Monthly Archives: October, 2011

Week 42 – On heroes

There are some weeks I love my job.  This was one of them.

I got to meet one of my heroes.

25th Anniversary of the Man in Motion Tour Reception

That’s right.  Rick Hansen.

For my non-Canadian readers, Rick Hansen was a teenager when he was thrown from the back of a pick-up truck and paralyzed from the waist down.  Despite his paralysis, he stayed involved in sports and eventually became the first person to graduate University of British Columbia with a degree in physical education.  Inspired by another great Canadian, Terry Fox, who ran across Canada to raise awareness and funds for cancer research, Rick started the Man in Motion Tour.  He pushed himself in that wheelchair around the world to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries.  This week on Parliament Hill, we held a reception for the 25th anniversary of that tour.

I can remember getting roused at some unGodly hour when I was nine years old to see Rick push himself off the Newfoundland Ferry in North Sydney.  I was stunned that this guy was planning to push himself around the world.  I couldn’t understand how an able-bodied person could even think of doing that, let alone someone confined to a wheelchair.  As Rick would show us time and time again, being in a wheelchair wasn’t necessarily a confinement.  For those fans of 80’s Brat Pack flicks, David Foster’s theme from St. Elmo’s Fire was inspired by Hansen’s journey (if you click the link there’s a related video interview with David Foster explaining). That song was everywhere on the airwaves in Canada

As I started on my own journey, Rick Hansen was a constant inspiration.  When I was dragging my arse out of bed for a 6 am workout, I would just say to myself, usually in my nagging mother’s voice (sorry, Ma), “Rick Hansen pushed himself around the world.  You can make your appointment with your trainer.” When I didn’t thing I could lift another weight, I’d hear the voice saying, “Rick Hansen…” You get the idea.

Now the weird thing about this photo, he’s thanking me.  When I told him I worked for the Speaker, he thanked me for putting on the event.  The truth is, I was only minimally involved in this event.  I tweaked my boss’ speaking notes. That was pretty much it.  I thanked him for everything he’s done for spinal cord research, but I couldn’t get over the fact that one of my heroes was thanking me.

I have to admit that I didn’t have a lot of real life heroes growing up.  In the 1980s, it seemed like pretty much every athlete was on some kind of drug.  I was never the starstuck type, either. I remember being a caddy at a celebrity golf tournament and not giving a whit if I got to caddy for Mike McPhee or Tommy Hunter or …. I was there for the money.

(BTW, I hate golf.  Just a brief aside.  Mark Twain said it ruined a good walk in the woods.  I agree with him on that point.   Now that I got that off my chest, back to our post.)

Rick Hansen was different.  He wasn’t a professional athelete, so he wasn’t in it for the money.  He wasn’t even in it for himself.  He was doing it to raise awareness and money to help others in his situation.  That struck a chord that stays with me to this day.  I would tune into the news everyday during the Man in Motion tour to see where he was.  In an era before the World Wide Web, Facebook status updates, or tweets, the nightly news was the only way to keep up with his journey. 

That David Foster-penned John Parr song remains stuck in my head 25 years later.   Last year, when he wheeled the Olympic flame into the stadium in Vancouver for the opening ceremonies in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, I jumped out of my chair and cheered.  Almost lost my laptop in the process (the Olympics dovetailed my last big push to finish my doctoral dissertation so many an event was spent with one eye on the laptop and one eye on the TV), but my sturdy MacBook Pro survived that and many more falls over the next two weeks, usually corresponding to a Team Canada goal in hockey (the women’s 14 goal route of Italy was particularly rough).

Losing 66lbs has been one of the biggest accomplishments in my short life thus far, but it’s not like I wheeled around the world.  There’s more journey ahead.



Week 41 – A Tale of Two Grecos

Thanks for all the kind words the last couple of weeks since I’ve reached my target weight. I won’t be posting my weekly weigh-ins anymore. Now that I’ve reached my weight goal, I’m getting less scale obsessive. I still get on it a couple times a week, but the fluctuations on way or the other are rather miniscule.

