Friday, January 19, 2018

Average Family Owned Pho Place (Pho d'lite Solo District / Brentwood)

Pho D'lite in Brentwood is a pretty cozy place for Pho. It was around 8:30 at night when my +1 and I decided to come as we were travelling by the Solo District. When we walked in, we were greeted by a waiter (or I think he's a waiter) and then seated. You can tell that this is a family owned restaurant because all of the roles between the server, cook and cashier seem to be blurred. What I found was a bit awkward was there were a group of ladies (I think they were probably the owners of this place) were sitting in the back table where they seem to be gossiping about something.
   After looking at the menu, the prices seemed relatively fair (it's around $12-$15 on average for a bowl of noodles or curry). Browsing through the menu, I decided to get the chicken curry noodles. It did not take too long for the dish to come out. The noodles were put on a separate plate from the curry itself. I found the noodles to look a bit zombie-fied (it was so white that I couldn't help but wonder if the flour that was used to make this was bleached).
   I started by just dumping all of the noodles into the curry. As the noodles entered the bowl of curry, the bowl started to fill up. The curry itself felt a bit watery, however I recon that in Thailand and Vietnam, their curry is based using coconut milk so it's a bit more watery. The spices in there were just spicy enough for my liking and the noodles gave the curry a good compliment. That said, I find the food itself is average, I wouldn't say that there is anything extra special other than the portions being slightly on the bigger size. Overall, I would come here again, but I probably won't go out of my way to come back. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Food for thought - "We have everything from A to Z" (Netflix VS Amazon)

I have to admit, when I found out that Amazon started to get into cloud computing, I held my breath. Amazon's business model isn't really to sell books, it's real business motive (in my opinion) is to sell EVERYTHING. That is why the logo of Amazon (if you take a look at the arrow points from A to Z of the words Amazon and not any other letters). It's a symbolism representing "we have everything from A to Z". By them entering cloud computing, they were further solidifying their goal of selling EVERYTHING. This has been true so far and now you can virtually get everything and anything off Amazon (maybe except live animals and sketchy things).
This is from Amazon themselves, do you see what I mean? The "We sell everything from A to Z". Note: I don't own this logo and used under Creative Commons

Right now through AWS (Amazon Web Services) many websites are now hosted by Amazon through servers across the globe. For those unfamiliar with the concept, just imagine AWS like a virtual computer that acts as a way for people to store information (in particular websites, databases and etc...). I recalled a time in 2017 that AWS had a service outage and then all of a sudden, many websites also suddenly stopped working. I remember I was registering for a race using www.raceroster.com when this happened and Race Roster sent an email saying that they were hosted on AWS and that is why their website stopped working. 
Amazon Prime Video on Android

A great example of why I think Amazon has a lot of growth potential and that others should be worried is the comparison between Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Netflix is pretty much a cloud based subscription based online video streaming service. Amazon Prime Video is the same, and both use the similar technology - where the video is hosted on their servers and customers sign up through a subscription to watch videos. When comparing the two side by side, there are major similarities and major differences. Beginning with the similarities, both services allow you to use multiple devices and download movies to your own devices. They both offer exclusive films (don't quote me on this but I find that if one film exists on Netflix, it won't exist on Amazon Prime Video).

Netflix interface on Android
However, difference wise, Amazon Prime Video offers their service at no additional cost if you are a Amazon Prime member. Personally, that is super sexy sounding to me as a consumer because for a year of Amazon Prime, it is much cheaper than Netflix and you also get more perks (like free photo/video storage via Amazon Prime Drive) and Amazon Music. So if we are strictly talking about price and what you get out of the price, Amazon Prime wins. Think about this: if you as a consumer is getting all of the benefits of Netflix at no additional cost, why wouldn't you want to switch over to Amazon Prime Video and save money?

That said, Netflix, although more expensive does have WAYYY more content that Amazon Prime Video. I find that Netflix originals such as Stranger Things, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Orange is the New Black are soooo good. Amazon also has originals but I find that they aren't as good as what Netflix has - for now. I can see that Amazon is gaining a bigger market share in online streaming but it might be a while until Amazon can establish the "supply chain" and distribution networks to be able to compete with Netflix (who have established their channels of how they get their info) .

In summary, at the current stage, comparing Amazon Prime and Netflix is like comparing apples and oranges because of the difference in content that they have. However, at the rate of growth of Amazon, I won't be surprised that down the road, Amazon Prime Video will soon be-able to have more content to rival Netflix. The more significant thing is that this is just an example of how Amazon is beginning to "take over the world". This is just a brief overview and example, but there are also many other examples - I will explore them in another blog post.



