Wednesday Thursday Friday

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” – Helmuth von Moltke

The enemy in this case is the weather. It has been raining quite some time, and it is getting colder. I might actually have to stop wearing shorts. And the organizers think it is bad enough that they are radically changing the race. It is now only going to be 100km, all of it in France.
They didn’t mention this at all when I picked up my race package, and I only got a text message that said “Start around 7pm. Weather conditions too difficult on the mountain pass. New course 100km France only.”
This doesn’t feel nearly as epic.

Since I’m still running at night, I’m going to go back to bed. Last night wasn’t very restful. I now have two Italians in the room as well. One of them thought it would be okay to talk on the phone at ten o’clock while I was trying to sleep.

Planning for Tomorrow

The rain continues. And with the Internet down, I don’t know what it will be like tomorrow. Hopefully better. I don’t mind cold weather, but I dislike running in rain at night.
I am not experienced at being at a hostel, so I don’t know all the secrets. One I should have known, from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, is to bring a towel. For some reason I thought there would be one available. I can rent one, but I think I’ll check the village for a souvenir quality one tomorrow.
The room seems nice enough, but it is steadily filling up with Germans. There are three right now, so hopefully we’ve met quota. I stayed in and had dinner here, Croziflette. I don’t know what it is, but it is a local dish, and I should try new things. Although that is usually the exact opposite of what you want to do during an ultra.
2012-8-30 20:44


I arrived in the rain and got to the hostel. They wouldn’t let me in until after five, so I had time to kill. I spent a bit of time using their Internet. I had to pay for it, but I think a week of Internet is worth it for the convenience. They also gave me a free bus pass for the entire week, so I used it to get into Chamonix.
I tried to get my race package, but was informed that I need to have my backpack and other supplies with me. Those were still at my hostel, which had locked them up, so I’ll have to do it tomorrow. In the meantime I checked out the expo.
There were a lot of vendors. A surprisingly large number were advertising other ultras around the world. I guess if you are looking for a demographic of stupid people, you’re in the right place. I got a lot of souvenirs for myself, because I was told to come back to Canada looking “like Mont Blanc threw up on [me].” Mission accomplished.
I don’t think I’m too concerned about the conditions here. I found it quite refreshing with the rain, and I wasn’t as cold as the locals. They even commented as such. But I now have a lot more supplies in case they want me to overheat. (They sound like my mother, who thinks I’m never wearing enough even if I feel fine. I wonder if that’s a European thing?)
Now I’m back at my hostel. I’ve been waiting 45 minutes for the line to check in to die down. Looks like I’m up.

On the way to Chamonix

It’s raining. A lot.
I said goodbye to my cousin and got a bus to the airport. There I had hoped to be able to get a bus to Chamonix. I wasn’t sure I would be able to. Because I wasn’t flying in, I didn’t know when I would arrive. So I never reserved a spot on the bus. And when I did have a better idea, I was told it was too late to make a reservation.
But I didn’t need to worry. I was able to get the bus, for a good price. Now I’m on the way, being told that there are beautiful views of the mountain, except all the rain and clouds is preventing us from actually seeing them. The driver is trying to convince us that on our left we would be able to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
I got messaged before I left that they are saying there are winter conditions on the mountain. I’m wondering if that will make it easier. I’m Canadian, so the cold doesn’t bother me as much. I won’t have to carry so much in my backpack, because I’ll be wearing it. And heat is a real killer on ultras.
However, they are also saying we need to have another layer with us on the run. I may be forced to buy some more clothing there.
2012-8-30 10:52

