I’m going to see/hear Sedaris at the Vogue tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes. Probably not. Tickets came up and it made me realize that I haven’t really read anything of his (other than the odd New Yorker piece) since When You Are Engulfed in Flames a bit after it came out in 2008. So it’d been a while. Explore Diabetes is a collection of narrative essays, and it was fine. There’s that thing where you don’t necessarily feel like reading each and every essay but you don’t know which ones are the good ones and which are the skippables and you don’t want to miss the good ones so you end up reading every single ones of them anyway, which just leaves you somewhat resentful at the end of the collection. It happens a lot with short story collections too. Modest Bestiary is a collection of short stories as if the Grimm brothers had the internet. It’s a bit dark; I found it entertaining. Tonight should be entertaining.
I’m still riding a bit of a high from the BMO Half Marathon last weekend and in the midst of a deep spring clean of my studio and packing to fly off to Helsinki to run their namesake half marathon I signed up and paid money to run the Victoria Marathon in October. So no backing out now unless I want to essentially light $98 on fire, which is what probably more than a few people think I just did anyway. Anyway, my goal is to run a Boston Qualifier, which for me means sub 3:15:00. I realize that that won’t actually qualify me for Boston–to run 2018 the BQ times were minus 3:23, which dashed many a dream. I try not to dream. My goal is a BQ; actually running Boston, well, I’ve been sort of toying with the idea of the 125th Edition. For me to run a BQ I need an average pace of 4:37 per kilometre for an estimated finish time of 3:14:48. Yesterday I went out and ran 10 miles and aimed to run 4:37 and somehow, miraculously, finished 10 miles with an average pace of 4:37. There was a lot of watch watching. Next Saturday in Helsinki I want to run a 4:37 half marathon, for a finish time of 1:37:24, which is off my PB by a bit, but will be my second best. I also just want to have fun and not be dead afterward. Hey maybe a post-half-marathon sauna. I hear Finland has saunas.
I’m a fan of The Oatmeal so it makes sense that I liked The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances. I used to like The Simpsons. I thought How to Lose a Marathon was meh. Inman’s book is good because in the midst of all its Oatmeal stuff there’s some decent thought put into the stuff that got me hooked on running in the first place: the mental stuff. You can read a version of it online (for free) here. Before I read How to Lose a Marathon I couldn’t identify a Cohen-written Simpsons episode if my life depended on it. Now I could at least make an educated guess that if the episode tries really really hard to be funny but just isn’t all that funny and actually gets pretty annoying what with how hard it’s trying (and failing) to be funny then there are decent odds said episode is written by Cohen. I think that when I was first starting out running I would have liked Cohen’s book if it was funny. I just didn’t think it was funny.
This morning I woke up at 4:45 AM and made coffee and prepared to race 21.1 KM and checked Facebook On-This-Day because I’m a masochist who likes coffee. Sometimes there’s a gem. This would be my second run of the BMO Half Marathon, the first being 2016, which was also my first half marathon. I remember not really knowing what I was doing. If only I’d read a book…. Back then I wanted to run 5 min/KM for a nice round 1:45 and then worry about the last 100 metres later. Stephanie was kind enough to have explained to me what a pace bunny is (and tapering, which I recall thinking seemed ridiculous). So with around 7 KM to go the 1:45 pacer passed me, which was demoralizing at the time. I hung on for a bit before finishing 1:46:00. Fast forward to this morning. I really wanted to set a new personal best; I aimed for 4:37/KM— that would get me a new PB with a minute to spare and is my Boston Qualifying marathon goal pace. Then I saw the 1:35 pacer in the start corral, and thought, sure, what the hell. The course starts out fast with nearly 100 metres of descent over the first 4 KM. I passed 5 KM over a minute and a half ahead of goal pace. By 10 KM I’d stopped checking splits, but there’s a timing mat and gun-time clock. It read 43-something*** and I knew I was still well ahead of my goal, but wasn’t sure where the 1:35 pacer was. We entered Stanley Park and passed Lost Lagoon and started the climb up Pipeline Road and he passed me. Pipeline peaks at 15 KM then descends to Stanley Park Drive. I checked my time at 15 KM. My personal best I was chasing I’d split 15 KM at 1:10:00. My watch read 1:06. The seconds didn’t register the math did. I could run the last 6 KM at 5:00/KM and set a new personal best. And let the pacer beat me. Again. So I passed him back and held on with all I had left. Just before the lighthouse at Brockton point, with just over 3 KM to go, he passed me again. I fought to keep him in reach as we exited the park, up Denman, east onto Georgia, a slight left onto Pender and the gentle, cruel uphill slope to the finish. I watch that stupid hat with the stupid ears bounce away in front of me and then I saw the finish line and the clock at it read 1:34 and the seconds ticked up as I ran by.