Sunday, January 14, 2018

Myst Asian Fusion (Review) - Is the hype worth it?

This is probably one of the busiest Taiwanese food places I've ever seen. Driving by, it always seems so busy and packed. My friends and I decided to give them a try one afternoon when it didn't look as busy. I was surprised how difficult it was to find parking. The parking lot is very small and hard to navigate. So we had to hop out of the car as one of my friends parked the car.
   When we arrived, it was not too busy so we were seated immediately. Once seated, we were brought hot tea and the menu. The menu itself had a surprising amount of things on it and the prices were fair. A wide variety of Asian and Taiwanese cuisine can be found on the menu. Things from appetizers like onion cakes all the way to noodles and rice were all here.
   However, when it comes to service, they tend to be a bit slow. I am not sure if it's because they are busy or understaffed, but it took a while before we were noticed. By the time the waitress came to take our orders, everyone already had their phones out and briefly forgot what we wanted to order. After a quick peek at the menu, we each decided to order their minced pork combo.
    Soon after we ordered, the food was ready. I was very surprised at how fast the food came. It came in a matter of seconds which made me wonder if they have all the food cooked up already and they just heat it up. In terms of portion, it was good. There was a lot of meat to the minced meat set (what do you expect, the name of the combo implies it's going to be alot of meat). The main bowl had 2 full braised eggs, some sausage and also minced meat on it. The two side dishes were very interesting though, the fried gluten was very sweet and the vegetables didn't taste fresh (I think it was microwaved). Otherwise, I liked the combo and thought it was pretty decent for the price.
 When we were finished with our meal, we were back to the waiting game. My friend tried to wave down the waitress a few times until she finally saw us and gave us our bill. To say the least, it could be that they are understaffed or that their staff is overworked so service is slower (or maybe they are tired). Overall, the food is fair and price is fair so the hype and long line ups outside for a fair place is surprisingly long. I do like how many options they have and the pricing, however I am not sure if I like to wait in line for that long. 


Saturday, January 13, 2018

SEARS Closing - reflections and how it shaped Metrotown today

Sun Setting on Sears
As I was walking out of the mall and on my way home, the rainy skies cleared up and glowed with a hint of purple as the sun began to set. Looking up, I saw a huge "STORE CLOSING" sign hanging beside the infamous SEARS logo and the symbolism of the sun setting on SEARS. Although it may not seem significant to the average person, to me, the closing of SEARS (or the sun setting on SEARS) have some deep meanings.
2nd last day of Sears.
   For starters, my blog is all about food, travelling and experiences (hence Vantraveller). However, in many places I travel to, retail and local stores are often associated with the local culture. This SEARS in particular is significant because it was here even before Metrotown was built.  SEARS helped shape what is now Metrotown. SEARS has been around even before I was even born. Metrotown used to be an area that people would travel through if they were commuting from Downtown to New Westminster or the surburbs. This was initially what drove the market here so SEARS and other places like Kelly-Douglas were built. This was in the 50's and at the time, this area known as Metrotown today was only populated by no more than a few thousand people. This was also the golden era of department stores and SEARS was one of the first to be in this area. It wasn't until the 80's that the current shopping mall of Metrotown was built and the actual department store got incorporated into the mall. However, it can be argued that SEARS was what helped shape modern day Metrotown only to be driven out by both a failing business and a demand for real estate. The irony being that this SEARS was one of the places that drove the demand here to begin with. More information can be found here: history of Metrotown.
Everything for 90% off
   Because of how long SEARS have been here, it has also helped shape this community. Personally, It was a place that my family visited to buy our couch (that we still use today) 17 years ago. It was a place that I would go and check out on boxing day or when they had clearances because sometimes the deals here were actually good. There used to be a diner in this location (now the Concord Pacific Show room). There also used to be a barber, optometrist and tailor here. Over the years, all of these businesses closed and moved as the core department store business stayed.
   After reflecting, I decided to enter SEARS for one last peek before they closed for good. Upon walking in, everything was already taken apart. It seemed like everything that was not attached to the building was for sale. From fixtures to office equipment (like binders, really old office supplies and more) to mannequins and more were all on sale. There were people everywhere trying to salvage what they can for a cheap bargain (it sort of reminds me of how Ray salvaged parts on Jakku... except the SEARS edition).  Personally, I would not buy any of the things because most of it is not useful to me.  However, walking around the place, you can last ditch efforts made by SEARS to restart sales. 
Sears branded pens
  This is the interesting part. SEARS, before going out of business seemed to have tried to go the Winner's direction. You can see from some of the products being liquidated that they were all SEARS banded things. From Kenmore vacuum cleaners (they store branded it "SEARS" ) to stationary (also store branded "SEARS") to face masks (YES... face masks that was SEARS branded), you can tell that they were trying to reduce the costs by using their own brands and selling lower end products in attempt to bring customers back to the store. Personally, I thought this would have been a good move if they did this much earlier on in the game when people like Amazon were just started. Doing it so late in the game (it's practically a rebranding) seemed to be unwise as something such as re-branding usually take a while for the consumers to click in and finally buy it.
Mannequins anyone?
    Further more, there are other elements at play such as poor management (they switched 7 CEO's in a short time period before they closed down), rise of competition such as Amazon (or e-commerce in general- they had an online store too, but I don't think marketing was executed on it too well) and a dwindling base of loyal shoppers (I find the SEARS customer base tend to be older in demographic) and also the high cost of having brick and mortar stores. There are probably more problems but overall, you can say that it was a multi-faced problem that caused the overall store to close down. That said, during its golden days, SEARS pioneered many things such as the print catalog (this did wonders and may companies such as IKEA still uses this and does it well).
So what now? Since the SEARS lot is not actually part of Metrotown, there are talks about building more condos here and changing Metrotown into a Yaletown style location (More info here). However the biggest take-away from it all (or take-aways) is witnessing the change of the skyline of a city; where this SEARS location helped shape the local community to be booted out by it. Furthermore, it is also the witnessing of how the retail climate is changing and how difficult it is to run a brick and mortar store and perhaps the need to change with time or get booted out. What do you think? Is change good? 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Looking for some printing? VISTAPRINT Review

