Monthly Archives: September, 2011

Week 38 – the Finish Line is in Sight

Please Donate to Run for the Cure

This week’s weigh-in: 172 lbs

Weight loss to date: 64 lbs

To goal: 2 lbs

Another great end to the week. Thank you for your continued support. We’re at the last kilometre heading to the finish line.

As usual, it was a week of ups and downs and this week has been mostly ups on the weight front. Added 1.5 lbs over the weekend. Ate well Monday, but Tuesday was a friggin’ nightmare, though. It was our first sitting day and the office hosted a reception, to boot. Found out five minutes into my day I was heading to an event with the Speaker that would last well over mid-morning mealtime and I didn’t have time to grab my yougurt and berries. Having had breakfast at 6 am, I was so ravenous by 10 am that I ate … a muffin. That might have been a misdemeanor, but the felony was dinner. Since we were hosting a reception around the time of my afternoon meal, I decided to keep the shake I brought for the next day. Then I got dragged to another reception. Behaved myself food wise there. When they asked me to tag along for reception #3 at the Chinese embassy, I used my need to go to the Apple Store to pick up my repaired MacBook Pro (welcome home, buddy, I missed you) as my excuse to decline. Got home with my computer 8:45 pm and proceeded to put together a proper supper, but not before preparing my meals for the next day. I held off on doing that night’s supper until the end and didn’t eat until well after 9. Eating that late, I might as well have had chicken wings. Another 2 lbs on Wednesday morning. I behaved myself the rest of the week and managed to shed what I gained along with an additional pound.

Weeks like these are frustrating. Despite being a success overall, had I not messed up on earlier this week, I would have crossed the finish line this week. Now it’s not like I’m going reach some arbitrary goal and go back to being the old me, that dude is dead and buried with Jimmy Hoffa, but I’d like to wave the victory flag sooner rather than later.

Despite the end of week success, there still some lessons learned:

  1. I need to keep more portable mini-meals at the office.
  2. When coming home too late to eat a proper dinner, I should also do what I did last week and just eat a protein bar and then bed. Meal making can wait until morning.
  3. I make my worst food choices when ravenously hungry, avoid getting there by passing on alcohol before dinner.

It seems as though crossing the finish line with my trainer at Free Form Fitness is still within reach, but it means behaving very, very well this weekend. I give him a lot of credit for getting me to this point and its my own mistakes that have delayed victory. It is victory delayed, though, not denied. Weeks like this are my Dunkirk and Dieppe, but Overlord is upon us. Like Master Chief, I will finish the fight.

Okay, not exactly in shape to fight off the Covenant, but getting there.

Welcome Twits, Tweeters, or whatever you call yourselves….

I finally bit the bullet and joined Twitter. I used to dismiss it as a tool for self-promoters … only to realize I now had something to promote. I also read that Russell Crowe had joined and was tweeting his workouts as he’s getting in shape for his next film. I figured I can always have an imaginary competition with one of the biggest movie stars on the planet to keep up my motivation. Maximus? More like Minimus!

If you ever read this, Russell, please don’t kick my ass.

My friend Christian has been on Twitter for some time and follows other runners. When he first joined he very quickly found himself followed by what he considered an unsavoury element: Republicans. Specifically, Darth Vader himself, Karl Rove. I, too, found myself followed by a group that I would have thought unlikely to be interested in me: Internet pornstars. For the first time in I think forever, I found myself fighting off the ladies. While the advances of pretty women are always welcome, I know these are just phoney profiles intended to direct me to their for-pay websites. One even direct messaged me to see her profile on a dating website. Which one? Let’s just say Plentyofish it ain’t.

Despite that initial silliness, Twitter has helped draw some new readers to the blog. All are welcome. Hope you enjoy the read.

Run on for a long time

Run for the Cure is this Sunday! With the run, my first 5K clinic ends. I was pretty nervous starting out. It’s one thing to lecture in front of a hundred people on the philosophical foundations of human rights law, but try doing a talk wearing tiny running shorts and skin tight Under Armour! It was small group and we got friendly very quickly. They’re a great group. We’ll keep in touch with the practice run nights.

The next batch of clinics start at the end of the month. If they ask me to teach another one, I’ll jump at the chance. It turned out be pretty fun. The next clinics are geared towards the Resolution Run, a 5K that Running Room puts on across Canada on New Year’s Eve. I haven’t decided where I’ll run it – New Brunswick or Ottawa – because I haven’t settled on my Christmas holiday plans yet. I know I will run it, though.