Presenting Demands

Yesterday afternoon, after the boat trip, I took a nice walk along the waterfront until I got to the U.N. It rained a bit along the way, but nothing too serious. There I was able to take a tour. Security to get in wasn’t too bad, except I think they would have preferred if I had had a passport instead of just an Alberta driver’s license. The person taking my security had relatives in Wabamum, so I had some plausibility. 
Before the tour, I checked out the giftshop. I usually like to buy a mug as a souvenir on vacations, and one with the symbol of the U.N. would probably be a good choice. But everything in Geneva is expensive, and I did not feel like paying $20 for a mug. I’ll be buying my overpriced souvenirs in Chamonix, thank you very much.
The tour was enjoyable. We heard about the terrorist attack on the place last month. It wasn’t really covered in the news, but a rogue fox made it past security, attacked and killed one of the peacocks. It even went so far as to eat the body. This is an wanton act of terror and I’m surprised that more people aren’t upset about it.
In one of the first conference rooms, we learned about how they arrange the countries, alphabetically. This immediately made me recall an old “Yes, Minister” episode, so I had to ask “Does that mean Iran, Iraq, and Israel all sit together?” I had it explained how they made exceptions for the first two during their war, and how they were each encouraged to use different, doors. Israel is saved by the presence of Ireland.
I also asked about the difference between Geneva and New York. Apparently the leaders meet in New York, but all the work is done in Geneva. “New York is the brains, and Geneva is the muscle.” So if one wants to present demands to the U.N., you can’t do it here.
After the tour it was raining. I can’t really explain it, but that seemed to make me happy. I guess I like being out, ignoring inclement weather, while everyone else scurries around trying to stay dry. I don’t know how my pictures of the outside will turn out. The fountains lose something in the pouring rain, but I did enjoy the man who had two kids on his bicycle, deliberately riding through the fountains.
The walk back home was long, and I’m starting to get concerned that I’m not giving my legs a good break before the ultra tomorrow.
2012-8-30 10:40

Yvoire, France

Today I got up and caught the boat to Yvoire without any difficulty. The trip was pleasant. It was sunny and I got to see all the beautiful scenery as we went along Lake Geneva, stopping at many small towns. Relaxing, and it gave my legs some needed rest.
The best feature of the boat was that there was an opening on the passenger deck to the engine below. So you could see the big pistons and flywheels working to drive the paddles.
Yvoire was quaint. It is an old medieval village, so there wasn’t much to see or do. I’m glad there was only an hour long stopover. I took a bunch of pictures, and then had the traditional lunch of Lake Geneva, Filets de Perches. It was basically the French version of fish and chips. Good, and I got ice cream with it.
Then back to the boat. It was less crowded on the return. At around two o’clock I got rather sleepy, so I was able to lay down and rest. This caused me to get a bit too much sun on my face, so there is a little similarity to a raccoon now. I didn’t wear sunscreen because yesterday it was completely cloudy when I wore it. Why would I need it today when the weather report said cloudy and rainy?
There was only one issue on the trip. Someone sneezed and I reflexively blessed them. I did catch myself, and realized that I was in a foreign country and “Gesundheit” might be a better saying. A few minutes later, another tourist started talking German to me.

Vacation planning

I’m trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. I want to be lazy, because I spent too much time on my feet today. I thought of taking a boat ride on Lake Geneva, but it looks like it will be raining tomorrow. I might finally get to the U.N. and there was that tower I wanted to climb. I could go swim in the Lake. It is going to be warm.
Most of these feel like a waste of opportunity. I should be doing fun and exciting thing that I can’t do at home. A friend once said that he did a European vacation where he rented a place and just acted like it was his home.
If I was home and had free time what would I be doing? Maybe some programming. At best, get a hot chocolate and do the programming at a coffee house. Those really aren’t options here. I didn’t bring a laptop, only an iPad.
I’ll figure something out.

Am I in La Cure or am I in La Disease?