Last week was the perfect storm of indulgence: thanksgiving and two birthdays (mine and a friends). I was between training programs, so I used that as an excuse to have a few things on my birthday I hadn’t had much of this year: fish and chips and beer. Saturday, there was a post glow-bowling pizza run. I regret nothing. To be honest, it was off night for the cooks at the Highlander, the Scottish pub in Ottawa where I traditionally have my birthday, and my fish and chips were at best, mediocre. The medium pizza was originally meant to be split between myself and a couple of friends, but in our inebriated state we kind of forgot our designated driver telling us to get a couple of smalls because she, and therefore her husband couldn’t stay. Since I paid for the one pizza we had, it was mine for the keeping. I had about half and tossed the rest in the morning. Woke up so dehydrated from the beer and the salt of the processed meats on the pizza, any momentary pleasure of that evening was erased by morning’s reality. Sort of like a one stand of another sort.

In the end, giving in to temptation was actually helpful. Since I indulged and was ultimately disappointed, the temptation won’t be returning anytime soon. Now, instead of staring at those menu items longingly, I’ll move on to a healthy option.

I was back on the wagon as of Sunday. I was starting a new meal plan and workout program. Free Form Fitness was great and got me to my goal, but it was bloody expensive. As I was finishing there, there was a special announced for Hill staff at the new Greco location on Sparks St. for their Lean and Fit program.

That’s right, I said, “Greco”. For us East Coast Canadians, Greco is the purveyor of pizza and donairs. There’s actually one of those Grecos in Ottawa, too, a Greco Express out on Carp Rd. way out in the boonies. Here’s their menu. Since I have a conflict of interest (my cousin’s husband works for their marketing department), I’m going to withhold judgement other than to say “Lean and Fit” are not words one normally associates with the East Coast’s Greco.

Here in Ottawa, Greco refers to Tony Greco, the proprietor of a local chain of fitness and personal training studios. He’s trained some local celebs like Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood. Maybe I should say, former local celebrities. The Lean and Fit program I enrolled in is different from the personal training I got at Free Form. There’s more flexibility and choice in the nutrition plan. It gives us lists of proteins, carbs, and fats and ranks them from favourable to unfavourable so we can educate ourselves in our food choices.

The exercise is also done in “classes”. The trainers set up circuits for multiple participants to work through, but, since I’m normally the only one there for the early morning classes, it might as well be personal training. The exercise circuits are pretty gruelling, yet fun. There’s a lot more attention paid to the core, which I like. The weight circuits at Free Form were designed to drop the mounds of fat all over my body but the exercises concentrated on legs, arms, chest, and shoulders. While I finished with them with those areas well developed, the core is still quite loose. I think this program will help get rid of the last remnants of the spare tire, which is now more like a spare training wheel.

The repleneshing of the wardrobe continues. I’m pretty much stocked up on business wear, although I could probably use a few more shirts. I succumbed to temptation last night and bought one last suit. They were 40% off at the Bay and I still need a simple black suit. Noticed when I was trying on a size 40 it was a little roomy. So I tried on a 38. It fit so much better. May be a style difference – I’ve been specifically choosing slim fit suits lately – but, screw it, I’m down another size!

The main reason I was at the Bay last night was actually to get some casual clothes. That compenent of the wardrobe has been particularly decimated and yet to be replenished. I currently have in equal measure business wear and athletic gear with nothing in between. Some of the business wear is business casual, but more business than casual. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t wear it around a campfire. I wanted to get a pair of jeans. Now that I don’t have to just buy the baggy styles, I find myself divided between style and utility. I want my jeans to comfortable like sweatpants. At the same time, now that I can fit into the fancy stuff, I’d like to show off the results of my labours. In the end, one from each category and a couple of shirts.

I’m teaching another 5K clinic for the Running Room. It starts next Friday, October 28th, and the target run is the Resolution Run. It’ll probably be the last clinic I teach for a while. I’m going to shift gears next year and train for the half marathon. The clinic that targets the Ottawa Race Weekend, excuse me, Tamarack Homes Ottawa Race Weekend begins in mid-February, which would be about three-quarters the way through a the 5K clinic that begins in January. Looking forward to meeting my new class.


Week 40 – Victory Lap

First, some apologies. I remained relatively silent on the ol’ social networks last week and when I was on, I was lying through my teeth (or fingers since it was in the written word) of my status or whereabouts. The reason last week’s post was in the middle of the week had little to do with reaching my weight goal (though that seemed as good an excuse as any) and more to do with the reason I wouldn’t be around on Friday. I was driving to New Brunswick to surprise my mother for her 60th birthday. A little hard to write and post while driving a Dodge Charger in the middle of Nowheresville, Quebec.

Fellow Whovians will remember the first rule: the Doctor lies.