I figure I have few 5Ks left before I move on up. I’m going to train for the Ottawa Race Weekend half-marathon next year. I’ll take the clinic that starts mid-February with that weekend as the target. It’s a 16 week programme so the training is well-paced. The downside is that I’ll be training mostly in cold weather for what will inevitably be a hot weather run. Since it will be my first half, I’ll set the goals modestly, but will try to be a bit more realistic than I was for my first 5K. Completion alone is not good enough a goal.

This time next year that Army Run jersey will be black. Believe it.



Week 37 – Getting there


Run for the Cure

This week’s weigh-in:  173 lbs

Weight loss to date:  63 lbs

To Goal:  3 lbs

Thanks everyone for their continued support. This is probably going to be a brief post compared to what you’ve come to expect from me. After 2.5 years of service, the logic board on my MacBook Pro blew. It is currently in the trusty hands of an Apple Store Genius. I’ve been sneaking a few minutes at the office here and there and using the iPod app on my Touch. Typing on a 3.5 inch touch screen is a level of Hell that Dante, himself, could not imagine. 

Started the week with a bit up on the weight, which makes today’s weigh-in all the more spectacular.  Seems to happen when I have a race. I’ve come to believe the whole “carbing up” before a race really doesn’t apply to us running short distances like 5K. While I didn’t have that many carbs, two beer the night before the race, I’m sure the gin and sodas the night after the race didn’t help much. As bad as beer is for the carbs, I might as stick with it since I usually suck by 3 gins in those tiny glasses for every beer they nurse. While it takes a couple hundred calories out of my day, it adds about 20-30 dollars to my bar bill.

Speaking of  a race …

Race Report – Canada Army Run

Sunday was the Canada Army Run. I ran the 5 k with my friends and some co-workers. It’s a great event that raises funds for charities that support wounded soldiers and their families. A number of my Running Room 5K clinic participants ran it, too.  Christian of Bald Guy Running ran the half-marathon and you can read his report there.

Speaking of the Running Room, I got to meet my other boss, the CEO of the Running Room, John Stanton, at a store sponsored 3K warm up the day before the race. Really nice man whose own story of fitness is well worth reading.

The boss

On to race day. The start time was an unGodly 8 am. It was a partially overcast, cool fall morning. Ideal race weather. There were 8000 people registered in each event, making it almost as large as Ottawa Race Weekend in May. The course was the same as the May race, the only exception being more water stations which were there more for the half-marathoners starting at 9 than us 5kers.

The 5K Runners

Stuck to my usual game plan of “10 and 1 until done”. Ran to Playlist 2, again. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. With any run this large, the mass start was like the running of bulls in Pampalona, Spain, except we runners were the bulls. It still amazes me that walkers think it’s actually a good idea to register for the higher corales.

That complaint aside, the crowd opened up when we turned onto Colonel By Dr. and gave me an opportunity to get some passing on before my first 1o minute interval ended. The 10 and 1 method is like when you drive long distances on the highway, you pass a bunch of cars, stop for gas/coffee/bathroom, get back on the highway and start by passing the same cars again. 

Among the runners were many wounded soldiers from our mission in Afghanistan, including some double amputees. Seeing them run and walk, I couldn’t help but cheer them on, myself, as I ran. Whenever I want to complain about some ache or pain, I’ll think of one particular soldier walking with two artificial limbs and surrounded by a phalanx of his unit buddies and suck it up.  I also saw some half-marathoners running in the MOPP suits they use to protect against chemical weapons and one fireman in full suit.  There’s a level of dedication that amazes me.

I had an awesome race.  My results were a personal best of 27:25. Out of 7354 finishers, I placed 1627th, within the top 25%.


Mmm. Gin. Tastes like victory.

Compare that with my first 5 K time earlier this year: 32:35 finish, placed 4321/7439.  Pretty damn good season.

So far

I still have some 5Ks left in me, though. Run for the Cure is October 2nd and I will probably run the Resolution Run on December 31st.  I just haven’t decided if I’m going to do it here in Ottawa or back in New Brunswick.

I’m setting a new running goal.  I’m going to take the half-marathon clinic at the running room over the winter to train for the Ottawa Race Weekend half marathon.  That’s right, I’m graduating to halfs.

I’m almost done with Free Form Fitness. I have another four sessions left and that is it. I can’t deny my trainer has been very effective for me and I certainly would not have gotten this far without him. It’s simply a matter of cost. I can’t afford another block of sessions.  I hope I can shed these last few pounds before I finish with them. Otherwise, I will be crossing the finish line without them. Regardless, I will not be crossing it alone. I know you’ll be there at the end cheering me on like you have since the beginning.


