Run 617: Trail work, ho!

Run 617
Average pace: 5:52/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 10:57 am
Distance: 5.03 km
Time: 29:31
Weather: Intermittent sun
Temp: 18ºC
Humidity: 73%
Wind: light
BPM: 161
Weight: 167.3 pounds
Total distance to date: 4665 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 2, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (20 km)

This was my first run at the lake with the new shoes and they were fine. My pace was slower–which I expected in switching back to the lake–and I chalk that up to being a bit tired by week’s end, the somewhat more technical aspect of the lake trail and the much higher humidity. I sweated early, often and copiously.

The dam area is filled with a lot more equipment as they start work on repairing and replacing the gates, but fortunately the top of the dam will stay open during the three month project. The equipment is neatly tucked out of the way for now, so it also didn’t interfere with the start of the run, which began at the official 0K marker, since I had to use the Jiffy John® first.

As I passed the picnic area I spied large piles of gravel, in two distinct varieties. At first I thought it had to do with the dam project–which makes no sense, really, so I blame that on runner’s brain–then put it out of my mind as I focused on where my feet were going.

The explanation for the piles o’ gravel became clear as I hot the Spruce Loop. The trail had obviously been gone over with equipment and some fresh dirt/gravel had been smooshed about in spots, perhaps in an attempt to smooth out holes, but the actual effect was to make the trail a lot trickier to run on, because it was now lumpy and covered in soft patches your feet could slide around in. A good test for the new shoes.

This continued on through the Conifer Loop and even onto the main trail. There’s a huge pipe just short of the 3K marker that is almost completely exposed. When I’m running I have to time my jump over it–yes, it’s that big. But today it was completely covered in the fine gravel that serves as the top layer when trails are resurfaced. It’s the darker stuff in the above photo.

All of this means they are in the beginning stages of finally resurfacing the side trail, which have long needed some love, and it looks like they are getting close to the Cottonwood Trail, which is currently the worst part of the main loop, festooned with numerous exposed tree roots. Even if they just do the side trails, it will be a great improvement, so yay for that.

The run itself started with me matching the overall pace of 5:52/km during the first km. While a full 10 seconds slower than the previous river trail run, it still handily beat my last lake run a few weeks back, when I came in at 6:11/km. I clearly flagged in the second km. My BPM was was hitting around 169 at that point, but it dropped after and came out to 161 overall, a little higher, but still well within the comfortable range.

There were no issues in terms of cramps or other discomfort, other than just feeling the humidity sucking the life force from me. I did pick up the pace toward the end and finished before the 5K marker, always a nice psychological victory. The walk out of the lake I found myself running more than walking (my average pace was 8:27/km, which is impossible for a walking pace unless I find a way to grow my legs to be twice as tall as they are now), even getting as low as 6:24/km at one point, nearly matching a slower run pace).

Overall, a decent effort. It’ll be interesting to see how the next lake run goes, especially if humidity is lower and the side trails are freshly resurfaced.

Run 616: Stinky and warm, with a dash of deja vu

Run 616
Average pace: 5:42/km
Location: Brunette River trail
Start: 6:28 pm
Distance: 5.04 km
Time: 28:48
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 25ºC
Humidity: 43%
Wind: light
BPM: 157
Weight: 167.6 pounds
Total distance to date: 4660 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 2, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (15 km)

Today’s run (delayed by one day mainly due to laziness) was essentially a duplicate of Tuesday’s. My average pace was the same, though BPM was a bit lower. My overall time was an entire one second faster, 28:48 vs. 28:49.

That’s the kind of thing I could never deliberately do and it weirds me out every time it happens. Having it happen on back to back runs is maybe even weirder still.

It was warmer today, mainly due to the sun being out, but I experienced no issues other than feeling a bit of a burn in the first km while establishing my pace. The stinky part was the sewer line that runs under the trail being extra ripe and producing a lingering odor that could be smelled at both ends of the run and for a good bit in-between. It wasn’t so bad to really affect me, except to make me note how much stinkier this run was compared to most.

There’s not much more to add. The Sauconys continue to perform well and I am totally grooving on wearing shoes that are genuinely light again. As I was expecting to be a bit slower today, matching Tuesday’s run is a nice surprise.

Next up will be a lake run. I’ll see how the new shoes hold up there.

Disney live action remakes you probably won’t see

Disney has been cranking out remakes of their classic animated films in zany live action form. Why? To make buckets of money, of course. There is no other reason. Artistry is a byproduct of this, not part of the design. Cynical? Yes! True? Pretty much.