Taking a break from your regular programming of food and adventures, I thought I would do a review on Vistaprint (I don't usually do product reviews but until I figure out where to put this... maybe my own blog on how I manage my NPO?) Vistaprint is sort of like the Walmart of printing in my opinion. They have SO MANY products that are offered. I manage a nonprofit and because of our constrained budgets, we always try to find more economical printing options. In general, I like Vistaprint for their relatively cheap price, ease of use and customer service. However, quality for some products can be questionable.

Business Cards are among the best products from Vistaprint in my opinion, for $9.99 (and also some shipping, but it varies) you get a decent amount of business cards (500 to be exact). They advertise the regular price higher but you can usually find a promocode and you can get the product for cheaper. The quality of them is good and quite professional. I would say when it comes to business cards, Vistaprint is usually my go-to place. 

Banners
This is a bit interesting out of all of the products they have to offer. Their banners are pretty high in quality and they come in both indoor and outdoor use options. I have to say that  I ordered a few banners from them and all of them have a barcode printed at the front. When I first received the banners, I was a bit thrown off as to why the barcode is printed at the FRONT. I sent them an email and they tried to correct it by sending me another one. However, there is still a barcode there. It was then when I reached out to them that they said it's the way their systems are automated so they ended up giving me a refund. That said, after my ordeal with them, they changed their preview platform and now they give a preview of banners with the barcode on. I would say if you don't mind the barcode then the quality of the banners are relatively good.

I know some people in the printing business and they tell me they actually get their printing done by Vistaprint (mind you, Vistaprint sells it to them at a business to business price). Vistaprint will sell to consumers the price vendors will charge so that they don't compete with business (I'm assuming) so that's an interesting point.

Tips:

  • There are usually promocodes drifting online, never pay regular price for something because there is always a sale.
  • Check out ebates to get a rebate on your order by clicking here . Ebates is a good tool to use if you do alot of online shopping and want a rebate.
  • Be aware that they have preview tools but what shows up (in-terms of colouring) might be different. I try to exaggerate the difference between colours and if they are too close in similarity, they don't usually show up too well. 




Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A mechanic shop converted cafe - Cafe La foret

Super spacious interior
I grew up around this area and way back in the day, this used to be a car mechanic shop. It has recently been converted to a coffee shop/ cafe and HOLY SMOKES did it breathe a new life into this place. This has got to be one of the most spacious coffee shops I've ever been to. From the outside, you can't really tell that this is a cafe with the exception of the logo that says "La Foret" which according to my French friends mean "the Forest".
   Walking inside, you will see how spacious this place really is, there are tons of seats and a really high ceiling (maybe this is why they call it "the Forest"... hinting that you need to be as tall as a tree to hit the ceiling...). The decor such the Chewbaca and Han Solo paintings on the side really itches the nerd inside of me. There is ample natural lighting such as ceiling high windows, and roof top windows which I really liked. I also like the plants they have in the island at the middle, and how tidy it is.
   Food wise, this place have an Asian twist on the food. They serve things like squid ink bread, coffee buns and other types of Asian style bread. I did notice the price here for food is a bit on the higher end (for comparison, a piece of croissant is $2.50 but the portion is small and you can get a similar one for slightly cheaper else where). I do have to admit, their baked goods are presented really well and it makes you want to buy it based on how well they present it.