Week 36 – This one’s for the ladies

Donate: Run for the Cure

This week’s weigh-in: 175 lbs

Weight loss to date: 61 lbs

To goal: 5 lbs

Thank you.  It’s been another great week.  Feels great to be back to 175 lbs. With a couple of weeks left of my sessions, the finish line is within reach.  The challenge will be to stay on course and not slack off.  As always,  I know you’ll be in my corner.  I certainly wouldn’t be here without you.

I wouldn’t be here without a lot of people.

I’ve written about some of my male role models and friends in previous posts.  I figure it’s time I wrote about some of the women in my life.

Two in particular:

My grandmother, Nan Read, and mother, Helen Read.

(Well, three actually.  I don’t have a picture of my maternal grandmother in a digital format.)

You’ll remember Nan from my post for my entry for Run for the Cure.  Yes, I will be linking to my donation page every time I mention Run for the Cure.  Nan is a breast cancer survivor.  Helen’s mother, Ellen (Grammie) MacEachern, did not survive.  Both my grandmothers had breast cancer.  On top of that, my paternal grandfather, Tom Read Sr., died of lung cancer.

Three out of four of my grandparents have had cancer.  Only in Sydney. Must be something in the water … and the air … and the topsoil.

Posting about Run for the Cure earlier this week started me thinking about the influence of the women in my life.  I was particularly thinking about my family.  I used to use the history of cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes in my family as an excuse to not lose weight.  I’m genetically cursed, so why bother? Have fun now.  Suffer later.

A woman convinced me otherwise.  More on that in a later post.

While I may have used my family in the past as an excuse for my complacency, now its my excuse for going forward.  Both my grandmothers were women of their generation, the so-called “greatest generation”.  Born just after the First World War, grew up through the Great Depression, and raised their kids alone while their husbands went off to war.  (Nan was a little lucky on the last point.  My grandfather Tom was assigned to civil defence and was based out of Sydney, so they got to see each other fairly regularly.)

They also raised families three to four times the size of the average family today.  That takes a certain amount of stamina.  I’m sure Mom and Dad were perfect angels to their parents and it was just their brothers and sisters that were utter brats.

Yeah, right.

Nan was born Dionysus Poirier in the Plateau, just outside Cheticamp.  Acadians have this habit of occasionally using ancient Roman names for their kids.  They moved to Glace Bay where her father and brothers worked the No. 11 colliery.  There she met Tom Read.  It was a controversial relationship from the start.  She was a Catholic and he was an Anglican.  That counted as a mixed marriage in Depression-era Cape Breton.  To escape the scorn of their relatives, they moved to the thriving metropolis of Sydney to marry and raise a family.

It wasn’t just marrying a “prod” (Protestant) that made Nan a rebel.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1973, just after my parents became engaged.  Not wanting to distract from the festivities, she quietly had a mastectomy to remove the tumour.  She was also into new age-y stuff like yoga and vegetarianism in the 70s, decades before it was trendy.

She would be similarly stoic in facing her husband’s cancer several years later.  Dad once told me he visited once towards the end to find that Nan hadn’t eaten in days because the very smell of food made my grandfather sick.  Back then the palliative care unit at a hospital might have been one bed in a dimly lit, window-less room.

Yes,  I know that pretty much describes every hospital room in the 1970s.  Yet faced with that for her husband’s final days, she chose her own discomfort so he could stay in their home a little longer.

Nan’s a tough bugger.  She turned 95 this year.  Anyone who makes it to 95 is doing something right.  It was just in the past year she finally relented and moved into a nursing home.  It’s been a tough adjustment.  When I first visited her there last year, she seemed under the impression it was temporary while she healed up from hip replacement #2.

That’s right, hip replacement #2.

Coffee buddies, July 2011

She’s since accepted it and is enjoying it more.  My aunts try to bring her out to the family bungalow in Ben Eoin as much as they can, which makes her happy.  When we had an end of summer dinner last month, we had our campfire early so she could partake.

Last Ben Eoin campfire of 2011

Where Nan was the paragon of Acadian stoicism, Grammie MacEachern was the paragon of Scottish stoicism.  Born Ellen Kyte and raised on a farm in East Bay, overlooking the Bras D’or Lakes.  Billionaires lust for the view my grandmother grew up with.  She would marry her childhood sweetheart, Donald MacEachern, and move to the shipyard district of Sydney where he took up carpentry.  Donald would be conscripted and sent overseas, leaving her with two boys to care for until he came home.  My grandfather was also a severe asthma sufferer.  Not a good condition to have when you spend your work day around sawdust.  They read last rites to him on more than one occasion while my parents dated.  He would actually outlive his wife.