I accidentally snuck into France looking for a Coke.
After a long hike of about 25 km, more than I probably should have, I got to my destination, the town of La Cure. I was rather thirsty so I wandered about, looking for a place that would serve me a Coke. I didn’t pay to much attention to the building marked “Douane La Cure”, but I noticed there was a lot of traffic and the license plates were more French than usual. I eventually clued in, or remembered that douane may mean “customs”. Checked my map and there’s the border. Fortunately, there was no problem sneaking back in.
The hike was good, but I wish the routes had been clearer. If I hadn’t made so many wrong turns, I wouldn’t be waiting here for 40 minutes for my train. Only comes once an hour.
It was overcast today, so I don’t think I got spectacular pictures. But it was pleasant weather for a hike. I hope Mont Blanc has similar weather.
The highlight on the way down was when I passed a farm. There were many along the way, but at this one a lady talked to me about where I was going. We discussed over a map and eventually a horse came over to see if it could help as well. (It couldn’t) And then while I was walking down the trail, a donkey tried to mug me. More of a pickpocket attempt, but it really did have to work on its nonchalant shadowing skills.
I think I hear my train now. Yep, there it is. It looks full of French day trippers.
And now the sun is coming out.
Published 16:45

Mount Sala

What were they smoking when they set up this trail system? The markings are terrible. I’ve gotten lost way too often, despite having a good map.
I made it to the mountain. Now I just have to get to the La Cure train station without getting lost again.
According to the sign post, it should take me 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to my train. That’s when it leaves, so I can’t afford to get lost again.
Published 15:28

Ticket to Ride

My hosts have indicated that there is very little to do in Geneva. Nice place to live, but I wouldn’t want to visit there. I could go to the watch museum, but I don’t think they’ll let me in if I’m wearing a digital watch.
So, I’m taking a day trip out to hike in the mountains. They gave me the schedule to take and it seemed simple enough. I got to the train station on time, and even got onto the correct train. Unfortunately, buying a ticket wasn’t nearly as easy.
I got off the train and waited in line for a ticket teller. It would have helped if I wasn’t in the bus ticket line. After redirecting myself, I got my tickets. I had long since missed my train, so I’ve got to kill time now. I played around with the ticket machines and I eventually figured them out. Got a sandwich for the hike. Now I just have to hope that I can figure out the next train station where I have six minutes to make my connection.
Published 10:28

First day in Geneva

My first day went well, except for some banking problems.
I left my cousin’s place and checked out the Jet d’eau nearby. It is basically the local equivalent of what the Eiffel tower is to Paris. Civic monument that represents the town, just not as well known. It’s a jet of water that goes 140 meters into the air. Interestingly, it is more like the movie version of the Eiffel tower, in that you can see it anywhere in the city. It actually got in the way of some pictures I wanted to take. Specifically one of Mont Blanc.
After leaving the water fountain, and watching the children pet the swans(?!) I went along the waterfront. I was getting near where I was told to have lunch when I got concerned that I didn’t have any local currency. It was harder to find a bank than I thought it would be. The place marked “private bank” wasn’t helpful, and a security guard directed me in the opposite direction. I finally stopped at the information building and was told to go even further out of my way. I got to my instant teller, got the funds, and then got the lunch.
Then I started getting tired. Not surprising with jet lag and everything. I probably only had four hours sleep in the past while. But still, I’m a trooper, so I must continue sightseeing. I went to the old city and, well, found it really boring. There was only a bunch of old buildings housing very expensive shops. Not many people on the streets. Best part was that it was hilly there so I got to climb stairs.
I checked out the cathedral of Saint Pierre. It was beautiful, and I didn’t burst into flames crossing the threshold. It did leave a trap for me though. You could pay extra to climb the tower. That sounds perfect for me. Unfortunately, I was getting really tired by this point. I’ll save that for another day, but I will be back.
I went back to home base and took a nap for a couple of hours. Then my cousin came home and we talked. Her boyfriend joined us later, and he seems very nice. We even went through some of the pictures I had from Denmark five years ago. It was fascinating to hear her perspective on a bunch of them.
The plan for tomorrow is to go for a hike in the mountains by myself. Wait, isn’t that the traditional way tourists go missing in Europe?