   Besides baked goods, they also serve an assortment of soups, sandwiches and crepes. All of the prices are fair, but because of the portion size, I would say things are slighter on the higher end. That said, that markup probably comes in the form of a trade-off for a good venue. When I was here, all I had was a cup of coffee. It's around 2 dollars for a cup of coffee, which is average priced. However, the portion is smaller compared to other places that offer the coffee that's priced the same.
    Overall, this place is the best for the venue. It's spacious and great to meet with your friends. I have to note that it gets pretty busy here. There are signs on the wall that says they have a 2 hour time limit on the weekend (honestly, I don't know how they are going to enforce that). The decor is cool and I would definitely come back again.



 


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

BIG PORTIONS of Fried Rice and Noodles and slightly awkward place to celebrate your birthday - The One Restaurant (Burnaby)

The One restaurant is a pretty interesting place to get your fix of Asian (mostly Taiwanese food). The portions are big relative to price and if you were celebrating a birthday, they have a very interesting way of celebrating it for you...
     When we were there, someone was celebrating their birthday. The interesting thing to note is that the owners of The One also owns the karaoke place next door. So when you walk into the restaurant, the first thing you will see is the bubble tea bar and big screens on top of the bar.  On the screen, there is a subtitled pop song playing (I assume
it's using the same system as the karaoke place next door) and that song is played throughout the restaurant.
    After we sat down and before we ordered our food, a waitress walked by our table with a big cake towards a group of girls that was sitting at a table in front of us. That pop song playing on that karaoke screen all of a sudden changed to the karaoke version of the birthday song. However, it was blasted all over the restaurant and replayed itself at least 8 times. It was funny to note that when the birthday girl was done cutting the cake, the song way still playing happy birthday. The expression on her face was very interesting to say the least that the whole restaurant knows it's her special day.
    Funny things aside, when it came to the food, I ordered a bowl of satay chicken noodles and an onion pancake. We had to order two things because the rule is that you have to order one item per person. For around $12, the bowl of noodles was pretty big. I was watching the fried rice that the pe
ople beside us were eating and it was pretty big too. I would say the portions is more than enough for one person. The taste is average, but portions were good.  The green onion cake was also pretty good.
  Overall, I wouldn't say that this place is upper scale as it seems to cater to people who are more economically conscious. However, because of that I would definitely come to this place again. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

You better eat fast - A sushi restaurant that feels like a sauna (Sushi Garden High Gate)

Sushi Garden has got to be one of the most popular sushi restaurants around and they have opened up many locations. When I got here, it was around 7:30 at night and the place was about 90% full.  I usually come to Sushi Garden for take out because there is a deal (I believe 5% off if you pay with cash and order in advance). However, this time I decided to eat in. There wasn't a line up (like there usually is when I drive by), so I decided to come in with my +1. Our first impression was that the restaurant was warm and smoggy (the windows were all fogged up) and felt like a mini sauna. The restaurant was also pretty tightly packed, and there wasn't much free space to move around.
   Once we sat down, the waiter brought us the menu. I've seen many menus in the past, but this menu was super worn out and it looked like someone just spent 10 minutes on Microsoft Word to copy and paste things and then it was printed. The lamination were all frayed and the colours of the menu was all faded. I'm not an art critic, but this is just an observation. Who knows, the vintage and minimalism style could be a thing. The other thing I noticed from the last time I was here was that the price for sushi have gone up. As a benchmark, their Alaska Roll (one of my favourite rolls from them) used to be $3.95 but now it's $4.50. However, given the current economy and inflation, costs going up is understandable. It's interesting to note that the utensils that they were using like cups seemed worn out. The one that my +1 had was chipped.
    I decided to order an Alaska Roll, 2 spicy tuna rolls and a wild salmon roll. I tend to avoid salmon because of PCB (farmed salmon tend to have higher concentrations of PCBs). Once we finished ordering, the food came pretty fast. I have to say, I still love their Alaska Rolls, that thin slice of Salmon on top of a roll that has avocados and then some miso paste really does it for me. The spicy tuna rolls was average, there is really nothing much to say about that. Overall I liked the rolls, and felt they were pretty decent.
   The interesting part was that I felt the waiters/ waitresses were watching us like hawks. The moment we are finished with a plate, they came right away to take the plate away. They did that for all of our plates and then when we finally finished the last plate, they came with the bill. It was very swift and I'm not going to lie, it made me feel a bit anxious and pressured to hurry up and leave. Definitely this is not a place to take a family (I live with old people who eat slow), I can imagine how pressured one will feel to eat as it seems like they want you out the door fast.
   Overall, I like their sushi, but it is not a place I will go out of my way to go eat it as the eating environment is pretty uncomfortable.





