Live Out There Exclusive: Escape your campus: UBC Edition

Even though I currently find myself running away from my sins and sorrows out here on Canada’s east coast, I recently penned an article for Live Out There about all of my favourite west coast running and hiking haunts – in particular the ones I loved as a UBC undergraduate and Masters student.

On a gorgeous fall day, you really can’t beat the Pacific Northwest (although Nova Scotia really is giving it a run for its money, what with is absurdly warm weather and complete dearth of rain).

And while I don’t miss being back in class, I do miss the delirious high of just having completed the Grouse Grind, and the splendour of Lindeman Lake’s aquamarine waters. Which is why I hope to give you all inspiration to get outside – student, or graduate, or both!

School is back in session. You’re sitting in class, staring at the clock, day-dreaming of summer adventures. Stop day-dreaming, we have good news: being back in class doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring!

Here are four different ways that you can escape UBC campus – no matter how much (or little) time you have to spare.

Read on here.

She creates. She is a creator of worlds.

One of my best friends in the entire world just published her first book.


It’s called Pedal.

And all of you should read it.

Because it is brilliant.

Today I sat down and read it in one sitting.

By the time I got to the last ten pages my heart was racing, and my face was flushed.

Upon turning the last page, I could no longer keep in my hot, fat tears – my heart swelling with unbridled happiness, with fierce incredulity, and overwhelming awe.

I first met Chelsea Rooney nine years ago in the fall of 2005 when were both admitted to UBC’s creative writing undergraduate program.

Right away I recognized her to be the most talented writer in our class. I’ll never forget reading her first short story in our fiction seminar. To say that I was blown away is a major understatement. I was so fascinated and moved by her writing that I read the entirety of her first workshopped story over the phone to my mother.

Her mastery of the written word left me galvanized and inspired. She made me want to produce magic of my own.

Besides (or perhaps because of) the beauty and depth of her prose, I was also enthralled with her as a person.

A couple of years my senior, she just seemed so epically cool.

I remember her showing up to class one day with one of the Styrofoam coffee cups from The Deli – a take-out eatery in the basement of the university’s student union building that offered a seemingly arbitrary cornucopia of pseudo-healthy options for the student on the run. Always one to buck the trends, my most frequent purchases at this establishment were hot chocolate and giant chocolate chip cookies.

I had just assumed that she too (along with everyone else in the world) would be drinking Deli hot chocolate. When she laughed gently and corrected me, stating that that she was, in fact, drinking coffee, I quaked.

Of course she would be drinking coffee. She was way too cool to drink hot chocolate.

She also wore long maxi skirts, and mid-drift baring tank tops, and eschewed bras, and make-up, and every time I looked at her I just thought, “I want to be just like her.”

While friends, we never really formally cemented our friendship until we both stayed on at UBC after completing our undergraduate degrees. She, as an MFA candidate in the writing program, and myself as  a political science MA.

We’d eat nachos and drink diet coke every Wednesday afternoon at the campus’ newly erected, and over-priced Irish bar.

We would sit in a corner table and laugh and laugh until our stomachs felt they might rip in two.

Five years on, we still do this.

Both laugh and eat nachos.

Only now we walk more.

And I drink coffee.

If I could tell you one thing (other than to purchase her book) it is that Chelsea has the most beautifully expressive eyes.

They reflect and refract the infinite wisdom and wonder that shape a magnificent human being.

I often find myself getting lost in their splendour, these wise, limpid pools of possibility.

And wonder what story will surface next.


A certain place and time

It’s so crazy to sit down and think about all of the “I was there when…” moments of your life.

In the twenty-nine years that I’ve inhabited this planet, I’ve lived through a couple of these.

For instance, I (obviously) will never forget where I was on 9/11. I woke up to my regular morning DJs talking about the fact that a “small, commuter jet” had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.

I had just entered the kitchen when the second plane hit the second building.

I won’t ever forget the morning of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, the Thai tsunami of 2004, or the Boston bombing attacks of 2013.

I remember Donovan Bailey winning the 100 meter track finals of 1996 like it was yesterday.

I can close my eyes and re-live the relief, shock, and unbearable happiness that surged throughout my tension-wracked body when Sidney Crosby scored the Olympic game-winning goal in 2010.

I (oh so strangely) remember when Kim Campbell beat Jean Charest for the Progressive Conservative Leadership in 1993. I was eight years old, and had stayed up the entire night watching the conclusion of the convention (because obviously I didn’t have parents and Canadian CSPAN was the next best thing.)