And so far the buckets of money part has been pretty good for them. The only real disappointment so far has been the live action version of Dumbo, which suffered from a couple of things:

  • too old to benefit much from nostalgia
  • being old, it was also never a mega-success in its original, which is what Disney wants these days–there was not enough to build on
  • Tim Burton. He’s also flitted between brilliant and pedestrian as a director, and of late he’s done a lot of walking, if you know what I mean
  • flying elephants are kind of dumb

The Lion King is next and will probably be a huge hit, but to me the photo-realistic animals kind of kills the point of the whole thing. Photo-realistic animals can’t emote like humans, so they just kind of stand there and look like they’re part of as nature documentary. Also you get a weird animal version of uncanny valley when they start talking.

Nevertheless, The Lion King is beloved by modern audiences in a way Dumbo isn’t, so creepy animals shouldn’t keep it from making hundreds of millions of dollars.

On the other hand, even Disney might hesitate before committing to live action versions of the following:

  • Song of the South. Okay, this is a mix of live action and animated, but yeah, not gonna happen. Would be very interesting to see how they’d handle it, though. Very interesting.

Actually, Song of the South is the only one I think Disney would never touch. I mean, they won’t do a live action version of their WWII animated documentary Victory Through Air Power because it’s obscure and not something people think of when they think of Disney. People don’t think of Disney as being hilariously racist, either, hence Song of the South remaining firmly a thing of the past.

Book review: 5,000 Writing Prompts

5,000 WRITING PROMPTS: A Master List of Plot Ideas, Creative Exercises, and More

5,000 WRITING PROMPTS: A Master List of Plot Ideas, Creative Exercises, and More by Bryn Donovan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I did not read all 5,000 prompts.

But I did read most of them, actually, not just to get the inspiration, but to get an overall feel for how Donovan puts together her lists. Quite often you can see her riffing on a theme or flipping a prompt to generate another (“Write why you like scrambled eggs. Or why you hate scrambled eggs with the fire of a thousand suns.”)

There are a few things Donovan does that elevates this above so many other writing prompt books or websites:

  • Quantity. Yes, sometimes size does matter! The sheer volume of prompts means you’re bound to find some that appeal to you, even if you use her method of randomly picking one.
  • Speaking of randomly picking one, Donovan directly tackles the purpose of the prompts and suggest picking one to write every day for two weeks, to rekindle your interest in writing if it’s faded. This is an entirely sensible plan, but a lot of prompt books don’t address this at all, they just pile on the lists.
  • Speaking of lists, Donovan provides a great deal of variety and even the groupings that might seem marginal to you (for me it would be the poetry prompts) actually offer a lot of good ideas that can be applied to other types of writing.

Donovan offers commentary and background on some of her ideas, especially those that have cultural or historical significance.

Really, this is just a solid all-around collection. I expect to use a bunch of these prompts as I seek to re-ignite my own fiction writing (and if you don’t write fiction, there’s lots of material here for blogs and other forms of non-fiction writing). Recommended.

View all my reviews

Run 615: Bicycles and sprinkles

Run 615
Average pace: 5:42/km
Location: Brunette River trail
Start: 6:20 pm
Distance: 5.04 km
Time: 28:49
Weather: Cloudy with sprinkles
Temp: 24ºC
Humidity: 51%
Wind: light
BPM: 159
Weight: 167.6 pounds
Total distance to date: 4655 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 2, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (10 km)

The sprinkles were the rain kind, not the fun kind you put on ice cream. But it didn’t amount to much.

I was bad/lazy on the weekend. After skipping running on Saturday due to sleeping in and other commitments, I vowed to run on Sunday, which was commitment-free. Come Sunday and it rained. Normally I don’t mind, but even though it was a light rain, it was steady, meaning I’d be soaked within minutes of stepping outside and remain soaked for almost three hours after.

The prospect had minimal appeal. By minimal, I mean none.

So I waited for a break in the weather, but each break seemed to only be minutes long. In the end I frittered away the afternoon before the guilt finally got to me. Around 6 o’clock I headed out and did a near-5K walk. It didn’t rain.

All if this means I went four days without running. I went into tonight’s run expecting to be slower, but was unsure how much. Was the last run a fluke? Would the new shoes lead me to a more pedestrian pace on the second time out?

As it turns out, I was slower, but my pace was only off by five seconds–5:43/km vs. 5:38/km. This is within the usual variance from one run to the next. My BPM was up slightly, but still below 160 at 159. Other than that, I had no issues at all. The stitch from the last run stayed away this time and no other problems emerged.

Bicycles? Yes! For some reason there were hordes of cyclists, but they’re allowed on the river trail and it’s flat and wide, so it was more a curiosity than anything.