Sunday, January 7, 2018

Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon and 5km - Overview and why you should run it!

My blog is all about talking about quality experiences, be it food or events. There is a discount for this event at the bottom of this page! Besides food, in the month of January I will be blogging about races and events too. If you are looking for a half-marathon (21.1km) for the target period of June then this is the race to do! I've ran this race many times and I have also paced it for the 1:45 for a few years. I am not biased, but overall this is one of my most favourite races. A few reasons why I love this race:

  • It is a HUGE fundraising event for many charities. In 2017, the event raised over $970,000 for 70+ charities.
  • It is very well organized by a team of people that is very passionate about the community and the running community. The professionalism they bring to the events they create is evident through how thorough it is organized and how every little detail is not missed out.
  • You get great swag! From a tech t-shirt to a medal to the virtual swag bag (in the past some swags that came with the virtual swag bag includes a subscription to Men's fitness). 
  • It's a great value overall and it is very well organized.
  • It is net- downhill course - meaning that the course itself is designed to be downhill and fast. It's great for beginners (this was my first half-marathon actually).
  • Small details about this race: they are very environmentally responsible with one of the highest waste-diversion rates in the country.
  • The event has pacers to help you keep on track!

The course (half-marathon):
Out of the many races that happen in Vancouver, I would say this one is one of my favourites. The entire course is net downhill - (for those who are unfamiliar with the term, it means that you start at a higher elevation but finish at a lower elevation.

Beginning at UBC, there is an immediate downhill right after the start. Once you reach West 16th, you will turn right on it and then turn left on Marine Drive. The course will still continue to lower in elevation until the turn around point. You will then follow Marine Drive for a while until you are in the Kitsilano area. This is my favourite part because it's super scenic. You get a view of the water and the mountains. 
     Once you are in Kitsilano, there is a small uphill up Jericho (this is probably one of the three small uphill sections). You will continue all the way on West 4th, and then make your way to Cornwall (this place is very scenic as well) and then cruise all the way to the finish line after you cross the Burrard Street Bridge. As you can see, there aren't many up hills and most of the course is downhill. It's great for speed.

There is also a 5km option for those who are not as keen to run that far, the 5km is a loop in Stanley Park and West-end. The 5km option is a good family event if you want to take your kids out to be active or can't run but want to participate (this is a course that you can comfortably walk in about an hour).

Discount CodeYou can sign up at https://Bit.ly/RFScotiahalf2018 and use "RFORCE2018" for 10% off!

Tips:
  1. HYDRATE!!! I would recommend stopping at every aid station (especially the ones at the very beginning). I lost track of how many people feel sick or light headed over the years because they think they don't need to hydrate. (Mind you, don't over hydrate either... that can cause hyponatremia which isn't good).
  2. Do not underestimate the weather - It can be very hot out there. Remember to wear sunscreen and a hat. I would put the sunscreen from the eye level down (anywhere above the eye level will make the sunscreen run and sting your eyes after you start running and sweating).
  3. Pack light - There is bag check at the event, but be reminded that it's run by volunteers and that it's a pain for them if they have to move heavy things. 
  4. DO NOT over do it when you are at the downhill portion (especially at the Marine Drive downhill). Since the biggest downhills are at the beginning of the race, many people love to run these hills super fast. Unless you have a strategy, burning out your thighs so early on is not a good idea.
  5. DO TRAIN for the race, even though a half-marathon is not a marathon, it is still an endurance event. 21.1km is still very long.

If you are looking for information about training for a marathon / half-marathon, please visit my other post: https://vantraveller.blogspot.ca/2018/01/marathon-half-marathon-training-info-if.html



Saturday, January 6, 2018

$2.49 Breakfast with free coffee (IKEA Breakfast)