She would be diagnosed with breast cancer and it would be his turn to take care of her.  She spent the last couple of years of her life in and out of hospital for treatment.  Since we were so young, the grandkids were sheltered from the full extent of the situation.  Like a proper Scot, Mom doesn’t exactly talk about it, either, so forgive me if I’m scant on the details.

She’s been gone a little over 20 years now.  I remember her wry smile, her lilting accent.  When we got sick, she would often take care of us while our parents went off to work.

You couldn’t ask for better grandmothers.

Now for Helen or, as I call her, Mom. Frankly, I’m not sure where to begin.  Like any mother-son relationship, it’s been rough on occasion.  With the passage of time, I can recognize that she always had my best interests at heart.

She gave up a lot with our move to Fredericton.  Her mother had passed away the year before and the prospect of the oldest daughter leaving town was going over like a fart in church.  With the healthcare cutbacks in the early-90s, there was no guarantee she would be able to practice her trade as an ultrasound technician when we moved.  Despite all this, she relented so her husband could advance in his career and her kids could live in a cleaner, safer city. (It didn’t help that the homicide rate in Sydney was at all time high that year which included a triple homicide at the Sydney River McDonald’s).

She’s been one of my greatest supporters in everything I do.  She doesn’t tell me she’s proud of me.  She doesn’t have to.  She shows me.

Me and Mom, CUA Commencement, Washington, DC, May 2011

Living in another city from my family, we keep in touch with Skype.  Better than the phone, but still a poor substitute for real contact.  Every time we’ve met since I started this journey, she started crying.  Before I met up her and Dad in DC for commencement in May, Dad wondered aloud if they’d even recognize me.  Mom replied, “He’s my son.  I’ll know.”

When I pulled into the bungalow in Ben Eoin in July, I saw the hand head to the eyes to wipe away a tear.

I’ve never been so proud to make my Mom cry.


Donate: Run for the Cure

Running for a cause – a cure.

Frequent readers will know I’ve developed a love of running.  Many of the races I go on are fundraisers for a cause.

I have one coming up that supports a cause that I care deeply about:  breast cancer research.  Cancer had touched my family several times.  Both of my grandmothers have suffered from breast cancer, in particular.

My paternal grandmother, Nan Read, was diagnosed just before my parents were married in 1974.  She turned 95 this year.

Nan Read, 95 years young

My maternal grandmother, Ellen MacEachern wasn’t so lucky. She passed away after a long struggle with breast cancer when I was in my early teens.

It is in Grammie MacEachern’s memory and the memories of Nan Read yet to be made that I will be running in the Ottawa-Gatineau Run for the Cure.

My goal is to raise to $2000.00.  Support me by clicking the link above so kids, present and future, get to grow up with both their grandmothers.


Week 35 – Lessons not learned

This week’s weigh-in: 178 lbs

Weight loss to date: 58 lbs

To Goal: 8 lbs

Ugh.  Another post vacation weight gain.  As the song says, “Mother told me there’d be days like this.”

It could have been worse.  My first weigh-in on Wednesday was 180 lbs.  The same yesterday.

The difference is the shoes.  Waiting for me upon my return from vacation were the New Balance Stabilicores that I ordered from the Running Room.  They’re a good shoe, but I figured out pretty quickly that what makes them a more stable shoe also makes them a heavier shoe.  I wore my old Brooks today and that made the difference.

I have to admit to being a bit frustrated with myself.  Yes, I cheated at the beginning of the vacation. Thirty-six glorious hours of old haunts and old treats.  The major difference was new patterns.  The biggest difference was the Boyce Farmer’s Market.  Any friends who have spent time in the City of Stately Elms will know the Market is social centre of Fredericton.  More than any other place, that’s where you go to run into everyone.

Old, fat Michael would roll out of bed around 11, head down, spend about 90 minutes there.  My  food haul would consist of:

  • Kurt’s Hot Italian Sausage on a bun
  • French Italian Roast coffee from Whitney Coffee company
  • 6 hot beef samosas from Samosa Delight
  • Beef donair from Pano’s
  • 4 steak on a stick from Kang’s

I wouldn’t eat all this at once, but the sausage, steak,and donair would be eaten within a couple of hours of each other.  The samosas would most likely be consumed as a post-bar late night snack.

