting me know I had a bowel movement pending. As you might guess, running and pooping do not really go well together. In fact, running tends to worsen the conditions that are optimal for a movement of one’s bowels. When I finished the run I crossed the athletic field and used the toilet in the “Men Joggers room” which is a change room with showers and a single toilet stall to fight over. Fortunately the room was empty so no fighting occurred. The walk back was about a million times better than it would have been otherwise.

Also, the poop monsters were out again with their young uns. This is the only time I think of geese as being kind of cuddly. Once the down feathers are gone they become full-fledged poop monsters, bad enough to be featured on the signs warning about wildlife alongside bears and bobcats.

Baby poop monsters
Cute now but with hissing and toxic pooping later

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Book review: Nightmares Unhinged

Nightmares Unhinged: Twenty Tales of TerrorNightmares Unhinged: Twenty Tales of Terror by Joshua Viola
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Warning: There be spoilers ahead, so if you want to be surprised(ish) while reading, you may want to skip this review.

Nightmares Unhinged is not a bad collection of horror stories but it’s not an outstanding one, either. It contains few surprises and while some of the stories are fun, a good portion of them are filled with nasty, unlikable protagonists who usually get their comeuppance. If that’s your thing you may enjoy these stories more than I did.

Here’s a one or two-sentence review of all twenty:

“The Brollachan” – A shapeless monster of legend takes over a girl while her grandmother rends the English language apart with the world’s greatest Scottish accent, lovingly depicted in phonetic detail. At least you don’t end up hating all of the characters, d’ye no ken?

“Fangs” – Vampire vs. dentist. The more cruel and clever one wins. Sorry, vampire!

“The Chair” – Homage to Lovecraft featuring, yes, a chair. It levitates so that’s weird.

“The Man Who Killed Texas” – Proving that family is not always the best thing in the aftermath of a global pandemic. A sad tale told well.

“Scarecrows” – Kids and evil scarecrows. There, I just rewrote the story in four words.

“Zou Gou” – Mean aliens conquer the Earth and conduct mean experiments. Twist ending! (But not really.)

“Needles” – A PSA for why junkies should not get pregnant. No one here is likable and the life lesson seems to be “don’t sleep with weird monster men.”

“The Projectionists” – Creepy old man runs the projector for Grandma’s two-screen movie theater. Grandson gets curious, skin unravels like unspooling film (that’s a metaphor. Actually, it’s not, his skin really unravels).

“The Wolf’s Paw” – Vampire vs. Werewolf. This time the vampire wins.

“Danniker’s Coffin” – The end of the family line comes to terms with his inability to carry on the tradition of coffin-making and his own mortality, neatly combining the two. A nice break from vampires vs fill-in-the-blank.

“Deep Woods” – a gory prequel (sequel?) of sorts to Friday the 13th. Everyone is unlikable but everyone dies, so it kind of balances out.

“Diamond Widow” – not-so-clever jewel thief and creepy guy picks up a jewel-making woman who turns the tables on him by turning him into a diamond. Not through magic, through some sort of crushing machine. Seriously.

“The Camera” – Unlikable couple hiking in the woods. Staged sex, shootings and revenge. Why did I read this?

“Lost Balls” – Troll vs golfers. The troll wins. Balls–the kind men have between their legs–figure prominently in the story.

“Bathroom Break” – Creep has an affair, decides to end it when his office co-worker turns out to be a little too goth for his liking (velvet drapes and black sheets, oh my), ends affair by snapping her neck in a washroom at staff Christmas party but the joke’s on him because she shambles back to the party naked, holding out his wedding ring while his wife looks on. Because being goth means you come back to life as a zombie or something.

“Marginal Ha’nts” – Genuinely fun story about a new ghost who aspires to be the best ghost he can be.

“Delicioso” – Would-be psycho killer tries to pick up latest victim but–twist!–she’s also a psycho killer and is a better one than he. You may have guessed but neither character is likable.

“The Librarian” – Funny, albeit somewhat corny tale of a strange librarian, his new and unsuspecting assistant and an even stranger regular customer. I won’t spoil this one even if you may see what’s coming. It’s hammy but it works.

“Gurgle, Gurgle” – In which half the text is in italics because the author is constantly dropping in Spanish words. A nephew inadvertently discovers the genie lamp of his uncle and along with his friend makes a few wishes with monkey’s paw-like consequences. A light if predictable story. Warning: contains giant exploding penis.

“Taking the Dare” – Neighborhood kids think the creepy man living on their street is the local serial killer. And he is! Lots of stabbing and chasing. The protagonist gets “flashes” from making contact with people, ala Johnny Smith. In a longer story this might have been more significant, but here it’s simply the device to get the plot rolling. Promises more than it delivers.