I will always recall the intense flood of incredulity and glee when I found out I had been accepted into the UBC creative writing program, or when I was shortlisted for a Rhodes scholarship.

I treasure the heart-bursting joy from every job proposition I’ve ever accepted over the phone.

I remember my first kisses like they were yesterday.

For some very strange reason I remember exactly where I was when I found out that Heath Ledger had passed away. I was in the basement of the UBC student union building, checking my email on one of their truly awful PCs.

These contraptions were held together by nothing more than food crumbs, pizza grease, coffee stains, and sheer will power.

I was using a Yahoo email address back then, and when I signed out I was re-directed back to the site’s landing page. There was his face, a snap of his pre-Batman life, framed by the years of his birth and death.

I recall feeling awkward by just how saddened I was to read this news.

I vividly remember the morning that the United States invaded Iraq. It was the spring of grade twelve and I struggled to make sense of the massive print, splayed across the cover of the Globe and Mail. I can recall thinking to myself that this decision seemed so completely arbitrary and out of the blue. Where in the heck had Iraq – IRAQ? – come from? Weren’t we just talking about Afghanistan?

There are of course moments I wish I didn’t remember: emails sent; words said; secrets betrayed.

These are few, but they cut. Sometimes I’ll be out for a run, and the memory of these moments will hit with such strength that I feel as though all of the breath has been knocked from my body.

Oddly enough, one of my most vivid “world changing” moments is the night that Princess Diana died.

The detail in which I remember this evening is staggering.

August 31. 1997. Sunday night.

Patricia Beckerman was sleeping over. Jessi’s friend Emily was also staying the night.

We’d spent the entire afternoon swimming in our neighbour’s pool. Lois didn’t ever use her backyard, so she loved having us and our friends over for the day. My hands felt like two giant prunes, and I couldn’t stop brushing my fingers tips across my cheeks and nose.

Everything smelled of sunshine and sunscreen.

We’d eaten pizza for super, and my mum even allowed us to drink pop with our ice cream.

We were just about to put on a movie (Anastasia!), but we had to change the TV to channel three in order to press play.

Channel three was CBC, and the news was on.

This was strange as it was not yet ten o’clock. The woman at the news desk was looking so grim. Peter Mansbridge then entered the shot, and he looked like he’d just burst into the studio and clamoured into the nearest suit.

But really, he seemed sad more than anything else.

And then we heard the words.

“Princess Diana has died tonight in Paris.”

And for some reason this news absolutely destroyed me. I didn’t think twice about Diana prior to her passing, but holy crap did the ensuing weeks (and omnipresent media coverage – how apt!) ever throw my pre-pubescent self for a loop.

I bought every Newsweek magazine, cried fat salty tears, and stayed up the entire night through watching her funeral procession.

I was sure I would marry William and help mend his broken, broken heart (while mending mine too in the process.)

To this day it still baffles me why I had the reaction that I did.

But there are some things you just can’t explain.

There are some things you just have to say, “I was there when.”

She’s got legs, and she knows how to use them

Hey kids.

I am currently sitting in bed, eating pasta and drinking a glass of (not great, but not terrible) white wine.


It’s been a complete whirlwind of a weekend – family hangouts, work talks, friends a-plenty, and I even read two books!

Young adult books, mind you. But still – there really is nothing like a good story in which to disappear for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, this (Sunday morning), I ran in the Vancouver Fall Classic 10k.


It was my third time running the race, and just like the two races past, I ran this one with a friend.

(Even if you’re not running the length of the course side by side, just knowing that you have someone there with you always, always makes the experience just that much more fun.)

I woke to my alarm at 6:30am. I had fallen asleep the night before around 11:00pm, and other than one slight interruption to get up and use the bathroom, my sleep was relatively restful, and much better than some of the absolutely brutal sleeps I have had in my racing past.

After cuddling with Marc for a couple of minutes, I tiptoed out of the bedroom and started about my pre-race morning routine.

I had already packed my bag and laid out all my clothing the night before (along with back-up choices, just in case the weather was different that previously predicted.)

It wasn’t – the thermometer read three degrees, and the pavement outside was slick with rain.

Espying these both, I wasn’t going to take any chances, and decided that my long running pants, long sleeved shirt, and t-shirt were my best option.

Then, I brushed my teeth, washed my face, moisturized, put in my contacts, and put my hair into a ponytail.

It’s so weird that these actions have such important meaning for me, but it totally throws me off if I don’t take care to do these things in a particular order.

The only fly in the ointment at this point, was that I had gone to bed the night before with a slight stomach ache, only to wake up with full-blown crampage.