If you don't like fast food but want something of decent quality and cheap... IKEA is the place to go.  The cafeteria is open 1/2 hour before the store opens (which is around 9:30AM).
Just the traditional breakfast alone was worth the trip. For $2.49, the breakfast comes with scrambled eggs, 2 pieces of chicken sausages, a slice of bread (it is thick), a slice (or two) of tomato and hash browns. There really isn't anything special about the eggs, hashbrown or bread. I thought they tasted pretty average. The only thing that stood out for me was the chicken sausage. It tastes slightly dry (and it looks dry too). I can't help but wonder if the chicken was zombified before it was turned into sausages to look like that. All of that aside, the food itself is not sweet or greasy and the only thing fried is the hashbrowns. Their hashbrowns tasted more baked than fried too (though I am not sure how it is processed). In total for $2.49, this is a very good deal and it's relatively nutritious (in my opinion) so it is definitely worth the trip. To make things sweeter, if you go there in the morning before they open (the first 30 minutes before opening) the coffee is free too.
    Beside the traditional breakfast, they also have things like crepes, assorted buns, yogurt parfait, salad, and more. I didn't really try the other things when I was there because the traditional breakfast was enough for me. However, these are things to look into if the bread, eggs, sausage and tomato is your style. The only interesting thing I noticed with IKEA is that the food tends to take a dull theme for the colours. I am not sure if this is because IKEA doesn't put food colouring into their food (or that the other places I go to does). This is only an observation. 
  

Friday, January 5, 2018

Vancouver's only marathon - the BMO Vancouver Marathon Overview and Experience and why you should run it!

BMO Vancouver Marathon is THE MARATHON to run if you are in Vancouver. We are talking about the 42.195km full marathon (there is also the half-marathon and 8km distances that the race offers, but I've only ever done the full marathon for this event). There are other small marathon distance races around in Vancouver, but nothing matches the amount of organization, effort in planning and the scale of the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Organized by the nonprofit society, Vancouver International Marathon Society, this event brings out the entire community (For those unfamiliar with sponsorships, BMO is the title sponsor of the event, but the event is actually run by a nonprofit organizing group). Points about this event that I love is:
  • World class marathon expo at the Vancouver Convention Center - The marathon expo has always been one of my favourite things about this event. 
  • World class organization - When I mentioned that the entire community is involved, I was not kidding. During the marathon, the city's police and ambulance forces are all connected to the marathon. Every care and detail is put into the race from safety measures to washrooms and more.
  • An add on to the point above.. there's washrooms on course (you have NO IDEA how important that is, try holding your business in for 3 (or in some cases 4+) hours and add on running. 
  • It takes close to 4000 volunteers to make the marathon happen and it's largely volunteer driven.
  • It is rated by Forbes and CNN as one of the most scenic marathons in the world. The course is like 70% by the water and you run in a mix of residential, parkland, city and more. 
The Expo
From the plaza outside, there is a stage where there are performers, activities and flags to welcome people from all over the world. There are usually activities outside as well on the plaza and photo opportunities.  Inside the convention center, there are many exhibitions ranging from running products, nutrition products, other races and travel information. I absolutely love the expo as it's bustling with people, new products and all of that. It gives the running nerd inside of me a nerdgasm.


The full marathon course
The marathon itself have changed over the course of the last 46 years. Originally it was just loops around the Stanley Park Seawall. But now, it goes through many neighborhoods of Vancouver. Often times, the neighborhoods of Vancouver all come out to support the marathon.

The marathon map from the BMO Vancouver Marathon Website

Starting at the Queen Elizabeth Park, there is a slight up hill for the first kilometers and then it is all downhill on Cambie Street (it's a gradual downhill) until 49th Avenue. Cambie Street is big and quite beautiful to run with buildings on the sides. Here you will continue further downhill on 49th Avenue. 49th Avenue is primarily residential areas, and the houses are big. The trees on both sides create a tunnel like feeling to the course.

You will continue on the course until you hit Camosun. This is where the challenge begins. This hill is not exactly that easy to get up to so over the course of a few years, the race has implemented a "hill challenge" where timing mats are placed at the bottom and top of the hill. Runners who are non-elites who races up to the top with the fastest time gets a prize (usually a cheque) - personally, I would take this part easy as I try to go slower at the beginning to reserve my energy reserves.

After the top of the hill you will continue on to West 16th Avenue where there is still a small hill. The left side is Pacific Spirit Park while the right is residential areas. The gel station is up ahead (I highly recommend grabbing some gels here and eating it too so that your energy levels can be replenished). You will continue on to West 16th Avenue until you get to Marine Drive at UBC (where the down hill begins).

Marine Drive is relatively flat at UBC. When you get to the intersection of West 4th and Marine drive is when the massive downhill begins. The views here are gorgeous as you can see the sea and mountains. You will continue to Spanish Banks and all the way to Jericho Beach (slight uphill here) and then on to West 4th Avenue. The course continues on West 4th Avenue until you hit Alma, and then you will continue along 1st Avenue until you are on Cornwall. For many, this is where the real challenge begins. It is roughly 28km into the race and many runners (including me a few times) hit the wall here.

