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A day and a half to fall in love with Vancouver all over again

Sometimes good deeds are rewarded. Last year I volunteered for the Victoria Marathon; while at the orientation event I entered a draw sponsored by Diggit Victoria and I won a one-night stay in a downtown condo and a $100 gift certificate to the Glowbal restaurant of my choice.

I was finally able to take advantage of my prize on May 16-17. I took the day off work and booked a Harbour Air flight. Then I promptly fell in love with Vancouver all over again during my 36 hours there.

My first order of business was to visit my tenants at my Marpole condo to check things out and help with a minor repair. I realized, as I took the Canada Line, that it had been almost two years since I’d been in Vancouver for personal reasons. Every other time has been a business trip.

It was a sunny, dry day, and in the middle of the day the train was not full. When I lived there, I began to resent the crowded train ride twice a day, but I did get a lot of audiobooks read …

Rather than take the train back downtown after my visit, I took the bus back up Granville Street. Marpole has changed quite a bit in two years. The Safeway on Granville is completely rebuilt with a condo tower above it. I think it can only enhance the neighbourhood by bringing new residents, new businesses. I was glad to see Mirchi (my favourite little East Indian restaurant) is still there.

I walked from the bus stop downtown to the Lions building where I was staying, in the West End. The condo is a privately-held property – I had originally thought it was a vacation rental property, but it doesn’t seem like it – my guess is it’s for frequent business travellers. It’s a cute, small, completely self-contained “junior” suite, which means it has a tiny bedroom with a single bed, and really psychedelic wallpaper! Good thing I didn’t come here with someone else as I had originally planned, back in January-February; this is not a romantic get-away-type place.

False_Creek_May_2014I promised Connie from Diggit that I would document my stay. Unfortunately, I had issues with my phone battery and was unable to take a lot of pictures, but the apartment is super-clean and modern, with a lot of windows, a huge-screen TV, wifi, a kitchenette with stainless steel appliances, and a full bath. There is a concierge at the front desk and parking available (including locked bike parking). I contacted the owners afterwards to see if they’re in the market for new short-term renters and they said no, so I won’t advertise any more than that. Suffice it to say this tiny apartment is adorable.

I stashed my bag and went off in search of a bike rental place. I ended up at English Bay Bike rentals where the friendly and helpful staff fitted me with a cruiser bike with balloon tires, a helmet and U-lock. They’re located right on Vancouver’s waterfront bike path and rates are quite reasonable – almost a third less than another place I checked out in the West End. I took advantage of the glorious weather to cruise the path all the way around False Creek to Granville Island – a route I ran many times when I lived in Vancouver.

At Granville Island I ambled, and shopped, and had tea, and ambled some more, until I realized I had to meet a friend at 6. I made my way back via the Burrard Street Bridge, which is a great bridge for cyclists – but they’re making it even better – WTG Vancouver! Realizing a) I was exhausted and b) I still needed to shower and get ready for dinner, I postponed pre-dinner drinks and took a cab met my friends at the restaurant.

dessert platter

Yum

Trattoria in Kitsilano is part of the Glowbal group, which has several Vancouver restaurants. If they’re all as good as this, I’d like to get to them all eventually. I rounded up two Vancouver friends to accompany me and, in short, that was one of the most delicious, enjoyable meals I’ve ever had. I had the special of the day: a vegetarian risotto which was the best I’ve ever tasted (and I dated an Italian guy for a while who was an amazing cook, so I know my risotto). My friends loved their meals too: K had a steak which, according to him, was very good, and I honestly can’t remember what B had, but I know she loved hers as well. We shared a dessert platter afterwards. I couldn’t eat a lot of it because of the preponderance of dairy, but what I did taste was nothing short of exquisite. Our waiter, Faraz, was funny and personable and was a big reason why our meal was so great.

From there, the evening turned into an impromptu rooftop party in Gastown. You’ve all had those evenings, right? Not a rooftop in Gastown per se: but an evening that just turns out to be more fun and interesting than you had planned; where you meet new people and have great conversations, and realize life is just amazing and the world is right here, right now and nothing needs to change. Where you get home incredibly late and wake up only slightly hungover, and think: “Well, that was fun! I couldn’t have organized anything better if I’d tried.”