I have arrived and am at my cousin’s place. The airport and bus system were fairly efficient and she gave me good directions.
I haven’t done much so far. I plan to go out and wander the mean streets of Geneva. She’s gone off to work, leaving me to my own devices.
Note: “One Thousand Words” was not a terrible movie. It wasn’t funny, but it was a pleasant drama. Mind you, I fast-forwarded through the parts that looked like silly slapstick. Sigh. I remember when Eddie Murphy was funny.

In Montreal

First leg could have gone better
One of the reasons I will choose Air Canada over another carrier is that they have really nice televisions at each seat. No extra cost and you can choose any movie. Good selection too.
Unfortunately, at my seat, the television didn’t work. After about fifteen minutes I was able to be switched with a Sikh gentleman who wasn’t using his. I did get to keep having a window seat, but the new guy in front of me liked having his seat back; one of my biggest peeves.
Choosing a movie to watch in an airplane is a difficult matter. I don’t want to watch a big epic movie, because those you want to watch on a big screen. A seat television is not a big screen. I also don’t want to pick a movie that might be a movie night option in the future. What I am left with are movies that I don’t believe will actually be that good. Which works out in a way. I am a captive audience, so I can’t squirm away from embarrassing scenes.
I saw “Dark Shadows” first. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. Overall, I guess I would say it wasn’t a waste of my time. Your mileage may vary, depending on how much you like Johnny Depp.
For my next movie, I saw “The Adventures of Tintin”. I’m not sure how I felt about this. I have read all of the Tintin stories, so I’m familiar with the characters. For the most part, they acted appropriately, except for one previously minor character turning into a big villain. It fell into the trap of trying to be too 3D, which was annoying in a 2D screen. Objects leaping out at you make me feel like I am not the target audience.
I guess my biggest complaint was that there were areas in the movie that felt rushed and could have been dealt with better. Instead, the time was spent making big, contrived, action scenes that felt out of character with the original stories.
Maybe it would have been better if I wasn’t familiar with Tintin before watching.
I actually can’t completely comment on the film. My flight ended before I could see the last fifteen minutes.

Condo Watch

I’ve arrived at the airport. I’m through security and now I’m just waiting to board.
I don’t know if I’m ready for this. I’m pretty sure I woke up screaming this morning. Am I forgetting anything?
Hopefully my condo will still be standing when I get back. I’ve got people coming in while I’m gone. People I trust not to throw wild parties.
The plan is to water my plants. There are three of them, two on the deck and one in the computer room. The computer room one has an automatic acting system, so it should be good, but I don’t know if it waters enough. On the deck there is the hops which seems to want gallons of water. And then there is the large pot that has a lot of dead plants in it, but still has some oregano that I hope survives. I’ve been using my kettle to do the watering. Checking the mail would also be nice.
In exchange for these services, I’m letting someone use it to prepare for her wedding which will be at the church next door. And in addition, other friends get to borrow the car. The car is nearly out of gas, so I’m not that nice.
If I’m sounding rather specific about trivialities that no one should care about, it is because I’m hoping this serves as a reminder/instructions to my friends.
Thank you.

Can We Do This?

In a few days I leave for Europe. I’m not bringing my laptop, so updating the blog will be harder. I still want to do it though. But with this post I am proving that I can do it with my iPad. That will be a lot easier to use.