Surprise! As much as I love getting my period (ZERO SARCASM HERE FOLKS), the sensation of my uterus falling out of my body is one that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

However, I’ve also never forgotten the time when my mum told me that the first Canadian woman who summited Mouth Everest did so whilst on her period, so I really feel like I really don’t much of a leg to stand on, complaint-wise.

(Seriously, I remember this SO WELL. I was twelve, and at a track meet, and was competing in high jump. I was feeling totally crappy, and she was all, “AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!”)

True story.

Any who, I then got dressed, went downstairs, made and drank coffee, ate two pieces of toast (one peanut butter, the other Nutella) and hung out with Nymeria, watching British panel shows on Youtube, until 7:50am.

Then I took out the trash, jumped in the car, and drove over to Greg and Daniela’s, where they too were preparing for the morning’s festivities (Greg to run, Daniela to cheer.)

I drove us up to UBC, and we marvelled at how awesome of a day it was turning out to be – not at all the minus four degrees and snowing as stated in the day’s original forecast.


Once we arrived on campus, we parked, grabbed our registration package (our numbers and some sweet new running tights), checked our bags, and then moseyed on over to the start line.

My stomach was still in agony, but I tried to keep it in check by moving about as much as possible.

Timeline-wise, we had calculated everything really well, and we only had about a fifteen minute wait-time, before Greg and I bade our last goodbyes to our wonderful friend (and he, to his wonderful wife) and lined up at the starting line.


These places are always just a terrific mix of nerves, posturing, egos, excitements, and camaraderie.

They truly are the best.

Before we knew it, the time was nigh – as the horn blared, we blasted out of the start gate and took off with the best of them.

The first two kilometers seemed to just whiz by – we were at Marine Drive before I even knew it, and descended to the old, lower road – a beautiful stretch of pavement, flanked on either side by towering, deciduous trees, and just hints of the ocean that stretches far and wide, just off to the right.

At this point there was only one other woman ahead of me that I knew of –  a blindingly fast lady, known only to me as “pink shoes” for reasons, of course, I am confident you can deduce.

It was here that I was caught by two other lady speed demons, and, knowing I was unlikely to keep up, I tried to keep pace with a different fellow in a lime-green shirt, running about three meters ahead of me.

As we summited the hill leading back to Marine Drive, I felt pretty fatigued – my stomach was giving me quite a fright; I am always afraid when running with these sorts of cramps, that I am in fact mistaking them for some other horrible digestive ailment.

But I figured as long as I ran as fast I could, and just got to the finish line, I’d be okay.

Turning around at five kilometers, there was a dude in a giant gorilla costume, and I gave him a cracking high-five.

Running up at UBC is always wonderful, because not only is it beautiful, but the people (mostly students) who come out and line the course are always fun, funny, and incredibly supportive.

I passed Greg as he was running to the turn-around; the guy looked just great – relaxed, happy, and totally in control, and we too exchanged high-fives as we passed each other.

From there, I was just working to get to 8k, telling myself over, and over again how easy those last two kilometers were.

It also helped that as the race continued, the sun came out, and it turned into an almost blindingly beautiful morning.

At the 7km mark, one more lady passed me, and I really started to dig in and try to keep my pace, if not speed up. I didn’t think my dream of a sub-40 was going to come true, but either way there was no reason not to run my absolute hardest for the rest of the race.

Turning into kilometer eight, the wind hit me full blast. I didn’t know if it was a nice respite from the growing warmth of the day, or a pain in the butt just slowing me down.

I decided it wasn’t that important, either way.

Nine kilometers was in sight, and as soon as we turned around to the last straightaway I could feel my legs getting looser, my strides longer, and breathing easier.

I passed two men with whom I had been playing tag with all race, and just ran as hard as I could to the finish.

Daniela was there to cheer me on, and a lovely volunteer handed me a medal.


I immediately joined my friend, and we waiting only a couple minutes longer for Greg to come charging down to the finishing gate.

It was pretty epic to behold.

In the end, he finished in 45:30 (amazing for his first time running a 10k race!), 11th in his age category, and 51st overall.

With a time of 42:15, I finished 4th in my age group (5th woman overall), and placed 30th in total.

Not shabby!

They we showered-up, gorged ourselves on comfort food (see below) and spent the next few hours playing board games, and laughing ourselves silly.

fries and shake

Because what else, besides running, friends, food, and fun, is life all about?

If there is anything better, I want to know.

I run, therefore I am (a Fall Classic)

Running the Fall Classic is always an experience. As the last race of the season, it truly attracts all manner of competitor – from the hard core runner who competes in nothing but teeny, tiny running shorts and (maybe) a tank, to those who have been training all year for – what will be – their very first 10k.