The last hill of the race is here and that is going over the Burrard Street Bridge. There will be lots of people cheering before, during and after the bridge. Once you are past the bridge, you will continue on Pacific Avenue until Stanley Park. Once at Stanley Park, you will follow the seawall all the way around until the finish line in Downtown Vancouver.



TIPS:
  • If you are planning to run the full marathon, do not underestimate it. It does take training and is not something you can just do without knowing what it takes. I've seen people who do not train for the marathon and regretted it during the race (many don't even finish), they underestimate how long 42.195km really is. A good rule of thumb is to have completed a half marathon and a 3-6 month training program before attempting the marathon. Here is a nut-shell edition of how I trained for the marathon: http://vantraveller.blogspot.ca/2018/01/marathon-half-marathon-training-info-if.html
  • Sign-up early! The rates increase closer to the event date. It's easier to plan training and travels (if need be) earlier. Students get a discount of 30%!! ****NOTE: you have to be 19 to run in the marathon. 
    The Marathon provides shuttle buses for those not in Vancouver
    • If you want to be a part of the excitement, but not ready to run a full marathon by yourself yet... try the relay! Grab a team of 4 and take turns to run it. Everyone on the team gets a medal and the experience (without the 42.195km of pain (though it's one of those hate love things)).
    • Nutrition: The race do provide aid stations and gel stations. That said, everyone has a different taste bud and needs. As with any marathon, it's best to check what supplements are provided before running. I would recommend bringing a hydration pack and your own gels anyway. I've ran this race a few times and sometimes I get experimental (like trying a new gel on the course that I've never taken before during training). Let me tell you... that causes a lot of stomach problems and sometimes your body doesn't know how to handle the new gels. 
    • Do be mindful of hydration. Dehydration (and sometimes over hydration - a condition called hyponatrema) is common. So please be mindful of your hydration levels. Stopping at a water station to drink water takes a few seconds.. getting a cramp from dehydration.. that could take you out of the event and possibly send you to the hospital.
    • Take public transit to the startline. Translink and the marathon work together, so there are shuttles. Information can be found on the marathon website and you usually have to indicate if you are using this service during sign up.
    • Pace Bunnies : The race offers pace bunnies (not real bunnies silly, but people who will run holding a stick with a time written on it) to keep you at a constant pace throughout your race. Every bunny have their own strategies but for speeds slower that 3:30 for the marathon, many will do 10-1's (meaning they will run for 10 minutes and walk 1 minute). You don't have to stay with a pace bunny, but they do help you gauge an estimate of what your finish time will be.



    There are all my thoughts for now, I will probably post a Part 2 edition later on. Feel free to let me know what you think so far and if I missed anything. Cheers and happy training <3





    Thursday, January 4, 2018

    What I learned about marathon / half marathon running (after running 80 races)

    When I started running, I was pretty oblivious to many things. When I started, I thought... "all you need is to put on a pair of shoes and run" but I was wrong. I encountered numerous injuries that taught me to become more humble about my body and how to train it. I am not a certified trainer or anything in anyway - yet I made a goal to run 100 races before I turn 25 to raise awareness for health and liver disease. In the next little while, I am going to be sharing information about running in events, tips and discounts. However, I am going to begin my roulette of event information with how I trained for the marathon / half - marathon.

    *Disclaimer - Since this is health related, note that I am not an expert and you should get advice from an expert if that is what you seek. This is information on how I trained for the marathon.

    HOW TO TRAIN FOR IT:
    As with starting any exercise regimen, please consult your doctor before proceeding. There are inherent risks to marathon and distance running.  The two big things about running is (in my opinion): Injury Prevention and safety). This section is about training for a marathon and half-marathon (it's the nutshell edition, depending on time, I might publish a video about each section or a more detailed blog post about it) as each section do require a bit of discussion on each topic. However, here is a brief nutshell of some of the topics related to running.

    A) Books to read: 
    If you are tight on a budget (I was very tight when I started), the most I had was the library... I found some very good books: 
    1.  Hal Higdon's Ultimate Marathon Training Guide - This book is a classic for marathon training. It includes training plans as well as diet plans. It does not go in-depth on physiology, but it does cover the basics. 
    2. Dr. Jordan Metzl's Running Strong - I love this book because it's super colourful and does a brief overview of anatomy and physiology. The core focus of this book is really to help you run injury free. There's a fair bit and emphasis on strength training in this book, but I find that this is very good.
    3. The Big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training - This book is similar to Hal Higdon's Ultimate Marathon Training Guide, it gives you a good training guideline on what your mileages should look like. 
    I will do a posting later about the specific training plans I used to train for a marathon / half-marathon, but in a nutshell they do follow an algorithm where you build up with no more than 10% mileage increase a week and then you would do long runs followed by a taper period where you decrease dramatically in mileage.

