2019 in review

my year reading and running

reading in 2019

I set a goal this year to read 52 books, after a couple years attempting to complete the proper 95 Books challenge and coming up short. Well, I came up short again, completing 45 books. I read some great books. (I also read some meh books.) Some weeks here I had no book to write about, and a couple other weeks I had a couple, or three; I think that one week I read three. Anyway, what I found this year more that other years is that I was chasing interesting short books to read and neglecting longer books just so that I can maintain this write-about-what-I’m-reading social contract that I have with the three of you who periodically stumble over here and read what I’ve written. So for 2020 I’m going to read differently and then just see what happens here. I’ll still track my books here and on Goodreads, but I will probably write a bit more often about other stuff that I read. My household has subscriptions to The New Yorker and The Capilano Review and THIS Magazine and recently (after long lapse) renewed the Believer subscription and there is bound to be something interesting to write about after reading in one of those.

Anyway, this is supposed to be 2019 in review, so let’s review.

45 Books Read
20% Non-Fiction
11% Poetry
60% by Women
9% about Running

Favourite Four of 2019

Why four? Because I was going to reminisce about three and then couldn’t decide which one to cut. In no particular order.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The narrator’s longtime best friend dies and leaves behind a Great Dane that she ends up having to care for as she navigates her grief and reflects on her own life. Rich and insightful. Lit allusions and references galore. I will definitely read this again.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
A window of time in life from the perspective of early-20s Francis and her vapid friend and artistic collaborator Bobbi. Lots of people hate this book. I loved it. So much so, that Rooney’s highly anticipated sophomore offering Normal People, for me, fell rather flat. As I wrote back in week twenty three, if you’re thinking of reading them both, pick up this one second.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
This one came out in 2015 so it’s had some time to disappear under the weight of mediocre Goodreads reviews. Mom dies leaving two sons in the care of Dad who is comforted relentlessly by Crow, a crow. Another book dealing with dealing with grief, part novel, part mythology, part poetry. I loved it.

Running Is My Therapy by Scott Douglas
After two books about death and grief and one about the banality of contemporary existence perhaps you need a run? I started running because I was sad and running made me feel better. I didn’t know why. This book explains why, and backs it up with science without getting sciencey. I’ve returned to it quite a few times already, and certainly will again.

The Whole List

Links back to the week they appeared on here

1. 80/20 Running
2. Sodom Road Exit
3. How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thanks the Sun?
4. The Third Hotel
5. Motherhood
6. Circe
7. Conversations With Friends
8. Bad Endings
9. The Friend
10. The Hungry Brain
11. Transcription
12. Lullaby
13. Vancouver Noir
14. There There
15. Goya The Terrible Sublime
16. Asymmetry
17. Trauma Head
18. Prison Industrial Complex Explodes
19. Port of Being
20. Running is my Therapy
21. Dear Current Occupant
22. It’s a Big Deal!
23. Normal People
24. When Running Made History
25. Daisy Jones and the Six
26. The Incomplete Book of Running
27. Kitchen Confidential
28. Altered States of Consciousness
29. No, Wait. Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself
30. The Nickel Boys
31. The Knockoff Eclipse
32. Speedboat
33. The Story of My Teeth
34. Grief is the Thing with Feathers
35. Wilful Disregard
36. If You’re Not Yet Like Me
37. The End We Start From
38. The Body Artist
39. The Nature Fix
40. Bonjour Tristesse
41. All This Has Nothing to Do with Me
42. Jakob von Gunten
43. Berlin
44. Wanderlust, A Book of Migrations
45. Whatever

running in 2019

I set many running goals for this year and I surpassed all of them except for one. I had a really great year. It didn’t start out that way, and it didn’t finish the way that I wanted, but the middle bits were excellent.

Running Goals

Run a sub 20:00 5K
I’d never run a 5K until the Moustache Miler in late 2018. Then an injury early in 2019 meant I had to skip the Icebreaker 8K – my physiotherapist said no running farther than 5 KM, so I ran the Try Events Chilly Chase 5K and had a lot of fun. I didn’t sub 20 but came pretty close, and then chased 19:59 a few more times. The most notable will always be running 19:18 “moving time” on Strava but finishing the WestVanRun 5K in 21:48 after a delay when a train crossed the course. I’d take a couple more cracks at it on the road and the track but came up short, that is until the Eastside 10K in September when I crossed the official timing mat at the halfway point in 19:40. I can go faster.

Finish of the NorthVanRun 10K. I love this course, especially the pier-sprint finish.

