2011: the year of dashed expectations

I say “dashed” because the things I wanted to achieve in 2011 from this time last year didn’t really happen. I was technically employed for half the year, but in temporary roles. I didn’t run a marathon this year due to an overtraining injury. As a result, I fell short of matching my running mileage (1,324 km / 823 mi) from 2010. In short, it wasn’t as tough a year that 2010 was, but it wasn’t a smooth ride either.

I don’t want to dwell too much on that, as that’s about to be in the past. I’m hoping 2012 becomes a shake-up year for me personally, just as 2008 was in some ways. To that effect, I came up with four words, each of which starts with the letters of my name:


I wish to elevate my game if I want to get to my various goals for 2012 (more on them later). This means being more proactive and assertive, among other things.

I want to redeem myself from the injury that prevented me from running a marathon in 2011. Finishing a half in under 2:00 in the fall of 2011 was part of it, but I want to make sure I train properly for the 2012 Vancouver Marathon and get to the start line.

I would like to continue meeting people outside of the social-media realm; I believe making that connection in real life improves the interactions that are made online.

My goals, therefore, are exactly the same as what I put down at the beginning of 2011.

  1. Find a job
  2. Run my next marathon (Vancouver) in 4:20
  3. Run at least the same distance as I ran in 2011
  4. Meet more people

But I’ll add one more, which is related to but distinct from #4:

  1. Start dating again

That’s one that has always been there (in my head), but now it’s public. Certain events in 2011 have just made this concept a little more pressing than before. It’s time to shake the fear and get out there, and that applies to all five!

I wish all of you a happy and terrific 2012!

Merry Christmas!


This is a photo of me and my cousin’s newborn son, Jackson. We both share the same birthday, which makes this Christmas extra special.

More evidence of the runnerd life

In the last post, I showed a graph of my proposed long runs for my marathon training. Here’s another one:

Screen grab from a spreadsheet, displaying shoe mileage

Shoe mileage

It’s been two years since I added the shoes I have used in my runs into my spreadsheet run log. Add it all up, and it’s more than 2,600 kilometers (1,615 miles). The primary purpose of this shoe-mileage tracker is to have an idea of when to retire a particular pair and move on to the next one. The three above the thick black line are already retired, which means I have four pair in active use. Actually, it’s only two: I have moved away from the New Balance 940 (a stability shoe) after I’ve felt I’ve recovered enough from my overtraining injuries earlier this year. And I’m going to break into my pair of Minimus Road very slowly. This is a totally different beast, and I think I might need some time to practice running in these shoes before I take them out on any serious workouts.

I will likely show one more piece of runnerd data later, and that’s my 2011 mileage data. Halfway through the month, and I still have a shot to match my mileage total from 2011…

22 weeks to a marathon

This week marks the start of 22 weeks of training toward the Vancouver Marathon. If my attempt to train for the same event last year was any indication, I’m expecting epic long runs in ugly weather conditions (like this long run in February 2011). But the weather is not what’s worrying me. I’m planning to DIY the long runs (as opposed to joining a clinic), and that means having to generate a schedule that would gradually increase my weekly long-run distances.

Screen-grab of my proposed distances for long runs as part of marathon training, represented numerically and with a chart.

Running + spreadsheet = awesome!

The essence of this plan is that from January onward, I take every fourth week as a rest week, resume the next week at the last longest mileage, and build from there until I end up with 35 km three weeks before the marathon. It generally follows the 10% rule after the mileage goes over 26 km. I figure that I’m comfortable enough with half marathoning that I can work my way quickly up to 21 km.

My training plan involves 3-4 running sessions per week; I want to incorporate some cross-training. And if that’s not enough, I’ve bought some minimalist shoes as a birthday present for myself; I want to give those shoes some mileage as well. My early race goal is for a finish time of under 4:20, which corresponds to ~6:10/km (9:56/mi).

Is the plan workable? Are there any other tips you can provide with regard to the long-run schedule?

End of Movember

Self-portrait taken on the 30th day of Movember

Movember day 30

I think my Movember went well. The main mo did go unchecked for the full month (as it should be). I had the handlebar for the middle part of November, then tried to extend the ‘stache outward, but ran out of time; you can see how it looked on the last day.