Learning to say “no” to ultras

Am I a bad person?
Today, the Canadian Death Race ended. My friend, Mike was running it. Mike is a person I am very competitive against. I failed to finish the Sinister 7, the first time I had ever failed to finish an ultra. Mike did finish. So he remained undefeated. This left me feeling like I was on unequal footing with him. If he has something over me, I don’t feel I am on the same level.
I think there was a Community episode about this.
Mike however did not finish the Death Race. From the reasons above, it is clear a large part of me didn’t want him to finish. But I did want him to finish. I would have bet money on him finishing. I know the suckage that happens when you don’t finish an ultra. Not much immediately, but it grows over time.
It does make it clear that it is good I didn’t do the Death Race. Four weeks is apparently not enough time to recover from an ultra.
I did however, go out and run 58.4km today. I wanted one last long training run before Mont-Blanc. I had a route planned out that would have taken me all the way to the Anthony Henday bridge. However, 28km in, as I was nearing Terwillegar park, I came across a large puddle. As soon as I stopped to contemplate my options, I was attacked by a lot of mosquitos. That’s when I decided that Terwillegar park is probably going to be very similar to this one spot. I turned around and decided to retrace my route. Including all the long-cuts I had done to keep the distance true.
It got rather hot. Thankfully, there is a COLD water tap in Hawrelak park that I soaked my head in. But still, it was a long trip home.
Only I didn’t go directly home. I ran past home to go to a Subway restaurant. I wish I had been five seconds faster. Just as I was getting there, a gaggle of four women were entering. Be polite and let them in first. And I didn’t have the energy to fight them. So I was waiting what felt like ten minutes before I could order my sub.

Summer reading list

Lately, I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading. I used to read a lot. The first time I ever went without cable television, my reading rate exploded. That was causing problems. When you watch a television show, you have an idea as to when it will be over, and can plan accordingly. Say, going to bed at a decent hour. If you read a book, you don’t have that guarantee. It might be too good to put down. And then you’re up past midnight trying to see how the hero is going to get out of this mess.
Most of my reading these days has been subsumed by comics. Comics are easy to read. They are especially quick if you don’t look too much at the images that people poured their heart and souls into. And you don’t have to have too many brain cells firing to read.
Aside: The only good thing to come out of the Smurfs movie is that I could get Smurf books again. I liked the Smurfs growing up, and it was a great tragedy that haunted my grade five experience when my one Smurf book was stolen at school. It was about a flying smurf (because I couldn’t get Astrosmurf) and I still haven’t found a copy of it in all the reprints. But now I’m realizing that I’m not enjoying these books. The last, featuring real Smurf on Smurf action, just left me bored. I think it is time to grow up and put childish things away.
For Christmas, I got the biography of Steve Jobs from my parents. At the time, I would read the later parts of it and find it really interesting. But it soon ended up in the pile of books by my bedside that I intended to read, but never seemed to. Then a couple of weeks ago, my father mentioned that he would like to borrow it to read.
Suddenly this book has become the most important thing to do. Must finish before I see my parents for their anniversary next week. It hasn’t been easy to get into reading again. Part of it is the fault of the book. There is no heroic narrative that will make me inhale the book. Instead, there is a significant slog through the early part of Steve Jobs’ life. Frankly, it is rather boring. Not terrible, but maybe it is a story I’m already familiar with. But now that I’ve gotten to the part where he buys Pixar, it is becoming much more interesting. I can see me getting into the stage of not being able to put it down.
His later life is much more interesting than his early life. He mellowed and became more likeable. Instead of the spoiled brat he was.

Random thoughts

I used to write much more in my journal; several times a week. Now it is very sporadic. Is this better? Quality over quantity. (But quantity is its own quality.) Lately, I’ve only been writing when something noteworthy has happened in my life. Could it have something to do with all the spammers that try and post “comments” after every entry?
There was a time when I noticed that I seemed to always update the journal after a Wednesday or Sunday run. Or do people want to know the random trivia that happens in my day to day existence?
I got sunburnt today when I ate lunch outside and decided to try and balance out my extreme Farmer’s tan.
I did seven set of Hotel MacDonald stairs.
The Death Race is this weekend. I am not going, but most of my running friends are. I feel left out. I am not doing it because it is only four weeks before Mont Blanc, which is more important. (I keep telling myself that.) I need the recovery time.
But I recovered fairly quickly from the Sinister 7, so I don’t know if that is true. And that was only four weeks ago.
I’m starting to feel more regretful about not finishing the Sinister 7. Immediately after my failure of 135km, I did not feel bad. Time does not heal all wounds. Time sometimes makes them worse.
In solidarity of my friends doing the Death Race, I think I’ll try and run 60km this Sunday. I do need the distance training.