Because of this eclectic mix (and the fact that it’s near always freezing, raining, or winding – or some combination of all three) the day is marked by an atmosphere like no other.

There is a real camaraderie in the air.

I chalk this up to one BIG reason:

The people taking part really want to be there.

I mean, why else would you subject yourself to the late-Fall elements on a Sunday morning in mid-November? Off the cuff, I can think of a few things that may be just a tad more comfortable (and warm, and cozy) than careening about UBC while fat, frigid raindrops spatter your face, and soak your runners.

(Just a couple mind you.)

For me, as much as I love the blanket forest I like to call a bed, I really wanted to end the (running) year on a high note, and knew that taking part in this run was just the ticket.

So come Sunday morning, I picked up the lovely Ms. Alannah (from her own bed of rest), and together we drove into campus.

(Side note: UBC has changed so much since my time there as a student! It was mind blowing to see all the new residential and retail developments that have popped in areas that once were nothing but a home for trees.)

As we neared the student recreational building – where I was to pick up my race bib and shirt – I realized that I had forgotten my wallet at Alannah’s house. Never one to waste an opportunity for a minor spaz attack, I quickly bellowed, “MY WALLET ON NO HOW WILL WE PAY FOR PARKING THE DAY IS OVER!!!1!1!.”

Luckily, my co-pilot, being much saner than I, whipped out her trusty pay-parking app on her smart phone. Before I had a chance to even squeeze out one anxiety-related tear, she had paid for three hours of parking, and had taught me how to top up in case we needed more time.


Then it was off to pick up my gear, check my bag, and head over to Irving K. Barber library (a warm, dry haunt situated right next to the start line) where we got the chance to glimpse the leaders of the half-marathon (they started an hour before us 10kers) as they flew by, finishing their first lap of the course.

Before we knew it, it was already 9:30 and time for us to take off.

Just standing outside for five minutes before the gun went off was enough to put a wee chill into my bones. I was wearing long running pants, a compression shirt, my tough mudder t-shirt, and a toque, but even still, the wind was winding, the rain, raining, and the cold, colding.

I couldn’t count down the seconds fast enough.

It’s always a bit of a mad-dash-gong-show whenever the gun goes off. You’re trying to find your pace, and your place among all the other runners, trying not to clip anyone’s heel, or box someone out.

Again, I felt that my speed was fast, but not uncomfortably so, and I figured I would go just go with the flow – pushing my body, but not to the point of distress.

Speaking of which, the women with whom I ran the majority of the race sounded like a bloody train! I was so worried that she was going to collapse, or burst a lung, what with how hard she was breathing (and from the very outset at that!) Talk about incredibly disquieting and discombobulating. I let her run ahead for most of the course, and then ran past her in the final one kilometer.

I’m not going to pretend as though this didn’t fill be with a little bit of (perverse) happiness.

Heh heh heh…

Anyways, back to the course, as the gods wept overhead, we zigzagged along Marine Drive, enjoyed a few stunning ocean vistas, and cowered in the shadows of the foreboding, but beautiful tree line that decorates much of this stretch of road.

When we turned around at the 5k marker, the wind immediately died and it was at this point that I realized wearing a toque may not have been the brightest idea.

In the words of GOB: I had made a huge mistake.

In order to save my head from exploding due to extreme heat build up, I yanked it off and mashed it into my pants’ pocket. At first this was mega-weird, and I felt a tiny bit conspicuous, what with the giant bulge I was now sporting on the left side of my body, but after about thirty seconds I promptly forgot that it was even there.

Runners zen dear readers.

It will make you forget about anything.

As we snaked back through the university, my stomach began to feel a little queasy, which only served to make me run faster.

My legs were feeling a little stiff, but I tried to power through this (slight) case of lethargy.

Before I even knew it cow bells were being rung in every which direction and I was just powering it with everything I had to get me across that finish line.

It’s been so long since I last ran a 10k (in a race) and after three consecutive half-marathons, I was a little incredulous that the whole thing was already over.

I congratulated my heavy-breathing running mate on a race well run, before heading towards the Student Union Building (or as we affectionately call it, the SUB) to change out of my gear. I phoned M, let him know how the race went, and then returned to the finish line to cheer on Alannah as she completed the course.

Overall, I ran a solid 42 minute race, and was the 13th female to finish (57th overall)

For a rainy, windy, cold, cold day, I couldn’t have asked for anything else.

Although the delicious syrup, and raspberry soaked waffles I inhaled at brunch were a fabulous bonus.