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Sunrise, April 4, 2017

I meant to post this back when I took the picture but I probably got distracted by a funny cat picture.

Anyway, this is a shot of the sunrise from Sapperton station, taken just after 6:30 a.m. on April 4, 2017. This is by far the most vividly colorful sunrise I’ve seen in a long time. I actually had to wait for others to take their pictures before I could take mine. :P

Sunrise June 4 2017

Run 498: Moderately improved

Run 498
Average pace: 5:29/km
Location: Brunette River trail
Start: 6:41 pm
Distance: 5.03 km
Time: 27:39
Weather: Cloudy
Temp: 15ºC
Humidity: 66%
Wind: light
BPM: 169
Weight: 165.7 pounds
Total distance to date: 3880 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone

I found a nice comfortable pace for tonight’s run and especially wanted to avoid pushing it, as my right heel was a bit sore today. The heel actually felt fine for most of the run (a tiny bit sore toward the end) and it was my left knee that again was more of a concern. Similar to a previous river run, it started feeling creaky about 3-3.5 km in but worked itself out after a minute or so and was fine after, so I’m not concerned…yet!

Conditions were similar to Saturday and while I might generally gripe about the cool, cloudy weather when we’re so close to summer being official, the reality is it’s near-perfect conditions for running.

My pace improved slightly over my last run by three seconds, coming in at 5:29/km. My best pace before that nasty May cold struck was 5:15/km, though I was definitely pushing on that one. I’ll be happy to draw closer to 5:20 for now.

I probably encountered more cyclists than people out walking because the sky looked a bit threatening and mean and cyclists don’t care about getting wet.

For music I listed to Queen’s A Night at the Opera which is still a seriously whack album. It works surprisingly well for running.

Writing group, June 11, 2017: Back on track

While the weather was an uncertain mix of cloud, sun, and “will it rain?” (it didn’t, hooray) my writing was a lot more focused and I’m now confident that the first draft as written so far, at around 66,000 words, is basically where it should be, with inconsistencies smoothed over and scenes that no longer fit removed (but put in safe storage for possible use later). The only major piece still left somewhat unresolved is the whole piece that the novel currently takes its name from, namely the closed road and the mysteries of Miller Woods.

Ultimately I don’t want Miller Woods to seem more important than it really is. It’s where the murder victim was buried and another person dies but beyond that it doesn’t serve much purpose in the story. It’s almost a red herring of sort as it stands now, with Christian and Kevin investigating it, trying to find answers, while also grappling with who or what Wendy is.

On the other hand I currently have Christian receive secondhand information from Wendy urging him to go there to find clues to a “dark past”–what he interprets as a possible clue or clues to her murder. And indeed there may be clues there that help lead him to the killer and ultimately closure for Wendy–should he survive (himself).

Anyway, all good food for thought and I’m comfortable with writing the rest of the novel, wrapping the first draft and then letting it sit for a few weeks before plunging back in again.

As for the actual group, two of us were early, three more arrived and it was a quiet but productive session, with lots of typing to be heard. We only had two hours instead of the usual three, so maybe that egged everyone into doing more with the time we had.

Run 497: Prayers for rain (to stop)

Run 497
Average pace: 5:32/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 2:31 pm
Distance: 5.03 km
Time: 27:53
Weather: Cloudy
Temp: 16ºC
Humidity: 60%
Wind: light
BPM: 162
Weight: 164.5 pounds
Total distance to date: 3875 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone

I was running late this morning and feeling slightly unmotivated so while doing a few chores around the place, I said to myself I’d run at 10. Then 11. The noon. Finally, I changed and headed out around 12:30, only to find the cloudy morning had changed into a monsoon.

We never seem to get light rain much anymore, it just monsoons for awhile then stops.

I checked the weather radar and it looked like this nasty bit of precipitation would pass over soonish and then it would be cloudy but dry for at least long enough to get in my run.

It took an hour of waiting but at last, the rain stopped and I headed out.

Amazingly, the rain did not suddenly start again when I stepped back outside. The sun even peeked out once or twice.

My right heel felt a bit sore initially but settled down. It was humid but not really warm so weather-wise it was a lot more comfortable than Tuesday’s run. Normally my runs at the lake are slower than comparable runs at the river but today I was pleased that my average pace was faster than Tuesday’s–by one entire second! Over the course of the entire run it worked out to a six-second difference and the distance was exactly the same on both runs, 5.03 km. It’s kind of freaky that I can be that consistent.

Overall it was an encouraging showing, though the right heel became sore again on the walk back (the trip from the lake back home after a 5K run is a little over 9 km and I had about the same distance already logged from walking to the lake and then the run itself. What I’m saying is the right heel can be a bit if a pain sometimes [ho ho] but doing nearly 20 km of walking and running is not exactly pleasing it these days. The heel is on The List of things to talk to my doctor about).