This time was different.  I woke up early by my old standards, 7 am.  By my new standard, 7 am is now sleeping in.  I was there by 7:30 and had my sausage.  Hung out at the coffee stand for an hour or so, before moseying about to see who else I could run into.  Ran into a few friends and acquaintances.  It was good to see them.  Bought the rest of my haul.  I had the steak three hours later.  The donair three hours after that.  The samosas were divided into mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks over the next couple of days.

As Saturday became Sunday, the cheat spree ended.  Good-bye bread and simple starches.  See you in few weeks … or months … or maybe never.  In many ways, the trip to the Market was like the backslide of romance that had run its course.  I’ve used the Casablanca analogy in a previous post.  This time, I was Ilsa and the Market was Casablanca, itself.  Don’t bother asking who Victor Lazlo is; the role hasn’t been cast.  As the clock hit midnight, though, I was like the proverbial Cinderella, home from one last visit to Wilser’s Room and off to bed to get up for my Sunday practice run.

Yes, I kept up with my running while away.  Despite the rain from Hurricane Irene, I ran with the Fredericton Running Room.  Their 5K clinic had just started, so it was a circuit of 5 and 1 times four.  Their instructor challenged her one student that braved the weather to add an extra interval.  She rose to the challenge.  I told her my own story and it seemed to motivate her to push on when she didn’t have to.

It was great to run in my hometown.  The city has paved the trail along the Green and many of the walking trails along the river since I left. I know a lot of runners don’t like this.  If I ran when I lived in Freddy Beach full-time, I would probably be with them.  I’m sure the city has its reasons, but seems like typical Ottawa-envy on the part of parks and recreation.  It even has a stripe to divide the lanes like along the Rideau Canal.

Yeah, I actually coined the term “Ottawa-envy”.  Fredericton is probably the one provincial capital that seems to want to do everything Ottawa does.  Every other capital has its own thing.  Some things Fredericton does better, like a blues festival which actually has blues acts as headliners.  Some things it does simply because Ottawa does it, like a capital commission (really? we needed that? good riddance.).  I’ll reserve judgement on paving the trails.

My runs in Cape Breton were on the gravel shoulder of the Route 4 highway where the family summer homestead lies.  Hills.  Lots of hills.  There’s a reason the province’s name translate directly from Latin to “New Scotland”.  The Read/Coleman/Gardner homestead is in a relatively low part of the highway that is surrounded by hills on all sides.  In fact, the area’s name “Ben Eoin” is Gaelic for “Ben’s Mountain”.  When you get to the plateau of one hill, you are greeted with … another hill.  Time wise, doing three 10 and 1 intervals I was still over 5 k each time and around 5:45/km.

Food wise, I mostly behaved post-cheat spree.  There were a couple of bad moves, but probably no more than had I been in Ottawa.  I did learn the lessons of the last couple of trips and prepared properly.  I drove to and from Cape Breton with nutrition plan friendly mid-morning and mid-afternoon meals.  I still had to stop for lunch, though.  I stopped each time at the Masstown Market where I got a lobster roll and chowder.  Both times, I didn’t eat the actual roll, just the lobster, and made my best effort to avoid the potatoes in the chowder, which were rather few. When served a meal where the only thing on the plate I could eat was the meat, I ate the meat. Drinking was typically gin and soda or white wine with the occasional gin gimlet or scotch thrown in the mix.  That’s right, I was in Nova Scotia and did not drink the local tap water, affectionately known as Alexander Keiths.

The lesson I didn’t learn was to be prepared for my return to Ottawa.  Could I be bothered to swing by Loblaws on the way home one night before I left to get some frozen veggies for when I got back? Nope.  Now that it’s open 24/7, I’m out of excuses. I came home again to fridge full of spoiled vegetables.  I’ve been playing catch up all week, getting just enough to get by until I get a decent grocery order in on the weekend.  I pretty much need everything.  In the interim, I’ve been picking up dinner at either Loblaws or Freshii on the way home everynight this week.  Healthy meals, but I could have made similar for less if I was better prepared.  This also caused me to over do it on a few mid-meals, such as having yogurt and berries when it called for meat and veggies because that is what I had in the fridge.   I might have been able to shed more weight than just a change of shoes if I returned to an apartment properly stocked.

I’m going to need to learn this lesson if I’m going to make it to the finish line and stay there.


PS – since the lack of Internet in Ben Eoin meant no post last week, here’s a Doctor Who running montage as a treat.