I also got stopped just moments after starting the run by a cyclist. He said he was new in the area and all the BEARS WILL EAT YOU signs apparently freaked him out. He wanted to know if the area was infested with bears and perhaps demons or other deadly beasts. I told him in eight years I’d seen two bears. He asked me how to act if you see one. I explained, even though the signs he mentioned also explain this quite clearly. He kept going on, then it started to sprinkle. He said he was glad he wore a jacket (it was actually muggy and pretty warm at 24ºC) and the thought of getting wet seemed to motivate him to finally leave.

I also mentioned seeing coyotes and bobcats in the area, but never mentioned the python. He’ll probably never come back.

The new shoes performed admirably again. I am delighted at how easy they are to pop on and off, and how simple it is to “lace” them and never worry about the laces coming untied.

Overall, this was another solid run, proving the last was no fluke. I should get one more at the lake before going away on vacation for a week, so it will be interesting to see how the shoes hold up under slightly trickier conditions.

Run 614: New shoes, apparently with turbo boost

Run 614
Average pace: 5:38/km
Location: Brunette River trail
Start: 6:26 pm
Distance: 5.02 km
Time: 28:18
Weather: Cloudy
Temp: 20ºC
Humidity: 63%
Wind: light
BPM: 157
Weight: 169.1 pounds
Total distance to date: 4650 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 2, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (5 km)

Yesterday I bought a new pair of trail runners, my first purchase in a long while. Woo, new shoes. Specifically I got the Saucony Switchback ISOs, which come with a wacky lacing system that doesn’t require actually tying the laces, as you use an attachment to wind the tension of the wire-like lace instead. It seems a bit gimmicky, but also makes sense, too. Once the tension is set, the lace is locked until you actually pop the release mechanism, something that would be extremely difficult to do accidentally.

Still, you never know what new shoes are going to be like, and my last two runs, one at the lake and one at the river, have both been on the slower side.

I put on the shoes and delighted in how lightweight they are. The feel is a bit loose, unlike the Cascadia shoes, which fit snug enough to leave almost no wiggle room. In fact, the Switchbacks are so light in terms of weight and material that they reminded me of my New Balance MT100 minimalist shoes from way back when.

One of the best things I can say about them is how shortly after the run I stopped thinking about them and thought of other things.

The weather was mild and cloudy, though it was conspicuously more humid, which meant sweating. Still, even though I pushed a bit at times, I never felt like I was gasping for breath. I was working, but it felt controlled.

I did have one complication near the end, a stitch in my lower left side. It lasted maybe 300 meters or so and I basically ignored it, willing it to go away. And it did, so I clearly demonstrated my superiority over stitches. At least for today.

What surprised me the most about the run was the sheer speed. My walk to the river trail was sluggish, so I certainly didn’t feel primed for a fast pace, yet I ended with a pace of 5:38/km, a full 33 seconds better than Monday’s run at the lake and 24 seconds better than my previous river run. To put this in context, I finished the run almost three minutes earlier than on Monday. My BPM was also lower at 157.

The workout app tracks cadence and with the new shoes it was 172 SPM, which is in range of my usual pace. I suspect that this will not change much with the new shoes. Maybe if I also got new legs…

Overall, this was a surprising and pleasant result. 5:38/km is far better than my usual runs of late, so it’s possible it was a fluke, but maybe it’s the start of a trend. I’ll have a better idea on Saturday when I do my next run at the lake.

Note that since I have new shoes, I am tracking how much I’ve run in them, as I usually just wait until the shoes fall apart to replace them, which is a bit sub-optimal.

I am a big fat liar

I did not do a writing prompt as promised. I am bad. But I did read a bunch more of the prompts, so that’s progress of a sort. Let me amend my original goal to “I will do a prompt in the next few days and then every day after for a total of two weeks.”

That seems reasonable. I think I can do it. I just need to focus. Focus focus focus. Focus. And not be a liar.

Is 5,000 writing prompts enough?

I’m about to find out. I just picked up the book 5,000 Writing Prompts (Goodreads link) by Bryn Donovan, in an attempt to grease the wheels or whatever metaphor you prefer to get my writing rolling/moving/something other than very still and quiet again.

The book is divided into convenient sections and so far I like the little tidbits she adds to a lot of the prompts, noting stories that have used the same ideas, which are especially popular (and why) and more.

She suggests an exercise to pick a random prompt every day and spend 15 minutes writing something based on it, then repeating this for two weeks, to better build or rebuild the writing habit.

I’m going to try this starting today because why not? Because I’m reading the ebook version, I’m going to go with a high-tech solution for randomly picking a prompt, since they are numbered, by using a random number generator. It’s almost like having the internet write the story for me, or something.

Anyway, the first result will be ready later today, or else I’m a big fat liar.