    B) Shoes:
    It is a deception that all you need is a pair of shoes. It is slightly more complicated than that. The reason being is that the way our feet moves are different between different individuals. Without getting into too much detail on the anatomy, the movement of your feet when you are moving is called a gait cycle. In gait cycles of some people, pronation (there's two types, under or over can occur). In general, people can either: underpronate, overpronate or neutral). In general, it is beneficial for you to know what type of foot you are. The type of foot you are will help determine what type of shoe you need. Conversely, for the 3 types of feet are 3 types of shoes that are made for that.

       Personally, I have flat feet (and I pronate and when I started, I ran in a pair of discount Nike free-runs I got at the outlet. Free runs are more of a neutral shoe (if you pronate, you need more support so I kept getting shin-splits and stress fractures without knowing why and how I ended up with them). It wasn't until I spoke with people that also run that made me realize it was the problem with my shoes. Here are some good reads/ tips:

    • Visit a running store (specific running stores have people who can help assess your foot type and make a recommendation on what shoe would fit you. After you determine the type of shoe that is for you, your options on what shoes you can get and your price range can be determined. *note - do not buy shoes that are too old (shoes generally have a special adhesive these days, and the adhesive usually oxidizes with time meaning that the impact 
    • Some people need orthotics, this is often more pricier (but can be covered by some insurance if you have them. 
    • Some sites to check out:


    C) Clothes and socks.
       It always makes me cringe to watch people wear cotton and run. I used to be a cotton wearer myself, until I realized that the fabric itself - even though it is great for doing leisurely things, is actually pretty horrendous for endurance sports. The reason is that cotton soaks up sweat and moisture, but it does not release them easily. This causes friction for chafing and also just having moist sweat stuck to your skin for a prolonged period of time is gross and not good for the skin anyway. Mind you, this does not mean you should go out there and search for super expensive workout clothes.
        As a general rule of thumb, avoid cotton and go for either a blend or some sort of polyester. You can get a decent workout clothes for really cheap (I would say $10- $30 is sufficient). I'll do more of a blogpost on this later as we can get super particular on this topic.


    D) Nutrition: 
    Nutrition is VERY IMPORTANT in the grand scheme of running. In a nutshell, your cardio level occurs in zones (and it's different for everyone). The zones determine what type of respiration you are doing and what kind of nutrients are being used. For example, if you are at zone 5, your body will be exercising at maximum and searching for the fastest form of energy (simple sugars). Marathon and Half-Marathong running is about being economical on nutrient usage, and fat burn (zone 3/4) is way more economical as fat cells contain more energy but it's much harder to burn than carbs. Knowing this will help you determine your fat burn and calorie needs. There are books written just on this topic. However, if we had to break down the importance of nutrition, here are some key things I learned:

    • If you eat more than you burn, you will get fat no matter how much you exercise. I know some runners who eat a crazy amount of food (I know I'm a hippocrite as this is a food blog, but some people eat way more than I do) and the rationale for them is that because they run alot, they can eat alot... that is no where near true. 
    • What you eat is super important! Getting those protein, vitamin and carbs in at a balance is important. Depending on your cardio zone, what you burn is different. The general rule of thumb and rationale I have is that getting those proteins and vitamins in helps repair the body after a workout. 

    Cardio Zones (created by the YWCA of Saskatchewan). I chose this because it looks nice and it illustrates my point.


    E) Education pays off in the long run
    I've always been a science and medicine nerd. Always be open to learning more things. There are always new discoveries in sport science that helps us further understand our bodies better. An example is Nike's Breaking 2:00. Those shoes that were worn (and all running shoes in general) actually have teams of engineers working with medical professionals in designing more efficient shoes. The nutrition of the athlete also has dietitians and more medical professionals in helping determine what to eat so that our bodies can operate better. All of this is still an ongoing research, and the only best way to know how to do things better is by learning. You will be surprised at how many people are closed minded (including me sometimes - haha).

    F) Cutting the bullsh*t: There's a lot of people who buy tons and tons of products to assist them with running. This can go from supplements (that are just super high in sugar) to super fancy workout clothes. For example, I've seen people buy tons of gel packs and then eats a ton of them when their runs aren't even that long. These gels contain so much sugar and calories that taking them constantly while the body has no need for that much sugar just piles up as unhealthy weight and money spent. Everything should be relative and I'm not saying products, supplements and gel packs are bad, but just use common sense when

    *I'll post more about this later

    Well that is all for now, I will be posting more later! For more information, sign up for my newsletter at: https://www.mikehsiao.net/mh100news
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