The morning of December 1, the razor did its work; the result is the picture below. For the first couple of days I’ve looked at a mirror and actually wondered who was the person with the bare upper lip staring at me. Really, it’s bizarre how a mustache can alter a man’s look.

Thanks to all the kind words about the mo, and more so to those who donated to Movember generally, and through my page in particular. It will be back next year, so be ready!

Link to a flickr set of self-portrait photos from each day of Movember.

Self-portrait, taken the first day after Movember

No mo' mo!

Doctor Who Tube: 48 years, “500 Miles”

Just a few days late for Doctor Who‘s 48th birthday, but it’s still fun to watch nevertheless.

Earlier this fall, a video has been released featuring the cast and crew of The End of Time, David Tennant’s final serial, singing along to the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”. Such joy to watch! And look at the freeze-frame that was used: Timothy Dalton, David Tennant, and John Simm, in costume, dancing and singing. You can’t get any better than that! (Watch out for a surprise appearance by the Proclaimers themselves.)

But Who fans being Who fans, we don’t want to be left out of the fun. The video below is a collaboration of fans from all over the world, also singing along to “500 Miles”. This is an impressive feat, considering the editor had to go through many submissions to make the final version. I’m also impressed by the countries represented by Doctor Who fans; we are everywhere! Particular props go to the gentleman who dressed as the 1st Doctor.

But as great as the song and both videos are, I’m wondering why this song, with the lyrics “I would walk 500 miles”, was chosen. Doctor Who is all about running! But I guess that’s just a runner’s biased opinion.

Race report: 2011 Fall Classic Half Marathon

Holding the finisher's medal for the 2011 Fall Classic Half Marathon.

This year’s Fall Classic had much better conditions at the start line compared to last year. It was still cold: just below 0°C (32°F) at the start, but the roads were mainly clear of ice and snow. That allowed me to be in the mindset to break two hours. It’s smack dab in the middle of an acceptable 2:05, and a 1:55 had the run gods been smiling.

I have to say that this half marathon was a redemption race of sorts. After overtraining and missing out on the Vancouver Marathon earlier this year, I fought my way back and had a great 15-week training session to prepare for this race. I mostly ran four days a week, one of which was a faster-paced session, usually around a track. I almost got sidelined with some IT band issues closer to race day, but a couple of visits to my chiropractor had me fixed up well enough to line up at the start line.

It’s the same double-loop course as last year. I started near the back and settled at a nice, but challenging 5:40/km (9:07/mi) pace. I managed to speed up to about 5:35/km (9:00/mi) for most of the rest of the way. I could have challenged breaking my PR of 1:57 (especially considering I was around that pace at the halfway point), but my “break two hours” mindset pretty much stuck all the way through. When I knew with about 3 km left that I wasn’t going to beat 1:57, I eased up slightly, but managed to stay under 5:50/km (9:23/mi), and even then, I was still recording km splits around 5:35/km after km 20. Coincidentally (or not), my calf started to cramp near the end. There was a slight one at about km 18, but when I started feeling more of them after km 20, and especially in the last 100 m, that told me that I hadn’t fueled properly in the critical last quarter of the race.

My official chip time was 1:58:34. It’s essentially halfway between my PR and two hours, so I’ll definitely take it. I believe I can find that extra gear to get under not just 1:57, but even 1:55, which I’ve set as my next half-marathon target time. And my road to redemption isn’t yet complete. My next major goal race will be to try again for the Vancouver Marathon. I’m taking a week or so off, then I’ll get ready to spend 22 weeks to re-familiarize myself with the rigors of running really long distances.

Happy running!

A photo a day during Movember; could I keep it up after that?

Movember day 14: commute

Movember day 14: commute

Almost halfway through Movember, and the mo is progressing quite well. I took one photo at the start, then one the next day, and soon I figured I should do a photo a month for each day of Movember. It carries on from my successful attempt to take a photo a day last November. The major difference between then and now is that I’m using my iPhone, together with the Instagram app, as opposed to the digital camera I used last year. It’s far easier to take a shot with the phone, put it through Instagram’s filters, and have it cross-post to my Flickr and Twitter. With the digital camera (which is almost five years old), I have to attach the camera to my computer to download the pictures, then upload it to Flickr. Plus, the Movember theme is a lot easier to execute, compared to the randomness from last year.