Run a sub 40:00 10K
I came so close a few times throughout the year but it really came together in September. After hammering the first half of the Eastside 10K and surviving the dreaded hill rather unscathed I … came up short, finishing 40:19 for a new personal best and over a minute off of that course. I’d my sights set on the NorthVanRun 10K a couple weeks following, and my aim on Eastside day was an official sub 20 5K time, which I got. But I never looked at my watch once after 5 KM and I kick myself for it because I’m sure I could have found 20 seconds to go under 40 that day. Fortunately, I had a great run in North Van a couple weeks later, crossing the finish 39:22. It was a perfect race. The conditions were great, I gave it everything I had, and everything went great. I believe that I ran the the fastest 10K I could have run that day. They only way I’m going faster is by getting faster. (I can get faster.)

Finish sprint high-fives at the DreiLaenderlauf half marathon in Basel, Switzerland. I ran a lot of races this year. This wasn’t my best or fastest, but might be my favourite.

Run a sub 1:30 Half Marathon
I’ve wanted to do this since I started this stupid sport and ran my first half in 1:46:00 at the RunVan BMO Vancouver in 2016. It was harder than I thought it was going to be (I was pretty naive). I ran seven half marathons in 2019. I really raced just three. The First Half back in February was a load test on an injured achilles. Next I raced the April Fool’s Half on the Sunshine Coast – a tough course with some significant slope that kept me off my personal best (I’m looking forward to doing it again). Two weeks after racing the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May I flew to Switzerland and ran the DreiLaenderlauf half marathon – starting and finishing in Basel, and crossing into Germany and France. I was not in racing shape and faded hard but had a ton of fun on a beautiful course. My next serious attempt was at the Scotiabank Half in June. I had a good but not great day and finished a couple minutes short of my goal but with a new personal best. Then on about 12 hours’ notice I was offered a bib to run Seawheeze. I was completely unprepared – I’d hammered my Wednesday workout where team mates were taking it easy before race day, and I’d eaten poorly. It showed as I had a bit of a fade over the last few kilometres, but I still managed to lower my personal best. My last chance for sub 90 was the Victoria Half in October, and after great results in the 10K leading up to it I was riding a wave of confidence. And I had a great day. The weather, so often a factor in Victoria, was race perfect and I had a great run and a lot of fun, finishing 1:28:04. Unlike the 10K in North Van, I finished knowing I had more to give. I knew I was having a great day and even walked the last aid station. I can go faster.

Run a Boston Qualifying Marathon
I went into the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May not exactly riding a lot of confidence. It was my first marathon build with a professional coach and I was still pretty skeptical. The BMO course is unforgiving. A BQ for my age had just been lowered to 3:10 and I knew going in that I would need a spectacular day. I aimed high, but I’d set a B goal to run under 200 minutes (C goal is always to just set a new personal best). I went to the race expo to pick up my bib, and it was 199. I had a pretty good day. It started well, and started to fall apart around 37 KM, around the same time Mile2Marathon team mate Matt caught me and we traded shoving each other towards the finish line for the next 5.2 KM. I finished in 199 minutes: 3:19:48 for B goal, plus taking seven minutes off my marathon best. Not good enough for Boston, but I didn’t mind too much since Boston #125 in 2021 is the one that I want to run, which I learned means I need to run a BQ sometime between October 2019 and the close of 2021 registration sometime in September or October 2020. Oh, and for Boston #125, my BQ time changes to 3:20. I decided to race the California International Marathon in December; I figured that if it went terribly, I’d still have some time to figure it out and take another shot. And it went terribly. I’ve over-analyzed it to death and still the best I can come up with is that on that December day my body just said no. I had an excellent first half, and stuff went wonky at 25 KM then really fell apart at 28 KM. I reached 30 KM and if I could have managed to run the last 12.2 km in 5:00/KM pace I would have finished around 3:15 with a comfortable BQ buffer. It would not be the case though. I struggled over the finish line 3:24:33 for my second fastest marathon, but not nearly fast enough. I can go faster.

2019 had a lot of highs and a couple stinging lows. This one hurt a lot.

Run a sub 6:00 mile
This was a late addition to my 2019 goals. Nic who leads the Vancouver Falcons run club started up a track series for we kinda-olds. My first stab was in May and I ran 5:52 and I was pretty happy with that. Then at the end of the summer Nic added the mile to the 10,000 event he was hosting, and I took another stab and ran 5:52 shaving 10ths of a second off but less happy. My third crack was the November Moustache Miler on the Seawall at Second Beach in Stanley Park. A much slower course than the track, but I was is much better shape. I had a great run and was pretty disappointed when I crossed the finish line 5:59 and then I noticed that the course was 90 metres long. Strava says I ran a 5:41 mile that day, but I really wish that I had an official time.