I finished with an official time 1:34:52 for a new personal best by 3:35 and 11:08 faster than my first half marathon. This is the second time in as many races that the pacer I’ve chased has been ahead of pace. I’ll take that over the alternative any day. Right up until the start at 7 this morning I was a bit bummed not to be running the full marathon. Not anymore.
***I saw the 10 KM clock. It said 43:something. I remember because my second fastest 10 KM race time is 44:06. My official time at 10 KM today is 44:19 but I swear to dog that clock said sub-44. This isn’t the first time this has happened. I do not understand.
I going back to visit Stockholm in a couple weeks, and honestly one the the things I’m most looking forward to is running a complete loop of Södermalm. It’s about 10 KM. I normally wouldn’t consider Lost in Stockholm AKA Stockholm: Lost in City Guide AKA Lost In, Issue No. 10 a book insomuch as it counts towards an effort to read a particular number of books; however, (1) it is listed on Goodreads, (2) it has an ISBN, and (3) while only 68 pages, it has many more words than some (most?) of the poetry books I/we/they count as books. So it counts, I guess. It’s a very nice design, as one would expect for a periodical from Germany about Sweden. It gets me excited about going back. Following on the short reads, I picked up By Night in Chile. It reminded me of studying Beckett in undergrad. In a lecture on Molloy, the prof. Dr. Peter Murphy (!) suggest he read the first paragraph to the class and that I read the second. The similarities between Beckett and Bolaño extend beyond style, and I think that I should have liked By Night more than I did, or did not. It is one that I think I need to revisit, and it’s short enough that it wouldn’t feel like a waste my reading time (always a hazard). Plus I want to go to Chile one day.
One week until the BMO Half. Three weeks until Helsinki Half. All is coming together as well as I could have hoped. The weather for BMO Sunday looks ideal–sun with some cloud and morning temperature around 12 degrees (assuming today’s prediction holds). The BMO Half in 2016 was my first half marathon; I finished 1:46:00. I expect to crush that time next weekend. A great race and I could have a new PB, which will be bitter-sweet. I like that my current best is in Copenhagen last fall, and in the adventure that was less than ideal conditions. I have a chance to set personal bests twice in May. I’ve grown confident that it’ll happen next weekend. I think it’ll take an exceptional run in Helsinki on May 19. But anything could happen on race day.
It’s National Poetry Month. Why April, you may ask? I did. Seems it was started when in 1996 some members of the Academy of American Poets gave away copies of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land outside of a New York post office. Canada NPMed two years later, making this the 20th annual celebration of April cruelty. I’ve celebrated by reading less poetry than I have since I started keeping track of my annual failure to read 95 Books in one year. I’ve followed Sandra Simonds on social media for a while. The other day she suggested to me on Goodreads that I might like her new collection Orlando and I thought that maybe I should read some of her already published stuff so I picked up Steal it Back and Further Problems with Pleasure, both of which, I should add, come with five-star reviews on Goodreads from Simonds herself. Who am I to argue? As it happens, I like both very much. Last fall one of my favourite people I’ve never actually met Sina Queyras AKA Lemon Hound released My Ariel, which Coach House described as “a poem-by-poem engagement with Sylvia Plath’s Ariel” so I decided that I should revisit Plath (whom I haven’t read since undergrad a lifetime ago) and also decided (since no one could have possibly thought of this before me) that I would read Plath and then the corresponding Queyras, which lasted all of three poems since Coach House are liars. Not to take anything away from Queyras; these poems are pretty great. These aren’t happy poems, but neither are the referral materials.
Don’t call it a resolution but this year I wanted to at least try to once in a while be a bit social and over a quarter into 2018 I haven’t done a very well so I decided this week that I would join the Vancouver Running Co. Thursday night Flight Crew run which sets out at a very reasonable 6:15 p.m. from 1886 West 1st Avenue (which is a very reasonable 2.5 KM jog from my place), for a very reasonable 10 KM weekday evening run. Except that I got Translinked on Thursday and didn’t get home until 6:10 so I missed out. Except that I should have remembered from the two or three other times that I’ve ever joined a social run that social runs never start when they say that they are going to, as Strava let me know later Thursday evening that the Flight Crew took off closer to 6:30. So maybe next week. This week’s long run I did some reconnaissance on the second half of the BMO half and finished feeling very confident that I will new or near my PR on May 6. Less encouraging is that Garmin dropped for the second time in as many weeks. I believe in second chances, which is why I believe it may be time for a replacement.