I’m wondering if I can carry on with a photo a day after the end of Movember. 60 days? 100 days? 366 (2012 is a leap year)? Should I not think about it, but keep taking shots anyway? For anyone who has done these longer projects, what is your motivation? I’d appreciate any tips and/or themes!

Museum of Vancouver’s neon exhibition, and why a little research goes a long way

Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver at the Museum of Vancouver

Museum of Vancouver: Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver

The Museum of Vancouver has taken out of storage the various neon signs in its collection, and put them all on display, buzzing noises and all. These signs are mere glimpses of the golden age of neon signs in Vancouver, primarily during the 1950s and 1960s. Neon was practically everywhere in the city in the mid-20th century.

The museum’s information blurbs include a scientific background of the noble gases (not just neon) that were used to create the colourful signs, as well as the companies that manufactured them.

Neon sign for S.Bowell & Sons, Funeral Directors, at the Museum of Vancouver's Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver exhibition

S.Bowell & Sons, Funeral Directors

Besides all the glorious neon on display, what also struck me was the displays on the movement to tone down the proliferation of neon. One of the groups that led the charge was the Community Arts Council of Vancouver. This intrigued me because, as a current board member and treasurer to the Council, the name recognition was apparent. But when I dug deeper into the CACV’s role in the days afterward, there are clearly two sides to every story.

Information display at Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver exhibition at Museum of Vancouver, with title "The anti-neon campaign takes shape"

The anti-neon campaign takes shape

I took the above picture of the first panel of the museum’s display on the anti-neon crusade. There was even a reproduction of a letter explaining the Council’s position with a postcard-style form letter that can be mailed to the mayor. Further along in the display, the CACV is said to have continued the fight throughout the 1960s, until a sign by-law in 1974 limited the use of neon displays in Vancouver.

Just looking at these displays, one could come to the conclusion that the CACV was fighting tooth and nail for the end to neon signs. But the CACV has provided its own side of the story, in a 50th-anniversary retrospective published in 1996 (Elizabeth O’Kiely, The Arts and Our Town). There is one chapter in this book dedicated to the Council’s Civic Arts Committee. The committee was concerned with neon proliferation, true, but also billboards, painted advertisements on walls, and other items that have become a blight on Vancouver’s visual landscape. The text goes on to mention that the CACV encouraged the use of neon in commercial areas such as Granville Street or Kingsway.

detail of neon sign for Southgate Cleaners, at Museum of Vancouver's Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver exhibition

Southgate Cleaners (detail)

If it weren’t for my connection with CACV, I would have taken the “purity crusade”, as the MoV has described the anti-neon movement in its promotional material, at face value. As a student of history, I feel that it’s important to view an event from as many perspectives as possible, in order to form a better opinion on the causes, circumstances and outcomes of that event. It turns out that the fight against neon is one of those events, and it formed part of the colourful history of Vancouver.

The Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver exhibition is at the Museum of Vancouver through August 12, 2012.

Additional reading: an interview with Civic Arts Committee member Elizabeth Lane. The interview was conducted as part of CACV’s 65th-anniversary celebrations.

Ready for Movember!

As of tomorrow morning, November Movember 1, my upper lip will become a razor-free zone as I sign up for my first Movember (link to Canadian site). Movember is a movement that started in Australia and has spread around the world to raise funds for and awareness in men’s health issues, particularly prostate cancer. All through the month, as the mustache grows, I will trim and style it as needed to change up the look, and hopefully generate some conversation about prostate cancer and men’s health generally. It is an issue for me personally because my grandfather has died from prostate cancer. Ever since, I have run at Harry’s Spring Run-off (2011 race report), which is also a fundraiser for prostate cancer research.

Please donate and support Movember! I also take requests for specific mustache styles, if that’s an enticement to give. I have a specialized space to donate online is at http://mobro.co/ebucad. You can also contact me if you want to donate offline.

I will be taking pictures of my mustache throughout the month, through my twitter and flickr, and here too. This should be fun! Looking forward to seeing everyone else’s mustaches as well. Happy Movember!