23. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances — Matthew Inman
24. How to Lose a Marathon — Joel Cohen
week eighteen — 52.3
To date: 816 KM
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.
43. The Strange Case of Rachel K — Rachel Kushner
44. Injun — Jordan Abel
these weeks — 91.87
to date — 1,050.67
The Flamethrowers is still one of my favourite reads of the past couple years so I thought that I would pick up this small collection of short stories (three stories in all) from Rachel Kushner and I expected some autobiographical or perhaps something along the lines of personal creative non-fiction but no. Don’t judge a book by its title either, it seems, as –spoiler (not really, not really at all)– Rachel K is not Rachel Kushner. At all. Cuba and colonialism and some other stuff. Not bad. Not near The Flamethrowers. Alas. And then there was Jordan Abel who is a rock star and one not just one of my favourite artists living and working in Vancouver but also one of the most nicest people I have the privilege of calling acquaintance. Which means we’re friends on social media AND we have met IRL and had friendly conversation that included beverages. That’s my standard that I just made up just now. Oh and his book is really great and you should get it and read it. Contrary to a few haters, conceptualism is not dead.
I was out running and thinking, as I’m prone to do, and it occurred to me that it was just a little over a year ago that I had never in my life run farther than 10 kilometres. This think-and-run was just over 16 km and was my 80th run of 2016 and put my distance-to-date at 1,006.12 km. It’s been a while since I’ve run less than 10 km. My average right now sits at 12.57 km per run. This is my humble brag. I’m impressed with this change I’ve made in my life, amongst others. I’m about three weeks behind where I’d like to be in my goal, but it definitely seems achievable. This makes me happy. As I ran along the Seawall I passed a couple running by the Stanley Park totem poles. The guy asked, Do you live here? Me, Yeah. He, This is amazing. You get to run here all the time? You’re so lucky. Me, Yeah I am.
20. Men Explain Things to Me — Rebecca Solnit
21. Lemon Hound — Sina Queyras
this week — 34.48
to date — 300.11
I didn’t plan for the one-two punch of you should really read some Virginia Woolf that came with reading Rebecca Solnit’s collection of essays followed by Sina Queyras’ poetry collection but I have the two literary black eyes to show for it and I don’t mind. I don’t have any excuses. None come to mind except that I just haven’t bothered to yet. I will probably rectify the situation in the near future. I’m not quite sure how I managed to avoid Woolf so completely throughout my undergraduate degree in English literature. I also didn’t know that Lemon Hound was a book of poems before(?) it was the formidable force in Canadian/feminist poetics that is the (sadly, defunct) blog lemonhound.com though the blog started in 2005 and the book was published in 2006. Defunct isn’t the right word, either, since the site is still alive, though with no new material since May 2015. I recall reading Queyras’ to social media announcing that she was moving on to other endeavors and the wave of ugh that swept through the community. It left a hole that has yet to be filled that I’m aware of at least. Maybe I’m out of touch. It happens.
I’ve been trying to keep my running interesting by mixing up my routes but it’s not really working all that well since I really only have two routes and they’re approximately the same distance but with dramatically different scenery and my decision to turn left or right is usually decided by the position of the sun in the sky when I leave my building. With Daylight Savings on the near horizon about to push the sun away from its horizon that could change, but for now it’s left for the lit path if the sun sets before I finish, and right if it’s a morning or midday run. They look like this.
This one takes me over the Burrard Bridge the then down (up?) Cypress Street connecting to the Seawall path at the Maritime Museum then around Science World and back to English Bay. It’s a nice, flat run with the exception of the climb to the middle of the bridge, and it’s lit from the bridge all the way back to English Bay (except for that part through Vanier Park). I have a headlamp for the short dark section from the north side of the Burrard Bridge to Bute Street that has garnered me a couple “TOO BRIGHT!” comments. I highbeam people. I’m a jerk.
This is my lit-by-the-sun option. Although I have said headlamp, I prefer to use it sparingly. Not glaringly? [groan…] This route is straight down Barclay and then under West Georgia and onto the Stanley Park Seawall. I like this run, and it’s probably my favourite especially in inclement weather when the Seawall is mostly deserted. The one part that I still find slightly deflating is when rounding Brockton Point under the lighthouse and seeing the Lions Gate Bridge way off in the distance. It looks a lot farther than it is.