And lie I did. Especially when I let it slip that I would be in New Brunswick on the weekend. I would recover by saying “New Brunswick? I meant New York. I was going shopping in upstate New York for their Columbus Day sales. You know I don’t have clothes that fit me anymore. I would have to leave New York at 4 to make that appointment. Freudian slip, I guess. You now where I want to be this weekend.” Matt Smith and David Tennant would have been proud.

Mom was none the wiser and genuinely surprised when I showed up at the front door Saturday night. My sister, in on the surprise, sent me a BBM from the party: “Mom’s telling everyone how you’re going to Syracuse.”

Thanks to those that helped keep my cover.

I think I finally learned the lessons from previous trips and did well on the nutrition side of things. Did have a Subway sandwich for the first time this year as lunch, but the lunch options where I stopped at Port Jolie were a Subway, Normadin, or Tim Horton’s. Normadin had a rather long line to be seated and I don’t like the sandwiches at Timmies’ since they stopped serving roast beef. Subway was the least bad option. Just a small steak and cheese on 9 grain bread. Managed to almost get through the whole order in my weak conversational French until a combination of being low on energy and a very fast-talking cashier forced a “Huh?” out of me. “For here or to go, Sir?” It’s time I can go a little easier on my food choices without considering that I have fallen off the wagon.

It was Thanksgiving this weekend in Canada. For any US readers, the celebration of Thanksgiving in October as a commemoration of Martin Frobisher’s 1578 exhibition to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage made for a great laugh on How I Met Your Mother, but isn’t exactly true. The voyage is listed in Wikipedia, though, as part of the history of the holiday, so it must be true. I’m told Star Wars is a true story, too. We have a shorter growing season here in the north, so the harvest is earlier and therefore we made our statutory celebration of the harvest earlier. Every few years or so, it lands on my birthday. One year it landed on my 19th birthday. Back then every bar in the city was closed on statutory holidays. No free drinks on my first day of legal drinking for me 😦

Thanksgiving dinner meant a few deviations from the nutrition plan. Since I finished with Free Form Fitness, I’m not following their plan as strictly anymore. Don’t worry, I haven’t fallen off the wagon. Although if you ran into me a the Boyce Farmer’s Market on Saturday you couldn’t be blamed for assuming otherwise. Once again, I indulged in old habits, but in my new ways.

I had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. For the first time in my adult years, I’m truly fit and healthy. I’m wearing clothes in sizes I haven’t worn since junior high. People I’ve known for years don’t recognize me. It’s fun to see the reactions of people when they clue in. Sometimes its even helpful when an old associate doesn’t recognize me.

I’m mostly thankful to my family and friends for their support during this journey. I certainly wouldn’t be here without them. There are two kinds of friends one keeps around: those that are good to you and those that are good for you. I’ve come to learn recently that just because one is the former does not necessarily mean they are the latter. Those that are the latter will likely include characteristics of the former. A friend that is good to you is not necessarily bad for you, but may be more reinforcing of your baser instincts. A friend that is good for you helps you become a better person. They see in you what you cannot see in yourself.

I am thankful that I have more of the latter than the former. The decision to go on this journey was by no means a natural one for me. I was quite content the way I was. Looking back, I was the proverbial pig living in the mud, content because it was all I knew. That self-deprecating sense of humour I mentioned in previous posts? A mere smokescreen in place of true self-esteem.

There’s quite a few I should name, so forgive me if this drones off like an Oscar speech. If I forget to name you before the orchestra plays me out, I’ll make up for it when next we meet in person. Since starting this journey and writing about it on Facebook and now WordPress and Twitter, I have received hundreds, maybe thousands, of comments. Your support has been instrumental in my success. Like the cheering section in the last kilometre of a race, your words of support have kept me going.

There’s a few friends out there who have been great examples as what one can achieve when one puts in the effort. Friends like Christina and Meghann, who I knew in high school or as undergrads, lost touch with only to be reunited over Facebook. Seeing how they transformed themselves made me realize when I started this that I could do it, too.

Very early on in this journey one of my best friends, Christian, he of Bald Guy Running and now Insightfully Bald, convinced me to train for the 5K for Ottawa Race Weekend. He was going to slum it with the 5k (he previously did the half marathon for that event) to support his wife, Ramona. I’ve joked that he got me drunk one night and signed me up to the cult of the runner. The truth of the matter, though, is I thought completing a race would be a good intermediate goal. I was supposed to do cardio on my days I wasn’t working out with my trainer, so why not put that activity in the context of a goal that would serve my ultimate goals? He convinced me. I, in turn, talked our friend Michael Clements into doing it, too. Frequent readers will recall that I didn’t know that until he surprised me by showing up on race day with a bib.