I did wake up too early the next day – which was OK because I had more exploring to do before I left for home. I took the cruiser and headed around the Stanley Park Seawall: another running route I used to do nearly every weekend. Seawall_Stanley_Park_May2014The day was perfect for it.
I will note at this time the weather forecast had called for rain both days I was there. I was prepared with my rain gear, and bought a nifty rain hat at the Hat Shop on Granville Island, but there was nary a drop. It was like the weekend was made for my enjoyment. Hah.

I ended the bike ride by returning the cruiser to the bike shop, then wandered down Denman and eventually met up with B for brunch. Then I headed to the condo, packed up, took the garbage out (as instructed), handed the key to the concierge, and caught my flight home.

Thanks Connie at Diggit Victoria for the great prize – I had a blast and I am looking forward to more personal (not just business) trips back to Vancouver in the future.

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I’m a Marythoner

This year I’ve decided to kick my running up a notch by raising cash for the Mount St. Mary’s Hospital foundation. I’m running on the “Marythoners” team for the 8k division of the Victoria Marathon Oct 10.

As you know I run for my health and fitness (although running marathons goes way beyond just keeping healthy, but that’s a topic for another day), but I don’t want it to be all about me. One of my run leaders, Mandy, works at the Mount St. Mary’s foundation and she is passionate about her work and about Mount St. Mary’s.

I know your donation will stay right here in Victoria providing long term care for those who need it most. It will also help me take my running outside myself and into helping my community – that way we all benefit!

Please take a moment right now to pledge me online, then come out and cheer on the Marythoners!

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Race Day Crew wanted

Each morning I lie in bed and listen to the song “Love Like a Sunset Parts 1-2” by Phoenix and visualize myself running the Royal Victoria Marathon next Sunday Oct. 11, crossing the finish line, hugging my daughter. Because If I were to make a video of my marathon, this would be the soundtrack.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8c3CUNKQ2Q&hl=en&fs=1&border=1]

I think I’m going to need some help on race day. So here’s the roll-out, portions in red are where I need friends to “crew” me in the race:

7:30 – I start walking from my place to the start line at the Parliament building. Depending on the weather, I’m in layers: pants over shorts, sweater and garbage bag over run gear, run mittens over glove liners. Hat, sunglasses (if I need them), hydro belt with gels inside. I’ll be nervous, and when I’m nervous I shiver, hence the garbage bag and extra sweater. Besides it might rain.
7:50 I get to the start line and go to the biffy. Again.
8:00 I meet up with my run buddies somewhere near the start. and we go line up near the back of the marathoners.
8:25 I hand extra layers to a friend at the start line. I may visit the biffy again, but the line-up will probably be long.
8:30 Start gun. I may be in the biffy, but that’s ok because I’m wearing a timing chip on my shoe that doesn’t start my run time until I cross the sensor pads at the start line.

8:30 – 1:00 – I’m running 42.2 km. The race map is here, as well as details about road closures in downtown Victoria that day. I will need cheerleaders especially at the last half and three quarters of the race. Halfway is on Beach Drive just before Uplands Park/Cattle Point, but the turnaround is farther on, at Exeter.

My daughter will be at Cowichan near Richardson at the 13 and 34 km marks, and then she’ll be making her way to the finish line. I can stash extra layers with her if I need to (or grab an extra one.)

Good cheering points: anywhere along Dallas Road, Oliver (Rena, my boss lives on Oliver-31 km point-and I will stash an extra gel or two with with her), Mitchell & Oak Bay intersection, Hollywood and Dallas on the way back.

The 30 – 40 km will probably be the toughest. When I reach 40 km or so with the finish line 2.2 kms away, I’ll know I’ve made it even if I have to hobble. But that’s not going to happen, I am finishing strong. I think I am probably going to cry when I cross it, but that might not be the case – when I was pregnant with my daughter, my last baby (a difficult, high-risk pregnancy after losing Sarah) – I visualized myself giving birth to a healthy baby and I always cried with relief. But then when she was born I didn’t, I was just tired and ecstatic. When I had my dream about running with Sarah 17 years ago (that story is here) I was calm and serene.

So all bets are off. I just know that I’m ready and I’m going to finish at about 1 pm. I might cry, I might laugh, I might puke, my daughter might let me give her a hug (she usually doesn’t when I’m all sweaty from a long run).

Then I’m going to go home and have a long bath and I’m going to need someone to invite me over for a huge meal.

Then the next day is Thanksgiving and I’d really like someone to invite me over for a large dinner.

Because this year I’m not cooking the bird.

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