Run a race each month in 2019
I though this would be a fun goal if I was healthy. So of course the very first race of the year I had to drop out of because I was hurt. My achilles flared up and my physiotherapist said no running farther than 5 KM, which meant no Icebreaker 8K. A search online and I saw the Try Events Chilly Chase with a 5K option and I was off to the races, as they say. And I signed up for just about everything that I came across and repeatedly set new personal bests along the way. It was a ton of fun, and I finished up 2019 having run 23 races.

This dork wearing all of the race medals from 2019, plus the St. Pat’s 5K pint glass. I like the idea of the alterna-medal.


Chilly Chase 5K (PB!)

RunVan First Half half marathon

WestVanRun 5K
WestVanRun 10K (PB!)
Saint Patrick’s Day 5K (PB!)

Sunshine Coast April Fool’s Run half marathon

RunVan BMO Vancouver marathon (PB!)
DreiLaenderlauf half marathon (Europe PB!)
Vancouver Distance Track Series mile (PB!)

Pacific Distance Carnival / M2M Chase the Pace 5K
Scotiabank half marathon (PB!)

VFAC Summerfast 10K
Take the Bridge YVR

Seawheeze half marathon (PB!)
Vancouver Distance Track Series mile #2 (PB!)

Eastside 10K (PB!)
NorthVanRun 10K (PB!)

Victoria half marathon (PB!)
RunVan Fall Classic half marathon
RunVan Fall Classic 10K
RunVan Fall Classic 5K

Moustache Miler mile-ish (PB?)

California International Marathon

Other 2019 notables

Each year I set a goal to run a distance and the past couple years I’ve sort of opted out of declaring what it is, instead opting for the same number as the year. But really, I want to run farther than last year. Sure 2,019 is farther than 2,018, but in 2018 I ran just over 2,600 KM so I wanted to beat that, and I did, finishing up the year on December 31 with a 15.7 KM run around Stanley Park bringing my total to 2,757 KM for the year. Strava compiles this fun little year-in-review but I’ve skewed my results a wee bit by cycling 3,579 KM. But including my cycling, which I did way more than I ever have, I was active for 368 hours this year, or just over an hour every single day. I went for 254 runs in 2019, for an average of 10.85 KM each time. Here’s a nifty little infographic from Strava that compiles my running + cycling (plus a couple hikes too).

Tuesday surprised me, until I remembered that for nearly half the year I cycled 12 + 34 KM to/from the office, and then went for a lunchtime run on most Tuesdays so I guess it makes sense.
Warming up under the Burrard Bridge for Take the Bridge in the summer.

A few other things that happened this year, because A LOT happened this year: I somehow managed to get into the first Take the Bridge race in Vancouver. It’s a pop up, unsanctioned race where you get a couple check points an hour before the start, and how you get to them in order and then back to the start is up to you. There’s always a bridge involved, hence the name. Our race ended up being just under 4 KM and I ended up finishing 20th out of 40 guys (women raced separately). It was so much fun. In October I paced my first race – the RunVan Fall Classic half marathon, and then when I finished I raced the 10K, and then raced the 5K. I was one of 23 people who ran the first official Fall Classic Hat Trick. Pacing was super fun too and I think I did a decent job. I don’t believe in karma, but in 2019 I raced for charity twice. First, at the Scotiabank Half Marathon for the Capilano Review Contemporary Arts Society, and second at the Moustache Miler for the Movember Foundation. Along the way I managed to raise around $1,500, which I think is pretty great and since I don’t believe in karma (as I might have already mentioned) neither one had anything to do with my name getting drawn to race the World Marathon Major BMW Berlin Marathon in 2020. I guess I’m just lucky.

Coach Kevin Coffey and me at the Mile2Marathon 2019 wrap up social.

Probably the biggest thing to happen to my running in 2019, after starting off the year with another new injury Stephanie suggested that I hire a coach; an idea that I’d been sort of toying with for a while. I’d done some research and felt like I’d narrowed it down to two. I chose Mile2Marathon and Kevin Coffey, and once we got to know each other stuff really started to click. I had some pretty lofty goals coming into 2019 considering where I was at the end of 2018, and I crushed almost all of them. I am really looking forward to what’s in store for 2020.