Christian, channelling his inner Fred Durst before the Army Run. Next year, we're running the half-marathon together.

The 5k dare lead me to the Running Room for my first clinic, the Learn-to-Run 5K. After I completed that clinic, I was asked to be group leader for a combined 5k/10k clinic and, after that, asked to instruct a 5k clinic. Not bad for a guy who bought his first running shoes in February.

The person who really got the ball rolling though is my friend Vicky. She was the catalyst, the lynchpin that allowed all the ingredients to come together to make this happen, the lever that pried the immovable boulder to roll down down the mountain. Over dinner last December, just before our Christmas holidays, it was Vicky that suggested Free Form. I had just told her about my drop in suit size. She told me she was planning on trying it and suggested I check it out, too. It would further our friendship. Beginning a pattern that would recur throughout this journey, making life choices over food and drink, I said, “sure”. The rest is history.

Getting ready for the Army Run.

I’ve relied on Vicky a lot in this journey. She’s been there for most of the major milestones. She saw me off at the start line for Ottawa Race Weekend. We ran together for the Army Run. She even took me shopping for my first batch of new clothes to get me through the spring sitting. She was pretty astonished to find out not only pretty much everything I owned came from Moore’s, but I hadn’t even stepped foot in most of the stores in the Rideau Centre that didn’t have the word “apple” or “gamestop” in it’s name. I didn’t even know some of these stores actually sold men’s clothes.

The only time she judged me is when I tried something on that looked truly awful. Yes, I tried on some stuff that was truly awful. Not Herb Tarlek awful, but awful nonetheless. Thankfully, she has laughed with me instead of wretching at the utter ghastliness of my sense of modern fashion. I’ve appreciated her honesty, because this stuff isn’t cheap.

Everyone should find themselves a Christian and a Vicky. The funny thing is neither of them told me I should lose weight. They asked me to join them on their journeys. While I’ve written about my own journey, theirs are no less important to me.

You may have noticed a lot, and I mean a lot, of Doctor Who references in my blog posts. Pretty obvious it’s my favourite science fiction show, isn’t it. For those not familiar with the longest running TV show in the history of the medium, the Doctor is a Time Lord, a time traveller, who goes about time and space in ship that looks like a British police box. He frequently has a human companion, our entree into his world. The recurring theme of the show is being “bigger on the inside”. He crashes, always crashing, rarely landing smoothly, takes on a companion or two, makes them better over the course of a season or two and then leaves them behind to seek their own destiny.

I always thought I was the Doctor in my friends’ lives. Seems like I’ve come and gone just as frequently the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, DC is great, but it’s no Gallifrey. I can prattle incessantly. Sartorial choices come from a different era. Even have a piece of paper conferring the title of Doctor, just not the kind that actually helps people. Turns out, however, I was the companion. They made me bigger on the inside, or smaller on the outside, or … See what I was saying before about prattle?

They saw in me what I couldn’t see for myself: the man I could be. It just took me 9.5 months to dig that man out and see him for myself. I like him and can’t wait to see more of him.

I hear the orchestra playing, so I will close by saying I have the best best friends in the world. While I gave thanks to them, all of them, this Thanksgiving, I will never be able to truly repay this debt of gratitude. I can only hope to be as supportive for them in their journeys as they were in mine.


Week 39 – the end of the road….well, not really

This week’s weigh-in:  170 lbs 

Weight loss to date:  66 lbs

To goal: 0 lbs

Just wanted to do a quick post to let you in on the news:  I’ve reached my goal weight.

I have so many people to thank.  I’ll talk about them in my next post.

It’s Wednesday, which means Running Room practice run night.  When it’s a sitting day in the Senate, I use the locker room at our gym to change and leave my stuff.  When I came back to throw my suit on, I couldn’t help but hop on the scale.  I wasn’t expecting much.  I didn’t shed any weight over the weekend and it was also the evening, meaning there was food in my belly from the day’s meals that had yet to be fully digested.  I even had a couple of pre-run hors d’oerves at a retirement reception for now former Senator Bill Rompkey.  I was looking more to assess the mid-week damage I had done.

The results floored me.  I slid the scale to 175, which proved to be too much.  I nudged the slider pound by pound until it was balanced.


I read it.

I wept.

Thank God there was no one in the locker room.  They would have seen a grown man cry.   I couldn’t help it.  A sudden flood of emotion came over me. I just kept thinking of everything that’s happened over this entire journey, the highs and the lows.  In this case, the weight lows outnumbered the highs and the emotional highs outnumbered the lows.

#Winning. Tiger Blood. Adonis DNA. Oh wait, Charlie Sheen references are so last April.  Leave it me to beat a dead horse.

Unlike a certain former US President (btw, miss him yet?), I’m not running up the “Mission Accomplished” banner just yet.  Yes, major combat operations have ended, but there is still an insurgency to be suppressed and a society to be rebuilt.  I have a post-war plan.

The road had ended. Not with some glorious final destination, but with an intersection.  Like the hills I ran in Ben Eoin, I get to the top the hill to find … another hill.  I’ll keep blogging about the road I chose.

But first, permit me a victory lap.

Those pants from the size 52 suit again.


Read the labels and do the math

I figured this tale was too good to save until my usual Friday post.

Like almost everyone else on a weight loss program, I take supplements. For my program, it’s supplements like fish oil and multi-vitamins. As Sheldon Cooper put it:

For the most part, harmless.

For the most part.

Shortly after hitting “publish” on this week’s blog, I learned what happened when you take too much niacin, aka vitamin B3. My trainer suggested a fat burner supplement to help me shed those last few pounds and counter the return of low glycemic carbs to my nutrition plan. It works by raising the ambient temperature of my body and burns calories as the metabolism kicks in to regulate your body temperature back down to normal.

Here’s what happened:

First, though, don’t be afraid to laugh. You’ll be doing it with me, not at me.

Friday started off with my usual workout with my trainer at Free Form. It was a good one and we discussed a program to follow after I finish my sessions on Monday. Came home, had meal #2 followed by my fish oil, multi-vitamin and my B-Vitamin complex. I take B-vitamin complex to help prevent my hair from going grey. A few of my uncles were white by the time they were my age. I want to keep it and keep it brown as long as I can.

Yes, I understand this is plain and simple vanity. Deal with it. I do.

Back to our story.

Walk to the office. Chief of Staff tells me I have a meeting in ten minutes. So far normal day that week.

Go to office. Take fat burner and chase it down with water. Head to meeting.

First, I needed to head downstairs to storage to grab some stuff for the meeting. My boss is preparing to lead a delegation and the meeting was to go over the schedule and decide who gets what gift. A couple of co-workers were getting some of the gifts we keep for visiting dignitaries out of storage. One turns to me says, “Whoa! Stay in the tanning booth too long?”


“Dude, you’re super red.”

There was a mirror nearby and I couldn’t resist the temptation to see if he was pulling my leg or not.

He wasn’t.

I made cooked lobster look pale. The worst part was the redness didn’t reach the area around eyes, giving the fresh from the tanning bed look.

I go to the meeting and endure the barbs from my CoS and the protocol staff. I give as good as I get, so it’s all in fun.

Deep down, though, I’m thinking what the f***ity, f*** is going on? Since I know the fat burner is supposed to raise my temperature, anyway, I declare it a person of interest and start googling ingredients. Nothing really of any interest, various peppers in capsule form and niacin. I noticed the label didn’t include the percentage of recommended daily intake for the one listed vitamin.

Back to the fountain of all human knowledge: Wikipedia.

The recommended daily intake – about 15 mg for men

My fat burner – 20 mg

Okay, just five mg in the difference. Nothing to write home about. There’s certain assumptions built into these recommendations for daily intake that a few mg in either direction of a vitamin will not be harmful.

Wait, how much in that B vitamin complex? 100 mg

That multi-vitamin? 30 mg

Within a couple of hours, I had taken in 150 mg of the stuff. That’s just supplements and not counting any taken in from actual food sources. Meal #2 was 3 oz. of chicken with some raw veggies, including broccoli.

Ten times the recommended daily intake! Wait, didn’t Sheldon Cooper, who we know is a genius because he keeps telling us he is, say the body is just going to release the excess in our urine?

Yes, the fictional character who seems to know everything about everything except human relations did. But first, though, excess of niacin, more than 35 mg, will cause facial flushing.

It isn’t enough to cause niacin toxicity, that requires a daily dose at least 100 times the RDI, but it is a very visible warning sign that something is up.

More lessons learned:

  1. read the label and do the math.
  2. take the supplements with breakfast so I can go all Johnny Storm in the privacy of my apartment.